The Revenant

My intro to the film: This review attempts to be spoiler free. 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.


“Room” is one of those movies that only comes out once in a while and sparks conversation more than usual.

“Room” illustrates a successful movie because it starts and completes a story that leaves you thinking. I thought about deep subjects like what confinement and freedom do to a human mind.

Some plot spoilers follow.

It’s a story about a mother and her 5 year old son who have been abducted my a man who keeps them alive in his shed. They have running water, a bathtub, steady supply of food,  and basic sundries. Except for not ever leaving the room, they are just like a normal mother and son.

Since the boy was born in the room, he is used to it. In fact he refers to it as a living thing by dropping the article and calling it “room.” Room is the only world he has ever known.  There are many psychological issues here that are fascinating to think about.

For a movie to tell such a complicated event as this in such a successful and entertaining way is remarkable. Room made me think about some profound things and that’s why I pick it for best movie of 2015.

Taking A Blog Break – Riley Central

FYI. I made this announcement on my personal blog. It applies to my movie blog as well.

Hi. I wanted to let anyone who visits my blogs know that I am going to step away for about a month. I will be running recycled posts and movie reviews in that time. I look forward to coming back inspired and refreshed after about a months time when I will be writing new posts again. I hope … Continue reading “Taking A Blog Break”

Source: Taking A Blog Break – Riley Central

Berlin Syndrome

Some crimes are incomprehensible and the audience suspends judgement on how they are presented, are they “real” or not, could they “really happen.” I took issue with a few of those scenes but overall this movie scared the hell out of me.

R | 1h 56min | Drama, Horror, Mystery | 26 May 2017 (USA)

A passionate holiday romance leads to an obsessive relationship, when an Australian photojournalist wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave.
Director: Cate Shortland
Writers: Shaun Grant (screenplay), Melanie Joosten (novel) | 1 more credit »
Stars: Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt, Matthias Habich

This director has worked a lot in her career. Unfortunately I am unfamiliar with most the titles. It is interesting this film has a female director as it is an abduction story. In other words, we aren’t getting what a guy writer would think it was like but rather a female putting her head inside the script.

The acting is good. I think the fear was not overplayed. At the same time, I found it hard to believe the victim never thought about grabbing something in the apartment to aid her escape. Most abductors tend to put the victim in a plain empty room. This one brought her right into his living space. It could be psychological chains, I get that. Still, it seemed out of place. It started out better than the middle and end where it dragged on and the ending was not satisfying.


Youth in Oregon (2016)

A movie of togetherness when a family is forced to circle around a grandpa who has a terminal diagnosis.

1h 45min | Comedy, Drama | 3 February 2017 (USA)

A man is tasked with driving his embittered 80-year-old father-in-law cross country to be legally euthanized in Oregon, while along the way helping him rediscover a reason for living.
Director: Joel David Moore
Writer: Andrew Eisen
Stars: Frank Langella, Billy Crudup, Christina Applegate

The director is known for acting the part of Dr. Spellman in Avatar. I liked the way the actors interact in this film, likely due to the director’s deft hand. I would however liked to have seen some more character development with the grandfather. What is the relationship really like before all this happens? There is some beautiful cinematography and with these actors you’re bound to have a hit.

Frank Langella appears somber in this film and rightly so I suppose. He has learned he is going to die of a weak heart unless he takes a new valve, which will likely kill him anyway. He wants to die with dignity so he is making the pilgrimage to where it’s legal to do so: Oregon. Billy Crudup is his son-in-law and he accompanies him to Oregon. The trip is bittersweet (mostly bitter) as you would imagine. I think people living through euthanasia/assisted suicide issues and/or those interested in the subject will be the biggest fans of this. For lack of character development, it suffered the loss of some points.


Kill List (2011)

It’s “hurry up and wait” as a shady hit-man and part time family-man weighs his options on a new big payoff job with some unexpected darkness surrounding.

Not Rated | 1h 35min | Crime, Drama, Horror | 2 September 2011 (UK)

Nearly a year after a botched job, a hitman takes a new assignment with the promise of a big payoff for three killings. What starts off as an easy task soon unravels, sending the killer into the heart of darkness.
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writers: Ben Wheatley, Amy Jump
Stars: Neil Maskell, MyAnna Buring, Harry Simpson

Free Fire and High Rise are two outstanding films by this director, Ben Wheatley. This preceded both and carries a sort of British low-budget charm. Wheatley has made a film for some to identify with in the family relationship present. At the same time, it’s a film we will cringe at because the acts of violence for hire and occultic consequences are unknown to us.

