Film, History

Elvis & Nixon/ Gods of Egypt/ The Boss

At the top of the month, Melissa McCarthy struts her sassy stuff in The Boss (June 10) in which she plays a women who looks like disgraced TV chef/racist Paula Dean (disgracist?) but acts like disgraced TV chef/ white collar criminal Martha Stewart.

The story opens on successful business tycoon Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) who’s running her empire all FTSE-loose and fancy-free until she gets busted for insider trading.

After six months in the pen’ with Crazy Eyes and the gals she’s released and as she’s newly penniless, she’s forced to move in with her long-suffering PA, Claire (Kristen Bell). While living with Claire and her adorbz daughter, Michelle hits upon her best money-making venture yet: a baking company to rival the evil Girl Scouts who surely have a merit-badge for ‘greatest market stranglehold’ with their dry-ass cookies.

What sounds like part- Troop Beverly Hills, part-Down and Out in Beverly Hills is sadly, like neither of those movies. Despite McCarthy’s comic prowess, critics have given this one a thorough mauling (“There’s nothing going on in “The Boss” except Melissa McCarthy groveling for affection from the same viewers who already bought tickets to see her,” says the review.)

We’re still hopeful for Ghostbusters though, right?

Did you know that the most requested photo of all time from the American National Photo Archives is one of a bloated Elvis shaking hands with a toothy Nixon? Tired of all the requests the ANPA have no doubt decided to release a movie about the event, Elvis & Nixon (June 17) in a bid to get people to shut the hell up about it.

I must confess that at first I misread the title as ‘Elvis Vs Nixon’ and thought it was perhaps an addition to the Predator Vs Alien, Freddy Vs Jason ‘versus’ series of movies, but alas, it is not.

Allegedly based on true events, the movie chronicles the bizarre meeting in 1970 of Elvis (Boardwalk Empire‘s Michael Shannon) and US President Richard Milhaus (haw, haw!) Nixon (Kevin Spacey). Legend has it that Elvis showed up on the White House lawn insisting on an audience with the POTUS, and being Elvis, received one. Never one to miss a photo op Nixon agreed to the meeting. Why, you may ask, did Elvis, by then in the twilight of his career and very fond of cheeseburgers and pills, request a meeting with America’s squarest president?

It was all a elaborate plan to get a Federal Agent’s badge, which Elvis secretly believe would make it easier for him to cross international boundaires with all his guns and myriad narcotics. That scamp! Anyway, Elvis & Nixon sees both Shannon and Spacey do their best impressions: though Shannon’s face is a little too Herman Munster-ish to really portray the King, while Spacey’s performance pales in comparison to that of Frost/Nixon‘s excellent Frank Langella.

Released on the same day is already much-maligned historical white face-fest, Gods of Egypt (June 17). Gerard Butler and Game of Thrones‘ golden handed sister shagger, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

The plot is thus: vicious, but broodingly sexy Egyptian god of darkness, Set (Gerard ‘I’ll Do Whatever Accent I Want’ Butler) bests goodie-goddie god Horus (Coster-Waldau), plucking out his eyes and seizing control of the empire. Eww.

Enter brave mortal Bek, with two turn tables and a microphone, and a plan to stop Set by enlisting Horus’ help. Cue lots of OTT CGI, lots of ancient Egyptians with bizarrely Anglacised accents and, like, zero actual Egyptians, even though there’s a couple of good ones floating around the acting-sphere (looking at you, Mr Robot‘s Rami Malek).

Given the ferocious pummeling the movie’s producers received for firstly having an all white (almost– there’s one black guy) cast and later, for having released a terrible movie, perhaps they should’ve spent more time on basics like actors and scripts instead of CGI shennanigans.

However, no plot contrived by a Hollywood script writer could ever compare to the most popular legend about Set, Horus and bit of lettuce.

The story goes that Set, eternally locked in a battle for supremecy with his precoccious nephew Horus, one night decides to Bill Cosby his relative rival, plying him full of booze and attempting to rape him. However, a sober Horus manages to place his hand between his legs and catch Set’s, er, essence.

