Sunday, October 21, 2018

It Came From The Cineplex: Venom

Venom was written by Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg and Kelly Marcel. Yep, believe it or not it took a whopping THREE people to write this. It was directed by Ruben Fleischer.

Pinkner is a terrible hack who previously co-wrote such "hits" as The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The 5th Wave and The Dark Tower. Now THAT'S a resume! He also co-wrote Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, which accidentally came out pretty well. Note that EVERY screenplay he's written so far has been for Sony. He must have some really juicy dirt on them!

Rosenberg is a very uneven writer, who previously penned Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead, Beautiful Girls, Con Air, Disturbing Behavior, High Fidelity, Gone In Sixty Seconds, Impostor, Highway and Kangaroo Jack (!!!). He co-wrote Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle with Jeff Pinkner.

Marcel wrote the criminally inaccurate biopic Saving Mr. Banks, as well as Fifty Shades Of Grey, which should tell you everything you need to know about her talent level.

Fleischer has a similarly checkered resume. He previously directed Zombieland (which I liked quite a bit), 30 Minutes Or Less (nope) and Gangster Squad (BIG nope!). He's done a lot of TV work as well.

It's not a terrible movie per se, but it's far from good. I'd call it mediocre at best. It's big, loud and most of all, dumb. The plot makes no sense, the characters have no motivation and the tone is all over the place. 

It feels for all the world like a superhero movie from ten or fifteen years ago, before Marvel Studios began dominating the genre with their superior product.

There may be a reason for it feeling dated. Sony actually began developing Venom wayyy back in 2007, and it sat in Development Hell until 2017!

As I always do in this situation, I just want to point out to everyone that Venom is NOT a Marvel Movie. It's made by the fine hacks over at Sony Pictures, the wonderful studio that pumps out hit after hit, year after year to universal critical accla... HAW, HAW, HAW! Sorry, I couldn't finish that sentence with a straight face. Marvel Studios had absolutely NOTHING to do with this film and share none of the blame.

I'd also like to point out that despite the fact that Venom is a major Spider-Man villain in the comics, Spider-Man doesn't make an appearance in the film. In fact, according to the producers, this film takes place in a universe in which Spider-Man doesn't even exist! What the hell?

Sigh... Only Sony could make a Spider-Man movie that doesn't actually have Spider-Man in it. 

I freely admit I've never been a huge fan of the Venom character, which may be coloring my review a bit. I thought he was OK when he first appeared, as he was sort of a "mirror image" of Spider-Man and made for an interesting foe.

All that came to an end when Venom's popularity inexplicably exploded. The public couldn't get enough of the character, so Marvel decided to spin him off into his very own title. That created a problem though, as you can't very well have an evil villain as the title character of a comic. Heck, Venom's catchphrase at the time was "I want to eat your brain," for corn's sake!

So Marvel changed Venom from a violent psychopathic entity into a self-described "lethal protector," one who defended the innocent and punished the guilty. In effect they straight up neutered him.

That's pretty much when I lost touch with the character. He was mildly interesting as a bad guy, but who the hell wants to read about a heroic Venom?

Sadly, the film appears to be using this watered down version of the character. When Venom first appears he's slightly evil, but soon becomes a hero, helping protect his host and save the Earth from an evil symbiote.

Is this really what the fans wanted? If I was a big Venom fan and had waited decades to see him finally grace the big screen in his own movie, I'd be severely disappointed when I found out they used the watered down version of the character.

Another big problem I had with the film was its tone, as it was all over the place. One minute Venom's literally biting the heads off people (chastely offscreen of course), and then he immediately undercuts this horrific violence with a stupid one liner.

I was under the impression that Venom was supposed to be a deadly serious, no nonsense character. I don't know how it is in the comics, but that's definitely not the case in this film. Both Venom and Eddie spend the entire run time cuttin' it up, spouting one liners like a Vaudeville comedy team. It's more buddy comedy than superhero movie.

Of all the things I expected from a Venom movie, high comedy was definitely last on the list.

The movie's rating also caused a minor controversy. Fans were hoping Venom would be a hard R-rated film along the lines of Deadpool. Sony wimped out of course, cutting it down to a more family-friendly (and profitable) PG-13. 

Sony executives defended the ratings decision, claiming it would allow Venom to appear in a future Spider-Man movie, or even cross over into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige stated in no uncertain terms that that would never happen, so the movie was gutted for no reason.

According to some reports, a whopping FORTY minutes of footage was cut from Venom (!). This might help explain why so much of the movie doesn't make any goddamned sense. Star Tom Hardy also lamented that the missing parts were among his favorites in the entire film. 

In case you're still wondering if you should see Venom or not, consider this quote from star Tom Hardy. He claims Venom is the coolest of all Marvel heroes, because "he has a brazen swagger and a zero foxtrot attitude." That says it all right there, whatever the hell it means!

Against all logic and reason, so far Venom's grossed an astonishing $460 million worldwide, against its $100 million budget. And it's still going strong, as of this review. I wouldn't be surprised if it breaks the $600 million mark before it's all over. 

I know why it's doing so well. It's because the popcorn-munching general public doesn't know from studios, and they're flocking to this film because they think it's from Marvel, not Sony. I guarantee that's what's happening here. It's the only explanation as to why such a mediocre movie's doing so well.

Look for Eddie and Venom to face off against Carnage in Venom 2: Revenge Of The Symbiotes sometime in 2020.


The Plot:
We open on a space shuttle owned by the Life Foundation, as it returns to Earth from a deep space mission (I guess?). Suddenly there's a commotion inside the shuttle, causing it to crash land in Malaysia.

At the crash site, a team from the Life Foundation sift through the wreckage. Carlton Drake (played by Riz Ahmed), the powerful billionaire CEO of the company, monitors them. Drake's unconcerned with the crew, and asks if his people managed to recover all the "samples" from the shuttle. 

We see several hazmat-suited figures remove a few capsules filled with squirming black symbiotes (although we're not supposed to know that's what they are yet). A tech tells him they've recovered three of the samples, but haven't found the fourth.

Just then the EMTs pull a survivor from the wreckage. He's identified at J.J. Jameson III, aka the son of Peter Parker's boss, even though there's supposedly no Spider-Man in this film's universe. He's loaded into an ambulance which then drives off.

Suddenly the comatose Jameson sits up, and we see he's been possessed by a symbiote. A black tendril shoots from his body and envelopes the Female EMT who's treating him. Another tendril kills the driver for no reason, causing the ambulance to violently crash. The Female EMT is thrown from the ambulance, and seemingly lies dead in the road. Suddenly her broken bones heal and she walks off.

Cut to San Francisco, where Eddie Brock (played by Tom Hardy) lives with his fiance Anne Weying (played by Michelle Williams), who just happens to be a lawyer with the Life Foundation. They exchange nauseatingly cutesy banter in an effort to show us they're the perfect couple.

