As far as Marvel films go, this is more fun than they are usually allowed to be. It’s definitely fun but not what I had imagined.

Title: Deadpool
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
MPAA Rating: R
Year: 2016
Director: Tim Miller, known for “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.”
Top Billed Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller
Brief Synopsis: A former military dynamo turned reckless mercenary is transformed into having a superpower.
My Word to the Wise: Add another film to the Marvel superhero franchise. It mocks formulas but is formulaic to a fault. As far as Marvel films go, this is more fun than they are usually allowed to be. It’s definitely fun but not what I had imagined. The reviews made it seem like something apart from Marvel, it’s not.

Spoilers may follow in the rest of this review.

Ryan Reynolds does a good enough job in this Marvel film that sets out to be more gritty than the rest. He’s delivering jokes almost from credits to credits. It’s funny, for a while. I don’t mean to judge like a puritan, because I ‘aint one fo sho, but it seems like the producers wanted nudity, excessive blood, and reckless profanity throughout this movie, that appeals mostly to teenage boys. It’s so obvious they’re doing it you almost expect Deadpool to address the age group in one of his asides. By the way, there are many asides which is new for these movies.

I would like to see Deadpool take on Iron Man. This is partially because I never liked the Iron Man’s false bravado. I know the audience would root for Deadpool because, quite frankly, he way more crazy. I went into this movie not knowing how locked in to Stan Lee and the gang it was. The reviews I read seemed to hint at a superhero outside of the commercial loop. I saw that in about the first 1/3 of the movie. After they explain how Deadpool came to be, it because just another Marvel/X-Men/Avengers for me. They act like they are making fun of the genre with clever writing but Deadpool is just a slightly different incarnation. I hope I’m not bumming anyone out who wants to see it. It is certainly a lot of fun as any Marvel film is. Many buckets of fake blood gave their lives for this film and there’s a lot of nude scenes. I don’t recall seeing those in a Marvel film before. Trust me, I’m not complaining, just being real.

The teenage boys, ages 11-19 will love this film. The older ones will be mildly entertained. Based on the ratings out there in the strongholds: Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, it’s a “great film.” I suppose I agree with them. There’s a lot more on my mind bout this film but I’ll let it come out in comments on other people’s reviews. I really wanted to love this movie but after all the hoopla and watching it, I just like it. I have a platonic relationship with it. Will I see it again? Probably not. It has nothing on an intellectual level I’m afraid. Because it tried too hard to make fun of a genre that it was itself (it didn’t seem to know that) it lost a star. I have movies that “try.” Because I felt the R rating was sought out of indifference for the ten boys who make up the main audience, it lost another star. It’s definitely worth seeing though and damn funny at times. In closing though, I do not feel it lives up to the hype it’s receiving as “something different” in a superhero movie.

A lot of my friends loved this movie. Whether you agree or disagree with my appraisal, please let me know in the comments.

Finding Dory

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

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.


Finding Dory

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.

The Secret Life of Pets

Quick gags and incredible visuals save this Secret and predictable Life of Pets we already knew about.

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.


The Secret Life of Pets

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 shows us a silly character, drawn from real events, who shows “anyone can do it.” Unfortunately, most adults know not just anyone can win the olympic gold medal. That puts the film in a bit of a quandry. Still, it’s good fun with a great message to pursue your dreams.

Starring: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman
Genres: Comedy, Sport
Directed By: Dexter Fletcher
Studio: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating

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.

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.

Nine Lives

Nine Lives is a Disney-like film that reminded me a bit of Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Since I review movies quite a bit, I pay attention to the critics. Since they were not kind to this film, I let it leave theaters. My 9-year-old daughter asked me to watch it with her tonight and I was amazed at how funny and well-made it was. This is another reminder to not trust the critics.




Directed by


Written by


Other Info

IMDB Rating: [imdblive:rating]

The cat they got to play in this film is great. He’s very fluffy which makes you want to hug him. Unfortunately, I could never have a cat that hairy because it sheds and makes my nose itch. But this cat does great on the screen. I had feared there wouldn’t be enough cat stuff for my daughter after reading the premise of the film. I’m happy to say there is enough cat-on-screen time to satisfy the kids’ curiosity.

Christopher Walken is great in this, though he plays nearly the same role as he plays in Adam Sandler’s Click. There are a couple of scenes where he says things that are downright spooky. They aren’t spooky like a horror movie but rather like Goosebumps spooky. Jennifer Gardner is beautiful and does a great job as the wife and mom. Kevin Spacey is hilarious as a “Trump-like” business mogul who doesn’t spend enough time with his family.

