Widows (2018)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

When their husbands are killed in a botched robbery, and the gangster they stole from comes demanding reparations, a group of widows are forced to pull off an impossible heist to save both themselves, and their families. This involves them finding a getaway car, a driver, codes to a safe, and guns. Lots of guns. They don’t want to kill anyone, but when you’re backed into a corner, who knows what will happen?

Widows is a perfect encapsulation of the phrase, “a sum worth less than its parts.” When you break it down into individual ingredients, it’s got everything you’d need to make a hit. You’ve got the Oscar-winning director of 12 Years A Slave, Steve McQueen, a fascinating story with themes of race, class, gender and sexuality, and a fantastic, and I mean fantastic, cast. I really want to emphasize that last fact. Everyone delivers a terrific performance here. Even minor characters who are only in a couple scenes are played by world-class actors, giving it their all. Take Collin Farrell’s character, the man whom the widows eventually steal from. He’s got a racist dad, who appears onscreen for less than 10 minutes. Guess who plays the dad. Robert Duvall. Yeah. I could literally go through the entire cast, and tell you how good they all are, but then this review would never end. The point is, everyone, from Viola Davis as the leader of the widows, to Daniel Kaluuya as the psychotic brother of the gangster, is great. And the movie’s never boring. There are several, highly suspenseful sequences, from the opening job where the husbands are killed, to the final heist, that are perfectly shot, edited and scored. Hell, there’s one scene, shot outside of a car, where we’re just watching the landscape of Chicago shift, that made me go, “wow! That’s great filmmaking.” This is definitely a more crowd-pleasing flick than McQueen’s other efforts, and I could certainly see myself going back to it. So it’s terrifically acted, the central premise is great,  it’s never boring, and the directing is top notch. Why then was I somewhat disappointed by it?

It all comes down to the script. It just isn’t up to the same level as the rest of the film. The ending is extremely rushed, with there being several, very important questions–is Elizabeth Debicki still working as a prostitute, did the gangster get his money, will there be any repercussions for what happened to Daniel Kaluuya–that never get answered. Certain characters, like Cynthia Erivo, who joins the widows as their getaway driver, get introduced way too late into the story. And in her case, her decision to join this extremely dangerous heist kind of comes out of nowhere. We don’t see her acting as a getaway driver beforehand. Hell, we don’t even see her drive until the robbery. She’s also not directly connected to the crime–she didn’t lose her husband in the opening heist, she’s just one of the other widows babysitter–so she really has no reason to be there. As a result, her decision to join the group feels unmotivated. And, finally, there are certain things that get brought up which never come back into play. For instance, in one scene, Michelle Rodriguez, the first widow to join Viola Davis, goes to interview a guy, learns that he lost his wife recently too, breaks down, and kisses him. Now, this guy never comes back into the film. We never touch base with Michelle Rodriguez about how she feels about this, or why she did what she did. It’s just thrown in, and then quickly discarded. WHich is frustrating, because I wanted to see more of that. And there are lots of moments like that in this film. As a result, the movie feels somewhat disjointed and incomplete, despite its terrific cast, amazing premise and great direction. I think part of this has to do with the fact that the script was co-written by Gillian Flynn, the woman behind Gone Girl. Her work is very structured, and narratively driven, unlike McQueen’s films, which tend to be more expressionistic, like moving art installations. So maybe their voices just didn’t mesh.

In the end, though, I think that Widows is a flawed, but highly watchable film. It’s acting, cinematography and quick pace keep you from getting bored, and it’s lighter tone make it easier to revisit than McQueen’s other flicks. Make of this what you will.

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Burning (2018)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

On the most basic, literal level, Burning is the story of a layabout, wannabe writer reconnecting with a girl from his childhood. They catch up, sleep together, and then, after she goes on a trip to Africa, she returns home with a new boyfriend. This frustrates our restless protagonist, who doesn’t think highly of his would-be girlfriend’s new fling. And when the girl goes missing, leaving no trace of where she went or why, he begins to suspect that the new guy is a serial killer. He’s so convinced of this that he actually murders the man in cold blood, and burns all evidence of the crime. Now that may seem like a spoiler, but, trust me, you don’t watch a film like this for the plot.

