The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)

If horror films are meant to shake you out of your comfort zone, this one definitely qualifies. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense though and that’s a pity because some movie goers like sense.

The Blackcoat's Daughter

The Blackcoat’s Daughter

“Two girls must battle a mysterious evil force when they get left behind at their boarding school over winter break.” -IMDB

Cast

Emma Roberts Joan
Kiernan Shipka Kat
Lucy Boynton Rose
Lauren Holly Linda

Directed by

Oz Perkins

Written by

Oz Perkins

Other Info

Horror, Thriller
R
Fri 14 Oct 2016 UTC
93min
IMDB Rating: 5.6

Imagine a director capable of creating Secretary and Legally Blonde. Were there ever any films so different? He meshes the two in a way with this film, combining horror with young college girl challenges.
Emma Roberts and Lucy Boynton plpay opposing roles and they do a spectacular job. The whole world fell in love with Boynton in Sing Street. The other had lesser parts in Aquamarine the series and Nerve. Their lovely faces are part of what makes this film so entrancing. It helps you weather the mystery, enjoying their performances.

These girls are at a boarding school at end of term. They seem to have been forgotten by their parents. Meanwhile, the priests and nun’s appear of a certain evil. There is a pan away set of scenes with another girl whose identity is unknown. The spanse of the film consists of figuring our what the hell is going on. Some would say we di in the end, I might question that.

I’ve never been big fan of non-linear stories. I like it when there is a little at the beginning or end but not throughout. I sense that’s what’s going on here. How can you interpret what people do if they may be in the past or future? It’s quite frustrating at times. What I do like here is the darkness and shadowed images. These actors do a great job and the screen is full of fearful scenes. What can make these characters do evil acts? We are left to figure that out for ourselves. Lots is left to the imagination. So,e may find that appealing. In this case, I saw that as a detractor to its quality.

FINAL THOUGHTS
We may not have to understand the killer completely but a few clues as to his/her motives help with the scares. A dark movie visually is more scary when the content is understandable dark and mysterious. This film doesn’t make it entirely clear why people do the things they do, even kill. For the mood and horror feel, I give it props but for lacking sensibility even on a low level, it lost points with me. I would recommend it to those who don’t require a lot to be explained in films.

6/10


My review The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015) appeared first on Riley on Film.

Pet (2016)

Kidnapping and caging a woman may be fine and dandy in a BDSM play ritual, like perhaps in Fifty Shades of Grey, but in this film it’s not asked for or welcomed and that’s a horror most people can’t imagine.

Pet

Pet

“A psychological thriller about a man who bumps into an old crush and subsequently becomes obsessed with her…” -IMDB

Cast

Dominic Monaghan Seth
Ksenia Solo Holly
Jennette McCurdy Claire
Da’Vone McDonald Nate

Directed by

Carles Torrens

Written by

Jeremy Slater

Other Info

Horror, Thriller
R
Fri 02 Dec 2016 UTC
94min
IMDB Rating: 5.7

Pet isn’t the best thriller of 2016. I’ll venture to say 10 Cloverfield Lane is that. But it has its moments and if nothing else, you wonder what such a stupid psycho killer will do next. Since this film is still quite new, I won’t engage in spoiling the twist. Suffice it to say, I saw it coming. The film does raise the interesting and creepy question as to whether you or I could handle this sort of entrapment and confinement. What lengths would we go to to be set free?

Dominic Monaghan (Lost) plays the “touched” psychopath well. He’s an animal control officer by day which is rather fitting since he’s a killer in his off hours as well. But this movie isn’t about killing so much, it’s about confining someone, holding them against their will. If you’re like me, that’s a quite uncomfortable notion. This film definitely makes you feel discomfort all throughout. Is the end satisfying or mundane and noncreative? You be the judge and then let me know in the comments.

FINAL THOUGHTS
In the final analysis, this is not an amazing piece of craftmanship. We see a lot of tired conventions seen in prior thrillers. You might be tempted to yell at the screen to help avoid a few times but it probably won’t work. Despite the weak script and tired conventions, the raw fear of being detained against your will is what makes this film worth watching. That is such a scary prospect for most people, I think the film would work regardless of any flaws. The question is: does it work in an amazing way I feel like writing more that 355 words about? No. I recommend it for a light hearted scare/thrill.

