The 400 Blows-1959

The 400 Blows-1959

Director-Francois Truffaut

Starring-Jean-Pierre Leaud

Scott’s Review #88

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Reviewed July 2, 2014

Grade: A

The 400 Blows is a French New Wave masterpiece from 1959 that is heartbreaking yet beautiful in its storytelling. It tells the story of Antoine, a kindhearted yet hardened teen boy who is forced out on his own to live a tough life on the streets of Paris. It is autobiographical of sorts as director Francois Truffaut suffered a childhood similar to the boy.

Misunderstood and mistreated by his parents and schoolteachers, Antoine must survive and thrive as a teenage runaway who cannot get a break in life. Shot in Paris and featuring gorgeous shots of the city, the black and white filming add to the bleakness and coldness of this young boy’s life and Truffaut was the first to use the since common still-frame close-up of angst and the scenes of Antoine running from the city along the beach are some of the most beautiful in film history.

Truffaut influenced a generation of directors with his very personal brand of storytelling. The 400 Blows is not always a pleasant film, but an important and influential one in art cinema. Young actor Jean-Pierre Leaud gives an excellent performance.

Oscar Nominations: Best Story and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Crush-2013

Crush-2013

Director-Malik Bader

Starring-Lucas Till, Sarah Bolger

Scott’s Review #87

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Reviewed July 2, 2014

Grade: C-

Crush tells a story that has been told since almost the beginning of cinematic history- that of the stalker. It’s a teen stalker film very similar to The Roommate and Swimfan, which I admit to having seen and enjoyed. A teen soccer jock injures his knee and decides to break up with his girlfriend to focus on rehab. From this point someone begins to stalk him and leave secret admirer notes. Several red herrings ensue and a twist is contained in the final 30 minutes that, unfortunately, if one bothers to look at the cover art on the DVD, the stalker is revealed.

This particular genre is a guilty pleasure of mine so it’s tough to be completely objective. On the surface Crush is a really terrible movie- it is by the numbers, no character development, but just plain old fun. I suppose it is loosely a remake of the Alicia Silverstone film from the 1990’s. In any event the appeal (good or bad) was that the filmmakers played this film seriously instead of fessing up to a poor script and playing it for laughs. The acting was awful, the teen outcasts looked like they could easily be the popular kids and made up to appear nerdy, and the film had a Hallmark television movie of the week badness to it, but in a goofy, trashy way I enjoyed the film.

Easy to Love-1953

Easy to Love-1953

Director-Charles Watson

Starring-Esther Williams, Van Johnson

Scott’s Review #86

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Reviewed July 2, 2014

Grade: D

Easy to Love is a romantic comedy from 1953 starring competitive swimmer turned actress Esther Williams. Williams plays a (surprise!) swimmer in love with her boss who does not return her affections. She also has two other suitors madly in love with her, so it’s a love triangle type of film with Williams having a side-kick, played by Edna Skinner. They go from Florida to New York on a job adventure.

The main problem with this film is the silly script. It’s a romantic comedy of its day with Williams scampering from one beau to the next. By the end of the film she has three suitors all vying for her affections, but the viewer hardly cares whom she chooses or which one was meant to be the hero. The endless scenes of Williams swimming around were necessary since that’s what she was known for, but the film is a dud on almost every level.

Williams, hardly known for her acting ability, spends much of the film jet-skiing and prancing around in swimwear while men lust after her. That pretty much sums up the film. Williams is not a terrible actress, though hardly Katharine Hepburn either. The movie just seems lackluster and quite trivial and not too much fun.

Outrageous Fortune-1987

Outrageous Fortune-1987

Director-Arthur Hiller

Starring-Bette Midler, Shelley Long

Scott’s Review #85

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Reviewed July 2, 2014

Grade: D

Outrageous Fortune is one of many silly plot driven comedies to come out of the late 1980’s. It stars huge comedic actresses of the time (Bette Midler and Shelley Long) as opposites, Midler-brash, Long-refined, who are acting students and in the love with the same man (Peter Coyote). Of course, they meet and hate each other then become friends. This sets off a series of misunderstandings and standard comedy fare.

It’s a female buddy movie. I must say that I did enjoy the chemistry between Long and Midler as the on-screen chemistry is evident. Besides the chemistry the only other positive is the New York City location scenes and the acting/theater workshop setting. Whose idea was it for Midler to use a horrible, phony New York accent?? It distracted throughout the entire film which is not very good to begin with. Otherwise, this is a dud and is completely plot driven and predictable. It has a pure 1980’s comedy feel to it (by that I mean overdone hairstyles, bad music, and silly plot). Shelley Long is clearly the highlight of this film as she is great at comedic timing, but, unfortunately, her film starring career was short lived.

Slaughterhouse Five-1972

Slaughterhouse Five-1972

Director-George Roy Hill

Starring-Michael Sacks, Ron Leibman

Scott’s Review #84

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Reviewed July1, 2014

Grade: A-

Slaughterhouse Five, adapted from the novel of the same name and made in 1972, is a dream-like visual experience through cinematic time.

In the story the main character (Billie Pilgrim) is a World War II soldier who survives a horrific explosion during the war in one period of his life, and he, along with the viewer floats through time to relive, but not change, three other times in his life. It is a first person narrative. As a senior, the most engaging time period, he is transported to a lavish outer space planet where he falls in love with a Goddess.

There is a certain anti-war sentiment to the film and is certainly cerebral, unique and mesmerizing and tough to explain, but it is dreamy and clever and, after 30 plus years, is surprisingly fresh, therefore it should be experienced. It is a science-fiction type of film. My favorite scene is the humorous, yet tragic runaway Cadillac scene.

