The Accountant

I love watching a film I know hardly anything about that has mediocre scores on Rotten Tomatoes and that surprises the hell out of me to be on my best films of the year list. Watching the Accountant was like that for me.

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The rest of this review may contain spoilers

This is a film of two worlds: 1) a history and upbringing of an autistic boy and 2) The path of adulthood and a career for that boy after becoming a man. As it turns out, high functioning autistic people make ingenious accountants. Ben Affleck is this man and he is so good, many underground crime bosses use him to “uncook” their books. Let me reiterate, he is really good at it.

We are catapulted from stories of his youth where his father mercilessly trains him to fight a exist alone to his life as a criminal accountant who’s cool as a cucumber. If you heard he was doing well and not getting caught year after year, you might think to yourself, “Ok, so what’s the problem. This guy has it made.” Wrong. There are some real issues that would prevent the average person from being happy in his shoes. First, he can’t have relationships. His autism gives him tunnel vision and he is literally unable to walk away from projects. He attempts a relationship with Anna Kendrick but it never really pans out because of his disorder. In more than one way, it gets in the way.

In this film we see what Affleck’s character can do as a result of his father’s horrifying training. He is a machine when it comes to fighting. He is able to see details no one else does and this makes him not only an accounting weapon but also what we might call a para-military soldier and killer.

So, these are just some if the amazingly creative particulars written into this gem of a film. Affleck is at the top of his game. There are many shoot-em-ups from which he generally emerges victorious. I loved every minute of this film. They say people with autism are on a different level than the rest of us. This film shows that shouldn’t be looked down on. Someone with autism, trained in this way, could save the world. Would he be happy though? The jury’s still out.

‘The Congressman’ – Memorable Maine & Treat Williams

This film finds its strength in pristine cinematography of Maine and the performance of 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.

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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

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.

Searching (incl audio)

This film reminds me of any cutting edge upgrade that truly wows consumers. It’s also a great story told in a highly effective, suspenseful way. All this with the screen never shifting from a laptop display.

Searching (2018)
PG-13 | 1h 42min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller | 31 August 2018 (USA)

After his 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a desperate father breaks into her laptop to look for clues to find her.
Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Writers: Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian
Stars: John Cho, Debra Messing, Joseph Lee

It’s being compared to Hitchcock in its Thriller presentation. It’s the type of Maverick “laptop screen genre” we saw in the “Unfriended” franchise, “The Den,” “Open Windows,” and “Friend Request.” Of those, I only like “Unfriended” and “Open Windows.”

This film is something powerful. I like it best of any in this genre. I should note, director Aneesh Chaganty has not made a horror film here. It is a PG-13 narrative about a father who breaks into his daughter’s laptop once she goes missing. He finds clues to begin a search for his daughter who has gone missing irl.

Jon Chow as Dad and Debra Messing as police detective are stellar. Once again, everything is seen through the view of a laptop computer screen. This is the best film of its genre to date.

To avoid spoilers, I will leave my review at that. and with the invitation to listen to my podcast episode of “Searching.” I will say it is possibly my best film pick of 2018!

Below is a player and Link to my podcast episode where I review this film.

Below is a transcript excerpt from the show. I hope you listen and enjoy!

Here is an excerpt from the episode:

I’m gonna talk about 3 films in this episode but mostly just 1, “Searching.” Well, I just saw this and it’s a drama/mystery/thriller. So when I first looked at this and some of the ads and trailers I didn’t know what to think. I saw a solid choice of casting with John Cho and Debra Messing. The Director is Aneesh Chaganty. He is a first time director. He really took on a lot with this film. I can’t imagine all the little technical notes and screens that needed to be used in the direction of this film. The actors were good so that likely it helped his to do list but still, I think directing this required a lot of extra skills and talents.

[…]

If you want to say something spoilerish in the comments, go for it and I always respond to comments as well.

We see John Cho’s character go from a loving but somewhat distant dad to a highly dedicated Dad searching for his daughter. His daughter’s name is Margot and she is played by several “as she grows up” actresses. The final Margot is played by Michelle La, she is very beautiful and does an excellent job.

[..]

