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Elvis & Nixon
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22 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Great Performances Lead a Not-So-Great Film

6/10
Author: Thomas Drufke
1 May 2016

Michael Shannon as Elvis and Kevin Spacey (the king of impressions as Nixon? You sold me. Elvis & Nixon tells the untold 'true' story behind one of the most famous photos of all time between Elvis and Nixon at the Oval office. Shannon and Spacey deliver captivating performances as two icons in what is otherwise a very forgettable film.

At only an hour and twenty five minutes, Elvis & Nixon is a rather short film that is based on a true story, but it doesn't feel like it. It takes a while for the film to get going as it decidedly focuses primarily on Elvis for the first 45 minutes or so leading up to the meeting. You get glimpses of Spacey's Nixon here and there but we don't get the two on screen together until nearly an hour in. I would have much rather watched a full hour and a half of these two guys talking to each other. The story of Elvis' friend Jerry Schilling or anybody inside the White House, I didn't care about.

I understand you need to at least follow the true story to a point, but no one truly know the events that went down that day, so you might as well structure it to the strengths of your film. No matter, the time spent on screen with the two leads is a joy to watch. They are far from an SNL impression as they both create their own distinct interpretations of Elvis and Nixon. Even if it's an extremely slow burn, the last 30 minutes are definitely worth watching. If only a better movie surrounded the two great performances.

+Two lead performances

+Entertaining final 30 minutes

-Extremely slow burn

-Focus on side characters

6.6/10

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20 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Disappointing

5/10
Author: deltaphilly from U.S.
27 April 2016

I've been waiting to see this movie for a year or longer. Eric Bana was originally supposed to play Elvis, and he would have been a much better fit than Michael Shannon. Michael doesn't look anything like Elvis, and he didn't show any charisma in his performance. Elvis is one of the best looking and most charismatic men to ever live, so it was painful to see this casting train wreck. There are several scenes in the original Elvis Meets Nixon that were left out of this remake: the beginning airport scene where the airline clerk asked Elvis for payment of his ticket and he says "can you send the bill to the Colonel as he has no cash or check book, the scene where he was taken off the plane for carrying a pistol, and the taxicab scene when a Michael Jackson song was playing on the radio. Those were just 3 missed opportunities to spice the movie up. The only redeeming thing about this movie was the convincing performance that Kevin Spacey gave. He looked and played that part to the hilt. I really wanted to love this movie, and I am so disappointed that I could not do so.

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24 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

Elvis gets a badge

7/10
Author: David Ferguson (fergusontx@gmail.com) from Dallas, Texas
20 April 2016

Greetings again from the darkness. The tagline nails the tone of the film: "On August 21, 1970 two of America's greatest recording artists met for the first time." Director Liza Johnson proceeds to tell the story of worlds colliding – an Oval Office meeting with President Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley. Of course, this is a fictionalized and satirical accounting, since Nixon didn't kickoff his recording passion until the following year.

It would be pretty easy to bash the film as heavy on cheese and light on historical accuracy, but that would be missing the point. These two public figures couldn't have been much different from each other, but the script (Joey and Hanala Sagal, and Cary Elwes) finds a way to have these two icons hold a conversation … bonding over their mutual hatred of The Beatles.

The terrific opening credit sequence perfectly captures the time period and is a work of art unto itself. We first see Elvis shooting out the picture tubes in the TV room at Graceland. He's disgusted with the news reports of Woodstock and drug use among America's youth. Constructing a loose plot to meet with President Nixon and offer his service as a Federal Agent-at-large, Elvis is mostly interested in adding a federal badge to his collection.

Michael Shannon plays Elvis and Kevin Spacey takes on the Nixon role. Rather than a finely tuned impersonation, Shannon goes after more of an impression or re-imagining of The King. It's a perfect fit for this setting, and there is nothing like watching Shannon give an impromptu karate demonstration for the leader of the free world in the most famous room in America. Spacey, on the other hand, is spot on in capturing the posture, mannerisms, sound and essence of a man who carried much personal baggage with his political power.

