Bad Times at the El Royale and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Drew Goddard
Oh hey! I know this guy! Yeah, didn’t he do that movie that everyone else liked but I was pretty nonplussed about? Okay, probably have to be more specific there. This is the guy who made The Cabin in the Woods (no not that guy, the guy who ACTUALLY directed it) which was an interesting idea but for me it suffered from a somewhat oblivious tone and an ending that soured me from ever really enjoying the film again. Well after a few years doing quite a bit of writing, he’s back in the director’s chair with this film that looks to be a mishmash of noir tropes as opposed to horror ones, though he managed to keep Chris Hemsworth around. Will this be the movie that sells me on the brilliance of this director after a somewhat disappointing opening salvo, or is this another guy who I’m just not gonna get and be a sourpuss about while everyone else is enjoying themselves? Let’s find out!!
The El Royale is a hotel on the border between Nevada and California, once a hotbed of celebrity debauchery but now a shell of its former self; handing out cheap rooms to unscrupulous and impoverished characters who aren’t really here for the ambiance. On the fateful day that this movie starts, there JUST SO HAPPENS to be quite a few people there who may or may not have nefarious schemes in mind, including the vacuum salesman Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm), the kindly Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges), the singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), and the mystery woman who signs the guestbook with an obscenity (Dakota Johnson). Now normally they would just go their separate ways and not bother one another no matter what bad stuff they’re into, but what the concierge Miles (Lewis Pullman) isn’t telling them is that this place isn’t simply a rundown hotel; rather it’s a rundown hotel WITH A SPYING ROOM! As each one of them goes about their business, things start to unravel as some discover this place and see what the others are up to which inevitably causes their stories to intertwine in ways that will either lead to fair and equitable compromises or an utter bloodbath; especially with the Mystery Woman having some serious baggage in the form of another mystery woman with her (Cailee Spaeny) and some dude who just might be looking for them (Chris Hemsworth). Will these lovely guests manage to finish what they came here to do with all their limbs still attached? What is each one of them hiding, and how important will it be to the other people there? How the heck did hotel stay open this long!? They’ve got ONE guy running the darn place!!
The Darkest Minds and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Can we just take a moment and remind ourselves that YA adaptations (and even movies aimed at a YA audience) are NOT the worst thing to happen to the world of cinema? That would be Eli Roth, but in any case, I think we’re well past the days of Twilight Hate (at least we SHOULD be and anyone still carrying that torch would be kind of sad) and we even got some bug critical success stories like The Hunger Games; none of which I’ve ever seen but I hear are supposed to be good! In the last few years though, things haven’t really looked great for the genre as they still make money, but none of them have had much critical success or frankly leave much of an impact despite earning so much money. Even GOOD ones like A Wrinkle in Time still languished with critics and didn’t really find the audience it needed to. Now we have this movie which stepping up to the plate to take its swing at the box office. Does this manage to be another high point for a genre that should get a bit more respect, or is this the kind of poorly made tripe that (along with misogyny if we’re being frank) made these films such an easy target in the first place? Let’s find out!!
Ruby Daly (Lidya Jewett) is your typical elementary school student in a run of the mill suburb living her normal life when tragedy strikes as the world basically turns into an even MORE proactive version of Children of Men. Not only are people not having babies anymore, but children start to drop like flies from some mysterious disease, and worse yet the ones who survive get super powers. Now sure there’s a certain amount of… let’s say VOLATILITY in kids having the ability to move things with their mind and conduct electricity (as well as have super smarts and fire bending powers because… reasons), but things go a BIT further than some updated Health and PE classes to straight up generational genocide as ANY child exhibiting any sort of powers (I couldn’t quite tell if it was ALL children or just some of them) are brought to military run internment camps for classification, separation, and manual labor. Ruby ends up getting sent to one of them as she apparently has the ability to read minds I think which makes her the MOST DANGEROUS AND SPECIAL ONE EVER, but she manages to somehow keep it under wraps by mind wiping the doctor (you’d think they’d check for that) and getting classified as a lower tiered super person. Years go by and Ruby goes from a young girl to a teenager (Amandla Stenberg) but things come to a head as she seemingly gets discovered as one of the SUPER SPECIAL AWESOME kids and subsequently whisked away from the camp by a mysterious freedom fighter of sorts (Mandy Moore) who then wants her to join her group known as the Children’s League which seems like a good idea considering she’s got nowhere else to go and they’re for the liberation of children from government persecution… but then she gets a weird vibe from the dude she’s with (Mark O’Brien) and she manages to run away from them to find a van full of super powered teens (Harris Dickinson, Skylan Brooks, and Miya Cech) who agree to take her in as they travel to some sort of children haven known as East River where they can… I guess live free? Of course it won’t be an easy trip as there are children hunting bounty hunters (Gwendoline Christie) roaming the streets as well as the military who aren’t about to let one of their kids go; especially if they’re one of the SUPER SPECIAL AWESOME kids! Will Ruby find a new home with her fellow super powered misfits? Just what does the Children League want from her, and are they truly fighting to save these persecuted children? Okay, seriously Fox? Did you just dust off an old X-Men script to make this movie?
Arrival and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Well this is another movie that just kind of snuck up on me. Apparently we’re not supposed to know movies are coming out unless they’re part of a franchise or have talking animals in it. The thing is that had I known about this more than a week before it came out, I probably would have gotten really excited to see it as it’s directed by the same guy who did Sicario which was one of my favorite movies of last year. That, and hard sci-fi is usually an easy sell for me, so maybe it wouldn’t have hurt to throw this trailer in front of that new Independence Day movie or something. Anyway, does this in-depth examination on the problems with communicating not only work as a scientific procedural but as a badass alien flick, or is all the moody imagery and themes about humanity’s inability to effectively talk to one another just a cover for a mediocre slog? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with a montage as we see Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) give birth to her daughter Hannah and watch her grow up and die due to some sort of illness. After that uplifting introduction, we see Dr. Banks go back to work (presumably some time has passed since the funeral) where she’s a professor of Linguistics at… some college. Unfortunately, it JUST SO HAPPENS that aliens have started landing all over the planet in these giant spaceships that are referred to as Shells, but always looked like black contact lenses to me. Because she’s so good at what she does, Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) brings her to one of the landing sites to see if she can help them understand the alien creatures inside. Those two, along with Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) who is a theoretical physicists need to work together to get these aliens talking or else the world governments, especially a Military leader in China General Shang (Tzi Ma), get too antsy about the shells just hanging around and start firing at them. Can this rag tag group of smart people unlock the secrets inside of these spaceships and prevent humanity from destroying them and possibly themselves in the process? Just what exactly do these aliens want, and why are they just hanging around instead of doing something productive? Seriously, they mastered light speed travel, but they couldn’t figure out a way to communicate with the primitive species BEFORE parking their giant spaceships!?
“So wait, we’ve only been able to access THIS part of the ship which is basically a stage for the aliens to walk past?” “Yup.” “Are you sure we’re not on some intergalactic prank show?”