Dead Silence (2007)

Dead Silence (2007)
R | 1h 29min | Horror, Thriller | 16 March 2007 (USA)

A young widower returns to his hometown to search for answers to his wife’s murder, which may be linked to the ghost of a murdered ventriloquist.
Director: James Wan
Writers: Leigh Whannell (screenplay), James Wan (story) | 1 more credit »
Stars: Ryan Kwanten, Amber Valletta, Donnie Wahlberg

A happy-go-lucky fellow and his girlfriend have recently moved into their new home. They find it to be everything they want, but then this puppet is delivered to them.

James Wan is a phenomenal Horror director who has now become a producer as well. One thing I can say with certainty is that James Wan can craft a scary movie. Even though it feels a bit like something is missing here, Wan has left us with a very scary horror movie from credits to credits. All horror fans will find it worth watching I think.

Furthermore about James Wan: H seems to include a scary prop of some sort in his movies. You see it in the little doll and the mask of Jigsaw. Here, you see it in this ventriloquist puppet hell-bent on terror. It works quite well for scares. I don’t think you can ever get too jaded to not jump when a puppet like that moves all of a sudden. It’s creepy and probably has been in film and stories way back to the early days. Speaking of props, think about the bear trap in Saw along with the many gadgets and machines engineered to kill. Wan is definitely a prop director.

The acting is fine, there is nothing spectacular. It’s worth noting that Donnie Wahlberg was in so Saw sequels and he plays the detective here in this film. Much emphasis is put on the puppet and as a result, not much else is developed in the story. So, even though I really like the premise and the puppet, it loses some points with me for not being as well rounded a film as I would have liked.

7/10


My review Dead Silence (2007) appeared first on Riley on Film.

Southbound

A series of interconnected short films, “Southbound” is pure horror reminiscent of the 1970’s-1980’s minimalist styles.

Southbound (2015)
Cast
Chad Villella

as Mitch

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin

as Jack

Kristina Pesic

as Sutter

Directed by
Roxanne Benjamin
David Bruckner
Patrick Horvath
Radio Silence

 

Written by
Roxanne Benjamin
Matt Bettinelli-Olpin
David Bruckner
Susan Burke
Dallas Richard Hallam
Patrick Horvath

 

Other Info

Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Not Rated
1h 29min

These small films fit into one another just like the Twilight Zone movies. If you’re looking for a common theme, you’re likely to be disappointed, There are these giant devilish skeleton bats that chase some of the characters, apparently for justice. Other than that, it’s just a fairly well made, and simply made, horror movie with a few clever twists.

There is one part where a man is distracted by his phone while driving and he hits a girl who had just escaped a satanic sacrifice ceremony. He calls 911 only to become more confused by what has happened and of course frustrated. Some of the stories are like that, unsatisfying.

Th giant bat effects ARE satisfying, along with the final scene where we are brought up to speed about what’s happening in the chase in the opening scene. The movie works like a circle, setting you on a path and then replacing you there after you’ve finished another story.

This film has a lot of killing and blood in it. There isn’t much explanation for any of it though. I suppose you could draw the conclusion that if you live an immoral life, you’ll have to reckon with the grim reaper or the devil or some being at the end of your life. Not a very original idea for a horror movie but there are enough clever twists to keep you guessing. It lost two stars with me for the lack of explanation about many elements in the stories.

I suppose it could be seen as the devil is coming for those who have killed or sinned terribly but they never say why. If you don’t mind open ended movies, you’ll probably not get my criticism. I like finding out why the mysterious things happen. It pleases me when everything fit, Southbound is a good movie but seems to leave so many thinking projects up to the viewer. For plain text horror with minimal production, I recommend it!


My review Southbound appeared first on Riley on Film.

