Bad Times at the El Royale Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Ralph Potts reviews Bad Times at the El Royale, a dark thriller set in 1969, that tells the story of several strangers, most with a secret to bury, that meet by chance at Lake Tahoe’s El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one night, everyone will show their true colors – before everything goes to hell.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

90

Details:

Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox – 2018
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 141 minutes
Genre: Thriller

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD 7.1, English DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio, Spanish/French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Chris Hemsworth, Lewis Pullman
Written & Directed by: Drew Goddard
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Region Code: A

Release Date: January 1, 2019

“All Roads Lead Here”

Synopsis:

Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm and Chris Hemsworth lead an all-star cast in this powerful thriller filled with gripping suspense and startling revelations. Seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at Lake Tahoe’s El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption…before everything goes to hell. – 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

My Take:

Here’s the setup for the plot of Bad Times at the El Royale:

It’s January 1969. Richard Nixon has been inaugurated as the 37th president of the United States. A new decade beckons. And seven very different but equally lost souls converge on the El Royale, a once-glorious resort that has since fallen—like its visitors—into disrepute.

Situated on the border between California and Nevada, the El Royale offers warmth and sunshine to the west; hope and opportunity to the east. It also straddles the colliding worlds of past and present. Once the hotspot of Tahoe, where the country’s most famous celebrities and politicians comingled in and around the resort’s casino, bar, bungalows and pool, the good times have now come to a close.

As is the El Royale. Now, in the resort’s lobby where the shine has faded and the laughter fallen silent, gather Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), soul singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), traveling salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm), hippie Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson), her sister Rose (Cailee Spaeny), manager Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman) and the enigmatic Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth).
Over the course of one night, each of these characters has a role to play, the outcome of which will be determined largely by fate.

Written and directed by Drew Goddard, Bad Times at the El Royale is a period-based mystery/thriller with an unfolding plot that has an interesting cause and effect style that doesn’t necessarily adhere to typical thematic elements. Its strength lies in the tangibility of its character base and the questions raised by their motivations/actions, some of which are answered, some not, but therein lies the film’s most interesting context. Having said that, there is a style over substance quality that works against the narrative’s foundational elements which isn’t helped by a somewhat bloated run time. I feel like the film started out extremely strong, not being afraid to shock the audience but, later falls into comfortably familiar territory that doesn’t quite live up to its beginnings. I thought that cast was simply marvelous, each having a moment to underscore the film’s thematic impact. So, while Bad Times at the El Royale isn’t among the best eye-openers we’ve seen from Hollywood, it’s got enough style, flair and grit to make for an entertaining film that I plan on revisiting.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for strong violence, language, some drug content and brief nudity.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
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  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

Dolby Atmos Rating: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Level of immersion: 
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Bad Times at the El Royale comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

Bad Times at the El Royale was shot on film and finished on a 4K DI for its presentation on Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Bad Time at the El Royale is a period-based film that has a specific visual aesthetic which comes through quite naturally in this Ultra HD rendering. It’s a stylish visual film, that adheres to sepia tones and color grading, which ultimately leaves some sequences appearing less visually engaging than others. Color reproduction is consistent, with primaries like blue and red appearing richer, and more delineated. Secondary hues look great, although not appreciably better. The increase in resolution isn’t always on display, but the wide-angle daytime shots of the sun-splashed landscapes look terrific. Close-ups tend to offer appreciable refinement and deeper resolvable texture on surfaces and physical features compared to the Blu-ray. The differences, while not staggering, are easily discernible.

The same is true when comparing the video’s dynamic range. Exterior sequences offer the slightest hint of added punch which gives the image appreciable visual pop. Like the Blu-ray rendering, the darkened highlights in low-lit environs, can be hit or miss but it most respects, have appreciable dimension and resolvable detail. Fleshtones are reproduced beautifully, with a natural and pleasing tonality. Viewing Bad Times at the El Royale in Ultra HD didn’t make for an especially compelling viewing experience, however, I found it to be a complimentary improvement over the 1080p Blu-ray presentation.

Dolby Atmos:

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be a fairly entertaining listening experience that made steady use of the platform. Its use of audio objects placed above is a mix of atmospherics, discrete effects and music. This is done quite well, and where applied, creates a tangible level of immersion. I noticed that the front overhead channels were used for adding depth to the soundstage while the rear overhead channels contained more discrete sound objects/effects. In addition to things like overhead pans where sounds move through the soundstage, there are several sequences that bring everything together. I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable this Dolby Atmos presentation was, adding a complimentary element that elevated the experience of watching the film.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity: 
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  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression: 

Audio: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element):

Bad Times at the El Royale comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound.

This is a solid looking new release title from Fox. Images onscreen exhibit plenty of fine rendering and crisp definition that on occasion rises to higher levels especially during close ups which can be very revealing. Long range shots appear resolute with good dimensional depth and notable object detail. Bright exterior segments are punchy with crisp dynamic whites and appreciable texture. Colors are vivid, with oversaturated primaries that appear pleasing in high definition. Fleshtones are tonally divergent and appear predominantly lifelike in depiction.

Blacks aren’t inky in depth but are gradationally revealing which combines with excellent detail in low light and shadowy backgrounds to provide a strong sense of dimension. Many of the sequences take place in darkened interiors. Even on my calibrated display I noticed a few instances where the finest gradations in dark backgrounds were obscured. It is important to note that proper adjustment of your display’s brightness setting is crucial to the ability to discern shadow detail. I didn’t detect any deleterious artifacts or other video related anomalies.

A film like this relies heavily on its soundtrack to elicit the intended effect upon the audience, and this 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation does just that. This is a fairly aggressive surround sound mix that features an array of well-placed sound effects that engage the listening position. The room is illuminated with an array of sounds that are both directional and ambient in nature. I appreciated the attention to detail that went into creating the surround mix as it effectively replicates the environments featured in the film. Bass reproduction is clean and accentuates the audio’s excellent dynamic range with palpable impact. Dialog intelligibility is never a problem even during the film’s active moments. This is a great surround sound experience that made for a nice surprise.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: Bad Times at the El Royale Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: Bad Times at the El Royale Blu-ray
  • Making Bad Times at the El Royale – Featurette
  • Gallery
  • Digital Copy

Final Thoughts:

Written and directed by Drew Goddard Bad Times at the El Royale is a solid genre entry that while not perfect, provides discerning film viewers with an entertaining and stylish thriller that has something to offer. It comes to Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in this Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack featuring excellent overall technical merits that compliment its thematic tone. Bad Times at the El Royale is easily worth the cost of a rental and perhaps qualifies as a blind buy for those that enjoy its cinematic flavor.

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems 

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