A Royale Mystery/Thriller With Big Characters

Bad Times at the El Royale Poster

 

Dark movies offer the potential for a fantastic story, filled with twists, turns, and elements that you didn’t see coming.  My second review of the week is one such movie, with a trailer that teases one into taking a dive down another distorted rabbit hole to find a land of wonder and shock that will have you talking for days. With a cavalcade of stars and the hints of secrets, this drama looks to be the next big discussion to come.  Does it deliver?  Hi, Robbie K here with another review, this time on:

 

Movie: Bad Times At The El Royale (2018)

 

Director:

Drew Goddard

Writer:

Drew Goddard

Stars:

Jeff BridgesCynthia ErivoDakota Johnson

 

 

LIKES:

 

Acting:  Central Pillar on this one, Bad Times At The El Royale relies heavily on the cast to bring the characters to life. Diving into the gritty roles is tough, but they nail their execution of complicate characters with plenty to hide.  Their chemistry is solid, their conveying of emotions on point, and in regards to becoming one with the characters, I think they succeeded in this endeavor.  One will find their involvement in these characters super.

 

The Details:  A movie that is character centric like this one requires a lot of detail to get you invested in their lives.  Mission Accomplished, because the El Royale is super focused on the background information and doing its best to describe the situations leading up to their pilgrimage to the infamous hotel.  You want those dram infused plots and over the top issues, look no further my friends, because it has it all densely packed into bite sized pieces to easily digest.

 

The Tension:  Not suspenseful, but somehow still tense, El Royale is like those exciting moments in a soap opera where a lot of things happen in a short amount of time.  As a result, the tension gradually increases until the final act where it finally snaps and things really start to amp up, a great use of this technique, which when combined with the next like helps keep you into the film.

 

The Mystery:  The trailers promised dirty, little secrets and that mystery of what is hiding in the closets of everyone also keeps you into the film.  Each person has that slight little layer and it is the act of piecing this together that adds a little fun to this rather dense film.

 

The Twists/Turns:  An even more impressive move, making some movies to really surprise me.  While I didn’t necessarily jump, this movie came close to startling me a few times with the twists that it decided to take.  In addition to adding a little spice to the movie, these twists helped push the story to new dynamics, further strengthening the character dynamics and keeping you on your toes.  So get ready for a little bit of gasping at the decisions they make.

 

The Music:  Yeah, I’m a sucker for a good soundtrack and El Royale’s juke box and guests contain some fun lyrics that represent the times and mood. Funk, Jazz, Soul, and a little Rock and Roll are there to tease your ears with a delightful melody that is cleverly infused into the mix.  Not the high point I know, but what a great soundtrack nonetheless.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Imbalance of Characters: It’s seven detailed characters and you want them all on screen.  El Royale has done this quite well with most, but there are at least two of the cast that were rather lackluster in their full involvement compared to others.  The director and story team seemed to have one group to base most of the story around, and while interesting, was a little disappointing to not get more into the characters than what we got. I guess that’s where book formulations come in huh?

 

The Underwhelming Secret: While the individual secrets are engaging and interesting, the big secret of the hotel wasn’t quite as impressive. Perhaps it is the presentation, or maybe it is just how it gets semi lost in the characters themselves, but the big secret is only marginal in terms of surprise.  I think a little more scene development or at least get some dialogue that stands out a little more in this already heavy dialogue movie.

 

More Suspense than Tension: Again, the tension was welcomed, but a little substitution of suspense to speed up the pace would have been my preference. A little more chasing and close calls in the pursuit of truth could have added some of the spice I think the movie needed to bring the full, mind blowing revelations to life.

 

The Pace:  By far the movie’s big limitation for me is the length meeting the pace.  You have to be ready to invest in characters, and almost like reading a book, be ready to focus more on the details and theatrics instead of the special effects and action that Hollywood loves.  While I appreciate this, the movie dragged a little too much for me and sometimes got too in depth to keep me awake.  In addition, there are times it crawled for me and the ending of shoving in those last bits of detail wasn’t the best the ordering for me to be super impressed. As such, I would have liked to have more excitement or thirty minutes cut from the overall time to find that happy medium.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            The secret to this movie is, that the El Royale has a fantastic set of players to move around it’s weird, classic halls.  With a character centric plot filled with tension, mystery and twists, the El Royale is a very close book in movie form I’ve seen. Yet, for those looking for a little more excitement and pizazz this movie is going to be tough to watch late at night because it slow and missing a little bit of flare I think it needed. So if you can handle 2.5 hours of heavy dialogue and drama, you’ve got the movie of the weekend for you, but if you need a little more Hollywood magic… you need to sit this one out. 

