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Drew Goddard
Boyd Holbrook, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm
Writing Credits:
Drew Goddard

Circa 1969, several strangers meet by chance at Lake Tahoe's El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past.

Box Office:
$32 Million.
Opening Weekend
$7,132,647 on 2808 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
English Audio Descriptive 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 141 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 1/1/2019
• “Making Bad Times At the El Royale” Featurette
• Gallery
• Trailers & Previews
• DVD Copy


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Bad Times At the El Royale [Blu-Ray] (2018)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 7, 2019)

Best-known for 2011’s quirky horror flick Cabin in the Woods, writer/director Drew Goddard returns for 2018’s Bad Times At the El Royale. Set in 1969, the film introduces the El Royale, a formerly fancy hotel on the California/Nevada border that now exists in a state of semi-disrepair.

A few disparate strangers meet each other in this setting, as we encounter an elderly priest (Jeff Bridges), a struggling musician (Cynthia Erivo), a loquacious salesman (Jon Hamm) and a snippy hippie (Dakota Johnson). As time passes, we learn their secrets and potential threats as well.

As a twist on genre conventions, Cabin proved semi-successful. While I liked the concept and thought it offered a terrific third act, other parts of the film fared less well.

Similar thoughts greet Royale, as it offers another genre exploration that lacks consistency, and one that fails to come together with a killer finale ala Cabin. An occasionally clever take on thrillers, Royale shows strengths at times but as a whole package, it doesn’t quite come together.

Unlike Cabin, Royale works best in its first act as it sets the stage. The moments that introduce the characters and then the flashbacks to show how they got to the hotel become easily the most intriguing aspects of the movie.

Beyond these elements, though, Royale tends to sputter. Whereas Cabin built up a head of steam and kicked butt in its crazed finale, Royale lacks much real punch at the end.

That’s largely because it simply doesn’t explore its characters or circumstances well beyond the early basics. While we find interesting information to introduce the roles, they don’t grow appreciably so we never invest much in the action as it unfolds.

With a nearly two-and-a-half hour running time, Royale also seems too long for its own good. Goddard fails to use all that cinematic real estate in an especially effective manner, so the story tends to drag too often.

The film does come with a fine cast, but they can’t quite carry us through the tedium. Although I wanted to like Royale, the end result feels too flat and sluggish to make it a winner.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus C

Bad Times At the El Royale appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. As expected, this became a mostly positive presentation.

Overall sharpness appeared good. Darker interiors could be a little soft, but the majority of the film seemed accurate and well-defined.

I saw no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws also failed to mar the image.

Colors went with a fairly typical teal and orange bent, though it threw in some neon reds as well. The hues appeared well-rendered given their stylistic constraints.

Blacks seemed dark and dense, and shadows appeared concise. In the end, this turned into a good rendition of the film.

In addition, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack worked well, though it didn’t provide the most active mix. In general, the movie offered a fairly balanced soundscape, with information that spread around the room in a logical manner.

However, ambience dominated, without a lot of vivid moments on display. The omnipresent rainstorm used the various channels well, and occasional moments of violence added impact, but not a lot of active involvement occurred.

Audio quality satisfied, with music that came across as lively and full. Speech appeared natural and distinctive, without edginess or other problems.

Effects appeared accurate and realistic, and they lacked distortion or other issues. Despite the less than active soundscape, this was a solid soundtrack.

A featurette called Making Bad Times At the El Royale runs 28 minutes, 35 seconds and includes notes from writer/director Drew Goddard, director of photography Seamus McGarvey, producer Jeremy Latcham, art director Michael Diner, production designer Martin Whist, set decorator Hamish Purdy, music producer Harvey Mason Jr., costume designer Danny Glicker, and actors Jon Hamm, Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny and Lewis Pullman.

“Making” looks at story/characters, cast and performances, sets, design and locations, costumes, music, cinematography and colors, and Goddard’s impact on the production. “Making” covers a lot of territory in a pretty concise way, so it becomes an informative show.

A Gallery spans 39 photos. These offer glimpses of the sets and various details. I like the ability to get a closer look at these production design choices.

The disc opens with an ad for Widows and Sneak Peek throws in promos for Red Sparrow and Sorry to Bother You. We also get two trailers for Royale.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Royale. It includes the same extras as the Blu-ray.

Going into Bad Times At the El Royale, I expected a stylish, lively take on the thriller genre. While the film does come with an interesting visual sensibility, the story and characters connect too infrequently for the movie to prosper. The Blu-ray comes with positive picture and audio along with a fairly good featurette. Royale doesn’t flop but it disappoints.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 2
0 3:
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