Eddie's a reporter and the host of his own hard-hitting, investigative TV show, which is imaginatively called The Eddie Brock Report. He's scheduled to interview Carlton Drake, and is looking forward to ripping him a new asshole. Eddie's 
boss warns him to go easy on Drake, as he could easily make sure he never works in TV again. He reminds Eddie that his unorthodox antics already cost him a job in New York.

That night Eddie "accidentally" stumbles onto an email on Anne's computer, which confirms that three people were killed in the shuttle crash, a fact which Drake had covered up.

The next day Eddie interviews Drake, asking a series of pre-approved questions. He can't help himself though and goes off-script, asking Drake about the deaths. Drake angrily ends the interview and stalks off.

Predictably, Eddie's boss calls him into his office and fires him. Even worse, Eddie's actions get Anne fired as well. She gives him back his ring and breaks up with him.

Meanwhile, the Female EMT 
wanders into a local Malaysian market and starts chowing down on live eels. When the owner tries to stop her, she forms a blade with her arm and slices his throat. Other angry merchants try to attack, but she easily kills them all. She staggers toward an old woman, and the symbiote jumps into her body.

Six months later...

Drake is conducting illegal tests on the city's homeless in his lab. His chief researcher, Dr. Dora Skirth (played by Jenny Slate), objects to the tests and refuses to cooperate on moral grounds. Drake implies he'll harm her family if she doesn't comply, and she quickly backs down. He brings in a test subject named Isaac and locks him inside the lab. He releases one of the symbiotes, which immediately bonds with Isaac. He seems fine at first, is suddenly devoured from within, as he turns out to be an incompatible host.

Eddie's now unemployed and living in a cheap, rundown apartment. He goes out for a drink, and on the way back sees a homeless woman named Marie who's camped out on the street. They chat for a bit, and he even gives her some money (don't worry, this'll become important later).

He enters a bodega and greets the owner, Mrs. Chen. Suddenly a thug comes in, pulls a gun on her and demands his weekly "protection" money. Eddie watches this exchange as he cowers behind a display. 
Wait, what? He looks like a goddamned boxer who could kick anyone's ass. Plus he's supposed to be an aggressive journalist. So why's he hiding?

As Eddie leaves the store, he's approached by Dr. Skirth (that was quick!), who wants Eddie to investigate Drake (again) and expose his misdeeds. Eddie tells her to get lost, saying he doesn't do that anymore.

Eddie stops by Anne's apartment, and sees her coming home from a date with Dr. Dan Lewis, her brand new boyfriend. Eddie says he misses her and is sorry for what happened, blaming Drake for their mutual firings. Anne rightly tells him everything was HIS fault, and tells him there's no chance of them ever getting back together.

Having nothing to lose, Eddie calls Dr. Skirth and tells her he's in. They march right into the Life Foundation after hours, and Eddie takes photos of mutilated bodies from the failed symbiote experiments. He sees Maria in one of the labs (told you she'd become important later) and frees her. She immediately attacks him, as Eddie tries to fend her off. Suddenly she dies, and a symbiote exits her body and jumps into his. As the symbiote takes over, he's filled with new-found strength and agility.

An alarm sounds and Eddie runs through the building. He's approached by a team of security guards, but leaps over them with ease. He kicks down a heavy door, jumps over a fence and flees into the woods.

Drake finds Maria's empty body, and realizes one of his symbiotes is loose. He forces Dr. Skirth to confess she sneaked in Eddie, and throws her into a cell, where she's killed by another symbiote. Drake orders his security man Roland Treece to bring back Eddie and the symbiote at all costs.

Eddie returns to his apartment, which is obviously the very last place anyone would ever look for him. He's suddenly ravenously hungry, but the only things in his fridge he can stomach are tater tots and rotten meat. Suddenly he hears a deep raspy voice in his head, calling his name. This shocks him so badly he ends up knocking himself out.

Meanwhile, the Old Malaysian Woman arrives at a Hong Kong airport. She sees a Little Girl heading for San Francisco, and ominously follows her.

Cut to Anne and Dan on a date in a fancy restaurant. Eddie bursts in and tells Dan he thinks he has a parasite. He then starts gobbling food from other diners' plates, and hops in the lobster tank and begins eating them alive. Dan, who apparently takes his Hippocratic Oath very seriously, vows to help. 

Dan takes Eddie to the hospital and puts him in the MRI machine. As soon as it's activated, Eddie begins vibrating and convulsing, as the frequency from the machine is apparently deadly to his symbiote. If you don't recognize this scene as blatant foreshadowing, then you've never seen a movie before.

Eddie returns home and tries to get some rest. Suddenly Treece and his goons burst in and attempt to capture him. Eddie raises his hands and says he'll come quietly, but the symbiote has other ideas. Black, gooey tendrils shoot from Eddie's body and beat, strangle and murder the goons, in a scene that's lifted shot for shot from Upgrade.

As more goons arrive, the symbiote forces Eddie to leap out the window to escape. Treece reports in to Drake, who realizes Eddie's done what no other subject has been able to do
he's achieved perfect symbiosis with the er, symbiote. He orders Treece to bring Eddie back at all costs (again).

Treece sends out a fleet of armed drones to find Eddie. One spots him and tries to kill him. Wait, doesn't Drake want him alive? Anyway, Eddie spots a motorcycle, jumps on it and takes off. There's a big setpiece battle as Treece and his fleet (where do all these agents keep coming from?) and the drones chase Eddie through the city. The symbiote helps Eddie evade his enemies, as well as make impossible hairpin turns around busy street corners.

Eventually Treece manages to slam into Eddie with his SUV. Eddie's knocked off the bike, flies through the air and lands hard on the street, mangling him horribly. Treece saunters up and taunts Eddie, telling him he's a pain in his ass. Suddenly Eddie's broken legs straighten and heal, and his body's completely covered by the black goo of the symbiote. A terrifying toothy face covers Eddie's own, as he fully (and FINALLY, at the FIFTY SEVEN MINUTE mark) transforms into Venom.

He grabs Treece by the throat and picks him up off the ground. Just as he's about to kill him, another goon shoots him in the back. Venom spins around and bites his head off, but since this film's rated PG-13, it happens mostly off camera. Venom then flees and dives into the ocean.

He emerges next to a lighthouse, and retracts from Eddie, who's amazed that his broken legs have been healed. Suddenly a long tendril extends from his back, and Venom's head forms out of it. The two of them then have a heated conversation. Venom says he needs Eddie, as he's his "ride." He says he wants Carlton Drake's "rocket," for reasons of his own. He tells Eddie if he cooperates, he just might survive.

