Me First – The Only Solution to a Sick Workaholic World #mondaymusing

This morning I woke up and decided with my wife to drive 90 miles and spend the night in world famous Orange County, California. We pricelined a room in Newport Beach and just now arrived. I jumped in the pool and my girls are playing “life size” chess. My life is good. A lot of hard work paid off to enjoy these moments. I’m thankful but I claim it as well. I grew up in the OC and now when I’m off work, I come back. 

When I see my girls playing, it makes me proudI want them to see and feel the importance of play, rest, and relaxation. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. The world is so full of serious, chronic questions begging for answers. How can we ever hope to answer them if we go through life as workaholics.

More can be accomplished when we say “Me first.” In the 70’s they were getting at it with “Look out for #1.” I say whether you’re unemployed about to be on the street or a millionaire who doesn’t work, say “me first” others next.

‘Finding Dory’ – My Review of this Unforgettable Fish Film

This sequel to ‘Finding Nemo’ pleases with the introduction of some new hilarious characters, a similarly cute story, and the unforgettable talent of Ellen Degeneres.


Finding Dory

Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill

Directed by

Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane

Written by

Andrew Stanton, Victoria Strouse, Bob Peterson, Angus MacLane

Other Info

PG | 103 min | Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Riley’s Rating: 4 Stars4 / 5

The question for viewers should not be, “Why is this good?” but rather “Why did it take 13 years to make this sequel?” Some movies are difficult to improve upon and This film betters ‘Finding Nemo’ (2003) in some ways. However, in other ways it is fish food compared to the live bait we viewers took in 2003. For example, no scene touches the amazing dentist office escape sequence in the first movie. Still, there are some new characters and laughs well written in ‘Finding Dory’ that do their own pleasing and that makes it well worth going to see.

The seals are among my favorites. You have two Laurel and Hardy types that love their rock as if it were a heated waterbed at sea. A funny third reminiscent of Beaker from the Muppets, tries to sneak up on the rock to have “a taste” but the two kings of the mountain always shuffle him off. This is a recurrent gag that works very well as comic relief. Then again, do we need comic relief from the amazing comedy of Ellen Degeneres? Not in theory but here she is the voice of the main character. In ‘Finding Nemo’ she herself was that relief. For anyone wondering if she pulls it off as a main comic, yes, she passes with flying colors.dory1

The story is identical to the first one only this time it is set in a wildlife preserve/theme park/museum sort of place. Dory remembers her parents that she lost prior to the first movie and she wants to get back to them somehow. This is made nearly impossible by her short term memory loss. Dory runs across a litany of new fish in the new setting, the most notable is an octopus named “Hank,” voiced by Ed O’Neill. Hank starts out as an antagonist but before long, Dory wins his affection and he ends up being the one who can help her most in getting back to her family. Virtually every aspect of the movie parallels number one so I suppose that could have been improved upon with some original sidebars.

The movie was originally set to be made for Disney by Disney’s experimental group “Circle 7 Animation.” That didn’t work out and the rights went back to Pixar who created the first animation for Disney on ‘Finding Nemo’ in 2003. In conclusion, I recommend this film to you but with a microscopic caveat that it isn’t base on anything original (to speak of, the search for her parents is slightly different than the other way around in ‘Nemo’). It lost a star from me for that. Still, I had a blast watching it at the drive in. I hope a lot of people get a chance to see this film.

My Movie Review of: ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ – Worst Film of 2016

Anticipation was high for my wife and I going in to see this film. After about 20 minutes, it wore off. After 40 minutes, we had very little idea what was going on. When there was a bout 20 minutes left to the end, we walked out.


Independence Day: Resurgence

Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman

Directed by

Roland Emmerich

Written by

Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, James Vanderbilt, Dean Devlin

Other Info

Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Rated PG-13
Riley’s Rating: 1 Stars1 / 5

The film started in sort of a cool way. It was the type of sci fi beginning that brings you up to speed. At some point in the movie however my wife and I just lost all hope of having an interest and we walked out. Please know that we rarely walk out of movies. In over 13 years of marriage and seeing films, we’ve done it 2-3 times I think. You may know that feeling when you realize it just can’t improve.

The Basic story is that 20 years have passed since aliens nearly destroyed the Earth in the first film Independence Day. The Earth has had a lot of time to build up its defenses but will it be enough when the aliens do return in Independence Day 2.

