Movie Reviews

Review by Paul Belard (& others) - July 2022

Elvis author-researcher, Paul Bélard, reviews Baz Luhrmann's 'Elvis'

Prolific Elvis author, Paul Bélard, wrote down his detailed thoughts after watching the Elvis biopic.

His energetic review is great reading..



For added interest EIN has also assembled a “baker’s dozen” of excerpts from a variety of other reviews for the new Elvis biopic...

Elvis author-researcher, Paul Bélard, reviews Baz Luhrmann's 'Elvis

Well, I came, I saw, I was conquered! What a wild and unpredictable rollercoaster ride it was. I often had goosebumps and I must confess tears welled up in my eyes when Elvis appeared in all his sorrowing condition at the end of the movie, but still singing his heart out with a voice that never left him, a solemn testament to the music he had always cherished. It brought home the irreparable loss we suffered upon his untimely death.

The acting is superb. Tom Hanks, often unrecognizable under the heavy makeup, was nominated six times for an Oscar, won twice, so he was no surprise. Austin Butler was. He, on occasion, looked like Elvis. When singing, especially in Las Vegas, his moves were Elvis’ moves down to a T. Those scenes are a treat and they capture the excitement of Elvis’ shows when he still cared. One earlier scene that charmed me was when he asked Steve Binder before the 1968 TV show: “So where do you think my career is?” Binder answers immediately, “In the toilet!” Austin’s grin is so genuine and unaffected that I could easily imagine this is exactly how Elvis reacted at this frank appraisal of where his career had sunk at the time.

I liked that director Baz Luhrmann really did a nice job on the personality and complexity of Elvis by not hiding anything of his flaws. He pays tribute to Elvis without tarnishing the man and the artist. He did quite a hatchet job on Parker, but it is difficult to find redeeming qualities in this shady, lying, self-centered, US Army deserter, illegal alien wrapped in a con man’s body.

The way he confines Elvis for four or five years to Las Vegas by signing a contract on a paper towel when all Elvis wanted was to tour abroad was particularly vile. The fact that this contract was more about him than Elvis, purging his gaming debts to the hotel casino, providing unlimited funds to pursue his addiction, must be the lowest point in a career that was peppered with low points.

Some of those points were of course the mid-60s movie years during which Elvis’ talent was simply wasted on too many B-movies and songs unworthy of his gift. Maybe the director was right to only dedicate two minutes to this period.

I’m afraid that with the frantic pace of the movie, and the frequent flashbacks, someone not familiar with Elvis’ career may be lost. The fact that crucial episodes were absent might also be confusing, I’m particularly thinking of Elvis on the Ed Sullivan shows, or his return from the Army and the string of hits that followed. But of course, how can one encapsulate an entire life in two hours or so? I cannot wait for the additional two hours that were filmed.

I was a little disturbed by the chronology. When Elvis sings the 1958 penned “Trouble” at the July 4th concert in 1956, it first irked me. But, instantly, the way Austin performs it made up for it. At times, you’ll swear you see Elvis. The director merges this appearance with some done in 1957, notably the one in Los Angeles in September where he ends up lying on the stage into heavy petting with Nipper the dog, the RCA mascot. What a sequence! Grandiose, epic! I wish a few more 50s numbers of this caliber had been included.

The attention to detail is evident throughout the movie, the clothing, the hair, the cars, Beale Street, all in a lavish palette of colors. Having written a book on Elvis’ rings, I saw quite a few of them on Austin’s fingers.  However, Vernon sporting a mustache in the 50s was irritating.

There are very funny moments. Hank Snow seeing Elvis slowly but surely becoming the star of his own show; Marion Keisker erupting from her seat screaming during “Baby Let’s Play House”, Gladys chasing chickens off the Graceland floors. Of course, the best one is Parker wearing a Christmas sweater and waiting for Elvis to croon “Here Comes Santa Claus”, while Elvis and Binder are plotting their own show. What an amusing and satisfying sequence to see the con man beaten at his own game.

Elvis’ relationship with African-Americans will go a long way to dispel that stupid rumor that Elvis was a racist. I chuckled when Elvis said to Fats Domino that he was the real king of rock and roll, not because it was not true, but because Fats seemed to be coming off a diet that was very effective! I wish his other influences, country and western (although it was briefly alluded to during the Hank Snow sequence), but also Dean Martin and Mario Lanza, had been noted. A little more could have been said about the Blue Moon Boys. In my opinion, they were more important to Elvis than Parker in his early climb to fame.

Here you have it. Was I enthralled? You bet!  The film perfectly captures Elvis' creativity and impact on the music world. It is impossible not to like Austin Butler’s performance. The best movie done about Elvis that I will see again and again. 


