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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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Comedy

Heartstopper Review | An Irresistible Gay Teen Drama

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Heartstopper

Based on Alice Oseman’s beloved graphic novels, Netflix’s bite-sized adaptation of Heartstopper continues to kick the door wide open for queer stories on the small screen. In the same vain as Young Royals and Dear Victor, Heartstopper’s exploration of queer teen romance is just as endearing, if not made more real and lovable by some incredible performances by Joe Locke and Kit Connor who play the show’s main high-school sweethearts.

Heartstopper owes its incredible binge-factor to its main focus on the story of two British teens at Truham Boys School, Charlie (Locke) and Nick (Connor) and how their entanglement perfectly represents the highs and lows of young romance. Manoeuvring alongside our main characters’ connection are some other, deeply adorable queer-centric stories – from a pair of secret lesbians at the nearby all-girls grammar school, to the perspective of a trans girl navigating life outside Truham; all of which tangle throughout the show’s eight chapters, giving a genuine take on teen love and friendship during the digital age.

Photo: Netflix

While Euphoria is a ridiculously over-the-top representation of high school life with actors well-in their twenties playing teens, Heartstopper instead follows leads and supporting characters that feel like real teenagers, which doesn’t help the waterworks when it comes to some incredibly emotional moments in the show.

What the show decides not to focus on is sex and swearing, which is usual when it comes to these kinds of stories. Instead, Heartstopper goes down a more wholesome route, diluting some of the web comic’s more serious topics in favour of a more family-friendly teen drama. That’s more than acceptable, but it may leave the show not exactly suitable for everyone for how young it is leaning, despite how charming it is. It’ll be interesting to see how the web comic’s strong fanbase take to these changes, but it feels like a good move for the most part.

That being said, Heartstopper brilliantly doesn’t leave out realistic aspects that come to growing up queer in Britain; our main characters are never far from bullies or trolls. With how young the show’s audience is targeting towards, this feels like a great move on showing how to approach these pressures that make-up everyday life for teenagers.

Overall, Heartstopper is easily destined to prove a success for Netflix; from the authentic feel of all the friendships and relationships depicted to the enjoyable ride that comes with all eight chapters, this show is a welcome addition to the increasingly queer canon that is flying into the mainstream.

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Drama

Belfast review | A Magical Adaptation On The Town I Know and Love

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Belfast is directed by Kenneth Branagh and stars Jude Hill (Buddy), Lewis McAskie (Will), Caitriona Balfe (Ma), Jamie Dornan (Pa), Judi Dench (Granny) and Ciarán Hinds (Pop). A very big Irish cast that makes the film ever so better with everyone doing exceptional jobs but we’ll get to that later.

Branagh retells his story of childhood in a city of magic called Belfast. With this he details what it was like to be a Protestant during The Troubles a historical event that people from Belfast like me will always be reminded of and the horror that went down during it. I’m happy people can learn more about it through this adaption of the town because I remembered my Granny and Grandad’s stories while watching this, it helped me to immerse myself into the film and be brought back to the days of when my family was getting to know each other. It was nice to hear these stories of how accurate Branagh took The Troubles and put it on screen well.

The family aspect in this film was top notch, it showed the stress a protestant family would go through, especially this family. The pressure of paying bills and keeping the house and even being pressured to move across the water (something a lot of family’s had to for their kid’s sake) and I applaud Branagh for that because I know this film will hit audiences in Ireland and they’ll be happy with the adaptation. I was told people have been applauding the end, something that never happens in Ireland from my experiences but on to the performances.

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The entire cast do a phenomenal job with the script, they all looked to have fun during filming and in interviews. It’s great to see Irish representation in a film like this. Branagh was definitely the man for the job and the cast were the people for it. What makes me happy with these performances is how they work with the time period with the generic accent the actors have and it’s beautiful to see and hear and with the audio, they decided to use was immaculate and the aspect ratio they went with was great to see the on the big screen with the cinematography being a highlight.

Jude Hill was a standout in this film, he gives a brilliant performance as Buddy. He’s genuinely really funny in this and his emotional acting is top-notch and for a first-timer. He’s going to have a bright future ahead of him and I can’t wait to see him in more because he deserves it. Jamie Dornan also standouts out aswell with him taking loads of awards home which he deserves and it’s great to see him back in his home town for this because you can tell he’s trying hard in the role and in interviews he says he hopes people from the town like the film because he put his heart and soul into the performance and that’s always great to see.

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SPOILERS FROM NOW ONWARD

The beauty of Branagahs Belfast is so many things that happened during this film, happened to my family. I find that beautiful because I’ve never seen anything like it. One scene in particular, the grandad’s death that hit me like a bus because that exact situation has happened to me but with my granny and that exact singing scene was something we use to do to honour them. The number of tears I had during that scene was mad.

Now I’m going to discuss heavier themes of the film, the religion side of it. I want to give more info on that, so let’s get the thing you all probably know already. There are two sides in Ireland Catholic and Protestant and while Branagh was on the Protestant side it’s interesting to see that story of someone going through that because I can’t name a film that does it better. The story of The Troubles is something in the history books and I recommend you do more research on the topic because it is intriguing and the events that happen are shocking.

