The Damien Riley Podcast – A Nightmare on Elm Street

In just over 4 minutes running time, I preview this horror classic for you all, especially those who haven’t seen it yet. I urge all horror fans to do so … It’s now streaming on Netflix

Blogging Mistakes, My Apologies

I noticed my post today Christine (2016) had some errors after I posted it. I want to apologize and let you know I will be proofreading better. I’ve struggled with this for years and years. Thank you readers for your patience and generosity in reading my posts warts and all.

Above are gravatars of past years that represent how errors can work pave the way to good things and nobody’s perfect. Behind every perfect picture is an imperfect story. I know my backstories! Enjoy your day, may it be perfect.

Please Vote for Breaking Away as Movie of the Month on the LAMB

I’m championing this film as Movie of the Month on the LAMB (Large Association of Movie Blogs). Please help me win! If I do win, I get to be on a podcast discussing why it’s so great. Trivia: Did you know the AFI voted it #8 Most Inspirational Movie of all time? Vote for Breaking Away Here.

Breaking Away (1979) [Damien Riley, Riley on Film]

From the archives: My review of Breaking Away

The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

Fans of horror films know that some are genuine works of art like the Monalisa or Starry Night. They look past the things that shock others etc. to unearth a spectre of understanding of human greatness on the screen. This film is one of those for many horror fans. I truly hope more people, including non-horror fans, get a chance to see this lovely foreign film.

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The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Cast

Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi

Directed by

Guillermo del Toro

Written by

Guillermo del Toro, Antonio Trashorras, David Muñoz

Other Info

Drama, Fantasy, Horror
Rated R
1h 46min

What are ghosts? Why do we get scared as children when we hear ghost stories? These are primal questions we may never have a scientific answer to. In this film, ghosts are beings that are stuck. They keep doing the same thing and it is thought of as haunting. Carlos is a boy in an orphanage in the Spanish civil war. His father has died in battle but no one tells him. Instead, he is abandoned at a small orphanage. In front of the orphanage is a mammoth sized defused bomb. This is that backdrop and setting for this drama that contains elements of horror.

The ghost is referred to as Santi, or “the one who sighs.” He looks a little like a zombie but he can talk and probably use reason. He was once a boy just like Carlos. Santi seems to be somewhat of a protector of the orphanage. His mute eloquence speaks volumes about how war is hell and how men can be overwhelmingly evil.

This film is a beautiful painting. Guillermo del Toro calls it his “most personal work.” When the boys get into their mischief, I couldn’t help but imagine a young Gullermo there. The horror is scant but it serves it’s purpose in telling this entrancing story. The characters are so well written and played, I felt I was watching a live university theater production. There are tons of quotes shared by the narrator and after watching it I felt wiser. There are subtitles and the film is entirely spoken in Spanish. Still, the cinematography and deft writing kept my eyes glued to the screen. I do speak Spanish but I am not a native speaker. I gladly read the subtitles that capture some subtleties of the language. This is beautiful film to watch and to listen to despite the subtitles. There is so much else here. Any horror film lover must see it and even if you aren’t one, this is an incredible drama with ghosts, fantasy, and revenge.

The antagonist is a class A asshole. I’ll spare you the spoilers but you will enjoy a few things surrounding his story. Towards the end you start to wonder who is a ghost and who is not. All in all, this beautiful piece of cinema serves to display the hell of war. It also raises the question of what ghosts are. Can they exist outside of religion? When we fear them, perhaps we lose sight of their help. Guillermo has said in so many words that we should not fear the dead as ghosts but the living. When we examine war and what it does to people, even children, we should remember that suggestion of his.

Snow White and the Huntsman

Some of the hoopla was well founded but more than some failed to deliver on such a powerful story as that of Snow White.

The trailers were abuzz the last several months with the event that now is Snow White and the Huntsman. Some of the hoopla was well founded but more than some failed to deliver on such a powerful story as that of Snow White. The film was directed by Rupert Sanders. He has nothing prior on file with IMDB, in other words he’s a “noob” with this one. An interesting factoid is that IMDB lists his future project as a sequel to this movie. I suppose they’ll need a new witch to fuel the dollars further? But I digress. It was written by Evan Daugherty, also a relative noob to the business, and John Lee Hancock who is known for direction the amazing film the Blind Side. There are two other credits for writing listed on IMDB but the link is misdirected. Anyone who has collaborated on any creative knows that the more people involved, the more delicate and difficult the challenges become. I have a feeling some of the holes in this screenplay are owing to the abundance of creative writers.

