Calibre, Crown Heights, I am Not Your Negro

Here are three films I recently watched. I give you a few sentences and a rating only because I’m quite behind! Brevity is the soul of wit? Enjoy.

“Calibre” is an excellent thriller. This is the kind of suspense you see in great ones like Hush or Deliverance. I give it a perfect score. 10/10

“Crown Heights” is a true story so right there you know it’s going to be good. Like so many films of our time, it shines a light on racism in the justice system. Touching, gripping, engaging. I loved it. It ends a little abruptly. 9/10

“I am not Your Negro” is a documentary adaptation of James Baldwin’s 30 pages of an unfinished book about interactions with now assassinated black leaders. Starts slow but the middle to the end is just what you need to get why blacks still say there is racism and its a real problem in our country. Show it to a stubborn conservative who thinks there are no issues. Because the message is so important and so clearly conveyed, I give it a 10/10

Vote for Cave of Forgotten Dreams, my Pick as Movie of the Month on the LAMBcast

Hi friends. Please Vote for My Pick “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” as Movie of the Month for September on the Lambcast.Scroll down for why I am asking your help!

In doing so you will not only be promoting an award-winning documentary about cave paintings and their 35,000 year history but also you can help me win and be the guest host on the LAMBcast. There will be a panel with me if I win discussing this extraordinary film. Here’s some reasons why I am passionate about this film, please go vote as soon as you can! Please share this post!

  1. In my own voice, I share my fascination with this movie:

2. The trailer: https://youtu.be/qfJfRx2IAYo

3. My Review at Riley on Film Please go VOTE for Cave of Forgotten Dreams as soon as you can! Also, can you please share with friends? I really appreciate your help with this!

Yours Truly,

Damien Riley

Best Horror Movies on Netflix as of 8/12/2018

I’ve seen all these amazing horror films. Most of them I’ve reviewed here on this blog. In general, movies usually hang around Netflix awhile so check there if you want to try some of these.

47 Meters Down
Antibirth
Backcountry
Before I Wake
Beyond the Gates
Cargo
Chernobyl Diaries
Clown
Creep
Creep 2
Curve
Evolution
House on Willow Street
Hush
Killing Ground
Let Me In
The Babadook
The Childhood of a Leader
The Conjuring
The Invitation
The Transfiguration
The Wailing
Train to Busan
Tusk
Under the Shadow
Veronica

Diabolique (1955)

Header image
An abused, neglected wife and her husband’s jaded mistress plot the perfect murder.



The biggest pat on the back for this film goes to the writers. The way the characters are developed turns the screw of intensity until finally the ending is revealed. If you haven’t seen it, let me say it is not like other endings, it is a magnificent one, set apart.

Many writers were involved in starting and completing this film. After the final scenes’ power, you will likely agree with me it shows! The director is Henri-Georges Clouzot. He is known for other intensely dark yet compelling thrillers like this one. The films he has done as listed in his IMDB bio are: “Le Corbeau and “The Wages of Fear.” I admit to not seeing these films, but I want to after seeing “Les Diabolique.” He is compared in the bio to Hitchcock except with films that “do not have as much light relief.”

Le Corbeau got Georges in a lot of trouble. The French government thought he presented France in a dark and bad light so he was banned from making films for several years. Though there are many other stories about this director, I feel that one is the most telling about his honesty and integrity as a filmmaker. Thank goodness I don’t live in a censored state like he did. I don’t think I would be able to stand for it. Inevitably, this made him tough and thoughtful about his craft.

The brutal scene pictured here is a good followup to the director who crafted this amazing film. By today’s standards, it’s tame but for 1955 it was more brutal & mysterious than Hitchcock and that’s why people still love it to this day.

This film takes place in a French boys’ school where most the characters work. The Headmaster has been cheating on his wife for years and his mistress as well as the wife, work at the school. This is where the story is told and the exquisite tension begins.

