The Revenant

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu, known most recently for directing “Birdman,” has created a visually stunning movie of survival and revenge. It’s clearly the fruit of much labor on behalf of the director and all the actors. It shows and works in the movie. Unfortunately the audience has to labor as well through a lot of slow scenes, some of which are probably unnecessary.

The two main roles are played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. Their characters are rough, gritty, and at times difficult to watch. There are some scenes in this film that made even me feel like hiding my eyes. Is this any surprise since this movie is about frontiersmen surviving in sub zero temperatures. There are Indians, hatchets, musket type rifles, buffalo, and bears. Aside: This film contains the most frightening bear maul I’ve ever seen on film. Even Paul Bunyan would recoil.

Short synopsis: Hugh Glass is a frontiersman alongside Jon Fitzgerald and a group of rough ones. They are making their way through the snowy forest terrain. Through a course of events and a bear mauling of Hugh, the story becomes one of survival. Hugh is determined to survive the attack and take revenge on those who abandoned him for dead.

My conclusions: There is a signature drum soundtrack but not as extensive as the one in “Birdman.” The camera pans and zooms are also signature of Iñárritu. It’s a long sit but I can say that fans of “Birdman” and westerns about revenge will probably really enjoy this movie. The cinematography is incredible. My wife and I actually felt cold in some of the scenes even though we had a raging fire going with the heater on. Movie lovers and reviewers especially will enjoy this movie. I foresee Oscar nods. It’s one of the best of 2015 for sure. I did find it overly long and belabored at times though and that made it lose a star with me.

#WeeklyRoundup – See What Films I Reviewed on my #Blog Last Week

I published four reviews on ‘Riley on Film’ last week. My impressions ranged from “This is a character study in evil” to “why was this made?” You’ll find the posters below. click on each one you want to read my review of. the inly one I can’t recommend is ‘Elvis and Nixon.’ Read why. The other 3 are amazing films and I recommend them.


‘Elvis and Nixon’ – Michael Shannon as Elvis Thank You Very Much Ladies and Gentlemen

imageStarring: Michael Shannon, Kevin Spacey, Alex Pettyfer, Johnny Knoxville, Colin Hanks, Evan Peters, Sky Ferreira, Tracy Letts, Tate Donovan, Ashley Benson
Genres: Comedy, History
Directed By: Liza Johnson
Studio: Bleecker Street Media/Amazon
MPAA Rating

I agree it’s out of the ordinary that a rock icon and a President met in the White House Oval Office. I don’t agree it was extraordinary enough to make a feature-length film, Elvis and Nixon, about the meeting. Only the cast is impressive but their talent is wasted on a piss poor script.

On other matters, the casting is not even remotely fitting. Kevin Spacey doesn’t have the demeanor nor the voice of Nixon and Michael Shannon as Elvis is about as arresting as his one Karate move he shares a few times.

This is an Amazon film that many critics are shocked was made at all. It was a ridiculous way to spend a couple of hours but there is nothing clever or shocking to share about it. Can I just ask why was Michael Shannon, one of my favorite actors, playing a supposed based on a true story narrative of Elvis? These guys belong together in a Superman movie but not this.

I really can’t recommend this film. Whatever it set out to do was a mystery so I can’t say it achieved its goal. If this is the quality we are to expect from Amazon films, I’ll be wary of what I select.

Independence Day: Resurgence

Anticipation was high for my wife and I going in to see this film. After about 20 minutes, it wore off. After 40 minutes, we had very little idea what was going on. When there was a bout 20 minutes left to the end, we walked out.


Independence Day: Resurgence

Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman

Directed by

Roland Emmerich

Written by

Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, James Vanderbilt, Dean Devlin

Other Info

Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Rated PG-13
Riley’s Rating: 1]

The film started in sort of a cool way. It was the type of sci fi beginning that brings you up to speed. At some point in the movie however my wife and I just lost all hope of having an interest and we walked out. Please know that we rarely walk out of movies. In over 13 years of marriage and seeing films, we’ve done it 2-3 times I think. You may know that feeling when you realize it just can’t improve.

The Basic story is that 20 years have passed since aliens nearly destroyed the Earth in the first film Independence Day. The Earth has had a lot of time to build up its defenses but will it be enough when the aliens do return in Independence Day 2.

It’s not meant to be a funny or nonsense movie but I have a feeling comedians and critics will be pulling funny material for routines and columns for decades. Take a few of these particulars for example: Liam Hemsworth’s character pees on a dead alien, there is an alien prison at Area 51, Bill Pullman goes (in a matter of an hour) from a lock down mental health facility to giving national military advice, and the queen alien is supposed to be as big as half the Atlantic ocean. Let me remind you of what I listed in the writers section: there were 6 professional writers for this film. Process that for a minute … 6. When I research most my reviews there is 1 writer, 3 tops.