The Story of Us

Some movies are feel-good the whole way through. Others are just sad. Others still take you through ups and downs to leave you sighing because you have just experienced life as it is, or almost anyway. This film is definitely one of those. I won’t call it feel good but it can still be called a romantic comedy. Hat tip on this one to Rob Reiner.

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Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer play a couple who have been married for 15 years and have reached the breaking point. It’s a series of flashblacks intermingled with present day challenges. There are some real keen insights into marriage: what works and what takes years to work out.

The rest of the review may contain spoilers

They have two kids, which makes the film more heart-rending. In one scene their daughter lays in bed with them pulling their hands together, very touching. You go through the whole movie asking yourself if they will get back together. In fact, you sometimes hope they won’t, the fighting is stressful to watch. You ask yourself if she has a real gripe with him because he “talked intimately” with another woman at work. She caught wind of it and initiated the separation. The issue of affairs and what really constitutes one comes up again and again.

It seems to me there were a lot of conflicts prior to the questionable “talking.” As you watch the film it seems questionable whether they should have ever gotten together at all. She is a mathematical, ordered thinker whereas his head is in the cloud. Can an analytical type ever be happy with an artist? That’s another question brought up here again and again.

It’s a movie singles and couples can enjoy. If you don’t identify with the couple, perhaps you were the children at a younger age. The great thing about this film is that it dares to present real people. I’ll take that over a fake romance, unless I want to watch fake romance, which from time to time I do, then I wouldn’t watch this. Still, I’m glad it’s here, I’m glad this film was made.

Diabolique (1955)

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An abused, neglected wife and her husband’s jaded mistress plot the perfect murder.



The biggest pat on the back for this film goes to the writers. The way the characters are developed turns the screw of intensity until finally the ending is revealed. If you haven’t seen it, let me say it is not like other endings, it is a magnificent one, set apart.

Many writers were involved in starting and completing this film. After the final scenes’ power, you will likely agree with me it shows! The director is Henri-Georges Clouzot. He is known for other intensely dark yet compelling thrillers like this one. The films he has done as listed in his IMDB bio are: “Le Corbeau and “The Wages of Fear.” I admit to not seeing these films, but I want to after seeing “Les Diabolique.” He is compared in the bio to Hitchcock except with films that “do not have as much light relief.”

Le Corbeau got Georges in a lot of trouble. The French government thought he presented France in a dark and bad light so he was banned from making films for several years. Though there are many other stories about this director, I feel that one is the most telling about his honesty and integrity as a filmmaker. Thank goodness I don’t live in a censored state like he did. I don’t think I would be able to stand for it. Inevitably, this made him tough and thoughtful about his craft.

The brutal scene pictured here is a good followup to the director who crafted this amazing film. By today’s standards, it’s tame but for 1955 it was more brutal & mysterious than Hitchcock and that’s why people still love it to this day.

This film takes place in a French boys’ school where most the characters work. The Headmaster has been cheating on his wife for years and his mistress as well as the wife, work at the school. This is where the story is told and the exquisite tension begins.

You see a far different school than ours in America today. The teachers are smoking in the presence of the students, the kids food fight regularly, although it is smart how they just don’t feed them for the malfeasance. It seems to be ameliorated the next day. Funny what a schoolmaster hunger can be right? The headmaster is a womanizer, a rapist (in theory), and an all around unlikable guy. We start to see right away he needs to be killed, or at least we hope. As the two women drive together, they discuss a plan to get rid of this guy once and for all. For all intents and purposes, it seems like a perfect plan for murder.

I want to make a comment about the practical effects. Obviously back then it was all they had to work with but they are so much fun to watch. I recently watched “Eyes Without a Face,” another classic horror, and the car scenes were so funny to me. It looks so fake and yet they probably thought it was so real for the time. The scenes in these cars are even more archaic and also more funny to me. It really shows how far we’ve come with effects. Now back to the idea of this plot, with no spoilers.

The film is black and white of course and filmed almost entirely at the house which is the school for boys. The swimming pool that is part of their plan is at the school. They do a great job distracting the viewer with activities of the children. We find that the husband/headmaster has a lot to lose if his wife divorces him. He hits her and treats her miserably. As the viewer it’s hard to not imagine killing him, he’s that bad. BUT as we all know in the civilized world, it’s never appropriate to kill someone. We watch these two women make their plans, as he equally humiliates the mistress though not as badly, and their path takes them to another location: a holiday hotel.