The next morning he runs to his ma, Isis (sidenote: it’s super ironic that a group so dedicated to the destruction of antiquity share a name with an Egyptian goddess, non?) who does what any good mother would do and chops off his hand off. Then she rubs some special ‘lotion’ on Horus’ phallus, causing him to ejaculate, whereupon she snatches that shit up in a pot.

Still with me? Then she goes to Set’s garden and to find out what his favourite food is. Lettuce, the gardener tells her (possibily the maddest aspect of this whole saga: who the fuck loves lettuce? Though it was considered an aphrodisiac during this period, so maybe not surprising that sex-pest Set loved it). So, Isis prompts smears Horus’ semen all over the lettuce, ’90s gross-out comedy style, and waits for Set to get munching.

So, Horus and Set appear in front of Thoth, mediator of godly disputes, and tell their respective stories. “Horus can’t be ruler of Egypt, I jizzed all over him!” says Set. “Nuh-uh! I jizzed on you!” says Horus. “Fuck this,” says Thoth before casting a nifty incantation to ‘bring forth’ the aforemention semen. And so he does and it bursts forth, appearing as a solid golden disc floatinf above Set’s head. “Well, that’s me fucked, I suppose,” says Set, who concedes defeat and accepts Horus as Egypt’s ruler. THE END. They don’t make make stories like that any more, I think you’ll agree.

Probably for the best.


Birdman/ Into the Woods/ Wild

First up this month, Birdman (January 2), starring Michael Keaton as a washed-up former superhero attempting a Broadway comeback. There is a little addendum to title (‘The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance’) but let’s dispense with such tiresome titular affectations and focus on the story, which is thus: Riggan Thomson (Keaton, who, for anyone under 25 reading this, was Batman in Tim Burton’s 1989 film) is the down-on-his-luck, decaying former star of the popular ‘Birdman’ franchise. Decades after success has flown the coop, Riggan hatches a plan to reinvent his career by way of a Broadway rebranding, so he hires some actors (including a wonderfully loathsome Ed Norton) and sets about reclaiming some non-avian acclaim. There’s more to it, but I don’t want to make things hawkward by giving too much of the plot away. (That’s enough of the bird puns now – they’re getting owled.)

An excellent cast and stellar performances – particularly Keaton’s gravelly-voiced Birdman inner interjections – have earned Birdman well-deserved universal praise. And so it should – it’s a-viary good film (sorry).

Next up, Into the Woods (January 9) starring Meryl Streep as a wonderfully wicked witch (and they say Hollywood doesn’t have any good roles for woman over 50). The story – based on the Sondheim musical – is a sort of post-modern Grimm’s fairytale, populated with characters from assorted popular tales.

The action kicks off with the childless Baker and his wife (Gavin and Stacey’s James Cordon and Emily Blunt), who, in order to lift the infertility spell placed on them by witchy-poo (scene-stealing Streep), need to find the four ingredients that she needs for a special potion: Red Riding Hood’s (Lilla Crawford) red coat, Jack’s (he of Beanstalk fame) white cow, Rapunzel’s (Mackenzie Mauzy) gruaige, and Cinderella’s (Anna Kendrick) slipper. However, what begins as light-hearted musical eventually becomes an intelligent preponderance on the consequences of action and true cost of all those wishes.

Finally this month, Wild (January 16), which bears a synopsis as succinct as its title: a woman, Cheryl Strayed (played by an Oscar-tipped Reece Witherspoon) sets off on a solitary hike along more than 1000 miles (that’s over 1609.344 kms!) of the Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to forget the pains of her past – divorce, death and drugs (the three Ds).

Based on Strayed’s autobiography, and adapted for screen by Nick Hornby (Fever Pitch), Wild is a Witherspoon’s second award-bait movie in as many months (The Good Life) and might just be the one to nab her another statuette – her second after 2005’s Best Actress win for Walk the Line. Witherspoon for the win!

(First published in GCN, January 15)