Speaking of time spent on reviews, there are a slough of reviews out there on this movie that have done a lot more homework than I. I had high hopes for this film since my wife is a fan of the first one and we wanted to see what happened in the sequel. What we got instead was a convoluted mess that barely made sense and first and whirled out of control quickly to where neither of us knew what was happening.

Could it be the director was hoping for the pro-war, pro-military crowd to dance a jog just for the sake of kicking alien ass? I apologize if that offends anyone but I am really grasping in the dark to find a motive for making this film. I haven’t said this in a review for a while, I do not recommend this film to you. The end leaves room for a sequel so perhaps they’ll produce something better next time. Too bad they missed the mark with this one.

‘The Congressman’ – Memorable Maine & Treat Williams

Watching “The Congressman” I was taken back by the video images of a sleepy Maine fishing town and impressed by the acting skills of Treat Williams.

There is care given to capture sunsets, active fishing expeditions, and more. There is one sunset that is unforgettable.

This film is about a Congressman named Charlie Winship, played by Treat Williams who is known for Hair and Deep Rising, among many other television and film roles. Charlie has a bad day when he is captured on iphone video sitting wile the rest of Congress is doing the pledge of allegiance. In our viral world, it gets publicizes fast and Charlie gets a lot of judgement for what he did. It gets a lot worse before it gets better and the idea presented is that we tend to worship rituals instead of concepts of freedom.


Charlie retreats to an island off the coast of Maine and while there he recovers the small town values that once made up his political his platform. He connects with a woman, Rae Blanchard, played by Elizabeth Marvel. She is very important in his return to his previous morals about Freedom. The film moves around rather quickly with not too much time on any one person. It focuses a spotlight on an issue and then moves on leaving the viewer to form her/his own opinions.

TC_CharlieJaredBoat_finalThis may be seen by some as a “light hearted” film that doesn’t make any grand stadium statements. The other reason to see this film is Treat Williams’ performance. He speaks with such seasoned ease in acting. He delivers his line as though he were an actual congressman. It’s a great film to watch and internalize at the theater or on Video On Demand where you can find it now. For the reasons stated above, I hope many get to see and enjoy this film.

Directors: Jared Martin, Robert Mrazek
Writer: Robert Mrazek
Stars: Treat Williams, Elizabeth Marvel, Ryan Merriman
R | 1h 38min | Drama

The Loft

“The people you love, they’re the only ones who can hurt you.” -Anne Morris

According the “The Loft” movie, it’s every man’s dream to have a cave or a loft where he can do whatever he wants, including cheating on his wife (or girlfriend). I say no thanks, even in a movie. The idea of cheating is only somewhat interesting to me. “The Loft” explores it. Then again, maybe the movie is meant to show us the consequences of such actions.

The Loft (2014)
Karl Urban

as Vincent Stevens

James Marsden

as Chris Vanowen

Wentworth Miller

as Luke Seacord

Directed by
Erik Van Looy
Written by
Bart De Pauw (based upon the film written by), Wesley Strick (screenplay)
Other Info

Mystery, Romance, Thriller
Rated R
1h 48min

My favorite aspect of this movie isn’t the subject matter but rather the mystery woven through. In the first scenes we see a body fall out of the loft onto a car. The viewer is given clues but the key to the mystery about that body takes a real sleuth.

For me, this was almost a good tv movie but it shouldn’t be a cinema film. It had all the trappings of an Zach Galafinakis/Bradley Cooper drunken comedy ony there aren’t any jokes and we certainly aren’t meant to shake our fists and say “Hell yeah, have another shot.”

While I’m on that subject of men partying, I want to share with you I feel so disenfranchised from films like this. I don’t have friends who are pouring vodka down my throat and hooking me up with centerfolds. Why do we see this so much in movies like this?

The concept here is that a group of men share the rent on a secret loft penthouse style apartment. The understanding is that they can cheat on their significant other without being caught. Well, there is a murder and seemingly another death that may be suicide (the falling body onto the car). You get a lot of clues, some are obvious the others more cryptic. Nonetheless, it is a well woven mystery and I would recommend it on that basis alone. The characters, their lines, the story besides the mystery, unbelievable for me anyway. I don’t know what kind of dudes you run with but these ‘aint my peeps. If you liked it, let me know why? Like I said, it was an alright mystery.


Anthony Hopkins plays John Clancy, a psychic Doctor. If I were psychic and could see people’s death path when I touched them, I think I would pass on being a doctor and work in a toll booth. It turns out the serial killer cop “Joe” and Clancy seek is also very psychic and quite a few steps of both of them as they try to track him down.

Solace (2015)
Anthony Hopkins

as John Clancy
Colin Farrell as Charles Ambrose
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Agent Joe Merriweather
Abbie Cornish as Agent Katherine Cowles

Directed by

Afonso Poyart

Written by

Ted Griffin
Sean Bailey

Mystery, Thriller
Rated R for violence
1h 32min

There isn’t much new here for the genre. It feels like a run-of-the-mill serial killer movie. Anthony Hopkins does a few Hannibal Lecter clone scenes. One example is when he describe Abbie Cornish’s child to her without knowing anything about her. She plays Joe’s partner on the force. Clarisse anyone?