 

 

My scores are:

 

Mystery/Thriller:  7.5

Movie Overall: 6.5-7.0

Freed At Last, Freed At Last

Freed.jpg

 

The international best seller that changed the world is a topic of much debate.  Tasteless porn vs. incredible love story, this series has two extreme groups fighting for superiority on what is the truth to the Grey series.  However, since many people don’t read these days, Hollywood has brought a visual representation to us to help stem the tide and get more people discussing the content of E.L James work.  And so, yours truly, alongside some very kind friends, heads into the trenches to give you another review on what is what in the movies.  Let’s get going!

 

LIKES:

 

The Romance:  The romance, as the fans will call it, has finally improved to the levels many wanted it to be from the start.  Fifty Shades Freed finally has our actor’s chemistry mixing well to portray a more realistic love story than what I’ve seen.  Rather than bland, uninterested looks, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan finally have some heat into their acting actually seeming to love each other than just tolerate.  The drama that fans want is packed into their on-screen time, a nice balance of overdramatic anger, passion, and desire in their little game of domination cat and mouse.  While still unbelievable at times, the magic finally raised to a new level for the final installment.

 

The JokesSuch a dark delicacy as this requires some more adult humor, and Fifty Shades Freed’s writing is able to bring this humor to full blast.  Clever alliterations, metaphors, and puns are well integrated into the goopy, lovey dovy, romantic bologna this movie is famous for.  These comedic devices are well-timed and well-delivered to maximize the punch that comes with it and had my friends and I chuckling.  Had there been a few more of these moments, the movie’s writing might have gotten even more points for creativeness and magic.

 

Semi-Tasteful: Despite the sultry atmosphere contained in these films, the censorship is still decent enough to add some class to the movie.  Rather than diving into the pornographic details that some of the fan-base loves, the movie keeps the camera work on the upper areas, straying away from the lower anatomy.  Even the love making scenes have been tempered a bit to not dive into XXX levels, but it barely skims by this.  Still, the small bit of class gets my nod of respect.

 

The Ending:  My friends and I agreed that the nice little nod to the series as the end was a good way to cap of the series.  Simplistic and predictable yes, but for those super fans, it is the emotional finesse you may have come to expect in the series.  And for the beginning credit, and only clip, it’s the ending that had many in my showing ahhing in delight.

 

The Music:  My final nod is at the director of music, who once again picks a slamming song track to represent the emotion of the scene.  A combination of genres, the selections are worthy of another soundtrack worth purchasing, assuming you are into those kinds of things.

 

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Sex:  Let’s get this out of the way.  No surprise, I’m not the biggest fan of watching two actors make strong, awkward, and often strange sex fantasies come to life.  And Fifty Shades Freed was more than happy to throw a lot of these vivid images at me.  While a bit classy, these scenes didn’t fit into the story as much for me, nor did I really appreciate how fast and rapid they were crammed in.  The positive side is that these montages are at most 3.5 minutes long, but I’ll never look at ice cream the same way again…. Ewwwww.

 

Secondary Characters:  I don’t remember the books quite well, but I’m fairly certain the secondary cast goes farther than their cinematic doppelgangers.  Yes, I know the story is mainly about the star-cross lusters, I mean lovers, but this supporting group of families and friends should be you know… more supportive.  So why were much of the supporting band reduced to mere minutes of screen time with little to add to this tale?  A few clips of beautiful people, a tempting dramatic flair that goes nowhere, a shallow proposal that is cute but lacking, and some shotty presentation of key story elements are all they contribute.  After such integration in the first film, I had hoped for these components to strengthen as well, but they failed on this aspect for me outside of the fact that so many of them were pretty to look at.

 

Boring Tension:  Let’s face it, the story is not the best part of these series, but I had hoped that the antagonist would have had more bite to his coiffed hair.  Fifty Shares Freed did little to amplify the deadliness of Hyde, outside of making him look and sound even more insane.  The promise of a man with more brains and strategy was lost to low grade soap opera antics that just served as an example of poor planning.  I’ve seen better villains in a cheesy soap opera, and this anticlimactic climax was so disappointing to see fail.  While many may not be looking for super excitement, this reviewer would have liked to see more bite than bark.  Oh well, at least more room for love, right?

