Good evening! Halloween is done and I noticed some interesting films this October. Venom is a campy superhero film and monster flick. Bad Times at the El Royale is a creepy and unconventional crime thriller. Both of them are great releases for the Halloween season. Keep reading to see the best and worst qualities of each film. Which movie impressed me the most? I’ll tell you all about it.
Let’s start with Venom. A space shuttle crash lands on Earth with a group of alien symbiotes in tow. A corrupt organization called the Life Foundation captures the organisms and studies them with the aspiration of binding humans with the alien creatures. Carlton Drake, the Life Foundation’s owner, believes Earth will become an uninhabitable wasteland in the near future unless something like the symbiotes can help mankind adapt to their new environment. Meanwhile, a news reporter named Eddie Brock goes through a downward spiral and accidentally becomes infected by one of the symbiotes. Together, they become Venom, an antihero who has a predisposition for violence and insanity.
Overall, this film is hot trash, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. Tom Hardy plays Eddie Brock and the titular Venom. His performance is excellent, even though it’s rather campy. Tom Hardy can probably read a phone book it would still seem brilliant. He has a lot of personality and keeps the audience engaged in a very mediocre film. I wouldn’t say this version of Eddie Brock was taken directly from the comics, but it works for this particular movie. Hardy is also surprisingly funny. I laughed at several scenes and Hardy kept me thoroughly entertained.
This film is almost like a horror comedy. I actually like that part. Venom is a very funny movie and it keeps pacing issues at bay. It had one wacky scene after another and I didn’t get tired of the ridiculous tone. The marketing was quite deceptive. I expected Venom to be very serious and possibly a legitimate horror story. But it heads in the campy direction instead. Basically, it’s almost like a combination of Men in Black and Batman & Robin. That should give you an idea of the movie’s silly nature. It works for me, but some people might hate the story’s comedic tone.
Venom has a lot of action too. Some viewers might be worried about a lack of screen time for the Venom character. You don’t need to worry about that part. He’s in the movie all the time. This film utilizes his powers effectively and it creates really good action scenes. Other elements didn’t impress me, but at least it’s a monstrous adventure.
Surprisingly, I enjoy the music too. I probably won’t buy the soundtrack on iTunes and listen to it, but the music works really well in the film. It’s kind of hard to explain. The musical score evokes a sci-fi image with a fast pace. It has refrains that recur during major action scenes and other important moments of the movie. Basically, the music fits the tone and structure of the film. It’s a really fun experience.
Beyond those few positive elements, I don’t like anything else. The story is terrible. It doesn’t make any sense and I found serious plot holes all over the place. The plot is reminiscent of the typically bad superhero films of the 1990s and early 2000s. It reminds me of Daredevil, Cat Woman, Spawn, Batman Forever, Elektra, The Hulk, etc. Truthfully, it doesn’t seem like much effort or thought was put into the script. It has bad dialogue and a haphazard story. Unfortunately, that part is very disappointing.
The other characters are lousy . Riz Ahmed plays Carlton Drake, the main antagonist. He’s very bland, uncharismatic, and a lame commentary on today’s public figures. Michelle Williams plays Anne Weying, Eddie Brock’s love interest. This wasn’t one of her stronger performances. Her character is boring and mostly in the film because the hero needs a girlfriend. She also has a really bad wig and it was quite distracting. I don’t remember anything about additional supporting characters, which means there isn't anything special about them.
This film also has a lot of technical issues. The VFX are subpar for today’s standards. I heard complaints about bad visual effects in the trailers and they didn’t turn out any better in the finished product. Something is off in regards to the cinematography. The action scenes are fun, but they’re hard to watch because Venom flies around the screen so quickly. I missed some cool moments because everything zipped by in the blink of an eye.
Even though the movie is humorous, the tone shifts around frequently. Sometimes it wants to be a horror film. Then it becomes a comedy again. It also throws a lot of action, romance, and drama at the audience. You might appreciate all of these elements in a movie, but it’s such an abrupt shift without any warning. This film lacks fluidity and a consistent tone.
Some outside factors hurt this film significantly. First of all, Venom doesn’t work without Spider-Man. His origin story is deeply connected to Spider-Man and their complex history shapes Venom’s personality, vendettas, personal struggles, etc. It doesn’t make a lot of sense if the movie lacks these important elements. Secondly, a PG-13 rating was a huge mistake. I realize the studio wanted to draw a bigger audience, but a solo Venom film really needs an R rating. Venom is inherently raw, violent, powerful, and unpredictable. A PG-13 rating hinders his character and potential. Even with a PG-13 rating, this film isn’t appropriate for young kids. The MCU movies are fine for children, but Venom isn’t appropriate for anyone who’s under thirteen.
Should you see Venom? Well, I’m not going to recommend seeing it in theaters. I actually saw it on a deluxe screen, but that didn’t make the experience much better. However, it’s still a fun movie. Just wait for it to come out on streaming. I’m sure it will roll out on Netflix, HBO, or something else. It’s a fun way to kill two hours.