The chain of events leading up to the meeting plays a bit like a farcical comedy. Nixon's staff of Bud Krough (Colin Hanks), Dwight Chapin (Evan Peters) and HR Haldeman (Tate Donovan) is equal parts incredulous and opportunistic. We get two members of Elvis' "Memphis Maphia" with Alex Pettyfer playing Jerry Schilling and Johnny Knoxville adding even more humor as Sonny West. There is a nice blend of "little" comedy moments and outright laughers – Elvis impersonators confronting him in an airport, the Secret Service reaction to Elvis' gift to Nixon of collectible WWII pistols, and Elvis meeting with a DEA official played by Tracy Letts.

I found myself smiling throughout, with full understanding that this satirical look at a meeting between two famous men with little common ground has no real historical importance … other than resulting in the all-time most requested photograph from the National Archives. But for 86 minutes of smiling, I say to the filmmakers and actors … Thank you. Thank you very much.

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17 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

A big long bore with a brilliant Spacey as Tricky Dick

5/10
Author: Alex Deleon from United States, Europe
24 April 2016

Billed as "The untold true story behind the meeting between the King of Rock 'n Roll and President Nixon", directed by Liza Johnson, this is a wild comedic fantasy built around a brief encounter between Elvis Pressley and President Richard Nixon at the White House in 1974. The introductory credit sequence in dazzling colors and cartoon flavors serves notice that we are in for a wild ride with no holds barred. Unfortunately what the picture offers is a Frankenstein like edition of Elvis (Michael Shannon) in a long tedious buildup to the final confrontation in the Oval Office with an uncannily accurate Nixon, played with zest and four letter zeal by Kevin Spacey in a remarkable comedic turn. The final sequence in the president's office is hilarious enough to make the boring buildup worth sitting through but one wishes the first two thirds of the picture would have been highly compressed -- to maybe twenty minutes. As is, what we get is a view of a super patriotic Pressley which presents him as a very right wing anti-counter culture icon (altho in real life he was a symbol of the counter culture) who despises the Beatles and wants to save the youth of America from drugs, wanton sex and subversive politics by becoming an undercover agent for the government and infiltrating "anti-American organizations". To this end he needs a badge naming him as an official Undercover Government agent, which only the president can issue. His obsession with obtaining such a badge is the central conceit of the film and is a poor excuse for a premise around which to build an entire movie. However, as said before, the tedious introduction (which takes up most of the film) during which Elvis is desperately trying to set up a meeting with the president, and during which we see that Nixon is not interested in meeting a Rock musician and keeps turning such a proposal down, is just barely worth sitting through to get to the riotously funny conclusion in the Oval office when his assistants finally convince the president to agree to a five minute meeting with Elvis -- but just five minutes, no more -- because it will enhance his fading public image -- and on condition that Elvis takes a picture with Nixon autographed for his daughter who is a big Elvis fan. When Nixon finally meets Elvis he finds to his surprise that they have much in common and the five minutes is extended indefinitely, during which time Elvis massages the president's ego and takes off his shirt to perform a karate exhibition as many other bizarre revelations take place. Actor Michael Shannon captured much of the mannerisms and speech patterns of Pressley in a very subtle manner but his look is simply too old and too hard -- Frankenstein in long hair and black bell bottoms! Most of the dialogue of the film as written is just dull and pedestrian until we get into the Oval Office when it suddenly sparkles. Spacey's Nixon is a total riot and more convincing than the Tricky Dick rendition by Anthony Hopkins in the Oliver Stone presidential biopic. Overall I would have to say that this picture is one long bore with a final scene that is comedic genius, especially on the part of Kevin Spacey. Viewed at the Westwood Landmark in L.A. On April 23, 2016 at a special advance screening in the presence of Producer Jerry Schilling who was a lifelong friend of Elvis who avowed that much of the Elvis antics portrayed in the film were "in character" even if they didn't actually happen. Asked if Elvis would approve of this film he expressed honest reservations.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

The true story?

