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Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

Winston T. Boogie

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Title: Bad Times at the El Royale

Tagline: All Roads Lead Here.

Genre: Thriller, Horror, Crime

Director: Drew Goddard

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Chris Hemsworth, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Nick Offerman, Mark O'Brien, Manny Jacinto, Bethany Brown, Jonathan Whitesell, Sarah Smyth, Alvina August, Sophia Lauchlin Hirt, Hannah Zirke, Tally Rodin, Billy Wickman, James Quach, Kate Gajdosik, Vincent Washington

Release: 2018-10-04

Runtime: 140

Plot: Seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at Lake Tahoe's El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past in 1969. Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption.

 

Jake Lipson

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I just got an advance screening invite for this for tomorrow night.

Saw this last night.

Since you've already seen it, Thomas (or for anyone else who might know): exactly how much of a horror film is it? I've heard good things and am curious about it but really do not do well with jump scares or horror. But if it's more of a mystery thriller, that I could do.
 
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Josh Steinberg

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I know very little about the movie (and am very much ok with that), but definitely looking forward to it - great cast!!
 

Thomas T

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I just got an advance screening invite for this for tomorrow night.



Since you've already seen it, Thomas (or for anyone else who might know): exactly how much of a horror film is it? I've heard good things and am curious about it but really do not do well with jump scares or horror. But if it's more of a mystery thriller, that I could do.

It's not a horror film at all! It's Quentin Tarantino territory. There will be violence. Lots of it but no, it's not "scary". There is one "jump" scene that I recall though.
 

Jake Lipson

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There is one "jump" scene that I recall though.

Good to hear. I like Tarantino so that should be good for me. Thank you. If there are only one or two, I can probably handle that. I tend to avoid films if there are jump scares throughout the entire running time, or if jump scares are central to the plot (like for example A Quiet Place.)

If you remember it, could you describe (using spoiler tags for those who don't want to know) in general terms what's going on prior to the jump? I'm not interested in specific spoilers but if I have a cue for when the jump is about to happen, I can plug my ears and lessen the impact somewhat on my startle reflex. If you don't remember, that's okay, but I thought I would ask since you have actually seen the film. Thanks!
 

Thomas T

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Good to hear. I like Tarantino so that should be good for me. Thank you. If there are only one or two, I can probably handle that. I tend to avoid films if there are jump scares throughout the entire running time, or if jump scares are central to the plot (like for example A Quiet Place.)

If you remember it, could you describe (using spoiler tags for those who don't want to know) in general terms what's going on prior to the jump? I'm not interested in specific spoilers but if I have a cue for when the jump is about to happen, I can plug my ears and lessen the impact somewhat on my startle reflex. If you don't remember, that's okay, but I thought I would ask since you have actually seen the film. Thanks!

It's not the noise that makes you jump so you shouldn't have to plug your ears. It's the unexpectedness of what happens suddenly out of the blue that makes you jump. This will spoil the effectiveness of the scene (and you might have to ask the person sitting next to you, "What happened?") but if you insist
When Jeff Bridges pours something into Cynthia Erivo's drink, close your eyes
 
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Jake Lipson

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That's...strange. My startle reflex has always been triggered by auditory things (sudden loud noises), so I'm curious what visual could trigger it. But thank you. Perhaps we can discuss the film a little bit after I see it tomorrow night.
 

Thomas T

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That's...strange. My startle reflex has always been triggered by auditory things (sudden loud noises), so I'm curious what visual could trigger it. But thank you. Perhaps we can discuss the film a little bit after I see it tomorrow night.

Well, there is a sound accompanying it but I'm not as sensitive as you are to such things so you might want to cover your ears as well, just in case. It's quick, over and done with. Perhaps it's not as bad you think it would be but since I don't know you personally, it's hard to gauge your reaction. The audience I saw it with reacted audibly to the scene. I didn't exactly "jump" myself. I sort of jerked in my seat. In any event, if you don't shield yourself from the scene, you may well go, "That's it? Big deal" :)
 

Jake Lipson

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Well, tonight was not my lucky night.

