Nocturnal Animals

It’s a rural crime thriller where Michael Shannon plays the detective in a dusty desert town. But that’s just one part. The other half is something else. That’s right, a movie within a book … or something like that.

I like weird films when they come together well. This one does as good as could be expected. The real fin is the world Michael Shannon’s character inhabits. He’s a man on a mission and he’ll do whatever is needed to see justice is enforced. Gyllenhaal is a character in the same story. He’s a sort of “softie” in a hellish situation. In this film, the unthinkable happens to him and he’s forced to deal with it. This is a brutal situation, did I mention that?

Amy Adams character is almost reclusive. She has a job and friends it seems so she probably isn’t a reclusive in all truth. Still, she sits and READS and feels the things that no one should feel. I don’t even think she should feel them. But this is a vengeance film. It’s not the kind you’d think but it is vengeance just the same. If all is fair in love and war, then how about crime on a deserted road? Perhaps the title is the hey, I’m not saying that. I am saying you’ll have to make up your mind. It’s the age-old question of what makes us moral creatures, or are we? Are some among us so cold that they could do these things and do these creatures continue unaffected.

In the end, in love and war, should we step aside and ask second guess ourselves? The truth is so brutal, maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe we’re all nocturnal animals? This is something to think about when you see this film.

The Godfather: Part II

Al Pacino has tried to play touchy feely roles but it never works for him. He is a mean ass devil may care murderous dude. That’s why in lots of ways, some people may enjoy part II better. The first is a subdued mafia classic that elicits a response. The second is a study in the evil that is the character played by Al Pacino.

The Godfather: Part II (1974)
R | 3h 22min | Crime, Drama | 20 December 1974 (USA)

The early life and career of Vito Corleone in 1920s New York City is portrayed, while his son, Michael, expands and tightens his grip on the family crime syndicate.
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writers: Francis Ford Coppola (screenplay by), Mario Puzo (screenplay by) | 1 more credit »
Stars: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall

This is a 3 1/2 hour film. Thankfully, there is an intermission. The music and portrayals of parties and culture within the Italian mafia put me in a trance. You can smell the spaghetti and meatballs. The film flashes back intermittently to the young beginnings of Vito Corleone. He is played by Robert DeNiro. I would say these are distracting but it is so engaging to watch DeNiro play the “young Godfather.” It doesn’t absolve Vito of all guilt for the bloody life he led but it does show why he went that way, because things were so messed up.

The scenes and dialog throughout Michael’s beginnings as the Don draw you in and they are worth watching. I noted how he stayed calm and reserved when people were screwing him over. He was mindful of how things should look as he was cutting their throats later. That’s probably why he was so successful. The flashback scenes were not my favorite and the film did drag on at times. For that reason, I gave it a 7/10. That is 3 less points that the 10/10 I gave the original.

Finding Dory

This sequel to ‘Finding Nemo’ pleases with the introduction of some new hilarious characters, a similarly cute story, and the unforgettable talent of Ellen Degeneres.

doryposter

Finding Dory
Cast

Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill

Directed by

Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane

Written by

Andrew Stanton, Victoria Strouse, Bob Peterson, Angus MacLane

Other Info

PG | 103 min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Riley’s Rating:

The question for viewers should not be, “Why is this good?” but rather “Why did it take 13 years to make this sequel?” Some movies are difficult to improve upon and This film betters ‘Finding Nemo’ (2003) in some ways. However, in other ways it is fish food compared to the live bait we viewers took in 2003. For example, no scene touches the amazing dentist office escape sequence in the first movie. Still, there are some new characters and laughs well written in ‘Finding Dory’ that do their own pleasing and that makes it well worth going to see.