Meanwhile, a plane lands in San Francisco, and the Little Girl we saw in Hong Kong gets off. She's obviously now possessed by the symbiote. Also meanwhile, Drake is livid when he discovers the symbiote that infected Dr. Skirth killed her and then died. He tells Treece (AGAIN) to recover Eddie at all costs. Also also meanwhile, Dan calls Anne and says Eddie's tests came back, and the results are grim. He tells her to get him to the hospital ASAP.

Eddie (with Venom's help) climbs to the top of the Transamerica Pyramid, where he used to work. As they look out on the city, Venom says he almost hates to see our world end. Just then, a low flying plane roars overhead. The sonic vibrations from its engines damage and disrupt Venom. Eddie then falls down the side of the building, but Venom manages to recover and catch him in time.

They then break into the office of Eddie's boss. He lays his phone (containing the photos of Drake's illegal experiments) on his desk, along with a note telling him to do the right thing with them.

Eddie takes the elevator down to the lobby, and when the door opens, he's confronted by every cop and SWAT team member in San Francisco. He begs them to just let him walk away, but of course they attack instead. Venom envelopes Eddie and begins battling the cops, maiming and killing them all.

Anne tracks Eddie to work and sees Venom about to kill a cop. She screams, and Venom's head retracts, revealing Eddie inside. This only makes her scream even louder. He tries to explain, but she tells him to get in her car so she can rush him to the hospital immediately. Eddie's reluctant to get in, fearing for her safety. Venom tells her he likes Anne, and won't try to eat her.

As she drives to the hospital, Eddie tells her about Venom, and explains it's a sentient life form inhabiting his body. Anne takes this news surprisingly well. She suggests another MRI, but Venom violently disagrees, saying a sound frequency between 4000 and 6000 hertz is deadly to him (WHY WOULD YOU TELL THAT TO ANYONE?). They drive on, unaware one of Drake's drones is following them.

At the Life Foundation, Drake encounters the Little Girl from the airport. He asks her what she'd doing there, and she grabs him by the neck and transfers the symbiote into his body.

At the hospital, Dan tells Eddie the tests show his heart's atrophying, due to the presence of the "parasite." Anne addresses Venom, telling him he's killing Eddie. Venom tells Eddie not to listen to them. Venom then attacks Dan, as Eddie begs him to stop.

Anne turns on the MRI machine, and Venom shrieks in agony. He separates from Eddie, and Dan locks the symbiote in a lab. Eddie's furious with Venom for lying about not harming him. He tells him they're through and leaves. Venom slithers up the wall and escapes through an air vent.

Cut to a woman's hospital room, where he small dog's asleep at the foot of her bed (???). The dog hears something moving around in an air vent, and walks up to it, growling. Subtle! Gosh, I wonder if Venom will possess this dog next?

Eddie runs down a corridor and bangs on the elevator button. The doors pop open, revealing Treece and even more of his men. Treece shoots Eddie in the chest with a tranq dart and drags him off. Anne runs into the corridor looking for Eddie. Suddenly she sees the small dog staring up at her, and its eyes go white.

Eddie wakes up inside the Life Foundation, strapped to a chair. Drake enters and realizes Venom's no longer inside him. He demands to know where he is, and Eddie says he honestly has no idea. Suddenly the symbiote inside of Drake, which calls itself Riot (????) emerges. It's even bigger and uglier than Venom, and it roars at Eddie and then retracts. Drake tells Treece to "clean up his mess."

In an isolated lab, Riot's head extends out of Drake's body. He says there are millions more symbiotes in space, and as soon as they retrieve Venom, they can use Drake's "rocket" to go get them, bring them to Earth and take over the population. I don't understand why Riot needs Venom for any of this to happen, but let's just move on.

Cut to Treece marching Eddie into the woods surrounding the Life Foundation. He tells Eddie to kneel and prepares to kill him. Not sure why he had to bring him out here to shoot him, other than because the script said so. Suddenly large tendrils begin yanking Treece's men out of frame.

Treece turns and sees She-Venom, aka Anne, lurch toward him. She bites off his head and tosses his body away. She then picks up Eddie and plants a big kiss on him, transferring Venom into him. Venom tells Anne to stay put and runs off.

Venom tells Eddie that Riot has an arsenal of weapons (???) and plans to use the "rocket" to bring back millions more symbiotes to take over Earth. Eddie says he thought Venom was on board with that plan. He says he was, but changed his mind and likes it here on Earth. He now wants to stop Riot in order to save his newly adopted planet. Eh, who needs motivation in a movie like this?

Drake orders his team to begin the launch sequence for his "rocket." He notices one tech attempting to abort the launch, and transforms into Riot. He forms his hands into enormous axes and slays the entire crew. He then leaps out the window and runs toward the "rocket."

Venom chases after him, and the two engage in a lengthy, hard to follow CGI battle. Riot somehow pulls Venom out of Eddie (???) and it looks for all the world like he's about to eat his fellow symbiote. Just then Eddie reaches out and Venom leaps back onto him.

The battle continues, and for some reason Venom and Riot's chests both open, revealing the hosts inside them. We then get a shot of Venom fighting Riot, while Eddie and Drake slap at one another as well. Suddenly Riot absorbs Venom (and Eddie as well, I guess?), turning him into a bigger, stronger super symbiote. He scampers up the side of the "rocket."

Anne enters the control room and sees what's happening. She somehow activates a sonic blast, which causes the super symbiote to split back into Riot and Venom. They fall to a platform far below, and the sound causes both symbiotes to release their hosts and slither away.

Eddie and Drake then begin fighting one another. Eddie gets the upper hand and shoves Drake off the platform, and he falls into the ocean far below. He walks up toward the rocket, and suddenly he's impaled through the chest by a bladed tentacle, as we see Riot's somehow rejoined with Drake. He tells Eddie he's nothing, and leaps into the "rocket" and it blasts off.

Eddie seemingly dies on the platform. Suddenly Venom slithers up and envelopes him, healing his wound and reviving him. He jumps onto the "rocket" as well and sees Riot in the cockpit. He pulls the jagged chunk of Riot out of his chest and uses it to slash open the "rocket." It explodes, killing Riot and Drake.

Unfortunately, Venom's highly susceptible to flame as well as sound. He screams in agony as he's enveloped in the fiery explosion. He tells Eddie goodbye as he evaporates. Eddie's saved from the flame as he falls into the ocean.

Cut to some time later, as Eddie and Anne sit on her stoop. She says she's accepted a job in the public defender's office, and he says he's decided to "concentrate on the written word." Jesus, I hope that doesn't mean he's gonna work for the newspaper. He'll be unemployed again in a month!

Anyway, Anne makes him promise not to tell Dan about the kiss they shared. Suddenly Venom's voice tells Eddie that Anne belongs with them, indicating he's not dead after all.

