Gerald’s Game (2017)

Gerald’s Game (2017)
TV-MA | 1h 43min | Horror, Thriller | 29 September 2017 (USA)

While trying to spice up their marriage in their remote lake house, Jessie must fight to survive when her husband dies unexpectedly, leaving her handcuffed to their bed frame.
Director: Mike Flanagan
Writers: Stephen King (based on the novel by), Jeff Howard | 1 more credit »
Stars: Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas, Bruce Greenwood

Mike Flanagan has proven himself a strong thriller and horror movie director. His early strong work was Hush and most recently, he wowed horror audiences again with Ouija: Origin of Evil. This Netflix movie follows suit, he has done an amazing thing here.

Flanagan too a Stephen King novel and created this horror film. I can call it horror even though horror aspects don’t show up for quite a while in the movie. You may question it yourself but trust me, when you watch it, it will be revealed.

The acting is top notch. You have Carla Gugino as the wife inadvertently drawn into a “Fifty Shades of Grey” sort of game. She is the star of this film. Her acting is 100% from the gut and I believed in this character because of her. At times it was like Cast Away, a woman trying to survive all by herself. At other times, she was a tortured child working through her demons. And then there’s the dark character that keeps showing up. You just get a feeling he is going to have a greater part in the big picture. Bruce Greenwood is her asshole husband although we aren’t clear on just how much of an asshole he is because most of his parts are created in his wife’s mind.

The final 1/4 of the film is the best part. All is revealed and a lot of your frustration as a confused viewer is assuaged. The final scene feels so much like a Stephen King movie I just can’t explain how much. It works on many levels. You may get bored at first but persistent audiences will be rewarded. It should have moved a bit faster though in my opinion.

8/10

Contact

Contact was the first film to really take on extra dimensionality in space exploration. It was written by the master Carl Sagan himself so right there you know it’s worth watching. (Also there’s the fact that 2 original Alien cast members are in it) It’s the screenplay however that made me say to myself “Out damnned spot” many times while watching the thing, not the concept nor the cast.

contact_ver2

Though the drama side of it is tedious and at times a laborious crawl, the concept and visuals in the last 1/4 make up for that. From space enthusiasts to backyard star gazers, this is a winner you shouldn’t miss.

Jodie Foster would have been an excellent choice as a wife for me. I know, she has married already but I definitely feel a kinship with her. She is amazing in the late seventies show Freaky Friday and I have admired all her work since then. She is amazing in Contact. There are some truly gripping scenes between her and her father that would make a grown man cry (well, they kind of did). If you must know the part, leave a comment and I’ll tell you 😉 Speaking of notable moments, the opening of this film could be a powerful short on its own. It travels out into the solar system’s reaches, beyond, and into other systems as recorded by Hubble. It’s really well done. It’s the kind of this you could have on infinite repeat as you’re waiting for guests to arrive at your home party. (scroll down for the video)

This film was Robert Zemeckis’ brain child. After Back to the Future, what can a director do, right? He did Romancing the Stone as Well that burst Kathleen Turner onto the scene. Who, by the way I would accept as a third wife. I hope my wife doesn’t read this, although recently she shared she had a thing for the guys in Peaky Blinders. Well? To each her/his own. Anyone who says Kathleen Turner wasn’t high grade hot in Peggy Sue Got Married might not have a pulse. But I digress …

That leads me to Matthew McConaughey, who I am doing a podcast about this week to be aired soon. He’s great, that’s it. I could complain he tries to be a heart-throb and achieves in being a something else throb but I won’t. He is a priest of sorts in this. A man of the cloth who has lost his way in modern science and astronomy. He is the voice of faith on the main character’s shoulder. Don’t worry, it isn’t done in a packaged, Biblical God sort of way. It’s more an issue of faith. There is a sort of transformation in her as a result of Matthew McConaughey’s character. It was less than moving for me but I imagine Bible thumpers who are somewhat open minded will find it deep and astounding. I on;y say that because that used to be me. I’m more interested in the idea of the space travel and again, the visuals in the last 1/3 of the film. I have yet to see something that terrifying and touching at the same time. AND it’s not really fast, Zemeckis stretches the experience so we can really develop an idea of what it happening.

