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Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)



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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Jharrel Jerome and Jennifer Lopez to Headline ‘Unstoppable’ for Ben Affleck & Matt Damon’s Production Company



Hot off the great reviews for the upcoming Air Jordan flick, Air, it seems that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are already set for their next project, one that will star someone near and dear to the heart of the latter. News comes in from Deadline, that Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers, Out of Sight) will star in the upcoming wrestling drama Unstoppable which comes from the new Artists Equity banner from Affleck and Damon, as well as Amazon. Additionally, in a separate report, we know that Emmy-winning actor Jharrel Jerome (When They See Us, Moonlight) will star as the lead of the film, playing the son of JLo’s character.

Unstoppable will star Jerome as three-time All-American wrestler Anthony Robles, an athlete born with one leg who persevered through his inspiring story to win a National Championship at Arizona State University. Lopez is set to play his supportive mother, Judy Robles. Robles, himself, is expected to be heavily involved in the production process of the film, which again, is set to stream on Amazon and produced by Amazon Studios. The latter news makes a lot of sense, following the early success of Air and the partnership forged between Amazon and Artists Equity on that particular project. Production on Unstoppable is expected to start sometime this Summer.

Lopez appeared on screen in two romance films last year with Amazon’s Shotgun Wedding and Marry Me which got a same day release in theaters and on Peacock. She’ll next appear in The Mother on Netflix which is directed by Mulan director Niki Caro. 

Jerome is best known for his Emmy-winning role as Korey Wise in the limited Netflix series When They See Us based on the Central Park Five which was directed by Ava DuVernay. He’ll soon be seen in Steven Soderbergh’s HBO Max series Full Circle before leading Amazon’s I’m a Virgo from Sorry to Bother You filmmaker Boots Riley.

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‘1883’ Spinoff Series ‘Bass Reeves’ Adds Dennis Quaid to Cast



Dennis Quaid (Far from Heaven, The Day After Tomorrow) is the latest star to join the cast of Bass Reeves, a new drama series coming from Taylor Sheridan (Yellowstone, Tulsa King) and Paramount+, according to DeadlineBass Reeves was announced as a spinoff to the Yellowstone prequel, 1883 back in May 2022 with David Oyelowo (Selma, A Wrinkle in Time) attached to star as the legendary lawman.

Bass Reeves will follow Oyelowo as someone who is known to many as “the greatest frontier hero” in American history in his own series on Paramount+. The streamer already houses so many Sheridan-fronted programs, most recently, Mayor of Kingstown starring Jeremy Renner returned for its second season while CIA drama, Lioness added to its cast with Nicole Kidman and Morgan Freeman. Some believe that Reeves served inspiration to “The Lone Ranger” having worked as a peace officer for Indian territory capturing over 3,000 criminals on that land. Quaid will play Sherrill Lynn, a Deputy U.S. Marshall within the show.

Quaid most recently voiced the character Jaeger Clade in Disney’s animated feature Strange World which is currently available to stream on Disney+. He’ll also star in Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming HBO Max series Full Circle alongside Zazie Beetz, Claire Danes and Emmy-winner Jharrel Jerome. 

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Amy Winehouse Biopic ‘Back to Black’ Adds to Cast with Jack O’Connell, Eddie Marsan and Lesley Manville



Let the casting of music biopics commence! As we’ve been hammered with news of superstar musician biopics each and every week, we have more news of one that is filming currently with Back to Black about the late, great Amy Winehouse. While it was reported back in January that Industry star, Marisa Abela will be leading as Winehouse, we now have details courtesy of Deadline on who will be joining the British pop star’s life story on screen. 

The report indicates that Jack O’Connell (Unbroken, ’71), Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread, Another Year) and Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan, The World’s End) will all appear alongside Abela in Back to Black. O’Connell is set to play Blake Fielder-Civil, the love of Winehouse’s life who she was married to from 2007 until 2009, just a few years prior to her death as their love was unfortunately addled by prescription drug abuse and alcohol as well as multiple stints in rehab for both of them. Marsan will play Winehouse’s father while Manville will play Winehouse’s maternal grandmother in the film.

Back to Black will follow the life of one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all-time in Amy Winehouse. Her sophomore album (which the film is named after) won her 5 Grammy Awards all at the young age of 25 just before her untimely death in 2011 at age 27. The film will focus on Amy’s creativity, genius and upbringing at Camden High School in the UK before she propelled into stardom.

The film will be written by Matt Greenhalgh and directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson reuniting the two of them after their 2009 film Nowhere Boy, which chronicled John Lennon’s formative years and adolescence. Taylor-Johnson is coming off directing episodes of Hunters and Solos for Amazon but is best known for helming Fifty Shades of Grey

O’Connell had a big 2022 starring in Netflix’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover and MGM+’s new original series, SAS Rogue Heroes. He’ll next star as professional race car driver Peter Collins in Ferrari. Manville most recently starred as Princess Margaret in the recent season of The Crown for Netflix and in Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination. Marsan is best known for playing Ray Donovan‘s brother, Terry in the hit Showtime series but will next appear in the film, Fair Play with Alden Ehrenreich and Phoebe Dynevor.

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