Eddie goes back to the bodega, and sees poor Mrs. Chen get held up for protection money again. This time Eddie doesn't wet himself and cower behind a display. He turns into Venom and bites off the thug's head, in front of an astonished Mrs. Chen. Eddie asks Venom what they should do next, and he replies they can do whatever they want.

In the mid credits scene, Eddie enters San Quentin prison, where he interviews serial killer Cletus Kasady (played by Woody Harrelson in a ridiculous, bright red fright wig). Kasady tells Eddie that when he gets out, there's gonna be so much carnage, which causes the comic fans in the audience to cream their pants and swoon.


• As I said before, the watchword for this movie is dumb. The characters have constantly shifting motivation, things happen for no reason other than because the script says so, and absolutely nothing makes any goddamned sense.

Case in point: At the beginning of the movie, EMTs are taking the symbiote-infected Jameson to the hospital. Suddenly Jameson sits up and a tendril shoots from his chest, killing the driver and causing the ambulance to violently crash. The symbiote then enters the Female EMT and staggers off toward town.

We know for a fact that the symbiotes are intelligent beings. So why the hell did this one crash the ambulance? What if both EMTs had been killed in the wreck? The symbiote can't possess a dead body. Why not just relax and ride into town, and THEN jump into the EMT?

Did the writers put the ambulance wreck into the movie because they thought it was exciting?

• The producers have stated that Venom exists in its own cinematic universe, separate from any of the Spider-Man or Marvel films. And yet there's a character in the film named Jameson, who's supposedly the son of J. Jonah Jameson, editor of the Daily Bugle.

So apparently J. Jonah and the Bugle exist in this world, but Peter Parker and Spider-Man don't. Got it. 

• Whenever we see Drake's spaceship, it's clearly a modified space shuttle design. Yet all through the movie, every single character calls it a "rocket." I know it's nitpicky, but IT'S NOT A ROCKET! It's a goddamned shuttle! 

I'm wondering if the ship was originally meant to be a rocket, but was later changed to a shuttle and the script just never got updated?

• I don't know who Ruben Fleischer is, but he's definitely not an actor's director. There's not one convincing performance in the entire movie. Everyone seems stiff and awkward, as if they're not sure where they're supposed to stand or what they're supposed to be doing. 

• There's absolutely no motivation in this film, as the characters actions are all wildly inconsistent, changing for no reason other than because the script says so.

Eddie's the worst offender in this department, as his character is extremely muddled and confusing. We're told he's a tough as nails journalist, known for his aggressive interview style. 

Yet later on we see that Eddie's so afraid of confrontation that he can't even tell his neighbor to turn down his music. And later we see him cowering behind a display during a convenience store robbery.

So which is it, movie? Is Eddie a bully or a coward?

The idea that Eddie's a weak-willed milksop isn't helped by the fact that he's built like a goddamned weightlifter and looks like he could beat the living sh*t out of anyone he sees.

Venom's actions don't make any more sense than Eddie's. When he first appears, he's all for joining up with his pal Riot to bring his symbiote brethren to Earth, so their race can take over the planet.

A few scenes later though, Venom tells Eddie he's "changed his mind," and wants to kill Riot to prevent him from destroying humanity. 

I'm not opposed to him changing his mind, but we're never given any explanation as to why he decided to switch sides. 

Even Riot suffers from this same inconsistent motivation. After he bonds with Drake, he says he needs to find Venom, so the two of them can fly into space, gather up their fellow symbiotes and bring 'em all back. 

But why? Why does he need Venom to help with this task? Who the hell knows? 

A bit later we find out it doesn't really matter, as Venom switches sides and Riot tries to kill him. Which of course means he never really needed his help in the first place!

Come on, guys! You had three goddamned screenwriters on this movie! Surely at least one of you went to film school and knows that a character needs clear and consistent motivation if you want the audience to understand and care about them.

 Let's talk a bit about Tom Hardy's voice in this movie. Hardy's British, so he affects an American accent (at least I think that's what it's supposed to be) as Eddie Brock. He gets the accent right, but it's the voice he uses that's the problem. He sounds for all the world like Christopher Walken trying to do a Bobcat Goldthwait impression. It honestly makes Eddie sound like he's brain damaged at times. You really have to hear it to believe it.

Note that Hardy also provides the gravelly, raspy voice of Venom as well. Which means Eddie's bizarre voice was an acting choice, not just the best he could do.

 In an interview, Tom Hardy said he took the role of Eddie because his ten year old son Louis is a big fan of the Venom characters. Said Hardy, "I wanted to do something my son could watch. So I did something where I bite people's heads off." Yeahhh...

Hardy also said his son gave him pointers on how to properly portray both Eddie and Venom, since he wasn't familiar with the characters. Yes, because it's always a good idea to get your acting tips from a ten year old boy.

 Venom joins the ever-growing list of films in which Tom Hardy spends much of the runtime with his face covered. He sported a weird breathing apparatus all through The Dark Knight Returns, spent a good portion of Mad Max: Fury Road with a garden tool strapped to his face, and filmed all his scenes in Dunkirk wearing an oxygen mask.

What the hell, Tom? Your face isn't that bad to look at!

• Credit where it's due: Venom actually looks pretty good in the film, and very much resembles his comic book counterpart— with one big exception...

He's missing his characteristic white spider logo across his chest. 

The reason for that is obvious, since in the comics Venom had a connection to Spider-Man, and he doesn't exist in this universe. It would have been nice if he'd had SOME kind of white logo or emblem across his chest though, as he looks almost... well, naked without it.

• I mentioned this in the plot summary, but it's worth a repeat. I was amazed to see that Venom doesn't appear until the fifty seven minute mark. Think about that. The title character, the one everyone came out to see, doesn't show up until almost an hour into the runtime! Well done, Sony!

• Shortly after Venom finally appears for the first time, he grabs Treece by the neck and says, "Eyes, lungs, pancreas... so many snacks, so little time!" Note that this little speech is lifted verbatim from the comics.

• Anne says she works for the law firm of Michelinie & McFarlane. That's a reference to David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane, who are widely considered to be the creators of Venom.

Eh, that's sort of true, but in reality Venom had many fathers besides those two, and it would take 50,000 words to adequately explain his origin. 

The simple version is: Peter Parker accidentally got reporter Eddie Brock fired from the Daily Bugle. Later, Spider-Man went to another planet, where he acquired a brand new black costume, because comic books. Back on Earth, he discovered the costume was actually a living thing, trying to take over his body. Spider-Man removed this symbiote and rejected it. The symbiote then found Eddie Brock and joined with him. Since the two now had reason to hate Spider-Man, they became his greatest enemy. 

