Shame

Well, inquiring minds want to know what the nude scenes are like with Michael Fassenbender. I’ll tell you, he does his ancestry proud. Question is: did I need to see the lanky dangling reveal … and so often! Having said that, this is an engaging film but no one gets engaged because it’s about a sex addict who gets freaked out by commitment. Too bad there isn’t enough character development to make it humanly worth something.

Shame (2011)
NC-17 | 1h 41min | Drama | 13 January 2012 (UK)

A man’s carefully cultivated private life is disrupted when his sister arrives for an indefinite stay.
Director: Steve McQueen
Writers: Steve McQueen, Abi Morgan | 1 more credit »
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale

Steve McQueen is our director, he did the amazing powerhouse film “12 Years a Slave” an a whole lot of other unknown and short films. I feel he must have had some personal reason for making this film. It certainly raises awareness that people can become detached as sex addicts. Maybe it says a bit about how we all are somewhat detached. This man casts his sister out (Carrie Mulligan) because she threatens his sexual conquests and peace of mind. Is that his right? I kind of thought maybe it was? Anyway, McQueen has made something profane here and not entirely helpful in my opinion. It is more than average entertainment though I must admit.

I wanted more history of the family they grew up in. What made Fassenbender’s character turn out this way. Why was she a cutter? Were they both sexually abused? There is nothing to get a hold of as far as character development. It starts with the sex and ends with the blood. There isn’t even a conclusion to explain what Fassenbender’s character has learned from it all. Oh and this all could have been achieved without nudity and graphic sex that required a NC-17 rating. If I were you, I wouldn’t waste my time on this one. 5/10

Antichrist

I had a friend years ago who was clinically depressed. She taught me how she would meditate and find relaxation to the sound of a thunderstorm on CD. “Antichrist” might be like that CD for a depressed person. You wouldn’t think that sadomasochistic images and the indifference of nature would make one feel happy but in some cases, maybe it will.

Antichrist (2009)
Not Rated | 1h 48min | Drama, Horror | 20 May 2009 (Denmark)

A grieving couple retreat to their cabin in the woods, hoping to repair their broken hearts and troubled marriage, but nature takes its course and things go from bad to worse.
Director: Lars von Trier
Writer: Lars von Trier
Stars: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Storm Acheche Sahlstrøm

By Lars von Trier’s own admission, “Antichrist” was created in his own deep despair of depression. I think a lot of people misunderstand it because of that. I see it as a chronicle through consequence. Willem Dafoe, the male in the relationship, tries to do therapy on his own wife when he himself should also be driven to distraction by his toddler son’s death. He isn’t. He is, in essence, the Antichrist without empathy for the depressed one. The way they both treat each other is unspeakable.

The rest of what happens in the film is not for me to tell. It should be experienced. I can say this is one of the hardest watches I’ve ever sat through in movies. Still, for the images it left me with, and the general feeling of the mood, it was worth it. May I’ll remember the film when someone suffers a tragedy. That’s the mire they are walking around carrying. Or maybe I’ll just feel proud that I watched such a noncommercial movie that was trying to evoke something in me I may not ever understand.

No film that I have seen portrays despair this way. I can imagine why. In this case however, it serves to enlighten us of what it’s like out there for our loved ones who suffer and maybe even ourselves.

I think about this film a lot since watching it last week. I give it an 8/10.

The Man in the High Castle & Excision

In this one I review multi-award nominated “The Man in the High Castle” and the disgustingly cool horror film “Excision.”

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In this one I review multi-award nominated “The Man in the High Castle” and the disgustingly cool horror film “Excision.”

I also make the announcement about how I am about to start having guests on the show talking films and TV with me. After over 100 episodes done by myself, I’m really excited about this!

This first tv show is quite good. It was written by Phillip K. Dick, author of the novel that spurned “Blade Runner.” He is as renowned as Ray Bradbury in science fiction circles. It’s a story of an alternate ending to WWII, imagining the Nazis and Japan won. How would the world be different. What results is a land of rebels, spying and sneaking in the Third Reich seeking a mysterious “Man in the High Castle.” The rebels are assigned to bringing him films that appear to be propaganda showing America and her allies winning the war. There’s a beautiful and talented leading actor Alexa Davalos. She is the prime rebel with two other actors holding supporting roles. It’s a science fiction show, remember that. It looks historical and period but it’s definitely science fiction. I am currently in S2 and I hope  it stays as engaging as it has been thus far. Some of the sci fi stuff is starting to reveal itself. So far I give it an 8/10.

“Excision” is a horror movie that premiered on “Shudder.” In the spirit of “Ginger Snaps” it’s a coming of age high school movie centering on an actor who has a sick and demented mind. One quirky thing about it is that Traci Lords plays the conservative mother. The movie has tons of blood and flesh. It contains, as I say in the podcast, one of the most disgusting scenes I’ve ever seen in horror. Even though it has a comedic element, this is creepy horror make no mistake. There is also a secondary element in this girl’s mind of sex. Put them all together, along with her desire to be a surgeon, and you have “Excision,” a darned messed up film and I loved it. I give it a 9/10.

