Film Review: Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

Release Date: September 27th, 2018 (Fantastic Fest)
Directed by: Drew Goddard
Written by: Drew Goddard
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Chris Hemsworth, Nick Offerman

Goddard Textiles, TSG Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 141 Minutes

Review:

“Shit happens, get the whisky.” – Father Daniel Flynn

I’m glad that I went into this not knowing much about it. I saw one trailer, awhile ago, but my memory sucks because I’m getting old and I probably rival Roger Ebert in his prime for the amount of films that I watch. But I did know that this was a neo-noir, written and directed by Drew Goddard and starring a bunch of people I like.

Well, this is one of the top films I’ve seen in 2018. That being said, I’ve been to the theater less this year than any other because we had a terrible summer and even most of the indie stuff isn’t motivating me to get out there. But man, my FireStick probably deserves a break, as I’ve ran it through the wringer.

If you haven’t seen this, I don’t want to give away too much. The less you know, the better. This is the sort of film that takes you on a real journey with twists and turns and big reveals, curveballs and surprises. The real highlight though, is seeing these great talents together, playing off of each other and playing each other.

The story takes place at the El Royale, a nearly defunct hotel literally split in half by the California-Nevada border. It’s a place that used to be frequented by big wig celebrities and politicians. Now a group of strangers are staying there and their lives all become intertwined, as each brings their own baggage into the situation.

Some of the film is told in flashback to show you what led each character to the hotel. This isn’t a movie bogged down by flashbacks though, as they all happen pretty quickly and are just there to fill in some context and add some seasoning to the larger narrative.

The first act of the film actually reminded me of Clue, not that this was a comedy but you witness a bunch of strangers meet in a lobby at a place they are spending the night. Each seems to have a secret and to not be who they seem. But once the plot gets rolling, this isn’t a whodunit murder mystery, it’s more complex than that.

The one thing that really stands out about this film apart from the great story and the great acting is the cinematography. The lighting is superb and the shots are great. Being that this hotel is equally split by the state border, a lot of shots take advantage of this and showcase this symmetry or dichotomy. The California side of the lobby has the bar, the Nevada side has slot machines and each half of the room has a different color scheme. I also loved the use of fire in the climax, as it made everything feel truly Hellish.

While this isn’t a massive Hollywood blockbuster, this is something that should be seen on the big screen. So you should probably get out and see it while it is still in theaters. As of right now, this is definitely a frontrunner for my personal favorite film of the year.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other notable neo-noirs: Blood Simple., The American FriendBlue Velvet, No Country for Old Men, Fargo and Lost Highway.

Film Review: The Cabin In the Woods (2012)

Release Date: March 9th, 2012 (SXSW)
Directed by: Drew Goddard
Written by: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard
Music by: David Julyan
Cast: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Sigourney Weaver

Mutant Enemy Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United Artists, Lionsgate, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Look, you guys just stay in the Rambler. I’ll get help. If I wipe out, I’ll fucking limp for help. But I’m coming back here. I’m coming back with cops and choppers and large fucking guns, and those things are going to pay… For Jules.” – Curt

I went into this picture blindly, which is definitely the best way to experience it. This is a movie that throws a hell of a lot of curveballs in the most awesome way possible. The less you know about it, the better. And to be completely honest, I am not a Joss Whedon fan but this was damn good and probably the best thing he’s ever done. Suck it, Firefly.

So what can I say about this film? I’d rather not spoil it for people, as I’m not that guy. Just know that it is never quite what you expect it to be and that it hits you with surprises, again and again.

The most notable actors in it are Chris Hemsworth a.k.a. Thor, Sigourney Weaver for a bit and Bradley Whitford, a favorite of mine since the 80s, alongside Richard Jenkins. I shouldn’t even get into what their roles are.

The film is not just Joss Whedon’s creation, it was co-written and directed by Drew Goddard. He’s been a busy guy with Marvel’s Daredevil series, as of late. He was also the director of the original Cloverfield and a major contributor to the TV series LostAliasBuffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. He even had a hand in The Martian and World War Z.

The Cabin In the Woods is a horror film that literally has everything in it. And I don’t say that using the words “literally” and “everything” lightly.

The only downside to this film is rewatching it. Now it is still good but you can only be caught off guard once and you already know what tricks are up Whedon’s and Goddard’s sleeves after the first viewing. Still, it is entertaining and a really cool and fresh take on a really tired formula.

In a lot of ways, The Cabin In the Woods kind of rewrote the book on “cabin in the woods” movies the same way Scream rewrote the book on slasher pictures.

This isn’t a great film by any means but it is a hell of a lot of fun and if you go into it knowing as little as possible, you’ll probably leave the experience very satisfied.

The trailer is below, as I always post a trailer. However, watching it may spoil too much. You have been warned.