Burning is adapted from a novel by Haruki Murakami. Who’s Haruki Murakami? Just modern Japan’s most celebrated author. I myself am a huge fan of his work, having read several of his novels, including The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, Norwegian Wood, and 1Q84. His books are long and rambling, and very often don’t make any logical sense. They’ll start off mundane, like with a man trying to find his cat, or with a dude rewriting a book for someone, but then they’ll often go down winding, convoluted roads, full of unexplained, magical twists, and sex. Lots and lots of sex. Much greater emphasis is placed on the quirks of the various, highly idiosyncratic characters, such as the music they listen to, the food they eat, and the vaguely philosophical conversations they have pre, mid, and post coitus. As a result, his works wind up pulling you in, not so much with their narratives, but with their weird, offbeat atmosphere, and with their highly specific, oddball characters. Now, much as I admire Murakami’s writing, I’ve often wondered how, or even if, they could be put to film. After all, his books tend to be thousands of pages long, and they lack clear, three-act narratives, all of which is bad for a medium that instinctively has a time limit, built around the three-act structure. But having watched Burning, I’m convinced nothing is impossible. This movie captures the tone and the feel of Murakami to a T. All the elements you associate with his writings, a lazy male protagonist, strange twists, a quirky, sexually liberated young woman, cats, wells, are on display here. As a fan of Murakami, I love this. And as a fan of cinema, I’m quite satisfied as well. The acting is superb, with Jeon Jong-seo, whom plays the female lead, and The Walking Dead’s Steve Yeun, whom plays the suspicious new boyfriend, deserving extra special mention. The camerawork is exquisite, with one long shot of the main girl dancing in the sunset taking my breath away, and the music helping build up suspense. In short, it’s a good movie. But it is an acquired taste.

People who like Murakami, with all his strange quirks, will like Burning. But for people who like films to move quick, for the stories to make sense, and for there not to be gratuitous sex, nudity and masturbation, it’ll probably rub them the wrong way. The film’s also 2 & a half hours long. So make of this what you will.

Outlaw King (2018)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

In 1306, after a long and bloody war against the English, Robert Du Bruce and his fellow Scottish nobles surrender to King Edward I, and swear their endless, undying allegiance to him. Of course, Robert isn’t exactly enthusiastic about this, seeing as he views Edward as his mortal enemy, but he is pragmatic, and so accepts the latter’s rule, as well as a political marriage to the English noblewoman Elizabeth de Burgh. All seems well at first, until news reaches Robert that William Wallace, a major leader in the rebellion who never surrendered, has been tortured and executed. Realizing that he must avenge the latter’s death, and gain Scotland’s independence, Robert sets about planning another campaign. In order for his plan to succeed, however, he must unite all of Scotland under one banner, and so declares himself King of Scots after, ahem, removing his chief rival for the throne. This leads to the English labeling him an outlaw, and even some of the other Scottish nobles turning on him. But Robert is determined, and continues to fight for Scotland’s independence, even when he is seen as nothing more than an Outlaw with a crown. Will he succeed? Don’t ask me. Just watch the movie.