After demonstrating to the audience he is an egomaniacal workaholic, Kevin Spacey’s character stops by a creepy cat store in a last-ditch effort to buy his daughter a cat for her birthday. The shop owner, Walken, puts a mystical spell on Spacey that later switches him into the cat’s body and vice versa. Through a course of events, the family and Spacey learn about themselves and it’s a hilarious ride as they go.

This is not a perfect film by any means. The jokes are all canned and it needs cat jokes and cat images often to keep it palatable. My 9-year-old laughed all the way through so that says a lot for its appeal to young kids. I thought it was cute and it gave me a chance to laugh with my daughter and enjoy some funny cat scenes. They indeed are the best part of the film. I recommend this one for parents to see with their 5-12 year olds as a light bonding movie where everyone can relax and have a laugh. I think the critics were way too hard on this one.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Here’s one on Netflix to watch! Rachel Bloom stands out in this hilarious and musical series about a young woman who can’t let go of a crush and move on.

Mostly I was struck by the deadpan comedy of this show. Watching Rachel Bloom play this goofy, cute character with such total investment is a laugh a minute. Before too long, I could see it was a periodic musical. I usually don’t like those unless they have amazing tunes. The tunes here are good but the humor is what holds it all together and makes it a behemoth.


Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Rachel Bloom, Vincent Rodriguez III, Santino Fontana

Directed by

Steven K. Tsuchida, Alex Hardcastle, Joanna Kerns (multiple more directors)

Created by

Rachel Bloom, Aline Brosh McKenna

Other Info

Comedy, Musical
31 episodes ( As of time of writing this) – 41 min

I always run to my blog when I find a great new show to binge watch. Today it’s Crazy Ex Girlfriend streaming on Netflix. This is not a spoilers review but rather a preview. Rachel Bloom is tons of fun to watch for both myself and my wife so I know she’ll appeal to may viewers. Her self-deprecating humor makes the show entertaining but the music and sketch sets make it a wondrous journey to and from the insanity of love.

In the series, Rebecca Bunch leaves her posh, successful law practice to follow a high school crush (Josh played by Vincent Rodriguez III) to West Covina California where she takes a lesser paying job. She is okay with his because her over-reaching goal is to win the heart of Josh! Meanwhile, she develops a platonic relationship with Josh’s best friend Greg, played by Santino Fontana.

I am sure as the episodes play out we will see a love triangle between Greg, Josh, and Rebecca. She’ll be back and forth a hundred times between the two. This is predictable but always fun when there’s good solid comedy and music in the mix! And not just music, but self-effacing music the lead girls sings and dances to. It’s a riot, Rachel Bloom is a delight and highly entertaining. At time of writing this, the first season is streaming on Netflix. My wife and I are looking forward to binge watching the rest of the first season and then checking out the show as new episodes unfold.

The Lady in the Van (2015)

This film is based on a true story. Once again, a movie presents vans in culture. Specifically, a van in British culture about 15 years ago and a lady that lived in it.


The Lady in the Van

Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Jim Broadbent

Directed by

Nicholas Hytner

Written by

Alan Bennett

Other Info

Biography, Comedy, Drama
Rated PG-13
1h 44min

The dilapidated van was owned by Mary Shepherd, a scraggly old homeless woman who lived in it for 15 years on Alan Bennett: playwriter’s, driveway. Bennett wrote about the experience in a play and it won numerous stage awards. In fact, Maggie Smith, known for being in the Harry Potter films and a billion others, played the role of Shepherd which earned her a Best Actress nomination at the 2000 Olivier Awards; and in the 2009 BBC Radio 4 adaptation. What’s more, Jennings wrote the book & the film. It’s the content of this heartwarming film, along with Maggie Smith’s acting, that makes a pleasant watch. It gets you thinking about all sorts of things worth talking about.

What if you had no one and you were entirely alone in the world? How would you view families playing together and people going to work talking negotiations etc. Alan Bennett write plays about lonely people but he meets the ultimate muse when he meets Mary Shepherd. Through a course of events at the beginning of the story, he begrudgingly allows her to park her van, which is her home, on his driveway. This causes him troubles he hadn’t accounted for but he lets her stay for 15 years. In a very unwittingly way, they are both kept company and they both see the other, thereby not making them as lonely as some.


Mary has an interesting story of how she came to be homeless. I won’t spoil it but suffice it to say, she feel as if she can never re-enter society. In the time she spends on Jennings’ driveway, he hears many of her stories and finds her a better choice than his own mundane, non-adventurous life for writing content. That’s why he lets her stay. They have experiences and the characters are developed more than adequately.


