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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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The Professor and the Madman: A Masterful And Fascinating Story



If I am to fashion a book,
I’ll need a spine.

Sometimes you are awed by cinema films because of the immensely beautiful special effects and the use of unparalleled images. The other time it’s the inventiveness of a story and the way it’s structured. And in other films, you look with admiration at the way certain actors play their role. Is it obligatory that a movie looks phenomenal to you? Or does it happen sometimes that while reading a novel, in which the sophisticated juggling with words creates literary excitement, you have difficulties to keep your eyes open and your head nods back after a short period after which a little snoring is heard? Well, in that case, it might be better for you to ignore this film. Because in “The Professor and the Madman” there are no breathtaking special effects to be found and the emphasis is on the literature from this world. For me, this was a masterful and fascinating story about how the world-famous “Oxford Dictionary” was put together.


The Professor and the Madman


A practically impossible task.

Even though this takes place around 1850, there are certain facts that can be found in our contemporary society. And, of course, there are also substantial differences. The film is not just about the realization of an almost impossible assignment with limited resources. It’s also about the existence of class differences, scientific ignorance and the application of inhumane practices in psychiatric institutions. It demonstrates the pretentious behavior of the wealthy class and the political juggling in intellectual circles. And in between these topics, there’s the Scotsman James Murray (Mel Gibson) who, with the help of countless strips of paper, miles of knitting yarn and with a ton of patience, tries to contain and interpret every existing English word in literary history. An assignment that requires immense efforts to the detriment of his wife and children.


The Professor and the Madman


Literature isn’t a sexy subject.

I’m aware that literature (at least for me) isn’t exactly a sexy subject. I already assumed that this film wouldn’t be intense or exciting. But just like with “Kill your Darlings“, this historical drama fascinated me. And this because of the challenge Murray took on. I looked in disbelief at the method that was applied. And I was constantly wondering if this was achievable. It’s an era where people didn’t know the word digital yet (one word they don’t need to concentrate on) and they didn’t have computers at their disposal. No indexed work file with linked cross-reference tables on which one could release SQL statements, to do big data analyses. No, everything was scribbled down with old-fashioned ink pens on sheets of paper and then attached to the walls. Can it be more primitive? It’s wonderful to see that James Murray actually applies the principle of content management here by encouraging the English people to write down English words and send them to them by mail (indeed no e-mail).


The Professor and the Madman


Brilliant acting by Gibson and Penn.

It’s mainly the brilliant acting of the gentlemen Mel Gibson and Sean Penn that makes the film more interesting. Gibson plays the Scottish academic and autodidact who, despite the opposition of the established values from the Oxford Board of Directors, is appointed as the driving force behind this renowned work and is a model of perseverance. My favorite scene is where he’s introduced to these intellectual snobs who don’t even bother to hide their aversion. The moment Murray lists all the languages he knows and I saw those bewildered faces of the narcissistic academics, it immediately reminded me of the scene in a student bar with Matt Damon in “Good Will Hunting“. There, too, such a rich man’s son with a snobbish attitude was put in his place in a brilliant way.


The Professor and the Madman


Overacting? Nope, he’s just plain nuts.

Mel Gibson’s sparring partner is William Chester Minor (Sean Penn), an American army-doctor and war veteran who is haunted by delusions. In a phase of extreme madness and schizophrenia, he kills an innocent passer-by and ends up in the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. In short, an institution for criminal madmen. The doctor on duty there, Dr. Richard Brayn (Stephen Dillane), initially envisages a decent treatment (which leads to certain privileges such as a large room with a gigantic library). But towards the end, he eventually seems to be a supporter of terrible techniques anyway. It’s thanks to a book that Minor received from his victim’s widow (In my eyes, the weakest aspect in this film) that he finds out that Murray asked the English people for help. And that’s the impetus for Minor to get to work and to overload Murray with thousands of words for the dictionary. The way Penn plays this tormented and insane man is simply formidable. And yes, this tends to look like overacting. But isn’t it necessary to portray this type of individual? Minor is after all nuts.


The Professor and the Madman


The beards intrigued me.

There are several facets that are beautifully worked out. Such as the detailed decor in which the story takes place. London during the 19th century with its typical costumes, way people behave and attributes. But above all, the interaction between the two extremely brilliant gentlemen is perfectly portrayed. Two tortured intellectuals. The one because of the obstructions and impossibility of the assignment. The other because of the inner demons that make his life unbearable. An individual suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). An unknown condition in those days. The dialogues in which the two gentlemen show their love for English vocabulary is sublime to watch. The way in which they both perk up while saying one word after the other with a smile is a feast for the eyes. Perhaps the corny storyline about the widow Eliza Merrett (NatalieGame of ThronesDormer) didn’t really fit in with the whole and the emphatic message about regret and forgiveness was a bit over-the-top. But despite those shortcomings, I found this historic film based on true facts fascinating enough. So if you have questions about the origin of dictionaries, you shouldn’t miss this film. At the same time, you also have an idea about academic intellectualism (and their self-righteous and arrogant attitude) and the horror of 19th-century psychiatry. But what I wondered the most: are Gibson’s and Penn’s beard the result of natural beard growth or props?


