The Big Sick (2017)

This is great: a bio pic about a comedian trying to make it and how he fell in love with his girlfriend. Oh, and there’s some Pakistani ethnic issues that threaten the relationship as well since he is Pakistani and she is white.

The Big Sick (2017)
R | 2h | Comedy, Romance | 14 July 2017 (USA)

A couple deals with their cultural differences as their relationship grows.
Director: Michael Showalter
Writers: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani
Stars: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter

I had seen Kumail’s work here and there and I’ve always thought he was a chill comedian. IN fact, in this film, something I noticed was how calm he is, even in face of rejection or turmoil. As the smooth dialogue would transpire I’d think to myself: “I wonder if it went down this smooth in real life?” I’m really impressed the way he broke out with this film that essentially a love story of how he and his girlfriend (now wife) met. I find that charming.

The director Michael Showalter has some good stuff on his resume. The film I recognized the most was My Name is Doris with Sally Field. That was a fiction but it watches like a bio pic. He shows the dark side of Doris, not just the funny one. This ability shows up in his directing on this film, he’s done a stellar job here.

Zoe Kazan plays Emily, Kumail’s love interest. Hear me when I say this: she embodies the character. I think she was a great casting choice. I never miss a chance to see a Zoe Kazan film and this one is no exception. I loved her in this. She actually resembles the real Emily. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter play her parents. They do a great job testing and finally accepting Kumail. The hospital scenes are really the heart of the film. A sub plot of the film is his family’s attempts to arrange a bride for him. These scenes are funny and add a lot to the believability of the characters. It’s all done without pushing Pakistan into your face, like My Big Fat Greek Wedding does with the Greek culture. It’s subtle and keeps you curious. Another sub plot is the Improv club where Kumail and his friends are honing their craft. They all live on the cheap which is fun to see as the camera travels into and among their zone.

For romantic comedy fans, this one’s a must. I give it my highest recommendation!

10/10

At time of writing this, the film is still in theaters.

Raw (2016)

A slow rolling horror that builds to a crescendo. Also, we get to learn about the French Vet training system. It’s a lot like the most intense hazing colleges of the US. And then there’s the eating of flesh thing, yeah that’s there too.

Raw (2016)
Grave (original title)
R | 1h 39min | Drama, Horror | 15 March 2017 (France)

When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her.
Director: Julia Ducournau
Writers: Julia Ducournau (dialogue), Julia Ducournau (screenplay)
Stars: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella

I’ve held off watching this for months because of the subtitles. When I finally got some time to sit with it and not multi-task I have to say I enjoyed it as a horror film and had a very good time watching.

Everything is bare-bones here. It almost watches like an old 70’s film. There is a building where she goes to school and there are dorms. The film goes nowhere else. The story as it unfurls is odd and a bit hard to imagine as true, but this is horror right? The film opens with a long open road and a figure running in front of an oncoming car. Soon after the collision, the pedestrian saunters up clearly in pain and goes to the car window. Then the story begins of the female protagonist going to vet school. She goes through hazing, which her older sister approves to be done to her. There is a scene of being splashed in animal blood and another of eating raw rabbit organs. As a result she develops a taste for flesh, I’m afraid I missed how or why this happens. There are events, a twist, and a morose conclusion.

It’s an ok way to spend a runtime. It’s not as good as I had hoped and the subtitles certainly are not deep or enriching in any way. Still, it’s shocking and fun with latex and blood which most of us horror fans get the fun in. It’s also interesting seeing a coming of age experience in another country. For fans of the horror genre I recommend it!

7/10

Watch this online on Amazon Video for $5.99

Trainwreck

Many short comedy sketches by Amy Schumer inserted to a full length movie script. Vulgar, understated, ridiculous, sarcastic, ingenious fun.I confess I look at critic ratings prior to seeing movies, expecially ones that aren’t out yet. I saw Trainwreck…

Many short comedy sketches by Amy Schumer inserted to a full length movie script. Vulgar, understated, ridiculous, sarcastic, ingenious fun.

I confess I look at critic ratings prior to seeing movies, expecially ones that aren’t out yet. I saw Trainwreck garnered high 90 percents from the critics on Rotten Tomatoes which really surprised me so I was interested. The cover looks like Bridesmaids and the Hangover had a baby and that’s somewhat accurate. What I didn’t know going in was that the protagonist has starred in her own Comedy Central show for two years. In fact, she’s been on Ellen and spurred viral footage of her riffing and making Ellen snort she’s so funny. I think it would help for people to know she is an established comedy commodity with a distinctive vulgar and often understated style. Without that knowledge, one could make the mistake of thinking it’s just another sex and puke comedy dangled before primal eyes.

