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Drama

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

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The El Royale is a bi-state establishment.
You have the option to stay in either the great state of California…
or the great state of Nevada.
Warmth and sunshine to the west…
or hope and opportunity to the east.
Which would you prefer?

Let me get straight to the point. Yes, this film by Drew Goddard refers to several masterpieces from the past. And yes, it has the atmosphere, story structure and the look of a Quentin Tarantino film. You will probably read this on every movie site. Is this necessarily a bad thing? Does this mean Goddard doesn’t have his own style? Is it necessary to compare a brilliant film such as “Bad times at the El Royale” with Quentin Tarantino’s oeuvre? Personally, I don’t think so. When I get sucked into the story while watching this film, just like “The Hateful Eight” did with me, then this is a merit of Goddard himself. If a movie succeeds in keeping my eye fixed on the screen for more than 2 hours, then it’s worth a compliment. And when one compares it with another grandmaster, I guess it’s a compliment for both of them. I’m sure Tarantino will like this film as well.

 

 

For starters, the location itself is pretty original.

In any case, the location where the story takes place is in itself already original. A captivating motel/hotel built on the border between Nevada and California. You cross the border, as it were when you walk from the reception to the jukebox. And different laws are applied in every part of this unique hotel. But since a while, it’s abandoned. Far away from other metropolises so consequently it’s also cheaper. In earlier times though, the “El Royale” was a secret location where public figures stayed over for a night and where they could engage in rather appalling practices, far from civic life. This is where the entire story takes place. A story with different storylines with each time a character in a leading role who happens to looks quite ordinary at first acquaintance. As the film progresses, it turns out they all have their own hidden agenda. And all these storylines are entwined with each other until it finally ends in a rousing apotheosis.

 

 

Characters with dark secrets.

So, it’s not a secluded cabin which is unreachable thanks to excessive snowfall (I know. I’m comparing again). And the pawns that are set out at the beginning (like in a game of Cluedo) are a priest (Jeff Bridges), a soul singer (Cynthia Erivo), a vacuum cleaner salesman (Jon Hamm), a rebellious young lady (Dakota Johnson), and a shy young receptionist (Lewis Pullman). A grab-bag of people who apparently happen to spend the same night in El Royale. After the introduction of the characters, the film is divided into episodes and a fragmentary web of storylines arises in which the dark secret of each character comes up. And before you know it, the vacuum cleaner dealer is someone who resembles a secret agent, the priest is looking for something more valuable than God’s message, the rebellious lady is on the run from someone devilish and the receptionist has a past full of victims. Only the soul singer seems authentic and has a damn good voice.

 

 

The less you know, the better.

Maybe it sounds a bit vague. But believe me: the less you know, the better. I was surprised again and again by the various twists. And those twists sometimes come from an unexpected angle. It wasn’t only the way of filming that pleased me, but also the subtlety with which it was all interwoven. Some story elements were shown from three viewpoints. Time and time again in a new storyline. Normally this could lead to confusion. But here it fits perfectly. And this all in a typical 60s setting with accompanying props, appropriate clothing and a Wurlitzer that produced that distinctive Motown sound. Take “Pulp Fiction“, “Twin Peaks” and “The Hateful Eight” and you get a movie like “Bad times at the El Royale” after a good shake-up. Simply wonderful.

 

 

How about acting?

Let’s talk about renditions. Actually, there is no character that disappointed. Each has his/her reasons for being there and has his/her own personality traits. It was clear from the beginning they were all enjoying themselves while playing their part. Once more the acting of Jeff Bridges as a priest was a joy to watch. Even though he talks as if he’s nibbling on chewing tobacco or a hot potato as in “R.I.P.D” and “Seventh Son“, I simply thought he was sublime as the priest with Alzheimer’s. And certainly, the interactions between him and Cynthia Erivo are simply great. She also has a beautiful voice that came in handy in a specific splendid scene.

 

 

Chris Hemsworth. Give that man a cigar.

Personally, I thought Lewis Pullman was the most imaginative character as the labile receptionist. And Dakota Johnson not only had the most titillating body contours, but she also took on the most insane part. And finally an honorable mention for the admirable performance by Chris Hemsworth (he’s forgiven for his role as Kevin in “Ghostbusters“). He’s a cult leader who shows up as a dead calm Jim Morrison-like creep (Watch him dance). The beginning of an out of control denouement.

 

 

A must see? Yeah sure!

“Bad times at the El Royale” is definitely recommended and is not boring for a second. I thought it was an original tinkered story that ends in a shrewd way. Add to that a top cast and an atmospheric décor that is put in the picture with the help of masterful footage, and you can be sure that you’ll enjoy the full two and a half hours. And claiming that the film is right up Tarantino’s alley, certainly is true. But to assert that it’s a shameless imitation, I find a little bit exaggerated and a typical sour note from a sourpuss.

My rating 8/10
Links: IMDB

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Drama

Tribeca Film Festival | ‘7 Days’ – A Sweet Rom-com To Keep You Going

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We’ve reached the point now where the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns we’ve faced over the past year are starting to become backdrops for films, and perhaps it’s not something we want to re-live and it’s not something we’re desperate to revisit, but 7 Days has a really touching and moving story at its centre and when you look past the coronavirus, it’s a really compelling story and makes for a good film.

