Cute, pedestrian and hardly original — but everybody knows that. Some fun though, and I give it credit for a lot of style points, especially with the interiors of that house. Entertainment value enough for a 6/10.
The pacing — especially in the early going — of Bad Times at the El Royale is terrible. With the rather simple story at hand, an hour could easily have been lopped off. Either that, or throw some more taters in the soup. Maybe a little celery.
Put another way: the remarkable setting — as hinted at in the lush and lovely poster above — is largely wasted. I can only imagine what David Lynch or Quentin Tarantino would have done with both the motel and the pine trees behind it. Of course, I needn’t speculate: we have Twin Peaks, and we have The Hateful Eight.
It makes you appreciate Tarantino. Even at nearly 30 minutes longer than El Royale, The Hateful Eight, largely set in a single lodge room, is never boring. Only if that could be said of this poorly thought out knock-off. 4/10
Taylor Sheridan wrote the abysmal Sicario, and the very good Hell or High Water — so perhaps it figures that Wind River, his most recent release, falls somewhere in-between. Which is to say that it’s marginally recommended with the normal caveats. I think Sheridan, who also directed, was maybe trying to go for a No Country for Old Men style of unraveling the mystery at hand, and utterly fell short. But the performances were good, and I liked the way the film was resolved.
If you like Elizabeth Olsen — and how could you not — that’ll help. 6/10
PS I’m always questioning my scale: PT Anderson’s The Master is a movie I keep going back to. Perhaps I need to watch it again at some point. It’s hard to recommend Wind River only to recollect that I rendered a thumbs-down for The Master.
TWO AND ONE-HALF rather weak sub-stories do not add up to anything greater. The tag line “The Man beyond the Myth” is disingenuous malarkey. Had the story, wrought from the premise of Sherlock Holmes as a real character, yielded something worthy of said premise, I would be more forgiving.
So let me be clear: when I say disingenuous, I mean it pisses me off. I know there is no “true story” here, and it’s not as bad as the lie told by Silver Linings Playbook‘s marketing. Nonetheless, fake sanctimonious sentimentality irks me.
And it irks me because of the worst crime of all: Mr. Holmes was dull dull dull. My admiration of Ian McKellen, and a certain, very slight charm, are the only things preventing a worse rating. 4/10
I have not seen many of these movies, so this link is for entertainment value only and not to be interpreted as any sort of endorsement of the films collectively or the opinion expressed about them. But I will call out Blade Runner, Memento, Primer and Inception as not being worthy of compliment, even a “puzzling” label. Puzzling often is a good thing, but those four films are plain lame.
Another note. I always like to highlight Kubrick films, but I don’t consider The Shining any sort of puzzler. It’s about as straightforward a sledgehammer to the head as you can get. And there is ZERO “mundane” about 2001.
I’ve made the point before that I will not award a 10/10 rating to a movie until some time has passed after watching. A 10 rating indicates not only something truly great, but a timeless film for the ages — a masterpiece. A classification not to be doled out haphazardly. Though just three months have passed since watching Under the Skin, its memory continues to pervade my consciousness. It is a haunting film that has made an indelible mark on the landscape of cinema, and a lasting impression on me. A film that I’ve not only thought about a great deal, but that has found its way into my dreams. And the time has come to award it my 10 rating.
For such a short time to have passed, this is a bit of a risk for me. I would look foolish if a year or two or ten from now I reflected again on Under the Skin and felt it did not warrant a 10 rating. It is a testament to how strongly I feel about the movie that I’m placing the 10/10 label on it so soon.
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If you read my original review, understand that my analogy to a cross between Holy Motors and Eraserhead, though still valid, is no longer the way I would couch a discussion of Under the Skin. That was my best effort at wrapping my head around this extraordinary film, of digesting it immediately upon consumption. My understanding of the film has deepened since then, and I realize now that it demands to be dealt with strictly on its own. It is so unique that comparison to other movies is not particularly useful to gain an understanding of it, except as an academic exercise.
But indulge me for a moment while I contradict myself. In a state that was half waking and half sleeping, another comparison came to me: 2001: A Space Odyssey. Based on Under the Skin, the filmmaker Jonathan Glazer has been compared by at least one critic to Stanley Kubrick. There are a couple visuals that bring to mind 2001; I cite examples below.
