“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.

My review Room appeared first on Riley on Film.

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.

My review The Revenant appeared first on Riley on Film.

Bridge of Spies

“Bridge of Spies” is a film directed by Steven Spielberg. For some these days, that may not be persuasive enough to buy a ticket so let me say it is crafted to make a historical event come alive on screen. It stars Tom Hanks but doesn’t rely on his huge appeal. Hanks lets the story play out on its own without grandstanding with his character. There’s an excellent cast with him and they all work together to make this film amazing.

There is so much to enjoy here. It’s first of all interesting because it is a true story. Second, it heralds the accused’s right to a solid defense. There is much here about negotiations in and out of country. It’s also a period piece replete with authentic props and there is a remarkable conclusion one may or may not expect.

“Bridge of Spies” is top notch storytelling about an event that should be remembered from the cold war. A couple questions are addressed:

How can people thought of as evil make grand gestures of humanity? Why should we put effort into defending the rights of those such as a foreign spy?

There are parts of those questions that require a long telling so the length of the movie may put off some. I was bored at times but I kept regaining interest. If one can keep ones attention span alive between the slower scenes, “Bridge of Spies” has many engaging moments and a most intriguing payoff. This is yet another in the sequence of movies I’ve been reviewing lately that definitely could win movie of the year. It is a story told by Spielberg worth watching.

My review Bridge of Spies appeared first on Riley on Film.

Escape from Tomorrow (2013)

Escape from Tomorrow (2013)
Not Rated | 1h 30min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror | 19 July 2014 (Japan)

In a world of fake castles and anthropomorphic rodents, an epic battle begins when an unemployed father’s sanity is challenged by a chance encounter with two underage girls on holiday.
Director: Randy Moore
Writer: Randy Moore
Stars: Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez

I watched this weird film last night. I must admit I didn’t stay up late enough to finish it. Maybe I felt like I’d seen enough by 10:30p. It’s shot in black and white and the director is very new. He hasn’t done a whole lot other than this. Most the scenes seem forced, the acting is not too convincing. I really really liked the concept though and would recommend that horror and sci fans watch it.

It’s about a family staying at Florida’s Disney World, visiting the park, riding the rides. All the while, the father keeps being drawn to watching a couple of adolescent French girls who are constantly hugging and giddily riding rides like Dumbo and Space Mountain. Among all this, the father “sees” things differently. For example, a sign with Mickey smiling will suddenly melt into a frown. I really was curious about why but seriously, the movie is SLOW and I gave up. It does get the weird tag from me so that’s a plus. If I wasn’t so tired, I might have finished it.

I read a few reviews on IMDB which were very entertaining and I also read the ending on Wikipedia. If you aren’t going to see this movie but are slightly curious I recommend doing the same, I’ve linked those pages below. Like I said, it’s a cool horror/sci fi concept. The problem is the apparent lack of skill in delivery. HAVING SAID THAT, it is kind of cool as an independent film if you can leave your critical expectations at the door.


Wikipedia summary of this film.

IMBD user reviews of this film.

My review Escape from Tomorrow (2013) appeared first on Riley on Film.

Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)


Ouija: Origin of Evil

Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso, Henry Thomas

Directed by

Mike Flanagan

Written by

Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard

Other Info

Horror, Thriller
Fri 21 Oct 2016 UTC
IMDB Rating: 6.1

Like most horror movie fans, I was not impressed with the first Ouija film. It was flat and lacking in almost every aspect. For that reason, I didn’t plan to spend my hard-earned money on a prequel (this film takes place before the original). The surprise part of my story is that my daughters dragged me to see it and I really liked it. It was a whole different concept than the first film and it worked on many levels to be what I feel is one of the strongest horror films of 2016.

As with many horror films, it does take a while to really get going. In fact, despite some good scares and creepy atmosphere in the middle, the best scares are in the last 1/3. A story must be told so I get why they have to tell it calmly in the beginning. There are two daughters: an 18 and 9-year-old. They live with their mother and their father has died. The mother runs a psychic medium business out of a parlor in her house. She gets customers in touch with their dead ones and she knows what she does is a scam. She has no guilt because, as she tells her daughters, she is helping these grieving people. Her daughters know it’s all BS. I must mention this was directed by Mike Flannigan (Oculus, Hush) who I have tremendous respect for. He really made a good horror film here and I look forward to seeing more of his work in the future. Spoilers ahead.

There is a rather intricate plot here which reminds me of recent horror films like The Conjuring 2 and Lights Out. In a way, it was too busy for me but I appreciated the story, it sort of came together and worked in the end. Again, it was very complicated. Does anyone miss movies like Halloween where horror is simple?