6/10


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

Movie Review: ‘E.T. The Extra Terrestrial’

ET might as well be subtitled ‘A Gen-X childhood.’ Those of us who were around age 10 in 1980 received this film that was aimed right where we live.

img_0633-2

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
Cast

Dee Wallace, Henry Thomas, Peter Coyote

Directed by

Steven Spielberg

Written by

Melissa Mathison

Other Info

Family, Sci-Fi
Rated PG
115min

Suburbs had been a thing in the 60’s and 70’s but they were blooming all over the American map in the 80’s. ET isn’t the only film from that decade that features them prominently. They are still very much with us today but there was rarely a time when new suburban plots and neighborhoods reminded so many people in America of home. The alien named ET is the interloper who walks across the suburban threshold and gives us an accounting of what we’ve done and where we’re headed. There is also a part of ET that will always appeal to any child. He is the little green man with magical powers that all the kids want face time with. He’s the pet on the street that every kids wants until the next cute one comes along.

ET came on the heels of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I remember seeing ads, on paper, that described what the film was going to be about. It explained the meaning of the term ET “Extra Terrestrial.” A creature from a place other than Earth. There was no photo but I think his green finger was pointing. This built incredible suspense or me at that age about a mysterious creature that Steven Spielberg was going to show us.

When the film starts out, we are in a tract home kitchen. There are Mexican designs like stucco visible but it might as well be a cookie cutter copy of what most American kids recognized as home. The kids are playing a board game and a single mother is supplying them with munchies, a pizza is on the way. This could not be more Americana, to me anyway. What makes it even more close to home for me is the way the mother (Dee Wallace) is a real estate agent. My dad was a real estate agent most of my young life in an Orange County city called “Mission Viejo.” It looks almost identical to the town in this film.

There is a little sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and an older brother Mike. Elliot is the middle child who makes the strongest connection with the alien. One night, after being left behind by his ship, ET is discovered by Elliot and that’s where the meter play begins. We get an other-worldly look at ourselves as earthlings through the eyes of this alien called ET.

Spielberg has been making movies that do this for decades. If you recall Back to the Future and the way it took us on a ride back to our childhoods to observe the choices the characters made and how they affected their future. Wouldn’t it be grand to go back and change things? I think it’s a very human thing to wonder that and therefore Spielberg’s film appeals to many. ET has a conflict with grow ups (who might report him to the authorities) and the government, NASA to be specific. In the film, I think Spielberg is showing us about ourselves and the way we want to conquer and own something alien rather than respect and learn from it.

There’s a hypnotic effect that comes from scenes with ET. He is such a creative figure. I heard that Spielberg wanted to make a creature that appeared ugly but would still be endeared to children and adults because of his mannerisms and actions. For many years after the film was released, there were ET shirts and toys selling off the shelves. Watching ET, especially in the final scenes, almost puts me in a trance every time I watch it. He gives the film a dreamy aesthetic that evokes wonder without fear.

I remember the Halloween scene so well because it reminded me of when I would go trick or treating. ET is still being hidden from the mother but the kids pull it off by pretending he’s Gertie dressed up like a ghost in a sheet. He is about her height. To me, this movie is more of a flashback to my childhood than a move plot to be reviewed. I would recommend it to any human as a heartwarming film about childhood. At the same time, know that it is a little sing-song and certainly there is no intense action or definitely no horror. This is a family film with enough of an edge to keep it highly suspenseful and engaging. It has the fingerprint of its household name producer on it for sure. As a classic film of all time, I highly recommend it to you.


My review Movie Review: ‘E.T. The Extra Terrestrial’ appeared first on Riley on Film.

Miss Sloane (2016)

Jessica Chastain has made a string of amazing films lately. I just reviewed her most recent one, The Zookeeper’s Wife. She is getting to be a sure bet when it comes to choosing a film to watch. This one is no exception.

Director John Madden is known for Shakespeare in Love (1998), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) and The Debt (2010). These are all powerful films in their own right. This story needed him to direct it because it is a larger than life story with powerful implications to women.

Jessica Chastain plays Elizabeth Sloane, a rough and tough female lobbyist who gives the “good old boys” of Washington a run for their money. She plays the tough woman well though it isn’t always the one we see her cast in.