The little couple that manage the hotel are side-splittingly funny. They are innocents and it’s funny how people intending to kill can look at innocents with such jealousy. Once the deed is done, there’ll be no going back.

I’ll leave my summary there for you. I haven’t given anything away except the fact that there is a great ending. I would challenge you to be brave and watch this old film. It’s better than so many modern murder mysteries.  If you’ve seen it, do leave some thoughts in the comments. I enjoy discussing this and other murder mysteries in this genre. Thos eare my thoughts, what did you think of this film?

 

Cemetery of Splendor

I won’t try to overstep my grasp of this film. I figure readers like to read something by a guy who knows what he is talking about and at the very least comprehends what is happening. I can’t say I do 100% in this film. BUT, I will take this review opportunity to tell you exactly how I took this film and the hedonic components as they revealed themselves to me. I call this sort of film impressionistic hedonism and let me tell you, it’s not for everyone. Note this partial genre: fantasy. Available From $2.99 (SD) on Prime Video.

Cemetery of Splendor (2015)
Rak ti Khon Kaen (original title)
Unrated | 2h 2min | Drama, Fantasy | 2 September 2015 (France)

From $2.99 (SD) on Prime Video
A group of soldiers in a small town on the Mekong River in northern Thailand are struck with a bizarre sleeping illness.
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Writer: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Stars: Jenjira Pongpas, Banlop Lomnoi, Jarinpattra Rueangram

I love Thai food. I also love Buddhist temples. There’s one close to us here in Southern California that I have gone to many times “when I was confused” (quote from the film and also my life). What was I confused about you might ask? As in the film, the answer would be “love.”

In the last 1/4 of the film there is this contraption that propels water and yet doesn’t move. Actually it’s impossible to tell if it is propelling or being propelled. It make the sound of a free shooting sprinkler and it’s magnificent. There were many times in this film I got that relaxed feeling you get after a good meditation or even a massage. Thailand appears to be so beautiful. There are numerous scenes that appear chosen in color and framing as if to hang in a temple. The only thing missing is a padded stool and lovely incense. Is there a story here? Oh yes but it’s a lot like the hedonic imagery, you better not make a judgment, better to just relax and accept that everyone around us is dead. Not sad, dead.

Shall we pretend that we’re dead? Like the water propellers, there are a dozen or more deeply fascinating and ethereal objects & images. I collect these types of images in my mind. If you don’t, you won’t get it.

There are a few women, one in particular, who take care of men in a comatose state. We find out why they will never wake up at some point. Then we learn more about the living women and what their life is all about. Or is it life? This film was great for breathing exercises and armchair traveling in my lazy boy. For those who would like that and “get that” I recommend to you 8/10.

Still Waiting for First Reformed and Some of My Predictions

If you are a fundamentalist Christian who puts the Bible before humanitarianism and reason, you may be offended by my article below. You’ve been warned. That’s not to say it will offend all Christians. I am a person raised Christian but somewhat dissatisfied with the current state of it in my country. It still lives in my heart.

I’ve been really interested in this movie, it sounds like a challenge against modern Christianity. Challenge breaks up the soil and either kill the weak crop or make it stronger through reform. Most Christians making headlines and faith-based social media statements fear challenge. I say: you’re killing people and even worse, people’s inspiration to live, be challenged.

I still haven’t seen the film but it sounds like a story of a weak preacher played by Ethan Hawke who is a small part of a large mega-church machine. When people really need help, he is like “I got nothing.” Amanda Seyfried is part of his choir and her husband wants her to get an abortion because the world is doomed and they shouldn’t bring a baby into it. There are some explosive moments and religion is challenged. The director Paul Schrader is legendary for a 40 year career in writing and directing films. He wrote the script and story for Taxi Driver in the 70’s.

This is the first preview I’ve written in quite sometime. I feel our world needs a “come to the table of sanity” rebuke film towards Christianity. Some of these Christian films that have come out like “God is Not Dead 2” are borderline embarrassing to our human race. I don’t think this mass of Chrstians running around blessing each others’ day are healthy for the world. Things could change of course, when free thought outweighs the dusty black book.

The best rule is to expect nothing, some of my favorite movies were seen that way. When it does come out you can expect to see my review right here at “Riley on Film.”

