The Vault

The Vault cover

The Vault is not a great movie. Whether it’s the technical aspect or the dramaturgical flow, it does not live up to a clever supernatural, heist-gone-wrong concept.

You know the drill: A group of ne’er-do-wells attempt a caper, hostages are taken, cops arrive, everybody is trapped, and so on, and so forth.

But here’s the twist: The robbers learn from an assistant manager — James Franco, donning a ’stache for the ages — that the basement vault holds a vast cash reserve. The haunted basement.

It’s slock in a Tales from the Crypt kind of way. The backstory of victims from a botched 1982 robbery haunting the bank, that whole thing. Lessons will be learned. Conceptually, I find it entertaining.

It’s the execution that leaves something — a lot — to be desired.

First, Franco. It’s painfully apparent his scenes were filmed separately from the rest of the cast. His performance mostly consists of sitting in a corner, looking nervously at the surveillance videos. Only a handful of times do we see him interact with other actors. It’s jarring.

Threads go unresolved, and I don’t mean that in the artistic sense. Rather, the writers and director seem to have forgotten about them. The story of what happened in ’82 is hastily laid out, without the details needed to set up present event, particularly related to one key character.

As for the twist ending, which is set up in one of the earliest scenes, it’s something you’ll have figured out before you even know there will be a twist. It’s bizarre, but it’s all but spelled out in the opening credits, and when paired with the final scene, it’s like you’ve watched two different movies combined into one. I’m still not sure if a caper film and a horror movie were hastily edited together, with a few additional scenes added as glue.

On the positive side, Taryn Manning (you know her as Pennsatucky in Orange Is The New Black), and Francesca Eastwood (not no relations) are stand-outs as off-kilter sisters who are in over their heads. The man in the white mask, too, is appropriately creepy.

It could have been a Tales from the Crypt homage of some class, but The Vault doesn’t bring home the bacon. Entertaining to a point, but it should have been so much more.


Infinity Chamber

Infinity Chamber cover

Minor spoilers below, in case you’re persnickety about those kinds of things. (And no, I have no clue what the tagline has to do with the movie.)

Here’s a movie I had expected to jot down as a guilty pleasure, yet found to be very good in its own right. Infinity Chamber is sci-fi for those who like the more grounded variety of the genre, one that at least seems somewhat plausible within its boundaries.

In a near dystopian future, we find Frank gazing at a photo, as two government agents storm in, stun-gunning him down. In an eponymous chamber, Frank wakes up finding his only companion to be Howard, a HAL-like AI. On the surface, Howard’s job is to keep Frank alive. For what reason? To access his dreams.

For Frank to sleep soundly, Howard provides him with (grubby) food and (disgusting) drinks. A selection of classical music pipes through the room to soothe him. His dream is always the same: Memories of his final day of freedom, from which the totalitarian regime wants to extract… something. Exactly what and why is unclear.

The questions amass. Is Howard really an AI? Who is Frank? Are we seeing his dreams? Are the dreams actually dreams, or is the perceived reality the dream? Who is the dreamer? Hints are strewn about, and interpretations are entirely subjective. Odds of catching everything in one viewing are minimal at best.

I like dystopian sci-fi, and Infinity Chamber scores well in that genre. It’s clear the ambition for the movie was more extensive than the budget — multiple scenes were filmed in writer/director Travis Milloy’s house — but creative tricks and an excellent performance from Christopher Kelly go a long way making up for it. Jesse Arrow’s does a fantastic job as Howard’s voice, too.

The internet is abuzz about the ending, with little to no consensus of what it means. In my mind, Infinity Chamber needs to be re-watched with a completely open mind, confirmation bias thrown to the wayside. I did notice some obvious hints of what it all did not mean, but I would lie if I claimed to understand where the movie landed. To me, it seemed like at a dark place. Many disagree. Others say the ending is inconsequential.

My point is that this is a movie you need to pay attention to if you want to enjoy the ride. Spotting the hints is a lot of fun. In some sense, the film reminds me a bit of the original Cube as far as the dystopian aspects go, though Infinity Chamber is executed better with its slick presentation.

Give it a view. It deserves it, and so do you.


RJ’s Gourmet Grill

It takes some gusto, opening a Mediterranean fast-food spot across from The Gyro Spot. Of course, RJ’s does go deeper than the perennial Olympia favorite, with the addition of an Indian offering. Mediterranean and Indian. Add their American burgers, and you have something commonly seen throughout many European cities — a menu with a mélange of cuisines, all which speedily can be prepared for take-out.

Illustrative image
Was the picture taken in a hurry? Yes. Do I see the need to apologize? No.

RJ’s is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the falafel gyro is good. The pita is fluffy, and the falafel has a good bite to it. I’d even go as far as to say the tahini sets the wrap apart from many of its kin. It has notes of zesty lemon, and enough garlic to keep people at a distance the next day. A curmudgeon’s dream, in other words!

It’s hard to say if the wrap is better than The Gyro Spot’s, though the proximity of the two could make it easy to compare if one is so inclined. RJ’s does serve up a flavorful gyro, at least.

The Aloo Mutter Mushroom does not score as highly. The mushrooms are rubbery, and the promise of ginger and garlic remains unfulfilled. Granted, we did go with the milder option, but a dish like this should not rely merely on spices. It’s too bad. The plate looks good on paper but is dull on the tongue, while the potato lacks much of a bite.

Conversely, I find it somewhat odd to find these items are on a What’s Good menu. It remains subjective if they’re good or not, but does that mean the rest of RJ’s selection is not good? Maybe Specialties is a better title?

We have heard some pretty stellar words about RJ’s burgers, which we expect to return for in The Great Burger Chase. The gyros make a return visit worthwhile as well, though order with care. Our impression of the Indian section is not super positive.

Quesada Burritos & Tacos

One can learn a lot about a country’s tortilla-based culture from a franchise. Does the public get to enjoy decent, assembly-line Mexican-ish food? Are things a step or two up from your average fast-food offerings? Can Canada best The Bell?

At Quesada Burritos & Tacos we threw caution to the wind and tried a quesadilla, namesake dishes be damned. Here, your tortilla-professional throngs together your meal, safely guiding you to your port of call.

Illustrative image

OK, I am being somewhat flippant. If one was to believe a Subway employee is a sandwich artist, its Quesada equivalent is a tortilla auteur. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but the delivered works are rarely anything to put on display.

You can too easily replicate the quesadilla at home: A pair of tortillas and a jar of salsa are all you need to dress up the Kraft-style cheese, all conveniently available from your grocery store. The optional guacamole and corn are on the next shelf.

It’s disappointing. I cannot recall if I ever have tried anything from Chipotle, but word has reached me they deliver decent, fresh dishes, a step above their franchise-ilks. For whatever reason, I had expected Quesada to be similar: Not necessarily a mind-blowing meal, but one that would make you smile and nod. That’s just one assumes from Canada. Something more… Canadian.

Glass half-full, though: It is better than The Bell.

Luckily, our previous Canadian exposé found better options. Check out The Ruby on Johnson, for the country at its finest.

This post is part of Tortillaphilia, a category for those with a special relationship with anything tortilla related!