Many, many writers and artists had a hand in that convoluted origin story. Heck, Eddie Brock was created years before Venom was ever a greasy twinkle in anyone's eye. Yet for some reason, Michelinie & McFarlane get sole credit for creating him.

• Eddie's apartment is in the Schueller building. This is a reference to Randy Schueller, a Marvel Comics fan. Back in 1982m Schueller designed a new black costume for Spider-Man and sent a drawing of it to the Marvel offices. Editor In Chief Jim Shooter liked the design so much, he paid Schueller a whopping $220 for it.

Shortly afterward Marvel actually used the black costume in the Spider-Man books, and the rest is history.

• Venom's tongue appears in the movie, in all its bizarre and disgusting glory.

When Venom first appeared way back in 1984, Todd McFarlane drew him without a prominent tongue, and that's the way he appeared for several years.

Sometime in the 1990s, artist Eric Larsen drew Venom with a ridiculously long, slime-covered lolling tongue. The tongue was inexplicably a big hit, and soon everyone began drawing him that way.

After a while it became like an arms race, as each artist tried to top the one before and give Venom and even bigger tongue. Eventually his tongue was a good three feet long! 

There was never a time when you didn't see the tongue, as it stuck out in every single panel. I never quite understood this. How the hell did Venom talk with that thing dangling out of his mouth? Could any of the other characters understand anything he was saying, or did they just hear, "AGG ONNA EET ORR AAIN!"

 I brought this up a few months ago, but it's worth mentioning again here Upgrade and Venom are very, very similar to one another.

In Upgrade, Grey Trace is a quadriplegic who's given a new lease on life when he's implanted with a microchip that restores his mobility. Unfortunately, the chip has a sinister life of its own, and begins slowly taking over Grey's body, causing him to maim and even kill.

In Venom, Eddie Brock is an unemployed loser who's given a new lease on life when he's implanted with an alien symbiote, which grants him nearly unlimited strength and power. Unfortunately, the symbiote begins slowly taking over Eddie's body, causing him to maim and even kill.


This similarity becomes even more glaring when you compare the two trailers. In the Upgrade trailer, we see several thugs break into Grey's apartment. The microchip, called STEM, asks Grey for permission to take over his body. Grey agrees, and he instantly starts ruthlessly killing the thugs. Grey grimaces and tries to apologize to the men as his out of control body murders them.

The exact same thing happens in Venom. Treece and his thugs break into Eddie's apartment. Venom then takes over Eddie's body, and begins ruthlessly killing the thugs. Eddie grimaces and tries to apologize to the men as his out of control body murders them.

In both cases, the camera angles and fight choreography are virtually identical! And Logan Marshall-Green, who plays Grey, even looks amazingly like Tom Hardy!

Coincidence, or blatant theft? Upgrade began filming in March of 2017, while Venom started shooting a few months later in October. So there was definitely time for Sony to see what Upgrade was doing and "draw inspiration" from it.

On the other hand, the Venom character's been around since 1984, giving Upgrade three decades to lift its storyline from the comics. There's no real way to tell who stole from who.

• The Riot symbiote spends a good hunk of the runtime jumping from host to host, in an effort to get from Malaysia to America.

At one point Riot hops from the Lady EMT to the Old Malaysian Woman. SIX MONTHS then go by, and we see the Old Woman finally arrive in Hong Kong, looking to board a plane to San Francisco.

Many people online are calling this a plot hole, saying it shouldn't have taken this long for her to get to Hong Kong. Eh, I dunno. Take a look at a map. Malaysia and Hong Kong are a good 2,400 miles apart. I could easily see it taking a frail old lady six months to cover that distance.

• How does Venom eat people's heads when he's attached to Eddie? Does he instantly absorb every molecule of the head? Or does he mash it into a puree and force Eddie to swallow it?

• Jesus, Anne's boyfriend Dan must be the most understanding man on the planet. Her ex boyfriend appears out of nowhere, looking like a hobo and ranting like a crazy person, and Dan drops everything and instantly devotes his life to saving him. I can't quite decide if his actions are admirable or borderline creepy.

• Whenever we see an unattached symbiote, it's surprisingly small. They look to be about the size of a small dog. Yet when Venom inhabits Eddie, he somehow covers every square inch of his body, and even manages to form long tentacles, large shields and huge bladed weapons. So where's all that extra mass coming from?

• At one point in the film, Anne briefly joins with Venom in order to save Eddie. This is lifted right from the comics, where she was known as the imaginatively-named "She-Venom." 

• Venom spends most of the third act battling Riot, a rival symbiote who wants to take over Earth. Wow, another superhero movie in which the hero fights an evil version of himself. How original.

I can't single out Sony for using this well-worn trope though, as Marvel Studios has done it in dozens of their movies too (I'm definitely lookin' at you, Black Panther!). It was especially problematic in this film though, as Riot looked virtually identical to Venom. This made it tough to tell them apart, especially in the dimly-lit battle scenes. They were even the same color! Would it have killed them to have made Riot purple or green?

There's nothing wrong with this "evil twin" plot if it's done in moderation. But I'm growing weary of seeing it happen in virtually EVERY single superhero movie I see.

• By the way, why are these alien beings using English nouns such as "venom" and "riot" as names? Shouldn't they call themselves "Groptar" or "Slithmog" or something like that? 

Now that I think about it, they don't seem to be able to make sounds when they're not attached to a host. So how do they communicate with one another back on their homeworld?

• As in most superhero movies, the third act degenerated into one long, confusing setpiece battle. Half the time I couldn't even tell what I was looking at. Don't believe me? Take a look at the image above. What the hell's going on there? It's all just a big CGI mess, with one chunk of pixels fighting another.

• Late in the third act, Riot forms a six foot long edged weapon out of his hand and stabs Eddie through the chest with it. He then leaves this blade sticking out of Eddie's body and scampers off.

Um... that blade is part of Riot's body. Doesn't he need it? Does he really have mass to spare?

Of course the real reason he left the chunk of himself in Eddie becomes obvious a few seconds later. Venom yanks the blade out of Eddie's chest and then uses it to slash open the side of the "rocket," causing it to explode and kill Riot/Drake.

• In the very end of the movie, Venom finally says the big trailer line the audience came to hear. He grabs a robber and tells him he's going to bite off his arms, legs and face. He then says, "You will be this armless, legless, faceless thing, won't you. Rolling down the street like a turd... in the wind."

I don't think Venom understands how turds work. At the risk of being too awfully gross, turds are generally pretty sticky, and really not prone to much rolling. In fact you'd need a very stiff wind just to get one to move at all. Heck, who're we kidding, you'd need a tornado!

• In the mid credits scene, Eddie meets with an incarcerated serial killer who makes a pithy comment about causing carnage after he escapes.

