Sunday, March 31, 2019

Bad Times at the El Royale

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! It would be easy to make a joke about good times at the El Royale so I'm gonna do that.  The sequel is called Good Times at the El Royale.



Bad Times at the El Royale – 4 out of 5

My introduction to Bad Times at the El Royale was due to an interesting twist on the Coming Attractions section when I went to see The Predator.  Teasers for the trailer was shown in small sections between other trailers and theater announcements.  At first, I wrote it off thinking it looked stupid because the tone from the tease didn’t look like something that would interest me.  However, with each passing segment, more of the tale is feathered out and its true tone was showcased.  Then the legit trailer is shown and I found myself going from “I have no interest in this film” to “Whoa, this looks nuts!”  It was a pretty smart marketing approach because the film is a mystery and, with all mysteries, clues and developments are slowly revealed over the course of time and that’s exactly what this series of teasers did for the main event; the trailer.  It left an impact and it created some high expectations.  Usually this can be a recipe for disaster but writer/director Drew Goddard made a damn fine movie and crafted a very engaging mystery.

I'll be honest, this hotel seems like a cool place.  I'll even accept the danger
that this movie showcases if I ever got to stay in such an establishment.

Once a hotspot of activity and partying, the El Royale has fallen into obscurity and at the end of the 1960s, it becomes a meetup for an odd cast of characters.  There’s the absentminded Catholic priest Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges), the R&B singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), the hippie Emily Summersping (Dakota Johnson) and the chatty vacuum salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm).  However, not is all it seems with the guests and they all have their own secrets.  Even the hotel’s only employee; Miles Miller, has his own secrets to bear and the secrets the hotel holds.  What brings them all to the El Royale?  What dangers lie in wait?  Matters only get worse and suspicions reach a fever pitch when a charismatic cult leader by the name of Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) shows up.

Shows up with his stupid perfect body that makes me hate my fat, disgusting body.

Bad Times at the El Royale has a lot going on for it that makes it a very engaging mystery and entertaining film.  Visually, the film is just a delight to behold.  Drew Goddard made every scene just look spectacular.  The methodical movements of the camera and the angles at work from a pure visual standpoint grabbed me and enhanced the viewing experience.  The story presented is already very interesting but the way Goddard made the film look and the emotional expression he was able to convey through the visuals and the very tight editing made something that was also a treat for the eyes.  

Yes, even with the creepy way people can look in on you in your room doesn't
stop me from wanting to stay here.  Besides, all anyone would see if they
snooped in on me is a man who cries a lot and eats his feelings.

From a story perspective, this feature has got it going on—something I’ve literally never said about a movie I’ve watched.  Mysteries are a hard genre to master because if you give too much it isn’t fun and if you give too little they are frustrating.  Even worse is when a mystery decides to just throw in a resolution or reveal that isn’t foreshadowed or teased at all throughout the story and you are left with a feeling of being played and shortchanged by the production (a lot of horror mysteries will do this and it is a dick move).  Bad Times is unique in that it is a mystery that never feels like a real mystery.   Often mysteries are features that you just want to get answers from but this one the journey is more important than the reveal and watching the tale unfold and develop is the highpoint.  The ultimate question of who everyone really is and what they are up to is still incredibly interesting but Goddard was able to write and present a tale where watching everything grow and reveal itself is just as cool as having the full understanding that comes at the end of a mystery.  Even more impressive was Goddard’s near mastery over pacing and how he knew when and where the film needs to move slowly and more methodically and where exactly he can pick up the pace.  This resulted in a feature that never drags or feels like it is padding itself out with needless moments.

The Dude preaches.

Hamm can do comedy, drama, thrillers...
he better do a musical next so I can see him
nail that too.
Finally, the cast is absolutely stellar in this film.  Everyone is so captivating to watch and there were even some players that gave me a pleasant surprise.  Lewis Pullman, who plays the hotel employee Miles, was a performer I wrote off early in the film because I wasn’t expecting anything from his character beyond being a peripheral part of the story.  However, Miles goes on to play an important role as he has some secrets of his own and Pullman really did a tremendous job with it.  He was so meager and small in the beginning that it was easy to push him into the background and that’s what made his turnaround so interesting.  Additionally, I wasn’t too thrilled with Dakota Johnson being in this film because my experience with her stems only from her, honestly, boring performance in Fifty Shades of Grey (but, let’s be real here, nothing about that film was great) so when I saw her in the initial teaser for the trailer that day in the cinema, she was the reason I wrote the film off.  However, unlike Fifty Shades, she actually has some depth and dimension and isn’t just being wooden and forgettable.  Really, everyone in this cast was awesome because they all brought their A-game to make their characters captivating.  