Melancholia

I must admit I went looking through the films of Lars von Trier in anticipation of “The House The Jack Built,” a serial killer themed film. It should be coming out in 2018 and I am somewhat on the edge of my seat. I think Matt Dillon is a great choice for a killer. “Melancholia” came up in a search and I was eager to watch it a second time. It had been several years since I watched it, around 2012 or so. It is one of those odd, open to interpretation films like “Birdman” that I love so much.

Melancholia (2011)
R | 2h 15min | Drama, Sci-Fi | 26 May 2011 (Denmark)

Two sisters find their already strained relationship challenged as a mysterious new planet threatens to collide with Earth.
Director: Lars von Trier
Writer: Lars von Trier
Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland

Lars von Trier is a compelling director. He has the amazing sounding serial killer film coming out but he’s already made a name for himself with so many excellent, albeit misunderstood by the masses, films. I like him because he is against the grain in filmmaking. He gets an idea based on his urge to convey it not his desire to make money. Ironically, his films do make money. This is one he may have a message intended for but I must admit, I didn’t try to exactly define it. Instead, I did what I always do with films like this: I let myself come up with what it means TO ME. Thank you Lars von Trier for creating a movie I can enjoy and interpret the way I want to.

There is such a cast of famous and talented actors, for brevity’s sake I hesitate to mention each one. The main three are Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland. Sutherland stands out in his performance as a controlling coward of a man who is not at ease with himself or other people. I find it odd how a man can pay for his sister-in-law’s wedding and when it doesn’t go right, just keep reminding her of the amount he spent.

The sister of the protagonist is Claire. She is the one who takes on all the anxiety of the family, It could be argued she is the strongest “sane” person in the bunch. And then there is Kirsten Dunst’s character. She appears to be mentally ill with depression (Melancholia). At the same time, she has a closeness with this planet that is supposed to spell everyone’s impending doom.

This is the sort of film you really need patience with. A bottle of wine, a special coffee concoction (my choice) and any creature comforts you can summon are in order. I feel she is one with the depression planet and as it is crashing in, she is calm since she is crashing on everyone else already. There is also the message of how life is short and can end abruptly. Therefore, marry only who you truly love and do that which you find utterly satisfying in your time on Earth. I recommend this film if you can handle all that. I give it a 9/10.

BLOG STATS 06/13/2018

I do a lot of publishing here but I rarely get feedback from readers. I mostly engage on Twitter for this site @rileyonfilm and for my podcast @thedrpodcast I’m just checking in with this post for readers, showing you the stats for this site. I really appreciate you reading and subscribing through WordPress, email, or the old school way of RSS feed. Browse the sidebar for the several options to subscribe. Here is a stats update for this blog.

The Tree of Life

We have the technology to see the outer reaches of the universe, and others! The Hubble telescope showed humankind we have so much more to explore. At the same time, we can look at the most minute worlds going on under our feet. This film takes us all those places and then some and poses the question: does any of it make us more content with our existence? And, where do we as humans fit into all this.

The Tree of Life (2011)
PG-13 | 2h 19min | Drama, Fantasy | 17 May 2011 (France)

The story of a family in Waco, Texas in 1956. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence and struggles with his parents’ conflicting teachings.
Director: Terrence Malick
Writer: Terrence Malick
Stars: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain

Terrence Malick directed “Days of Heaven” and “Badlands” and many more pictures that I thoroughly enjoyed. He certainly has a gift as a storyteller. This film is a little different, it has a lot of out space and nature scenes. There are even a few dinosaurs and pop up, seemingly in the spirit of “2001 a Space Odyssey.”

Jessica Chastain really plays the mother role well here. Brad Pitt plays the conflicted father who seems discontent with where he has ended up in life. He even tells that to his sons which I found reprehensible. Overall though, we have a sensible healthy family here in this story just trying to make it somewhere between their “nature” and “grace.” This film took some patience and I have to admit I watched it twice before it really appealed to me. In the end, I truly loved it. I give this piece of beauty a 10/10.

The Witch (2016)

The film has a very confusing premise that never really resolves itself. However, it is certifiably creepy and that goes miles for this horror fan.

Since A24 is gaining a credibility I don’t think it altogether deserves, I thought I’d republish my review of an early film they produced. This film had a lot of potential but didn’t get there for me. I think THAT is really what defines this brand and that really sucks. I hope that changes. I wrote the content below when this film came out.

The Witch (2016)

 

Cast

Anya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin
Ralph Ineson as William
Kate Dickie as Katherine
Harvey Scrimshaw as Caleb

Directed by

Robert Eggers

Written by

Robert Eggers

Horror
Rated R for disturbing violent content and graphic nudity
1h 32min

I saw this film not knowing what to expect. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a rating in the 80% range so I was naturally curious since I rarely see horror films doing so well. The audience was not favoring it quite as much so that made me wonder what was going on here. Sometimes that means it’s a “movie makers” movie and not one the average American is going to “get.” I was right about that I think. This film has received a Sundance “best director” award and all sorts of other laurels on its poster. Usually those mean foreign film but in this case they are festival awards. This movie is taking the critics by storm. I think the audience will get on the bus sooner or later. Please understand, this film is not the easiest to understand but it still combines several powerful themes to make a hard hitting horror film and I love it!