There are plenty of movie stars in Snow White and the Huntsman. Kristen Stewart, known for Twilight, plays Snow White. She is an interesting choice with pros and cons resulting throughout. Chris Hemsworth, known for Thor, plays the Huntsman: an oddly familiar figure as if from Gladiator and Spartacus the HBO series. Charlize Theron, known for so many things like Hancock, Devil’s Advocate, and Monster, plays Ravenna. There is a long list of other A-name actors in this film as well. One example is Bob Hoskins who plays one of the key dwarves. Sometimes this many stars can equal a great movie but other times, and I would argue in this case, they are lured by the promise of a name like Snow White in the title. A big budget with big actors does not an amazing movie make. It takes a lot more than that and it’s too bad these writers and the director didn’t know that. The movie is fun, okay I will say that but it is not believable and worse than that, confusing in many places. Snow White and the Huntsman should have flowed better in my opinion.

Did you know the horses scenes were difficult for Kristen Stewart because she suffered an injury as a child while riding one? You wouldn’t know it from the film footage. She rides deftly as she does everything else. From the dwarves to the trolls, everyone in the forest is buying it. For me? I wanted more of a reason to believe she was going to save the kingdom. What’s more, I wanted to believe the all-to-famous kiss was heartfelt. But I’ll stop on that subject there. Here a short version of the film: Ravenna is running out of life after lifetimes of sucking it from youthful people. Her mirror, which is a gold shape shifting thing instead of a mirror like in Shrek, tells her she must kill Snow White or face a final demise. She dispatches the huntsman to bring her back to the castle but he instead decides to join with Snow White to win back the kingdom. Many things happen in the forest. There are new creatures the likes of which we have never seen, not even in Lord of the Rings, although there is much borrowing of tone and theme throughout. I suppose any movie that makes as much money as LOTR did will be copied right? Eventually, the entire forest and oppressed people of the kingdom fight for Snow White and the end is played out (which I never like to share in these reviews). It is a contrived movie from start to finish but the effects are good and when Kristen Stewart isn’t struggling with her accent, it’s a fairly decent adventure/fantasy film.

In the final analysis, this is a swashbuckling film that sways quite aways away from the original Grimm fairy tale. Audiences will like the special effects and the actors though, in spite of the writing that may a little too far afield of the original story for some viewers. Oh, and one last thing: the PG-13 rating is well earned. There is a lot of blood and senseless violence here. I’d say kids below 10 would have a hard time with this.

The Damien Riley Podcast – How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

My preview of another ROM COM now streaming on Netflix. Stars Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. Everyone I know that have I talked to who’s seen it loved it. I am no exception ;) Please leave a comment and follow me for more reviews. Listen to me in this episode try and convince you to watch it. Was I successful?


Inherent Vice


Title: Inherent Vice
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
MPAA Rating: R
Year: 2014
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, “Boogie Nights,” “The Master” …
Top Billed Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro …
Brief Synopsis: Los Angeles in the 1970’s was a place where many lived double lives. This film follows a hippie PI through some of that as he uncovers more secrets than he bargained for.
My Word to the Wise: The cast and acting is amazing. I’m not too crazy about the story. To follow it you need x-ray focused attention and even then it’s hard to follow. I didn’t feel the payoff was worth the wait. That subtracted two stars for me.

The rest of this review may contain spoilers.

Best scene by far is when Brolin is transporting Phoenix to the station while making oral love to a frozen banana. There are some great dramatic scenes by Brolin as well. Phoenix does a good job. I liked him better in this with disheveled hair and huge sideburns than his clean-shaving character in “The Master,” also directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. You might say he has a face for a beard. I have a feeling the story as laid out in the book is much better than the convoluted presentation in the movie.

Trolls

The Trolls in this film are not ugly like the dashboard ones of the 80’s. Instead they are endearing, cute, and presented in vibrant colors. The powerful colors reminded me of those in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. Vibrant colors help to deliver a message of happiness and finding it in yourself and through love. This film can be enjoyed by anyone but those around the toddler age will certainly be playing over and over, singing and dancing to the music.

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Cast

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Directed by

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Written by

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Other Info

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IMDB Rating: [imdblive:rating]

If you get into upbeat music, you’ll like the movie. If you like cute animation with a decent story, you’ll love this film.