This is a remarkable film that unfortunately tries a little too hard to be an amazing dramatic piece. I think it could have been half as long if it avoided a lot of that and stuck with the special effects and the theories about “life out there.”

I give it a 7 out of 10 because while great sci-fi, it languishes in misplaced drama writing a good portion of the film.

Instead of a trailer, here’s that opening scene I told you about. Enjoy. Do you think I’m more right or wrong about this film? Please leave me comments with your opinion! This would be a great film to discuss right here!

Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Produced by Robert Zemeckis
Steve Starkey
Screenplay by James V. Hart
Michael Goldenberg
Story by Carl Sagan
Ann Druyan
Based on Contact
by Carl Sagan
Starring
Jodie Foster
Matthew McConaughey
James Woods
John Hurt
Tom Skerritt
Angela Bassett
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography Don Burgess
Edited by Arthur Schmidt
Production
company
South Side Amusement Company
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures

Long Nights Short Mornings (2016)

Long Nights Short Mornings (2016)
1h 40min | Drama, Romance | 24 January 2017 (USA)

An examination of the romantic life of a young man in New York City and his sometimes fleeting, sometimes profound experiences with the women he encounters.
Director: Chadd Harbold
Writer: Chadd Harbold
Stars: Shiloh Fernandez, Ella Rae Peck, Paten Hughes

Upon first look, this seems like a romantic comedy, a fling of a playboy with several women. As you get deeper into it though you see this is not a nice guy. Women are like stepping stones into the nothing that is his ever elusive future. Director Chadd Harbold seems interested in manhood and what it’s all about. By the way, he is also writer and producer on this. I saw this film because it was on Netflix. I am not sure it was ever in a theater.

The protagonist is a hot guy and I think a lot of women would love to go out with him. When he’s done with them, he’ll do whatever he can to push them away. It’s that behavior that makes it interesting to me. I kept wondering what he would do as he went to the next one again and again and so on and so on. Frankly, that was never my life. I was never devastatingly handsome and able to string women along. I found this film a little dull and hard to relate with I guess for that reason. I learned when you love someone you should hold on. I’m not sure what the message of this film is.

4/10

Pan’s Labyrinth

Pan’s Labyrinth has more creatures than Star Wars and a historical story that will have you ranting and raving from your seat. Sometimes the scary creatures we fear become our salvation and the humans we trusted become our curse.

pans_posterThis film is a monster feast for the eyes. Guillermo del Toro takes us into a child’s imagination of horror and art. It’s been called by the director the “sister” film of The Devil’s Backbone. Both are about children in the ghost world and both take place in the Spanish Civil War. It differs in how there are faeries and fauns instead of ghosts. This might make it a fairy tale. No, it’s much more than that. This film may be dark in hue but it shines as a spectacle accomplishment of cinematic art.

Like Backbone, this is more a drama than a horror film. There are more scary moments here than in the other but it is meant to create a sense of another world:

“In 1944 falangist Spain, a girl, fascinated with fairy-tales, is sent along with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, a ruthless captain of the Spanish army. During the night, she meets a fairy who takes her to an old faun in the center of the labyrinth. He tells her she’s a princess, but must prove her royalty by surviving three gruesome tasks. If she fails, she will never prove herself to be the the true princess and will never see her real father, the king, again.” -IMDB
Her real father is the real horror here. She goes to the labyrinth to escape him and reality. We see 2 competing worlds throughout the film. She must learn to not be afraid and to make a new paradign shift to understand where the dead stand in regards to the living. When you fear your mortal surroundings, animal and insect company seems preferable.

This adorable young girl somehow survives the hateful acts of “The Captain,” her stepfather. She is a hero for this. I felt it was saying when war is all around one, that one might lose her/himself in a hobby or discipline. Could it be that our protagonist has such a strong imagination that she sees the faun with other lovely, haunting creatures? This is just one interpretation of this film. It’s an entrancing film and I recommend it to all who read my blog. A classic for sure.