The seals are among my favorites. You have two Laurel and Hardy types that love their rock as if it were a heated waterbed at sea. A funny third reminiscent of Beaker from the Muppets, tries to sneak up on the rock to have “a taste” but the two kings of the mountain always shuffle him off. This is a recurrent gag that works very well as comic relief. Then again, do we need comic relief from the amazing comedy of Ellen Degeneres? Not in theory but here she is the voice of the main character. In ‘Finding Nemo’ she herself was that relief. For anyone wondering if she pulls it off as a main comic, yes, she passes with flying colors.dory1

The story is identical to the first one only this time it is set in a wildlife preserve/theme park/museum sort of place. Dory remembers her parents that she lost prior to the first movie and she wants to get back to them somehow. This is made nearly impossible by her short term memory loss. Dory runs across a litany of new fish in the new setting, the most notable is an octopus named “Hank,” voiced by Ed O’Neill. Hank starts out as an antagonist but before long, Dory wins his affection and he ends up being the one who can help her most in getting back to her family. Virtually every aspect of the movie parallels number one so I suppose that could have been improved upon with some original sidebars.

The movie was originally set to be made for Disney by Disney’s experimental group “Circle 7 Animation.” That didn’t work out and the rights went back to Pixar who created the first animation for Disney on ‘Finding Nemo’ in 2003. In conclusion, I recommend this film to you but with a microscopic caveat that it isn’t base on anything original (to speak of, the search for her parents is slightly different than the other way around in ‘Nemo’). It lost a star from me for that. Still, I had a blast watching it at the drive in. I hope a lot of people get a chance to see this film.

I, Tonya

Strengths of this film are its: characters as written, actors and actresses, urban legend story, part documentary style part real action drama. Yep, I’m serious, there are that many strengths. This is a truly great film that I urge everyone to see.

I, Tonya (2017)
R | 2h | Biography, Comedy, Drama | 19 January 2018 (USA)

Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.
Director: Craig Gillespie
Writer: Steven Rogers
Stars: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney

Margot Robbie saved “Suicide Squad,” let’s face it. But she’s such a powerful actress, we want to see her acting, not saving a cartoon comic movie. “I, Tonya’ gives her that space to work in and she delivers, big time. We know director Craig Gillespie from “Lars and the Real Girl.” That was a well done film and it got him the footing and clout to bring the Tonya Harding story to life. This film is highly well directed, edited, and creatively shot.

In the 80’s when this was actually happening, I was quote aware of it. Just like the OJ Simpson trial, developments were aired on the news show Hard Copy and others. It was impossible to not know the latest detail in this Machiavellian drama. I felt truly bad, along with the rest of America, that Nancy Kerrigan had a kneecap broken. She’s not in this film much but the world really felt her pain. She is an innocent. On the other hand, we all got a vilified impression from the news about Tonya Harding. Unofrtunately or not, that impression has stuck for us 40 somethings until this day.

This film came out to present the true Tonya and let the audience make their decision about what happened. I can say it definitely gave me a more human image of her. It is a funny movie and also contaons drama and vengeance. It’s an all-American tale I would say. We get to see the horrors she suffered from her mother in a trailer park and the discipline she was forced to have as a youth skater.

This is a gem of a film. I highly recommend it to you. I can’t imagine how they could have made it better. 10/10

The Secret Life of Pets

There’s a new foil for movies and it’s getting more and more prevalent, especially in holiday trailers. It happens when misinformation is conveyed about what a movie is about. This is a funny, cute, well-made animation film but it was advertised to be something that it’s not. Kids are likely to enjoy this more than adults, there’s no humor for grownups.

slop-poster

The Secret Life of Pets
Cast

Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart

Directed by

Yarrow Cheney, Chris Renaud

Written by

Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, Brian Lynch

Other Info

Animation, Comedy, Family
Rated PG
90 min

The Secret Life of Plants (1973) is a book by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird. It was once part of pop culture consciousness. Among other things, the book and study indicated that plants grow better when they’re spoken to. I can’t help but suspect the sound of the title resonated well when they named this film. It was advertised of a year with a trailer that should pets doing things in their apartments: playing records, rocking out and head banging, and getting a massage from the electric mixer whisk. Those are only the initial scenes. After that they leave the apartment building and have a rip-roaring adventure on the streets of New York. This is no “mellow at home” peek at the secret life of Pets, which is unfortunate, I would have liked to have seen an understated funny film like that.