See, in the comics, once Marvel turned Venom into a superhero, they needed a new villainous symbiote. So they came up with Cletus Kasady, a psychotic, unrepentant murderer who bonded with a red symbiote that called itself Carnage." 

Obviously the movie's setting up a future appearance from Carnage here. Given Venom's massive success so far, it's a sure bet he'll appear in the inevitable sequel. Hopefully they'll ditch Woody Harrelson's outrageous Ronald McDonald fright wig though.

Venom is a disappointing throwback to the superhero movies of ten or fifteen years ago, before Marvel came along and perfected the genre. Weirdly, it's also a Spider-Man movie that doesn't have Spider-Man in it. It features incoherent plotting, nonexistent character motivation and is a tonal nightmare. Worst of all, it takes a potentially interesting villain like Venom and neuters him, turning him into a comedy relief character. Despite all that, the movie's inexplicably popular and has already wracked up nearly half a billion dollars, so expect to see Sony pump out Venom sequels for the rest of your life. I give it an unenthusiastic C+.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

It Came From The Cineplex: Bad Times At The El Royale

Bad Times At The El Royale was written and directed by Drew Goddard. He previously wrote CloverfieldWorld War Z and The Martian. He wrote and directed The Cabin In The Woods. He's also worked extensively in TV, writing for Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Alias and LOST.

Back in 2012, Drew Goddard deconstructed slasher & horror movies with The Cabin In The Woods, which offered a fresh and clever new look at the genre. He does the same thing here in Bad Times At The El Royale, which similarly reexamines film noir and suspense movies and offers a new spin on them.

The best thing about Bad Times At The El Royale is that it's not a sequel, prequel, remake, reboot or reimagining. It's a completely original and self-contained film that tells its own story, and doesn't spend half the run time setting up a cinematic universe. I had absolutely no idea where the story was going or what was going to happen next, and it was absolutely wonderful.

I wouldn't call the movie slow, but it's definitely a slow burn film. It's very deliberately paced and takes its sweet time telling its story, which is a rarity these days. It's actually very Hitchcockian it its execution. Like most of Hitchcock's films, Bad Times At The El Royale features extended takes of characters performing seemingly mundane tasks, and yet you're completely riveted by what's happening. It's quite an achievement.

It also plays around with its timeline, often showing the same event from the point of view of multiple characters. I was less impressed with that aspect of the film, as it was a bit too Tarantino-esque for my tastes.

My only real complaint about the film is its length, as it clocks in at 141 minutes. Normally I don't care how long a movie is if it's entertaining. But 
Bad Times At The El Royale feels like it's about twenty minutes too long. It started to overstay its welcome about halfway through the third act, as I was wishing it would hurry and wrap up all the various subplots.

Chris Hemsworth's sudden appearance late in the third act didn't help either. Once he makes his entrance, it almost feels like a brand new movie's starting up.

These were both minor structural problems though, as this was easily the best film I've seen all year (although I realize that's damning it with very faint praise).

Sadly, so far Bad Times At The El Royale is tanking at the box office. In its first week it grossed a measly $16 million worldwide against its modest $32 million budget. It's gonna have an uphill battle just to break even. That's too bad, as I really like this movie a lot and want to see it succeed.

I have several theories at to why it's flopping. First of all, the film came out at the worst possible time, as the sub-par Venom is inexplicably a hit and siphoning all the box office money away from it. 

Secondly, the fact that it's not a sequel or remake may actually be hurting it. These days the popcorn-munching general public only wants to see things they know, so they can clap and point when they see them. They don't want to have to think or be challenged by an original story.

And lastly, Drew Goddard went to great lengths to keep Bad Times At The El Royale under wraps, in order to keep the plot twists a surprise. I think he went a little too far with the secrecy though, and failed to create any buzz for the film. The general public has no idea what it's about or that it even exists.


The Plot:
In 1959, Felix O'Kelly (played very briefly by Nick Offerman) enters a room in the El Royale motel. He pries up the floorboards, drops a satchel into the crawlspace below and replaces them. As he rests, there's a knock on the door. He answers it, and is shot dead by another man.

Cut to 1969, as three strangers arrive at the El Royale Father Daniel Flynn (played by Jeff Bridges), soul singer Darlene Sweet (played by Cynthia Erivo) and vacuum salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (played by John Hamm). They're soon joined by a fourth guest, Emily Summerspring (played by Dakota Johnson), a rude and sarcastic hippie.

The guests are puzzled to see the lobby's deserted, and impatiently ring the desk bell. Eventually, Miles Miller (played by Lewis Pullman), the motel's sole employee, staggers out from a back room. Before checking them in, he goes through a well-rehearsed spiel, explaining that the El Royale was once a popular hangout for the rich and famous. Unfortunately the motel recently lost its liquor license, causing business to dry up (no pun intended).

Miles also points out the bright red line that bisects the lobby and explains that the El Royale lies in the exact center of the Nevada/California border. There are rooms on each side of the line, and guests can stay in the state of their choice.

Father Flynn requests a map of the motel and studies it intently (PLOT POINT!). He eventually flips a coin and chooses Room 4. Darlene takes Room 5 next door. Emily requests the Honeymoon Suite, but Sullivan makes a huge fuss, insisting he have it. She rolls her eyes and picks Room 7 (I think). Sullivan takes the Honeymoon Suite, aka Room 1.

Sullivan enters Room 1 and begins turning it upside down. He finds and removes a huge number of listening devices in the phone, light fixtures and switches. He then notices the large mirror on the wall. He stares at it suspiciously, wondering if it's a two way mirror.

Sullivan enters the deserted lobby, steals the master key and lets himself through an employee-only door. He walks down a hall and looks through a doorway, where he sees Miles slumped over in a heroin-induced stupor. He goes through a second door and discovers a narrow passageway that allows the staff to look through the two way mirrors in each of the rooms.

Sullivan starts peering through the various mirrors. He sees Father Flynn in Room 4, pulling up the floorboards in his room, desperately looking for something. He takes a few steps and sees Darlene in Room 5, hanging blankets on the wall she shares with Flynn. She then begins singing, and Sullivan activates a speaker so he can hear her. 

He then moves down to Room 7, where he sees Emily drag a young girl out of the trunk of her car and tie her to a chair. He also sees a movie camera set up at the end of the corridor, in front of Room 8's mirror.

Sullivan marches outside to a payphone in the parking lot and calls his boss J. Edgar Hoover, revealing he's really an FBI agent named Dwight Broadbeck. He tells Hoover they have a real problem at the hotel.

FLASHBACK: We see Darlene performing as a backup singer in a recording session. The producer, Buddy Sunday, corners Darlene and slimily propositions her, implying he'll make her a star if she says yes, and fire her if she says no.