The Shallows (2016)

Blake Lively shows some incredible strength as an actor carrying 2/3 of the film on her own in the water trying to get to safety against a gargantuan shark. Along with excellent writing and acting/directing, the effects are effectively terrifying.

theshallowsposter

The Shallows
Cast

Blake Lively, Óscar Jaenada, Angelo Jose

Directed by

Jaume Collet-Serra

Written by

Anthony Jaswinski

Other Info

Drama, Horror, Thriller
Rated PG-13
1h 26min

There are quite a few films out there that feature a blond girl surfing. Blue Crush, Soul Surfer, Aqua Dulce, and more. The posters are like this one, full of a beauty with a board. That is usually all it takes to bring a big crowd. In this case, while the image is the same, this is not just a girl surfer movie. Blake lively had a surf double, Isabella Nichols, who is the no. 1 junior champion surfer in the world. But with surfing scenes excluded, Blake did most of her own stunts. This is a very physical film and sometimes her physicality is crucial to telling the story. Plot is limited. Nancy (Blake Lively) is recovering from her mother’s tragic death by traveling to Mexico for some serious surfing. IN a very beautiful and secluded cove, she finds some near-perfect waves and starts enjoying them. There are two Mexican dudes there and they seem much more at ease with the beach than she is. They call to her but she never gets close to them. The guys leave and Nancy is face to face with a shark. What happens next is what makes it a thriller.

The following 2/3 of the film consists of basically one actor (Blake Lively), a big scary shark, incidentally the shark looks great, and an endearing seagull that Nancy talks to and is comforted by. shallows2You wouldn’t think that thrills and suspense could be generated with such minimal props but they can be and they are in the Shallows. There is an excellent use of 1/2 above 1/2 underwater camerawork. Instead of being clueless what’s going on under the surface, the director shows you and it’s even scarier. I have to take issue and challenge the movie calling itself horror. While there are unpleasant jumps here and there that shock the viewer, it’s a bit too “woman-against-nature” Survivor-like to be considered horror. If one of the surfers was a serial killer as a side story, I might accept the label as accurate. As it is, I see it as a thriller and a great one at that.

shallows3This is not Jaws but several times it spikes the same level of scares. From beginning to end it had my attention, I was never bored, and a few times I was shocked out of my seat by what I saw. Much care has been given to the CGI and props to make the shark attacks look real. The “final battle” between the shark and Lively is the stuff that award-winning thrillers are made of. I absolutely loved the way the director handled that. The Shallows is a top-notch thriller made with simplified tools. Blake Lively gives a strong physical and emotional performance. The film looses no stars with me, I give it a 5/5. Go enjoy it while it’s still in theaters.


My review The Shallows (2016) appeared first on Riley on Film.

Alex of Venice

*This review contains spoilers.

This movie is a blueprint for letting go of a failed marriage, embracing change when you feel too old, and being unselfish through divorce for the sake of your child. Believe it or not, there is a lot of joy in Alex of Venice.

set_alex_of_venice_poster

Alex of Venice
Cast

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Chris Messina, Don Johnson

Directed by

Chris Messina

Written by

Jessica Goldberg, Katie Nehra, Justin Shilton

Other Info

Drama
Rated R
1h 26min

I’ve been crossing paths with people who got married before age twenty and thinking they all must be crazy. I changed so much in my twenties. For me, it was necessary to “find myself” through my twenties to have the marriage I enjoy now. I got married at 33.

Chris Messina (Devil) directed this film that shows the sudden jolt that occurs when one who married young realizes she’s with the wrong person. What does one do in such a situation? Alex in Venice shows us how one woman deals with it.

Alex (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a workaholic attorney who clearly hasn’t analyzed her life enough. Her marriage is all but lifeless. Her husband George (Chris Messina) is the one who takes the drastic step of moving out. Actually, he doesn’t just move out, he flees. Alex is forced to grapple with taking care of her father (Don Johnson) and son alone. It has the potential to break her but as we see, she becomes stronger. Winstead has alluring eyes that brighten up any film she’s in (10 Cloverfield Lane, Swiss Army Man). She does a great job playing this role, its believable what she’s going through. She encounters casual sex (only one time), the ecstasy drug (yep she goes there), and partying in hopes of discovering the self she could have been and in fact now is. It’s all done with mixed success. In the end she becomes stronger, and this type of separation could make one weak.

