Nixon & Elvis ****
While truth is often stranger (and funnier) than fiction, and there’s some fiction built into Nixon & Elvis, it remains true that Elvis Presley met with President Richard Nixon in 1970. They met in the oval office, where an iconic photo was taken. Elvis made a request that he be made an undercover ‘Federal Agent at Large,” and his wish was granted. That is fact. The bulk of the story is corroborated by Elvis’ real-life friend, Jerry Schilling, played by Alex Pettyfer. As for Nixon, if there were any doubts about Kevin Spacey’s remarkable, chameleon-like qualities as an actor with comic chops, this will put them to rest. Not only did he capture Nixon’s cantankerous facial characteristics, he got the voice, the mannerisms and the ego-maniacal eccentricities for which Nixon was known. Michael Shannon, as Elvis, is not a visual dead ringer, but his nuanced and vulnerable performance, slow, Elvis-like speech patterns, and replica costuming, helped sell him as The King. Schilling had consulted on the script for years before the project was green-lit, and he eventually became the film’s executive producer. If you’ve ever seen the iconic photo of Elvis and Nixon shaking hands, and wondered about it, here’s your opportunity to find out just what was going on that day, and have a good laugh while you’re at it.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War ***
An odd cinematic combination of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, The Fellowship of the Ring, Frozen, and the Harry Potter franchise, the Huntsman has some good moments, and a terrific cast, but it never consistently delivers the same magic, adventure, and heart as the aforementioned films. Frozen for grown-ups, this kind of odd sequel/prequel combines the European fairy tales Snow White, along with The Snow Queen. Anyone who’s seen Frozen will recognize the characters immediately, though these sisters, played by Charlize Theron (Ravenna) and Emily Blunt (Freya) are both far more ferocious, vindictive and dangerous than any character from the Disney hit of 2013. Rated PG-13, it seems like the film flirted with an R-rating for the level of violence. Filmed in wonderful locations throughout England, The Huntsman is visually satisfying as a fantasy/adventure, but that’s no longer enough to keep movie-goers enthralled. The pacing seemed slow and laborious, though the film is saved by the solid performances from the lead women, and the Huntsman himself, Chris Hemsworth. While fans of the genre will probably enjoy this $119 mill epic, one might pose the question, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, was this sequel necessary at all?”