Esther McCarthy reviews Elvis & Nixon and Independence Day 2
This week Esther McCarthy reviews two all-American stories, one of which harks back to the infamous alien invasion of 1996 and the other to the notorious 1970 meeting between President Nixon and Elvis Presley...
Independence Day: Resurgence (12A) ***
It’s set twenty years after the original film, and bears the tagline: “We had 20 years to prepare….so did they” so it’ll come as no great shock to learn that alien forces are returning to create havoc on planet earth and plunder our species for their own ends and resources.
In the meantime, our planet has developed a nifty defence system which sees a specially trained fighter crew (Liam Hemsworth) protecting earth from the fringes of outer space.
He’s got his work cut out - the previous film’s star pilot (played by Will Smith) has passed on but his son (Jessie T Usher) has stepped up to the mark.
Her dad, played by the ever-likeable Pullman, is still wrestling with some demons from the original invasion. The film benefits hugely - you could argue, in fact, that it’s saved - by the return of Jeff Goldblum as top engineer David Levinson.
It is he who has previous when it comes to tracking encroaching enemies, and he who features in one of the film’s most fun scenes, involving a giant nasty space invader and a yellow bus full of school kids.
Unfortunately, some of the film’s stand-out scenes such as that one only serve to expose how flat Independence Day: Resurgence is a good deal of the time.
Elvis & Nixon (12A) ***
One day in 1970, the King of Rock ’n’ Roll - disturbed by growing social problems and political unrest at home and worldwide - took it upon himself to arrange a meeting at the White House with President Nixon.
Nixon, being a tad grumpy and not particularly down with the kids, was having none of it. But Elvis - by that time a superstar and not used to hearing the word ‘no’, even from a US president, didn't understand the concept of a refusal.
The resulting movie re-enacts the meeting between the two most unlikely allies in music and politics. And while it falls victim to its limitations - it’s a movie about a meeting, after all - it has a whole lot of fun with the set-up.
The films builds to the unlikely scenario of the conservative Nixon and the colourful Presley talking policy, via the behind-the-scenes work of their various aides (Hanks and Knoxville stand out).
Ultimately, though, this works or fails on the strength of its two leads, and while the story wobbles, Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon are wonderful.
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