PRESENT DAY: We see Darlene wisely told Buddy no. She practices singing in the mirror, desperate to improve her voice and become a star.

Just then Father Flynn knocks on Darlene's 
door, and asks if she'll accompany him to dinner. She reluctantly agrees. They go to the automat in the lobby, but the food is weeks old and they settle on drinks instead. They chat for a while, as Darlene lists religious hymns she likes to sing. Oddly enough Father Flynn doesn't recognize any of the titles, which seems suspicious. 

He confesses (heh) that he's suffering the early effects of Alzheimer's, and his memory isn't what it once was. He fixes a drink for Darlene, secretly drugging it while her back is turned. Suddenly she sneaks up behind him and shatters a bottle over his head, knocking him out (Holy Crap!).

Cut to Sullivan/Broadbeck, still on the phone with the FBI. He says he found THEIR listening devices in the room, but also found quite a few not belonging to the bureau. He also mentions the two way mirrors and the movie camera. Hoover tells him their operation has obviously been compromised, and no one is to leave the motel until all surveillance material is retrieved. 

Broadbeck also reports he saw what appears to be a kidnapping in progress, referring to Emily and her captive. Hoover tells him his priority is the surveillance material, and orders him NOT to interfere in the kidnapping. Broadbeck then sabotages all the cars in the lot, so no one can leave.

FLASHBACK: A charismatic, muscular fellow named Billy Lee (played by Chris Hemsworth) walks along a California beach. He encounters a young runaway named Rose Summerspring sitting on the shore, and begins turning on the charm.

PRESENT DAY: Rose wakes up, tied to a chair in Room 7. Emily tells her she's safe now, and that she had to get her away from Billy Lee. She tells Rose that he's "all kinds of bad," and they need to get as far away from him as possible.

Miles finds Father Flynn on the lobby floor and helps him up. Miles tries to confess to him, saying he's done terrible things. Flynn tells him to get lost, as he's not really a priest. Eventually he remembers being attacked by Darlene. Miles goes to get the master key to check her room, but finds it missing. He goes into the passageway, and Father Flynn follows.

Flynn sees the two way mirrors, becomes incensed and throws Miles against the wall. He demands to know why he was watching him, and Miles says he only spies on who management tells him to. He says says he records certain people, then develops the film and sends it to a PO Box in Pennsylvania.

Just then they walk past the mirror in Room 7, and see Rose tied to a chair. Miles says they need to help her, but Flynn says she's not important. He asks if Miles ever keeps any of the film he records. Miles says in the previous year a VERY prominent politician stayed in the motel, and management desperately wanted film of his indiscretions. Miles said the politician was kind to him, so he kept the film and hid it.

Flynn goes off to search Miles' room. He finds the film, holds it up to the light and gasps at who's in it.

In Room 7, Emily hears a knock on the door and sees it's Broadbeck. He tries to get her to let him in, but she tells him to get lost. He kicks in the door and knocks her out. He runs over to Rose and tells her she's safe now. Just then Emily wakes up and shoots Broadbeck in the chest with her shotgun, killing him instantly (WOW!). The shot goes through him and shatters the two way mirror, revealing the passageway on the other side.

Flynn returns with the film, and sees the shotgun blast shatter the mirror and hit Miles in the face. He stares at his crumpled body for a few seconds and flees. Emily hears moaning coming from the passage, looks through it and sees Miles. She climbs through the shattered mirror to check on him.

Rose stares at Broadbeck's dead body, then like an idiot she goes to the phone and calls Billy Lee, telling him where she is. She hangs up and jumps through the mirror as well.

Cut to Darlene, who witnessed the shooting from the parking lot as she was attempting to escape. Unfortunately her sabotaged car won't start. She somehow figures out that Broadbeck was the one who tampered with her engine, so she sneaks into Room 7 and fishes through his pockets, finding the wire he pulled from her car. She takes his gun as well.

Darlene reattaches the wire to her engine (!) and tries to start her car, but it won't turn over. Just then Flynn appears and asks if he they can talk. He sits in the passenger seat, while Darlene holds a gun on him. He says he's not really Father Flynn, but a crook named Dock O'Kelly. He says ten years ago he and his brother Felix robbed a bank. Unfortunately things went badly, and Dock was captured and sentenced to prison.

Felix then hid the money under the floor in one of the rooms, but due to his memory loss, Dock can't remember which one. Since it wasn't in his room, he believes it must be in Darlene's. He says that's why he tried to drug her, so he could search her room. He tells her if she helps him get the money, he'll split it with her and she could use it to start a new life. For some reason Darlene believes his story.

Emily and Rose drag Miles to the lobby and tie him up. Emily questions him about what goes on in the motel, and Miles tells her he's seen things she wouldn't believe. He says he knows how to keep his mouth shut, so she doesn't have to kill him.

Cut to Darlene, back in her room. She assumes she's under surveillance through the mirror, and she's right, as Emily watches her closely, shotgun at the ready. Darlene begins singing loudly and clapping, which drowns out the noise while Dock pries up the floor boards. 
Eventually Emily decides Darlene's legit and goes back to the lobby. Dock finds the satchel and signals Darlene.

Back in the lobby, Miles begs Rose not to kill him. She says it's not up to her. Emily returns and asks Miles where Father Flynn is, and he tells her he honestly doesn't know. Rose mentions they might not have to kill him, and Emily realizes she's contacted Billy Lee.

Darlene and Dock sneak out of Room 4 with the satchel, but are captured by Billy Lee and two of his disciples.

FLASHBACK: We see Rose and Emily as members of Billy Lee's cult. Rose is completely brainwashed by him, to the point where she's willing to kill another cultist for the chance to sleep with Billy Lee. Emily realizes she has to get her younger sister away from him before it's too late.

PRESENT DAY: Bill Lee holds Darlene, Dock, Miles and Emily hostage in the lobby, as Rose and the two disciples look on. He empties the money and the film from the satchel, and demands to know whose it is. Darlene says she earned it singing, and Dock backs her up. Billy Lee looks at the film, and when he sees who's in it, realizes it's worth far more than the money.

Billy Lee then plays a twisted game of roulette with Emily and Miles. He spins the wheel and forces her to pick a color. She chooses red. A terrified Miles tries confessing to Dock, but Billy Lee tells him he's obviously not a priest. The ball stops on black, and Billy Lee coldly and callously shoots Emily, killing her (YIKES!).

Billy Lee asks Darlene and Dock one more time who the money belongs to, but they won't change their story. He then forces them to play roulette as well. Suddenly the power goes out, and Dock takes advantage of the darkness to attack Billy Lee. There's a big shootout, and during the confusion Dock shoves Billy Lee into a fire pit. Flaming logs fly everywhere, setting the lobby ablaze.

