Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) film review

Year: 2018
Running Time: 141 minutes
Writer/Director: Drew Goddard
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemswoth, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Nick Offerman, Xavier Dolan

Entertaining and delightful at face value and excellent beneath it's surface,  Bad Times at the El Royale is a rare gem of cinema that turns deception into a stunning and enjoyable piece of art. With it's array of superb performances and it's nostalgia-charged production, this film says a great deal more than it does on it's already fascinating surface.

Written and directed by Drew Goddard, the film starts off by deceiving it's audience into believing that they will be watching an Agatha Christie-esque story set in 1968 play out on screen. A group of strangers arrive in a seemingly deserted hotel on the California-Nevada border that was once the scene of many a party of the Hollywood elite, but now only contains the ghosts of it's glory days and a sinister and sleazy atmosphere thanks to the retro lighting, dark corners and a bell boy (Lewis Pullman) who is never quite present.

We are introduced to each of these mysterious travellers and, as is unfortunately human nature, judgement is swiftly passed on each one of them as we note their flaws and attempt to guess what their story is. Bad Times at the El Royale does look like a typical thriller, so that is what our minds have been trained to do when watching such a film. However, once Jon Hamm's egotistical salesman, Laramie Seymour Sullivan reveals himself to be quite the opposite, the story quickly reveals each of the characters and their situations to be quite different than what we assumed and that is when the film reveals itself to as far as possible from a Christie novel.

Bad Times at the El Royale is unpredictable in the most unpredictable of ways. The screenplay is not only well constructed with spectacular character development and an intriguing and suspenseful story, but it also presents us with something of a realisation about ourselves. Bad Times at the El Royale does something very few genre films do and that is it makes us stop and question the relationship between what means we use to solve a mystery and how judgemental we are as humans. We are so quick to predict the motives of the characters based on what we see them doing, their professions, how they talk and how they are dressed, that it is only time that reveals that things really are not as they seem and there are very few characters are what they seem. In addition to that, there are so many complex personalities that also make you question what makes a good person or a bad person, and does it all just depend on circumstance?

It is a brilliant method of deception by Goddard, but it also reminds how we pass judgement on everyone we meet. It is a horrible part of human nature to base judgement on first impressions and it often takes something, such as Bad Times at the El Royale to remind us of this.

However, the associated guilt of this realisation is almost welcomed as Bad Times at the El Royale is so well done. At it's 2 hours and 21 minutes running time, it is a roller coaster of a film with a steep ascent for the first hour to build suspense, followed by fast paced twists and turns. The incredible production design of the El Royale is absolutely mesmerising.  Yet, it is Cynthia Erivo as struggling, down on her luck singer, Darlene Sweet that is completely and utterly spellbinding. Erivo owns every scene she is in and with her own hand, almost brings the film into the musical genre. Like a performance in such a genre, she not only has an amazing singing voice, but she is able to portray her character through song as well as her dialogue.

The film also benefits from star performances by Chris Hemsworth, who once again proves his versatility by becoming a terrifying Charles Manson-like manipulative. Lewis Pullman also gives a head-turning performance as the bellboy, Miles Miller, a character who is one of the true surprise packets of the film.

Bad Times at the El Royale is whole load of fun and a true creative joy. It makes the unforeseeable link between how we watch a thriller and how our minds work as humans and does it in entrancing fluorescent lighting style.


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Vision Films presents the feel-good, award-winning film that celebrates differences, RANDY’S CANVAS

Vision Films and Sugar Baby Entertainment are proud to present Randy’s Canvas, the new, uplifting fictional feature film about a young man with autism who discovers love for the first time in a confusing world. Through his incredible art, Randy and the world come to understand that what makes him different does not define who he is. Director Sean Michael Beyer’s thoughtful and inspirational film took top honors at the 2018 Autfest International Film Festival winning Best Film and Best Actor and has been praised by Autism Activist, Dr. Temple Grandin, and Autism Speaks as being a “sweet, heart-warming tale, portrayed beautifully”.