It displays the cruelty of religion in the same way the Crucible and the Scarlet Letter. It takes it all the way into the psyche of a Puritan family and causes them all to question whether each other are witches. Mind blowing. It’s not a horror movie per se but it uses elements of diverse themes to create an original movie. Don’t watch this movie hoping it to make sense but rather dwell among the family and observe the sickness that religion can become. The ending may perplex some or it may be an awakening. I think the director wants us to draw conclusions but not in a concrete way. Why does the heroine walk naked into the trees? What caused this transformation? Did she make the choice or was it destiny made for her by her family? Is the family innocent? This dark tale raises more questions than answers. Though much is never explained, it’s the experience of these unexplained things that is the essence of the ride. We may not want to get off but the director pulls off our seat belts at the credits and says GO NOW! Then, we have to think about it. I’ve been doing so for 2 days straight and it’s lovely. 7/10

Michael Clayton

Lawyers are fascinating to watch, especially in courtroom dramas. This film always comes up in a search of them. They also can be thrillers. Audiences are drawn to the theme of law and the courtroom because we all think we know the truth. This film shows, as many others do, that the truth can be altered and made to look differently than it is. The question then becomes not a “what” but rather a “why” did the lawyer take that road.

Michael Clayton (2007)
R | 1h 59min | Crime, Drama, Mystery | 12 October 2007 (USA)

A law firm brings in its “fixer” to remedy the situation after a lawyer has a breakdown while representing a chemical company that he knows is guilty in a multibillion-dollar class action suit.
Director: Tony Gilroy
Writer: Tony Gilroy
Stars: George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson

Our director here Tony Gilroy has been around the block and shown his meddle in movies. He directed many amazing films including “Devil’s Advocate,” and “Nightcrawler.” He has a clean, straightforward style that shows us the facts and lets us make the conclusions.

In psychology circles, this film is cited as an example of a character with bipolar disorder. Not the main character though. My wife has an advanced degree in psychology and she agrees this is an excellent illustration of mania. Beside that, this is an excellent legal thriller that I truly enjoyed watching. It reminds me of other Davey and Goliath/ firm vs. individual legal films like “A Civil Action” and “Erin Bockovich.” I recommend this film highly. 10/10.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011)

Extremes in geology have always amazed me like how lava is melted rock. To watch a film about caves and paintings that are 32,000 years old, captivated me. Werner Herzog did an amazing job explaining and presenting these ghostly artifacts.


“Werner Herzog gains exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of Southern France and captures the oldest known pictorial creations of humanity.” -IMDB

Cast

Werner Herzog Himself/Narrator
Jean Clottes Himself
Julien Monney Himself
Jean-Michel Geneste Himself

Directed by

Werner Herzog

Written by

Werner Herzog

Other Info

Documentary, History
G
Fri 25 Mar 2011 UTC
IMDB Rating: 7.4

Among other arcane effects in these drawings, the most alluring to me was the “animated” horse head. The cave person tried to make the animal appear as it does in life, moving.

I think about the significance of the years gone by. We lie about 100 years in one lifetime. 32,000 divided by one lifetime then is 320 lives back to back, one death signaling a birth every 100 years and so on, 320 times. All those lifetimes ago, someone painted these cave walls. The film takes you into the caves and tells you haunting stories that summon images of people like us, living and creating art.

An archaeologist explains in vivid detail the mental anguish he suffered being in the cave for weeks doing studies. It’s one of the most powerful moments in the film for me. I can almost feel what he’s talking about. Seeing what they painted without seeing them. He is, and so are we through the film, observing a way of life portrayed in images without having anyone connected with and living it to explain.

If their way of life seems simple to us now, how will future generations view ours? In fact, will ours have any artifacts at all?

This is an example of a perfectly done documentary film. I highly recommend it.

10/10

Pyewacket

I’ve seen a few films recently where people use the black arts or occult spells like The Alchemist’s Cookbook and A Dark Song. This is another to add to that list.

Pyewacket (2017)
1h 30min | Horror, Thriller | 23 March 2018 (USA)

A frustrated, angst-ridden teenage girl awakens something in the woods when she naively performs an occult ritual to evoke a witch to kill her mother.
Director: Adam MacDonald
Writer: Adam MacDonald
Stars: Nicole Muñoz, Laurie Holden, Chloe Rose

Adam MacDonald is our director. He is known for “Backcountry” the bear horror movie. He does a good job here. I’ll definitely be looking for more from him especially in the horror genre.

Leah is our protagonist here. She has all the trappings of a high school student: hates her mom, into black magic, cuts herself … well unfortunately these days all those are common things. There is tension throughout and an awesome score helping to make that happen. I like it that the scares are more drawn out thoughtful ones and not jump scares. It builds the story slowly and has a spooky tone throughout (which I value in horror).

This is certainly one to check out for all you horror buffs out there. Enjoy. I gave it 7/10.