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Overall, Fifty Shade Freed has improved in regards to the romance that this series has tried to sell.  The heated passion between the main characters took some major steps towards progress in this series, alongside the jokes, the soundtrack, and the nicely packaged ending.  However, the story itself is laughable, with all these plot points and known character diluted into less concentrated beings that are only there for a quick head nod out of the series.  Fifty Shades Freed is a glorified soap opera on the big screen, and therefore not worth the price of admission in my opinion, no matter how passionate, emotional, and hot it may seem.  Save this one for the privacy of your own home and your imagination. 

 

My scores are:

Drama/Romance/Thriller:  5.0

Movie Overall:  4.0

Darker, Sexier,Deeper Story. Still Requires Some Work

darker

Robbie K here, and I’m back to bring you yet another movie review on the latest movie theater “hits.”  No doubt that many are ready for the mass advertised Fifty Shades Darker, the sequel to the literary work that “graced” the world so long ago.  Despite how badly the first installment did, Hollywood is taking another shot at the series.  Is this thing up to the test?  Or is it just a plain, dirty dream filling, mess.  As always, I’m going to do my best to put bias aside (unlike some reviews) and give you some insight into this flick.  Let’s go

 

LIKES

  • Still Tasteful…mostly
  • Story a little better
  • Surprisingly funny at time
  • Soundtrack Still Kicking

 

Summary:  While I’m not the biggest fan of the Fifty Shades series, this reviewer has to recognize the pressure placed on the directors for this series.  For me, I think they did a nice job keeping the movie tasteful while indulging in some of the…sexier qualities of the film.  Although supposedly darker, the movie keeps most of the steamy scenes in decent detail without crossing into porn threshold, except the last scene…nothing tasteful about that.

But when the actors aren’t trying to sell the sex, the story that tries to give it purpose starts to emerge.  While certainly not the strongest story, Fifty Shades Darker is a little more dynamic, bringing some mystery, some drama, and some love to the table.  Those who wanted a little more details to the cast will get their wish, somewhat, and wetting your appetite for the next film.  Amidst all the dramatic moments though are some well-timed comedic moments, often pointing out the ridiculous concepts housed in this series. Yet the best thing, for me at least, was the soundtrack. Once more the music editors have selected/crafted tracks that fit well into the scenes, including a number of songs that will capture the heat of the scene. Was it as good as the first installment?  I don’t think so, but it still does its job.

 

DISLIKES:

  • Story is still lacking
  • No butts about it
  • Extra Characters Lacking
  • Character Development Simplistic
  • Acting still needs improvement

 

Summary: Okay, I’m not ignorant enough to not recognize that a lot of people are going for the “passionate” moments.  But a reviewer looks at the other qualities, including the story.  Despite being better and having more components to it, Darker’s story is still lacking.  Many of the plots promised in the trailer are simplistic at best, often dropping them for another sex scene or sequence of the couple arguing.  The mysterious girl, the blonde dominatrix, and many other tales involving other characters are diluted attempts to add suspense, adding a little suspense and foreshadowing for the next installment before the potential is dropped.  In fact, the only thing really developed to me was the origins of the strange obsession with domination and sadism.  As mentioned earlier, the character development is stronger in this film, but it too didn’t live up to the potential it could have.

 

While their sex life was reaching a climax, their backstories barely moved from baseline, other than a few flashes of sad origins and some insight explaining their approach to love.  For many this won’t be an issue, because it gives some more time for spicy antics, overdramatic quarrels, and plenty of butt and breast shots for audiences to absorb.  Yes, you get plenty of the eye candy in this film, which helps cover up the work in progress acting.  If I’m not mistaken, both leading roles are awkward, reserved, and have some traumatic history.  However, this does not provide an excuse for sloppy line delivering, creepy staring, and using grunts and sighs as space fillers.  I wasn’t the most thrilled with either leads’ performance in the movie, outside of being able to do it on the screen (they seem to have that down pat).

 

The VERDICT:

 

Overall Fifty Shades Darker delivers what was promised, steamy scenes interlaced with the romantic drama that is enjoyed by so many.  I think it still held some taste, mixing the sex with a story that provides the entertainment most will be looking for.  Can it match to the picture your imagination patient when reading?  No, because Hollywood doesn’t have an unlimited budget and has rules to abide. But it does its best to provide what many craved.  Yet not even sex can make up for the limitations in acting, detailed story, and character development that goes beneath the skin.  I’m sure my review will not stop fans from trekking to the theater, but this reviewer can’t recommend this one for the theater, unless you just want to see the sex on a massive screen.  Yet, it also doesn’t deserve the worst score, because it delivers what I think it promises, though not all the way.  Oh, and make sure to stay for the credits for a teaser that really is a tease.

 

My scores are:

 

Drama/Romance:  6.5

Movie Overall:  5.0