5/10
Author: mic-daley from United Kingdom
27 July 2016

I had heard the story of Elvis' meeting with Nixon, but not how it came about. How true this story is, is open to conjecture. The wonderful Kevin Spacey is totally acceptable as Nixon. The look, the voice and the stooped deportment, are spot on. Unfortunately, I never for on moment thought that I was looking at Elvis. Michael Shannon's wig was about the only thing that was on the money. Elvis was very handsome, with tremendous charisma, and a good build. Shannon had none of that going for him. Colin Hanks is improving every time I see him. His portrayal of a Nixon aide was nicely drawn. Johnny Knoxville was rather wasted, as part of the Elvis 'mafia'. It's not a bad bad film and is not padded out too much, though it would probably have made a better television show.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Elvis & Nixon

6/10
Author: JohnnyWeissmuller
8 July 2016

Elvis & Nixon very much relies on the performances of Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon, and thrives on what they bring to the eventual meeting between both men. The movie is based on a true story that's better documented than is suggested here. Making Elvis & Nixon fanciful and fabricated in spite of how unusual this event actually was. Which is fine, because most biopics and fact-based dramas exist on creative licence. Although this is a movie that could have been equally successful had more of the facts been more closely adhered to in the script.

What matters, however, is how interesting and appealing Spacey and Shannon make the film's central characters. But we find a way into their respective worlds by way of Colin Hanks' Bud Krogh and Alex Pettyfer's Jerry Schilling. Schilling in particular, whose fingerprints are evident throughout the movie ("me and a guy named Elvis" is a line of dialogue at one point") and who acts almost like an audience surrogate.

Schilling, who we first encounter working at Paramount Studios, is encouraged back "in" with Elvis as we are taken on a journey to the White House that's foreshadowed in our first glimpse of the man, himself. Watching Dr. Strangelove on one of his three televisions in a nicely recreated Graceland television room. But this isn't just a reference to one of Elvis's favourite movies, the scene from Kubrick's film that's used here foreshadows the nature and tone of his meeting with Nixon. No fighting in the War Room? How about karate in the Oval Office?!

Along the way, Shannon, who doesn't resemble Elvis but embodies the role with gestures small and grand, speech patterns, glances and a physicality that's undoubtedly been studied, becomes believable as Elvis. This isn't a caricature. The caricature is what Elvis actually became. Which is appreciated in the way he expresses concerns about his identity to Schilling, and in a touching monologue about his stillborn brother, Jessie Garon.

Shannon finds genuine nuance and pathos in Elvis. Although Liza Johnson's direction doesn't quite allow the excitement and elation of meeting Nixon to be juxtaposed with crushing lows or an indication of how such ultimately manifested itself in Elvis over subsequent years. We see him disappointed when things aren't going his way and when meeting Nixon seems lost at one point, but standing slumped and resigned isn't enough to encourage deeper sympathy for Elvis. Whilst the ultimate irony was missed in failing to depict his own problems with drugs.

As Nixon, Spacey also finds nuance and manages to make the former President larger than life from behind a desk and despite his reservations about meeting Elvis, and just about everything else. He has less to work with than Shannon, but Spacey gets Nixon just right and manages to refrain from caricature whilst exploring amusing traits and mannerisms. Both physical and psychological.

Beyond the two central characters, the screenplay and some variable stock footage encourages political and cultural touch-points that aren't dwelled upon. Although it's clear that Nixon isn't adverse to finding good PR opportunities or impressing his daughters. A trend that crops up throughout the movie, with Elvis using such as a free pass at his convenience. For him, good PR opportunities are also valuable.

In many ways, however, Elvis and Nixon suffer the same issues with loneliness, isolation and concerns about their image. Which is something Elvis is portrayed as being more in touch with than Nixon, who laments about not looking like a Kennedy and tries to boost his ego by asking Krogh if he could take Elvis in a fight. Elvis, on the other hand, is aware of his image and the performance that's required just to be Elvis Presley. Which is something that was also expressed by Michelle Williams' Marilyn Monroe in Simon Curtis' 2011 film, My Week With Marilyn.

By the time Elvis and Nixon eventually meet, both characters have been fully established, and whilst the vignettes along the way are both funny and geared towards comedy, some miss the mark completely. Such as a clandestine meeting between Elvis and Nixon's aides, that hints towards All the Presidents Men but plays more like a parents' meeting. Although Elvis's visit to a doughnut shop that's populated by a streetwise and vocal black clientele shows him comfortable with all walks of life and able to keep his ego in check.