Ron Swanson himself, Nick Offerman, is in the film as that masked man.

The only real downside I found for this film is replay value.  Chances are this won’t be going into my regular rotation and will be a movie that I have to be in a mood to see in order to re-watch.  That is in no way me condemning Bad Times at the El Royale because it is an amazing movie that is expertly crafted.  With its strong visuals, engrossing story and awesome-sauce performances, the film is incredible in every conceivable way.  While I don’t think it has endless replay value for me personally, I do find it to be an astounding feature.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Reign of the Supermen

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! And the next reign is from the Super Duper Men.



Reign of the Supermen – 4 out of 5

In my previous review that centered on DC’s adaptation of their “Death of Superman” storyline from the early 90s, I mention how that storyline was a landmark moment in both comics and in my formative years.  Seeing the Big Blue Boy Scout die at the hands of the unstoppable Doomsday was unbelievable enough but the arc that followed soon after his demise; “Reign of the Supermen!”, was something all its own and an oddity unto itself.  Supes dies and suddenly there’s a Superboy decked out in 90s cringe, some super-dude in shades calling himself the Eradicator, an armor-suited Superman named Steel and then a Superman that was the ultimate 90s trope; a Cyborg Superman.  It was fun and absolutely bonkers, to say the least.  I honestly never thought DC would adapt this particular aspect of the arc but, sure enough, they did with Reign of the Supermen and it’s not too shabby.

Any comments, Hawkman?  Just kidding, you once again have no lines.

After the tremendous battle against Doomsday, the hero Superman (Jerry O’Connell) is dead and the world is struggling to figure out how to move on.  From the emptiness left by the hero rises new heroes all clamoring to claim the mantle.  Lex Luthor introduces a clone of Superman, dubbed Superboy (Cameron Monaghan), there’s a mysterious and violent justice-keeper calling himself Eradicator (Charles Halford), a man named John Henry Irons, inspired by Superman’s deeds, wields a giant hammer and builds himself a suit of armor and calls himself Steel (Cress Williams) and a mysterious man who is part machine who claims to be the real Superman brought back to life through technology called Cyborg Superman.  Are these men true heroes out to takeover for the deceased legend or are they out to take over the world?

"The name is Eradicator and I am here to fix your television.  I gave up eradicating."

In the 90s cyborgs were very cool in the world of comics
and I was all about them.  So, I definitely dug
Cyborg Superman.
On one hand, it is cool to see this arc of the “Death of Superman” story be adapted for DC’s animated universe but, on the other hand, the adaptation is kinda weighed down at points and comes off slightly boring.  I gave it a good score because the overall product is good and is able to avoid the minefields that haunts most DC features (namely the open misogyny and their endlessly child-like attempt at looking more mature but always overdoing it and looking more childish than ever) but there’s no denying that this portion of the story doesn’t have the emotional edge needed nor the “umph” to make this really interesting.  Aside from some truly weak points of animation (there are moments that looked like the animators were rushed and just churned out something fast), the biggest downside this feature has is the story drags a lot as it attempts to condense this tale from the comics and somehow juggle the development of 4 brand new characters to the universe.  Overall, it works, but there is no denying that I have some issues with development and pacing.

I didn't know if they were gonna do the black suit/mullet Superman from the comics...
they didn't disappoint.

On the positive side, the action is great.  Seeing these new Supermen go head-to-head against each other and, eventually, the forces that conspired behind their backs is very exciting and really captures the power they each had.  Additionally, as is usual with DC animated films, the voice acting is great.  Everyone from the new crew to the returning cast brings their heroes and villains to life fantastically.  It was also cool seeing Cress Williams (star of Black Lightning) get to claim the role of another DC hero.

Even more impressive is the fact that Williams is playing Shaq playing Steel.

I'm sorry, I thought he was cool in the 90s but now
he just seems dumb.
Reign of the Supermen has its moments and it is definitely cool seeing characters like Superboy (in nearly all his 90s douche charm—sorry, fans, I always felt he was kind of a tool), Eradicator, Cyborg Superman and Steel come to life in the animated world and it was nice to see this side of the “Death of Superman” tale get adapted but the feature isn’t without its fair share of issues.  The story definitely feels too slow for much of the beginning and too rushed toward the end, there is some really weak animation at points and the story has a hard time developing the new characters.  It’s sloppy to say the least but ultimately ends up working and provides a decent, albeit filler-feeling, addition to the library.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Goodbye Christopher Robin

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! I never got to see the first one; Hello Christopher Robin.