In the final scenes, Alex and George show in their tender conversation with their son that they are indeed divorcing but that they both pledge to be there for him in the strongest love they can. It’s a tear-jerker scene but also inspiring in that it shows the strength people can have, along with maturity, when a marriage just doesn’t work out. Society judges enough without judgement in books and movies. This movies gives an image like a lighthouse of the way it can be when both people put their egos aside, admit it’s a dead marriage and then work toward a good divorce. It’s not a “feel good” movie but I found inspiration for the times in life you have to let go and walk forward with courage. This film achieved what it set out to do, I give it a 5/5.


My review Alex of Venice appeared first on Riley on Film.

The Final Girls

“Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve dreamed of being the final girl.” Duncan

Just like “Scream” in the 90’s, this film seizes the opportunity to mock and pay homage to 1970-1980’s horror flicks. It sets and hits its own comedic, horrific mark 100% on target. This is, hands down, a lot of fun.

The Final Girls (2015)
Cast
Taissa Farmiga

as Max Cartwright

Malin Ackerman

as Nancy / Amanda Cartwright

Alexander Ludwig

as Chris Briggs

Directed by
Todd Strauss-Schulson
Written by
M.A. Fortin, Joshua John Miller
Other Info

Comedy, Horror
Rated PG-13
1h 28min

This film is a refreshing break to be enjoyed most certainly by horror buffs, specifically, 80’s horror buffs. There’s also some laugh a minute comedy going o here. There’s been a movement in films recently of paying homage to 80’s films. The quality of these campy films has been mixed. An example of one that got it right in “Turbo Kid.” After watching that film, I felt the ectoplasm of Mad Max dripping off me. It was jam packed with stuff like Walkman’s and synthesized fight scenes. “The Last Girls” is in that same vein.

Through a freak supernatural event, high school seniors are transported inside a horror movie. One there, one is elated that a movie they loved so much is now their real life setting. Things happen, some funny, others horrifying. We hear the student’s theories on how to survive in a horror movie. Oh and yes, there is a killer like Jason Voorhies in “Friday the 13th.”

One member of the crew has a special challenge. Her once famous slasher-film actress mom has died in the real world but same is in fact resurrected in the film. There is a chance to save her, if she could only figure out how. All of this takes place at Summer camp where the killings are just as brutal as a 1980’s serious horror flick.

Someone notes that the last girl is always the one to kill the killer, hence the movie’s title. Some may be put off by the corny themes but I found it hilarious. At one point, they think a murder is fake so they taste the “corn syrup.” Guess what, they discover it isn’t corn syrup. This is really funny and I won’t make a big deal about it that the same gag is in “Tropic Thunder” when Ben Stiller’s character plays with director “Damien’s” beheaded skull. All of this film is borrowed or stolen, that gives us the right to laugh at it. For horror buffs who can step away for an hour or so and have a good laugh, I recommend this film.


My review The Final Girls appeared first on Riley on Film.

Review: The Fantasy and Adventure Success of ‘The Dark Tower’

When dealing with a monster novel series set to film, there is always the challenge of meeting high expectation of the book fans. I don’t know about that but I can say I had a great time watching this adventure/fantasy/action film. It had great actors, a more than functional plot, a villain and a satisfying conclusion: just the kind of Summer film I’ve been looking for!

The Dark Tower (2017)
PG-13 | 1h 35min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy | 4 August 2017 (USA)

The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain, has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black, determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black
Director: Nikolaj Arcel
Writers: Akiva Goldsman (screenplay), Jeff Pinkner (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
Stars: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor

Nikolaj Arcel directed this film, he is known for A Royal Affair and Truth About Men. He has also been a writer on many films and tv shows such as Millennium. In the IMDB media section, you can see him working alongside Ron Howard so we are talking about an experienced director for sure. With so much going on in the plot of this film, that is required.

There is a cast of thousands here (almost) but the three primary characters are played by Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, and Tom Taylor. Elba is the gunslinger, a frightful presence for good. The things he can do while loading his guns in mid-air will be talked about for decades. McConaughey plays the Man in Black. He is a terrifying villain who does a LOT of killing, you could subtitle the film “How to kill 100 guys in 10 days.” Please note that unlike some modern villains, he doesn’t threaten he just kills. His was an excellent casting choice. Tom Taylor plays Jake, the protagonist boy the film revolves around. He has done scattered tv but a lot when you consider his young age. All three were fine casting choices and serve the film well.