In the end we learn that Shepherd had been a nun and a decorated pianist in previous years. It’s amazing that Jenning’s never knew that until the end. To conclude, Maggie Smith is well grounded in this character and she is entrancing to watch. She’s plays the character as if it were herself. I also liked Jennings’ performance. I didn’t like the way that had his inner dialog with himself, a “clone” who comes in and out of scenes. I would have rather seen something like him writing and having his words speak. At any rate, the film did very well so don’t let my criticism take away. I highly recommend this for British viewers who know the play as well as for American fans of Maggie Smith and British culture.

Sing Street

Imagine this: You’re 15 years old and your parents have announced they are separating (because divorce isn’t permitted in Ireland). You love a girl who has an older boyfriend. A bully gives you a black eye every day AND the other one is blackened by your school master. What do you do to thrive in this? How about write some songs with a loner friend and start a band! There you have this film’s basis, and what fun it is from there!


Sing Street (2016)

Fredia Walsh-Peelo as Conor “Cosmo”
Lucy Boynton as Raphona
Jack Reynor as Brendan

Directed by

John Carney

Written by

John Carney

Other Info

musical, comedy, drama
Rated PG
1h 45min

“Sing Street” is a movie made and produced in Ireland. It is the fictional story of a 15 year old in Dublin in the year 1984 who goes to a bad school where he is bullied and who can’t seem to get a break in his young life. He meets a girl who describes her occupation as “a model” and becomes infatuated with her. In hopes of wooing her, he starts a pop band of misfits as it were but the invention has legs and the band becomes a small town sensation. The main gist of the film is the singer, Cosmo, who does an excellent job of relating his life experiences into songwriting. All the elements one can imagine of adolescence and the recession on the early eighties are upon he and his family. Through music and songwriting, there is triumph. Apart from the virtual success, this film might as well have been the story of my life at 15. I was learning to write songs and perform in my band at that time. As a result, I completely identified with this amazing film.

I suppose in my case, the main difference is I never truly “got in the boat” leaving home to seek fame. My girl would come after I was a teacher for 3 years at age 33, not a rock star at 15. This film is delightful. I love the characters, they are all so well developed. My favorite one is Cosmo’s brother, Brendan, played by Jack Reynor. He is the “sage” hash smoking college dropout that helps Cosmo find the differences between musical styles the likes of “Hall and Oates” and “The Cure.” Other bands’ music is featured in the movie and the original music is stellar. I am already in search of the soundtrack. The song at the end which is something to the effect of, “If you don’t go now, you’ll never know” gave be goosebumps. I hope to recreate that experience once I find the song! Sing Street is one of my most favorite films I have seen in years. It portrays the angst of a teen with his world falling apart, He makes a way through it all and we love to watch it! I highly recommend this film to you. Unfortunately it is in limited release so you may have to wait for it to come out on DVD. It is playing at select theaters still here in Redlands California, USA.

The Baytown Outlaws

“All right you got a job. You clean toilets or cut grass or whatever the hell it is you do. This is what I do. I shoot people in the face.” Brick Oodie

Info from: IMDB
The Baytown Outlaws (2012)
R | 1h 38min | Action, Comedy, Crime

When three redneck brothers agree to help a woman save her godson from an abusive stepfather, they become targets on the run from an odd cast of characters.

Director: Barry Battles
Writers: Barry Battles, Griffin Hood
Stars: Billy Bob Thornton, Eva Longoria, Thomas Brodie-Sangster

This film is for uncomfortable silences with dates for your daughter as you’re waiting for her to get ready. It’s a Jim Dandy way to get the message across that you see the wisdom in violence and you will do no more than chuckle after he’s been killed. I’ll have to keep it around for when my two girls start dating.

“The Baytown Outlaws’ is no Tarantino film. Still, it clearly aspires to be with the subject matter, twangy bass string guittar solos, and the like. For such poor acting and script, I was impressed so many famous actors are in it: Billy Bob Thornton, Eva Langoria, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster all grace the screen. As I said earlier, there may be appeal with very young boys, say 10-15. You know the ones who only recently put down their cap guns and bows and arrows.

Beyond that I see very little that would hold the long term attention of Tarantino fans. Thornton is frightfully bad as the boss, that needs to be said. It didn’t get me interested in “Bad Santa 2” he’s filming now. For bad acting, almost no believability (for example where are the cop cars?) and little originality, the film lost some points with me. I don’t recommend it.

It might have done better as an HBO series where the characters had time to develop and the audience could care over time. As a full length movie, it’s a B movie, I don’t care who they cast in it. I aim to promote and sell people on original ideas. For example, “10 Cloverfield Lane.” I’m getting weary as a critic go to see the same movies played with different title again and again. There are a few moments that are memorable, (see below.

This short scene is my favorite gag, a near success at a Tarantino moment: