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.

Oklahoma City (2017)

My Rating: 10/10 – The largest act of domestic terrorism is the Oklahoma City bombing. It’s a travesty and a tragedy we must never forget lest it happen again. If you don’t know how or why this happened, this documentary would be an excellent way to find out. It’s streaming now on Netflix.

This was a History Channel documentary that was acquired by Netflix and is now streaming. I found it to be very well directed and edited. Putting thousands of clips together for a film like this has to be painstaking. They do an excellent job of interspersing time from the present to before the bombing to the events and climate that led up to Timothy McVeigh’s unspeakable act.

With a Republican in the White House now, it can seem trite to discuss gun rights. It’s a Republican interest and has been for centuries. But in the 90’s, there was a Democrat in the White House and for some odd unknown reasons, Republicans felt Bill Clinton and the system were determined to take their guns. This caused racist gun-rights focused groups to rise up. One religious based group was the following of David Koresh. I’m not equating Republicans with psychotics but they lay out how the climate started a spark that became a bomb.

Most people over 40 will remember WACO and the Koresh cult standoff. This event is played out in detail through interviews, narration, news clips of the day, diagrams, maps, and animation.

People who are old enough but have forgotten the bombing should see this film. It shows how a twisted mind can nurture its own hate and how conspiracy theorist groups can nurture that mind to do unspeakable terrorism. I think we live in a time where we should all study these reasons. If we can find out the reasons, maybe we can spot the terrorists before they strike.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I was disturbed yet also very entertained by some aspects of this film. At the same time, it was educational in seeing into the mind of hate. The way it uses media to tell the story is remarkable. I know Republicans as a whole moan about their right to have assault weapons as such but I think this film will make them see this is not the best banner argument for freedom in our time. On the other hand, my wife noted to me that it would be scary if the government didn’t allow us to protect ourselves at all. So, I think there are neutral positions in the film that allow the viewer to make her/his own decisions. I recommend this or anyone over say 9 or 10 years old. Even still, kids that young should see it with a parent handy to explain some of the twisted violent stuff.

10/10

Nocturnal Animals

It’s a rural crime thriller where Michael Shannon plays the detective in a dusty desert town. But that’s just one part. The other half is something else. That’s right, a movie within a book … or something like that.

I like weird films when they come together well. This one does as good as could be expected. The real fin is the world Michael Shannon’s character inhabits. He’s a man on a mission and he’ll do whatever is needed to see justice is enforced. Gyllenhaal is a character in the same story. He’s a sort of “softie” in a hellish situation. In this film, the unthinkable happens to him and he’s forced to deal with it. This is a brutal situation, did I mention that?

Amy Adams character is almost reclusive. She has a job and friends it seems so she probably isn’t a reclusive in all truth. Still, she sits and READS and feels the things that no one should feel. I don’t even think she should feel them. But this is a vengeance film. It’s not the kind you’d think but it is vengeance just the same. If all is fair in love and war, then how about crime on a deserted road? Perhaps the title is the hey, I’m not saying that. I am saying you’ll have to make up your mind. It’s the age-old question of what makes us moral creatures, or are we? Are some among us so cold that they could do these things and do these creatures continue unaffected.

In the end, in love and war, should we step aside and ask second guess ourselves? The truth is so brutal, maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe we’re all nocturnal animals? This is something to think about when you see this film.

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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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.

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

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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

A River Runs Through it (1992)

Robert Redford’s film is a winning drama you can count me in for every time it plays. The story of a rural family in gorgeous Montana and two brothers is one I identify with. I think anyone who’s ever had thirsty aspiration and tasted bitter lament can enjoy the essence of.

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As a man who grew up in America and who has become a writer of things, specifically through the discipline of letters, this film captivated me in my 20’s and I have called it one of my favorite films ever made ever since. I still get goosebumps at certain places in the film. It is certain deserving of being on my list of Riley’s Great 100.

Robert Redford is a household name as an actor. He’s been in films that moved millions such as The Way we Were and Brubaker. These are just two in a lifetime career that any film fan from the 70’s to now will know the emotive quality of. Who can forget his outdoor survival skills in Jeremiah Johnson. He will live in many people’s’ minds as the reclusive millionaire in the Great Gatsby. His face and voice have always been calming and reassuring as an American making American films. That’s why A River Runs Through it is a slice of true Americana in his catalog. It’s a film he directs and narrates only though Redford emanates out of every aspect from the forest cinematography to the fly fishing of actors Tom Skerritt, Craig Sheffer, and Brad Pitt. Redford is the perfect director the paint this portrait in a movie.