It’s impossible for me to discuss Outlaw King without mentioning another film, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. Now, odds are, you’ve all probably seen the latter flick. Not only was it a huge hit when it first came out, raking in over $200 million, but it was critically lauded as well, winning five Oscars, including best Picture. It was so successful that it almost single-handedly revived the Scottish tourism industry. To this day, if you visit Edinburgh, you can find little figurines of Mel Gibson in curio shops. Basically, it was a big deal. So much so that there inevitably came a large, and in my opinion, somewhat deserved, backlash. There were the historians who took issue with the film’s numerous, and I mean numerous, inaccuracies, from William Wallace losing a wife who didn’t exist, to him having an affair with Princess Isabella that never happened, to him and the other Scots wearing kilts, despite the fact that kilts wouldn’t be invented until several centuries after the time when the movie is set. Ugh. There were also LGBT rights activists who took issue with the portrayal of the film’s one Queer character, Edward II, who’s shown as a sniveling, effeminate coward, and who’s repeatedly beaten, humiliated and talked down to, really for no other reason than that he’s not “manly” enough. And last, but certainly not least, there were people who just didn’t like the movie because it was too long, too violent, and full of melodramatic dialogue and performances.

So, keeping all that in mind, it’s really hard to view Outlaw King as anything other than a revisionist Braveheart. You’ve got the same story, the Scottish War for Independence, and many of the same characters, Robert Du Bruce, Edward II, except, this time, the film’s being written and directed by a Scotsman, David McKenzie, being shot in the actual locations where these battles took place, Braveheart wasn’t even photographed in Scotland, and the filmmakers are actually taking the time to make the clothing, battles, architecture, and, most importantly, episodes, of the period accurately. All of that is excellent for a history buff, but does it make for a good film?

Well, let me say what I liked about the movie first. It looks amazing. The landscapes are vast, the shots are well composed, and the movement of the camera is quite impressive. The film opens with a long, unbroken tracking shot of Robert meeting with the King of England, getting into a sword fight, and watching the English destroy a nearby castle. It’s quite impressive, though it did, at times, feel a bit self-indulgent, in the same way that a lot of Alfonso Cuaron’s tracking shots are. (Guys, it’s okay to cut. The story isn’t being improved by doing this in one shot). Florence Pugh as Robert’s wife Elizabeth is revelatory, and Chris Pine’s Scottish accent is actually pretty good. I would have preferred they get an actual Scot, like, say, James McAvoy or David Tenant, to play Du Bruce, but that’s just me. And the battle sequences are epic. They had a historical weapons and battle expert on set at all times to make sure that the conflict was portrayed accurately, and that really shows. It’s also much shorter than Braveheart, which was three hours long. This one’s only two. So, it’s well shot, the acting is good, and the battles are fun. Why, then, did I find it a bit of a slog to get through?

Well, part of it could have to do with the fact that Outlaw King takes place after the William Wallace rebellion portrayed in Braveheart, and it doesn’t really explain why that rebellion happened. I guess they were assuming that we’d all seen Braveheart, and would just meet the movie halfway, but that’s not good enough. If a film’s going to be successful, it has to do the hard work of introducing us to its characters and getting us to care about them. Say what you like about Braveheart’s clichéd plot, and plethora of historical inaccuracies, you understand why William Wallace starts his rebellion in that movie. He’s lost his wife, and because the film’s taken enough time to show us their relationship, starting in their childhoods, and following them up through their courtship and marriage, you actually give a shit when blood starts spraying. With Outlaw King, we’re thrown in without any real introduction to Robert Du Bruce, the English, or the personal and political factors that drive them. We’re just told that a war has happened, and that the two sides have finally come to an uneasy truce. The film never tells us why Robert fought against the English, or why he’s so sad when William Wallace dies. We never even see them interact. And because the film moves so fast, moments that should carry weight, like Robert’s father and brothers dying, come off as inconsequential. The characters also don’t have much in the way of personality. Again, as cliché as the plot of Braveheart is, the script at least makes the characters distinct. Wallace has a sense of humor. He regularly jokes with his comrades and his wife. He and his buddy Hamish will frequently compete with each other to see who’s the strongest, fastest, etc. They actually feel like people. In Outlaw King, Robert Du Bruce is so stiff and serious that it’s honestly kind of hard to get invested in his plight. And I don’t mean that as a knock against Chris Pine. He does a good job. It’s the writing that’s to blame. Finally, Outlaw King does not have a memorable score. The music in Braveheart is iconic, tragic and really tries to conjure up an image, an idea, of William Wallace, regardless of whether that image is accurate or not. Outlaw King just has generic orchestral music. I feel bad that it’s taken me so long to recognize the importance of a stylistically distinct, catchy theme, but I’m glad I finally have. (Thank you, Mandy composer Johann Johansson, for showing me the light).