This is in stark contrast to his meeting with Nixon, where Elvis is far from humbled and tries to impress upon the President with bizarre notions and one-upmanship. In one shot, Elvis seems to dwarf Nixon in the way both men are framed. But Spacey plays the President with quick wit and more than a little bemusement at what's in front of him. He sees what see in Elvis. But can't see that he's playing him for his own gain.

Unfortunately, the pacing and editing falters during the final act, with Schilling's personal dilemma of getting home to his girlfriend breaking the meeting up at one point. Whilst Evan Peters and Johnny Knoxville's Dwight Chapin and Sonny West, respectively, linger in thankless roles.

What's also noticeable is a lack of Elvis's music in the film's soundtrack, which is quite good regardless. Although Ed Shearmur's score is transparent and obtrusive at times. But Elvis & Nixon isn't about Elvis and his music. It's about a quest to find something fulfilling in his life. Which is expressed with profound sincerity in the way Michael Shannon plays Elvis. Getting under his skin and contrasting charisma and personality with a pensive nature and moments of uncertainty. It's a warm, affectionate and earnest performance in a movie that's skewed towards comedy, but has an acute understating of not only Elvis and Nixon, but celebrity and politics.

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10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Quirky, Cute Movie

8/10
Author: patsworld from United States
1 May 2016

I really hadn't heard much about this film, and certainly wasn't going in expecting an Elvis impersonator or someone looking exactly like President Nixon. Wasn't disappointed there in regard to Elvis. Michael Shannon didn't look much like Elvis, but he did have the soft voice, the southern charm thing going for him. He did a fine job with this role. And actually, Kevin Spacey did manage to look a great deal like Nixon. Sounded like him, too. Everyone in this movie did a good job, and worked the roles of those involved in this slightly absurd moment in history to justice. So, I guess what I was, was really pleasantly surprised by this picture. Totally enjoyed myself with lots of laughs and a few poignant moments. I dimly remember this episode with Elvis showing up at the White House wanting to become an FBI Agent Abroad. With a badge. And at the time I recall thinking that only Elvis could be that naïve and yet that brash at the same time. In all honesty, this picture managed to show all of that, and more. What a colorful moment in American history all wrapped up in this fine little film.

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8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

MIchael Shannon owns this movie

7/10
Author: sammyboo21-999-252517 from United States
25 April 2016

Kevin Spacey is good as Nixon.Don't get me wrong, he is one of my favorite actors. Michael Shannon though just kills it. I absolutely love everything Michael Shannon is in. I admit I would have loved to have seen Kevin Spacey as Nixon a bit more but this is mostly Shannons movie. There are two scenes, one where he's talking to his best friend and another where he's talking to himself in the mirror, these two scenes blew me away.So deep and moving.In a better movie I believe just these two scenes would have gained Shannon an Oscar nomination. Years from now when they are finding Shannons best scenes I hope they pick up the two in Elvis and Nixon. The supporting cast are fine here. The movie runs at 86 minutes which is really like 81 minutes without the credits at the end. It could have been an hour long movie though. At times it drags especially the scenes of Alex Pettyfer's character but other than that Elvis and Nixon is a delightful little movie with a great performance from Michael Shannon. You will have the giggles throughout and you will be entertained for sure by the ridiculousness of the whole movie. I really enjoyed it. ***1/2 out of stars.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Spacey & Shannon Lead the Way Here

7/10
Author: Larry Silverstein from United States
20 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Two stalwarts of the screen Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon lead the way here, in this quirky and unique film. The movie is deliberately paced and can be awkward at times, but it's also filled with lots of wry and droll humor.

Set in December 1970, Spacey is a hoot as the ego-maniacal "stuffed shirt" President Richard M. Nixon, while Shannon portrays the megastar Elvis Presley. Presley had become disgruntled with the rampant protests and demonstrations going on in the country, and as he calls it the infiltration of the hippie-drug culture, and even Communism, into American society.