The killer, played by Collin Farrell, doesn’t show up until past midway. When he does, he is docile and tame. In my opinion, he was a very poor casting choice. His impetus or killing is supposed to be benevolent but it’s really not. Yes, it’s that hard to divine. We have a dead victim in a bloody bath (Dexter anyone?) and a script that borrows from every serial killer more cliche but it’s “ok,” the more isn’t terrible. I hated seeing talents wasted on such nonsensical writing though.

The ending is very predictable. I read on Wikipedia that this movie was meant to be a sequel to se7en. That might explain why the borrowed so much rom that and movies like it.

I enjoyed the actors but everything else is a fail for me. I took three stars away possibly to warn people this movie doesn’t merit the actors in it. There is some action between the nonsense so if you have nothing else to watch, I might recommend it.

Midnight Cowboy

I almost feel like if I don’t give this film 5 stars, bad movie karma will visit me. It is mentioned in so many reviews I read as well as in interviews with directors and actors. It was released with an “X” rating which is laughable by our standards today. I think you see one female breast in about three short, clothed sex scenes. It later received an R rating.

This film is old, it came out the same year I was born.

Oldies are often goodies though and “Midnight Cowboy,” while gritty, is a drama treat with award winning actors that make the story come alive.

I love movies that show us the naked city. From the playbills stapled and frayed on side streets to the honking of taxicabs. People are trying to survive and we get to travel with the camera, taking it all in. Of course, we can pause at any time or come back to revisit another time. People in the real city can’t. Maybe that’s why we like watching what they will do, often out of desperation.

Just seeing John Voight and Dustin Hoffman in their prime is very entertaining.

These guys were showing us acting like university drama instructors here in their mid twenties. John Voight has always struck me as one dimensional and stupid. That actually works for his character here. Hoffman is a con man, a sick one at that. We get a slice on 1969 in this very well made and incredibly acted film. I recommend it.

Title: Midnight Cowboy
Number of times I’ve seen it: 1
Genre: Drama
MPAA Rating: R
Year: 1969
Director: John Schlesinger, (“Marathon Man”)
Top Billed Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Sylvia Miles

Brief Synopsis: Man moves to the big city and makes an unlikely friend.

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

Title: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
Genre: Documentary, Crime, Drama
MPAA Rating: R
Year: 2008
Director: Kurt Kuenne
Top Billed Cast: N/A
Brief Synopsis: The disappearance of a 28 year old man reveals dark truths. The documentary maker made this for his son and complications arose.
My Word to the Wise: Fans of Dateline and 48 Hours will likely enjoy this film. It’s a gripping true story told in news footage and interviews. It will likely infuriate as well as entertain. It is a masterful telling of a story with an ending you’d never expect. As a documentary it was too long for me. They do a lot of filler scenes that repeat content. For that it lost a couple stars.

Nurse Jackie

Title: Nurse Jackie
Genre: TV Sitcom, Hospital, Drama, Dark Comedy, 30 minute episodes
MPAA Rating: TV-MA
Year: 2009-2015 7 Seasons
Produced by: Showtime.
Top Billed Cast: Edie Falco, known for “The Sopranos,” and array of big star regulars/guest stars.
Brief Synopsis: A nurse who juggles her family and pain-killers. Not a good combo but makes for a laugh here and there. Not realistic on all levels, hallucinogenic, trippy, strange when its not.
My Word to the Wise: It’s anyone’s guess how we “should” portray functional drug addicts working in an ER unit. I have no judgment for that reason. But I kept asking myself this question: should it be so funny in between the darkness?

The rest of this review may contain spoilers.

I just finished binge watching all the “Nurse Jackie” episodes. She reminds me of a trainer I had at Pizza Hut years ago who was bitter my education brought me in to the company above her. She was addicted to cigarettes and happy hour. Some addicts feel they work so hard we shouldn’t ever question them, What a crock of shit. Nurse Jackie embodies this type of what I call “Tweaker” thinking.

This is a good show in many ways because it dares to look at functional addiction with no sugar coating in the end.

I didn’t like every aspect of it though, which is likely in a show that runs this long, there have to be some experiments made to see what the audience bites on. If a character gets under your skin it’s for one of two reasons: 1) They remind you of a true life character or 2) it’s a terrible script with back and forth implausibility. I’d say both are true at different points.

If you like ER shows and/or you liked “Breaking Bad” you’ll enjoy the hybrid. There’s a bit more dark humor in “Nurse Jackie.” A spoonful of humor helps the medicine go down I suppose. But is this medicine? How else can a show present such dark subject matter?