Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

Movie – If you like movies that are weird, but in a good way, and reminiscent of Pulp Fiction, then you will enjoy Bad Times at the El Royale. Set in 1969 near Lake Tahoe, the El Royale motor lodge used to be grand in its day. Unique that it is on the border of California and Nevada, the once austere lobby of the hotel has a line going down its center separating the two states. Something very bad happened there a decade ago and the seven strangers that randomly gather will be affected by those events.

A vacuum cleaner salesman, a Catholic priest, a Motown singer, and a hippie chick enter the lobby that appears to be deserted. After banging on an office door Miles, who is the manager and lone employee, emerges and assigns rooms based on the guest preferences – if they want to be in California or Nevada. (California rooms cost a little more.) When the priest requests a room, the hotel manager tries to discourage him by saying, “Father, this is no place for a priest.” Regardless, Father Daniel Flynn needs a place to spend the night. We already have a feeling that there is something sinister and creepy. As each guest begins settling into their room we begin learning their secrets and there is plenty of mystery. So far, I mentioned five characters. Who are the other two? You will have to find out for yourself. The film is very atmospheric and you feel like you have been transported back to the late ‘60s. There is also lots of great music from that era, including some Motown tunes which are belted out by the singer. This is a hard boiled thriller with lots of twists and turns. The storyline and stellar cast make for a fun viewing experience.

I also really enjoyed music, so I was very pleased that Hoopla has a soundtrack from the film.

Escape Plan: The Extractors (2019)

DVD –  When security expert Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) is hired to retrieve a Chinese business tycoon’s daughter, unbeknownst to Breslin, his previous partner’s son is hell bent on revenge. To assure Breslin’s involvement, the villain also abducts his girlfriend. Will he make it in time to rescue both women and still come out alive?

The Escape Plan: The Extractors is the third installment of the franchise and I must admit, it was bad. The plot line is overly simplified and the music score, seemed off. The first movie, Escape Plan, however, was awesome! In The Extractors, Breslin is not even escaping OUT of a prison, using any fancy tools, or high tech gadgets. I’m not sure what the producers were thinking when deciding on Round 3 for this series, but it was a fail for me. Nevertheless, the fight scenes are outstanding, and you get to see Curtis “50 cent” Jackson for all of 5 minutes. If you are looking for a movie for background noise while doing something else and does not require much time, energy, or focus, this works. If you want a serious action adventure – keep looking.

The Game Plan (2007)

DVD –  The Game Plan is fun and family friendly. Joe Kingman, played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the top scoring quarterback for his professional football team. He is living the high life of a single playboy- sporting a penthouse, owning fancy cars, and enjoying fame. The morning after the biggest play of his game, 8-year-old Peyton arrives on his doorstep claiming to be his daughter, and never knew existed. Many silly things happen as their relationship evolves, from Leaving Peyton behind at a restaurant, to wearing bedazzled clothes to her ballet performance, to rushing to a medical emergency. This movie runs through the gamut of emotions, but relies heavily on the ability to garner laughter.

I found The Game Plan funny and charming. Although categorized as a comedy, the film includes serious scenes that explore family dynamics, trust, friendship, and love. If you are looking for a simple giggle for movie night, I definitely recommend this older gem.

The Favourite (2018)

Movie – In the court of Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman), early 18th century England, the physically and emotionally frail queen rules with the support of Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), her oldest and closest friend. When a cousin of Lady Sarah’s arrives at court, fallen on hard times and happy to take a job as a servant, Lady Sarah takes her under her wing, giving cousin Abigail a chance to regain her aristocratic status. War rages in France, Abigail (Emma Stone) takes advantage of Lady Sarah’s distraction to insinuate herself into the queen’s affections, and soon the war between the two women is as fierce as anything being fought on the Continent.