Maybe that alone will work for most viewers. We’ve been so inundated with gross films in the last 20 years for which audiences show their love through ticket sales. As for me, I think if I didn’t know of Miss Schumer’s notoriety and idiosyncratic style, I might has scoffed through most the movie. As is was, I enjoyed watching her brand of humor for a couple hours. Speaking of hours, there were some scenes about 3/4 of the way through when she and her boyfroend, Bill Hader, start fighting like a married couple where the film truly dragged for me. It’s for those scenes as well as unnecessary penetration scenes that didn’t add to the comedic lines for me. In other words, the writers didn’t have to stoop that low to relate with the audience. That a; having been said, I found this film a hoot to be sure. My wife and I were in tears during the sex scene with John Cena. He’s the perfect hunk to demonstrate what talking dirty is not.

Riley’s Great 100 Films

These 100 amazing films are among my top favorites. Click the titles to read my reviews. I plan to publish another great 100 list in the future.

The Accountant (2016)
Across the Universe (2007)
Airplane! (1980)
Alien (1979)
Amadeus (1984)
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Animal House (1978)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Back to the Future (1985)
The Big Blue
Big Fish (2003)
Blade Runner (1982)
Braveheart (1995)
Breaking Away (1979)
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010 Documentary)
Chariots of Fire (1981)
Charly (1968)
Chimpanzee (2012 Documentary)
A Christmas Story (1983)
The Conversation (1974)
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)
Despicable Me (2010)
Devil (2010)
District 9 (2009)
Donnie Darko (2001)
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Everything Must Go (2010)
Fargo (1996)
The Final Girls (2015)
Frankenweenie (2012)
Freaks (1932)
The Fugitive (1993)
The Godfather (1972)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Groundhog Day (1993)
Halloween (1978)
Harvey (1950)
High Fidelity (2000)
Hoosiers (1986)
Hugo (2011)
Imagine: John Lennon (1988 Documentary)
The Impossible (2012)
Inherit the Wind (1960)
An Innocent Man (1989)
Insidious (2010)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Jaws (1975)
The Jerk (1979)
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Lean on Me (1989)
Man on Wire (2008 Documentary)
The Martian (2015)
Meet the Robinsons (2007)
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Moonlight (2016)
My Bodyguard (1980)
Nacho Libre (2006)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
The Princess Bride (1987)
Prometheus (2012)
Psycho (1960)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Red Rock West (1993)
A River Runs Through It (1992)
Robin Hood (1973)
Room (2015)
Ruby Sparks (2012)
Saw (2004)
Say Anything… (1989)
Schindler’s List (1993)
The Shallows (2016)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Signs (2002)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Silver Bullet (1985)
Sing Street (2016)
Stand and Deliver (1988)
Stand by Me (1986)
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
Swiss Army Man (2016)
Take Shelter (2011)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
The Thing (1982)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Tombstone (1993)
Toni Erdmann (2016)
Turbo Kid (2015)
Tusk (2014)
The Village (2004)
When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
Wildlike (2014)
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Riley’s Great 100 is also on imdb

#Horror

I hope all movies don’t follow the trend of using their genre hashtag as title, but here it is unique and pretty cool! Based on the content, it does fit. The woods are always a good place to start a horror movie. You wouldn’t think to find a rich girl’s fancy home there but in this case we do. What follows is a bloody film showing some of the worst girl bullying and maybe the most violent bonkers from Timothy Hutton we’ve yet seen.

#Horror (2015)
Not Rated | 1h 41min | Drama, Horror, Mystery | 20 November 2015 (USA)

Six preadolescent girls face a night of terror when the compulsive addiction of an online social media game turns a moment of cyber bullying into a night of insanity.
Director: Tara Subkoff
Writer: Tara Subkoff
Stars: Sadie Seelert, Haley Murphy, Bridget McGarry

Director and writer Tara Subkoff gets kudos from me, even though this film is a bit predictable and not very credible. She’s been in some great movies like, The Cell, As Good as it Gets, and a host of others. This was her first try at directing and it takes a lot of chances which is commendable. Whether she learns from them for her next film will be the real test.

Lead actress, Sadie Seelert hasn’t gone to the trouble to put her info into IMDB, which annoys me a little. She does have one other film under her belt called Callie Wants a Solo. I’ve never heard of it. Young actress Haley Murphy has neglected her bio the same way but we do know she has done Silent House (2011), My Best Day (2012) and #Horror (2015). All the actresses are very pretty and they memorize their lines. Unfortunately, much of the film reminds me of a forced skit in drama class. Usually with horror though, one can get away with forced acting.

The film is basically the girls bullying each other on social media while alone in their parents’ house. People start mysteriously being killed and … yes there is an ending that reveals all. I enjoyed it in as much as it gave me a talking point with my 12 year old daughter. Even when the acting seemed fake, she did assure me girl her age engage in that.