Riley on Film grade: A

STARRING: Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones, Sergi López, Ariadna Gil, Maribel Verdú, Álex Angulo, Roger Casamajor, Sebastián Haro, Mina Lira, Federico Luppi, Ivan Massagué, Chema Ruiz, Manolo Solo, Milo Taboada
DIRECTOR: Guillermo del Toro
STUDIO: Picturehouse
RATING: R (For intense violence and language)
LANGUAGE: In Spanish with English subtitles

House on Willow Street (2016)

House on Willow Street (2016)
From a House on Willow Street (original title)
Unrated | 1h 30min | Action, Horror | 24 March 2017 (USA)

After a young woman is kidnapped, her captors soon come to realize that in fact they may be the ones in danger and this young woman has a dark secret inside her.
Director: Alastair Orr
Writers: Catherine Blackman, Jonathan Jordaan | 1 more credit »
Stars: Sharni Vinson, Carlyn Burchell, Steven John Ward

Director Alistair Orr did a decent job with this horror flick. He looks young in his IMDB photo so I am sure he will improve. As it was, I felt like I was watching a predictable made-for-tv type horror film. The actors are also new to the craft. The lead does a good job but the whole thing is just uninteresting. It doesn’t make me feel for these people. It is kind of interesting that they are robbers. Of course, we shouldn’t care for robbers. BUT, the problem is when they get into the satanic demonic stuff. A priest has no power over a demon? Hmmm. OK.

There’s no big takeaway here. You walk away from this the same way you go in. It’s a robbery gone bad and the reason it fumbled was because the house was filled with demons. Not much here innovative or new. For that reason, I give it a

5/10

Say Anything

Almost every movie can be defined as a mythic journey, even a teen love story like “Say Anything.” John Cusack is in love with a rich girl and he barely has enough money for the gas in his car. The movie becomes a journey from “dork” status to royalty when he finally wins her over.

Say Anything
Cast

John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney

Directed by

Cameron Crowe

Written by

Cameron Crowe

Other Info

Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rated PG-13
100min
Riley’s Rating:

These are some really funny bits in this film. One I really like is when his friend is  playing 100 songs she has written for her unrequited boyfriend “Joe.” At one point she is in a bedroom at a party when people are drinking beer and listening to her sing these “odes to Joe.” One song lyric she sings is simply, “Joe lies … When he cries.” Please make sure you don’t leave the room and miss that scene.

Anyone who wasn’t sure what to do with their life after high school will certainly relate. John Cusack is the poor dude caught up in his passion for kickboxing. He gets caught up with a rich, smart girl: Diane Court. He tries to woo her but just for a date much to Diane’s father’s disapproval. It’s a common story but this one gives hope to the poor guy, this underdog.

What ensues in “Say Anything” is a heroic journey. John Cusack starts out a bit of a simpleton but ends up the victor. He wins the hand of the suburban maiden, played by Ione Skye. Many “best of” lists on the internet rank “Say Anything” near the top. It’s a lie story and a comedy about graduating seniors but the entertainment value is certainly suited to about age 14-?

Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope

So much has been written about this film. It brought science fiction to mainstream consciousness like no other film before it. When I saw in the theater in 1977, I was 8 years old and immediately a fan.

Star Wars Episode IV “A New Hope” (1977)
Cast

Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford

Directed by

George Lucas

Written by

George Lucas

Other Info

Rated PG
sci fi, action, adventure
83 min

The film takes us along the path of a young Luke Skywalker. Luke has humble beginnings but once destiny meets him in the form of Obi Wan Kenobi, his fate to fight against the Empire is sealed. I liken Luke’s path to that of anyone venturing forth in her/his life. There are obstacles and dangers that threaten to take him out  of the game: Sandpeople, Stormtroopers, even Darth Vader himself. By the way, I don’t Elise that director George Lucas had pre planned to make Vader Luke’s father. There is no evidence of this until the second movie. I think the film did highly well so Lucas wrote a second one, and so on. 