This film is based on a 8 book series by Stephen King of the same title. I have not read any of them but I loved this movie. The story is as follows: Jake sees things and sketches them. He gets flack from his stepfather and kids at school for being a geek and a weirdo. He sees a tower at the center of the universe that protects us from all evil, a man in black who is attempting to destroy the tower through clairvoyant children he abducts through portals, and a gunslinger who protects the tower. When the evil beings that work for the man in black come for Jake, he escapes into a portal, meets the gunslinger and they are forced into a battle for everything good against evil.

I really enjoyed this film. That may be because I have read a lot of Stephen King’s novels so I know his hip writing style. This is a fantasy film that weaves in and out of the real world. You can’t try to make sense of the fantasy part because it’s inside King’s head. I for one enjoy going in there. I think to enjoy this film you must first surrender and expect nothing. That way, the exciting cgi monsters and action scenes will have their intended impact. If you compare it to any other film, you’ll be disappointed. It is simple and perhaps could have been more elaborate through 2 films, after all it is based on 8 books. Still, its simplicity makes it accessible.

I had a great evening at the movies taking this adventure portal. I recommend the ride to you!

9/10


My review Review: The Fantasy and Adventure Success of ‘The Dark Tower’ appeared first on Riley on Film.

Final Girl

Something different for the girl-kicks-ass genre.

Some movies give you backstory. Others expect you to fill in the blanks of why, when, and how. The truth is, “The Final Girl” doesn’t need much backstory, it starts with the action right away.

Final Girl (2015)
Cast
Abigail Breslin

as Veronica

Wes Bentley

as William

Logan Huffman

as Danny

Directed by
Tyler Shields
Written by
Adam Prince, Stephen Scarlata, Alejandro Seri, Johnny Silver
Other Info

Action, Drama, Horror
Rated R
1h 30min

I love low budget, simple, action-filled horror films like this. The story may not be plausible but you get what they are trying to do. It’s something about vengeance and something about victory … good triumphing over evil.

Abigail Breslin has truly grown up and shows how she can act and fight in her role as Veronica. I loved her in “Signs” as a little one and more recently in “Maggie.” She played a zombie great in that. She’s one to watch! The story consists of a group of popular scumbags in high school who “hunt girls.” I mean that literally, not that they are ferociously seeking sex. A man loses his wife and daughter to them and decides to train a young girl to defeat these truly evil and disturbed young men.

Most the action is at night. It unfolds more or less as you would expect. Like a james bond movie, it’s fun to see Veronica use her techniques in the real arena. For those who dig girl-kick-ass films, this is right up your alley. I loved every minute of it. It is simple, cool, hip, a little scary, and full of vengeance. How can you NOT like a movie with all that in it? This is a perfect movie, I highly recommend it.


My review Final Girl appeared first on Riley on Film.

Krampus

“You better watch out.”

A lot of kids beg their parents to watch horror. You can’t protect your kids from everything. I’d say let your guard down with this one. It received a pg-13 rating but I think kids 10 and up (who are over the Santa Claus thing, otherwise there may be all sorts of confusion) will have a rock and rolling time.

Krampus (2015)
Cast
Adam Scott

as Tony Engel

Toni Collette

as Sarah Engel

David Koechner

as Howard

Directed by
Michael Dougherty
Written by
Todd Casey, Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields
Other Info

Comedy, Fantasy, Horror
Rated PG-13
1h 38min

There are some really scary scenes but if you talk about it with your kids, they should get a kick out of it. “Krampus” is also a film for grownups. Fans of straight up horror may be put off by the juxtaposition of comedy, but for those wanting something sarcastic and quite different in horror, this is a good one to see.

Rotten Tomatoes didn’t like this film much. What that means s, a compendium of critics’ ratings averaged out below 67%. That almost kept me away from this film. I’m glad I persisted and saw it, despite the critics. It was a lot of fun!

I wouldn’t call this film horror. It could better be described as a Christmas comedy like “Home Alone” with horror conventions. If that sounds good to you, you have to go see this film. It starts out with all the trappings of a John Hughes film and then busts out with amoral killing, blood, guts, and even a doll that resemble sthe one from “Saw.”