The story goes like this: Miss Sloane will do whatever she needs to get the deal to go down. This is not different from a lot of legal and political dramas we’ve seen over the years. What makes it different is that she is just like the male stereotype in the field, even keeping her own male prostitute after a long hard day.

FINAL THOUGHTS
This is a compelling film to watch that never left me bored. Some of her consequences are predictable but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy watching them play out. How hard can one go until one blows a gasket mentally? Miss Sloane is representative of women who have become like the traditional “Alpha Male” and we certainly don’t begrudge them the right to. Whether it’s the best option as a career is an interesting topic for discussion. I heartily recommend this to keep you on the edge of your seat.

9/10


My review Miss Sloane (2016) appeared first on Riley on Film

Snatch (2000)

All style but how much substance? This is a funny show filled with British humor. It works as a hip, cool piece of film but it lacks the sort of character development I like to see in crime films. I like to laugh at films like this but I also want to care what happens to people, In this film, that didn’t happen for me.

Snatch

Snatch

“Unscrupulous boxing promoters, violent bookmakers, a Russian gangster, incompetent amateur robbers, and supposedly Jewish jewelers fight to track down a priceless stolen diamond.” -IMDB

Cast

Jason Statham Turkish
Brad Pitt Mickey O’Neil
Benicio Del Toro Franky Four Fingers
Dennis Farina Cousin Avi

Directed by

Guy Ritchie

Written by

Guy Ritchie

Other Info

Comedy, Crime
R
Fri 19 Jan 2001 UTC
102min
IMDB Rating: 8.3

Guy Ritchie the director is concerned with the look and style of films. I will acquiesce and admit that his films look amazing. The question for me is whether the look and style of a film is more important than developing characters you can recognize and feel like you know. Even in comedy films, this makes the movie experience better in my opinion.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I really enjoyed this film but the same gags and stylistic effects keep barraging throughout. I’m like to see a film like this but with some characterization and dialog that holds my interest. In closing I want to comment on Brad Pitt’s character. He is completely indecipherable. I’ve had Irish people tell me it isn’t a dialect. It’s something strange he and Guy Ritchie came up with I suppose. I’m sorry I can’t recommend this one but I do know a lot of people who are smarter than me would.

5/10


My review Snatch (2000) appeared first on Riley on Film.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

This is the highest earning film to date for director Quentin Tarantino. There is a good reason for that: it’s a lot of fun to watch!

Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction

“The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster’s wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.” -IMDB

Cast

John Travolta Vincent Vega
Uma Thurman Mia Wallace
Samuel L. Jackson Jules Winnfield
Bruce Willis Butch Coolidge

Directed by

Quentin Tarantino

Written by

Quentin Tarantino, Roger Avary

Other Info

Crime, Drama
R
Fri 14 Oct 1994 UTC
154min
IMDB Rating: 8.9

Minor plot spoilers ahead:

This film’s plot consists of 4 stories that intertwine. My favorite one features Bruce Willis and Ving Rhames. They start off under the auspices of Rhames’ character, a mob bookie, ordering Willis, whose character is a fighter, to throw a fight. When the fighter wins anyway and runs off with bet money, Rhames starts tracking him. What happens later concerns them both randomly being captured in a gun shop. Rejects in the basement attempt to rape the 2 men. It twists the situation to where they have a common enemy and it works when Willis escapes and kills the sickos. If you’ve seen this, how messed up is the “Gimp?”

The film is outrageous in so many ways. There are hitmen, drug addicts, drug pushers, and outlandish characters in every scene. The techniques of filmmaking that Tarantino showed us in his early films, like Reservoir Dogs, are all there and they work wonderfully.

FINAL THOUGHTS
For me, this stands out as his best. He had a big idea and used well crafted techniques to make this film. I think the characters are bigger than life and aren’t meant to be realistic. They are comic-book-like. There is some violence but most occurs off screen. I highly recommend this, but still I caution some may be offended and the profanity and violence. Give it a chance I say!

8/10


My review Pulp Fiction (1994) appeared first on Riley on Film.

Designated Survivor (2016)

Keifer Sutherland stars in a new series that may prove quite interesting. Since it’s a story about a lower member of government taking over as President is raises a lot of questions about politics. Besides that, it’s exciting.