Goodbye Christopher Robin – 4 out of 5

After watching the wonder and whimsy of Christopher Robin (you can read that review here), I decided to jump back to a film that came out a year before.  Vastly different in tone and context, Goodbye Christopher Robin came at the story of that silly old bear from a biopic standpoint and tells the tale of how the story came to be.  The one thing this one did have in common with the more whimsical Disney adventure is that it was very good at pulling at the heartstrings.

Silly old bear...seriously, though, get out of the tree, you'll get hurt.

After returning from WWI, writer A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) returns a different man.  He tries to resume his work but can’t quite get back into writing.  He moves out to the country with his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie), his son Christopher Robin a.k.a. Billy Moon (Will Tilston) and the nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald).  After Olive has to leave to attend to some family business and Daphne returns to the city, Milne is left to care for his son on his own.  While watching his son play with his stuffed animals and engaging in some imaginary adventures in the wooden area around the cottage, Milne is inspired to create a children’s story based on his son.  The Winnie-the-Pooh books become a huge success but one that a young Christopher Robin Milne wasn’t prepared for.

If he can accept that haircut, he can accept the hardships that come with fame, amirite?
That's right, I burned a small child and passive aggressively mocked his hairstyle.

I hesitate to compare Goodbye Christopher Robin to Disney’s Christopher Robin because they are two different features.  While I loved the child-like wonder that is Christopher Robin, I made sure to not have the same expectations with this one.  This feature is a biopic that has a very somber tone that steers more towards the real emotions and drama rather than the heightened sensibilities of Disney’s magic and the movie truly excels at this.  It was easy to get hooked into the unfolding narrative and drama and get emotionally invested in what was occurring.  Whether this comes in the form of the highs as we see father and son having fun with each other and that sparking creation in the dad or whether it is Milne’s post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the war or Christopher Robin dealing with the hardships of growing up as a character in a children’s book.  This movie really hits the emotions and drama well and does so with realism.

Other designs had Pooh with cybernetic arms and machine guns.

One element that added to this realism is the performances.  Domhnall Gleeson and Margot Robbie are both very talented performers.  Gleeson really captured Milne’s struggle to return to life after the war and find the new subject he would write about.  The two actors portraying Christopher Robin, Will Tilston as a child and Alex Lawther as an adult, were incredible to watch as they both encompass different eras of the man’s life and not just from an age perspective.  I was really impressed seeing how the young Tilston handled the transition of a child at play with his father to a boy starting to realize that this life of a celebrity might not be what he needs.  Finally, I really enjoyed the chemistry that Gleeson had with both actors and the dynamic portrayal of the father/son relationship.

"Son, we need to find a way to get our pants up higher.  Let's aim for the
armpits."

The only drawbacks I had with the film are the exploration of Milne’s PTSD from the war and the pacing that concerns Christopher Robin’s development.  Milne’s fear and anxiety that came back with him from the war has a place in the story but doesn’t feel as prevalent as the conflict should feel.  It almost feels randomly used and it resolution comes about too quickly.  Finally, a lot of the story concerns CR’s life as a child and the conception of the Winnie-the-Pooh story.  So much energy and time is spent here that I believed that the entirety of the story would revolve around this time period, despite the feature beginning later in CR’s life.  When Robin’s time as an adult arrives, it feels like it came and went very quickly when compared to the childhood section and it made the final act of the film feel rushed.  Neither of these were entertainment killers but observations I held nonetheless.

Gleeson is a dynamite performer.  I don't get tired of watching him work.

Goodbye Christopher Robin tells a dramatic story about how a children’s book icon came about and how it may have instilled happiness and joy in millions of little ones but it also became a great burden for one boy and one he had to carry his entire life.  The story is enthralling, the performances are fantastic and heart and drama is captivating.  It has some minor issues concerning developments but, overall, it’s a touching and captivating biopic.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Skyscraper

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! People keep comparing this film to Die Hard but this one does have something that the 80s action classic doesn't:  People won't annoyingly debate whether this is a Christmas movie or not.



