Film Review: Hotel Artemis”

Starring: Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown and Sofia Boutella
Directed By: Drew Pearce
Rated: R
Running Time: 94 minutes
Global Road Entertainment

Sometimes a movie feels and looks interesting, but it isn’t. That gorgeous outer shell, sometimes in the set design or on the face of its familiar and likable characters, inherently lacks a soul. “Hotel Artemis” is a movie that wants to be loved and adored by its viewing audience. It repeatedly tells and shows the audience that it’s grimy and noir, futuristic and relevant, funny and heartfelt, but it never really proves it’s any of those things.

Jodie Foster (who’s shockingly been absent from the silver screen for five years) plays Jean, a nurse running to and fro throughout the Hotel Artemis, a safe haven for criminals in 2028 Los Angeles. She’s assisted by the bulky and intimidating, yet soft on the inside, Everest (Dave Bautista). The two-person staff somehow operates the multi-room establishment, as they patch up wounds, remove bullets, and use 3D printers to create new organs for criminals from all walks of life.

“Hotel Artemis” shrivels up in the shadow of other, much better, films that it’s seemingly ripping off of. One can’t help but think of the Continental from “John Wick” throughout much of the film’s runtime. I was also reminded of several other grindhouse, dystopian future, and sci-fi films with more developed characters and fleshed out concepts. The film takes place in one night, with the backdrop being riots throughout the city over privatized water and a company hoarding what’s left. That actually sounds more interesting than Nurse Jean’s predicaments.

“Hotel Artemis” is so busy; it manages to glide over some of its storytelling faults, but not all of them. The film lags in certain moments, like ham-fisted exposition delivery in dialogue or lingering on its own visual aesthetics. It succeeds in banter between criminals within the hospital’s confines and slowly peeling back what makes Nurse Jean tick. Even as my mind drifted away from the premise, the movie had this knack for reeling me back in.

The acting talent brought in for this movie is impressive, but they feel like they’re playing down to the material or that they’re simply miscast. Charlie Day plays an all-talk arms dealer that should be replicating his naturally funny and manic strengths, while Sterling K. Brown, who’s shown his dramatic chops on TV, seems neutered in his range for this film. However, others, like Sofia Boutella, play well to their French femme fatale role and Bautista seems at home playing Drax-lite.

Director/writer Drew Pearce, who’s worked on “Iron Man 3” and a “Mission: Impossible” movie, seems a bit incapable of bringing it altogether. Instead of stirring all the film’s themes and ideas into a cohesive vision, he mainly paints everything in messy broad strokes that’s sometimes difficult to digest and unfortunately forgettable. There are a few things that work in “Hotel Artemis,” and in much better hands, it would have been an unforgettable film.

Film Review: Fist Fight

Starring: Ice Cube, Charlie Day and Tracy Morgan
Directed by: Richie Keen
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hr 31 mins
New Line Cinema

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Ah, the last day of the school year. A time to clean out your locker, turn in your books and get ready for the summer. Unless you’re a student at the high school featured in the new film “Fist Fight.” Then it’s a time to rebel.

Andy (Day) is an English teacher whose last day of school starts with a student parked in his parking spot. Andy is an expectant father and is worried that school budget cuts may affect his job. Andy is pretty easy going and it’s easy to root for him. Then there is Strickland (Cube – wait, is that right? Is “Ice Cube” all inclusive? Is “Ice” his first name and “Cube” his last?” How about if I call him O’Shea Jackson?). Strickland is a no-nonsense teacher who’s not afraid to challenge his students. Physically. When a classroom altercation gets reported to the principal, Andy inadvertently gets Strickland fired. Angered, the man challenges Andy to a fight after school. Place your bets.

I don’t know what it is about Hollywood and films set in high school. From “3 O’clock High” to “Big Bully,” it seems like kids (and teachers) can’t get along. And who would want to in this school. It’s one thing to pull a few pranks but what the students are doing here would normally result in criminal records. Especially in a world were bullying is prevalent. Have the principal followed around all day by a Mariachi band? Funny. Destroy his car? Jail.

The story is the result of a script by two first-time feature writers and it shows. Jokes, or what are supposed to be jokes, flow quickly and some hit their mark. But many more miss it. When Charlie Day can’t make you laugh you have a serious problem with your material. Day tries hard, as does Mr. Cube (how’s that?) but they needed better dialogue. The fact that Cube is named Strickland makes me wonder if he’s named after the bald teacher that terrorized Marty McFly in “Back to the Future.” Though I wonder if the writers were that clever.

On the plus side, Charlie Day does well in a comedy he’s there to carry and it’s nice to see Tracy Morgan back on the big screen.