Damien Riley is a filmcritic, podcaster, teacher, & irreverent left-of-center online diarist.
Category: Movie Reviews
I write movie reviews. It’s a major portion of my writing online. I am a big fan of Roger Ebert and the way he talks about a movie while allowing the viewer to keep her/his own impressions. I’m Damien Riley and this is “Riley on Film.”
Scroll down for my latest reviews. To see the full list of movies I’ve reviewed click here.
Extremes in geology have always amazed me like how lava is melted rock. To watch a film about caves and paintings that are 32,000 years old, captivated me. Werner Herzog did an amazing job explaining and presenting these ghostly artifacts.
“Werner Herzog gains exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of Southern France and captures the oldest known pictorial creations of humanity.” -IMDB
Fri 25 Mar 2011 UTC
IMDB Rating: 7.4
Among other arcane effects in these drawings, the most alluring to me was the “animated” horse head. The cave person tried to make the animal appear as it does in life, moving.
I think about the significance of the years gone by. We lie about 100 years in one lifetime. 32,000 divided by one lifetime then is 320 lives back to back, one death signaling a birth every 100 years and so on, 320 times. All those lifetimes ago, someone painted these cave walls. The film takes you into the caves and tells you haunting stories that summon images of people like us, living and creating art.
An archaeologist explains in vivid detail the mental anguish he suffered being in the cave for weeks doing studies. It’s one of the most powerful moments in the film for me. I can almost feel what he’s talking about. Seeing what they painted without seeing them. He is, and so are we through the film, observing a way of life portrayed in images without having anyone connected with and living it to explain.
If their way of life seems simple to us now, how will future generations view ours? In fact, will ours have any artifacts at all?
This is an example of a perfectly done documentary film. I highly recommend it.
I wrote this in 2012 when this film was relatively new. I repost it now as a bit of nostalgia.
More buzz is out on a famous bestselling book that was made into a major motion picture. Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games may end up rivaling Stephenie Meir’s Twilight Saga. It is expected to earn 250 million after this first weekend and by those terms it’s an indisputable success. It was directed by Gary Ross known for Pleasantville and Big. It stars Jennifer Lawrence as protagonist Katniss Everdeen and Josh Hutcherson as her love interest Peeta Mellark. There are a handful of other major actors which includes Woody Harrelson as Katniss’ coach, Haymitch Abernathy. When someone reads a book, she/he wants a personal experience. When someone watches a movie made from a book, it’s no guarantee they’ll have the same experience. My guess is the only people crying in the theater will be the ones who’ve read the book first.
I’m in a position to make that statement because my wife and son who I saw the film with have both read the Hunger Games. As for me, I had very little exposure to the story and characters. I had seen Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone a few years back and really appreciated her talent in that. Otherwise, they were the experts on the Hunger Games and I saw it with ignorant eyes. I found it well crafted and suspenseful but for me it lacked the backstory and character development to really move my emotions. My wife and son had a different experience. They loved it on a visceral level and to quote my wife she, “got everything she wanted” from the film adaptation of the novel.
The Hunger Games is a story about a government that places a select number of its citizens in a survivalist arena where only one emerges alive as the winner. They call this event the Hunger Games. It is meant both to punish the lower class for attempting to revolt and thereby entertain the wealthy, ruling class. Katniss volunteers to be in the bloody games in the place of her young sister who is selected by lottery. Once the players are selected, the majority of the movie consists of people killing each other off. The “players” hate the government and yet turn into murderers immediately upon beginning the games. There is a winner and after the win, the movie ends quite abruptly. Sequel anyone? Based on box office results, I think that’s inevitable.
Jennifer Lawrence delivers an entrancing performance. I really “believed” she was Katniss in the Hunger Games due to her incredible acting. There is really only one other actor who delivers a strong performance, Woody Harrelson. As Katniss’ coach he has relatively less screen time. Still, we have his backstory: he won the games at one time so we know he has killed and lived to tell about it. The rest of the characters are extremely flat with, again, little or no backstory. I assume there is more character development in the novel but when you have that many people killing each other, it helps to know why they think the way they do.
Are people truly that bent on living that they will kill to appease rulers and entertain the rich? I think these killings are rather gratuitous. There is one killing they did right: a little girl was killed, which was a horrendous act against a child. When her killer was taken out, someone in the audience cheered. I agreed with him. They gave a backstory, built up anger against a character’s actions and then killed her off. If all the killings were treated that way I would have liked it more. despite its shortcomings with me, The Hunger Games has wonderful cinematography and special effects. People who know the book well will probably like it more but most who haven’t will probably like this movie just for its action and fantasy.