For these advance screenings, they deliberately give out more free passes than there are seats available to ensure a capacity crowd, and it's understood that you should arrive early to exchange your pass for a ticket. Last time I did this, I showed up an hour and a half ahead of the show and got a ticket no problem, so I did that again today.

What I didn't know is that you can now exchange passes for tickets as early as 10am when the theater opens, and then you can just come back close to the showtime and go on in. So even though I got there at 5:30 for a 7:00 show, all the tickets were taken by people who had come earlier in the day to get them.

Oh well. I'll see it when it comes out officially. It won't be early and it won't be free, but at least it's next weekend, so not a long wait.
 

Thomas T

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Well, tonight was not my lucky night.

For these advance screenings, they deliberately give out more free passes than there are seats available to ensure a capacity crowd, and it's understood that you should arrive early to exchange your pass for a ticket. Last time I did this, I showed up an hour and a half ahead of the show and got a ticket no problem, so I did that again today.

What I didn't know is that you can now exchange passes for tickets as early as 10am when the theater opens, and then you can just come back close to the showtime and go on in. So even though I got there at 5:30 for a 7:00 show, all the tickets were taken by people who had come earlier in the day to get them.

Oh well. I'll see it when it comes out officially. It won't be early and it won't be free, but at least it's next weekend, so not a long wait.

Wow! What a bummer! I saw it at a private screening for SAG members and they too overbook to ensure capacity but fortunately, there's no tickets involved. You RSVP and your name goes on a guest list (if it hasn't already been booked to capacity, some of these screenings fill up within hours). You get there early to ensure a good seat. Sometimes such as the screening for Beautiful Boy, free popcorn and coke is provided. There is normally a Q&A with the director and cast members after the screening and Bad Times had Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, Cynthia Erivo do the Q&A.
 

Jake Lipson

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I had to dig for this thread a little bit because it was pages back now, but I did end up seeing the movie and thought it was absolutely sensational from beginning to end. Has anyone else besides Thomas seen it yet?

I'm not really sure why the trailers gave me the impression that it was horror-y since it wasn't like that at all. I did jump a few times but not as much as I was expecting to and it was manageable.

This really is one of my favorite movies of the year and I wish it were doing better -- but I also think the trailer gives too much away and I was glad I had only seen it a couple of times and had forgotten most of it when going into the movie.

If you think you're going to like the movie and haven't gone yet, do yourself a favor an go while you still can. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be around much longer. But it's bold, creative, exciting filmmaking.

The other thing I kept thinking during it is that this was a Fox release, and it didn't escape me that I don't think Disney would have made t in a million years if they had already owned Fox before it was greenlit. I really hope there are still avenues for something like this to be made going forward, whether at Disney's Fox or elsewhere.

The other thing I will say which I do not think is a spoiler is that Cynthia Erivo's character is a singer, and she is wisely given multiple opportunities throughout the film to use her amazing vocal talents. I came home wanting to buy the soundtrack to get her versions of the songs she sings, but it appears that the soundtrack (which so far I can only find digitally) does not include them. It seems like the only tracks they have on there are the vintage '60s and '70s songs that are used in the movie, and those are good too, but since I have a lot of those on other albums, the Cynthia Erivo tracks would be new and therefore their inclusion would make the album more appealing. It seems extremely misguided to leave them off.

Oh, and I was surprised how good Dakota Johnson was in this. I assume she did 50 Shades for the money, and I can't blame her for that at all, but hopefully she can continue picking interesting roles in the future as a result of having done that, since I really wasn't expecting much from her but she exceeded my expectations. The rest of the cast I expected to be good and they were, but I was pleasantly surprised to find I liked her work in this very much.
 
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Patrick Sun

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I didn't like it all that much. Mostly for the last section of the film, which dragged and wasn't all that interesting by the time we get there.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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Just got back from seeing it. I was out with a friend, and the movies she wanted to see I'd either already seen or didn't want to see, and same with her for the movies I wanted to see. So this was the compromise choice.