After one daughter gets seemingly possessed by a demon spirit and helps her mother do readings, the older one meets a boy and reports strange letters her sister wrote in Polish to the headmaster priest at their school. And, that priest is “sort of” dating their mother but not really because he made a vow he won’t break. See what I mean by complicated? It gets more complicated. Suffice it to say Nazi German history weaves in and … well, the ending is sad beyond what you normally would see in a horror movie. Bring your kleenex.

All in all, despite the convoluted, overlong plot, I really liked the scares and creepy atmosphere in this film. I would recommend it as a 7/10 for horror fans.

My review Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016) appeared first on Riley on Film.

Antibirth (2016)

Antibirth (2016)
Not Rated | 1h 34min | Horror | 2 September 2016 (USA)

In a desolate community full of drug-addled Marines and rumors of kidnapping, a wild-eyed stoner named Lou wakes up after a wild night of partying with symptoms of a strange illness and … See full summary »
Director: Danny Perez
Writer: Danny Perez
Stars: Natasha Lyonne, Chloë Sevigny, Meg Tilly

Director Danny Perez has only done this one film. He’s dabbled in a couple other small scale releases. It gives me the impression he is into horror that gets out there into the weird tag. I think directors like this are important! Some social and personal messages are better delivered through “the weird” and this film definitely fits in that category.

It starts with a woman who will take any drug she can find. She’s a pretty young thing, who is also a “tweaker.” Lovely thought right? Natasha Lyonne does a great job with the role, blending the macabre and profane with the plight of your average partier. The gory stuff is there too as she begins to see she is pregnant. She doesn’t know who the father is but it isn’t human, we certainly can surmise later. From there, the story falls to the wayside and it becomes a birthing blood, flesh, and gore fest. Is that anything like birth? Maybe. After all, it’s the entry of new life like Frankenstein right? The visuals are gloriously disgusting. She gives birth to many things including the head in the photo that gets pulled away from the cord connecting it to a full grown body.

This one is one of the more odd ones I’ve seen. I do want to watch it again for any deep meaning I missed. I have a feeling it’s there. My main complaint is that it took too long for the gore to come.


My review Antibirth (2016) appeared first on Riley on Film.

Spectral (2016)

Spectral (2016)
PG-13 | 1h 47min | Action, Mystery, Sci-Fi | 9 December 2016 (USA)

A sci-fi/thriller story centered on a special-ops team that is dispatched to fight supernatural beings.
Director: Nic Mathieu
Writers: Ian Fried (story), Nic Mathieu (story) | 1 more credit »
Stars: James Badge Dale, Emily Mortimer, Bruce Greenwood

This is a Netflix movie meant to compete with the sci-fi action military genre of Edge of Tomorrow and Good Kill. I’m pleased to report that the effects, the acting, and even the concept makes the grade.

The spectral enemy is fascinatingly made. They really do look like ghosts as the title suggests. Spectral comes from “spectre.” The director Nic Mathieu has done a stellar job here. I’m not sure I’d give it as much praise if it were a wide-spread theater release but as a Netflix military action sci-fi, it is a rocking fun time! Some may find it over simplistic and it could have used more ghosts and kills I thought. No film is perfect.

It has a pretty good cast (see above) but my favorite actor is Bruce Greenwood. He always takes a movie to a higher place. He was great with Ashley Judd in Double Jeopardy and I thought he should have won an Oscar for his role in the indie film Wildlike. You can read my review of that film here. At any rate, I recommend this film mow streaming on Netflix.


noun: spectre
a ghost.
synonyms: ghost, phantom, apparition, spirit, wraith, shadow, presence; More
something widely feared as a possible unpleasant or dangerous occurrence.
“the specter of nuclear holocaust”
synonyms: threat, menace, shadow, cloud; More

My review Spectral (2016) appeared first on Riley on Film.

Dope (2015)

Genre: Comedy, Hip Hop Culture, Black Culture

Release Year: 2015

One Sentence Summary: A humorous and cynical presentation of how a black high school senior learns some hard truths about the world.

Director: Rick Famuyiwa, known for “The Wood.”

Cast: Shameik Moore as Malcolm, this is his first acting role. Tony Revolori, Malcolm’s close friend and bandmate Jib, known for “The Perfect Game” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” There are many others in this large cast.

Malcolm is a geek, carefully surviving life in The Bottoms, a tough neighborhood in Inglewood, CA filled with gangsters and drugs dealers, while juggling his senior year of college applications, interviews and the SAT. His dream is to attend Harvard. A chance invitation to a big underground party leads Malcolm and his friends into a, only in Los Angeles, gritty adventure filed with offbeat characters and bad choices. If Malcolm can persevere, he’ll go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately being himself.” imdb

My Thoughts: A very funny “Senior in High School who’s graduating” movie. It is narrated by Forrest Whittaker which connotes a black culture theme. Producers include other famous black people like Sean Combs. This movie shines a light on how tough it can be for a young black man to live in Los Angeles and make it to college. There are many significant particulars, like the monologue to the camera at the end that reveal a sense of injustice and racism that still exists in the world. I thought many parts of it gross so it lost points there. Still, I feel the protagonist triumphs in the end which is the conclusion I hoped to see. Some will argue he fails by succeeding, that is left up to the individual. Besides all that, it has a ton of hilarious moments to enjoy.

