Movie Review – Bad Times at the El Royale


Movie Review - Bad Times at the El RoyaleIs Bad Times at the El Royal an Oscar-worthy movie? Probably not. However, there were two performances that do stand out and is, in my opinion, worthy of at least an Oscar nod. Cynthia Erivo, as Darlene Sweet, and Lewis Pullman as Miles Miller, stole the show. Considering that Jeff Bridges always gives an Oscar-worthy performance lends validity to the above statement.

As for the movie itself, I was entertained by the plot, even though it was a bit confusing at times. Goddard employed the use of filming an event from different perspectives, and this could be distracting at times.

The set designer did a great job replicating an old motor lodge from the 1960’s. You could almost smell the mold and mildew of an old motel way past its prime.

Even though there was bloodletting, it wasn’t so ‘in your face’ that you risked upchucking the popcorn you just purchased at a prohibitive cost.

And finally, seeing the naked backside of Chris Hemsworth as he sauntered down to the ocean was worth the price of admission. Yeah, maybe that scene made up for any shortcomings in the rest of the movie.

Grade: A-

About The Peetimes: This is a fairly long movie, so I spaced the Peetimes out so I could throw in an emergency break near the end.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Bad Times at the El Royale. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Movie Review – A Star Is Born

Last week I bitterly complained about the lack of chemistry between the cast of Little Women. It was pretty much a dog of a movie.

This week, A Star Is Born had so much chemistry I expected a huge on screen explosion — and that’s what I got. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga together created an unforgettable masterpiece that will stand the test of time, along with Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart, and Joaquin Phoenix in Walk The Line — my personal favorite.

I want to add that the R rating for this movie might be a little extreme. Other than scenes of drug and alcohol abuse, and the F bomb being frequently dropped, I think a PG-13 would have been more appropriate. I see more alcohol and drug abuse in the parking lot of my local ‘big box’ store, so don’t let the R rating keep you away from enjoying one of the best movies of the decade.

One complaint I do have, and this is true of so many movies today, is the frequently unintelligible dialog between Cooper and Gaga. Bradley’s gravely voice — and the background music, even as great as it was — did leave me scratching my head at times. But I will say this; under Bradley’s direction, dialog took a back seat to the emotions we saw in the eyes of the ill-fated couple. That said it all.

I’ve always enjoyed Lady Gaga, and respected her personal style, but this movie took her talents to a whole different level. I see an Oscar nod in her future and just as importantly, an Oscar nod for Cooper’s directorial debut.

Grade: A

About the Peetimes: Runpee Mom and I worked together on this movie; it was difficult to do. Between the 2 of us, we narrowed down the Peetimes to these 3. We decided against any times that involved the songs. There is character development from start to finish, but feel that these times were the ones that would keep you with the flow and feel of the movie.

Movie Review – Little Women

Since it has been a full half century since I read *Little Women*, I can’t comment on how well the movie tracks with the book. But really, it doesn’t matter because the book and this movie have very little in common.

The current *Little Women* is a chaotic mess. The thing that really stood out to me is the lack of continuity in this film. For instance, in one scene the ground is covered in snow, then, in the next scene Jo and Meg go off to a New Year’s Eve party where we see Meg outside standing near the pool. There’s no snow, no ice, only green trees and bushes in the background, and no one is wearing any kind of outer wear. I have to ask, who was in charge of the minor details, and how do we make sure this person never works in Hollywood again?

The frequent flash backs and flash forwards were really irritating, especially since the same actors played themselves both as teenagers and as adults, without much variation in their appearance. And don’t get me started on how quickly Jo’s hair grew back to the length it was before her act of solidarity.

All in all, I really disliked this movie, not only because of the above mentioned glaring mistakes, but also all the mechanics that goes into the making of a good movie were absent. I see a lot of the faith-based movies so I have a grasp of what makes them work; good writing, good directing, and good actors who believe in their character. It appeared to me that there was no chemistry between any of the characters, and no one had a good time making the movie. I certainly had no fun watching it.

Grade: C-

About these PeetimesThis movie was paced well, making it easy to get 2 good Peetimes. Both give you 4 minutes to break, so let your bladder decide.

Movie Review – Life Itself

Typically, I don’t read other critics’ reviews before writing my own. However, I felt compelled to do so after seeing a blurb that condemned *Life Itself* to the fiery pits of Hell. I do not agree.

I have to say that disagreeing with the ‘professional’ critics makes me ever so eager to write my own review, where I can pan the critics who panned the movie. One critic’s review was so filled with verbosity that I have to wonder if the review was actually written as a dissertation for a Doctor of Philosophy degree. But I digress.

I enjoyed this movie based on its own merits; the directing was good, the acting was above par, and writing, even though not Oscar worthy, was quite good. The numerous flash back and flash forward scenes could be frustrating, but were still creatively done.

What I took away from this movie was a sense of ’cause and effect’. What if a character made a different decision, if they had gone in a different direction? Just one small change, and everyone lives or everyone dies. Something as small as a decision to take a bus changes the entire complexion of the movie.

So, in a nutshell, don’t be swayed by the negative reviews. If you’re on the fence about *Life Itself*, make your own path and go see this movie.

Grade: C+

About the Peetimes: There are a lot of flashbacks in this movie, which made it a little difficult to get good Peetimes. However, since the movie did move a bit slowly, the Peetimes are easily summed up in the synopsis.

Movie Review – Unbroken: Path to Redemption

I truly do enjoy faith-based movies, but Unbroken left me a little flat. The acting was pretty good,  and the directing was acceptable, however, since I didn’t read Laura Hillenbrand’s book Path To Redemption, I can’t comment on how closely the book was followed. It was interesting that Billy Graham’s grandson played his grand father (Billy Graham) in this movie, but his charisma is no match to his father’s.