The Krampus christmas devil is not new. From what I can gather, the mythology has been around for centuries. Apparently the Christmas devil will come visit you if you renounce Christmas and good will toward men. I think it’s hilarious how they took this story and made it into an instant Christmas classic. I’m a teacher of 28 ten year olds and I asked for a show of hands yesterday of how many kids had seen “Krampus.” The tally was: 28/28. Sometime old fogies on Rotten Tomatoes measure a film by tradition values and trends. One shouldn’t do that with Krampus. It will be on my Christmas viewing list for sure along with “A Christmas Story,” “Nacho Libre,” “A Miracle of 34th Street,” and “A Christmas Carol.”

As an aside, I’ll be pulling back from using Rotten Tomatoes as a first line impression of movies I am curious about. I think what’s happening is a lot of movies are not me seen by yours truly due to a low score with the critics. Sure, you take a chance not reading a rating for a movie but at the same time, that rating can act as a sort of brainwashing, a muddying of the waters that are your views about the movies. I’ve loved RT for years and I still do in a way but my usage is now going to be far less. Now, go rent Krampus and have some scary laughs >:) I gave it 5/5 stars because it is exactly what it advertises to be and I love movies that are true to themselves that way.


My review Krampus appeared first on Riley on Film.

Okja (2017)

Very weird but very sad film about pigs, well something they call pigs but are much larger and have a different snout. It’s also about the food industry, GMO, and the evils food corporations do to livestock.

Okja (2017)
TV-MA | 2h | Action, Adventure, Drama | 28 June 2017 (USA)

Meet Mija, a young girl who risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend – a fascinating animal named Okja.
Director: Joon-ho Bong (as Bong Joon Ho)
Writers: Joon-ho Bong (screenplay) (as Bong Joon Ho), Jon Ronson (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Seo-Hyun Ahn

The fact that this is a Netflix movie belies the amazing cgi of Okja. He resembles a baby elephant in his skin and size. The interaction he has with the little girl is mesmerizing. 

My favorite performance is from Jake Gyllenhaal. He plays a tv cooking show personality who the leader of the company (Tilda Swinton) tries to put on tv to make him the “face of the company.” 

You have a little chasing, a lot of jokes, some touching moments and plan on feeling some outrage when you see the way we do things in the food industry. At times it suffers from going too fast and not slowing down to develop characters enough but I ser very little to criticize about this film.

For an incredible movie experience, check this one out on Netflix streaming.

9/10


My review Okja (2017) appeared first on Riley on Film.

Colossal (2016)

Codependency in relationships, jealousy from childhood friends, the empowerment of women, alcoholism, and Japanese monster movies, these are what the film Colossal works with as its palette. It is definitely a unique way of presenting these tried and true, effective themes in a movie. The writer/director relates them all together to make his statement in a convincing and effective way.

Colossal (2016)
R | 1h 49min | Action, Comedy, Drama | 21 April 2017 (Canada)

Gloria is an out-of-work party girl forced to leave her life in New York City, and move back home. When reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, she gradually comes to the realization that she is somehow connected to this phenomenon.
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Writer: Nacho Vigalondo
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell

Writing and directing here is Nacho Vigalondo. He is a Spanish actor/director/writer born in 1977 with 21 directing credits to his name. The only really large scale American film is this one but he did direct a V / H / S sequel (oh my). At any rate, I get the feeling he may be better at the feel of Spanish culture movie than an American one. There are times the bar seems unreal and non-relatable. Beyond that, you have the two themes of Japanese monster movie culture and a city park in America at play and I’m not sure if he was mimicking rather than calling upon first-hand experiences. I will be looking for something more amazing from him in the future because I like horror and I like quirky yet visionary story-lines like this one.

Anne Hathaway does a pretty good job in this, though I found her at times to be “playing” an alcoholic rather than being damaged as one in real life. Maybe a grittier actress would have worked better. She does a good job however as a voice for women who are abused emotionally and physically in relationships which helps the strange metaphor of this film across to make a statement. I like her in everything she does, I just question the megastar being cast in a film such as this. She seems to pampered and that gets in the way for the message here I think. Jason Sudeikis is truly scary in this which is weird. He’s always such a buffoon. I think his childhood role and the adult bar owner role fit together seamlessly. It was interesting seeing him in a serious role and he worked with the story.