The film is based on the autobiographical writings of Norman Maclean. Maclean was a writer and poet who also taught at University in Montana. It is simply his sublime personal account of life in Montana as the son of a Presbyterian minister. Whether it’s stealing beers and boats of finding out you can never change some people, the account is chock full of life aphorisms and good advice. You can smell the lumber and the oil lamps. The 1940’s Fords have that clackety clack sound that takes you back to the future to a time that has been all but forgotten were it not for Maclean’s account.

Sheffer plays a young Maclean. He is the older of two brothers and Brad Pitt plays the younger. One brother is responsible and seems to make all the right choices while the other is reckless. Both are better than some in the town however. Watching the boys grow up and make their way in the world is interwoven with poetry and narration straight from the book.

FINAL THOUGHTS
The cinematography and acting in this powerful nature based film make it a glorious work of art. The sets and props are all made to look like the 1940’s. It’s as if you are transported there while watching. We hear the flaws of religion and other institutions. Then we see the beauty of 2 wiry and wily brothers growing up. They make many mistakes and the film impersonally and simply lets the consequences play out. It;s a film about finding ones way and reaching out to help others find theirs, even when they don’t accept your help. For many years I have called this my favorite film of all time.

10/10

Downton Abbey (TV Series)

With Downton Abbey, you get more than just a Masterpiece Theater type show. You get all the features of a melodrama, romance, mystery, and soap opera wrapped in one. I’m here to tell you, it’s enjoyable!

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As with most tv series, it has multiple directors for different seasons. Probably the most famous are Andy Goddard and James Strong (Law and Order UK, Dr. Who). There are also a lot of actors with a core few comprising the main cast. They are mostly British actors.

I really like watching the dynamics of a wealthy house in England in the 1920’s. There is a clear regiment of duties from the Butler down to the footman and even below that. Every worker knows her/his place and that is interesting to watch. Why are they so obedient to position and decorum? Basically, they value their jobs. You get to see the inner workings of the leadership and the choices they have to make to keep things working.

Another thing that makes it interesting is the way they mention news of the day such as the Titanic sinking. They keep a historical context that way and it’s a lot of fun.

FINAL THOUGHTS
There are love affairs and resentments and even vengeance plays. It wouldn’t seem possible but you have all the enjoyment and excitement of a movie set in modern times. It’s not what they say and do that keeps you interested, rather it’s why they hold back. It’s a little slow at times and not for everyone. Kids will be bored but for those day 18 and up, I highly recommend you give it a chance and see if you get sucked in like I did as you binge watch.

9/10

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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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.

Sing Street (2016) encore review

MY teens were in the fat of the 80’s, really check this out: in 1980 I was 10 and 1990 I was of course, well you can add. Sing Street is streaming on Netflix and you should go enjoy that thing for all it’s worth! I completely urge you to. It’s about a boy about my age through the 80’s who wants a chick so he makes a freakin’ band! That was my 80’s as well. Sing street is like this and more ungodly great stuff. Ah, to be 16 again.

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You can check this film out today on Netflix. It’s a story of a young lad in Ireland who finds himself changed schools and at a violent religious school (That’s a funny modifier right? Actually many people I know and have spoken with through the years would tell you it’s fitting). At any rate, the boy meets a girl a little older than him and decides to get her attention through forming a band.

I had a similar time of it in High School. Paul Flippowitz, a friend in my English class, came to me saying he knew Brad and Lance were starting a band. Of course I saw this as my chance to throw down on tape all the guitar I had created through the years so I jumpred at the opportunity. I was 16. I don’t have any before photos but here’s our reunion a few years ago.

The character in Sing Street is a singer and somewhat of a writer. He has a pal he collaborates with that I think any songwriter has while going through those 10-20 years.

There is struggle, there is triumph, there is 80’s music. Duran Duran music is in it! Along with many other 80’s musicians. I do wonder why they chose to put Joe Jackson music in it. “Stepping Out” is probably the worst hit of the 80’s in my opinion.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Positive, amazing people I read and know in private life love this film as much as I do. Even some really negative shitty people have told me this film is amazing. Give it a try! I’ll remind you it’s on Netflix.

Now, let’s talk. Comments as a form are alive and well with celebrities and boring famous bloggers everywhere. Since I am fairly close to being boring and famous with my words, help me out and increase the comments PLEASE. I am on the verge of paying people to comment here, I am not joking.

11/10 j/k 10/10