Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

A Star is Born at the El Royale

A Star is Born at the El Royale by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

Welp, we're going to talk briefly--very briefly-- about two movies, one you've probably already seen and one you've probably shoved to the back seat until it becomes available via streaming.  We were probably the last Americans to see A Star is Born.  FilmZ and the Czarina dragged me along as their driver and note-taker.  Then, a few days later, the Serfers got together for Bad Times at the El Royale.  We're going to attempt summarizing both in capsule accounts.

A Star is Born
As there is an obscure federal law that requires this movie to be remade every decade or so, we needn't go into great depth describing the plot, but here's the gist: Established but troubled megastar makes chance discovery of young talent of the opposite sex.  Artistically and romantically smitten, megastar gives newbie's career a boost, and newbie takes country by storm.  Newbie rockets to stardom as megastar's career spirals downward in a swirl of alcohol and drugs.
Bradley Cooper produced, directed, and stars as Jack, a megastar singer-songwriter; Lady Gaga is Ally, the newbie, and Sam Elliott is Jack's brother, Bobby.  Cooper's acting is superb, his singing serviceable; Gaga's singing superb, her acting serviceable, and the two were involved in many of the songs on the terrific soundtrack. Elliott is his typically excellent self.  And it would be no surprise if ASIB leads all contenders in nominations, as it has received both critical and audience acclaim.  The question is, will this film suffer the same late-season backlash as did La La Land, or will it maintain its momentum?
8.5 out of 10 on an Entertainment Scale
9.5 out of 10 on an Awards Scale--8 to 10 nominations would not surprise

Bad Times at the El Royale
In 1969, a group of strangers converge on a glitzy but run-down hotel that straddles the California-Nevada border.  Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), a sweet soul singer on her way to a gig in Reno; Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges), a curious but troubled man with a taste for whiskey; Laramie Sullivan (John Hamm), a jovially grating salesman who is even more curious; Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson) a sullen Hippie with a strange cargo.  Seemingly the sole El Royale employee is Miles (Lewis Pullman), a twitchy fellow who can't repent enough for past misdeeds, some of which are attached to the El Royale, with its secret passages and seamy criminal history.  When Manson-wannabe Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) shows up, things go from intriguing to catastrophic.
Cynthia Erivo is a revelation as both an actress and as a singer (a star is born?); keep an eye on her.  The rest of the cast gets with the spirit of the show, too.  Writer-Director Drew Goddard has the tacky noir hotel atmospherics right--a la the Coen's Barton Fink--and he brings together cool characters whose back stories and motivations reveal themselves through a non-linear time warp--a la Tarantino. These two elements, though derivative, work winningly for two acts.  But with Billy Lee's arrival on screen, Goddard dials Coens and Tarantino to "11", to the film's detriment, and lasting a hefty 2:22, time is not on his side.  There is one MacGuffin on top of the real MacGuffin, a film reel Goddard seems to have included for the sole purpose of spiking conspiracy theories.  El Royale is a good movie, and we recommend it, but for real, and reel, thrills and chills we recommend the film that seems to have influenced Goddard more than anything, 2003's Identity.
7.0 out of 10; not an Awards player


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