May 19, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Spoiler Stuff: Bad Times At The El Royale

Watson and Tom both saw Bad Times at the El Royale. And, given how much any talk of it might be full of spoilers, had a spoiler-filled chat about it. Here's a transcript.

Every so often, a movie comes along with so many cool twists and turns, that it becomes very tempting to talk about it with someone else whose seen it.

Watson and Tom saw it.  Watson and Tom talk about it in a very SPOILER FILLED conversation.  Here’s what they had to say.

watson:  Did you see El Royale?

tomk:  Yes. Very cool.

watson:  In my top five of the year so far. Loved it.

The tape was John or Bobby?

Or film rather…

tomk:  I liked it but didn’t love it as much as you. And a Kennedy never occurred to me. I was hoping we’d find out Hoover was the El Royale’s secret manager.

watson:  They really left the management mystery unsolved because like Bridges said…does it matter?

Sketchy people.

Hoover would have been funnier though.

tomk:  I figured the man on the film was the same. It didn’t matter.

watson:  Yeah but the comment about him being dead, it being that salacious, protection of legacy, and Hoover’s involvement can only point to a Kennedy.

tomk:  True. I just didn’t put any thought into that.

Like I said, to me his identity didn’t matter.

watson:  I didn’t either most of the film. Only in the end when they seemed to emphasize it.

tomk:  This was the sort of movie where no one is who they seem, with one noteworthy exception, and even if most of Jeff Bridges’ backstory was spoiled by the trailers, the rest was totally worth it.

watson:  I would say the one exception was Darlene. She really was a good person trying to make it as a singer. She was definitely something uncommon in a black comedy like this: a person the audience could relate with and root for.

I thought the performance was quite good. Cynthia Erivo is a Broadway star with a very light filmography.

tomk:  I was thinking the movie was more noir than black comedy, but yes, she was the one exception. The only thing surprising about her was she may have been a good person, but she wasn’t naive.

I didn’t know who she was but liked what I saw. I wish my tinnitus wasn’t so bad. I was wondering if her singing was as meh as people said. She sounded fine to me.

watson:  I hadn’t heard any backlash about her singing? I thought she was quite good, but it was all a capella, so that is tricky to start with.

There is probably a fine line between noir and black comedy. This one had a foot in both world.

Though she was fine, I am not jumping on the Dakota Johnson bandwagon. She has zero presence.

tomk:  Probably a good thing they killed her off then.

And yeah, there is a thin line. Sunset Boulevard can also go either way.

watson:  Yeah. I wasn’t disappointed. Honestly, that whole cult plot was the weakest link of the film. Not the plot point, but the performances. I was surprised Hemsworth couldn’t do more. He needed to be a little more menacing. Can you imagine Joaquin Phoenix in that role?

tomk:  That would have been fantastic. And this coming from you says a lot given your general feelings on Joaquin Phoenix.

watson:  I don’t like him, and I am not sure he is the right choice, but someone like that? Jared Leto?

Someone who makes you feel afraid every single line?

tomk:  I did like that they kept Hemsworth’s face hidden until he shows up at the El Royale.

Leto makes me feel afraid with every line for all the wrong reasons.

watson:  Like we didn’t know it was him? He’s the shirtless focus of the movie poster.


tomk:  I think the character needs to appear harmless until we find out he’s Charles Manson Lite.

watson:  True. I figured he was just a no-good, abusive boyfriend until the bonfire flashback.

tomk:  I was getting the Manson vibe going back to the trailers. I try to not let trailers influence what I know about movies, especially given the sort of scholarly attention trailers get in some corners, but the guy with the psycho hippie family? Yeah, that’s Manson.

watson:  They even played Helter Skelter…

Oh wait…no they didn’t. That was the Paul McCartney concert I saw the night before! 🙂

tomk:  And then Darlene reads him like a book.

watson:  Both very quality outings!

tomk:  Especially if it was McCartney in the film and Paul truly was dead.

watson:  I like what you are cooking there.

I was surprised at how well the plot all wrapped up so neatly.

Usually these stories are more about the twists than the plot, but this one lined up nicely

tomk:  That was something I truly liked as well. This was a well-plotted movie from the first frame when Nick Offerman did some motel renovation.

watson:  I didn’t see that it was Offerman at the beginning and was thinking it was him under the mask in the bank robbery flashback scene.

tomk:  I can always spot Nick Offerman. Mostly because I have a co-worker who looks and sounds a lot like him.

watson:  Yeah. Very distinctive voice as well. That’s why even with a mask I made the connection. He’d be a terrible superhero because even with a full mask, we’d bust his secret identity.

tomk:  He almost spent more time in the movie than Jon Hamm!

Ok, not really.

watson:  In these movies, everyone is fair game. That’s the appeal of this kind of movie for me. It’s not like a tentpole franchise where you know Spider-Man is coming back. Big stars die in ridiculous time. Which is another aspect of trailers that a scholar MIGHT just analyze.

tomk:  If only a scholar would…

That could go back to see how much Janet Leigh appeared in the Psycho trailer compared to Tony Perkins.

watson:  We discussed that in our planning! Darth Vader in the first Star Wars as well…

Let’s talk about Miles. He was probably the biggest surprise character for me.

tomk:  Vader has such a commanding presence, it’s easy to not realize he has less than 20 minutes of screen time. Same with Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.