This is often described as a sex comedy, and while there’s quite a bit of sex and any number of funny moments, I wouldn’t call it a comedy – it’s far too bittersweet. The Favourite is a political story, full of backstabbing and dirty dealing, as nasty as anything out of House of Cards. It’s also a story about love and loyalty, including broken loyalties and broken hearts, and the particularly messy space occupied by women who love women in a time and social class when everyone must be married and produce heirs. This is a multi-layered film, and dismissing it as a sex comedy with good costumes (although the costumes are exceptional) is a great disservice.

Killing Eve (2018)

Image result for killing eveTV Series – The show’s slow simmer doesn’t take long to come to a flambé. The BBC’s Killing Eve stars Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy) as Eve, the MI-5 Security Officer who longs for the thrill of the spy life. Eve gets more than she bargained for when the charismatic, charming, psychotic/sociopath Villanelle, played by British actress Jodi Comer (Doctor Foster), goes about her merry way across Europe savoring the killings she is assigned to…and not. The two become obsessed in a catch-me-if-you-can game, admiring the other’s intellect, wit, life and identity.

The screenplay is written by Fleabag‘s clever Phoebe Waller-Bridge, whose compelling characters we can’t turn away from. She does not rush to get through the story, which is well-paced, but I dare you not to binge this series. To boot, the action rounds out the show, so there is no lull or dull moment to be had. Top all of that with fantastic acting from both female leads and you will wish there were more shows like this.

Season 2, commissioned before the first season ended is due out later this year. Check out Season 1 located in our New Adult TV Series on DVD!

Searching (2018)

DVD – How well does a parent really know their child? And to what lengths will a parent go to protect their child? These questions are answered in the thriller Searching.

David Kim is a widowed dad who thinks he has a very close relationship with his16-year-old daughter, Margot. She is in advanced classes in her high school and takes piano lessons. She takes her studies very seriously, frequently staying out late at a friend’s house for group study. David wakes one morning and finds that he had three missed calls from Margot. At first, he assumes that she got home late from her study group and left in the morning for school before he woke up. David keeps texting, leaving messages, calls the school, and Margot’s piano teacher. He realizes something is terribly wrong. Margot left the study group early, never went to school, and finds out she quit her piano lessons six months ago, apparently stashing away the money from the lessons. David calls the police only to realize that he doesn’t actually know who Margot’s friends are. Detective Rosemary Vick takes the case and encourages David to follow Margot’s digital footprints to get information about the people she knows and her interests. He manages to log into Margot’s laptop, which she left behind and learns some surprising things from her social media accounts and digital history.

Did she run away? Was she abducted? Is she still alive or dead? Searching is smart and suspenseful, with unexpected plot twists as dad and detective race to find the missing Margot.

Venom (2018)

Film – I’m not normally one for the superhero action films, but I made an exception for the 2018 release Venom.  First, it features the hunky Tom Hardy as the lead, which is always a valid reason to see a film.  Second, the visualization of Venom himself looked amazing in the trailers, encompassing everything I so love about creature features and sci-fi stories.

Journalist Eddie Brock knows that something sinister is going on at Life Foundation, and he’ll stop at nothing to find out what Carlton Drake is hiding in his laboratory behind closed doors.  Disaster strikes, and Eddie suddenly finds himself host to a symbiotic alien, Venom.  With his powerful and demanding alter ego, Eddie continues searching for answers, fighting for his own survival.  Carlton Drake is a far more dangerous villain than Eddie could have ever imagined, and he must join forces with Venom to try to save the world.  With a truly unexpected superhero, amazing depiction of venom, and humor a bit reminiscent of Deadpool, I highly recommend this film.  The bond forged between Eddie and Venom is dynamic, a real treat to see.

Waiting on a long list to get the Venom DVD from our library?  Check out a Roku Streaming Player and avoid the line!  You can stream Venom and hundreds of other free movies and tv shows all on one device!  All you need is a TV, monitor or laptop, 2 AAA batteries (not included) and a Wireless Internet Connection.  Visit the Member Services Desk for more information.  Look at our Warrenville Library Mobile Menu for a complete list of all our Mobile Devices available for check-out.