Skyscraper – 2 out of 5

I like The Rock.  I was a fan of him when he was rasslin’ in his Sports Entertainment days and, although I was skeptical of his journey into a film career, I feel he’s come a long way in his acting and has definitely made a name for himself.  The guy is badass, charming and incredibly likeable and it has come to the point that if he is attached to a film, I will check it out with no questions asked.  So, when I first saw the trailer for Skyscraper, I said, “Yes, I will see this based on the presence of Dwayne Johnson alone.”  However, despite the undeniable screen presence the man is, he alone can’t make everything he is in work.

Still, I can't help but reiterate that he has an incredible screen presence and
an undeniable charm.

Will Sawyer (Johnson) was once a Marine and FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader and is now a private security consultant after a suicide bomber leaves him with his left leg being amputated.  At the behest of a former colleague, he takes a job from a man named Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han).  He is hired to assess the security of “The Pearl,” the newest skyscraper and one that dwarfs all those previous.  His family, his wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) and his two kids, are invited to live in the currently unoccupied residential floors while he does his work.  While offsite, the skyscraper is attacked by terrorists and set ablaze.  With his family trapped in the building, Sawyer must now stop at nothing to rescue them and take control of the high-tech skyscraper back.

"And in this room of the skyscraper is where I keep all my Beanie Babies...
trust me, they will return in popularity."

I’m not going to say I had high expectations for Skyscraper.  I was hoping for a popcorn action film and, for the most part, it was that but not to an extent that made it very entertaining.  A lot of comparisons were made to Die Hard with this film and I get that on a base level but there was also a The Towering Inferno vibe the story put off.  In fact, the whole feature had a feeling like it belonged to the late 80s/early 90s genre of action films as it centers on losing control of a state-of-the-art item—in this case, an entire building.  So, on a purely superficial level with the genre and the star, this film feels like it should at least be good enough for a fun film but I honestly was kinda bored with it.

"Hi, I'm the bad guy.  I infiltrated this establishment disguised as a worker.
It's cliche, I know, but it works."

I think the experience for this one was soured for me due to action sequences that didn’t really sink its hooks into me and the fact that The Rock’s charisma didn’t feel entirely utilized.  While there are definitely cool moments that are exciting to watch, there never felt like there were enough of them and the small action moments felt hollow and almost like filler.  Even worse, the film’s final action sequence takes place in a VR “globe” that is intended to be the “heart” of the giant skyscraper and the set pieces delivered in this final climax did little to arouse my interest.  It ended up boiling down to a by-the-numbers shoot-up but a by-the-numbers shoot-up that felt like it was place in a funhouse hall of mirrors.  The predictable gags are all featured and they did little to keep me engaged.  The sad part is that all the gags have been seen before and done better.

I can't emphasize enough just how disappointing this sequence was.

As much as I like Dwayne Johnson, I felt Skyscraper never fully utilized or tapped into his natural likeability.  He has his moments of charm and his moments of looking like an unstoppable badass but the entire story and film feels so bottom-of-the-barrel generic that he never truly feels like he’s allowed to be the person who can be the leading man and box office giant that he is.  The performances in this film are genuinely good but there never feels like a moment for anyone to really showcase how great they can be because the production feels like it is just doing the bare minimum to make a popcorn action feature.  This perceived level of energy ended up resulting in a movie that feels very underwhelming nearly its entire running length.

It was awfully convenient to have the giant monitors in place and have the local
news get such great footage of the action for the spectators on the ground level.

Finally, one last element of the film felt like it should have been important but, like so much, ended up feeling like it wasn’t utilized:  Sawyer having an artificial leg.  This is cool in concept because we’re going to have an action star that represents a group of people that have never been showcased in the action genre but, sadly, the whole element felt superfluous.  The story sets it up like it would come into play in a way that may mean that Sawyer will have this used against him or will be something that helps make Sawyer victorious but, ultimately, the whole element feels tacked on and doesn’t come into play enough to warrant its existence.  In fact, at times it felt like it was established and completely forgotten and then used as a last minute add-on.

If this was me, I would have fallen...
long before I even got to the top of the crane.

Skyscraper isn’t a particularly bad film.  It has its moments and the cast is doing a great job.  The problem is the film just isn’t memorable.  It would be easy to call this feature a rip-off of The Towering Inferno or Die Hard but it doesn’t feel like it is trying hard enough to rip anything off.  To me, the feature just felt like a barebones popcorn action film that rests its haunches on action tropes and never leans in and utilizes the elements it really needed to take advantage of in order to be an entertaining movie.