I have better things to say about Bad Times at the El Royale. However, it’s more of a niche film. It takes place during the late 1960s in the Lake Tahoe area at an outdated hotel called The Royale. The film has an ensemble cast with eclectic characters, including a struggling singer, a bank robber who’s posing as a priest, a neurotic hippy, and a snarky vacuum cleaner salesman. Eventually, the leader of a cult named Billy Lee crashes the party and brings a degree of Hell to the El Royale. This film has violence, secrets, complex characters, social commentary, and many layers within an unusual plot.
The characters are probably the best component of this movie. Every actor gives a very strong performance and that’s not particularly common in modern cinema. Jeff Bridges plays Father Daniel Flynn, the shady priest. The role fits Jeff Bridges really well and he’s a surprisingly relatable character. He isn’t a run of the mill movie criminal. Cynthia Erivo is Darlene Sweet, a pop singer and the only ingénue in the film. She has good chemistry with Flynn and it felt really easy to root for her. Apparently, Erivo is a pretty strong singer and I didn’t know that before watching the El Royale. Chris Hemsworth is diabolical as Billy Lee, the villainous cult leader. He’s narcissistic, power hungry, and virtually evil incarnate. I got a kick out of Jon Hamm as Laramie Sullivan, the annoying salesman. He’s an obnoxious bigot, but also somewhat amusing. Dakota Johnson was pretty good as Emily Summerspring, the gutsy hippy with dark secrets. She’s a dark and troubled character, but she has interesting motivations. Her sister, Rose Summerspring, was played by Cailee Spaeny. She’s a very complex and eccentric character. I shouldn’t say anything else about Rose because it would probably involve spoilers. Lewis Pullman played Miles Miller, the sole employee at the El Royale and he was probably my least favorite character. But he was still fine. Miles is an emotional wreck and the story goes into a lot detail about his issues. Together, they make a great ensemble cast.
Bad Times at the El Royale is a bold movie and I applaud its effort. The story has really interesting social commentaries, a lot of character development, strong mystery elements, unpredictability, and periodic moments of dread. Overall, it’s a thought provoking film with a unique plot. I noticed a few influences from the noir genre and classics like the Usual Suspects. It’s a mishmash of mystery genres and I didn’t mind that part. The film is a slow burn without the boring elements. It’s not a traditional movie, but everything works perfectly fine. I want to give some credit to Drew Goddard who wrote and directed the film. This type of movie is hard to pull off and he did a really good job.
I want to praise some technical elements too. The production design is awesome. It looks like a true set piece from the 1960s. There’s a genuine degree of authenticity to the hotel. I also love the costume design. Their outfits seem really appropriate for the time period and quite stylish. I doubt this film will receive attention at the Oscars, but some of the technical elements are probably worthy of an honorable mention. This film uses a lot of classic pop songs from the sixties as well. I gobbled it up. If you’re paying attention, the lyrics usually fit the mood and story quite appropriately. Besides, it’s just fun to hear classic music in cinema.
Despite my praise, this isn’t a perfect movie. First of all, I don’t understand why it’s an hour and twenty minutes long. It’s downright excessive. I would prefer an hour and forty-five minutes for this type of crime thriller. It wasn’t hard for me to sit through the film, but I’m sure many people in the audience would struggle with the length. The El Royale also seems a little bit pretentious. Sometimes the story is nonlinear and repetitive. It repeats some of the scenes multiple times through the perspective of different characters. Honestly, I didn’t find that part necessary and that’s why it was so long. The El Royale has a lot of tangents as well. This component helps the audience learn more about the characters, but it veers into flashbacks during important or exciting scenes. It kills some of the momentum and seems self-indulgent.
Who on earth is the target audience for this film? I couldn’t tell you. It’s too weird and decadent for mainstream audiences, especially regarding people who prefer blockbusters. This movie doesn’t have expensive VFX, a lot of action scenes, romance, or anything else we would normally see in popular films. Art house fans and the Academy crowd won’t care about this film either. It doesn’t fit the Oscar bait mold. Evidently, people like me are the target audience. I really like mysteries, crime thrillers, and ambitious movies with a dash of weirdness. That’s an incredibly small audience. The El Royale’s initial budget was 32 million and then you have to double it for the marketing campaign. I seriously doubt it will make a profit. In fact, I’m pretty sure the studio is going to lose money for this film, which is unfortunate because it’s actually pretty good.
Should you bother to see the El Royale in theaters? Is this film worth your time at all? I definitely recommend it to people who don’t mind R rated mysteries. Truthfully, it’s an awesome movie going experience. I saw it in a very small theater and the ambiance was perfect. That’s the best way to see this movie. The production design looks wonderful on a movie theater screen and it makes the violence really pop. But it doesn’t need to be one of the bigger theater screens. A smaller venue works really well. Most of you guys should watch the trailers first. If you enjoy the trailers, give it a shot either in theaters or streaming at some point.
That’s all for now. Did any of you watch Venom or Bad Times at the El Royale yet? Tell me your thoughts in the comment section. I hope you guys had an awesome Halloween and check again for another fun post. Bye!
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