The Good Place (2016-Present)

TV Series – What happens after death?  Do you turn to dust, enter the spirit world, or join the realms of Heaven or Hell?  The Good Place puts a unique spin on the ol’ “What happens to us when we die,” question.

So you’re dead.  What now?  Enter the almighty architect and faithful guide to your afterlife, Michael. He’s here to help your transition from life on earth to death in the Good Place.  You’ve made it into Heaven!  Good for you!  For Eleanor Shellstrop, this reality is hard to believe.  She was pretty much the worst kind of person on Earth–self-centered, greedy, and has never done a nice thing for anyone in her life.  She’s pretty sure there’s been some mistake and any second she’ll be dragged down to the Bad Place.  She’s terrified Michael will realize his error.  In the Good Place, you are paired with your soulmate, and that’s how Eleanor meets Chidi, philosophy and moral professor.  They couldn’t be more different, but Chidi agrees to help Eleanor learn to be “good.”  With fellow couple, Tahani and silent monk Jianyu, the four delve into what it means to be good.

One of my favorite aspects of the show is that residents of the Good Place are rendered incapable of using curse words.  Eleanor has quite the risque vocabulary, which is censored and ends up saying “fork” often.  Janet is by far my favorite character.  Like a humanized robot version of Siri or Alexa, Janet is a personal assistant to each resident of the Good Place.  Simply say “Janet,” and she appears!  I love the show’s premise and incredible cast.  It’s hilarious, full of drama, and leaves us feeling good.  Check out Season 1 and 2 of The Good Place today!

A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman (2015)

Book & Movie- Ove is an elderly man who just wants to be reunited with his deceased wife. In the past, his rigidity and ill-temperament has kept most social interactions to a minimum, until now, when a friendly family moves in next door and tests his inflexible ways, starting with a slight U-Haul truck mishap. Between Ove’s cynical outlook on life and the humorous exchanges between him and his neighbors, A Man Called Ove can crack a smile of even the callous of people.

I was absolutely thrilled when I found out that this novel was adapted into a movie. Although dark, suicidal ideology is persistent throughout the film, it is more of a dreary storm cloud that never precipitates. Much of the film is spent recollecting Ove’s past, from growing up in his father’s shoes to life with his former wife Sonja, each memory allowing the audience to commiserate with Ove’s irritable self. I have always been one who has appreciated the book more than the movie adaptation in just about all titles, and this is no different, however I praise the director for keeping to the storyline rather than taking it in a different direction. One last note worth mentioning is that the movie is in Swedish but has English subtitles! I for one keep the subtitles on regardless of the language but personally found it taxing attempting to keep up with the dialogue when I would much rather enjoy the movie as a whole.

The Children Act (2017)

DVD- This movie is based on the book by Ian McEwan, which has an amazing cast lead by Emma Thompson. She plays a British High Court judge who makes difficult and serious judgements, that affect the life and death of people on a daily basis. Stanley Tucci plays her sexually frustrated, left behind, husband. The film revolves around the child Adam Henry, played by Fionn Whitehead (Dunkirk). Emma Thompson’s character has to decide a whether the hospital has legal standing to authorize Adam to undergo a blood transfusion which will save his life or, grant him the autonomy to trust in a faith that prevents him from accepting blood products.

I found this movie serious and intense. A few of the heavy hitting topics this movie works through include:  religion, law, middle age marriage, affairs, and an infatuated youth of a mature woman.  How courts are governed in Britain, with their customs and rules is an interesting feature, as well. Lastly, the locations depicted in the film, are beautiful.

If you are looking for an excellent, cerebral movie, this is it! If, however, you are looking for a lighthearted movie with the normally-silly Stanley Tucci and Emma Thompson, keep looking!