Sully

Tom Hanks once again plays an average American and gives the world someone to believe in. Captain Sully is a decorated pilot who has to crash-land an airplane in the Hudson river. It’s a compelling story for sure but some viewers may find it dull and mundane. If you were ever curious about what happened in this news story, filmmaker Clint Eastwood has a video tale to tale you.

The rest of this review contains spoilers.

To borrow from David Spade: I liked this movie better when it was Flight. One thing I notice with older film makers like Clint Eastwood is that they tend to make movies they think will make a historical contribution. This is admirable but be advised these types of films are often not exciting. In fact, they can be quite boring.

There is great acting in this film but that’s not enough to justify this story being a movie. I think a tv special would have been a better suited genre. I did like the ending, it surprised me. When the panel somehow had a paradigm shift and suspended all judgement of Sully, it was gratifying. Just like in Flight, he is in a lot of trouble the entire length of the film. Unfortunately for me, I feel the story dragged on and I just didn’t find the science that makes up at least 50% of the investigation and the movie interesting. I can’t recommend this film for anyone but that’s not to say pilots and fans of the real sully won’t like it.

O Brother Where Art Thou?

This kind of humor hits fast and hard with some people, for others it has to grow on them a bit. Regardless, for my “folding money” this is some of the funniest stuff in film. I’ve seen this film probably 10 times and it just gets funnier every time I see it. A mix of early Americana and the Odyssey by Homer makes for this hilarious film of crime, salvation, old country/folk music, and comedy.

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Cast

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I wasn’t really a Clooney fan until I saw this film. He has a recurring line he says that always cracks me up, “We’re in a tight spot.” The fact of the matter is, they are quite often in a tight spot. The cat and mouse chases are most of what makes this film a laugh a minute.

In an allegory to Homer’s Odyssey, some men escape from prison to go on the road. They make their way through recording on the radio, meeting interesting people, escaping close calls with the Ku Klux Klan, and a few other scenes you have to see to truly “get.”

John Goodman reminds them “it’s all about the money” and beats them all with a stick. That’s a funny scene but this film is about a lot more than just money, it has soul. I recommend this film for fans of the Cohen Brothers’ films and those into bluegrass roots and music. Watch it with an open mind since it is not straight ahead comedy. If you can get what it’s doing, you’ll have a good old-time enjoying this country folk crime ride. This film ranks in my top 15 for sure.

The Departed (2007)

The Departed (2007)

We have a gangster vs cops film here that really takes you to another place. That’s something I really value in a movie. Scorcese is a master at that. He also knows how to make films about men trying to become their inner vision of themselves be that tough cops or wayward gangsters. The story is inspired by Infernal Affairs (2002) by Alan Mak and Andrew Lau, one of the most successful Hong Kong films to date.

I’m writing on this one for the blogathon because it is set in Boston rather than, say, New York or Vegas, like other gangster films. The scenery and cinematography is fantastic and effortless. It begins with a soda fountain scene that could have been clipped and pasted from in “GoodFellas.” Two men start the film: One becomes the cop undercover as gangster, the other becomes the gangster undercover as cop.

This is one of Matt Damon’s best. One thing we learn is that no one is to be trusted. The question is not whether the law is flawed. Instead, we question “Who will/would testify against the evils?” Furthermore, who really is evil? It might be true it presents a system, a world where it can be sinister and still moral as long as it doesn’t appear sinister. A rule of thumb for those in public office?

FINAL WORD
Scorcese is a maestro of film making. He takes ordinary people and visits extraordinary pain and struggle upon them. These men, however have a romantic vision of themselves and we see them work toward that self-image in most every film he’s done. The acting here is incredible, if you’ve seen the film you probably agree I’m right. I highly recommend The Departed. Please leave me a comment about your impressions of this Boston based film.