It’s not meant to be a funny or nonsense movie but I have a feeling comedians and critics will be pulling funny material for routines and columns for decades. Take a few of these particulars for example: Liam Hemsworth’s character pees on a dead alien, there is an alien prison at Area 51, Bill Pullman goes (in a matter of an hour) from a lock down mental health facility to giving national military advice, and the queen alien is supposed to be as big as half the Atlantic ocean. Let me remind you of what I listed in the writers section: there were 6 professional writers for this film. Process that for a minute … 6. When I research most my reviews there is 1 writer, 3 tops.


Speaking of time spent on reviews, there are a slough of reviews out there on this movie that have done a lot more homework than I. I had high hopes for this film since my wife is a fan of the first one and we wanted to see what happened in the sequel. What we got instead was a convoluted mess that barely made sense and first and whirled out of control quickly to where neither of us knew what was happening.

Could it be the director was hoping for the pro-war, pro-military crowd to dance a jog just for the sake of kicking alien ass? I apologize if that offends anyone but I am really grasping in the dark to find a motive for making this film. I haven’t said this in a review for a while, I do not recommend this film to you. The end leaves room for a sequel so perhaps they’ll produce something better next time. Too bad they missed the mark with this one.

Movie Review: ‘The Congressman’ – Memorable Maine & Treat Williams

Watching “The Congressman” I was taken back by the video images of a sleepy Maine fishing town and impressed by the acting skills of Treat Williams.

There is care given to capture sunsets, active fishing expeditions, and more. There is one sunset that is unforgettable.

This film is about a Congressman named Charlie Winship, played by Treat Williams who is known for Hair and Deep Rising, among many other television and film roles. Charlie has a bad day when he is captured on iphone video sitting wile the rest of Congress is doing the pledge of allegiance. In our viral world, it gets publicizes fast and Charlie gets a lot of judgement for what he did. It gets a lot worse before it gets better and the idea presented is that we tend to worship rituals instead of concepts of freedom.


Charlie retreats to an island off the coast of Maine and while there he recovers the small town values that once made up his political his platform. He connects with a woman, Rae Blanchard, played by Elizabeth Marvel. She is very important in his return to his previous morals about Freedom. The film moves around rather quickly with not too much time on any one person. It focuses a spotlight on an issue and then moves on leaving the viewer to form her/his own opinions.

TC_CharlieJaredBoat_finalThis may be seen by some as a “light hearted” film that doesn’t make any grand stadium statements. The other reason to see this film is Treat Williams’ performance. He speaks with such seasoned ease in acting. He delivers his line as though he were an actual congressman. It’s a great film to watch and internalize at the theater or on Video On Demand where you can find it now. For the reasons stated above, I hope many get to see and enjoy this film.

Directors: Jared Martin, Robert Mrazek
Writer: Robert Mrazek
Stars: Treat Williams, Elizabeth Marvel, Ryan Merriman
R | 1h 38min | Drama

My Extraordinary Accomplishments in Blogging – June 2016

Of course the title is tongue-in-cheek. I’m not posting to brag but rather to share, inspire, and possibly guide newbies to stuff any blogger can try. Just the same, I may be posting these as a series because I think a lot of my friends who read my blog would like to know the things I am putting out there on the web. June has been a month of vacationing in Hawaii and going to an AVID teacher training in San Diego. In between all that, I managed to do this stuff online:

I wrote a post titled: James Horner and the Braveheart Score. It was included in the Remembering James Horner Blogathon on Film Music Central. (Thanks Becky!)

My movie reviewing friend in the UK, Darren Lucas, and myself are working on a podcast series. We recorded our 3rd and it went live last week. This is my favorite project these days. Watch for more on this. Currently we are using Youtube to host the show. In this episode we had a special guest Becky who is a music in film graduate student. She also owns the blog that featured my post in a blogathon.

I am back after many years of being away at Blogcritics. I’ve submitted 3 articles recently and this is the latest, my movie review of Wildlike. They are sticklers for detail and it takes dedication to write for them. If you really want a challenge to help you become a better writer, apply!

I wrote about my Hawaii vacation: Snorkel Face: something I saw on my Hawaii vacation

The above post was mentioned by my friend Michael Kwan in his: Beyond the Rhetoric “What’s up Wednesdays

Finally, I’m Officially LAMB Movie Reviewer #1840

I have 7 weeks off from teaching until next year’s contract starts. I plan to do a lot like the accomplishments above. Thank you if you read my blog and for those who offer support through comments and likes, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love doing this and I do it primarily to grow and enjoy. The pinnacle of it is when people interact with my blogging work.