So, in the end, I don’t really think I can recommend Outlaw King to you all. And it pains me to say that because this is a film about Scottish history, made by a Scotsman, clearly with a lot of love and respect for the time period. Unfortunately, the too brisk plot, boring lead, and lack of explanation for why anything is happening make it hard to get into. If you’re a history buff who hates Braveheart, and wants the story of Robert Du Bruce to be told accurately, this movie will probably do it for you. But if you’re just a general moviegoer, you might be bored. Make of this what you will.

Overlord (2018)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

It’s the eve of D-Day, and a group of paratroopers are being sent to destroy a German radio tower in France. Before they can get there, however, their plane is shot down, and only five men, Corporal Ford, and Privates Boyce, Tibbet, Chase, and Dawson are left alive. Shaken, but determined to complete their objective, the soldiers make their way to the village where the tower is located, and discover some strange, horrifying things. What things, you ask? Well, it would appear that, in the hopes of ensuring their thousand year Reich, the Nazis have been performing experiments on people to create “thousand year soldiers.” Yikes. So now, in addition to having to blow up the radio tower, it would appear that the paratroopers have to contend with undead Nazis as well. Charming. Can they do it? Well, watch the film and find out for yourself.

In order for me to properly articulate my feelings on Overlord, I have to talk about another movie, Mandy. See, both of these flicks are cut from the same cloth. Both are extremely violent. Both have silly, over-the-top plots. But while I absolutely adore Mandy, and think it’s one of the best, if not the best, films of the year, I find Overlord to be fun, forgettable schlock. Why? Well, it all comes down to execution. Mandy has a B-movie plot, but elevates the material with superior filmmaking. It’s saturated color-pallet, memorable synthesizer score, terrific performances and slower, non-violent first half where you just see the characters living their lives, all work together to create a unique atmosphere, and get you to care about the story. It also plays the over-the-top scenarios straight, showing the effects that these horrifying, bloody situations would have on people’s psyches realistically. My favorite scene in Mandy is the one right after Nick Cage watches his wife get burned to death. He’s so numb and heartbroken that he can’t even cry. He just passes out, and then, the next morning, when he wakes up, and remembers what’s happened, he starts weeping. Overlord doesn’t have anything like that. It has a B-movie plot, and executes it in a B-movie fashion. The pace is quick, the characters are stock, and the amount of gore is so excessive that it transcends being gross and actually becomes kind of funny. On top of this, the score isn’t memorable, there’s no unique use of color or sound design, and I’m not joking when I say that this film hits every Nazi, war and zombie cliché in the book. A guy gets killed after he talks about something he’s going to do when he gets home. The main villains are a cultured, but ruthless, SS Colonel and a skinny, bald doctor with glasses. The bad guys give a big speech about the righteousness of eugenics. A little kid winds up in danger, and has to be saved by the heroes. And so on, and so on. Mandy looks like a B-movie, but has more going on beneath the surface. Overlord looks like a B-movie, because it is a B-movie.

Now in case it sounds like I didn’t like this film, I actually did. It’s a fun, easy watch, and if you’re a horror fan, or just looking to see something original, and out there, I think you’ll have a good time. The pace is so brisk that you never feel bored, and while this flick doesn’t have the style of Mandy, it does have some good cinematography. There’s one long, unbroken shot towards the end where we see Private Boyce, played by Jovan Adepo, running through the Nazi lab while it’s exploding, which is really, really cool. And speaking of Jovan Adepo, he’s excellent here. He plays the closest thing this film has to a protagonist, and, while the role itself is very underwritten–all we know about his character is that he’s Haitian-American, and speaks French–he brings a lot of humanity to the part. I loved him in Sorry For Your Loss, and with this film, I think he has the potential to be leading man in blockbusters. Wyatt Russell, whom plays Corporal Ford, is gruff, charismatic and badass. And even though he’s only in two scenes, Bokeem Woodine, whom plays the men’s sergeant, is so over-the-top and fun that he steals every second of film he’s onscreen.