The main idea of this film is that we all have happiness inside us. The ugly creatures have to eat Trolls in order to be happy and obviously, this doesn’t go well with them. Through a random course of events, the Trolls have to show the ugly creatures they can be happy on their own and in fact, the happiness was inside them all along.

The music is powerful and makes this movie a better animation film than others. You have the music and voices of Justin Timberlake, Zoe Deschanel, Anna Kendrick, and more. Supporting the music is amazing animation in a colorful style we haven’t seen … ever before I think it’s safe to say. It’s a feast for the eyes and ears. The story is also very cute which makes it all the more suited for the younger ones.

I’d recommend this film for everyone who likes the elements I have mentioned but especially kids ages 4-9. If you’re like me you may find you are a kid at heart because I really loved this film. Because it won’t be for everyone, it lost just 1/2 a star.

‘Crawl or Die’ – Horror in the Pipeline with a Girl

When you were a kid did you crawl through tunnels? I know I did. These tunnels are kind of like that except a monster is following you and they get smaller and smaller as you try to escape. This is horror in the pipeline with a kick-ass girl.

Horror, Sci-Fi, and Thriller never looked so good in a film. It’s been called “The Most Claustrophobic Film.” I would agree with that. For horror fans, those scares are met by the incredible performance of Nicole Alonso. The Director Oklahoma Ward has created a film that sends fear down your spine and makes it impossible to turn away. Several elements work well to make this a perfect indie horror film.

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Crawl or Die (2014)
Cast

Nicole Alonso, Torey Byrne, Tommy Ball

Directed by

Oklahoma Ward

Written by

Oklahoma Ward

Other Info

Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
1hr 30min

Just like rock and roll bands try to play what rocks, so horror directors try to know what scares. As long as I can remember people have said claustrophobia is one of the most universal fears. People don’t like being in an enclosed space. Crawl or Die plays on that fear and believe me, it scares!

Furthermore, the fear of unknown creatures is another fear of many and Director Oklahoma Ward weaves a really scary creature into his film. These scary aspects combined with the extreme physicality of Nicole Alonso as “Tank” make Crawl or Die a horror, sci-fi, thrill ride of a film.

A high level security force is chosen to transport the “package,” the last woman on earth that can become pregnant. The earth as we know it is gone and the continuance of humankind rests in the safe passage of this woman.

While transferring this package, the team has to find its way through a labyrinth of pipes and tunnels. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there is a hungry creature that lives in the passages, coming to feed on them.

*The rest of the review may contain minor spoilers

The star of the movie is Tank (Nicole Alonso). She plays an angry, sexy, soldier role in the manner of Avatar‘s Trudy Chacón (Michelle Rodriguez), Colombiana‘s Cataleya (Zoe Saldana), Alien‘s Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), and the like. Alonso’s physical acting is extreme. You see her pulling her own weight to and fro inside the pipes with artistry and grace. She is fun to watch and definitely easy on the eyes. At the same time, there is a determination in her eyes that builds suspense and keeps you guessing about the horror that is right behind them all.

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The creature definitely adds to the terror. In the scenes where you expect the creature to appear, Oklahoma Ward (Director) has deftly added subsonic beats that are choreographed to stop. In some of the early scenes, it seems an eternity before the creature crumbles its spider-like leg through the dirt. This works perfectly to release the scares that are not always that scary. It’s more the waiting on bated breath that creates the horror. Having said that, there are plenty of scares that send chills down your spine. It’s refreshing and remarkable what Ward and Alonso did in this film with such a simple set and formula. This is definitely a movie-makers movie as well as a critic’s film. There is much to talk about. I know I’ll be looking for an interview with the makers soon.

To expand on the “simple conventions” idea: I noticed the team used flashlights in an interesting way. They hung them on their boots as well as held them in their left hand while holding a gun in their right. I suppose when you are in a tunnel that’s getting smaller, you hold your light just about any way you can. The gun is a good thing too although it appeared that even an AK-47 assault type rifle cannot take out this monster. I’ve read online that this is to be the first film in a “Crawl or Die” trilogy. I will be eager to see how Ward uses more simplified effects to produce scares and suspense. As an independent film trying to use minimal budget and conventions to scare, I give this film a perfect score. I am a fan now and am looking forward to next one!

You can follow what’s happening with the Crawl or Die trilogy here.