But beyond the obvious, Under the Skin may be seen as an incredible twist on 2001, and here it is: in 2001, we had the monolith. But here, the girl is the monolith. Her body — whatever that exactly is, her charming ways, her black pool, her entire alien presence. The monolith has returned to earth, but it has folded in on itself and become this very human, and simultaneously very alien sexual being. The blackness, the void — all the abstract and mystical bounds of humanity represented by the monolith of 2001 are now embodied with this young woman. Instead of the monolith as something seen from afar, and hesitantly approached for a closer glimpse or a touch, it has now become something you enter, something that envelops you.
Now mind you, I don’t believe Glazer or the novelist Michel Faber had 2001 in mind at all when composing Under the Skin. But you can tell that this movie has fired up a lot of synapses in my brain. Know too that the whole idea of an interpretation of Under the Skin as a greatly distorted retelling of 2001 is but one point of discussion, not a way to contain, define or delineate it in any way.
Continued analysis, discussion and debate are often the fruits of a masterwork.
* * *
This is one of those rare moments when a movie can just knock you over the head and flatten you. Under the Skin operates on different levels: as a mystery, as a tale of survival, and as an exploration of sexuality and humanity. Its profound depth is reinforced by its haunting, aptly-science fiction score and a darkened Scottish setting. Just phenomenal.
With a movie this great, it doesn’t matter much to me what other critics are saying, but the high praise it has received is, I admit, reassuring. Check out the official site and its culling of criticism — what might be hyperbole for a lesser film is anything but for this one.
But there were some negative reactions, among both professional critics and amateurs. On Amazon, it only has a 2 1/2 out of 5 star rating. A typical review:
A very beautifully photographed, but very odd film. Director was clearly a fan of Kubrick. Long, slow scenes with not much going on. Not appropriate for younger viewers and people that enjoy a faster pace.
Now I normally am not interested in citing dissent, but I have a point to make. People who did not like this movie all have one thing in common: they just didn’t get it. It went way over their head. And I get that. That’s the first level I mentioned: a mystery. A mystery for the viewer to figure out. Only then do the other two levels reveal themselves — that of the survival adventure of the “lioness on the prowl”, as Scarlett Johansson put it, and then that of an exploration into human sexuality.
So my point here is the fact that so many people did not like it does not indicate weakness or a lack of quality, but exactly the opposite. A lot of people will be out of their depth with Under the Skin, and will not be able to get anything out of it. As I said, I get that. I had my hands full trying to comprehend this movie as I sat through it. But if you can grasp it at all, it will stay with you. You’ll be able to attain your own ways of understanding it. And like any truly great art, its greatness will only expand from there.
* * *
Lest I forget to mention, there are now iTunes Extras available when you purchase the movie from Apple — this, and the upgrade to a 10 rating, constituted my original impetus for this post before I decided I had a helluva lot more to say.
The Extras are only available with the purchase (not rental) of the movie in HD ($15), and include 10 featurettes. My inclination is that if I’m going to buy this movie, I’d rather have the Blu-Ray disc. Now a check on Amazon does not mention the Extras, but I found a review of the Blu-Ray that confirms the featurettes are included. So if I decide to purchase the movie, I’ll get it on Blu-Ray, and perhaps return it if the featurettes are not there. I don’t recommend anyone purchase the movie unless they’ve already seen it.
Personally, this movie is still so vividly held in my memory that I don’t feel a need to purchase it — yet. But those featurettes I am curious about, so I will probably buy it sooner than later.
The Lady Vanishes (1938) was the penultimate film Hitchcock made in England before moving to the U.S., was a big hit at the time of release, and has a 97% Tomatometer score. So as a Hitchcock fan who has not seen much in the way of his early films, I was expecting good things. What I found was a film with a decent measure of mystery and drama, mixed in with a lot of silliness. By today’s standards, there’s a good deal of cheese to be found aboard this train. But it’s all good fun.
The Lady Vanishes may be seen as a precursor to both Hitchcock’s later and greater works, and to a number of contemporary films, most obviously Jodie Foster’s Flightplan. My recommendation: if you’re a Hitchcock fan and have seen a good number of his works, you will probably find this one worthwhile. But if you haven’t seen much Hitchcock, skip this one in favor of his timeless, latter-era classics. 6/10