We both really enjoyed it. The premise of a group of strangers gathered together at a remote locale is a well-worn one, but I liked Drew Goddard's take on it a lot. There were several genuine surprises over the course of the movie that I did not see coming. And quite a few moments of hilarious absurdity that somehow don't undermine the gravity of the situation. It's a campy, pulpy premise but the execution isn't campy.

Also, I would bet most baby boomers will love the soundtrack for this one. Between the songs sung by Darlene and the songs played on the jukebox, it's a great cross-section of songs from the fifties and sixties.

This film is a triumph of casting. Every character is an archetype (or multiple archetypes), so bad casting would have killed it. Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo is brilliant here, both as a singer and as the closest thing to a proxy for this audience. Without Jeff Bridges, his character wouldn't have worked; there were a number of twists and turns there, but his performance told you what kind of man this guy was. Cailee Spaeny was unnerving; something vital was missing with that character, and her performance conveyed that even in moments where she didn't appear to be doing anything. She is an actress who looks considerably younger than she is, playing a character who looks considerably younger than she is, and the overall effect is very effective. Chris Hemsworth's American accent has come a long way since his previous work for Goddard in The Cabin in the Woods. He is at times terrifying, at other times hilarious, and still other times pathetic. The rest of the cast does exactly what is required.

With regard to a key MacGuffin in the film:
Who do you think the celebrity is on the film reel? It's never conclusively revealed, but since the bulk of the film was set in 1969 and the person in question died a year prior, the list gets narrowed to public figures who died in 1968.

My bet is on Martin Luther King, Jr. He died in April 1968, and had a history of infidelity. It would also explain the FBI bugs in the honeymoon suite, since Hoover had him under heavily surveillance -- first out of fear of the civil rights movement, and later due to his outspoken opposition to the war in Vietnam.

Another possibility is Robert Kennedy. He died in June 1968, and also had a history of infidelity. As a former attorney general, it'd be less likely that Hoover would have dared to have him surveilled, on the other hand, it would help explain the urgency to clean up their tracks.
 

Jake Lipson

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I agree with your guesses as far as the spoiler. But I also agree with the Erivo and Bridges characters' assessment that it doesn't matter.
 

Jeff Adkins

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I had to dig for this thread a little bit because it was pages back now, but I did end up seeing the movie and thought it was absolutely sensational from beginning to end. Has anyone else besides Thomas seen it yet?
I saw it opening night and found it to be a lot of fun. It's a rollercoaster ride and I loved the fact that I could never guess where it was headed.

If you think you're going to like the movie and haven't gone yet, do yourself a favor an go while you still can. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be around much longer. But it's bold, creative, exciting filmmaking.
It is, and it's refreshing to have something creative like this in a day and age dominated by sequels and tentpole franchises (even though I love many of those too).

The other thing I kept thinking during it is that this was a Fox release, and it didn't escape me that I don't think Disney would have made t in a million years if they had already owned Fox before it was greenlit. I really hope there are still avenues for something like this to be made going forward, whether at Disney's Fox or elsewhere.
I hope so. I have to think the Searchlight division will continue to exist in some capacaity. If they want to rebrand it, I'm good with that as long as there is still an outlet for films like this.

The other thing I will say which I do not think is a spoiler is that Cynthia Erivo's character is a singer, and she is wisely given multiple opportunities throughout the film to use her amazing vocal talents. I came home wanting to buy the soundtrack to get her versions of the songs she sings, but it appears that the soundtrack (which so far I can only find digitally) does not include them. It seems like the only tracks they have on there are the vintage '60s and '70s songs that are used in the movie, and those are good too, but since I have a lot of those on other albums, the Cynthia Erivo tracks would be new and therefore their inclusion would make the album more appealing. It seems extremely misguided to leave them off.
That's a shame. Her singing is one of the many highlights of the film. I had to look her up after seeing it, as I wasn't familiar with her.