10/10

By Damien Riley
rileyonfilm.com
@rileyonfilm

The Void (2016)

Scary

The Void

The Void

“Shortly after delivering a patient to an understaffed hospital, a police officer experiences strange and violent occurrences seemingly linked to a group of mysterious hooded figures.” -IMDB

Cast

Aaron Poole Daniel Carter
Kenneth Welsh Dr. Richard Powell
Daniel Fathers The Father
Kathleen Munroe Allison Fraser

Directed by

Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski

Written by

Steven Kostanski, Jeremy Gillespie

Other Info

Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Not Rated
Fri 07 Apr 2017 UTC
90min
IMDB Rating: 6.0

Movie Review components:

Director (with previous work and rep), actors (with character names& commentary)

My Summary

FINAL THOUGHTS

Beyond the Gates (2016)

Recently I saw Drive and it had that 80’s background synthesizer mood. Soon that I saw Turbo Kid that had similar background music. Could this be coming back? It works for me!

Beyond the Gates (2016)
Not Rated | 1h 24min | Adventure, Horror | 9 December 2016 (USA)
Two estranged brothers reunite at their missing father’s video store and find a VCR board game dubbed ‘Beyond The Gates’ that holds a connection to their father’s disappearance.

Director: Jackson Stewart
Writers: Stephen Scarlata, Jackson Stewart
Stars: Graham Skipper, Chase Williamson, Brea Grant

This one does uses that 80’s synth sound too only it’s decidedly a horror/thriller film unlike the thriller Drive or comedy action Turbo Kid. When your budget is low, you have to get creative with sets and effects. This film indeed does that effectively. What better concept for a film like this than a VHS tape that opens the door of hell?

The story revolves around a guy, his girlfriend, and his estranged brother who he grew up with in a small town. The protagonist’s dad owned a VHS store there and so the protagonist and his brother spent a lot of time hanging around the movies and playing with reminders and other equipment there. They stumble across a tape that is what used to be known as a VHS RPG. In this case they are given clues on how to get “beyond the gates” and reunite with their father who has mysteriously disappeared.

There is blood and guts and it ends up being a pretty “jump scary” film. Even so, a goofy vibe permeates the whole film. It reminds me of the inside jokes of nerds from high school woven into a film that most viewers wouldn’t laugh at or be scared by. Nonetheless, I found it a lot of fun. The ending is ridiculous but it takes itself so seriously you can’t help but find it satisfying.

Final Thoughts
Beyond the Gates is a low budget horror/thriller that brings you back to the 80’s horror mood. The synthesized music seems a virtual red carpet for Michael Jackson’s dancing thriller zombies. The effects are creative, though not very believable yet that isn’t important in this fun under-produced film about playing a VHS tape that opens the door of hell. I would say that not all will “get” this one. It took me two sits to actually finish it. Still, if you can shut the world out and just enjoy low budget horror with a somewhat silly story, this is your movie. To you and fans like you (like me), I recommend it.

7/10

Captain Fantastic

Finally, a movie where Viggo Mortensen can come out of his shell. He’s a dad who tries to raise his kids in his out outdoor, survivalist image with mixed results. With an excellent cast, well written script, and superior directing, This is one of my favorite films of the year.

Captain Fantastic
Cast

Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso

Directed by

Matt Ross

Written by

Matt Ross

Other Info

Comedy, Drama
R
Fri 29 Jul 2016 UTC
118min
IMDB Rating: 7.9

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, so they say. You’ll have to wait and see in this film. All his many kids seem to respect him. This is true even when he orders them to eat the heart of the animal they killed and then carve it up for a meal. There are no mall trips or iPhones for Christmas.

As I watched this I kept wondering: “Is this a loving act?”

When the mom dies of cancer, the kids want to go to her funeral. Dad takes them and meets a lot of extended family conflict. It’s understandable they judge him, from a certain “civilized” point of view.

The ending brings the message home. I think this is the author and director’s vision for all of us. Love is always love whether in or out of civilized society. I loved everything about this film. I recommend it to all movie fans, especially parents of young adults.

7/10

Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom is a refuge amidst so many predictable and non-inventive movies out now. It tells a creative story line of lovers who thrive despite their antagonistic surroundings. The synopsis on IMDB reads: “A pair of young lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them.” It was directed by Wes Anderson known for The Royal Tennebaums, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. If you can enjoy a love story told in a campy way, this one will delight.