You see a far different school than ours in America today. The teachers are smoking in the presence of the students, the kids food fight regularly, although it is smart how they just don’t feed them for the malfeasance. It seems to be ameliorated the next day. Funny what a schoolmaster hunger can be right? The headmaster is a womanizer, a rapist (in theory), and an all around unlikable guy. We start to see right away he needs to be killed, or at least we hope. As the two women drive together, they discuss a plan to get rid of this guy once and for all. For all intents and purposes, it seems like a perfect plan for murder.

I want to make a comment about the practical effects. Obviously back then it was all they had to work with but they are so much fun to watch. I recently watched “Eyes Without a Face,” another classic horror, and the car scenes were so funny to me. It looks so fake and yet they probably thought it was so real for the time. The scenes in these cars are even more archaic and also more funny to me. It really shows how far we’ve come with effects. Now back to the idea of this plot, with no spoilers.

The film is black and white of course and filmed almost entirely at the house which is the school for boys. The swimming pool that is part of their plan is at the school. They do a great job distracting the viewer with activities of the children. We find that the husband/headmaster has a lot to lose if his wife divorces him. He hits her and treats her miserably. As the viewer it’s hard to not imagine killing him, he’s that bad. BUT as we all know in the civilized world, it’s never appropriate to kill someone. We watch these two women make their plans, as he equally humiliates the mistress though not as badly, and their path takes them to another location: a holiday hotel.

The little couple that manage the hotel are side-splittingly funny. They are innocents and it’s funny how people intending to kill can look at innocents with such jealousy. Once the deed is done, there’ll be no going back.

I’ll leave my summary there for you. I haven’t given anything away except the fact that there is a great ending. I would challenge you to be brave and watch this old film. It’s better than so many modern murder mysteries.  If you’ve seen it, do leave some thoughts in the comments. I enjoy discussing this and other murder mysteries in this genre. Thos eare my thoughts, what did you think of this film?

 

Insidious

This is one of my favorite horror films of all time. It still gives me the chills when I watch it and I have seen it numerous times. Director James Wan uses clever practical effects and a very minimum number of CGI effects to make this film look and feel like a house of horrors you pay a dollar to see at a spooky off-the-path carnival. It’s amazing and I recommend it to all people interested in horror. Oh, and it’s all that AND guess what it’s rated? Only PG-13. Goes to show you a film doesn’t have to be super gnarly to scare the bajeezus out of you. Let’s hear the trailer then look at the plot to see if you agree with me about what makes this horror film work.

Insidious (2010)
PG-13 | 1h 43min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller | 1 April 2011 (USA)
Insidious Poster
Trailer
0:31 | Trailer
5 VIDEOS | 25 IMAGES
Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Prime Video
A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further.
Director: James Wan
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Stars: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins

Director James Wan Probably needs no introduction to my audience, however if you don’t know much about him, let me read his BIO for you, because I think in this case, the director makes the film work (among other things):

James Wan (born 26 February 1977) is an Australian film producer, screenwriter and film director of Malaysian Chinese descent. He is widely known for directing the horror film Saw (2004) and creating Billy the puppet. Wan has also directed Dead Silence (2007), Death Sentence (2007), Insidious (2010), The Conjuring (2013) and Furious 7 (2015).

Before his success in the mainstream film industry, he made his first feature-length film, Stygian, with Shannon Young, which won “Best Guerrilla Film” at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF) in 2000.

Prior to 2003, Wan and Leigh Whannell had begun writing a script based for a horror film, citing inspiration from their dreams and fears. Upon completing the script, Leigh and James had wanted to select an excerpt from their script, later to be known as Saw (2004), and film it to pitch their film to studios. With the help of Charlie Clouser, who had composed the score for the film, and a few stand-in actors, Leigh and James shot the film with relatively no budget. Leigh had decided to star in the film as well.