Oh, and I was surprised how good Dakota Johnson was in this. I assume she did 50 Shades for the money, and I can't blame her for that at all, but hopefully she can continue picking interesting roles in the future as a result of having done that, since I really wasn't expecting much from her but she exceeded my expectations. The rest of the cast I expected to be good and they were, but I was pleasantly surprised to find I liked her work in this very much.
She is certainly underrated. I think she's fine in the 50 Shades films, but her character here has so much more depth. I'm looking forward to see how she handles Suspiria.

As for who was on the film, I assumed it was RFK. He was well known for despising the casino business in Nevada and they were a frequent target of his. My assumption was that they filmed him to have something to blackmail him with if he were to be elected President. I guess MLK is possible too, but I would think there would be more motive to get something on RFK.
 

Jake Lipson

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Back in October, I complained about Cynthia Erivo's vocal tracks being left off the soundtrack:

The other thing I will say which I do not think is a spoiler is that Cynthia Erivo's character is a singer, and she is wisely given multiple opportunities throughout the film to use her amazing vocal talents. I came home wanting to buy the soundtrack to get her versions of the songs she sings, but it appears that the soundtrack (which so far I can only find digitally) does not include them. It seems like the only tracks they have on there are the vintage '60s and '70s songs that are used in the movie, and those are good too, but since I have a lot of those on other albums, the Cynthia Erivo tracks would be new and therefore their inclusion would make the album more appealing. It seems extremely misguided to leave them off.

Well, today I happened to look again, and I swear they weren't there before. But now, the digital soundtrack download at Amazon includes both "This Old Heart of Mine" and "Hold On, I'm Coming" performed by Cynthia Erivo. Strangely, it now lists a November 30 release date, but the other tracks are the same as were available in October. I can't quite figure out why they would sneakily add two additional tracks long after the movie came out, but here they are.

https://www.amazon.com/Royale-Origi...H4GY/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1543874178&sr=8-3

This was good enough for me to pull the trigger on buying the entire album. I was surprised when I downloaded it to find that the version of "This Old Heart of Mine" on the album is NOT the a capella version that she sings in the film. It is definitely Cynthia Erivo singing it, but it's fully orchestrated and has an especially weird disco-type beat added backing her voice. I'm not really sure why they felt the need to do this, since it wasn't in the film like this, and the film version is better, aside from being what most people would expect. However, it's better to have this than to have nothing.

"Hold On I'm Coming" is the same version performed by Cynthia Erivo over the end credits of the film.

There's more that she sang in the film that's not present here, but this is more than I expected to get, especially after the film's unfortunate bombing at the box office.

There also does not appear to be a physical CD release available at all, only a download. You can now purchase the instrumental score by Michael Giacchino on CD at Amazon, but not the soundtrack with the songs.
 

Winston T. Boogie

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Well, I really enjoyed this picture. Beautifully shot and nice set design. I thought Jeff Bridges was great. As a film this one comes across to me as a "tribute" picture. This being a film that pays tribute to a bunch of things the filmmaker really loves. I know this gets some comparisons to Tarantino but, to me anyway, was not really much like a Tarantino film. I mean it does use an episodic structure that shifts around in time and it is pop culture obsessed, those are things Quentin loves, but the dialogue is not as nutty and florid as what you get in one of his pictures. About as close as it gets to a Tarantino style character is Chris Hemsworth's cult leader. Nobody stands around delivering crazed monologues.

I think this film is essentially built to deliver a series of surprises. This is very cool the first time through but I wonder how it will play on successive watches.

It is wonderfully acted and a lot of fun. Is it a classic of the genre? No, but if you like neo-noir you'll have a good time with this.

As to who I imagined was on the film...

...based on time frame, location, who appears to have badly wanted him filmed in a compromising position, and the fact that he was already dead at the point Bridges and company end up with the film, I thought it was RFK. It was the owners of the El Royale that wanted the film and set that up. Hamm's character seems to have been sent to retrieve any surveillance materials that had been left there for the government and so it seemed a protective thing not a blackmail thing. I think if the government was concerned about getting these materials it was likely somebody in the government they were protecting. So, that points to RFK.

That was my take anyway.
 
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