James Horner and the ‘Braveheart’ Score


This post is part of the Remembering James Horner Blogathon on Film Music Central.

I am co-host with Darren Lucas on a podcast called “Talking Stars.” We recorded an episode to promote the blogathon and discuss James Horner. The text part of this post is basically my script for that episode. If interested you can listen to it below:

Certain names in art evoke respect upon being heard. When it comes to movie soundtracks, James Horner is such a name. He composed the music for many films including Titanic and Braveheart. He was known for using modulation and using chords outside the key, among other creative innovation in music. In layman’s terms, this means creating places in the music where something “different” happens. This is used often in his scores to build suspense create mood for a scene.

Though he has passed on, Horner’s music continues to touch millions who watch these great films. Responding to music is one of a few actions that makes us human. His films take us to that human place.

Braveheart is a film about William Wallace, a realistic legend part from history and part from around the fires of Scots generation after generation. Because it is set in a historical Scottish province, ancient instruments are used for flavor. When Wallace courts Murron, for example, the music is played on flutes and other aged instruments.

In other songs, such as the Battle of Stirling, the bellowing modern orchestra instruments appear. The care toward the story is seen clearly in the titles of the songs listed on the Braveheart Soundtrack. It is a stirring, inspiring collection of songs that make up the score of the film. You can find it on Apple Music and iTunes. Braveheart is one of those films that needs a big musical score.

It just celebrated its 20th anniversary and I’ll never forget the impact it had on me as a young man of 27 when it came out. Probably the most powerful scene for me comes at the end when Wallace accepts his final punishment. People love to go on a journey. Movies like Braveheart take us along with the main character. The music of James Horner uses both traditional and modern orchestral music conventions to help the viewer become captivated. When Mel Gibson knew the epic kind of film he wanted to make, he made a very wise choice calling on the artistry of James Horner. The movie is extremely well scripted, filmed, and otherwise made but the music is stellar and helps make the film the masterpiece it is. Below are some examples from his score for Braveheart.

‘Wildlike’ – A Sleepy Hiking Film of Surprising Suspense

The indie film Wildlike is a hidden gem from 2015 that was recently added to Netflix. The director, Frank Hall Green, uses the Alaskan wilderness as backdrop for a suspenseful story. Starring in Wildlike are Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek) and Ella Purnell (Maleficent) who make this film a unique diamond in the rough.

img_9922Ella Purnell stars as Mackenzie, a 14 year old girl who’s been abandoned by her drug addicted mother. While in the care of her uncle, she is sexually abused, and flees to a nearby Alaskan hiking trail. That’s where she crosses path with Bruce Greenwood’s character, Rene.

Bruce Greenwood is the most recognizable star in the movie, and he does a magnificent job trying to understand and help the troubled teen. He’s been in films as big as Star Trek and thankfully for us fans he accepted this role even though it was an independent film. The friendship between Mackenzie and Rene is fascinating and appears it could save her. Watching it develop is one of the best parts of the film though so I won’t describe it more than that.

Mackenzie is an interesting and powerful character as well. Not many of us know what it would be like as a 14-year-old girl who was sexually molested. Some will say she should have told the police, but others could argue the police might Bruce Greenwoodbelieve the aggressor, making a return to him inevitable. Ella Purnell dons the signature troubled-teen mascara that we see gradually reduced through the film as she begins to trust Rene. She shows us the fear involved for victims. She is a survivor and sticks close to him. Rene has profound reasons for being on the trail as well. The trail could be a metaphor that we all have our own pain to walk off. Both actors do a great job in their hiking dialog.

The suspense starts in the form of a bear on the trail and then culminates with the abusive uncle stalking Mackenzie. When Rene and the uncle finally meet, some may hope the uncle gets beaten to a pulp. They don’t show that. Instead, as with other themes in the movie, they infer it and the viewer is left to decide for her/himself.

wildlike_stillThis film has done quite well for its first time director, Frank Hall Green. It has been invited to more than 75 film festivals and has won 16 Best Film awards. It’s nice to see such an understated film that allows the viewer to come to her/his own conclusions has done so well. It’s also understated and tasteful in the way that ordinarily graphic scenes like the sexual abuse is not shown but rather inferred. This is a stylistic choice of Green. By way of trivia, the IMDB page for the movie states that Frank Hall Green hiked in the exact park where the wilderness scenes were filmed and the path in the film was based on paths he and his family hiked.