Miles sees Billy Lee's gun lying on the floor, but is reluctant to pick it up. Darlene can't get to it, and tells Miles it's up to him.

FLASHBACK: We see Miles was a sharpshooter in Vietnam, who wracked up an impressive number of kills.

PRESENT DAY: Miles picks up the gun, and efficiently kills Billy Lee and the two disciples. Rose rushes to Billy Lee's body, and Miles tells her he's sorry he had to kill him. She stabs him in the gut with a knife, disemboweling him. Dock then shoots and kills Rose.

As Miles lies dying, he begs "Father Flynn" to absolve him of all his sins. Dock does so, and Miles dies at peace. Dock and Darlene gather up the money and stuff it back into the satchel. They throw the film, and all evidence they were ever at the motel, into the fire that's engulfing the lobby and leave.

Some time later, Dock, now in normal street clothes, enters a lounge in Reno. Darlene comes out on stage and welcomes the audience, giving a knowing glance to Dock as she begins singing.


 Believe it or not, the El Royale motel is based on an actual place, and its sordid history inspired many of the plot points in the film.

The Cal Neva Resort & Casino (previously known as the Calneva Resort and the Cal-Neva Lodge) is a real life hotel that straddles the California/Nevada border near Lake Tahoe. It was built in 1926, and quickly became a hangout for the rich and famous.

It burned down (hey, just like in the movie) in 1937, but was rebuilt in just thirty days. In 1960 it was bought by Frank Sinatra, along with Dean Martin and Chicago mobster Sam Giancana. 

As you might imagine, there were dozens of high profile scandals at the hotel during Sinatra's ownership. Marilyn Monroe stayed at the hotel shortly before her untimely death, and may have even died there. It was also rumored that JFK frequently met Monroe at the hotel as well.

Sinatra sold his interest in it when the hotel lost its gambling license, and it went through a series of owners. It was closed in 2013 for renovations, but has yet to reopen.

 You don't have to be a film scholar to recognize the symbology in this movie. It's pretty obvious to even a casual viewer that the El Royale is a metaphor for purgatory. The various characters staying there aren't totally evil, but they're definitely not angels either. Once they all arrive, they're literally trapped there until they repent and atone for their various sins.

As I said, it's not exactly subtle, but it works.

 In a similar vein, the El Royale motel itself mirrors each of its guests. The motel is separated into two halves by a bright red line running down its middle just like the characters! Each one of them has two sides, and in many cases dual identities.

Father Flynn appears to be a priest, but he's really a small-time crook. Sullivan's ostensibly a salesman, but is secretly an FBI agent. Emily seems like an angry, counterculture rebel, but is actually a concerned older sister. Miles is a mild-mannered hotel clerk, but is a heroin addict behind closed doors. Even Darlene has two sides at first glance she's just a singer looking for a break, but she's not above theft and even murder in order to make it big.

 Jeff Bridges plays Father Daniel Flynn in the film. Bridges also played main character Kevin Flynn in 1982's TRON. Coincidence, or homage?

 Although Jeff Bridges, John Hamm and Chris Hemsworth are the biggest names in the cast, the star of the film is undoubtedly Cynthia Erivo. Despite the fact that this is her first movie, she positively steals the show as Darlene Sweet.

Erivo is actually a prolific Broadway star, who won a Tony Award in 2015 for her role in The Color Purple. And yes, that's her doing all her own singing in Bad Times At The El Royale.

 All through the film the Miles character kept reminding me of someone especially when he'd squint or grimace. After about an hour I finally figured it out he looked like a young Bill Pullman.

Welp, it turns out there's a reason for the resemblance. Miles is played by Lewis Pullman, son of Bill! Good eye, Bob!

Man, they look just like one another! Some producer needs to get busy and cast the two of them as the same character at different ages.

Apparently Chris Hemsworth can do a pretty convincing American accent. Who knew?

 I really don't have anything negative to say about this film, as the script is darned near perfect. That said, there were a couple minor glitches I noticed though:

 When Broadbeck's snooping around the lobby, a TV on the counter is tuned to President Nixon's press conference. It's then interrupted by a Special Bulletin, reporting that Dr. Bernard Weber and his wife were stabbed to death in their Malibu beachfront home. 

Yeah, I don't think so. Presidential press conferences and speeches almost always preempt regular programming. So it's highly unlikely that a bulletin would preempt something that was already preempting something else. Especially a press conference held by the president.

 Broadbeck searches his room and finds dozens of electronic bugs, as well as the observation passageway AND a kidnapping in progress. He then marches to a payphone to call J. Edgar Hoover and report his shocking and highly confidential findings.

Wait, what? After finding all the listening devices in his room, why wouldn't the pay phone be bugged as well? Why would he assume it was clean? Heck, why use the pay phone at all? He just pulled the bugs out of his room phone, so he knows it's secure. Why not just use it to call Hoover?

 After Dock tells Darlene about the money hidden in her room, she contemplates killing him and taking it for herself. He says that's probably what he would do if he was her, but then the cops would get involved, and he "wouldn't want to be the black woman in the woods at night with a gun when they do."

Ehhh, that felt a little anachronistic to me. I don't think people were saying "black" yet back in 1969. Most likely he'd have said "negro" or "colored."
As I said, these are very, VERY minor little nitpicks, and they didn't detract from my enjoyment of the film one bit.

 Miles' roll of film, which features a prominent politician in a compromising position, plays a huge part in the movie. Oddly enough though, we never find out just who's in the film. 

Most likely it's supposed to be John F. Kennedy. Everyone who takes a look at the film mentions the man in it is now dead, and JFK allegedly had an affair with Marilyn Monroe.

One problem with the JFK theory is he died in 1963, and the movie takes place in 1969. Was Miles really working at the El Royale and secretly filming guests six years before the movie takes place? And did he really hold on to the incriminating film reel all that time?

It's possible it could have been Robert Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr. on the film. They were both assassinated in 1968, just a year before the movie takes place, and both were notorious for having secret affairs.

Apparently it's up to the audience to decide just which philandering politician appears on the reel!

 Many armchair graphic designers around the internet have pointed out that the Bad Times At The El Royale movie poster bears a striking resemblance to the one for Avengers: Infinity War.

Eh, personally I don't see it. The two posters have a similar color palette and they both feature Chris Hemsworth's beaming face, but that's about it.

 I just realized this movie's something of a Parks & Rec reunion. Both Nick Offerman and Jim O'Heir have small roles in the film.

Bad Times At The El Royale is a rarity at the box office these days an original film that's not a sequel or a remake. It's well-written and acted, and very Hitchcockian in its execution. I had absolutely no idea where the story was going or what was going to happen, which is always a plus in my book. My only complaint is its excessive length, but even that's a minor issue. I give it an enthusiastic A-.

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