Thus, he's come to Washington, D.C., to press for a face-to-face meeting with the reluctant President to offer his services as an undercover Federal Agent-At-Large, and to help in any way he can. To me, this was the heart of the movie as I felt Spacey and Shannon played off of each other extremely well. It would eventually lead to the actual iconic photograph of Nixon and Presley, that has become the most requested photo from the National Archives.

Overall, the filmmakers here present their fantasy of what may have led up to that iconic photo, in 1970. Despite some rough and slow patches, I thought eventually Spacey and Shannon, with a fine supporting cast, made the movie work for the most part, and it became quite a unique viewing experience.

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

What Happens When Kingdoms Collide

6/10
Author: Trevor Pacelli (Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com) from Seattle
22 June 2016

One is the king of rock and roll, one is the king of the United States. Whoever would have thought these two very different minds of two very different backgrounds would ever be seen in the same photo together? No transcript exists on these events, just a photograph that now has become the most requested photo from the US National Archives. Now here, in Elvis & Nixon, director Liza Johnson gives her interpretation of these events. ​ It opens with the president receiving notification that the King has planned a visit, then this rather funny scene transitions immediately into a fun opening credits sequence full of 70's pop art against historical photographs of the two figures. From here, you learn some engaging facts that encourage further research, which sadly is supported by little excitement and little drama.

This historical documentation surveys an entirely separate side of Elvis from what the millennials may know about him. Did you know that he had a deputy's badge from Memphis? I sure didn't. It also turns out that he went to meet Nixon so that he could become a Federal Agent At Large in order to influence the American youth that tainted the country's image with the Hippie movement. Being America's most famous icon of the time, he decided to take advantage of his image by proposing possible anti-drug initiatives to the White House, including some drug-themed songs with other singers. The politicians all found it absurd to let someone like Elvis Presley meet the president of the United States, but since he's won the heart of all the voters in the south, the meeting gets the approval seal.

Revolutionary Road's Michael Shannon plays the King of Rock, and he talks as smooth, calm and collected as you'd think Elvis would be while not in front of a crowd. Unfortunately, he's not quite the right fit for the role, as he doesn't carry the project as well as he could. It's not that he's bad, he just doesn't put enough soul into the part.

It's otherwise intriguing to see what details are used to illustrate Mr. Presley. He still has all his little quirks that you expect from the King: he orders a maple bar from a donut shop, he calls the Beatles anti-American, and he says "thank you, thank you very much" right before sending people off with "sayonara." He watches three different television screens simultaneously and carries an assortment of diamond-studded pistols. There's more: he also had a twin brother who was born thirty-five minutes before him, only to die minutes later, and it makes him question how things would have gone if he was born first. It's stimulating and almost inspiring to see this unknown side to Elvis that actually cared about the American image and took the initiative for his beliefs.

However, this fascinating approach is supported by a rather clumsy first half. Elvis & Nixon was intended to generate laughter, but the laughs are far and few in-between, with dull scenes that either go nowhere or are composed of odd pauses between sentences. There are great additions such as fangirls working at the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs obsessing over Elvis's visit; the issue is that it's just too underplayed for what it had potential for. ​ In fact, Elvis's interaction with Nixon should have started right from the get-go without an hour-long setup, because that is where the real funny begins. These moments express some beautifully uncomfortable humor between a celebrity and the president, made all the better by the naturally flowing chemistry between Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey. I will admit, Spacey probably wasn't the right fit for the part: his mouth looks just like Nixon's but not his eyes. But that's more a bash on the casting director than the actor himself. Spacey still talks just as raspy as Mr. Nixon, and it's easy to tell that he took the character as seriously as if on House of Cards.

This is not the most spectacular piece of work you will ever see, you may not even remember it a week after seeing it, but it still gives a thought-provoking perspective on the influence that our celebrities have on our politics. Think of the artists of today. Consider how Taylor Swift's 1989 album influenced everyone's relationship expectations. Think back on the influence that John Lennon's Imagine shaped the hope everyone felt on the world. And don't get me started on all that Justin Bieber's went through. If you aren't dying to see Elvis & Nixon a second or even a first time, you can still bear in mind how our American icons influence far more than what we listen to in our spare time; the actions they take define what makes America the great nation we see it as.

Overall Grade: C+

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