After the release of the full-length Saw (2004), the film was met with overwhelming success in the box office both domestically and internationally. The film ended up grossing 55 million dollars in America, and 48 million dollars in other countries, totaling over $103 million worldwide. This was over 100 million dollars profit, over 80 times the production budget. This green-lit the sequel Saw II (2005), and later the rest of the Saw franchise based on the yearly success of the previous installment. Since its inception, Saw (2004) has become the highest grossing horror franchise of all time worldwide in unadjusted dollars. In the United States only, Saw (2004) is the second highest grossing horror franchise, behind only the Friday the 13th (1980) films by a margin of $10 million.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Movie Guy

Now let me walk you through the most terrifying house and show you the way Insidious scares the hell out of people! It’s done simply through its story and well made horror. Married couple Josh and Renai Lambert, their children Dalton, Foster, and infant daughter Cali have recently moved into a new home. One night, Dalton is drawn to the attic when he hears creaking noises and sees the door open by itself. He falls from a ladder while investigating and sees a figure in the shadows. Hearing his terrified screams, Renai and Josh rush to his aid. The next day, Dalton falls into an inexplicable coma. The Lambert family is what the beginning is all about. There are no jump scares, just some eerie wandering around. In fact, the movie only has a few scant jump scares and even those are more like letting your eyes adjust to the light and seeing something that startles you. They aren’t overly ambitious and in a way I think of them as … respectful? Yeah, it’s like Wan is respecting the viewer. In this early segment, we do see Renai walking into an attic, exploring dark areas of the house. It’s certainly creepy. I take issue with Josh at one point, he doesn’t take very good care of his wife. She has her hands full with the kids and he is always running out the door, working late, etc. Maybe he makes up for it later? Yeah, he does.

After three months of treatment without result, Renai and Josh are allowed to take Dalton home. Soon after, paranormal activity begins to occur; Renai begins hearing voices over the baby monitor when no one is in Cali’s room. Foster says that Dalton sleepwalks at night, Renai sees a frightening figure of a man in Cali’s room, who vanishes when Josh comes and the burglar alarm is repeatedly triggered for no reason. After Renai finds a bloody hand print on Dalton’s bed, she questions Josh about the house, but he ignores her. That night, Renai is attacked by the figure from Cali’s room, and the Lamberts decide to abandon the house and move elsewhere. This is pretty huge. I’m not sure if you’ve ever uprooted and moved but there is a lot to carry. Even with help, which they have hired, you’re stressing all the time, trying to get your shit moved. In short, it sucks. I hope I don’t have to move again for many many moons. But them again, these folks have a demon stalking them. If he’s in the house, they can escape, so I get why they do. Houses work to scare people. You can do so much with hinges, alarms, hideaway beds, fire escapes, cellars, attics, and the like. AND let me tell you, James Wan fucking uses the house in a way I have not seen. I got more scared by things that weren’t there than by things that surprised me were there. HIgh five on the spooky house work Mr. Wan! I recall one example vividly when the camera pans through one window showing a scary silhouette into another and the figure is gone. I would love to know how he did that. I have a feeling it was a practical non cgi effect. Mr. Wan, I’ll buy the coffee lol let’s hang dude.

In the new house, Renai sees the ghost of a dancing boy who leads her to Dalton’s room. Josh’s mother, Lorraine, visits them one day, and says she had a dream in which a dark figure in Dalton’s room replies “Dalton” when she asks what it wants. At the same time, she sees the same dark figure, a monstrous red-faced demon standing behind Josh and screams, while Dalton’s room is ransacked and Dalton himself is found lying on the floor. Lorraine is played by Barbara Hershey and her looks and moodiness is so perfect for the role. As a well known famous and award winning actress, it would be possible for her to wreck the buzz we have going in favor of thoughts about “Beaches” and Bette Midler but thanks to her incredible belief in the movie that you can feel, that doesn’t happen. Our Insidious universe is only enhanced.

Lorraine calls demonologists Elise Reiner, Specs, and Tucker. Elise senses a presence in the house and upon entering Dalton’s room sees something on the ceiling. Specs draws the demonic, red-faced figure Lorraine saw. At this point we are all in the dark about what it happening but the edges of the plot are starting to become clearer.