Once Luke’s journey is laid out for him, he meets up with a set of misfits like himself: Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (a creature), and of course, his mentor in the ways of a religion called “The Force,” Obi Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness). They are all reckless and endearing characters. This film was released in the late 70’s when movies and tv shows about “real people” we’re ring released. Lucas makes his characters real and so we feel like we are on this adventure with them. That’s a major reason this film is embraced by so man people worldwide.

I must say a word about the music. Both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg enlist the magic of composer John Williams in their movies. This is vital to their success. Williams has the ability to create hypnotic and dynamic music to support the storytelling of Star Wars. It is possible, if you know the film well, to listen to the orchestral soundtrack and know without video or dialog what part of the movie it’s from. The music is as integral as the script.

There have been many movies made since 1977 that are part of the “bigger story” Lucas says. None, I might argue, recreates the 79’s Everyman tone of Star Wars. I have seen “Star Wars IV A New Hope” 50 times or more and would happily watch it again. I don’t have the same hunger to see “The Empire Strikes Back” or “Return of the Jedi.” Everything is deruvative and nothing can touch the genius of the first movie. “Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope” is in my top 5 favorite films of all time.

Robin Hood (1973)

I chose to review this nearly-classic animated Disney film because it’s truly a great film that should be remembered as such.

Robin Hood (1973)
Cast

Roger Miller, Peter Ustinov, Terry-Thomas

Directed by

Wolfgang Reitherman

Written by

Larry Clemmons

Other Info

Rated G
Animation, Adventure, Comedy
83 min

It may have disappeared temporarily into the annals of rentals and downloads but it stands up and even towers over the best that newer decades of animation have to offer. No one can say this one is boring. Not only does Disney’s “Robin Hood” has some of the most hummable songs is all of musical theater, the actors voices in the film make it an adventure even a young boy would treasure. These are just 2 of its accolades.

How do I know this film is amazing? Well, somehow even before VHS, I happened to see this film multiple times as a boy. Songs like “Ooodelolly,” and “Love” stuck in my head before making me a lifetime fan.

Maid Marion and Robin Hood develop a love relationship that is like no other Disney love. They would do anything for each other.

Other characters have huge personalities as shown through voice. One that springs to memory is Friar Tuck when the Sherrif of Nottingham tries to take the last farthing from the church box. You almost hurt for the Sherif as he gets clobbered with a club over and over again.

The age-old story of Robin Hood robbing the rich and giving it to the poor is debated. Still, this Disney animated film gives us love and chivalry to believe in.

Empire of the Sun

Wealth set against a background of poverty is an excellent canvas for a coming of age movie. Our protagonist, Jim, loses his parents, their money and his “way.” What follows from there is a magical journey of fighting, surviving, and ultimately surrendering. The transformation teaches us something about our own lives.

eots-poster

Empire of the Sun (1987)
Cast

Christian Bale, John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson

Directed by

Steven Spielberg

Written by

J.G. Ballard (novel), Tom Stoppard (screenplay)

Other Info

Drama, History, War
Rated PG
2h 33min

Spielberg made this film true to the time and to the international conflict of that time. Still, it’s a universal coming-of-age journey. Jim is the young English boy who is living in Shanghai, China in the lap of luxury. His parents pay a servant to look after him and feed him since they are often gone. We hear a little from the father about the situation and the mother is close-lipped. When WWII begins, tables are turned on Jim. The whites are being forced out of Shanghai after Pearl Harbor set the war in motion.

From there the movie starts speeding up. It becomes the journey of young Jim and there are many hurdles along the way. John Malkovich is a street savvy white man who sort of takes Jim in. This adds a compelling acting set to an already alluring introduction.

Jim is verifiably bratty. In the early scenes he bosses his nanny around and reminds here that she “must do what [he] says.” When the reversal of fortune occurs, he tries ordering her around again and she surprises him with an act of disrespect. He is blown away.