Review by Paul Bélard.

Fans of Paul’s books will be pleased to know that his latest release, Elvis The King of the Rings Volume 2, is currently with the printer. Paul can be contacted at pbelard@hotmail.com

And for another enlightening view on the film, read EIN’s review by the redoubtable Piers Beagley.

Check out these Elvis books by Paul Bélard - as reviewed by EIN

Elvis A Humanitarian

Elvis Black and White to Technicolor

Elvis 1956 - First Ed Sullivan Show

Elvis January - February 1956

Elvis September 1958 Germany Bound

Elvis March 1960

'Elvis The King of the Rings Vol 1':

'Don't Be Cruel, Elvis: The Bill Black Story':

More Elvis biopic film reviews: EIN has assembled a “baker’s dozen” of excerpts from a variety of other reviews for the new Elvis biopic:

This visually spectacular, inventively crafted old school Hollywood fable doesn’t know quite when to quit. But in its own imperfect fashion, it rediscovers the joy of Elvis.
(Joanna Psaros, The Review Geek)

The emphasis on Elvis’s debt to black music might have expressed itself more subtly than with tarted-up rap recreations of his work – Doja Cat, CeeLo Green and Eminem are among the soundtrack contributors – but then this is no more a film for purists than Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet was for Stratford-on-Avon regulars. Elvis is hyperbolic, one-dimensional and ludicrous – but as high-excess cinematic myth-making, it’s a blast.
(Jonathan Romney, Uncut, UK)

The soundtrack shakes up the expected playlist with jolts of hip-hop (extended into a suite over the final credits), slivers of techno and slatherings of synthetic film-score schmaltz. (The composer and executive music producer is Elliott Wheeler.) The sonic message — and the film’s strongest argument for its subject’s relevance — is that Presley’s blend of blues, gospel, pop and country continues to mutate and pollinate in the musical present. There’s still a whole lot of shaking going on.
(A.O. Scott, New York Times)

Moulin Rouge! is probably still Baz Luhrmann’s best film, but 'ELVIS' is his “most” film. Everything in Elvis is turned up to eleven, pretty much all of the time. Elvis super-fans might take issue with the way certain key events in The King’s life are represented, Luhrmann clearly has next-to-no interest in Elvis’ flash-in-the-pan film career and if you’re not already a fan this more-is-more directorial style this certainly won’t change that. What Elvis really succeeds at is capturing the revolutionary spirit of arguably the biggest American music icon, and showcases his unmatched and far-ranging back catalogue in performance scenes that live up to the promise of the Greatest Show on Earth.
(Sam Sewell-Peterson, The Film Magazine)

Elvis clearly has ambitions to be the definitive, epic take on the life of the King of Rock and Roll. But in its desire to fit everything in, it skims the surface rather than taking the time to dig deeper in search of a nugget of truth. Fans of the singer will get everything they want from Butler’s lithe performance and the show-stopping glitz of the musical numbers, but nobody will learn anything they didn’t already know. This is the story of an extraordinary man told by an extraordinary director, which makes it all the more disappointing when it feels like just another music biopic – one that loves its sparkle more than its story.
(Tom Beasley, Film Stories)

Baz Luhrmann couldn’t help but make his take on the king of rock and roll, simply titled Elvis, as outlandish, style-obsessed, and paranoia-stricken as possible, perhaps to outrun the easy comparisons to Walk Hard through sheer speed of gyration. That’s the thing, Luhrmann has never been content with adapting novels, plays, or in this case a musical career without filtering it through his signature flourishes. Not just to make the film loud, unpredictable, and unwieldy in its storytelling approach, but to somehow satisfyingly capture the fable of Elvis Presley by indeed making a fable of his own.
(Jon Negroni, The Young Folks)

....most emphatically, this is a film that explores Presley’s destructive relationship with his live audience. These scenes are among the most electrifying in the film, with Presley causing girls to scream and lustfully worship him in a way he initially doesn’t comprehend, but that becomes addictive. He is as hooked on his audience as much as they are on him, but the audience becomes insatiable. There’s a predatory, dangerous undercurrent to these scenes, as his fans all but devour him.
(Simon Dillon, Medium.com)

Swirling and frenzied yet clever and considered, 'Elvis' is a triumph. Stellar performances from leading actors keep the film's heart pumping, while Baz Luhrmann's signature filmic stylings manoeuvre its jewel-encrusted body. A familiar (and well-told) story brought to a 2022 audience with enough appeal to please old fans and the new generation alike.
(Jesse Chaffey, Scenestr.com.au)