But yes, poor, doomed Miles.

watson:  Yeah. Lecter was a supporting character.

The remorse and confession angle from Miles was very genuine and provided the moment, at his death, that made the film a special movie for me. That was amazing and he really held his on in that scene with Bridges, who is one of the best actors in the world.

tomk:  And the burning lobby around them made it look like the gates of Hell itself.

watson:  And he was on the border of Nevada and California. Like he was on the border of heaven and hell.

tomk:  Considering you could only drink in the more expensive California side, which was which?

watson:  L.A. is the City of Angels and Las Vegas is Sin City, so I think that speaks for itself!

tomk:  True enough.

watson:  But I do think the divided hotel was a big metaphor either way.

tomk:  Did you wonder if Miles shot other Americans in that fire fight? I thought he was but wasn’t sure. And I do know of a case of an American GI killing even more enemy troops in a single incident.

watson:  No. I think it was pretty straightforward PTSD. When he says he killed 123 people, my audience let out an audible ewwww…..They wanted us to think he was a serial killer or a creeper obviously, but they quickly resolved it as a crackshot sniper.

tomk:  I just felt my jaw drop.

But there was a Medal Of Honor recipient in World War II who killed more than that. He was stationed in the Pacific when the Japanese attacked his position. He fought his way to a machine gun and started shooting. Officially he killed something like 49. Realistically he killed something like three times that number.

watson:  Lewis Pullman, the actor, played Bobbie Riggs’ son in Battle of the Sexes but I don’t remember him making an impression. Here, he did. His next big film is the next Top Gun movie, but I hope he gets some good roles. He was strong. Very hard to write about in my spoiler free review, so I left him out. It is better if people think he is just a prop character until he becomes the emotional focal point.

tomk:  Very true.

I haven’t seen Battle of the Sexes yet. Projector broke the day I went.

watson:  The scene when he is begging for his life and realizes his fate is sealed when Rose screws him over by introducing herself and her sister by name was a nice little bit of acting.

tomk:  The way he just kept sinking lower in every scene was something else.

watson:  You nailed it earlier in the chat. He was doomed. But I loved how Bridges helped him find peace. Darlene created a fiction where Dock WAS Father Flynn and the confession was legitimate.

That scene was as good as any piece of drama you will find.

tomk:  Miles needed him to be Father Flynn, and for a thief, Dock wasn’t too bad a guy. He didn’t want anyone dead. He came closest after Darlene to an innocent man.

watson:  Cailee Spaeny was appropriately creepy as Rose. Hers was a small role but she actually added to the sense of dread and evil. She is currently sitting in one of my top ten films of the year (this one) and my bottom ten (Pacific Rim 2).

Yeah. I liked the end with Dock watching Darlene perform in what will likely be his last months of happiness as he fades away.

tomk:  Everything that went wrong happened because a well-meaning FBI agent ignored orders and she got loose.

watson:  Yeah. I liked that choice by Hamm’s character. Despite his Mississippi swagger, he was a good guy too.

Even though it didn’t turn out so great for him…

tomk:  And he changed the words of that prayer he said to his kid over the phone away from death.

watson:  That moment made me smile for personal reasons. I always thought that was creepy when I was a kid and that was my prayer. My kids had a different line there instead.

tomk:  I guess my Catholic parents didn’t know that one.

watson:  I think it might be more Protestant.

tomk:  Probably.

Father Flynn probably didn’t know it.

watson:  He wouldn’t have remembered it anyway…

Let’s talk about Drew Goddard. He has directed only one film, the clever A Cabin In the Woods (also subject to our geek scholarly analysis of trailers), but has written quite a few movie and TV scripts. He is famous for writing The Martian, Cloverfield, Lost, Alias, and was the writer/showrunner of Daredevil series on Netflix.

That writing background pays dividend here.

This was a strong script.

tomk:  It was. And Jimmy and I are covering Cabin for a future Cultwatch! article. I’m looking forward to it. I don’t think either of us have seen it yet.

watson:  Ok. Then I will not say more!

Instead I will say it excites me that Goddard’s next project is X-Force…essentially Deadpool 3….

The guy who created this movie can write for Deadpool!

tomk:  I know roughly what it’s about. But you’re right about Goddard. The guy’s got a good, creative mind.

watson:  Absolutely!

tomk:  I will say that when the time comes, you’re welcome to join the Cultwatch chat.

watson:  I might for that one. I would need to re-watch it myself. I saw it when it was first released to home video, so it’s been a while.

tomk:  Jimmy picked that one out. That and Looper. I’ll keep you posted. We’re doing The Raid right now.

watson:  Ok. We’ve covered most the key points of Bad Times at the El Royale. Let’s move to end game. As we write this, I have published my review, but you have not. I assume this will publish after you publish your individual article, but let’s hear it here as well! How do you score this one?

tomk:  8.5 but I may go to a 9. It didn’t grab me right away but it was very well done all the same.

That’s like a B or B+ from me.

Dakota Johnson didn’t help much.

watson:  I had it rated this high before, but this great chat solidified how much I loved it. For me, this was a strong 10 “Hemsworth Six Packs” out of 10.

tomk:  We’ll see what my final grade is when I get my review up. Great chats like this help.

watson:  Indeed! Enjoyed the chat. Can’t wait to see what the other geeks think when they see this in 2023.

tomk:  If we’re lucky it’ll be by then