A Netflix original series: This is more than Laura Ingalls Wilder’s vanilla adaptation by Michael Landon: Little House on the Prairie. It’s a clever, charming, witty, risk-taking adaptation of the beloved young girl novel Anne of Green Gables.
“The adventures of a young orphaned girl living in the late 19th century. Follow Anne as she learns to navigate her new life on Prince Edward Island, in this new take on L.M. Montgomery’s classic novels.” -IMDB
Each episode on this Netflix original series has a new director. They have all dome noteworthy things. Niki Caro is known, for example, for the Zookeeper’s Wife. Helen Shaver has directed 2 episodes of 13 Reasons Why and an episode of Orphan Black. There are many other impressive accolades in the directors of the series.
Amybeth McNulty plays Anne, a spindly legged freckle-faced waif with a mind of her own and a mouth that will not remain quiet. She is not as cute as the original series’ actress Megan Follows but she makes up for it in surprisingly good acting ability. She partakes very little in the culture of young women and instead portrays a lot of outrage and anger. Of curse, she’s funny too. In short, she’s a drama queen and I love it!
The original actress was much more tame and subdued. She did the sewing and cooking and spoke out sometimes. This one lets you have it what she thinks in nearly every scene, but that’s a good thing! This will appeal to readers of the beloved books as well as girls in the tween to teenage years. It has humor adults will get, especially parents of teenagers. It’s a retro show and the costumes and props are very authentic. I enjoy watching the show as a laid back, low key yet entertaining tv series.
FINAL THOUGHTS Young girls have had such a rough shake through history. For many centuries, all they could do was have the children and cook. I think it’s healthy for girls of today to watch the constraints on little girls and women in general and how Anne debunks all that. She’s an excellent role model for outspoken girls. The show may not be for everyone as it is a bit like Masterpiece Theater at times. People talk in a sort of Salem accent and sometimes the points being expressed are subtle and take time to reveal themselves. I personally enjoy and recommend this charming series, now streaming live on Netflix.
This film is NOW STREAMING on Netflix! It’s part of my current series:
Please read my review to see what I think of the film. Then if you can, RT the post, and leave me a comment before you go. Thanks in advance.
Title: Man Up Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance MPAA Rating: R Year: 2015 Director: Ben Palmer. Known for: “The In Betweeners.” Top Billed Cast: Simon Pegg, known well for “Shaun of the Dead” and many more films, Lake Bell, known for “In a World,” and Olivia Williams, known for “An Education” and “The Sixth Sense.” Brief Synopsis: Jack makes plans with an online dating interest to meet in person. Plans are fuddled and a different girl, Nancy, impersonates the online dating woman in the rendezvous. What results is the comedy and drama of the film. My Word to the Wise: Simon Pegg has become synonymous with award-worthy British humor. There’s enough of that along with romantic comedy that at times, despite questionable casting chemistry, does actually work. This is a fun date movie to be sure but don’t expect something amazing.
The rest of this review may contain spoilers.
Simon Pegg has become a powerful presence in films. I found myself questioning if a character played by Lake Bell would in real life have interest a character played by the lead actor. We come to find that despite her youthful age and vivacity, Lake Bell’s character is in fact a bit dishonest and as a result unlikeable. The question in my mind was whether this goofy big brother-type could be the love interest of the girl.
There’s a lot of romantic comedy material in this: the all night bar hop, the visiting the parents, etc. For that reason, it had my wife interested. I’d say the ast 1/3 disappointed me. It didn’t wrap up the way it started. Still, no rom com films have perfect plots, we just need them to snuggle and such. This one’s definitely a good snuggle film. Because the writing as a bit unfocused, especially at the end, it lost posts with me as a romantic comedy. As a drama, I’d say it fails substantially more. Dramas have to seem real, rom coms don’t.
Have you ever plucked a guitar and heard a cool sound, then tried to make it into something more, closer to a song than that pluck? I have. Have you ever looked at a girl fix her hair and immediate want to … erm never mind if you don’t get it you never will.
Well, should I admit to such an unwholesome thing? Yep, guess I better, I’m not one to hide the truth. How about a piano riff you figured out? 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.
“A boy growing up in Dublin during the 1980s escapes his strained family life by starting a band to impress the mysterious girl he likes.” -IMDB
Comedy, Drama, Music, Romance
Thu 17 Mar 2016 UTC
IMDB Rating: 8.0
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.
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.