I didn’t feel that the two main characters, Louis and Cynthia, had much chemistry together. I never really felt their passion for their religion, nor their passion for each other. Nor did the supporting cast offer up much for us to care about.

I was pleased that, once again, PTSD was addressed, even though at that particular time it was referred to as ‘shell-shocked’. Of recent, we’ve seen a number of movies addressing PTSD, and this is a good thing. A movie can give the public a visual of how devastating this condition is, and of course the more we know, the more we can help. History has shown us that, at least every generation or so, we will continue to be welcoming home our vets.

Grade: C

About the Peetimes: Unbroken is very much a drama driven movie, but does have periods of restraint that make for good Peetimes. I recommended the first Peetime, because it actually gives you slightly more than 4 minutes to break.

Movie Review – God Bless the Broken Road

Even though the critics panned God Bless The Broken Road, I did find a few redeeming qualities I’d like to share with you. The movie touches on a few issues, that sadly, are all too prevalent in our world today: we have the ‘war widow’ trying desperately to hold her world together without the support of a husband. And a child whose life has been turned upside down because war left her without her father, while her mother works odd hours in a diner.

This movie stresses the importance of faith, even when your world is falling down around you. I’m sure this message will resonate with many people in the audience. All that having been said, my criticism deals with the technical aspects of the movie. The acting was sub-par, with the exception of the race car owner played by Gary Grubbs, one of the best character actors in Hollywood. The pacing was excruciatingly slow, and the directing left much to be desired. Many times the camera lingered on the sad face of Amber, and left me thinking, ‘Okay, we get it; she’s sad.’ A three-second shot of her sad face is acceptable, but a fifteen-second shot of the sad face is annoying.

Parents can comfortably take their children to see this movie, and later discuss the message of faith. I give God Bless The Broken Road a C, because it was an average movie with an average story.

Grade: C

About the Peetimes: God Bless The Broken Road is a faith-based movie that’s more drama driven, with very little action. Getting 2 Peetimes was fairly easy. Each gives you 4 minutes to break, so let your bladder decide.

Movie Review – Searching

Rotten Tomatoes critics and audience-goers on average have given *Searching* a 92% and 97%, respectively.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a movie that takes place on a computer screen, but from the first scene to closing scene I was impressed.

The first few minutes of the movie are exquisite. We see photos and videos of Margot, the missing daughter, from her toddler years to her graduation from high school. Interspersed throughout the scene we see Margot’s mother (who is now deceased), and the obvious love she had for her daughter. The poignancy this scene evoked stayed with me throughout the movie.

Since I see so many movies, rarely am I completely surprised by the ending, however Searching presented a plot twist that most certainly will leave you thinking about this movie for some time.

Over this holiday weekend, I recommend taking the time to get out of the heat and into a nice cool theater to see an extraordinary movie.

Grade: A-

About the Peetimes: Searching is an intense movie, with most of it taking place on a computer screen. This made getting Peetimes a bit hard, because for a great deal of the movie there’s no dialog, just a montage of videos and photos going by quickly on the computer.

Movie Review – A.X.L.

In all my years as Runpee Mom, I’ve never given a movie the lowest grade possible. Allow me to expound on why AXL took me to the desert wasteland of F-. Watching this ‘robot dog’ being brutalized by a series of nefarious characters hit me like a gut punch. The movie demanded that we not only fear the viciousness of this creation, but also find him loveable.

Well, that notion severely backfired. Seeing AXL being tortured in so many ways was heartbreaking. In my theater, a child of about six was so upset at seeing the ‘doggy’ being torched like a metal marshmallow, that the mother took him out of the theater. Other young children in the audience were obviously traumatized by most of the torture scenes. No child left the theater with a happy face; most looked shell shocked.

The treatment of AXL is only the tip of the iceberg. The acting was substandard, the directing was miserable, and the writing felt as if it were written by a first year creative writing student. Plot holes were standard, and some scenes were absolutely ridiculous.

The last scene indicated there could be a sequel. Will the next one be set in a POW camp filled with children? And yes, these places do exist.

Grade: F-

About the Peetimes: I found two good Peetimes. Both give you four minutes to break, so let your bladder decide.

Movie Review – Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians is a beautifully done trip to Singapore with a gaggle of interesting people. Each main character gave us a guided tour into their lives, and how it shaped their future.

Even though we didn’t see or hear much of the back story of Piek Lin Goh (played by Awkwafina), she did have the best and funniest lines of the entire movie.

Even though CRA employed a plot some may say is overdone — rich guy/girl falls in love with the ‘guy/girl across the tracks — this sweet movie did it with a breath of fresh air. The directing was spot on, the acting was way above par, and the writing was creative. All this combined demands that I give CRA a solid B.

Grade: B

About the PeetimesI have 2 good Peetimes, one at 48 minutes and the other at 1:07. Both gives you 4 minutes to break, so let your bladder decide.

Movie Review – Christopher Robin

Winnie The Pooh was a wonderful part of my childhood. And then it became a big part of my son’s childhood, followed by my daughter’s, granddaughter’s, and finally my great granddaughter’s childhood. That said, I feel most qualified to review Christopher Robin.

I found it interesting that there were mostly adults in my theater who laughed frequently and loudly. We baby boomers do love a walk down memory lane.

The animation used to create Pooh and friends was beautiful and well done. The story flowed nicely and kept my interest right to the last moments of the movie.

Grade: A

About the Peetimes
Both Peetimes are pretty good, but if I had to pick, I’d say the 1st is a little better, because it contains less emotion than the 2nd.