Katie is Max’s owner, he’s a little white dog. She leaves him in the apartment every day when she goes to work. Through a random sequence of events that don’t need detailing, Max is kidnapped. The dogs in his building, led by Gidget, a female white fluffy dog. The movie consists of finding and rescuing Max. I might add that the kidnappers are a rouge group of animals that have escaped from the animal shelter. The number of animal characters is overwhelming. Short little gags bring you back but most of the movie it’s hard to follow the motivation of any given character. It is a children’s film so I ignored that flaw. Still, movies like Toy Story showed how to have a lot of characters without losing the focus on the primary characters.

the-secret-life-of-pets-has-record-breaking-opening-at-the-box-officeThere are interesting voices here but honestly, they sort of fade into the collage of action happening in the movie. I usually am very curious to look up who the voices are, not so this time. It’s too busy to hear any soul or expression from the voice actors. There is a scene where Duke is pulling Max on a rope through the water and he says: “You’re not doing great but you’re not drowning and that’s something.” I think that summed up the film for me. It had the flash that would attract the kindergartners but won’t charm the older kids or the adults.

The best thing about this film is the small gag stuff, I wish it had a lot more. For example, when the pets are cleaning up after their party, one yells to the hamster atop the vacuum “Myron Vacuum!” Myron is riding the vacuum in a hilarious way. You have to see it to laugh I think. There are a handful of moments like that. They hold the attention of the viewer. The story is not very tender or endearing. There is never a reference to what time it is that would bring the suspense up remembering when the dog owners are coming home. It felt like they deviated from the original idea and added a Flushed Away type adventure that would be fine for another movie but not this one. This film aspires to be something original but ultimately, it’s like so many other animated films we’re seen come down the pike in recent decades. Because the writing was not endearing to the animals it portrayed and because I felt it was advertised incorrectly, it lost two stars with me. I recommend it for very young kids, say 11 and under.

‘Eddie the Eagle’ – Inspiring Jumps Despite Predictable Turns

Eddie-the-Eagle_poster
Starring: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman
Genres: Comedy, Sport
Directed By: Dexter Fletcher
Studio: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating
PG-13

This is the “based on a true story” film adaptation of the olympian Eddie Edwards. It’s special because he fights harder than any other athletes to achieve his goal. The other reason it’s noteworthy is because no skier from England had ever up to that point competed in his chosen competition: long distance ski jumping.

Taron Egerton does a great job as the eccentric Eddie. He seems to get his determination to win an olympic medal early on in life. Hugh Jackman plays his washed up coach trying for redemption. As it turned out, he did not train for the ski jumping competition. Rather he just looked at something he was interested in that he felt he had a chance of winning at and got right to work. It’s an inspiring small town hero story as much as a comedy. Parts of it reminded me of Rudy, another based on truth story film about a short and underweight football player for Notre Dame. You definitely get a load of inspiration from Eddie.

What the film creates in optimism and inspiration it loses in a poor script and very predictable turns. As I watched I felt let down a few times because I really wanted to see the film get serious and show what the olympics are. The film will not disappoint the younger viewers though. I would say kids who are interested in sports ages 0-13 may appreciate the humor and feel the inspiring moments. As for me, it fell flat and lost points for making Eddie look stupid all the time. There must have been a serious athlete in there at some point to do what he did. The Eddie portrayed is more a goofball than anything so that’s where it lost points with me. But that doesn’t make it a “bad” movie. This might be a good DVD or VOD to get with the kids to assuage the butterflies in the stomachs before a first soccer game or the like.

Gleason (2016)

Documentaries are meant to be gritty and real. They should mirror real life and give us a “behind the scenes” view. You get that as you watch this ex football star and his family struggle to bear up under the travails of ALS.