Film Review: World War Z (2013)

Release Date: June 2nd, 2013 (Empire Cinema premiere)
Directed by: Marc Forster
Written by: Matt Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof, J. Michael Straczynski
Based on: World War Z by Max Brooks
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox, Peter Capaldi, David Morse, Ruth Negga

Skydance Productions, Hemisphere Media Capital, GK Films, Plan B Entertainment, 2DUX², Paramount Pictures, 116 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2014.

“Most people don’t believe something can happen until it already has. That’s not stupidity or weakness, that’s just human nature.” – Jurgen Warmbrunn

I didn’t have much urge to see World War Z when it came out. The zombie craze has been out of control and nothing about it seemed too terribly interesting. Granted, the zombies ran with lightning speed, had the behavior of ants trying to reach food and would destroy themselves in the process of hunting humans. Still, we had fast suicidal zombies with Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake over a decade ago.

While there wasn’t seemingly anything new here, I did enjoy the film. Brad Pitt knocked it out of the park and the appearance of Peter Capaldi (the next Doctor on Doctor Who) added an extra level of awesomeness.

The plot was okay enough, as Brad Pitt had to travel the zombie infested world, figuring out what the cause of the outbreak was and how to stop it. The conclusion doesn’t quite answer the question but it is still as happy as a happy ending can get in a film where practically everyone is eaten.

The film is intense, which kept me engaged and the added mix of different geographical locals brought some contrast to each sequence throughout the film. The zombie outbreak on the airplane though, that’s probably the high point.

This isn’t what I would call a great movie by any means. It wasn’t very inventive and didn’t bring much of anything new to the zombie genre other than world travel. I still enjoyed it though.

TV Review: Daredevil (2015-2018)

Original Run: April 10th, 2015 – current
Created by: Drew Goddard
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Daredevil by Stan Lee, Bill Everett
Music by: John Paesano, Braden Kimball
Cast: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Toby Leonard Moore, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Bob Gunton, Ayelet Zurer, Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Bernthal, Scott Glenn, Élodie Yung, Stephen Rider

ABC Studios, Marvel, DeKnight Productions, Goddard Textiles, Netflix, 26 Episodes (so far), 48-61 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*written in 2015.

If you haven’t watched Daredevil at some point over the last week, you have been severely missing out.

Marvel, now teaming up with Netflix, has given hardcore old school comic book fans a television show that they deserve. Being that it is on Netflix and not ABC or some other network, Daredevil has a lot of creative freedom. It also isn’t catered to the younger viewer, which can often times be a pretty tedious and annoying factor in regards to Marvel’s other live-action outings. What we’ve got is something very close to the source material and as dark as the stellar Frank Miller stories were in the early 80s. What we don’t have is a two-plus hour toy commercial accented by Tony Stark witticisms. For the record, I like Tony Stark witticisms but this isn’t the place for them.

Now I am not going to completely fan boy out like most of the people praising this show. It isn’t perfect and could improve in various areas but it is one of the best Marvel adaptations of all-time.

The positives are pretty abundant though.

To start, the tone of the show is perfect. The lighting is amazing, as it conveys the same color palette as the comic book from its most iconic runs. The cast, for the most part, is perfect. And the evolution of Daredevil throughout the first season of this series is very well done. We don’t have a hero that immediately kicks ass and looks invincible. We have a normal guy who is generally a bad ass but still gets his head kicked in a lot. The show just feels more real and more organic than any other live-action comic book property ever has and that in and of itself is a great feat.

The show also benefits by the fact that it isn’t stuffed full of characters and villains. The only real major Daredevil villains that even appear are Wilson Fisk (a.k.a. the Kingpin) and Leland Owlsley (a.k.a. the Owl). Kudos on the producers for holding off on Bullseye, Typhoid Mary, Elektra, Mr. Fear and the rest.

Although, the amount of time focusing on the inevitable confrontation between Daredevil and Fisk is pretty drawn out. The pace of the show is a bit slow and lacking energy in areas. I feel like the bulk of everything important could have been covered in six-to-eight episodes. What we’ve got instead is thirteen episodes with too much filler material.

The one performance that I question is Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal of Wilson Fisk. It isn’t bad but there are times where his voice is odd and out of place. I get that the character is written as a sort of fucked up kid turned “kingpin” but at this stage of his life, he should be more sure of himself and confident in his abilities. And I am not saying that he isn’t confident but his bizarre tone just seems out of whack for what the character needs to be. The Kingpin is not some emo child in a fat suit, he is an exacting, ruthless and very motivated evil genius that isn’t intimidated by anything. Maybe that makes him one dimensional but I’d rather have a caricature of pure evil than what we have with this character on the show. Besides, the comic book version of Kingpin has been fleshed out so well over the years that there is a lot to work with without some new and unnecessary spin on the character.

Daredevil is fantastic though. It is worth your time and as an avid reader of Daredevil in the comics, I think that this show truly hits the mark. It can be improved upon but it is a step above everything else Marvel has done thus far.