IS THERE ANYONE WHO DOES NOT wonder where those stains and marks come from in a hotel room? I for one cannot ignore them when I see them. This is why I am never 100% comfortable when I am staying at a hotel. On a trip to the southwest I stayed at a hotel that was one of the tallest buildings in the city. When I walked into my room everything looked fine. Just like most hotels I have stayed in; this one had a bed, 2 nightstands, an armoire, a desk, an easy chair and a floor lamp. When I walked into the bathroom I was immediately horrified because there appeared to be a blood-stained streak on the shower curtain. My mind was flooded with scenarios that could have caused blood to get splattered in the bathroom. I was not going to attempt to clean it, nor could I simply ignore it. If that was not enough, I decided to relieve my bladder before going downstairs to request a room change. When I went to flush the toilet, the water gurgled inside the bowl but never flushed down; it looked as if the water was simmering close to a boil. I wasn’t about to wonder what was causing the toilet not to flush. The room and in turn the hotel creeped me out. ON ANOTHER TRIP I BOOKED A ROOM in this huge, old majestic hotel. I do not remember the year the building was constructed, but it was originally built as an apartment building. With terra cotta appointments on the façade and a lobby that looked like it came out of 1920’s detective story, I thought the hotel was cool looking. The elevators with jet black doors and silver trim creaked as they traveled up the floors, slightly unsteady like an elderly patient. When I walked into the room I was met by a wall that had worn-out flocked wallpaper. As soon as one entered the room they had to make an immediate right turn to go into the living space. It appeared the original apartments must have been carved up to form the hotel rooms; the room had odd shaped corners and the bathroom door nearly grazed the toilet bowl when it was being closed. There was something about the hotel that made me think about the original residences who must have resided here earlier. During my stay little things happened such as the lightbulb burning out and the water faucet groaning whenever it was turned on. I stayed there despite the odd sounds and my concerns for my safety and hygiene. But I will tell you this; I would rather stay in either of the hotels I mentioned than the one in this mystery thriller. A GROUP OF STRANGERS CHECKED INTO the El Royale but not all of them would check out. This dramatic crime film starred Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) as Father Daniel Flynn, Cynthia Erivo (Widows, Mr. Selfridge-TV) as Darlene Sweet, Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, A Bigger Splash) as Emily Summerspring, Jon Hamm (Baby Driver, Million Dollar Arm) as Laramie Seymour Sullivan and Chris Hemsworth (Thor franchise, 12 Strong) as Billy Lee. I enjoyed the cast and the diversity of the characters they portrayed. This picture had a great look to it with a smoldering script, which allowed every actor a chance in the spotlight. I also liked the way the pieces of the story fit together; however halfway through I started to get bored. It seemed as if scenes were written with less detail and emotion. Sometimes it appeared shocking twists were put in for the sake of shocking the viewer. For me this was not as much of a thriller as a slow burn and I had no desire to book a room at this hotel.
2 ¼ stars
IDEALLY IT SHOULD BE in balance within one’s life, but that is not always the case. And truthfully sometimes the circumstances are out of the person’s control. Trying to find the balance between one’s work and personal life takes determined strength with a bit of finesse. I have mentioned before how my work load dominates my personal life; from the day job to teaching to writing film reviews, there is a part of me that feels like I have missed out on many things. However, I do realize I am fortunate in the circle of friends around me who understand my crazy schedule as I try to negotiate time to get together with each of them. Others may not be as fortunate. There is an acquaintance of mine that is in sales. It is difficult to get a hold of him because day and night he is usually with clients; making plans to get together is almost impossible. NOW IT OCCURS TO me that I might have been prejudiced against certain occupations. I noticed when a “workaholic” was involved with a worthy cause; I would cut them some slack if they were not always available for family and friends. However if the person worked for a large for profit corporation, I was not so forgiving. Honestly from watching this film I have been thinking about this lopsided thinking when it comes to whether I perceive the business is doing something good or not for the planet. Who am I to assume the person who works 60-80 hours a week to help the homeless is a better person, than the state employee who puts in double shifts to help plow the city streets after a snowstorm? They each are important in their own way; no matter what the job entails the employee plays a vital part in the success of the employer. The one thing I am curious about is how people wind up in their jobs. I wonder if they always wanted to be let us say a window washer or actuary; or did the individual follow in a parent’s footsteps or just fell into the job. These were the type of questions I had when I watched this dramatic, biographical movie. IT TAKES A CERTAIN type of person to fight a forest fire and Eric Marsh, played by Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice, Old Boy), believed he knew what was needed. He just had to prove it to the people in charge. Based on a true story the cast also included Miles Teller (War Dogs, That Awkward Moment) as Brendan McDonough, Jeff Bridges (True Grit, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) as Duane Steinbink, Jennifer Connelly (Blood Diamond, A Beautiful Mind) as Amanda Marsh and Taylor Kitsch (Lone Survivor, Battleship) as Christopher MacKenzie. Having not seen or experienced what forest firefighters do, there were aspects of this story that were amazing. The acting was excellent; the standouts for me were Jennifer, Miles and Josh. For such an incredible story I had a challenging time with the script. The story would go from thrilling, nerve wracking scenes to snippets of a personal nature. What was presented regarding the plight of these types of firefighters, I had wished more time was spent on building up the characters’ personal stories. I felt I was only getting a partial piece of the puzzle so to speak. This movie about the Granite Mountain Hotshots deserves stars just on the story alone; as for the entertainment value of this picture it left me slightly cool.