Starring Adam Carbone (Dude Food with Sean and Sometimes Adam, Another Tango), Scout Taylor-Compton (Rob Zombie’s Halloween, The Runaways), Kevin G. Schmidt (Cheaper by the Dozen, The Butterfly Effect), Massi Furlan (Live By Night, Supernatural), Michael Emery (Bone Tomahawk, Shameless), Richard Riehle (Office Space, Glory) and Marycarmen Lopez (Queen Sugar, Tragedy Girls), Randy’s Canvas is now on DVD/VOD with all profits going to benefit the charity The Autism Project.

Randy (Adam Carbone, Best Actor, AutFest 2018) is a young man with autism who aspires to be an artist. Curator Maurizio D’Oro (Massi Furlan) notices his talent and opens many doors for him, including the chance to study with the renowned art professor, Hausdorff (Richard Riehle), and to have his work shown in a gallery. When Randy falls in love for the first time, his life begins to spin out of control as he tries to deal with a roller coaster of emotions and first-time experiences. With the help of his new classmate Cassie (Scout Taylor-Compton) he learns valuable lessons about friendship, emotions and acceptance.

Randy’s Canvas is now available on Digital for an SRP $4.99 - $9.99 Rent or Buy across all platforms and to Buy on DVD for $12.99.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Big Take (2018) film review

Year: 2018
Running Time: 83 minutes
Writer/Director: Justin Daly
Cast: James McCaffrey, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Zoe Bell, Bill Sage, Dan Hedaya, Robert Foster, Oksada Lada

The Big Take has a limited theatrical run at Cinema Village in New York City from September 7-13. Available on DVD and Digital on September 4.

Justin Daly's The Big Take is an intriguing, thrilling and original piece of cinema that is mesmerisingly atmospheric and an exceptional debut film from a filmmaker who is not afraid to take courageous creative chances.

At the centre of an elaborate plan by Vic (Slate Holmgren) to get money to fund a film by screenwriter, Max (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) is Hollywood actor, Douglas Brown (James MacCaffrey). Brown is under the impression that he is being blackmailed in order for a damaging video of himself not to be shown in public, but he is really part of a crazy scheme by Vic to fund a film and make himself a producer. However, Brown has access to people who can easily discover who Vic and Max are and when a visit by private investigator, Frank Maniscalpo (Dan Hedaya) to Max and his wife, Oxana (Oksana Lada) goes horribly wrong, things start to turn nasty for everyone involved. 

The Big Take  is a highly impressive directorial debut by Justin Daly. It is evident that he has a strong sense of who he is as a filmmaker and is uncompromising in the execution of his first film. Daly's style of direction is not unlike that of a younger Quentin Tarantino as The Big Take has an atmosphere reminiscent of that of Pulp Fiction. However, the screenplay (also written by Daly) cannot be compared to the 1994 film as it is a highly original piece of work. 

It's creativity in the darkly comical narrative allows for a heightened sense of suspense and unpredictability which is supported by a soundtrack that not just enhances the atmosphere, but excites and intrigues. The reason it is so intriguing is that types of music are matched with landscapes that it would not usually be associated with in film (such as reggae accompanying the image of a motorcycle on the streets of Los Angeles), but unexpectedly works so well.

It's flowing dialog is superbly written for the screen and delivered with ease by the impeccable cast. Ebon Moss-Bachrach as the unassuming Max who is the star of the film. James MacCaffrey's Douglas Brown is the Hollywood stereotype which people love to hate right from the word go, but Max is the underdog who could be the real hero of the film that everyone barracks for. He is the relatable writer trying to make his way in the tough world that is Hollywood and trying to get people to take notice, so when trouble in the form of attention comes his way he doesn't question it. Zoe Bell is also a standout as the girl who is way scarier than she initially seems, Edie.

The Big Take explores the side of Hollywood where people will do absolutely anything and question nothing to finally get their big break. Justin Daly breaks into the filmmaking scene with incredible power and is without a doubt one to watch in the future.