Posts Tagged ‘Jon Hamm’

After a career writing for twisty — and frequently Abrams-ian — projects like Alias, Lost and Cloverfield, Drew Goddard made his directorial debut with 2012’s The Cabin in the Woods. Equal parts homage and satire, “Cabin” was the perfect vehicle for Goddard’s particular blend of genre appreciation and experimental tomfoolery.

In his feature follow-up, Goddard doesn’t put away his bag of tricks, but he draws from it considerably less. Much like how “Cabin” explored the conventions of teen slasher flicks, “Bad Times at the El Royale” plays with the classic Dark and Stormy Night setup, with seven strangers colliding at a once-swanky hotel that straddles the Nevada-California border. In many ways it feels like the spiritual offspring of “Clue,” or perhaps its violent younger sibling.

We arrive at the El Royale with Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), a singer en route to a gig in Reno, and are quickly introduced to Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), traveling salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm), Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson) and bellhop Miles (Lews Pullman). A couple other characters are ultimately introduced (including a Charles Manson-esque Chris Hemsworth) and it goes without saying that no one is quite the person they appear to be.

In bits and pieces, Goddard reveals the true agendas behind each guest’s stay at the El Royale, and in no time at those agendas to collide with revelatory and occasionally fatal results. There are many surprises at the “Royale,” but several plot beats are a little too easy to track from minute one.

A big element in “Royale” is mood, which Goddard uses to maximum result, but the atmosphere can only get you so far before you have to deal with an actual story, and that’s where the seams begin to show. Once all the cards are on the table, the film starts to run out of steam.

The cast is clearly enjoying the opportunity to play against type, with Hamm and Hemsworth in particular chewing a bit of scenery in their respective roles. And Erivo, as the audience surrogate, is superb as the closest thing to a “normal” person in a cartoonishly chaotic film.

But the gimmickry is half the fun. The style and the amount of talent on screen makes up for the film’s weaknesses, resulting in something akin to a magician’s act. You’ll know you’re being tricked, but you won’t mind at all.

Grade: B+

Bad Times at the El Royale opens nationwide on Friday, October 12.

 

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With any luck, I’ll have the Top 10 completed by mid-January. “The Post” hits Salt Lake City on the 12th and, let’s be honest, I’m going to love it. How *much* I love it remains to be seen, but I can hardly put a list together without seeing the latest Spielberg film.

One thing I’ve already noticed from my shortlist is that 2017 did a great job of spreading the love throughout the year. Instead of the usual November-December cluster of quality, this year’s shortlist includes several early-summer releases and at least one that premiered back in February (hint, hint).

The popcorn fare was also better than usual. I already wrote in my honorable mentions how we got five legitimately great superhero flicks this year. Add to that a risky (read: polarizing) entry into the Star Wars franchise, another you’re-lying-if-you-say-you-didn’t-like-it Fast and Furious film, and a remake of “It” that, IMHO, outdoes the original.

But when looking back at the slate of mainstream, pair-it-with-a-coke, studio fare, there was one film that stood out for it’s thrills and chills. While not the best movie of the year, in an academic sense, it was definitely the most fun I had at the movies and that’s why this year’s Number 11 film is:

Baby Driver

Click on that embedded video, right now. Even if you’ve already seen the movie and especially if you haven’t, do yourself a favor and watch that clip, which is the 6-minute bank heist and car chase that cold opens Edgar Wright’s fantastic movie.

Wright, director of similar genre-blending pop culture staples like Shaun of The Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World puts his signature editing style to its maximum effect in Baby Driver. The film stars Ansel Elgort as Baby, a getaway criminal with tinnitus who relies on a steady soundtrack of music to drown out the ringing in his ears and who is forced to take less-than-legal jobs to pay down a debt. He meets a girl near the end of his indentured servitude, setting up the kind of “one last job” scenario familiar to heist movies, but deployed in a way that marries sound, sight and action choreography in a way that only Wright can.

The chase scenes are, quite simply, unparalleled and matched with a dynamite soundtrack and joyful performances by a crew of A-list actors (including Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal and Jamie Foxx) playing both into and against their stereotypes.

The one sour note, cosmic in nature, is the inclusion of Kevin Spacey as Baby’s puppet master. It’s a supporting role in the film’s goings-on, but nonetheless harder to stomach now that Spacey’s decades of predatory behavior off-screen has come to light. Perhaps future releases will swap Spacey out, George Lucas style, and I suppose some consolation can be found in that fact that [Spoiler Alert] Spacey’s character need not return for the sequel. I defer to everyone their own calculus on whether or not to watch films that feature terrible people, but for me, the talent and effort of the many other individuals involved in Baby Driver deserve to be celebrated.

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