The actors are fine. Nothing extraordinary there and that’s ok because this story is so odd, it sort of awes the watcher all on its own. I did find the pre-job home scenes brutally over-long.

The hit man is hired to kill people on a list. As he does so he realizes there is something much deeper at play. I recently saw “A Dark Song” and enjoyed it quite a bit. The occultic theme is prevalent in this film as well. While I liked the occult aspect in the sense of spookiness, the writing was lacking. I found the beginning scenes dragged on far too long. It took a long time to get to the actual “Kill List.” I can’t recommend this one, though I know many really love it.


A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

The black and white appearance belies the mood colors of this sleepy yet powerful vampire tale. It’s an instant classic.

Unrated | 1h 41min | Drama, Horror | 20 April 2015 (USA)

In the Iranian ghost-town Bad City, a place that reeks of death and loneliness, the townspeople are unaware they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire.
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Writer: Ana Lily Amirpour
Stars: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh

Filmed in Iran where women are not always treated as they should be, this film stands out as a bit of a vengeance piece. Ana Lily Amirpour who also gave us The Bad Batch shines as the director here. The scenes and crops are all amazing choices she had to make while creating this film.

What if that woman with her head covered walking the streets at night was not the victim but a bloodthirsty vampire? Some men are easier to hate than others though and therein lies her predicament. Perhaps not all men are bad? Either way we have enough bad ones in this film to make for some great kill scenes. Having said that, this film is rather tame when it comes to horror. A hiss and showing of the teeth is about as bad as we get with this. The rest of it is hypnotic like being put into a trance. This is trippy and different. I loved this movie.


Happy Death Day

It’s deja vu all over again. This time it’s a sexy female college student living the day of her death over and over et al.

PG-13 | 1h 36min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller | 13 October 2017 (USA)

A college student relives the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer’s identity.
Director: Christopher Landon
Writer: Scott Lobdell
Stars: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine

The director has already impressed us with some great films. He wrote the Paranormal Activity films and directed Disturbia. Because of that, I won’t be too hard on this latest film because it does not register with me as horror.

It pays homage to Groundhog Day in the final scene. Good thing too because people would have been slamming it if it had not. It is Groundhog Day with a hot blonde and a kill aspect. Thank you you may go home now.

Seriously though, I was entertained until the end when nothing was resolved. You could make an argument things fit but I just didn’t get that Ohhhhhhhh feeling when a mystery comes together. That made me sad because there was a long buildup just to find out … I’ll leave that to the viewers.

Not horror. I kinda felt misled.


From Nowhere (2016)

Here we see the often overlooked victims of undocumented parents in America. For me it shines a light on the need to support these young people and get them on a path to citizenship, regardless of what Trump says.

1h 29min | Drama | 17 February 2017 (USA)

Three undocumented Bronx teenagers are graduating from high school while navigating the treacherous waters of trying to get their papers to stay in the US.
Director: Matthew Newton
Writers: Matthew Newton, Kate Ballen
Stars: Sydni Beaudoin, Helen Beyene, Erica Camarano

Get this, the director Matthew Newton was a character in Queen of the Damned. In fact he was in a lot of films prior to directing. I think the street fight scene is an example of excellent direction. There are many more aspects of the film that shine obviously because of Newton’s skill. He is also co-writer of this with Kate Ballen. I’ll be looking for much more from him in the future.

The acting here is great as well. In particular I appreciated the performance of the angry abused teen. I’m not sure who plays her but if I get that information I’ll amend my post. Watch for her. The film is excellent in that it shines a light on those who suffer in this country. Some scenes are misplaced and the action takes some time to engage but I found it a wonderful film.



Jake Gyllenhaal and Forest Whittaker shine in this boxing movie. Thankfully for me, a reviewer disinterested in boxing, it’s more about finding motivation amidst despair.


A friend told me it didn’t have much boxing so I thought I could stomach it. I did like the Rocky movies and others like it since like “Warrior” for example. Still, I wasn’t sold with the trailers on this one. It looked gratuitous in the violence. I’m happy to say, in spite of a lot of intense boxing, I really enjoyed this movie’s message. The story is “Southpaw’s” strong point.

We live in such dark and uncertain times of bomb threats and terrorism that a movie with this message is just what the collective psychiatrist ordered. Where do you find the motivation to fight when all you love is gone? “Southpaw” portrays a guy in a low state such as this. The boxing is the metaphor for survival in a universal struggle we all go 12 rounds with.