Gleason
Gleason
“After he is diagnosed with ALS, former professional football player Steve Gleason begins making a video diary for his unborn son, as he, his wife, and their friends and family work to raise money for ALS patients as his disease progresses.” -IMDB
Cast
Steve Gleason Himself
Mike Gleason Himself
Scott Fujita Himself
Mike McKenzie Himself
Directed by
Clay Tweel
Written by
Clay Tweel (as J. Clay Tweel)
Other Info
Documentary
R
Fri 29 Jul 2016 UTC
110min
IMDB Rating: 8.4

This is a film about living in the now. All the fame and fortune of sports or other celebrity can’t cure ALS. The relationship between he and his wife is tested. They think about having a child despite the diagnosis and that comprises a good chunk of the film. There is a scene where a friend says he is “better late than never” at climbing a snow capped mountain. He replies “Better now than never.” This is the wisdom of the film I think.

For a documentary, I give this a high score. There are some portions that tend to drag on a little but it’s important to remember what a documentary really is, it’s not meant to be an Oscar fictional tale with cgi for example.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Life isn’t always peachy. Situations arise like cancer or an ALS diagnosis. But it isn’t those things that define our happiness. That’s what we learn from this uplifting, meaningful documentary. I recommend it for every human.

My Rating: (5 / 5)

Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice

In 1969, things were more open minded than in decades past. It was “The Age of Aquarius” and I imagine couples were delving curiously into open marriage affairs and wife swapping.
Title: Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice
Number of times I’ve seen it: 1
Genre: Comedy, Drama
MPAA Rating: R
Year: 1969
Director: Paul Mazursky, known for “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” “Antz”
Top Billed Cast: Natalie Wood, Robert Culp, Elliott Gould, Dyan Cannon
Brief Synopsis: 2 couples explore open marriage affairs and a wife swap.

This film gets into those social mores without being an x rated film. It is a comedy but the concepts show the difference between traditional and modern marriages which can sometimes make for an uncomfortable scene. Natalie Wood is stunning. She plays an open-minded wife who lets Robert Culp’s character have an affair. Through doing so, she has an impact of Dyan Cannon’s character who initially has no intention of allowing her husband, played by Elliot Gould, to have an affair. It’s a funny, interesting study of free love marriage in 1969.

Spellbound

Simple, intentional images and unraveling mysteries make Hitchcock unique. This 1945 thriller is replete with examples.

Spellbound

Spellbound

“A psychiatrist protects the identity of an amnesia patient accused of murder while attempting to recover his memory.” -IMDB

Cast

[imdb:cast] or Ingrid Bergman Dr. Constance Petersen
Gregory Peck John Ballantyne
Michael Chekhov Dr. Alexander Brulov
Leo G. Carroll Dr. Murchison

Directed by

Alfred Hitchcock

Written by

Ben Hecht, Frances Beeding

Other Info

Film-Noir, Mystery, Romance, Thriller
Unrated
Fri 28 Dec 1945 UTC
111min
IMDB Rating: 7.6

John Ballantyne (Gregory Peck) is a renowned psychiatrist with a bestselling book under his belt. When he comes to a ward to work with patients, fellow psychiatrist Dr. Constance Petersen is smitten immediately. She is the school marm type but when John enters the ward, she starts to seek a relationship with him. There is a long set of situations and clues that takes place in this long 2 hour film. It’s nearly impossible to see the forest for the trees but no more difficult than any other mystery motion picture.

As it turns out, there is a murder and a lot of unanswered questions. Is it the new doctor or the old? Dr. Peterson risks a lot to attempt to assist John. It is a room full of mirrors and we are certainly led to many cliffs, hanging by a thread. The end is indeed well-played and fans of mysteries will certainly enjoy it. I would caution the viewer however that it is a 1945 production and I think audiences had far more patience than they do now … it drags a bit here and there. Having said that, it’s directed by Hitchcock, the creator of Psycho and in similar ways worth seeing.