So between the good performances, quick pace, and B-movie thrills, Overlord is a fun watch. It’s not memorable, and it doesn’t have the style or emotional weight of something like Mandy, but if a gory good time is all you crave, this should do the trick.

Apostle (2018)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

When his sister is kidnapped by a Pagan cult, former missionary Thomas RIchardson journeys, in disguise, to their remote island community. Initially planning on just giving them the ransom and leaving, Thomas quickly discovers that there is more going on beneath the surface, since the community is dying, and there is dissension among the ranks. Even more disturbing than this, he discovers, one night while exploring, that there is a monstrous plant woman living out in the woods, feeding on human blood. Yikes.

Apostle is what happens when you combine 1973’s The Wicker Man with Enter The Dragon. Like these films, Apostle focuses on an outsider journeying to a remote island, and discovering some horrifying secrets when they get there. And in case you can’t see the connection to the Bruce Lee classic, Apostle is directed by Gareth Evans, a man who came to international attention for The Raid, an Indonesian-language martial arts flick. And, if I’m being perfectly honest, that shows sometimes. Now, on its own, that isn’t a bad thing, but it speaks to a larger issue that I have with the film. But before I get into that, I do want to list some things that I admire about this flick. For one, it’s very well-acted. Dan Stevens, whom plays Thomas, brings a lot to what is, honestly, kind of an underwritten role. The things he does with his eyes, how he delivers his lines, and just the way he carries himself, indicate a depth and a history that the actual script doesn’t provide. Something else that I admire about this movie is that it’s original. It’s not a sequel to, a remake of, or adapted from, anything. It’s an original story, with some strange, unsettling twists. And as a production, it’s quite impressive. The  locations they shot in, and the sets they built, are all superb to look at. It’s a shame, therefore, that they’re kind of wasted.

As impressive as this film is from a conceptual and technical standpoint, it suffers from poor pacing, underwritten characters, and violence that feels out of place for this kind of story. Normally when I talk about bad pacing, I mean it in the sense that the film went on too long, or was too slow, but that’s not the case here. Like the worst kind of action films, this movie jumps right into the violence, without developing its characters enough to really care about them. As I said, Thomas arrives on the island within the first five minutes, and two minutes after that, we see the cult torture and kill somebody. At this point in the story, all we know about Thomas is that his sister’s been kidnapped, and he doesn’t get along with his father. And we don’t know this because we’ve heard him fight with his old man, or seen him do anything that indicates that. We know this because a random guy whose name we never learn, and who never shows up in the story again, tells us. Thomas has maybe two lines before we get to the first murder.  And while death is to be expected in a horror movie, the murders in this flick don’t feel built up to like they are in the best scary flicks. What I mean is, in other movies about cults, the filmmakers show the cult members living their lives for a while before we get any indication that there might be something suspicious going on. We learn why this community appeals to people, and the protagonist, and by extension, the audience, is lulled into a false sense of security. We don’t get that here. The Cult’s leader gives a brief sermon about how no one has to pay taxes on the island, but that’s about it. Then, in literally the next scene, we watch him and his cronies torture a man to death, and one scene after that, we watch them kill a would be assassin. And when I said this film feels like an action flick, I meant that, particularly with regards to its violence. It’s all highly choreographed and flashy. Thomas escapes a group of thugs by kicking them and using a staff. There’s a fight between a young man and one of the cult’s leaders that looks like it could have come right out of Man Of Tai Chi. And just the way these sequences are put together, with quick edits, dynamic shots, and a pulsing score, feel like they’re trying to get our adrenalin pumping in the same way that John Wick, or any other action film might. This clashes with the more serious, gothic tone, and makes the extremely gory deaths feel more exploitative than frightening. So, in the end, I don’t know if I should or shouldn’t recommend this to you all. It’s original, beautiful to look at, and well-acted. But it’s needlessly quick pace, underdeveloped characters, and its lack of buildup to its bizarrely flashy deaths make it frustrating. Make of this what you will.