21 Grams

No, this film isn’t about drugs as the title hints. It’s a people study. In this heroic film by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, a handful of characters are under the microscope for us to try to analyze. Their lives intersect in odd ways but that really isn’t the amazing thing to watch for. It’s their drives and why they do things that should captivate the viewer. I know it did that for me.

21 Grams (2003)
R | 2h 4min | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 16 January 2004 (USA)

A freak accident brings together a critically ill mathematician, a grieving mother, and a born-again ex-con.
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu (as Alejandro González Iñárritu)
Writer: Guillermo Arriaga
Stars: Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro, Naomi Watts

Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro, & Naomi Watts are the top stars in this dramatic film about what drives people. The writer Guillermo Arriaga has done a fantastic job giving us a dollhouse type view of these normal people engaged in their lives. I first became interested in the director when I saw “Birdman,” another film that puts regular people right up to the screen larger than life. In watching what they do, we can quietly and privately look at ourselves. These films cause us to question our motives.He is an excellent director but I find some of his formulaic conventions unnecessary to make us introspective.

If you like deeply portrayed characters, look no further. I greatly enjoyed this film but personally didn’t need all the “coincidences” to make it powerful for me. I give this film an 8/10.

Sami Blood: Audio Film Review

One review I read before watching this movie said, “Open up to this film.” That’s what I did and I am glad. It is beautiful to look at and it contains a timeless tale.

The haves vs the have-nots: one of the most ageless templates of humankind. This is a Swedish film with English subtitles. That’s what’s going on here in “Sami Blood.” Elle Marja is an old woman reflecting on her life as a young woman who is part of the “Sami Blood” or the reindeer farming peasants. After foul treatment at “school” and discovering a general malaise in the life style she was born into, she decides to impersonate someone in the upper echelon. She is desperate, she will do anything to be part of the higher society.

Sami Blood (2016)
Sameblod (original title)
1h 50min | Drama | 2 June 2017 (USA)

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A reindeer-breeding Sámi girl who is exposed to the racism of the 1930’s at her boarding school, starts dreaming of another life. But to achieve it, she has to become someone else and break all ties with her family and culture.
Director: Amanda Kernell
Writer: Amanda Kernell
Stars: Lene Cecilia Sparrok, Mia Erika Sparrok, Maj-Doris Rimpi

The Swedish landscapes are incredible and the hardworking director/writer Amanda Kernell makes sure they are in many scenes as background or even just filling the entire frame. These hills tell a story. In interviews she says she had to make decisions similar to this young character. Many of her culture had to decide where they would live. There is a powerful scene where the young woman demands an heirloom from her family so she can continue going to private school under a dead girl’s identity. The mother is torn as to what she should do. The “low people” are like native Americans the way they live. They do need money though so this is a demand that borders on insult.

She falls into a relationship with a young man. At first it appears as if they love each other. The cinematography of them dancing and enchanted time time together is wonderfully mesmerizing. Later though, his parents in whose home they are having their affair question her motives and they force him to turn her out. On her way out, she doesn’t state her love for him, she is desperate. She only pleads, “Tell them I can work here cleaning.” While a sad scene, it goes to show the invisible wall between these two castes of the Swedish countryside.

My daughters are going to “Vid-con” in a few months. We paid for their tickets at Christmas. There, they will see “The Gabby Show” and other of their favorite Youtube stars. These rich famous people are their stars. I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to the lower and upper people in this film. Maybe America hasn’t come very far in its middle class. Still, I am happy my kids have tickets to something they feel excited about.

As the film concludes, we aren’t given a nicely wrapped conclusion. This is one of those films you have to make your own mind up about. For me, it is about the age=old controversy between upper and lower class. The middle class is a new thing America has produced. THrough time people have been either “Haves” or “Have-nots.” Can we judge Elle Marja for wanting something better? Was this her only option? He young sister stayed faithfully with the Sami Blood. At a point near the end, at her sister’s funeral, Elle Marja rips off the casket lid and her sister’s weathered face is revealed. Which lived a truly happier life? This is a longer, historical period piece in a foreign language. It won’t appeal to everyone. As for me, I was deeply touched. It lost one point because several scenes took longer than they should have. Beyond that, it’s excellent. I give this film a 9/10.