Like Parker, Luhrmann is also a showman. He uses loads of razzle-dazzle to tell — and sell — this tale, a frenetic, whiplash, time-jumping, hyper-stylish fantasia that depicts Elvis’ career as it builds to a crescendo — then progressively consumes him. A childhood sequence unfolds in the pastel panels of a comic book; a photo of Presley on the front pages of the newspaper becomes animated and speaks; a ride on a Ferris wheel transforms into a spinning vinyl record, a visual bridge connecting Parker’s dubious carnival-con background to Presley’s skyrocketing career.
(Neil Pond, Parade.com)

Most will go into ELVIS expecting a movie that is full of glitz and glam but lacks substance, in reality though nothing is further than the truth. Luhrmann surprisingly digs deep into the live of Elvis Presley and touches on some of the darker moments and events that happened throughout his career. Topics such as racist politicians and law enforcement officers targeting Elvis during the early days of his career are explored in great depth and ground the film, it is a rarity to see Luhrmann tackle serious subjects like this in his films but he shows here that he is more than capable of it.
(Dave Griffiths, Heavy Cinema)

How you feel about Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis will depend largely on how you feel about Baz Luhrmann’s signature brash, glitter-bomb maximalism. Just the hyper-caffeinated establishing section alone — even before Austin Butler’s locomotive hips start doing their herky-jerky thing when Elvis Presley takes to the stage to perform “Heartbreak Hotel” in a rockabilly-chic pink suit — leaves you dizzy with its frenetic blast of scorching colour, split screen, retro graphics and more edits per scene than a human eye can count. Add in the stratified, ear-bursting sound design and this is Baz times a bazillion.
(David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter)

Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is a fizzy, delirious, impishly energised, compulsively watchable 2-hour-and-39-minute fever dream — a spangly pinwheel of a movie that converts the Elvis saga we all carry around in our heads into a lavishly staged biopic-as-pop-opera.
(Owen Gleiberman, Variety)

Electrifying Elvis delivers the icon like never before - As fun as Elvis often is, it scores some remarkably sharp points, particularly regarding Presley's unfaked love of Black musicians, and the appropriations that fueled his crossover success. Of the many biopics to enshrine the King (and Elvis eclipses them all), none has featured a triple split-screen montage charting the performance of a single song back to its blues-shack roots. (Even the serious Presley documentaries don't cement the point as clearly as Luhrmann does.) "Too many people are making too much money to put you in jail," a shrewd B.B. King (Waves' Kelvin Harrison Jr.) tells Presley at one of his low points; the line is scalding.
(Joshua Rothkopf, Entertainment Weekly)


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Spotlight by Nigel Patterson / Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN July 9, 2022
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.


'ELVIS' EIN movie review: Keith Richards said, "Elvis hit like a bombshell ... it was like the world went from black and white to Technicolor." While those words apply to Elvis Presley they could similarly apply to Baz Luhrmann's style of film direction. Compared to the regular Hollywood output Baz Luhrmann movies have a similar feel of busting out of jail and going from black-and-white to technicolour. They are loud, brash, super-colourful, fast-edited and exciting, they have their own language and style.
The full-bore soundtrack, the glowing colour, the revelation of Austin Butler's truly stunning performance and the real excitement of the fast editing really does make it feel that Luhrmann has grabbed Elvis' true spirit. The film not only tells Elvis’ life but has the genuine excitement of the real Elvis, something that I've never felt from any previous Elvis Bio-Pic.
The incredible fact is that while the movie includes so many snatches of real Elvis (Hy Garner interview, Lisa Marie, Al Dvorin etc) yet Austin Butler has one so enthralled in playing Elvis' character that you can hardly spot the difference.
However typical of a Luhrmann movie you can see why fans' overly detailed fact-checking needs to be left at the door - and knowledgeable Elvis fans should just enjoy the ride.
Go here for EIN Piers Beagley's exclusive and detailed review
(Review; Source;ElvisInformationNetwork)

EIN 'ELVIS" Movie Spotlight: Baz Luhrmann's new biopic 'ELVIS' will finally be released to the cinemas on June 24 2022.
It was as far back at May 2014 - eight years ago - that EIN first reported that fellow-Australian Baz Luhrmann had started working on his concept for a stunningly fabulous ELVIS movie. At the time there were plenty of skeptics that didn't believe that this Academy award-winning director of The Great Gatsby, Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, Australia and Moulin Rouge could be interested in an ELVIS biopic but we were proved right.
In our in-depth spotlight EIN presents all the stories, interviews and drama that have accompanied this brilliant achievement since those early days of 2014.

EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
Elvis Presley, Elvis and Graceland are trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises.
The Elvis Information Network has been running since 1986 and is an EPE officially recognised Elvis fan club.













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