Bad Times at the El Royale


A Middle Aged Movie Blog. Being the periodic journal of a film loving middle aged independent science fiction writing father of two and his ongoing adventures in cinema and home video


Sat down to watch Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) with The Lampshade Maker post veggie burger tea. Been looking forward to this and was worried it wouldn’t live up to my high expectations for it. Thankfully, it was every bit the stylised, violent, intelligently drawn neo-noir I’d been hoping it would be. A cool ensemble cast makes good on Goddard’s characters. There are some real moments of tension, interspersed with black comedy and quality soundtrack choices. Each of the characters, despite the fact we know very little about them, is wonderfully drawn using the minimum of backstory. The plot, meanwhile, is genre classy and weaves the different narrative threads and character arcs together impeccably. A real success for Drew Goddard on writing and directing duties. A cool hand follow-up to 2012’s meta confection The Cabin in The Woods.

Squeezed the first episode of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance in with the kids before bedtime. The first episode was magical, unsettling and downright horrifying on occasion, with a fine blend of CG and puppetry to bring the world back to life.

Once the kids were in bed, watched Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter (1952), which is his masterpiece, an occasionally surreal, blackly funny serial killer movie that is so beautiful on occasion – the river getaway scene when the children are being stalked by Robert Mitchum’s God crazy killer being a particular standout – that it’s almost difficult to watch. Use of light and shadow in the movie is sublime. Mitchum’s performance is downright terrifying. Shelly Winter’s death shot, where she winds up at the bottom of the river behind the wheel of a car with her hair billowing in sync with underwater fauna is devastating. A total masterpiece that was poorly received on release. Time has been kind to it. I urge you to give it a go.

Revisited Quentin Tarantino’s bloody, blackly comical, ode to the Spaghetti Westerns of yore, Django Unchained (2012), which on repeat viewing is every bit as much fun as it was when I first watched it on its 2012 release. Both Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz are on form throughout, and the supporting cast is astonishingly well organized, in a movie that is as violently stylised as any of Tarantino’s previous oeuvre. Bonus points to Leonardo DiCaprio for creating a uniquely off the wall brand of malevolence as sadistic plantation owner Calvin Candie. Going to check out The Hateful Eight (2015) again at some point, then maybe Death Proof (2007), Tarantino’s least loved effort, but one I adore, as much for Kurt Russel’s Stuntman Mike sleaze as Zoe Bell’s extraordinary moving vehicle car bonnet gymnastics during the film’s chase climax.

Friday Night Movie Night at Chez Ayling, chosen by The Boy and The Girl, but recommended by VHS Revival contributors on the publication of an article discussing its relative merits… Octopussy (1983).

With more racial stereotyping and breast ogling than you can shake a Walther PPK at, a veritable army of ludicrously clad villains and bit players, the most incongruous elephant hunt/chase scene in film history, and enough double-entendres to fill up a Carry On script, this is Bond gone full eighties kitsch. Roger Moore was clearly past his sell by date at this point, though the inclusion of the clown sequence for the film’s opening remains one of the finest, and most tense, in the franchise.

Followed this by revisiting Five Easy Pieces, Bob Rafelson’s 1970 road movie of sorts, which centers on the drama of ex musical wunderkind Jack Nicholson and his adventures in slumming it. A tour de force performance from Nicholson helps the film retain impact. Nicholson and Rafelson paint an intimate picture of an obnoxious drop out and drifter in the making. They would go on to work together again, notably in The King of Marvin Gardens (1972) Rafelson’s re-make of The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981) Man Trouble (1996) and Blood and Wine (1996). Worth seeking all of these movies out if you’ve never had the pleasure.

Attended Home for the first time in ages to watch Pedro Almodovar’s latest, mostly autobiographical movie, Pain and Glory (2019). Antonio Banderas stars as Almodovar stand in Salvador Mallo, a director with a lot of health complaints, experiencing a late career crisis and some serious self-reflection as a result of past mistakes. Banderas’s performance is a career best, subtle, funny, tender and melancholy throughout. It’s also Almodovar’s best movie since Volver (2006), though 2016’s Julieta is also a good shout.

Watched Slaughterhouse Rulez (2018), a teen horror comedy set in an English boarding school where some kind of seismic activity as a result of fracking, results in a sink hole full of unspeakable horrors appearing right next to the school’s grounds. This ought to have been a cracker. The opportunity was there for unchecked, blood-spattered hilarity and some quality genre pastiche and unbridled upper-class malevolence. Unfortunately, the film misses the mark by quite a bit. File under mediocre. A horror comedy that promised a lot, but ultimately was short on laughs and viscera strewn creativity. The trailer was impressive, though, so there’s that in its favour at least. Directed by Crispian Mills. Starring Asa Butterfield, Finn Cole, Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Michael Sheen.

Bad Times at the El Royale

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