Designated Survivor

Designated Survivor

“A low-level Cabinet member becomes President of the United States after a catastrophic attack kills everyone above him in the Presidential line of succession.” -IMDB

Cast

Kiefer Sutherland Tom Kirkman (22 episodes, 2016-2017)
Natascha McElhone Alex Kirkman (22 episodes, 2016-2017)
Adan Canto Aaron Shore (22 episodes, 2016-2017)
Italia Ricci Emily Rhodes (22 episodes, 2016-2017)

Directed by
Written by

David Guggenheim

Other Info

Drama, Thriller
TV-14
2016
60min
IMDB Rating: 8.0

Apparently there is something in the laws of government in the USA that has a designated survivor in a certain remote location during the State of the Union Speech. Sutherland is in that place when the white house is bombed. The premise of the show is that he assumes leadership of the country that night.

It’s weird how quickly everyone in the White House accepts him as the new President. Immediately they address him as such. There are some characters in the story who are not behind him though, specifically the military general. This makes for good drama, Sutherland does a good job being statesmanlike and making tough choices immediately on short notice.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I probably won’t be watching this show, despite the fact that it seems well made. I’m not a fact of political dramas. I would recommend to those who are though. I think it has a lot to offer in that genre.

7/10


My review Designated Survivor (2016) appeared first on Riley on Film.

Cafe Society (2016)

Romance, unrequited love, Hollywood, comedy, all this and more in Woody Allen’s latest flick.

Café Society

Café Society

“In the 1930s, a Bronx native moves to Hollywood and falls in love with a young woman who is seeing a married man.” -IMDB

Cast

Jesse Eisenberg Bobby
Kristen Stewart Vonnie
Steve Carell Phil Stern
Blake Lively Veronica

Directed by

Woody Allen

Written by

Woody Allen

Other Info

Comedy, Drama, Romance
PG-13
Fri 05 Aug 2016 UTC
96min
IMDB Rating: 6.7

Allen does a pretty great job with this light romance set in 1930’s Hollywood. Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart play the central couple playing “push pull” as he falls in love with her and she is in love with a married man, played by Steve Carell.

I really enjoyed the sets, scenery, and authentic wardrobe. If nothing else, the film puts you in a trance with those things. The story and acting are not much different from what we’ve come to expect from Allen. Still, it’s all enjoyable and there are highs and lows that keep one titillated.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Fans of Woody Allen films will enjoy this as it is true to formula. There is a couple and tension is visited upon them. In this case it’s up to us to guess which of the lovers is more foolish. I was just glad to see Allen put something out in 2016. I have to admit, I’m an almost unconditional fan of his work. Notwithstanding, this film is empirically good as a light romance period piece and I recommend it!

8/10


My review Cafe Society (2016) appeared first on Riley on Film.

Pollock (2000)

Jackson Pollock was an American painter with a very eccentric personality. This film is his story. It has great acting and realistic, interesting story about how his odd pieces of art made it into the textbooks.

Pollock

Pollock

“A film about the life and career of the American painter, Jackson Pollock.” -IMDB

Cast

Ed Harris Jackson Pollock
Marcia Gay Harden Lee Krasner
Robert Knott Sande Pollock
Molly Regan Arloie Pollock

Directed by

Ed Harris

Written by

Steven Naifeh, Gregory White Smith

Other Info

Biography, Drama
R
Fri 23 Mar 2001 UTC
122min
IMDB Rating: 7.0

Ed Harris plays Jackson Pollock and also carries the job of director. I usually don’t care for films where the lead actor directs himself because I think it comes off as self serving. That’s not the case here. Harris presents to us a vivid story with vibrant characters and a thought-provoking script. Some may be put off by a slow pace at times. Not all scenes seem to fit together as important. Nonetheless, I found it enjoyable and entrancing.

Besides great directing and acting, there is a mesmerizing musical score in this film. It weaves in and out of the film and adds a lot of color to what’s happening. The film tells the story of Jackson Pollock and carries it through nine years to show how he achieved success and the effects of that success on his relationship and mental health. Pollock is well known for a type of painting that looks simply like splattered brushes across a canvas. This film helps show how he is much more of a painter than that and there is much more to his art.

FINAL THOUGHTS
The theme of art and a strong, alluring musical score make this a winner with me. Would you like to get a peek into the mind of an incredible artist? This film allows you that. For fans of art and art history around the time of Pollock, I highly recommend this film.