Now I’m gonna talk about the final scene, the singing scene again because of how great it is. It only reminds me of another fantastic film with heavy messages and near the same ending and that’s ‘Another Round’ but just how the cinematographer captures the two and then the others in the crowd is beautiful and I know I’m going on and on but I love this movie and I’ve talked about everything in it.

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AWARD CHANCES

Before I wrap this review up let’s talk about Belfast and if it has a chance at the big boy Oscars and I believe so it should win Best Picture and when it does I’m gonna be here screaming my head off and applauding the entire cast and Branagh because it’s a masterpiece and deserves everything it gets and in terms of acting I don’t think it’ll win much they’re some powerhouses competing this year, and that’s a shame.

For The One’s That Stayed, The One’s We Lost, And The One’s We Left Behind

KenNeth Branagh

Belfast is a magical film that captures Belfast in such an impressive way the film is instantly gonna become a classic and I cant wait to see it again and check this one out to learn about the beautiful city I know and I love thank you to the entire cast and crew you have made something that has hit me emotionally and made me want more from the story that is already over.

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Comedy

And Just Like That… Review: HBO Max’s Sex and the City Revival

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We hope you like your cosmos with a side of drama as “And Just Like That..” has officially dropped onto HBO Max in the States and onto Sky TV and NOW in the United Kingdom, 

Are you ready for the next Chapter of Sex and the City!. 

This chapter follows Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) as they navigate the journey from the complicated reality of life and friendship in their 30s to the even more complicated reality of life and friendship in their 50s. 

The first two episodes “Hello It’s Me and “Little Black Dress” are now streaming on your countries chosen platform and from the start this HBO Max Original has done a decent and glamorous job of brining Sex and the City into the modern era, as the series is infused with a new familiar story, but is very much rooted in the classic SATC. It’s diverse and features a social/Cultural awareness especially with the use of instagram, podcasts, and a nod to this pandemic as the iconic trio talk about their time with their husbands during lockdown and the new hobbies and traditions they started that seem to have stuck with them. 

Thursday’s premiere truly catches us up with old friends in post-pandemic New York as they wait for a table at a crowded restaurant. All are navigating through their fifties as this new chapter of their lives explore and deal with grief, journey, friendships and the pressure of perfection to achieve career wise, whilst entering a new territory. 

Courtesy of HBO Max

It was nice to spend time this morning with Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda again. The actresses Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, and Cynthia Nixon truly step right back into their roles and their banter is just as quippy as ever, However “And Just Like that…” gets off to a dramatic end as we’re guided through a catch up which was necessary to pick up a story many years later after it ended. What was introduced during 1998-2004 was a newfound love and obsession with cosmopolitan cocktails, designer shoes and brunches is still featured but the sparkly fizziness from the original is absent and what follows is a much more mature self aware series. 

Notably absent from the series is Kim Cattrall’s fabulous Samantha who SPOILER ALERT has moved to the UK for work as Miranda confirms to their friend Bitsy, that no Samantha isn’t dead, the publicist has just moved overseas. From the get-go her absence seems to be part of the shows overall storyline as it showcases female friendships and the including that they don’t always last forever. 

But just as people leave in real life, new friendships start as “And just Like That…” introduces us to a host of new characters who fit perfectly into this world, We meet Charlotte’s mum friend Lisa (Nicole Ari Parker), Miranda’s law professor Nya (Karen Pittman and Carrie’s queer podcast host Che (Sara Ramiez). 

With introducing new characters, the series also gives us a reunion with returning characters we know and love, especially the beloved and iconic Stanford a delightful role played by the late Willie Garson and his fiery fierce husband Anthony (Mario Cantone) who try to put a fight behind them by embracing and acknowledging how lucky they are to have each other. 

Courtesy of HBO Max

Carrie the former newspaper sex columnist is now a social media connoisseur and professional podcaster. She and Big (Chris Noth) are having a loved-up experience complete with wine, record player, Peloton, and Carrie’s extensive walk-in wardrobe. She’s posting New York fashion onto her Instagram and contributes to a sex and relationships podcast. 

Courtesy of HBO Max

Attorney Miranda is going back to school to become a human rights advocate, Miranda has her own awkward moment at her first day in class and dabbles with alcohol dependency. She’s constantly all over herself not to appear racist. Though she also has to deal with her sexually active son. also returning is Steve Brady, Miranda’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, by whom she becomes pregnant with their son.

Courtesy of HBO Max

Charlotte is still Charlotte in “And Just Like That..” she’s prim and proper with daughters Lily (Cathy Ang) an overachiever and Rose (Alexa Swinton) more rebellious and failing to conform with her mothers brand of femininity. She’s also examining the last decade and a half of leaning into motherhood. 

Courtesy of HBO Max

The show still features its iconic humour and this new chapter certainly has potential to explore the next chapter of their lives which I can’t wait to see. After the first two episodes, just like that my heart is broken!.

“And Just Like That…” is now streaming on HBO MAX, Now and airing on Sky Comedy!

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