Friday, June 14, 2019

Movie Review: “Bad Times at the El Royale”


By Matt Pascarella

Rated: NC-17
Run time: 141 minutes

The El Royale is a hotel where, just like the title suggests, there isn’t much good that happens there, just a lot of bad. The movie centers around four individuals: Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Ervio), Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson) and Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm).

The movie opens with Felix O’Kelly (Nick Offerman) walking into a hotel room, setting down some bags, then tearing up the floorboards and putting his bags beneath the floor.  Suddenly, there is a knock at the door and he is immediately shot.

Ten years later, circa 1969, Darlene Sweet and Father Daniel Flynn arrive separately at the El Royale. They meet loudmouth Laramie Seymour Sullivan who claims to be a vacuum cleaner salesman and has been waiting for a room for a while; no front desk clerk seems to be around. Emily Summerspring enters also needing a room.

Once Laramie Seymour Sullivan has gotten his room, he begins ripping wire taps from all electrical devices around the room. He later goes snooping around the front desk and discovers an underground tunnel that enables one to see and hear into the different rooms. He sees each of the previous guests doing various activities, some questionable.

We get a flashback to Darlene Sweet in a recording studio where she is being somewhat criticized by a recording manager. Flash forward and there is a knock on her door where Father Danielle Flynn asks if she’d like to get something to eat. Over pie, she and Father Flynn talk. When Father Flynn offers to get her a drink, he slips something in it and just as he’s about to hand it to her, she hits him on the head with a bottle and he falls to the ground.

We later learn that Laramie Seymour Sullivan is not who he says he is; his name is actually Dwight Broadbeck.

Cut to Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) who is walking along the beach. He approaches a girl, Rose Summerspring (Caliee Spaeny) who, in a flashback we see Emily Summerspring saving her sister from an abusive parent. Emily and Rose are currently in the hotel room where Emily tells her sister she will “get her clear.” Broadbeck bursts into their room, knocking Emily to the ground. Emily later shoots Broadbeck and he falls through the mirror, revealing the underground tunnel used to spy on all the rooms.

Later, the front desk clerk, Miles, (Lewis Pullman) helps up Father Flynn and Flynn soon discovers the underground spying tunnel. There are flashbacks which intertwine the recent series of events. After Miles is injured, Emily Summerspring has tied him up.

When Darlene Sweet is trying to escape after discovering her neighboring guest’s actions, she is approached by Father Flynn who confesses who he really is. They make a plan and begin to execute it.  

What will become of the remaining guests? Are their more secrets and lies? Who else might we meet?

This movie is intense, to say the least, but it’s interesting. A stellar cast portray these fascinating characters well. It’s relatively violent in parts and a lot happens. It can be hard to follow at times but does all kind of come together in the end – it might help if you take notes, like I did. I’d recommend this, if you’re a fan of action thrillers.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Friday, June 7, 2019

Book Review: “All my Puny Sorrows”

By Jennifer Dupree, circulation supervisor at the Windham Public Library

How can a book about suicide be heartbreaking and funny at the same time? How can a book with the thinnest of plots be completely compelling? I don’t know, but “All My Puny Sorrows” by Miriam Toews is a beautiful, thoughtful, engaging story of two sisters, one who wants to die, the other who wants her to live.

Yoli is a forty-something-year-old woman who has made something of a mess of her life but who loves her bright, beautiful, talented, suicidal sister, Elfrieda. The bulk of this book is about Elf’s suicide attempt (not her first) and what happens as the family rallies around her hospital bed. Most of the tension in the book arises from the question of if Elf will attempt suicide again and if, as Elf begs her, Yoli will help her end her life.

There are scenes of Yoli and Elf’s childhood growing up in a rural Mennonite community sliced in between hospital conversations between Yoli and Elf. Outside the hospital room, life goes on. Yoli tries to manage her pending divorce (her second), her teenager daughter’s budding romance, her own disastrous romances, and her plucky, sweat-pant-wearing mother.  

This book made me cry, but it also made me laugh. Yoli is smart, funny, honest, self-deprecating. 
This is a story about the deep love between sisters, the pain of loss, the hilarity of everyday life, and mostly, the will to keep going.




Movie Review: “Aladdin”


By Kaila Mank

Rated: PG
Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

The original Disney's “Aladdin” from 1992 directed by Ron Clements has always been an all-time favorite to many. So, when the word was out that the live-action version was coming, there were many doubts. However, if you have seen this latest movie directed by Guy Richie, you can put those doubts to rest. The film was very well put together with everything from the music to the characters matching the original animated version.

We all know the story of the street “rat” Aladdin (played by Mena Massoud), falling in love with the Salton daughter Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). Aladdin doesn't think he's good enough, so he releases the genie (Will Smith) from his lamp to help him become the Prince of Jasmine’s dreams.

This love story gets interrupted by the villain in the story, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) who wants to become Salton (Navid Negahban) and will do anything to get it. I thought this overall movie was amazing. The music matched the original, it was funny and must have been one of the most difficult things to do with live-action and the look-alike characters.

The elaborate character, Jafar, would have been one of the hardest to capture in this live-action film – looking much like the animated character in the original movie. The director and the actors did an amazing job with all of it.

So if you haven't seen it yet, I would highly recommend you see it, and it will put those doubts you may have about animated movies being turned into live-action movies to rest.