Elise explains that Dalton is not in a coma; he was born with the ability to travel mentally to the astral plane, and had been doing so in his sleep, believing his abilities to merely be dreams. He had traveled too far and became lost in a purgatory realm called “The Further”, a place inhabited by the tortured souls of the dead. Without his mental presence, Dalton’s body appears comatose and spirits can use it to enter the physical world. Josh is skeptical until he realizes that drawings in Dalton’s bedroom hinted at his astral projection abilities and the same red-faced demon Lorraine had seen.I’ll call him “Red.” The Red demon is no longer a mystery. He starts to be in scene after scene. He is the dude you want OUT of your home. As if it was that easy. The jump scare where a crescent sliver of his face is sticking out from Josh’s is the stuff that great horror images are made of. I am scared of this guy but I want Red to come back to send chills up my spine and he does, just enough, not too much. Again, the genius of James Wan at play.

Elise performs a seance to communicate with Dalton, but they contact the demon who uses Dalton’s body to attack them until it is stopped by Elise. Elise reveals that her acquaintance with Lorraine is decades old, because she previously performed the same service on Josh when he was eight years old. Josh was terrorized by night terrors that always included the parasitic spirit of an old woman. Lorraine dismissed his nightmares until the spirit showed up in her photos of Josh, progressively getting closer each time. Josh also possesses the ability to astral project, though he had suppressed his memory of the ability years prior with Elise’s help. Dalton has inherited this trait from him. Elise tells Josh that the only way to rescue Dalton is for him to go into the Further. This is the best part of the movie for me. The scares work because the dead and the killer are still. We do hear a gunshot but the creepy people in their living room. one ironing, others bringing food, simply remain still. The face of the female shooter is the essence of horror to me. I really love this part they call “The Further.” Again, I want to reiterate and remind you this got a PG-13 rating. I find it scarier than some R’s.

Elise puts Josh in a trance and he is able to project himself to their previous house. He goes to the attic, but is attacked by the same figure that attacked Renai. After defeating him, Josh enters the Demon’s lair, where Josh finds Dalton chained to the floor. Josh frees him, but they are caught by the demon while the spirits of the Further invade the real world and terrorize Elise, Renai, and the others. After managing to escape, Josh confronts the old woman that haunted him as a child. The old woman dissolves into darkness after Josh shouts at it to leave him alone. When Josh and Dalton return to their bodies, they wake up in their new home and the spirits seem to disappear.

As they celebrate the apparent end of their ordeal, Elise starts packing her equipment with Josh, when she senses that something is wrong, noticing Josh’s hands look old and dirty, she takes a photo of him. Josh, enraged by this, strangles Elise to death. Renai is horrified when she discovers Elise’s dead body and searches for Josh. Renai picks up the camera and sees that the image Elise took of Josh is the old woman that haunted him as a child, implying that Josh has been possessed. Josh suddenly puts his hand on her shoulder, says “Renai, I’m here”, and she turns around and gasps.

So now, we are set up for sequels and prequels which for me does not make a film work. This one works as is and I sort of wish as I do with Star Wars, they would never have made a prequel or sequel. …

Into the Inferno

Werner Herzog, is gifted and famous documentary director of films I’ve reviewed like “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.” He has a long list of directing stupendous films that have inspired audience since the 1960’s. You can more or less pick anything from his list and be totally blown away. Another one I really dig is “Grizzly Man.”

Into the Inferno (2016)
1h 44min | Documentary | 28 October 2016 (USA)

STREAMING ON NETFLIX
An exploration of active volcanoes around the world.
Director: Werner Herzog
Writer: Werner Herzog
Stars: Werner Herzog, Clive Oppenheimer, Katia Krafft

We travel from Iceland to Washington State in this film. Herzog gives plenty of raw, living lava footage to feast your wide eyes upon. He also conducts captivating interviews with people from civilizations and communities near volcanoes. It’s no surprise to me that tribes as large as the Korean people have attributed deity to these structures. All believe they take and give life.

Leave it to Herzog to give us 90 minutes of film as background for us to ponder history and our feeble existence. After watching this I felt as if my face had beheld the volcano’s fire and absorbed some of its power. If you’re a documentary fan and even better a Herzog fan, this one’s a must-see. 10/10.