2 ¾ stars
What I am about to tell you all took place in my mind; well, maybe some of it did really happen. As I walked through the double glass doors I flipped the open sign hanging on its metal chain to close. Inside there was a chair to the side; I took it to prop up against the closed doors to bar anyone from walking in. I was there to take action and get some results. You see I had locked in an incredibly low interest rate just before they started to rise back up. I was doing some refinancing and would be lowering my monthly payments significantly. The bank kept delaying me, rejecting my application for the most trivial things that were not even my fault. Since the lock on the interest rate had a short expiration date, I was sure the bank wanted to let it expire so they could charge a higher interest rate. The first time my paperwork got rejected was due to not having a check mark next to the word “Mister.” The second time it came back was because a document was missing which they lost. These things were their fault; they had drawn up the documentation and filled it out. A personal banker came up and before they could say anything I told them I was not leaving until my application was approved. I told them if they could not do it then they needed to find someone else right now. From my knapsack I took out my paperwork, protein bars, 2 bottles of water and a baseball bat. Desperate times called for extreme action. THE only way brothers Toby and Tanner Howard, played by Chris Pine (Star Trek franchise, The Finest Hours) and Ben Foster (Lone Survivor, Warcraft), could set things right was to start robbing banks. They would just have to be quick about it. This film festival nominated crime drama’s cast was outstanding. With Jeff Bridges (True Grit, The Giver) as Marcus Hamilton and Dale Dickey (Winter’s Bone, Super 8) as Elsie, the acting was something to see. Maybe there were a couple of things that seemed familiar with Jeff’s performance, but with this character he was close to perfection. As for Chris I was stunned, especially after seeing him recently in the new Star Trek film. It took me a minute to realize this was the same Chris I had seen because he looked and acted so differently; I was impressed with his performance. Set in Texas the story had a strong western type of movie vibe but with a modern take. Visually I enjoyed the framing of the scenes along with the soundtrack. I thought some outdoor shots were ideal in conveying the plight of the bank robbers; it really was wonderful camera work. There were a couple of patches where I felt the story dragged but nothing major. No pun intended but the richness of the script provided a well rounded story that was a pleasure to watch on the big screen. I cannot image a theater patron feeling like they were robbed by paying to see this film; it was worth the money. There were some scenes with blood and violence in them.
3 ½ stars
It is never a good sign when I glance down at my wristwatch during a movie. What made things worse was the watch’s battery was too low to illuminate the time. Looking for a watch repair shop was more of a challenge than I had expected, finally finding one a few suburbs over from where I was located. As I walked into the shop a tiny bell hanging from the edge of the door tinkled. Sitting behind a long, dusty glass case sat an old bespectacled man wearing oversized magnifying goggles on top of his glasses. His out of proportion massive, dark eyes looked up at me as I neared him. Hunched over a metal table with miniature piles of tiny metal watch parts, his disheveled clothing loosely hung off of his scrawny frame. As he worked on my watch I was able to look around the shop that really looked like an old discarded movie set. There were all types of clocks hanging on the walls, ticking in a symphony of different beats. Whenever I glanced over at the owner I was impressed by his meticulous precise movements while he worked on my watch. I had to wonder what will happen to the shop once the elderly owner was gone; would there be someone new who could do such intense looking work? Finding a protege with similar skills would be challenging. JEFF Bridges (The Giver, Crazy Heart) played Master Gregory, who was the last of his kind. When the evil witch Mother Malkin, played by Julianne Moore (Still Alice, Carrie), escaped the prison Master Gregory had placed her in, he would need the help from an apprentice with a particular lineage to help in her capture. Upon meeting Tom Ward, played by Ben Barnes (Stardust, Dorian Gray), Master Gregory was not sure if he found the right apprentice to take on such a difficult task. This action fantasy looked good in the trailers. I thought if Jeff and Julianne were adversaries they would be able to generate some high drama and sparks between their characters. Unfortunately the script was so bad; they could not save this dull adventure film. If the script had focused more on the two of them, I think there would have been a better chance this movie would have lured more viewers. I was actually embarrassed to see Kit Harington (Pompeii, Game of Thrones-TV) in his role as Mr. Bradley. The special effects were good but they were not enough to compensate for the ridiculousness in this picture, like stuffing something in Jeff’s mouth so he would be hard to understand when he talked. Sitting through this movie I had to wonder how Jeff got this role; this was the type of film only Nicolas Cage would star and bomb in.