I found this film a pleasant surprise. I expected a sleepy hiking film and instead got amazing outdoor cinematography with a suspenseful/thriller. I love movies that juxtapose a good story with stellar visuals. I’m reminded of Fargo as an example. Frank Hall Green is already at work on other projects but I hope a lot of people get a chance to enjoy Wildlike.

Liked on YouTube: Talking Stars – Episode 3 – James Horner

Talking Stars – Episode 3 – James Horner
Talking Stars is a new show Damien Riley and Myself are working on,

This show is the third we are taking part in the Jame Horner Blogathon being hosted by Becky from Film Music Central, for more information click here you can also follow Becky on Twitter

If there is anyone you would like to cover leave a comment

If you want to contact us you can contact us at

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Movie Review: ‘Hush’ – Full Fledged Scares on a Modest Budget

Low-budget thriller Hush had a budget of less than $75,000 but still manages to be as scary as any high budget horror film. It’s “thinking person’s scary,” which some genre fans prefer to pure slice and dice, though there is certainly some of that as well.

hush movie posterDirected by Mike Flannigan (Oculus), Hush us through a single night, when a deaf author is attacked by a masked man. He co wrote the film with Kate Siegel (who also plays the main character Maddie). Siegel and Flannigan share a house, and, in fact, several sources indicate they wrote the screenplay with their home layout as a blueprint. She also starred in his Oculus. 

Revealing the narrative through the eyes of a deaf person is an interesting idea for suspense. It really ratchets up the tension and allows for a few really spine tingling scenes requiring no CGI or music for that matter. Rumor has it that the original plan was to make the movie with no dialog at all.

Through a series of slashings and “intruder” scenes, the deaf Maddie learns she doesn’t have to be a victim. She fights back. Everything is filmed in a dark setting outside and inside the house, emphasizing the revenge element that weaves throughout, and leads us to what some will find a satisfying conclusion.

There are few casualties, few actors, but more than a few gallons of blood are spilled on scene.

Flannigan also presents a novel take on the killer’s mask, made especially frightening because it seems somehow painted or attached to the killer’s face. It’s another way to build scares using creative elements instead of spending a lot of money.

In a way, the movie reminded me of another low-budget movie, Insidious, which also provided plenty of scares on a minimal budget. Hush, Insidious and films like them prove that filmmakers don’t need millions dollar movies to make a movie that will both scare and entertain.

Hush screened at SXSW for a panel of industry buyers. It did very well there but somehow ended up on Netflix, where I was fortunate enough to see it. Netflix could use more quality horror and suspense films like Hush. I had a lot of fun watching it, and highly recommend it if you can catch it on Netflix or elsewhere. Imagine you have earplugs in and can’t hear a thing and you can’t hear anyone sneaking in the window either. Then imagine an intruder breathing on the back of your neck! This film makes the most of the simple scares and stands up well to big budget films.

5 stars

Thanks for reading! More of my movie reviews are at: Riley on Film

Movie Review: ‘Wildlike’ – A Sleepy Hiking Film of Surprising Suspense

I caught this indie film Wildlike on Netflix recently and found it was very well made and enjoyable. Hiking and sexual abuse are an odd combination but they result in a suspenseful, well-acted story.



Ella Purnell, Bruce Greenwood, Nolan Gerard Funk

Directed by

Frank Hall Green

Written by

Frank Hall Green

Other Info

Adventure, Drama, Thriller
1h 44min
Riley says: 5 Stars5 / 5

Bruce Greenwood’s character, Rene Bartlett, is compelling to watch in this film. He’s the most recognizable actor in the movie and you can tell by his acting in this movie he is a master of the craft. I remember him most from his role in Presumed Innocent where he tried to murder his wife (played by Ashley Judd). He was truly hateable in that role, smoking cigars and laughing as his evil plan was being carried out. He’s a familiar face from many other roles including a role in a Star Trek movie. In Wildlike he plays a benevolent grieving widower hiking in the Alaskan wilderness. He is hoping to find closure. While there he encounters a young woman, Mackenzie (Ella Purnell known for Maleficent) who just keeps bothering him for reasons he has to wait to find out. Read my whole review at Riley on Film  Continue reading Movie Review: ‘Wildlike’ – A Sleepy Hiking Film of Surprising Suspense