Timothy Hutton plays one of the main character’s dad. He pushes the other girls, squeezes their arms and yells at them. His purpose is just but I did not find this character believable. If he was, I don’t think I’d ever let my daughters out of the house with their friends. Dad’s don’t just threaten their daughters’ friends like that. Still, the film was not horrible, I did enjoy watching it. It brought up a lot of good discussion points. Alot of us older folks (40 and upward) may have forgotten what peer pressure and bullying looks like. This is a modern reminder.

6/10

Ways to watch now:

As of publishing this, it was streaming on Netflix.

Also, #Horror is Streaming on Amazon Video for $2.99

Vernon, Florida (1981)

What can I say, this white trash is my people. They hunt wild turkeys, farm for worms, police areas that don’t ever need “policin.'” If you can get in the one, it’s downright pleasant and hypnotic to listen to. I may not speak with that Southern. drawl but I grew up hearing it from my ancestors like grandpas, -ma’s, aunts and uncles and the like. This is a set of them whom Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line) arranged to interview in their retired habitat: Vernon, Florida.

Vernon, Florida (1981)
Not Rated | 55min | Documentary, Comedy | 8 October 1981 (USA)

Early Errol Morris documentary intersplices random chatter he captured on film of the genuinely eccentric residents of Vernon, Florida. A few examples? The preacher giving a sermon on the … See full summary ยป
Director: Errol Morris
Stars: Albert Bitterling, Roscoe Collins, George Harris

One of the most remarkable clips is the man and woman sharing about how they got a small bonus and went to the sand dunes to watch the sand “grow.” You couldn’t write stuff better than this. At one point she even goes back in the house to bring out sand in a mason jar to show off from her trip. This is a slice of retired white America in 1981 and it’s priceless if you can get into the zone and trip out on it. There is some wisdom in it too,

One example is the bearded man in glasses when he shares a photo he took that accidentally captured a star. He cryptically explains it happened as he was shooting clouds. He claims when you aim at something, you might hit it or you might not. I’d say that’s wisdom because it’s better to aim than to not right?

If you can get into the zone of listening to retired people bullshit, which I was able to today being on break from work and all, I highly recommend this documentary.

10/10

WAYS TO WATCH
At time of writing this, July 2017, it was streaming on Netflix

You can also watch now on Amazon Video:

Two Lovers and a Bear (2016)

Enter Hemingway, Melville, London … you will like what’s being served at this table. We’ve heard of nature being our indifferent enemy but what to do when that enemy is our own nature. We have not yet begun that process in film and literature, but it’s here in this film … along with a few others through the years.

Two Lovers and a Bear (2016)
R | 1h 36min | Drama, Romance | 16 December 2016 (USA)

Set in a small town near the North Pole where roads lead to nowhere, the story follows Roman (DeHaan) and Lucy (Maslany), two burning souls who come together to make a leap for life and inner peace.
Director: Kim Nguyen
Writer: Kim Nguyen
Stars: Dane DeHaan, Tatiana Maslany, Gordon Pinsent

I almost always love the film when the director also wrote the film. In this case it is Kim Nguyen doing both artistic roles. My hat goes off to him, and I assume he wears a hat also because like me, he is shaved bald. (Gotta love the brother!). I don’t know much about him other than he is known for this and two other films and he is a Canadian: War Witch (2012), Two Lovers and a Bear (2016) and The Marsh (2002). I would put stock in him because this film is something quite different than we are used to seeing. Human v Nature/Human v Self. It’s a gritty psychological drama and God forbid IMDB plot keywords would let us toil in ignorance of these features:

“Plot Keywords: sex on table | sex scene | topless female nudity | female nudity”

Yes, Orphan Black star, Tatiana Maslany, bares her breasts. That’s the easy part of nature no one is too worried about.

All these facts plus the plot basically is two lovers at the North Pole in a barely functioning town. Why they are there is not explicitly mentioned, at least not as much as the breasts are displayed. ๐Ÿ˜‰ There is something about an abusive father in her past and he … likes the drink and he likes the hard drink. Sometimes you gotta just go “right now.” Other times maybe your demons are better dealt with by a heater. This couple is fraught with demons and they decide it’s time to go into the snow, into the storm but not without the help of a very helpful? bear. Dane DeHaan seems to like him. BTW DeHaan is there and does a good job as such. Not much more is needed from the, I wonder if he even likes the White Stripes.

This is no family movie. It’s also not a sweet romance, unless you think of Moby Dick as romantic. Having said that, there is a lot to think about romance here, maybe how “not” to support a lover with baggage. For a gritty tale of love? turmoil and t*** on a table, I do recommend.

