Posts Tagged ‘dakota johnson’


Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

October 18, 2018

Director: Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman

This movie had some serious potential with an electric cast in a Quentin Tarantino stylized mystery written and directed by Drew Goddard, a dude mostly known for writing and directing the unique and awesome horror flick The Cabin in the Woods and for creating “Daredevil”, easily the best Marvel series on Netflix.

I wanted to like it so much. All the ingredients for an awesome movie were there and for the first third of the movie, I was enthralled with the snappy dialogue and the intrigue surrounding all the mysterious visitors of Lake Tahoe’s El Royale hotel, which is literally split in half by the border of California and Nevada. I’ve thought about the film quite a bit and it’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, but I can say with certainty that the pacing was brutal at times. No one is going to criticize this movie for lack of character development, as each individual gets back story and plenty of screen time, but Bad Times at the El Royale has a tendency to reset just as things are getting really interesting. For instance, like many Tarantino films before, the movie is told in chapters and just as a chapter climaxes and something shocking happens, the scene cuts and we move on to another chapter and new point of view. Some might enjoy the slow burn of building back up to that climatic moment, but if I had to guess what made the pacing of the movie a bit excruciating it would be this tendency.

The cast is mostly great. Jeff Bridges is always very good and I enjoyed Jon Hamm also. Although I have zero interest in the 50 Shades of Grey series, Dakota Johnson has been captivating in other roles, particularly A Bigger Splash, and she is good again here. Chris Hemsworth plays against type as Billy Lee, a cult leader and possible pedophile. He’s very loose in the role, dancing, smoking cigarettes, and really seeming to enjoy doing something different. It’s a stark contrast to the stiff (although sometimes funny) Thor we’ve been watching him play for the past decade. He’s definitely villainous in this movie, but I enjoyed his screen presence.

Another point where I feel the film suffers is when Cynthia Erivo’s character is the focus. She’s an aspiring songstress that is headed to Reno for a small gig singing in a Keno lounge. I think Erivo’s acting is plenty good, but she sings at least four different songs in the film and the movie comes to a screeching halt whenever this happens. The songs are all slow, long and not particularly interesting and her performances aren’t nearly captivating enough to justify it. I know I reached a point where if I had to listen to her sing again, I was going to literally groan in agony.

Bad Times at the El Royale has some things working for it, particularly strong performances, cool and shocking moments, and plenty of intrigue, but pacing really hurts the overall enjoyment and the eventual revelations are a bit uninspired. It’s a Quentin Tarantino impression that will just make you wonder how much better it would have been if it was actually a QT film.

Replay Value: It’s not a must rewatch, but I could maybe do it again some day.

Sequel Potential: It wouldn’t make much sense to do one.

Oscar Potential: I’m going to say none.

Dina Meter: If this movie bored me at times, I’m sure it would bore Dina to death. I would not suggest that she needs to watch it.

5/10 (Decent)


A Bigger Splash (2016)

December 27, 2016

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson, Matthias Schoenaerts
Director: Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love)

Bottom Line: This movie probably isn’t on most people’s radar, but I decided to check out A Bigger Splash after seeing it on someone’s (I can’t remember whose) Best Films of 2016 list. Tilda Swinton plays a world renowned rock star that goes on vacation with her recovering boyfriend (Schoenaerts) to a remote island in Italy after losing her voice, but their tranquil plans are turned upside down when her former lover (Fiennes) and his daughter (Johnson) show up unexpectedly, stirring up a bevy of mixed emotions and attractions.

I was actually quite entertained by this movie even though it has a rather slow pace and focuses almost entirely on human interaction. There was enough tension and mystique to keep me enthralled. Plus, it was fun to see Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes play against type. Swinton is almost always subdued and mysterious in the roles I’ve seen her in and even though she is speaking in a whisper throughout most of this film, I saw more personality from her than I think I’ve ever seen before. Fiennes is best known for playing Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series and is usually cast in more serious roles, but he really gets to chew some scenery here with a very loose, bawdy, and somewhat comedic character. I read that he snap-accepted the part after reading just a few pages of the script and seeing that he was going to have an extensive dance scene. Dakota Johnson plays Fiennes’ daughter and doesn’t drift too far from her 50 Shades role of Anastasia Steele, as she spends most of her screen time looking sultry and tempting the men around her, including her father, whom she has been estranged from her whole life until recently.

A Bigger Splash is a fun, but intimate film that explores fame, human relationships, jealousy and temptation. The small cast all give pretty fun performances and the story is interesting enough that you will want to see what happens to these people. This one is obviously not for the action junkies.

Grade: 6/10 (recommended)


Fifty Shades Of Grey (2015)

May 14, 2015

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy)

Bottom Line: I have to admit: Fifty Shades Of Grey is a worthy homage to Twilight but… that’s not a good thing. Bella Swan is the worst character I’ve ever encountered in literature and the Twilight series as a whole did nothing but bore me, so when I heard that Fifty Shades Of Grey initially started as Twilight fan fiction – the resulting books and this film never had a chance.

It’s hard to believe that a movie that is essentially all about sex could be so boring, but Fifty Shades Of Grey lacks balls – literally. There is no envelope-pushing here. I’m not even sure the film is rated a hard-R. In between relatively tame sex scenes – all things considered – we get an absurd amount of mundane dialogue.

And very little makes sense in this film. Anastasia Steel is a virgin? Really? But even more importantly, why? Does it make things even remotely more interesting? I feel like it’s a detail meant to spice things up, but it feels contrived, and the script forgets this little factoid soon after it is mentioned. Christian Grey talks himself up as a womanizing monster, but all he does is treat Anastasia with respect the entire film. Also, like Twilight, I don’t get how either of these characters are interesting or likable. Jamie Dornan’s Christian Grey is a permanent scowl and little else. I’d be curious to see what Charlie Hunnan would have done with this role – I can only imagine his casting would have boosted the movie’s draw considerably – but Hunnan is better off having not been involved. Dakota Johnson’s Anastasia at least has a hint of charm and humor, but I certainly don’t get why she’s attracted to someone like Christian Grey. There is zero depth in this film.

Fifty Shades Of Grey amounts to little more than high quality soft core porn… and you can find that for free on the internet… if that’s your thing.

Replay Value: So boring… no way.
Sequel Potential: I can’t believe there is three books of material here. There wasn’t even two hours of material in the first film. I don’t want to see more. With apologies to Rhianna, whips and chains do NOT excite me.
Oscar Potential: I’d bet on Razzie awards. Dakota Johnson might escape unscathed, but I doubt anyone else does.

Grade: 1.5/10 (Torture Material/Horrible)