Scoll down for the original trailer.

‘Vigilante’ – Charismatic Portrayal of One-Man-Justice in a Village

I sat down and enjoyed Vigilante today. It had the thrills of a vengeance film but with a dark comedic element. Having said that, some scenes are dead serious.

vigilante-poster

Vigilante (2016)
Cast

Simon Cassidy, Millie Reeves, Moir Leslie

Directed by

Darren Bolton

Written by

Darren Bolton

Other Info

Drama
Rated PG-13
1h 30min

When punk street fighter kids get old they sometimes make it in society. By “making it” I don’t mean they become famous actors or musicians, but rather, they sometimes make it as members of a small village leading lives of quiet desperation. I use the word “sometimes” because they don’t always make it and more often than not, they end up in jail or dead. The ones who do make it, often add a lot of value to their hometown. I had my prediction early on in this film that “Pep” (Simon Cassidy: Labrats, North and South) was not going to be one of those. I won’t reveal if I was right or wrong here though.

Pep starts out as an unemployed, relatively young guy in his 30’s who has to pick a fight with just about anyone he sees. The director, Darren Bolton, who is known for Scent and a short film also called Vigilante on which the film is based, chose to shoot the film in documentary format. This works well to create suspense and it draws the viewer up close to the Pep. He is a sort of small town hero but I use that word loosely. Not everyone in the village is a fan and they let him know in scenes ranging from the coffee shop to their front doors when Pep comes by to do his “service calls.”

Pep sets out immediately in the film to clean up the streets of this village he is in. In many ways, his actions are that of an out-and-out asshole. In other ways, he is a charismatic figure who can exact justice when he sees the chance. But despite small town fame, there is something not right about Pep and we watch in high suspense as we wait for him to mess up. There was a time in the film when I was proven wrong, surprised he was correct about a perpetrator of a burglary. Other times, it was clear he was wrong about who he accused. Unlike most people though, Pep doesn’t seem to show remorse or ever apologize when he does have the wrong person. This sets up a lot of tension as he continues to seek his own reckless vigilante justice.

vigilante1There are several actors that captured my attention but the one most worth mentioning I think is his ex-wife Becky (Millie Reeves). Since Pep is always hamming it up with his camera crew, it’s difficult to see what he is really like. Becky doesn’t buy into his newfound local stardom. She is downright annoyed every time he comes around to see his son. We get lots of hints from peoples’ reactions about Pep’s character but ultimately, not much concrete is revealed so we have to make our own conclusions. Becky has a bit of love and lot of hate and resentment for Pep. He’s a charismatic character you love to hate certainly. He also represents the animal inside all of us that doesn’t want to wait for cops and courts. When we are wronged, we want justice now. That’s why Pep appeals to us.

vigilante-2This is not a particularly violent film, though it has a few shocking depictions. The confrontations are not as bloody as Dead Man’s Shoes for example but both films carry a theme of vigilantism. Simon Cassidy is an actor I have not seen before this. He is a very charismatic, quick actor and was a pleasure to watch in this role. I like films like this because I can feel imagined vindication without going to jail for it. These movies usually draw a large audience because people enjoy the catharsis of vigilante films. From credits to credits, these elements are present and it’s my hope a lot of people will be able to see and enjoy this film as I did. The way it ends up for Pep is not predictable but it does make sense. Discussing it with my wife over coffee, I could hear she had some of the same feelings I did about Pep. This is a thinking man’s (woman’s) film or sure to be discussed with a date or a friend at length. I will certainly discuss it on some future podcast.

There are many remarkable particulars about this film but I think one of the most noteworthy is the editing. I imagine editing for any feature film is a bitch but when you look at the hundreds of cuts that are made in this quasi biography, the task appears gargantuan. David Brook does an elegant and commanding job telling this story through its editing.

All in all, this new film Vigilante is a masterpiece that achieves what it sets out to do. Bullseye. For that reason, I give it a 5/5.