The story here is that a woman, recently out of an abusive relationship, winds up somehow back in her small hometown where she discovers an old friend and some strange happenings. Namely, when she drinks heavily and blacks out, her actions seem to be in exact parallel to a real life Godzilla-type monster in Seoul Korea. She sees the damage on CNN. Through trial and error she finds ways to avoid innocent bloodshed but her bar owning lifelong friend wants to show that he is pretty colossal as well and gets access to the same power.Like many metaphorical films, it ends open. We must decide for ourselves what really happened here. That left me feeling a bot cheated but also challenged to come up with my own meanings and conclusions which I think is the director’s intent. If you want a simple, thinking movie to talk about afterward with a good friend, this one’s for you. It isn’t horror or monster though, be forewarned. More of a drama about the abuse women suffer from men an how alcoholism is used as a crutch to avoid making something out of your life. Don’t expect monsters but rather an artsy, interesting film.

8/10

You can rent or buy this title now streaming on Amazon Video.


My review Colossal (2016) appeared first on Riley on Film.

Silver Bullet (1985)

This was a post I did for Darren and Movierob‘s blogathon a couple years ago. You might say it was when I started getting serious about reviewing films on my blog.

People in their teens and twenties might find it hard to believe that there were werewolf movies prior to “Twilight.” Probably the most outlandish of which is “An American Werewolf in London.”

This post was my entry to a Halloween “Kingathon” blog challenge, published first there.

If you’re a horror fan who hasn’t seen it yet, you should. It’s comedic irony in a horror film like no other film. “Silver Bullet” is another werewolf film that has been lost on a new generation. I was 10 in 1980 and watched whatever I could of Stephen king movies all through the decade. “Silver Bullet” is horror with an Americana feel to it. King created a solid story here that has stood the test of time for me. Watching it 30 years later, I still hid my eyes a few times, remember terrified sleepovers of my youth in front of the tv.

The plot is fairly simple but that works well for the film. A werewolf brings terror down on a smalltown American city. The protagonist is Marty, a paralyzed boy confined to a wheelchair. The other two main characters beside Marty are his sister and uncle. They don’t believe what he is telling them about the horror he sees. Along the way you get smalltown diners, 80’s decorated homes, picnics, and scary legends coming to life before your eyes. All people around my age must remember the motorcycle wheelchair. Yes, that was something to behold! Most all of King’s movies have somewhat of a sing song vibe to them, “The Shining” being an exception. I remember reading “The Stand” and “Firestarter” in high school and there were pages devoted to oldies tunes. King has a talent for making singsong wholesome images terrifying. Silver Bullet follows right along in that style of his.

A character worth noting is Marty’s uncle, played by the indefatigable Gary Busey. He is pure fun to watch on screen. When I see him in movies like this or “the Buddy Holly Story” I can’t help but wonder if the character was written just for him. He has an attitude in real life that shows through in most of his characters. When facing a werewolf, you definitely want Busey with you. In the interest of preventing spoilers I won’t go into too much plot detail. Suffice it to say, “Silver Bullet” is a well-crafted movie adapted from an amazing story by an established and world famous horror writer. It reminds me of the 80’s in its purity and innocence. Even though it is a bit singsong at times with its focus on an American town, it pulls no punches for being a frightening movie including clever effects. Every time I watch it I see something more. The werewolf movie genre may have evolved since the 80’s but we can always travel back and get a glimpse of what it was with “Silver Bullet.”


My review Silver Bullet (1985) appeared first on Riley on Film.

Ant-Man (2015)

Paul Rudd’s personality works great here in his interpretation of the ant sized superhero. There’s a great villain and the story is both exciting and a science field trip through the atom and back. In short, it works!

