Riley Webster (gilbertgumphrey)Vulcan, AB
Riley's Recent Reviews
Boy, did people not like this flick. 45% on rottentomatoes.com - that's pretty brutal, considering this is an incredibly well directed, acted, and written flick. Reading over what the critics wrote, I'm beginning to see a pattern in their criticism. Many seem to be surprised by the film's moral repugnance - how it seems to show viliganties getting away with it, police being corrupt and idiotic, and that taking the law into our own hands is a good thing. But that's not the feeling I get from the film. I believe that's just the world this particular movie is showing. I don't think the filmmakers wanted to show us their politcal beliefs regarding vigilante revenge - I believe they were simply showing this woman's life as a vengeful vigilante, and the reprecussions that this has on her. This is more a movie about what happens after the violence than the actual violence itself, and for that I was very grateful. Basically, I think critics were putting judgements and ethical statements into the mouths of the filmmakers, which may or may not be true, and that's inappropriate and gave the film a bad rep. What is true is that director Neil Jordan has given us a tense, haunting, and moving revenge flick that never bores you or insults your intelligence, even when narrowly avoiding some pretty major loopholes. I really wasn't expecting to like the movie this much - I mean, 45% on rottentomatoes? That's pretty damning. But I was surprised to find how involved I became with the story of Jodie Foster's character, as well as Terence Howard's, who's beginning to make supporting roles a work of art. The acting sure does help. Both Foster and Howard give wonderful performances. It must be incredibly tough to act like you're hiding something, but also want the person sitting across from you to know that you're hiding something. It's a tricky thing, and they navigate it really well. Foster in particular gives a frighteningly intense performance - I don't know what inner demons she was conjuring up for this gig, but I'm glad she did. After a choppy start, with one too many fade to black's and redundant paranoia set-ups, Foster goes on her killing spree, and the story never lets up, the movie always suspenseful and involving. The killings themselves deserve being singled out. They are never gratuitious, never exploitive. Yes, they are violent and brutal, but the movie doesn't linger on them - not even when Foster moves on from random thugs on the street and hunts down her husband's killer. We expect slow motion, over the top action music, blood spraying everywhere as the audience cheers. But it doesn't happen. The murders, even the important ones, are over with quickly and effeciantly. In fact, the only slow motion I remember in the murder scenes are during close ups of Foster's face, which is pretty telling I think. Even then, though, the best scenes in the film are quiet ones. The two emotional centerpieces in the film don't have any guns or blood, but are simply discussions - one with Foster alone in a room, on the air, revealing her inner demons and emotions regarding her assault and her newfound fear, and the other a lunch conversation between Foster and Howard, where both have figured the other one out but are too scared to outwardly say anything. These two scenes alone are masterpieces in subtle performance and excellent dialogue, and were worth the price of admission alone. Yes, the flick has it's flaws. Foster occasionally does some things and calls attention to herself that I doubt any real person would do, the police work on some murder cases is inept to an almost comical point, and the end, while cathartic and moving, still feels like a bit of a cheat - simply too pat, too optimistic, for such a dark and cynical story as this. Oh well. The Brave One is filmmaking of a high order, and deserves far greater praise than it's been getting. Watch it without any political or ethical blinders, and you'll be surprised how involving the film is.
Sean Penn knew he had something when he developed the script of Into the Wild for around 10 years. He knew he had found a character every audience member will never forget, will never stop believing, and even when the character does incredibly selfish and ignorant things, we will still wind up cheering him and being moved by him. Penn knew what he had, and thankfully, he was finally able to show us it. Into the Wild is as much an experience to behold as it is an actual film. You become absorbed, enveloped, and intrigued, even when a pervading sense of doom and gloom begins to surround the movie. It hits a note that I adore in films but rarely get to find - uplifting while still being sad and true to human nature. The character of Christopher McCandless, wonderfully and bravely portrayed by Emile Hirsch, is one that I think everyone wishes they could be. Yes (spoiler warning), he suffered a pretty terrible end. But the life he experienced before that was so wonderful, so invigorating, so life affirming, that it was worth it for him and I'm sure it would be worth it for just about anyone. We've all had moments where we wished we could just leave everything behind, give away all our material possessions, and go on a spectacular cross country journey. We all dream it, but are too scared (or smart), to try it. Christoper McCandless (or Alexander Supertramp, the name he gives himself during his quest to Alaska) actually had the balls to do it, and even though he was underprepared for the destination, the journey itself was worth it all. He was a free spirit surrounded in a world of broken spirits, and for Penn to capture it so perfectly on film, I applaud him. But this review is quickly becoming pretentious, and I don't want to scare any potential viewers away. It's a glorious film, exciting and moving and haunting and uplifting and even