My review Dope (2015) appeared first on Riley on Film.

Resolution (2012)

Resolution (2012)
Not Rated | 1h 33min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller | 23 January 2013 (USA)

A man imprisons his estranged junkie friend in an isolated cabin in the boonies San Diego to force him through a week of sobriety, but the events of that week are being mysteriously manipulated.
Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead (as Aaron Scott Moorhead)
Writer: Justin Benson
Stars: Peter Cilella, Vinny Curran, Emily Montague

Indie films obviously don’t have Spielberg level budgets so they are forced to create suspense and scares on an often limited dime. Resolution does that well. Using simple camera tricks and angles, a supernatural theme is woven throughout the story. While it is very scary on its own, unfortunately it never achieves what I would consider the level called “horror.” I was actually searching IMDB for horror films and ran across this one. It lost points with me because about 4/5 of the film’s plot is devoid of any horror. Still, I was treated to a surprisingly high suspense story that had me on the edge of my seat. The ending will be up for interpretation based on the individual.

The story is about a meth addict and his best friend who chains him in an abandoned mountain house hoping to get him to rehab. As the story progresses, a series of supernatural events occurs, sometimes in the form of real life characters like drug dealers or addicts living in a nearby cave. Other times, the unseen force is sardonic and life threatening. There is also an element of time travel here. To avoid spoilers, I’ll leave it there. All in all, Resolution earned points with me for having a great story and for using low budget camera tricks in a very deft fashion. It lost points by me in advertising itself as a horror film and for not quite explaining things as it closed in an exciting yet puzzling twist. I felt a little cheated things weren’t better explained. Still, I highly recommend it as good fun.


Watch Now from 3.99 on Amazon Video

My review Resolution (2012) appeared first on Riley on Film.

The Lesson (2015)

“All of this could have been avoided.” -Mr. Gale

Let me start out by saying this is a horror film but not in the broad sense. It’s full of violence and only those who are fans of the violence/horror genre will likely enjoy this film. Just wanted to stress that up front. Considering that, I dug it!

The Lesson (2015)
Robert Hands

as Mr. Gale

Evan Bendall

as Fin

Michaela Prchalová

as Mia

Directed by
Ruth Platt
Written by
Ruth Platt
Other Info

Horror, Thriller
Unrated Contains scenes of extreme violence.
1h 37min

Minor spoilers ahead.

This is a great horror film from the UK. The story surrounds a group of juvenile delinquents an their teacher. He’s trying to teach them but they just won’t have it. There is a sie story going on but it really just detracts from the main story I have described. Fin, a 16 year old hooligan, lives with his big brother and the big brother’s girlfriend, Mia. His life at home is brutal and makes his existence as a hooligan make some sense. Still, everyone has challenges. What makes a 16 year old go over the edge and vandalize his teacher’s car with a knife? That’s what he does along with his hooligan buddies.

The editing and camera work is very well done, especially in bloody scenes. We get a feel for Fin’s neighborhood and school. Make no mistake, it isn’t cozy or warm by any stretch. The setting is Fin’s home and school. We get the idea very quickly he doesn’t want to be at either. I sympathized with Fin. He didn’t have a mom or dad to seek advice from and his brother is a class a d***. At any rate, he goes too far one day.

The rest of the movie is the concept of kidnapping and torture. In this case it’s by a teacher. Mr. Gale does a great job as the monster villain. He brings Fin and his counterpart to a secluded garage and commences “The Lesson.” It’s a bloody barrage of hammers, nails, even nail guns, intertwined with the lessons of government and human nature through recorded time. Teacher and students are at their best. Unfortunately for Fin, he’s not fast enough for the high school teacher. Mr Gale does a lot of stuff to him, I leave the rest for you to see for yourself.

There is something like a twist you may not see coming at the end. It’s well written. This film was especially cathartic for me being a teacher of course. While I’d never go this far, I’ve often wondered what it would take to get certain delinquent types to become more focused. We all know students like that think. Thankfully, I don’t know of any teachers like this.  Mr. Gale is completely snapped, he has no remorse for what he does. It’s horror … remember that 2 word sentence before analyzing it, “it’s horror.” It lost a star with me for the home side story, I didn’t think it was necessary and it made the movie drag on a bit. Considering that, I gave it 4/5 stars. I recommend it to fans of the genre.

My review The Lesson (2015) appeared first on Riley on Film.