Ant-Man (2015)
PG-13 | 1h 57min | Action, Adventure, Comedy | 17 July 2015 (USA)

Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.
Director: Peyton Reed
Writers: Edgar Wright (screenplay), Joe Cornish (screenplay) | 7 more credits »
Stars: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll

In 2015, humor was lacking in some Marvel films. Ant-Man stands out that way. Written by Baby Driver’s creator Edgar Wright It’s a different perspective for sure on what is cool and humorous. One of the best things about this film is it keeps us wondering what the world looks like from another point of view. In this case, it’s quite the small one, smaller in fact than an ant. There’s a love interest and a villain, a few other token aspects of a superhero film. But all that is pale in comparison to this, well, small feature of the film.

The suit is the property of an inventor who can no longer use it. (Michael Douglas) The inventor’s daughter, played by Evangeline Lily, is working with her father to get Paul Rudd to use the suit and further the dream of an Ant Man.

There’s a lot being said here about how big we think we are. Maybe if we see ourselves as so big, we can be foiled by an ant sized creature. It gets you thinking about the power of small things. For a lot of fun, big and small, check this one out. I recommend it to superhero fans.

9/10


My review Ant-Man (2015) appeared first on Riley on Film.

Avoiding Procrustes’ Bed

IMG_2454.JPG
If you haven’t heard the myth of Procrustes and his bed, it’s the story of a man who invited weary travelers to lay in his guest bed. Once in, if they were too tall he lopped off their feet and if too short, he’d stretch them to fit. Horrifying I know and yet aren’t we as educators often guilty of trying to get our students to “fit” the curriculum?

One really simple way to avoid this is to make a point and recognize the strengths of our underachievers. Those that don’t “fit” have other talents, why not put a spotlight on them more often. It’s difficult to regularly do this but if we don’t, we are guilty of the same horrors as Procrustes. I challenge you teachers to recognize students that don’t fit in the same paradigm of achievement as the mainstream. In doing so, you help make the world a much more dynamic and interesting place. What’s more? You save lives of those kids who don’t fit in the academic constraints assigned by politics.

The post Avoiding Procrustes’ Bed appeared first on Dynamite Lesson Plan.

Dunkirk (2017)

“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” -Winston Churchill

Listen to me read this post at my podcast The DRP.

Dunkirk (2017)
PG-13 | 1h 46min | Action, Drama, History | 21 July 2017 (USA)

Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard

This film shines a light on the bravery and brotherhood of England through the plight of the evacuation of the beach at Dunkirk. 400,000 troops were stranded on that beach and the country’s civilian boatsmen and other resources came together to get them home. There is a strong sense of partiotism on the part of the British, as an American, I found myself proud to know some Brits. The film doesn’t attempt to bring in other countries in its intended patriotism because it’s British history plain and simple. I for one enjoyed the story but I can see how some may be put off by it, especially any French in the audience. The French character is not held in high esteem. This IS offset a bit at the end when Kenneth Branagh’s character, a British general, says he will stay until the French are safely evacuated.

Director Christopher Nolan has carved his name in Hollywood with films like The Dark Knight and Inception. I don’t feel the need to list all twenty something of his films here, they are likely to be common knowledge with a movie reviewing audience. He has set himself apart as a master of visuals. I have not found his characters to equal that. The reason that’s okay is because of the type of films he makes. They are not developed with colorful and/or deep characters. He tells a story through visuals and effects. His camera angles and panoramas are also second to none. He is often compared to Stanley Kubrick this way. I would agree but in the same breath I would say that Dunkirk is not the film that stands as his “Magnum Opus” as many reviewers are saying. It has very little depth in the way of character development. It’s like a game board in the game of war and the pieces are shown up close. Unfortunately we don’t ever get to see what they are thinking on that war board. Visually, this work is stunning, as a universal window into what happened to those men, it comes up short. I imagine Brits will argue it’s simply a snapshot of an event and because they are proud of it, it is done well. On the other hand, I feel it could have been done better if we had a lens character like Schindler or Private Ryan that helped us interpret what was happening then mentally and in the personal relationships.