Moonrise Kingdom has many stars in it including: Bruce Willis (Captain Sharp), Edward Norton (Scout Master Ward), Kara Hayward (Suzy), Bill Murray (Walt Bishop), Frances McDormand (Laura Bishop), Tilda Swinton (Social Services), Harvey Keitel (Commander Pierce). There are excellent secenes delivered by all the most notable being the portrayal of the 12-year olds in love.

Moonrise Kingdom starts and ends slowly. I can’t tell you it ever speeds up but because there is so much great and beautiful retro stuff to look at, I didn’t complain. It takes place in 1965 on a remote yet suburban island. We encounter a family with children and a crew of boy-scouts learning to live off the land and get various merit badges. If you can believe it, the two paths cross and we get a love story between two twelve year old kids and a whole bunch of campy humor. The tenderness of the kids in love is not lost however. There is something deeply touching in the way they bare their weaknesses verbally to each other while running away from a world that can’t hold them. If you can suspend disbelief and judgement for 90 minutes or so you may enjoy this one. If you are looking for realism, you should pay for a ticket. Odd scenes and dialog permeate but I liked that. I can see how some audiences would be put off by this film’s quirkiness. It was something different in a predictable movie Summer of films like the Dark Knight and The Amazing Spider-Man. That made it quite refreshing for me. If you can handle getting lost in a fantasy film, you will enjoy this one.

Moonlight

This review contains spoilers. The stages of life, from kindergarten to ones senior year of high school, are fairly predictable. This is often more true of heterosexuals only I’m afraid. Gays still have a much tougher time growing up and understanding their sexuality. This film examines the stages of one gay man, a black man who must discover who he is with very little assistance.

I love films that employ the use of several actors to portray a person through life. This is one of those. There were times it felt so real, like I was there watching the schoolyard fights, and other time I felt so much empathy for the protagonist I fought back tears. My wife was not as successful in that regard.

This is an incredibly moving film.

It’s the story of a black boy who grows up in urban poverty. He’s bullied for being different, and his own mother who is a drug addict calls him “faggot.” It seems the only role model he has is the street drug dealer in his neighborhood.

We see him dealing with so much adversity and trauma. Interwoven throughout are his feelings for other boys. He gets a chance to explore them once but never again until much later after he has spent time in jail and “rebuilt himself from the ground up.”

There’s nothing flashy here, no gratuitous sex or violence. This is the life of an American black man who learns to adjust in his world while being gay. This is one to talk about for sure. More films like this are necessary. I recommend this film highly to those who identify with and/or support the LGBT lifestyle. Also anyone who has a heart for those who are different from the elusive societal “norms.” The characters are like family. When you see them on the street corner or in their apartments you don’t just see them, you are invited in by their performances.

As a white, heterosexual male, I found this film stunningly beautiful, an amazing triumph in film on a topic that we need more films about.

The Belko Experiment (2016)

You might argue that Rod Serling had a negative view of the future when he wrote his Twilight Zone episodes. Many of them are fatalistic. This film is along those lines. When you have a negative view of authority and even the corporations you work for, it makes sense they might want you dead in the name of an experiment. I think these are the times we live in: sardonic, negative, fearful. This film certainly echoes that.

The Belko Experiment (2016)
R | 1h 29min | Action, Horror, Thriller | 17 March 2017 (USA)

1:01
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From $14.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

In a twisted social experiment, 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogotá, Colombia and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed.

Director: Greg McLean
Writer: James Gunn
Stars: John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona

This film looks a lot like The Purge. You have the established workplace forcing people to kill each other. I wonder why this experiment is important to the corporation and what do they hope to learn from it. The film didn’t do very well with critics, this nonsensical “experiment” may have had something to do with it. Like I sometimes do, I saw it all as a social commentary in the form of metaphor.

When employees are let go, they are in essence killed. By that I mean, they cease to exist in the workplace. The victims in this film are bloodied and certainly they would wish they’d have been fired instead. There are a series of killing rounds and a short time where the viewer can divine a meaning from it all. For me the message were nothing new: corporations see us all as expendable and people are evil when they have to kill to survive.