Halloween (2018)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My game.

40 years ago, on Halloween night, Michael Myers murdered five people. He was caught, and taken back to the asylum in chains, but Laurie Strode, the only one to survive his rampage, knew that he’d be back. And so, every waking hour of the last 40 years, she trained, hardening her body and mind for the eventual return of “The Shape.”  Her obsession was so deep that it drove her daughter, and even her granddaughter away. But that desire to keep her family safe will be proven right, as, this Halloween, Michael’s back in town, and he’s coming for everyone.

On paper, Halloween (2018) is a film I should hate. It’s the eleventh sequel to a long-running horror franchise, with a less than original plot, and lots of violence against women. But, my god, if it isn’t a ton of fun. This is an old-fashioned, “shout at the screen” horror film that we don’t really get anymore; the kind of movie you have to see in a theater, with an audience that’s talking, and reacting to, the story in real-time. It’s fast-paced, got some superb cinematography and music, and does something that most sequels to long-running horror franchises fail to do; make the villain scary. Michael Myers is such an iconic character now that it’s very hard to make him intimidating, since whatever mystique he might have had has long since been stripped away. But, my God, the director found a way to do just that. And, like I said, the filmmaking on display is top notch. There’s one sequence, done in a long, unbroken tracking shot, where we see Michael break into a house, kill someone, steal their knife, and then walk on the street full of trick-or-treaters who don’t look twice at him because, hey, it’s Halloween, that is excellent! The movie’s also very funny in places, and not in a way that feels tonally inconsistent. And, unlike a lot of other slasher movies, this film actually manages to make you care about the victims. There’s one sequence in a house, with a babysitter and the kid she’s looking after, which you just know is going to end with Michael Myers bursting in and killing these people, but, for the 5 or 6 minutes we’re with these characters, we grow to like them. So, for all these reasons, the quick pace, the suspenseful cinematography, the fact that it makes a horror icon terrifying again, I say you should give it a look.

I’d be lying, though, if I told you this film is perfect. When I said it was an old-fashioned horror movie, I meant it. Characters do stupid things that get them killed, there’s some painfully awkward, expository dialogue, and some of the acting, particularly from Judy Greer, whom plays Laurie’s daughter, is wooden. Bad Times At The El Royale may have been slow, but at least its acting and dialogue were more consistent. I also don’t understand why Laurie had to have a granddaughter. It feels like they just threw her in to appeal to a younger demographic. There is a fascinating story in here about PTSD, survivor’s guilt, and how assault can effect the relatives of the victim as well, but fart too much time is dedicated to the granddaughter’s romantic troubles and friends that the intriguing themes kind of get lost in the shuffle. Still, all of these problems are pretty minor, and shouldn’t hurt your viewing experience if you know what you’re getting into. If you want a good horror film for the Halloween season, this movie is definitely it.

Bad Times At The El Royale (2018)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

On a stormy night in 1969, a Priest, a Singer, a Hippie and a Vacuum salesman all converge on the El Royale hotel. Built on the border between California and Nevada, the establishment was once the favorite getaway of politicians and celebrities, but now its all but abandoned. As such, it’s just these four people, and Miles, the nervous concierge. Things start off quiet, but as the night progresses, they quickly unravel, as it becomes clear that no one, save the Singer, is who they say they are, and that even the hotel has secrets.

