The Changeling

Mysteries are great. I love when I piece together significant things to paint a picture of the end. The Changeling is one such movie and a true story.

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In the early days of Los Angeles, there was some intermingling between police and mob business. You see it reflected here. Beyond that, the police department was responsible for some really shady stuff on its own. This story chronicles some of that. I really liked the vintage cars and costumes, what I didn’t like was seeing such corruption from the very people who are supposed to protect and serve. We ca only hope times have changed since then.

The rest of this review may contain spoilers

Angelina Jolie’s character loses her son one day. By that, I mean she comes home and finds her 10-year-old missing. She naturally calls the police and a search ensues over weeks. At this point something so bizarre and unbelievable happens. Flabbergasted viewers must remember: this is a true story.

The police call her saying they have her son when in fact it is clearly not her son. She tells them so but they insist. It even gets so pushy on their part that eventually they have her illegally committed to a mental ward.

This is one part of the film. The other is woven as a texture and it involves the real fate of her son. Why the police pull this odd switcheroo on the mother is never completely revealed but I would figure it had something to do with PR in a pedo/murder case that they are making no progress on. They wanted the press to show progress so they did what they did..

After some really good drama/thriller stuff, the location of the pedo is found. We surmise Walter was killed there. Then the film begins to really feature Malkovich. He plays the preacher in a local church with a lot of political complaints. He is really her only hope when the police turn against her.

All in all, this is an amazing thriller with a compelling true story-line. All the acting is great and the costumes/props are vintage to a fault. I recommend this film for fans of the major actors in it as well as for fans of the thriller/crime genre.

Us, 2019 – ★ (contains spoilers)

My review of Us, 2019 – ★ (contains spoilers) http://bit.ly/2ToHVvm

This review may contain spoilers.

Less a horror than a social message/drama/sci-fi

Being a horror fan first and foremost I try to be thankful for any horror that is released. I don’t always like them though. This was a film about a failed government experiment on cloning. That in and of itself is a cool idea for a movie. When one of the dopplegangers says “We are Americans” it opens up much potential for interpretation. What isn’t as cool is that Peele leaves it up for interpretation 100%. Horror shouldn’t be so hard to figure out. Furthermore, at the end Adelaide has a flashback and realizes she has been the doppleganger all along. This is really a reach in the writing. I wish Peele would have kept it more simple than that. Horror makes complicated turns difficult. Instead of bracing for a scare, you’re trying to figure stuff out and for me tonight as I watched the film, that was definitely not cool. I didn’t hate it, but I felt numb about it. So much cliche and so much of the same tropes he used in his first horror “Get Out.”

I would like to see Peele do some drama etc based on race. That is the strained topic of both his movies. Why not just let horror be horror and make those statements in a drama or sci-fi social consciousness umbrella. There was little to no character development in either film because they posed as horrors which usually don’t have that. If his next is horror, I think I am twice bitten thrice shy. I’ll probably miss it.

Follow me on Letterboxd https://letterboxd.com/rileyonfilm/film/us-2019/

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, 2018 – ★★★★

My review of Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, 2018 – ★★★★ http://bit.ly/2HCshu2

Touching film. Fred Rogers was a special man. This outlines his influence on people in the PBS antenna tv generation.

Follow me on Letterboxd https://letterboxd.com/rileyonfilm/film/wont-you-be-my-neighbor/

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, 2019 – ★★★½

My review of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, 2019 – ★★★½ http://bit.ly/2VfNwFo

A whole lot of fun. The “Dragon’s” share.

Follow me on Letterboxd https://letterboxd.com/rileyonfilm/film/how-to-train-your-dragon-the-hidden-world/2/

Leaving Neverland, 2019 – ★★★★

My review of Leaving Neverland, 2019 – ★★★★ http://bit.ly/2OdY1XF

Disturbing and enlightening about the king of pop who I’ll now see quite differently. Highly graphic as the actual incidents were. I don’t see how anyone can deny these things happened after hearing from these victims, now grown. As a documentary it’s nearly perfect.

Follow me on Letterboxd https://letterboxd.com/rileyonfilm/film/leaving-neverland/

Doctor Strange

This film is very good. The visuals are probably the best feature but it has a solid cast, good acting, and a very able hero to add to the Marvel film universe. There were several times I lost interest in the characters and what they were doing, a better story with more aside type humor might have helped that.