Final Thoughts
If you liked The Purge, you’ll like this. It’s more a thriller than horror, though it is labeling itself horror. There are buckets of blood if you like that sort of film. I recommend it as a bloody thriller that it more or less mindless. You can read stuff in like I did but it’s a very banal film, what you see is what you get. Of course, if you see deeper, leave me a comment and we’ll discuss it!

6/10

The Amazing Spiderman

In The Amazing Spiderman we see Spiderman more without the suit than with it. We also see him less as an untouchable comic book superhero and more as one of us mortals. The question then becomes: “Is this the same brand or a new one?”

In The Amazing Spiderman we see Spiderman more without the suit than with it. We also see him less as an untouchable comic book superhero and more as one of us mortals. The question then becomes: “Is this the same brand or a new one?” Here’s a short summary from IMDB: Peter Parker finds a clue that might help him understand why his parents disappeared when he was young. His path puts him on a collision course with Dr. Curt Connors, his father’s former partner.  It was directed by Marc Webb known for 500 Days of Summer and No Doubt: Return of Saturn. Its stars include Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, and Rhys Ifans as Lizard.

This film is a darker, more gritty, telling of the classic comic than the earlier franchise. It unfortunately has a laboriously long section of Peter’s life before the Spidey suit and spends way too much time developing minutae like how his glasses belonged to his father. Still, it is interesting to see what they do differently. Another liability is how Peter and Gwen are both played by actors pushing 30. They are meant to be in high school. At times I thought they were in college. Another different thing is that Peter has a much more stormy relationship with Aunt Mae and Uncle Ben. For example, Peter is almost expelled after fighting with the school bully on the basketball court. Uncle Ben chews him out for this, an act I can’t comprehend the old Ben doing.

When these hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on a per-established brand, character development is probably not important. What is important is that you follow the parts of the formula that work. There is a villain, a lizard, whose character is a part of the formula but he is also underdeveloped. As an aside, in my opinion he looks really fake. I’ve seen better CGI on National Geographic dinosaur documentaries. He’s not really sure if he likes Spiderman or not which is very confusing. We also never learn the true nature of the relationship between Peter’s parents and the lizard. Perhaps this was purposely left out for the sequel.

The new Spider Man runs amok doing whatever he feels at the moment. Once however he stops to truly focus on making a web spinner that would require hours of intense tedium and patience in real life. I don’t think with his what looked like ADD he could do such a thing. Flying maniacally on buildings and suddenly having this sort of patience is part of the muddy portrayal of Peter Parker. When he gets into the suit it isn’t much better. The Amazing Spiderman is not as good as the prior Spiderman trilogy because it assumes we are already on board with the new Spiderman’s vision. I for one needed to be shown and I never got that privelege. Here’s my last thing on character development: the romance with Gwen Stacy comes off as staged with awkward dialogue. A couple of times I could have sworn he spoke with an unintended stutter. I didn’t care if they ended up together, it felt as if their relationahip was obligatory top the movie and without passion. He is unlike the previous Spiderman in many ways. In fact, we see a superhero here more like Kickass than a comic book one.

In conclusion: There is very little that is “new” for us in this film. Of course, it is always fun flying around with Spiderman and there is a truckload of that. I think fans with an open mind will enjoy it but at the same time wish it “felt” like Spiderman. Perhaps it was the name that made this explains why Stan Lee himself financed this “prequel/remake” as its executive producer. We will never know for sure. Incidentally, Stan Lee does appear in a scene where Spidey is smashing through the high school library wall. Lee has headphones on while grooving to music. Based on the number of screens Spider Man was playing on here in our High Desert theaters, Lee is grooving all the way to the bank. As for me and whether this movie was a great action comic retelling, I’ll have to say it falls short. Despite its scattered portrayal of Peter Parker and a lousy CGI villain, this movie won points with its skyscraper scenes and other compelling special effects. I guess we will never know how it would have done if it had its own title and its own original characters.