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Elvis And Nixon

Green Room

April 28, 2016

Elvis and Nixon (***) R

It goes without saying that Elvis and Nixon is a fun cinematic take on an event that most anyone with a working knowledge of pop culture events of the twentieth century is most assuredly aware.  Of course I’m referring to that historic moment in December 1970 when the ‘King of Rock and Roll’ decided that he wanted to become a drug enforcement officer and made it his mission to meet with Richard Nixon in the hopes of attaining that goal. Never mind the irony that The King would later prove to be a walking advertisement for the pharmaceutical business due to the large amount of quantities of prescription drugs that the entertainer ingested on a regular basis.  When it came to dissuading others from drug use perhaps Elvis was thinking along the lines of ‘Do as I say and not as I do’ but it’s something I guess we’ll never really know for certain.

Even though Richard Nixon is now world renowned for his taping system in the oval office, his historic meeting with Elvis Presley took place in the days before all of that.

Shannon & Spacey as Elvis & Nixon

Nixon’s raging paranoia would, of course, eventually lead him into trouble with his decision to constantly record the comings and goings in the White House but no tape exists of the meeting Nixon had with Elvis. The result is that the actual get together between the two men is simply speculation, a fact that the filmmakers attack head on at the beginning in a title card. When one takes into account how much fun the film is it’s amazing to think of what might really have transpired.

The film’s early section focuses more on Elvis (in a wonderfully goofy portrayal by Michael Shannon) than it does Nixon (Kevin Spacey, proving to also be a great choice in that role), although Nixon gets ample screen time during the final section. Elvis is presented as a man who’s basically bored with life and looking for the next kick, leading to his fascination with becoming a drug agent. Nixon can’t stand the idea of having Presley in the White House but when his staff remind him that his daughter might appreciate the gesture he reconsiders. In the interim, the film illuminates all of Elvis’ eccentricities such as his penchant for guns and for shooting out television screens when he became bored, just to name a few.

Jerry Schilling, who was Elvis trusted confidante in real life, was the executive producer of this film so I wouldn’t go so far as to say that all of the film is fictional and while it’s obvious that some of the film is actually conjecture it’s so much fun that I hardly cared. My advice would be to see the film for its level of fun and not for the historical accuracy. 

Green Room (** ½) R

You have to hand it to the creative talents behind the horror opus Green Room. I can’t recall ever having seen a fright film where a rock group serves as protagonist and the group members are forced to fend for their lives. And yet that’s exactly what we have with this film. It’s a unique idea to be sure even if the film itself proves only to be marginally successful.

In the case of Green Room, the group in question goes by the moniker of The Ain’t Rights and one would be hard pressed to label them as being a success on any level. The group is so cash strapped at the film’s beginning that the group members are forced to siphon gas from other people’s vehicles, a scene serving to illustrate the group’s resourcefulness.

At any rate, it’s apparent that The Ain’t Rights have been on a long tour, of which they’ve now reached the end with little to no positive outcomes forthcoming.

Patrick Stewart & cohorts in Green Room

The broke rockers are offered a gig at a low rent club in Oregon and figure they have nothing to lose which goes to show how little they know. Things take a definitive wrong turn once they accidentally become witnesses to a murder and become the target of the club’s owner (Patrick Stewart, yes you read that correctly) who decrees that the witnesses must be exterminated.

Anton Yelchin, the youthful star of the indie darling from several years back, Like Crazy and the 2011 remake of Fright Night, essays the role of the leader of the band, so to speak. It falls into his character’s hands as to how to formulate a survival plan. In the interim all sorts of violence-laden shenanigans ensue, the most amusing of which is a violent attack by dog and the slashing of a main character’s arm.

It’s fun and interesting to watch Patrick Stewart play against type here as the thuggish club owner and that’s one of the best things about the whole endeavor. This is the kind of casting against type of which I’m a fan.

As for the film itself, it is competently executed—no pun intended—and offers some uniquely gory thrills but it doesn’t really tread any new ground. Writer-director, Jeremy Saulnier, whose previous effort, the revenge thriller Blue Ruin, was an indie darling (I was somewhat immune to its charms) stylishly orchestrates the whole affair quite well. Still, I couldn’t help but feel I had been down this road too many times before and that’s something even the unique casting and gory visuals couldn’t remedy.

Green Room is playing in Hickory. Elvis and Nixon is playing playing in Charlotte.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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