1 1/2 stars
They go hand in hand; for every high point in one’s life there will be a low point. It is just the natural order of things or the way I refer to it, the pluses and minuses of life. There is nothing like riding a high wave of elation; where positive feelings flood the body, coating all the senses with heightened awarenesses. Who would not want to have this type of experience; I know I would prefer it. However, life does not give one the option to pick and choose fully their experiences. I know I did not choose to trip off that street curb and scrape my knee on the ground. In my brain having both positive and negative experiences is necessary. You see, if a person only experiences one or the other what do they have to compare with what they are feeling? I know our emotions play a part in all of this. Though I wish I did not have to deal with the downs in life, I know they only make me appreciate the up times more. Without having the two polar opposites life would be pretty bland. ELIMINATION of the emotions was what the society in this dramatic science fiction film achieved for all of its citizens. There was no war, jealousy, hatred, bigotry or sexism; everyone lived in steady harmony. All negative experiences were a thing of the past; only the memories associated with them were stored in one individual known as the Giver, played by Jeff Bridges (True Grit, The Men Who Stare at Goats). When the time came to share those memories with his apprentice, the Giver needed to make sure the events of the past would not repeat themselves in the present. Based on the Newberry Award winning novel by Lois Lowry, this was one of my favorite books. Meryl Streep (Hope Springs, The Iron Lady) played Chief Elder who made sure all the rules were enforced to prevent history from repeating itself. The cast also included Brenton Thwaites (Maleficent, Oculus) as Jonas and Odeya Rush (The Odd Life of Timothy Green, We are What We Are) as Fiona. Sadly I have to say this film version sucked the life out of an incredible, thought provoking story. I was looking forward to seeing this picture and though Jeff and Meryl were excellent, they could not save the dullness of the script. For those not familiar with the book I believe they would mildly stay interested in this film. There was a cool look about the movie where some scenes worked well. Unfortunately with so much taken out of the original story, I could easily see where things could be confusing to viewers. It truly was a shame that a movie about an emotionless society was just as emotionless.
1 3/4 stars
It is not healthy for me to ignore my cravings. If it involves a particular food, I know if I do not satisfy my yearning, I will only wind up eating other things that will not be gratifying to me. What would make the situation worse is if I could not find the right item; I am sure this has happened to many of you. That urge, let us say, for a chocolate chip cookie; where your mind races to figure out the fastest way you can get one of those decadent, lovely circular mounds of soft moist dough that have accepted the requests from those deep rich chocolate chips to come settle down and plant roots on their pliable land–aahhhh. Imagine how it feels when you finally find a place that sells these cookies, buy one and on your first bite your taste buds are assaulted by a dry, unsweetened, hard pice of crumbling sawdust. You were taken in by a horrible imposter. Well, that is the same feeling I had watching this poor excuse for a science fiction/fantasy film. Recently slain police officer Nick, played by Ryan Reynolds (Safe House, Just Friends) found himself sitting in front of Proctor, played by Mary-Louise Parker (Red franchise, Solitary Man), the Unhuman Resources Manager for the Rest In Peace Department. Being given the option to go back to Earth, Nick agreed to join the force so he could find his killer. Accompanying him was veteran officer Roy, played by Jeff Bridges (True Grit, Crazy Heart). The story was a cut and paste job that took parts from Men in Black, Ghost and Ghost Busters. Unfortunately the writers did nothing to enhance or update the stories; so, I am at a loss to understand why they bothered with this movie. There was such a great opportunity to inject humor into this film; if only the writers had played up the human forms of NIck and Roy. Those alive would see Roy as a young, voluptuous blonde-haired woman and Nick as an elderly Asian man. It would have been funny to see more of these two characters in the crazy stunts that happened to them. The special effects were fine and I was so surprised to see Kevin Bacon (Mystic River, Sleepers) in the movie as Hayes. He was not in any of the trailers I had seen. Maybe the whole purpose of the film was so Jeff and Ryan could be added into the trail of seven degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon. After sitting through this film I came home and popped a DVD in of a good science fiction movie to watch and satisfy my craving.
1 2/3 stars