The separation from his parents and the complete lack of money brings Jim to his knees. With a sullen, oil stained face, we staggers around looking for his parents. HE reveals what a spoiled kid he is through these scenes. He even tries to surrender at one point but the soldiers just laugh at him.

My word to the wise: This film is about Jim’s journey. It’s an everyman journey to be sure. I feel Spielberg used his common approach which is using metaphor to illustrate the human journey we are all on. It could be a war zone in China or a backyard with an alien in it. There are always personal human conclusions to draw from his film. Yes, Jim is a brat, we are meant to hate him in the beginning. But is he so different from us? As you watch this movie, ask yourself if you could have been the same way without the same advantages we have. This is not a movie you merely watch, you feel it. Jim undergoes a telling transformation. In fact, there is a lot being taught to us my Steven Spielberg Because it’s an artful film that speaks eloquently to the human condition, I highly recommend it to you.

X-Men: Apocalypse

A handful of elements are here that I could mention to promote this film. It works well on so many levels. The only question I really had while watching was: “Is it too long?” After the energetic applause at the end in the sleepy town theater I watch movies in, I’d say they got this length just right.

x-men-apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Cast

James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence

Directed by

Bryan Singer

Written by

Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg

Other Info

Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rated PG-13
144 min

First, the Spolier Free Zone!
James McAvoy as Professor X (Charles Xavier) and Michael Fassenbender as Magneto are back in what is sure to be one of the most highly expensive and possibly the greatest earning film of the X-Men franchise yet. Of course, that’s an opinion which is fitting in an op/ed review by a largely unpaid blogger. It is however, my strong feeling.

These movies have so much going on. For the “X-Laymen” like myself, it can be difficult to follow all the little innuendos and stories going on simultaneously. I put that there as a disclaimer to assuage the more rabid fans of X-Men. I do my best here.

The story is about an early campus that looks more like a house where the X-Men mutants are in a school run by Charles Xavier. Now, speeding through time way back to the Egyptian pyramid times, we have the opening shot. Sabah Nur is a worshipped king (of sorts) who, through the help of a mutant, is able to become immortal.

He’s evil, never a question about it. Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year) plays this role in a quite hate-able manner which fits in well with other roles he’s played. To make a short summary stop here, he awakens in the time aforementioned and tries to take down the whole world with the help of the X-Men. Yep, that’s the bare bones of it. I could say so many good things about this movie. I loved the characters in this I haven’t seen before (or at least not much). Olivia Munn is one of Apocalypse’s “henchman.” She does a fantastic job and I really hope she turns good so we can see her in new movies. For effects and multiple characters doing exciting things onscreen, I highly recommend this film. It is a tad long at 2hr 24min so bring caffeine. Having said that, what a ride! I can’t wait to see it again.

Next, Spoilers may follow!
My word to the wise: Charles Xavier’s love affair with Moira McTaggert is hovered and hovered over until finally they delve into it fully. Because I am a romantic at heart, I loved this story. Some will find it overly sentimental. The evil folks make evil look really good in this film. They do a lot of destruction. There is a scene when a bomb hits the X-Men school that is a work to make Lucasfilm jealous.

The history of Magneto AKA Erik Lehnsheerr (Michael Fassenbender) is quite elaborately explained. I did wonder, because it was rather long) why they didn’t have an “Origins” film on him the way they did on Wolverine. Perhaps they don’t want us to get too close to him. Nightcrawler (Kodi Scott McPhee) is absolutely hilarious. He strikes me as a secondary character in a movie but I almost could see him having his own movie. He’s a lot funnier than Captain America ever was. So there you go!

Things to Ponder:
Does a franchise as successful as this merit ticket-buyers or does it have to earn people’s money again, every installment?

Why are we shown that “good” is better in this film. The evil mutants seem to be having a LOT of fun? How could they have shown that good is a better choice in this film?

Who is more fun to watch in film: Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) or Professor X (Patrick Stewart)

Feel free to leave a reaction to one or more of these questions, or about the film.