My rating 7/10
Links: IMDB

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12 Feet Deep: The Makers Managed To Capture The Whole In A Brilliant Way



Are you dense? Everyone’s left.
The pool’s closed for the holiday weekend.
We’re stuck in here. We’re gonna die in here.

I hope this isn’t going to be a new trend, otherwise more movies of this type will appear in the future. Like, “For a Few Degrees More.” with a blonde vamp trapped in a sauna complex with a malfunctioning thermostat and the possibility that her silicone implants might implode. Or “Once upon a time … a Hand in a Hole.” with a male couple at a mini-golf course where one of them gets stuck with his hand in a hole, while trying to recover his golf ball, right before closing. Let’s hope that’s not going to happen. “12 Feet deep” is about two sisters who, how on earth is it possible, get stuck under the fiberglass cover of a public swimming pool. And the culprit is a ring that got stuck in a metal grate. Who comes up with this? And I’m still wondering how they could see that little piece of jewelry from so far !!! ??


12 Feet Deep


Women and water.

Women and water. Apparently not a good combination. Just look at the films “The Shallows” and “47 Meters down“. In the first movie, Nancy ends up on a piece of rock together with a seagull while surfing. And of course, an immense shark is looking at her exposed skin with googly eyes. In “47 Meters down” the sisters Kate and Lisa are trapped in a shark cage while a lot of sharks already see them as a juicy lunch. In “12 Feet Deep” there are no sharks this time, but once again two sisters, Bree (Nora-Jane Noone) and Jonna (Alexandra Park). And now it doesn’t take place in an exotic ocean but in a standard public swimming pool. And that ‘s also the only location that you are going to see the entire film. Plus a lot of water.


12 Feet Deep


Is “12 Feet Deep” kind of a bore?

I myself am not exactly a fan of swimming pools. I, therefore, assumed that the makers of this film came up with something surprising so it would keep my attention. To be honest, I was already thinking it was going to be boring. On the one hand, it is. Certainly when you see one of the sisters floating around the pool for the umpteenth time looking for a way out. On the other hand, aspects were added that made it interesting anyway. First of all, there is a dispute between the two sisters because of a dark incident in their past that left scars. Both literally and figuratively. And then there’s a cleaning lady whose intentions aren’t exactly to help the two unlucky souls. These two factors ensure that the film, although minimal, became more intense.


12 Feet Deep


Does Jigsaw have anything to do with it?

Tobin Bell appearing in this film was a funny item. Here he was assigned the task of managing the swimming pool. A less sinister role as Jigsaw in the “Saw” franchise of course. But for a moment it seemed like he had this demonic expression on his face as he looked over the surface of the water. I wondered if the phrase “Hello, I want to play a game” crossed his mind before he hurried home. However, his contribution is limited. So there’s not only the limitation of the number of locations but also that of the number of protagonists who carry the entire film.


12 Feet Deep


Less horror, more drama.

Still, the makers managed to capture the whole in a brilliant way and to create a claustrophobic feeling. A camera that floats constantly between the water surface and the fiberglass cover. A limited breathing space where you see the two sisters staring helplessly at each other, realizing they have ended up in a very awkward, life-threatening situation. When it turns out that one of the two sisters is also a diabetic who urgently needs an injection of insulin, it becomes a fight for life and death. “12 Feet Deep” was given the label horror and thriller. But I don’t think it’s a horror per se. Or you’re terrified of water or confined spaces. And the movie didn’t really fascinate me either. Maybe swimming instructors or professional divers find this fascinating. If they had come up with an ending like in “Let the right one in“, it might have been an adrenaline-raising movie. I’m sure that for those who have actually experienced this (because apparently the film is based on true facts), it was intense and horrifying.


My rating 4/10
Links: IMDB

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Underwater | Official Trailer – HD






Action, Drama, Horror

Release Date:

January 10, 2020


William Eubank


Kristen Stewart, T.J. Miller, Vincent Cassel, Jessica Henwick, John Gallagher Jr., Mamoudou Athie

Plot Summary:

After an earthquake destroys their underwater station, six researchers must navigate two miles in the dangerous, unknown depths of the ocean floor to make it to safety in a race against time.

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