At the start of the film, we meet Ravi (played by Karan Soni, best known for playing Dopinder in Deadpool) and Rita (Geraldine Viswanathan- Blockers, The Broken Hearts Gallery). The two have been set up by their old-fashioned Indian parents and are on a pre-arranged date. The two of them have absolutely nothing in common and the whole afternoon is very awkward for them both. But then the COVID outbreak gets worse and Ravi must spend the next few days at Rita’s place as he can’t get a car or a hotel. We soon witness the unlikely bond that forms as the two spend their days together despite being very different people.

7 Days marks Roshan Sethi’s directorial debut and he does a great job here. Not only does he capture so well what it’s like to live, and to love, in the time of COVID but the film, which was also co-written by Sethi, is really funny and leaves you feeling good which is exactly what you want after having lived through the last year.

The film’s quite short as it is with a runtime of just 86 minutes but even so, it does feel very long. Whether that’s because there’s only really two characters that we’re seeing for almost an hour and a half, or if it’s because it takes place almost entirely in one location, it does drag a bit. The two characters seem like polar opposites as we discover Rita drinking beer and eating leftover chicken for breakfast despite claiming to be a vegetarian and not drinking and at times the film feels like it’s almost running out of things to do with these characters that at first seem so far away from each other and the film does feel quite long despite its rather short runtime.

But on the whole, 7 Days manages to get the tone between comedy and drama just right with lots of funny lines but also just the right amount of heartfelt and poignant moments. The film is bookended by short video clips of real-life Indian couples talking about their marriages and how they met, and the two main characters discuss these two viewpoints of a more orthodox arranged marriage versus love marriages and the film does a really good job of presenting them both to us equally.

7 Days works well and manages to avoid being a depressing film about the pandemic, in part due to the really good performances from Soni and Viswanathan and the wonderful chemistry the two have, but also due to the really good script by Sethi and Soni. And whilst we will doubtlessly see more movies set during this time, 7 Days is a sweet rom-com to keep you going.

★★★☆☆

7 Days premiered at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.

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Drama

Supernova | A Powerful And Touching Film Worth Seeing

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Get the tissues ready because Supernova is a real tear-jerker. It’s one of those films that right from the very first moment you know it’s going to hit you right in the feels. And Supernova expertly gets that blend right between sadness and hope to the point that the film is an excellent well-rounded film that has real emotion and isn’t just a complete sucker punch to the gut.

Sam (played by Colin Firth) and Tusker (Stanley Tucci) are partners of 20 years and are travelling around the Lake District in their old RV. The thing is that two years ago, Tusker was diagnosed with early-onset dementia. Over the course of their journey, they encounter friends and family and their ideas for the future clash as secrets are revealed, really testing their love for each other in a way that they’ve never experienced before. It’s a really devastating film about love and about loss too but it’s incredibly powerful.

For the first half of the film, there’s quite little actually about Tusker’s dementia and instead, writer/director Harry Macqueen decides to show us just how strong the love between the two is and we see that they’ve both put their careers on hold at this difficult point in their lives. Sam was a musician and Tusker a writer but they’ve both been unable to continue with these with everything they’re going through. But we see the incredible love that these two people have for each other.

This is, in part, down to the phenomenal performances from both Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci. And that’s what really takes this film up a notch to be an excellent film. Firth and Tucci are both outstanding and give some of their best performances of their careers. The film is entirely driven by their remarkable performances and everything else helps to compliment that to create a really moving film. The cinematography is really beautiful- as you’d expect- with the gorgeous Lake District as the backdrop for film and there are some really lovely wide shots of the incredible scenery in Supernova.

For the majority of the film, the writing is really good too, however, there are a few instances where it doesn’t quite feel like what a real person would say in that situation in the moment. Instead, it sounds like the sort of thing a writer would have written- which of course it is, but because of how touching and powerful it is, and because of how well Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth are delivering these lines it doesn’t stand out too much.

Supernova is a very emotional film, particularly when you consider the meaning behind the title. Director Harry Macqueen says that “a supernova is the massive explosion event at the end of the evolution of a star”. “For me this has always been representative of Tusker himself- a man who shines bright in all he does, brings light and laughter to almost every situation and is, of course, dying. It’s quite literal in that regard, really; he knows his final chapter is just around the corner.”

Supernova is a film that’s worth seeing, even if that’s just to see Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci giving career-best performances but there’s so much more to the film as it explores the sophisticated, mature themes of love and loss. Just make sure to take some tissues, or maybe even a bucket, to collect your tears.

★★★★☆

Supernova is released in UK cinemas on June 25th.

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Action

Marvel Studios’ Eternals | Official Teaser

The Eternals, a race of immortal beings with superhuman powers who have secretly lived on Earth for thousands of years, reunite to battle the evil Deviants.

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Genre:

Action, adventure, drama

Release Date:

November 5, 2021

Director:

Chloé Zhao

Cast:

Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kit Harington, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry

Plot Summary:

The Eternals, a race of immortal beings with superhuman powers who have secretly lived on Earth for thousands of years, reunite to battle the evil Deviants.

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