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

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – Podcast Review

Check out my non -podcast movie review. Only 7mins 30sec long. (I try to keep ’em short). I beg your comments if you have 1-2 minutes please. 2 way communication is my real goal here with all this.

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The Zookeeper’s Wife

This is a historical film showcasing the Warsaw Zoo that protected and hid over 500 jews during the holocaust reign of Hitler. there is excellent acting that makes an average script shine.

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I love the scene where the Zookeper is bringing in a new Jew to the zoo and he is stopped and questioned by the Nazi police. They pass through but later on he shares with his wife he didnt know if he was going to be shot. its a powerful sequence and illustrates well what it must have been like.

To summarize this based on a true story plot, a small family run the Warsaw zoo. They get along with the animals incredibly well. Whenthe bombers of war attack, war is evident. the Zookeper and his famoly take in Jews and give them a place to be safe.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I loved the light cadence of this film. Chastain’s performance is nothing short of marvelous. The story drags a bit at the beginning but the final scenes makes it worthwhile.

7/10

Goliath (Season One)

I’ve just finished watching the season finale of Goliath, an Amazon series, starring Billy Bob Thornton. It’s a righteous legal drama with some great acting from the man as well as from a certifiable odd William Hurt.

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Legal dramas can be very appealing to me. I watched every episode of Judging Amy and The Good Wife and started enjoying legal drama films with Spencer Tracy in 1960 Inherit the Wind and Gregory Peck’s uber classic To Kill a Mockingbird early in my movie watching life. Unfortunately, they can also lag, sputter, and die to become boring Fords up on blocks in the annals of the IMDB.

I wasn’t sure about Goliath at first but I’m happy to say it had suspense and smarts and all the stuff I look for in a legal drama series. There is a spot where the writing gets a little dull around episode 4 and thereabouts but these days I can’t say any show is perfect.

There is an explosion at sea that causes much controversy. Thornton is in a bar in the first episode basically feeling washed up in his law practice. He’s been successful in ripping people off and getting money the easy way and it has more or less driven him to depression and drinking. You can probably imagine him in this state if you’ve seen the Bad Santa films.

William Hurt plays the head of a corporation trying to hide what happened on that boat. The storyline is a mystery really that unfolds about what happened in that mysterious explosion. Thornton is approached by a woman who needs his skills to take on the corporation and he sees the chance to do something right with his skills, for a change. Oh, and don’t let me forget to mention it’s a chance to redeem himself with the firm that expelled him.

FINAL THOUGHTS
It’s great watching Thornton in this series. He is truly in his element in this series. I recommend it to fans of the genre and of Thornton.

8/10

High Fidelity (2000)

This is before Jack Black was huge. He’s quite funny here in a supporting role. John Cusack’s character is the consummate “cool dude” managing a record store. He is also the narrator of a quirky, hosted, cult-status film that takes the viewer through museum tour of failed relationships

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This is a hip movie for hipsters. In other words, the jokes are subtle and righteously understood by students of pop culture circa 2000. It has a simple setting: a record store and we watch Cusack’s character travel to the edge and back again not being able to keep a girl around to save his life.

While not a romantic comedy per se, this film could be recommended as a great date movie. It conjures up the lessons of falling in love in your teens through your twenties. Cusack definitely has his shit together in terms of having a pad and a job but he falls way short of what these women need. Caught in the middle: any guy whose gone through dating segments will likely relate, I know I did.

There is a scene when Jack Black and his friends go gangsta on “Rob” (Tim Robbins) the current dating interest of his late girlfriend. It’s quite a sight to see. The whole “bros before hoes” idea played out. But that scenes ends up different. Most of the film is a bit different, I guess that’s why it resonates so much with me.

FINAL THOUGHTS
In a similar tone to “Office Space,” this film is quirky hilarious. You hae excellent actors, a dynamite script, beautiful women, and of course JACK BLACK! I recommend to all but especially those with a quirky and dark sense of humor.

10/10

Chariots of Fire (1981)

Chariots of Fire is about two rising Olympic champions: Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams who are driven by very different impulses. Liddell is an ardent missionary who cares more about “feeling God’s pleasure” when he runs that he does about winning trophies or medals. Abrahams on the other hand …

This is a repost of my review from 2012. I plan to write an encore review this week.

Chariots of Fire was directed in 1981 by Hugh Hudson, known also for Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. It stars Ian Charleson as Eric Liddell, a devout Christian runner, and Ben Cross as Harold Abrahams, a dedicated Jewish runner. Watching the movie now, over 30 years later, one can identify an A-list class from both major and minor characters.

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This movie is based on a true story. It is called a drama, history, and sport movie by imdb.com. It’s one of those movies I liked so much I bought. It’s a story of running, endurance, and conviction. The signature music of Vangelis inspired many in my generation to run and to appreciate running. I’m a proud runner probably because I saw this film at age 11.

Chariots of Fire is about two rising Olympic champions: Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams who are driven by very different impulses. Liddell is an ardent missionary who cares more about “feeling God’s pleasure” when he runs that he does about winning trophies or medals. Abrahams on the other hand is overly ambitious about winning. He is in fact primal in his drive to win at any cost. There is a lot of development toward the climax but the most important point is when the Olympics are to be held on a Sunday. Liddell refuses to run due to his beliefs. This is where we see the conviction of a truly inspiring man displayed in real time. Because this is a true story, we feel the temptation we might have to run but Liddell refuses. It is an excellent conversation piece. What drives us? How do we define success? and What will we not do in our quest for that success?

This movie is a gem and a pride among movies. While I don’t share Liddell’s polarized worldview, I still admire his conviction and resolve. This movie tells me I should define success and answer the questions above for myself. I am always defining and redefining myself. Chariots of Fire reminds me that true success has to be self-defined. You don’t have to be a runner to enjoy this film, it’s for everyone. When I first saw it I was 11 years old. When the credits rolled, I got up to walk out of the row. My mother stopped me and motioned me back into my seat. I saw the eyes of my parents and siblings watching the credits in awe as they listened to the angelic music. I would later learn the theme song and play it in the house hundreds of time. This is truly a remarkable film in my collection.

10/10

‘The Walking Dead’ S07 Finale

Be warned, I’m not happy. Tiger, Tiger … I thought this was an improvement but not much better than what this soap opera has been lately.

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The reason I still watch this show is because it’s on Sunday nights and my family likes it. Every week I get less and less interested in what the millionaires who make it want to say. I know Negan is in the comic lol ut he needs to die. This isn’t because I fear him or anyone should but rather because he is a boring character that simply does the same thing over and over.

The show has lost its zombie appeal almost completely. It seemed once the human stories played backup for the zombie reality. Now its flipped. We have ti sit through tears and crap side dialog about people who are dead or who are in other camps. I truly hope this show improves.

Negan gets wise to Rick and his plans. He captures some people. It looks like Rick or people close to him will die. There is an intervening hand (or paw) at the end.

What I’d like to see is less of a “war” with Negan and more about how the zombie world is rebuilding itself and innovation is taking over. If you’re a fan, you’ve probably seen it, if not, this is not the one to come in on. Dull and mundane. Does anyone really care if she killed herself as a sacrifice to become a zombie? I won’t get into detail but feel free to in the comments.

2/5