There isn’t much to note in the cast. It is a cast of thousands though, I will say that. It has a lot of recognizable superstar faces. Unfortunately, none of those it greatly developed. I do like the Tom Hardy sub-plot, there is some development there. Mark Rylance also delivers a stunning performance as one of the boater rescuers. Personally, I would have liked a few side stories and people in them to be developed more. I think that would have helped me on the “ride” that is this film. We are set among the soldiers in graphic and breathtaking ways but we seldom get inside their heads and hearts which I think is the key to telling a difficult and graphic story. I think some people will find the movie boring because it looks like really cool plane fights and such but is without identification with the human struggle here. The teenage and early 20-somethings are buying tickets to see Harry Stiles, the former One Direction boy band singer. He’s had plenty of success since the boy band and now he can add being in a successful Christopher Nolan film. I’m curious what those young people actually thought of the film. Stiles himself has more lines than most. One I recall vividly was when he exits the rescue boat and says, “That man didn’t even look us in the eye.” When in fact, they man was blind. I didn’t really understand the significance of this except to show the ornery youthful attitude of characters in the war like Stiles was portraying. There are no long lines. In fact, I think the Churchill quote at the top of my review is the longest running set of sentences in the film. I do question why it was directed that way. I wanted more human connection, more of a script. Again, the visuals were incredible but I wanted to get at the heart of what was happening.

It is non-linear in its telling, which I hate. I don’t like it in novels and certainly not in films. I like things explained with subtitles like: “2 days earlier.” We are not given those so it is a bit of a chore figuring out which ship is sinking and is it that ship that is now sailing with the oily chaps aboard, clean? This is a personal preference. If you like war movies, this is a must see. I recently saw Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan which is very graphic and I can say this one is not as bad at that but the excitement and tender human parts are similar. They both demonstrate the good humans can do even in the throes of evil war. I was a bit underwhelmed here. For fans of Nolan’s work, I recommend it of course, his camera work is incredible. You’ll never see a better war visually on screen. It’s a generally good story, based on true events which I know audiences tend to enjoy so I give it a good recommendation to you. More memorable characters and the development of those characters would have made it much better for me. People with British patriotism and a true affinity for Nolan’s work will not be disappointed. My hope is for a better one from Nolan in his next film.

7/10


My review Dunkirk (2017) appeared first on Riley on Film.

Brick (2005)

Brick is an exciting noir film about an innocent guy who falls into the drug culture in the suburbs, by the sea no less. It is shot entirely in San Clemente, California and really provides an experience of how the area looks and feels. I know because, just like director Roan Johnson, I grew up there! This is my contribution to MovieRob‘s Genre Grandeur topic of Film Noir Movies chosen by Ghezal of Ghezal Plus Movies.

Brick (2005)
R | 1h 50min | Action, Crime, Drama | 14 April 2006 (USA)

A teenage loner pushes his way into the underworld of a high school crime ring to investigate the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend.
Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lukas Haas, Emilie de Ravin

Joseph Gordon Levitt is Brendan, a half-wit drug dealer who when we start isn’t dealing but later reveals he was. Because of his history, he is a narc for the “AP” (Richard Roundtree) who seems to enjoy threatening high school students to get information though he never takes any action with that information. Brendan is seeking vengeance against the murderous kid(s) who killed his girlfriend and dumped her body in a creek. He discovers a crime ring of heroin and seeks to continue his search working with them. He finds out her druggie boyfriend was going to be with her even though she was already pregnant and the inference is that the baby is Brendan’s. There is a new girl that comes into the picture and a lot of punches in the face, cars threatening to hit Brendan and at the last-minute swerving.

I think to see the novelty of this film, you need to realize that these kids are far too organized for high school students. We can piece together here and there why each does what he/she does but there isn’t much help from the film. From what I’ve read, Brick has become almost cult status. I have to respect that but for me, it was a “made by kids” film. Kids can do a lot but when they grow up they make films like Looper, also by Rian, that blow grownups away. I loved Looper and plan to review it in the next couple of days since I watched it for the podcast. I applaud Rian for what he’s done but most of all for getting a career such as his in movies after getting out of the maelstrom of growing up “rich” in Orange County. Some do not make it out alive. Brick is a fun piece of film Noir. I’m glad it catapulted Rian Johnson as far as it has. I recommend this one as a sleepy noir serious film with some comedy.

7/10


My review Brick (2005) appeared first on Riley on Film.