If you were to take everything people associate with the 1960s–Vietnam, The Manson Family, Rock & Roll–put it in a crime thriller, and then tell that thriller out of order, you’d get Bad TImes At The El Royale, a film whose ambition, originality and technical craft are only matched by its narrative shortcomings. Because, let’s be clear, this is not a terrible movie. I saw the lukewarm reviews, and went in expecting to hate it, but came out, if not pleasantly surprised, then intrigued. It’s the kind of film–a mid budget thriller that’s not based off of anything or part of some existing franchise– that doesn’t get made anymore, and is executed with a decent amount of skill. There are several sequences, including one where John Hamm (the “Vacuum Salesman”) is walking in a secret passageway, looking through two-way mirrors at the occupants of all the other rooms, which are done in long, unbroken tracking shots. The design of the El Royale hotel, from the neon lighting, to the angular, Jetson-like furniture, to the color dichotomy between the California and Nevada sides of every room, is period accurate and aesthetically pleasing. The soundtrack is catchy and soulful. And the acting, with the possible exception of Dakota Johnson (the “Hippie) is quite good. The standouts, easily, are Jeff Bridges as the “Priest,” and Cynthia Erivo as the Singer. They’re the most likable characters, they have a good rapport with one another, and they serve as the closest things this film has to protagonists. For all these reasons–the originality, the production design, and the soundtrack–I do think Bad Times is worth watching.

But go in with tempered expectations. For all the film’s technical prowess, it’s not nearly as adept when it comes to its storytelling. This movie doesn’t move, it crawls at a snail’s pace. It’s two and a half hours long, and things don’t get interesting until the 40-minute mark. Part of this comes from the fact that many scenes that would ordinarily be shortened, such as a man burying a stash of loot, a woman singing in front of a mirror, and an exposition dump about the hotel, go on for way too long. Whereas in other films we’d just get snippets of these moments, like a few lyrics of the song, in this movie, we hear the entire song. And the prolonged scenes of dialogue just aren’t that interesting, because the dialogue isn’t that funny, or revealing. I did laugh in a few scenes, but that was only because Dakota Johnson, the star of the Fifty Shades movies, delivered her lines in such a stiff, monotone manner. And when I said that this film is everything you associate with the 1960s, I did mean everything. This movie crams in so much stuff from that time period–political assassinations, J Edgar Hoover’s FBI, cults–and none of it really meshes well together. For instance, despite appearing in all the movie’s trailers, and being prominently featured on the poster, Chris Hemsworth, whom plays the leader of a murderous cult, doesn’t show up until the last 20 minutes or so. His entire presence feels like it was just tossed in to give us a big, third-act climax. Similarly, John Hamm, the Vacuum salesman, is revealed to be an FBI agent working undercover at the hotel. Why is he there? Why did the writer’s include an FBI agent in the story? I don’t know. It might have something to do with the fact that there’s a video of a now-dead famous person, possibly JFK, hidden in the hotel. But Hamm himself never gives any indication that he’s looking for it, and the tape of the dead person doesn’t get introduced into the story until well after Hamm dies. He also dies so early on in the story that his inclusion feels pointless, and you’re left wondering if the only reason he was there to begin with was so that the writers could say the name J Edgar Hoover. And speaking of things that are included seemingly for no reason, why is the hotel built on the border of two states? They really emphasize that fact, both with dialogue and the design of the hotel, but, in the end, if this movie took place entirely in California, or entirely in Nevada, it’d make no difference. It’s set up so that you think the location will be a big deal, like maybe a crime will get committed in one half of the hotel that’s legal in that state, but it really isn’t. It’s just a stylistic choice that doesn’t really serve much purpose. So, in the end, I definitely don’t think this movie is for everyone. It’s original, and well made from a visual standpoint, but it’s painfully slow, there’s too many thematic elements tossed in, and some of the acting is stiff. I’m hoping it does well, because I do really admire the ambition and originality, but I don’t know if I can recommend it.