8/10

 


My review Pollock (2000) appeared first on Riley on Film.

The Cell (2000)

Looking back at J Lo in this reveals and/or reminds the appeal she had even in 2000. She’s a detective out to catch a serial killer and he is quite elusive indeed.

The Cell

The Cell

“An FBI agent persuades a social worker, who is adept with a new experimental technology, to enter the mind of a comatose serial killer in order to learn where he has hidden his latest kidnap victim.” -IMDB

Cast

Jennifer Lopez Catherine Deane
Vince Vaughn Peter Novak
Vincent D’Onofrio Carl Stargher
Colton James Edward Baines

Directed by

Tarsem Singh

Written by

Mark Protosevich

Other Info

Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
R
Fri 18 Aug 2000 UTC
107min
IMDB Rating: 6.3

The most important thing to note about this film is its visuals. They are creepy at least and horrifying at most. The visuals make this more than just a serial killer cat and mouse chase. Through a new technology, we get to see inside his thoughts, even through the murders themselves.

This movie may be hard to watch for some who are not open to its avaunt garde approach. It’s surreal and not always clear as to where people are or what is really happening.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Even by today’s standards, the effects in this are stunning. The acting and stories are not the best in this genre but they aerve the story well enough to make the film a fun ride. Despite it’s few flaws, I recommend it.

8/10


My review The Cell (2000) appeared first on Riley on Film.

The Zookeeper’s Wife

This is a historical film showcasing the Warsaw Zoo that protected and hid over 500 jews during the holocaust reign of Hitler. there is excellent acting that makes an average script shine.

The Zookeeper's Wife

The Zookeeper’s Wife

“The Zookeeper’s Wife tells the account of keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, Antonina and Jan Zabinski, who helped save hundreds of people and animals during the German invasion.” -IMDB

Cast

Jessica Chastain Antonina Zabinski
Johan Heldenbergh Jan Zabinski
Daniel Brühl Lutz Heck
Timothy Radford Ryszard Zabinski (Younger)

Directed by

Niki Caro

Written by

Angela Workman, Diane Ackerman

Other Info

Biography, Drama, History, War
PG-13
Fri 07 Apr 2017 UTC
127min
IMDB Rating: 7.2

I love the scene where the Zookeper is bringing in a new Jew to the zoo and he is stopped and questioned by the Nazi police. They pass through but later on he shares with his wife he didnt know if he was going to be shot. its a powerful sequence and illustrates well what it must have been like.

To summarize this based on a true story plot, a small family run the Warsaw zoo. They get along with the animals incredibly well. Whenthe bombers of war attack, war is evident. the Zookeper and his famoly take in Jews and give them a place to be safe.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I loved the light cadence of this film. Chastain’s performance is nothing short of marvelous. The story drags a bit at the beginning but the final scenes makes it worthwhile.

7/10


My review The Zookeeper’s Wife appeared first on Riley on Film.

Talking Stars Podcast S01 E29 – ‘Christmas Movies’

This is an episode we made about Christmas movies. We hope you enjoy. Please follow our blog and podcast and leave a comment. Thank you for listening, see you at the movies in 2017! Talking Stars    

The post Talking Stars Podcast S01 E29 – ‘Christmas Movies’ appeared first on Talking Stars Podcast.

This is an episode we made about Christmas movies.

We hope you enjoy.

Please follow our blog and podcast and leave a comment.

Thank you for listening, see you at the movies in 2017!

Damien of Talking Stars

The post Talking Stars Podcast S01 E29 – ‘Christmas Movies’ appeared first on Talking Stars Podcast.

Podcast ‘Talking Stars Episode Two – 1980s Steven Spielberg’ I am co-Host

Show description by Darren Lucas of Movie Reviews 101: “Talking Stars is a new show Damien Riley and Myself are working on, this is the second episode where we talk about the films of Steven Spielberg from the 1980s.” We hope you like it!

indysnakeI have enjoyed recording the first few episodes of ‘Talking Stars’ with Darren Lucas. Every time we record one, I get a college education on what works and what I can do better in podcasting. I hope you enjoy our 2nd podcast in this season (S01 E02) where Darren and I discuss Spielberg Movies of the 1980s.

Continue reading “Podcast ‘Talking Stars Episode Two – 1980s Steven Spielberg’ I am co-Host”