tragic. Yes, it has it's flaws. Some moments go by so quickly and so choppily you wonder if there was a missing reel. One of my favourite shots in the trailer (Supertramp laughing as his car is almost drowned in a flash flood), is no longer in the film. And the resolution of certain characters and certain situations may seem a little unsatisfactory to some. Minor quibbles. This is a first rate flick, with stellar acting from top to bottom, a great soundtrack with songs performed by Eddie Veder, beautiful cinematography, and Penn directs and writes the film very well. It's 2.5 hours, but it never once felt slow or redundant to me. The underlying story, the idea of being able to leave it all behind and journey to find yourself and accomplish your dreams, is so appealing that I would've travelled with this character to the ends of the earth, and in a way, we do. But, as he discovers a little too late, the destination doesn't matter when no one is around to share it with. The people he meets on his journey are all quirky, but all lovely. Vince Vaughn is pleasantly toned down, Catherine Keener is wonderful as always, and Hal Holbrook steals the show and gives what is probably the best supporting performance I've seen since Jack Nicholson in The Departed (odd comparison considering the tone of each are polar opposite of each other, but whatever). In fact, the scenes late in the film he shares with Hirsch, where he becomes a surrogate grandfather and says the best line in the film ("When you forgive, you love. And when you love, God's light shines on you."), are the best of the movie. His performance and the scenes they share ring so true, are so moving and beautiful, that they made this flick go from 4 stars to 4.5 stars alone. If there is one major complaint I have with the film, it's the intruding voice overs of Chris' sister, who tries to provide insight and enlighten us on why Chris is taking this journey - abuse from his parents, abuse between parents, lying parents, etc. All they wind up doing is trivializing his pain and the purpose of his journey. When the voice over's come on, yes they are poetic and lyrical, but they also make Chris seem like a whiny, self indulgent little brat who fell apart when the God's pissed on him. They make his journey seem nothing more than an emo trip to avoid crappy parents, which make us wanna say "Boo hoo, suck it up". Whatever. Luckily, the voice over's aren't too prevailant, and the film carries on quite well with the images and what we see of Chris' character. The end is tragic, yes, because Chris realizes what we had a feeling towards - by shunning everyone in his life, he shunned life itself, and now it's gone. We may wonder what purpose his journey had if only to fulfill his own dreams, but here's what I think - this movie itself fulfills his quest, and gives it purpose. It touches us in a way Chris would've been proud of, and when he comes to his final realization, we're allowed to share it with him due to the movie. This is a splendid flick, and you should all go hunt it down before it disappears from theatres completely.
Riley's Favorite Movies
My most favourite film. Perfect in every way, shape, and form. Beautiful, powerful, mesmerizing, haunting, exceptional, enjoyable, wonderful, intelligent, uplifting, moving - there aren't enough words in the English language to describe how amazing this film really is. From top to bottom, Frank Darabont, the writer/director, achieved success. The performances are wonderful - has Morgan Freeman ever done a better voice over narration? The cinematography is perfectly suited for the story. The camera work is terrific, but never distracting. The music by Thomas Newman is one of the very best of musical scores. And of course, Darabont himself - debuted with this film, deserved the Oscar he never got, and wrote probably the most literate, thought-provoking, and awe inspiring screenplay film has ever seen. I read an email where 50 priests, pastors, and other religious figures listed their favourite films, and 38 out of those 50 all said Shawshank. It's well deserved. If ever there was a film to change someone's life (as this movie as for me - I attribute 90% of my success with Alycia, my lovely girlfriend, to this movie), than this would be the flick. Perfect, perfect, perfect. Heck, now I wanna go watch it again for the 1000th time.
My second favourite flick of all time. Alongside Raging Bull and above all, Shawshank Redemption, these movies are as perfect and wonderful as film can be. It's Hitchcock's best film; yes, no scene is as iconic or important to film history as Psycho's shower scene, but it's a more mature, focused, and personal film all around. Hitchcock wore it all on his sleeve for this picture - the obsessive, controlling love for a blonde, the unattainable dream that is more important in chasing than achieving, the hypnotic desire for murder and murderous notions...all these themes and more are addressed in the film, and all of them describe Hitch better than any autobiography has. The movie isn't just his normal suspense/thriller, although there are moments that are creepier than anything else he's done, excepting Psycho of course (like the nun's voice in the end, coupled with the scream - gives me terrifying goosebumps just thinking about it). It's also a romance/drama, with intensity not expected of Jimmy Stewart (the controlling madness he exudes in the last act is frightening). There are some scenes that stick with you and never let you go - the suicide, the nightmare, the Scene D' Amour, the climax. It's a haunting, mesmerizing, evocative, disturbing flick, no question. But it's also dramatically powerful, which isn't something I say often about movies before 1960ish. Oh, I almost forgot to mention Bernard Herrmann's wonderful score, that enhances every scene it plays under. Great, great, great film. A true masterpiece.