9/10

Streaming on Amazon video for $3.99

At time of publishing, July 2017, this film is streaming on Netflix.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

In Spider-Man movies there are constants and there are variables. This film is no different from any previous reboot or sequel that way. The variables are basically that, Peter Parker is a junior in high school. He’s in love with Liz, not Mary Jane. There a new villain named Falcon and the entire film revolves around the Avengers and Tony Stark. See, there are some difference even though it’s another Spidey flick.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
PG-13 | 2h 13min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi | 7 July 2017 (USA)

Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man when a new threat emerges.
Director: Jon Watts
Writers: Jonathan Goldstein (screenplay), John Francis Daley (screenplay) | 10 more credits
Stars: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr.

I used to be put off by superhero movies because of the gargantuan budgets they burned up. I’ve recovered from that now. I go into them like a 16 year old kid just wanting to be entertained and you know what I am much much happier! Having said that, just like always, I am in shock about how much money was burned to make this film. No doubt they will make it back, so it’s ok. It is exciting and there is a lot to awe at. The effects alone are worth a ticket. The story is where I struggled. There are a few twists that you may find to be poor-writing as I did. I won’t get into spoilers but they revolve around a certain un-named-here family member of Liz.

The director is known for Cop Car (2015) and was born in 1981. Nothing wrong in being a young director.

The cast is a palette of thousands along with the 12 credited writers. The main three are Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, and Robert Downey Jr. Tom Holland reminded me so much of Lee Evans in Mouse Hunt:

You might also remember him from There’s Something About Mary

Holland was great: young, little, eager, wiry. I loved him alongside Naomi Watts’ as her oldest son in the Impossible.

He has come a long way! I don’t know what else to say. There won’t be an Oscar but hey this is Spider-Man, WHO CARES? He kicked ass. Go Holland.

Robert Downey Jr. and Michael Keaton were just themselves playing the roles we are used to from them. No changes or surprises. Notwithstanding, great!

For comic book fans and people just out to have a fun Summer day at the theaters, I recommend this to you. It’s not perfect but I know most will not mind that, I didn’t.

9/10

The Houses October Built (2014)

Whether you believe the found footage or not, it has become a formidable sub-genre of horror that directors are doing more and more with. You don’t have to believe what’s going on here, but it’s a lot more fun if you get sucked in like I did.

The Houses October Built (2014)
Not Rated | 1h 31min | Horror, Thriller | 10 October 2014 (USA)

Five friends are stalked by a group of mysterious and disturbed individuals while on a road trip looking for the ultimate haunted house attraction.
Director: Bobby Roe
Writers: Zack Andrews, Bobby Roe | 4 more credits
Stars: Brandy Schaefer, Zack Andrews, Bobby Roe

Young people in search of a thrill is usually a recipe for a good time or disaster. Haunted houses, employed by local thrill agencies like carnivals and individuals compete for the scariest locale and company. Apparently, according to this film, it goes on all over the United States just like roller coasters at thrill parks. We also learn they are mixed in their dedication to scares.

The found footage takes the viewer place to place. We learn from the carnies themselves what this job is all about. After all, this film watches a bit like a documentary on haunted house thrill events. Of course, these houses aren’t really haunted are they? It’s a mammoth undertaking trying to make a film like this scary and I will tell you it is quite scary nonetheless. The comic relief of the young people making the “house hops” helps a bit, but the makeup and just plain creepy stuff going on make it just as scary if not scarier than any effective modern horror movie.

Along their trek, they are stalked by truly scary people and there is no scarcity of jump scares. For fans of the found footage genre along with horror fans, I’d recommend it. It is just a bit slow at times, but that may be the nature of the sub-genre. Because it lacks a universal appeal as well, it loses something for me. Now streaming on Netflix (July, 2017)

7/10

Minions

This minions is great as usual for its jokes and slapstick comedy with the world’s funniest tube-like creatures since the Weebles. It’s visually amazing, which one would expect from Illumination pictures but lacks a good story akin to the first Despicable Me film in the series.

Many will argue that a good story doesn’t matter for the Minions to be entertaining. This is mostly true. Perhaps it’s because the film came out running neck and neck with amazing storied films like Inside Out and Home. I wanted to get into the story at least a little bit. I really had no interest in the story of the Minions. It has many holes in it and so much is left unexplained. For example, how long do they live and are these the same ones we see with Gru that are with the T-Rex?

The film works as a set of short films, if taken that way. I think it would have been better to leave out the history and the evil villainess played by Sandra Bullock. Watching the little guys hit and slap each other is fun without any need for an underlying story. The one provided is so fragmented and under-developed, it’s hard to stay focused on the proven comedy of the Minions.

I wanted to say I liked this film more than all the reviewers saying it’s awful. I can’t really recommend it as amazing. This, the slapstick stuff everyone loved is there even in the absence of a decent story. Hopefully animation movie makers will try and get a powerful story along with stunning visuals. They go hand in hand for truly great films.