The Thin Red Line

Terrence Malick films are a win, take it from me. You can’t go wrong. The first one I saw was “Badlands” and I was hooked. He’s a director with a special eye for things. The Thin Red Line has an amazing cast. You can read the list in the poster I have added to this post. It’s a war movie which will turn some off and ignite the flame in others. Both camps will like it. It reminded me of the messages seen in “Apocalypse Now,” it’s that good. To see Malick flaunt his talents, see many familiar faces, and ponder the hells of war in order to oppose them in the future, watch this film. Is war a necessary evil? Watch this and talk amongst yourselves. 10/10.

The Thin Red Line (1998)
R | 2h 50min | Drama, War | 15 January 1999 (USA)

Adaptation of James Jones’ autobiographical 1962 novel, focusing on the conflict at Guadalcanal during the second World War.
Director: Terrence Malick
Writers: James Jones (novel), Terrence Malick (screenplay)
Stars: Jim Caviezel, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte

The East

“The East” is most Hollywood of the Brit Marling films I have seen. While carrying that independent film feel, the cast and budget make it stand out. It chronicles the story of an anarchist group whose methods are unconventional and can be considered a form of terrorism. As a common denominator, Brit looks stunning. It’s a thriller for sure and highly enjoyable film with a star studded cast. Parts are lacking in “believable” character development and storyline so it lost a couple points with me there. 8/10

The East (2013)
PG-13 | 1h 56min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller | 28 June 2013 (UK)

From $2.99 (SD) on Prime Video
An operative for an elite private intelligence firm finds her priorities changing dramatically after she is tasked with infiltrating an anarchist group known for executing covert attacks upon major corporations.
Director: Zal Batmanglij
Writers: Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling
Stars: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page

Eighth Grade

“Eighth Grade” is a new film out in limited release. I saw it yesterday with my daughters. It portrays a young girl going through middle school/starting High School in 2018, replete with Youtubing, iphoning, it runs the gamut … Take someone, any age will relate,  to see it. These real films are ones to support and enjoy.

Eighth Grade (2018)
R | 1h 33min | Comedy | 19 January 2018 (USA)

An introverted teenage girl tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth grade year before leaving to start high school.
Director: Bo Burnham
Writer: Bo Burnham
Stars: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson

A24 is not the second coming as many would have us believe. At the same time, they have a sensitive eye for the real films of our time and I see that.This film features Elsie Fisher portraying someone her age going through the insecurities and elation of that formative time of life. For that reason, any human can relate.

Director Bo Burnham is one of the comics in “The Big Sick.” He’s the guy making comments backstage at all the comedians. Of course, he is one of them himself. He’s shown himself to be far more than just that in this debut. He could have made another grownup comedy but instead put his resources and time into this and it will help kids as well as entertain adults because of its unfaltering realistic portrayal (including pushy guys) and highly watchable and entertaining presentation. 10/10.

Grey Gardens (Audio Podcast)

We see here a mother and daughter living in squalor and talking together about their lives as quasi famous relatives of Jackie O. It reminds of dependence in family and co-dependence when poverty and mental illness prevent advancement. They also eat meals in their beds. In this episode I am joined by my return guest Hermione Flavia as we talk about fame, the film industry, and Grey Gardens. Listen below:

Grey Gardens (1975)
PG | 1h 34min | Documentary, Comedy, Drama | 27 September 1975 (USA)

From $2.99 (SD) on Prime Video
An old mother and her middle-aged daughter, the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy, live their eccentric lives in a filthy, decaying mansion in East Hampton.
Directors: Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles | 2 more credits »
Stars: Edith Bouvier Beale, Edith ‘Little Edie’ Bouvier Beale, Brooks Hyers

This film has 4 directors. I am struck by how 4 well known directors can see this subject matter as worthy of filming. It definitely sends some powerful messages. For me, the strongest one was about fame and how we can be guilty of measuring our worth or level of success of how famous we are (or are not).

There is so much space between squalor and mega fame. Why don’t people focus more on everyday success. Why do we as a culture worship fame in its current forms. I watched this film and recorded a podcast with my guest Hermione Flavia.