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This film is serious, that’s for sure. It starts out with a doctor making life or death choices in surgery. From there is transfers to Hong Kong and the focus is on learning martial arts and a Zen mindset. My 9-year-old found these parts very boring. To me, they were ok in that they were part of the machine of telling the story. I did think those scenes could have been eliminated in retrospect.

There is a villain and he is certainly hated and scary. It is unclear where he gets his powers though and so he seems flat. It would be nice to get more back story on him. The visuals, mostly CGI, are stunning and they really drew me in. This idea of “folding in” dimensions one upon another is hypnotic and this part of the story is told well.

Tis film is very polarized on its hero. I would have liked to see his relationship with his colleague/lover developed. This could have opened our minds more to his motivation. As it is, the first half of the movie is basically just life events that lead up to the car accident. The second half is him flailing to find a way to make his hands stop shaking. That is the only motivation in the film really.

There is a lot of action here. If you want something visually stunning, Doctor Strange is for you. Some viewers might find the focus on training a bit long but there is plenty of action here as well. I guess I would have liked to see this film “get to it” sooner but then again, I am not familiar with the comic book storyline. I would definitely recommend this film to Marvel comic fans and those interested in Eastern meditation, martial arts, and the Doctor Strange character.

Donnie Darko

Weird things are just simple things you don’t understand yet. For many, this film appears weird but I would argue it’s not quite as weird once you have a little research under your belt and of course, you actually sit down and watch it, credits to credits. If you have done those things, I’ll bet it’s less weird for you. Am I right?

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Jake Gyllenhaal plays this evil-eyed high school kid very well. He is haunted by this vision of an evil bunny. The research I alluded to in my introduction will tell you what that’s all about as well as how he cheats death in the beginning of the film. After that, he is unwittingly on a journey to understand the bunny and his own mental health issues. 

Donnie is seeing a therapist. She increases his medication which seemingly should make the evil bunny go away but it does not. We can only reason from that he is not a hallucination. When we start understanding more about this creepy bunny, the film takes a strange Ray Bradbury-like turn and if you can follow this as a sci-fi film, the creepy turns to sensibility.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying this film s simple ir that most viewers will “get it.” I am saying, just like Bird Man, you can read many interpretations into this. It has multiple meanings and all can be successfully argued.

I think I can safely say you will not understand this film without reading something about it on the internet. I’ve read quite a few lengthy posts about it. The general idea put forth is that there are 2 realities: the real life one and some other-worldly dimension. I’ll let you chew on that and see if you agree once you see it. I think the ending is great, it shows Donnie to have the capability of being self-less. Incidentally there are a lot of great names in this film. You have some great actors giving excellent performances. In my closing words I would just reiterate that this film is not weird. I would encourage interested parties to look around at some interpretations online and then make your own. I do wish more was explained but that’s my only criticism. I recommend this one to ’80’s movie’ fans, sci-fi geeks, and dark movie fans.

Breaking Bad

A beleaguered teacher who becomes a meth dealer, now there’s an idea for a series! At this point, I’m not sure who hasn’t seen Breaking Bad. If you haven’t, I’ll give you quick run-down on why I think it’s a great watch.

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Walt is nothing like me. I’m a 4th grade teacher, he’s a high school chemistry teacher. He’s unhappy in his married, I’m quite happy. The one thing he has going for him that I identify with is the desire for something better. He wants better healthcare and instead of waiting for the union to come through for him, he takes the situation into his own hands.

Through the course of a few episode he becomes a meth maker and small time distributor. The drama follows that as well as the rapidly deterioration of his marriage. His wife is a total bitch. I can’t really blame him for wanting to get out f the house. She dreams up ideas that he should do and then forces him into them. You get the fleeting notion from time to time there was once something between them but as for the now, the marriage is on its last leg.

Walt partners up with an ex-student Jesse who knows the street smarts of the game. Between the two of them they rake in cash along with mounds of trouble. It seems the more they make, the closer they come to being caught or killed. They have adventures involving local drug rings and you get to see the dark side of all that.

In conclusion, this show has a lot of cool action sequences and certainly some well-written drama. Still, it also has a lot of dry episodes where literally nothing happens except that the cactus grows. If you ca hang in there through these episodes, the story is great and enjoyable up until the final episode. I recommend it as an excellent binge watch.