HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Elvis & Nixon
HTS Overall Score:67
It’s no secret that the meeting between Elvis Presley and President Richard Nixon has been one of the most requested national photographs of all time. To this day the vault of records gets countless requests for that impressive photograph and it maintains its appeal to millions of people the world over. This was back in the days when the war on drugs was just starting and Elvis was deeply worried about the direction of the nation and the ever encroaching threat of overseas communism prompting the legendary singer to request a federal badge so that he could go deep undercover as an agent at large. It sounds humorous, but it was true according to all sources and even Shaq O’Neill came out a few years ago saying that he wanted to do the same thing (although I think that there’s more of a cry for fame there vs. a more since desire Elvis had back in the day before celebrities were widely strewn about on Twitter and Facebook).
Back in 1974 Elvis was THE king of the entertainment industry. He was selling like hot cakes and after Woodstock happening, the king of rock and roll decided that his honorary deputy’s badge wasn’t enough and it was high time that he got a FEDERAL badge so that he could root out insurgency and the elements of society that was dragging young kids through the mud. Well, that meant that he needed a meeting with President Richard Nixon and no better way to do that than just walk up to the gate with a hand written note and ask that it be delivered to the president. Given that Nixon was a bit old school the request was naturally denied, but that doesn’t mean that Elvis nor the presidential staff who saw the benefits of public image were going to stop trying.
Elvis’s friend and confidant, Jerry (Alex Pettyfer), and presidential aide, Bud Krogh (Colin Hanks), worked nonstop for the next 24 hours to make it happen. Even if that meant getting the president’s 22 year old Elvis loving daughter to put a little pressure on daddy dearest. What happens next is a highly fictionalized account of the famous meeting (due to the fact that all of the recording devices in the oval office were turned off at the time) that is probably pure fiction, but still an entertaining feel good take on the famous events that happened nearly 42 year ago.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=75177[/img]The film may be a complete work of fiction, but the resounding success of the performances are what make the film worth watching. Michael Shannon does an amazing job at doing what he does best, and that is completely immersing himself into the role of Elvis Presley. The king of rock may be a bit skinnier than he was in reality, but Shannon makes the character come alive and humanizes him in a way that I didn’t think possible. The relationship with his buddy Jerry is really what sells that little feature of the film, showing that just because he was larger than life in the public eye didn’t make him an actual person.
Kevin Spacey is just one of those men that demands you look at him when he acts, and his portrayal of Nixon is spot on, from the crusty haircut to the very famous vocal patterns that make Nixon stand out so much from all the presidents in history (who can’t hear that famous “I am not a crook” speech in their head when listening to Spacey here). The rest of the cast works well with the two leads, with Johnny Knoxsville getting honorably mention for actually playing a serious role for once.
With these brilliant performances also comes a little bit of a negative counter balance. How do you make a movie about an event that really wasn’t that important in the grand scheme of things? Especially considering that we know next to nothing ABOUT the event besides the photo? Well, that’s where the film’s shortcomings come into play, as there is a sense of languid passivity in the script that doesn’t really excite much interest unless you’re an Elvis fan. What really makes the movie work is the performances, as the script and the low key events that happened don’t act as a major draw for the viewers at large. I will admit to being fascinated by Elvis, but personally don’t find much interesting about the famous photo besides the knowledge that a famous rock star met the president. Thus a slightly diminished take on the events at large in the grand scheme of things.
Rated R for some language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=75185[/img]The 2.40:1 scope image for “Elvis & Nixon” is a solid encode, but definitely not a flashy one. Using digital photography with some archive footage, the cinematography seems to be going for a retro look that remains fairly soft and devoid of strong color saturation. The standard amber and honey color grading is present to replicate the 70’s, and most colors tend to be dark blue and some pastels thrown in for good measure. Nothing is wildly saturated and the “pop” level is fairly miniscule due to the low color levels and the slightly gauzy look of the film. There doesn’t seem to be any major artifacting though, and overall detail is certainly pleasant to look at with some warm contrast levels. Overall it’s a good encode, just not one that really catches your eye and makes you go “WOW!”.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=75193[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track seems to fall in line with the no frills video encode. It’s simple, effective, but overall slightly underwhelming due to an overly front heavy nature. The front sound stage shows some nice effects as well as accompanying a nice musical score, but the surround activity is basically moot. Except for a few gunshots at the beginning where Elvis blows away a TV with his 1911 the track is nothing but a medium for vocals and a little bit of music. I was straining to hear ANY activity out of the surrounds at all throughout the film, and except for a second or two here and there, this is basically a 3.1 audio track. LFE is nice and adds some oomph here and there, but it is also a rather mild experience and just used to add low end support for a few basic sounds here and there.
• Audio Commentary with Director Liza Johnson and Executive Producer/Author Jerry Schilling
• Crazy But True Featurette
“Elvis & Nixon” is a very low key, but definitely entertaining take on a classic historical event. Much of the event is heavily fictionalized, but that doesn’t really take away from the entertainment value of the movie, as it is more taken as a caricature of the event rather than trying to pass it off as true history. The performances are rock solid, and while it isn’t a perfect movie, it makes for an entertaining rental, especially if you’re a fan of the King himself. Audio and video aren’t spectacular, but get the job done and the extras are a bit slim which solidifies the fact (in my opinion of course) that this is a release best given to a solid rental.
Starring: Michael Shannon, Kevin Spacey, Colin Hanks
Directed by: Liza Johnson
Written by: Joey Sagal, Hanala Sagal
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1
Runtime: 86 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: July 19th, 2016
Buy Elvis & Nixon On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Good Rental
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