The Conversation-1974

The Conversation-1974

Director-Frances Ford Coppola

Starring-Gene Hackman

Top 100 Films-#5

Scott’s Review #83

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Reviewed July 1, 2014

Grade: A

The Conversation is one of my favorite films. It is thinking man’s psychological thriller that is pure genius. Had The Godfather not been the success that it was, this film would never have been made. It is a very personal story crafted by Francis Ford Coppola.

The film stars Gene Hackman as a surveillance expert, who is a technical genius, but social misfit Harry Caul, a cynical man suspicious of everybody. He is paranoid. He is hired by a mysterious Director to tap a young couple’s conversations and submit the recordings to the Director’s assistant played by a very young Harrison Ford (his first film).

Harry is also obsessed with his own privacy chastising his landlord for sending flowers to his apartment. His latest assignment becomes an obsession for him as he begins a downward spiral of paranoia concerning a young couple he feels are in danger.

For the viewer, and the character of Harry Caul, we feel we have everything figured out, but do we? Is the couple in danger? Who are they? Many aspects of the film are fuzzy and unclear which is genius of the film as it makes the viewer think. The atmosphere is repetitive and tense. The endless sound loops and the surveillance in the park are highly effective.

The creepy hotel scene towards the climax of the film is my favorite in its creepiness. Each time I view The Conversation I see something in a different way or try to dissect it in a new way. That to me is film-making at its greatest.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound

Altered States-1980

Altered States-1980

Director-Ken Russell

Starring-William Hurt

Scott’s Review #82

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Reviewed July 1, 2014

Grade: B-

Altered States is a trippy, strange horror/sci-fi hybrid film (William Hurt’s debut film) that is visually quite impressive, but the story is too far-fetched and implausible to be taken seriously. It feels like an earlier version of The Fly, but inferior to that particular film. Hurt plays an abnormal psychology professor obsessed with experimental schizophrenic hallucinatory drugs, which he takes, causing him to ultimately experience episodes of being half man, half ape through the use of a sensory deprivation tank and a strange Indian tribe comes into play. It’s a very silly premise, but somehow is believable to a point, especially in the first act. The ending of the movie proved ridiculous and uninteresting to me and seemed extremely disjointed as an entire film.

Apparently, there were lots of behind the scenes troubles with this film, which could explain the unbalanced feeling. Otherwise, the sporadic weird colors and patterns during the scientist’s episodes were effective. Drew Barrymore’s first film (she plays a toddler).

Oscar Nominations: Best Original Score, Best Sound

Lee Daniels’ The Butler-2013

Lee Daniels’ The Butler-2013

Director-Lee Daniels

Starring-Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey

Scott’s Review #81

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Reviewed June 30, 2014

Grade: A

Director, Lee Daniels, is a recent favorite of mine (Precious, The Paperboy) and his latest is an excellent, true story, undertaking. While the trailer looked appealing, I was concerned that the film might be overwrought or have a Hollywood sappiness to it. While it’s certainly a Hollywood film, it is a powerful, emotional experience.

The viewer is taken on a journey from 1926 through the current presidency from the viewpoint of White House butler Cecil Gaines, who serves several presidents and is privy to the goings on in the White House. He is played by Forest Whitaker and his boozy, troubled wife is played by Oprah Winfrey. Both give tremendous performances. It is a political travel through time and I loved the authenticity of each decade from the sets to the costumes to the hairstyles. The casting of the Presidents is curious (Robin Williams as Eisenhower and John Cusack as Nixon), but somehow worked. The rivalry of Cecil Gaines and his rebellious son is quite interesting as the viewer sides with each individual at different time.

The film is more emotional than I anticipated and much of the audience was teary during certain scenes of heartbreak and triumph. I feel this is a must see for everyone. Well done.

Aliens-1986

Aliens-1986

Director-James Cameron

Starring-Sigourney Weaver

Scott’s Review #80

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Reviewed June 29, 2014

Grade: B+

Aliens takes away the rawness of the original Alien and infuses a glossier, slick look to the film franchise. The film was made 8 years later, but story-wise is set 57 years into the future when Ripley, played to perfection by Sigourney Weaver, awakens. To her horror, she discovers that the aliens have colonized and she is forced to return to prevent havoc. Militia is in tow, adding a helping of masculinity that supports the film throughout. This scenario perfectly sets up what is to become an excellent sci-fi adventure story.

There are wonderful special effects that were quite extraordinary for the time that the film was shot-1986. The tunnels and spacecraft are perfectly lit and designed, giving it a bright and fun setting and the audience knows that doom is lurking. The actual aliens are visually frightening and, compared to the original, are more plentiful. Sigourney Weaver takes center stage and leads this film successfully. I’m not sure many other actresses could pull off her level of authentic toughness and give no sex appeal in the process and successfully get away with it.

The only detraction to this film is it seems a bit dated in a purely 1980’s film way. It has an 80’s look to it and that’s not a positive. Certainly not on par with the superlative original Alien, but otherwise, a well-made, supernatural, thrill ride.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actress-Sigourney Weaver, Best Original Score, Best Sound Effects Editing (won), Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects (won)

2000 Maniacs-1964

2000 Maniacs-1964

Director-H.G.Lewis

Starring-William Kerwin, Connie Mason

Scott’s Review #79

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Reviewed June 28, 2014

Grade: B

Two Thousand Maniacs is a 1964 offering by gore director H.G. Lewis set in the south. The premise of the film is a southern town, ironically named Pleasant Valley, slaughtered and destroyed during the Civil War, is resurrected every 100 years to enact revenge on northerners who are unlucky enough to stumble upon their town. 5 nice looking, fashionable tourists, headed to Atlanta, are duped by local townspeople into making a wrong turn and given the hero’s welcome by the town folk for a festive centennial celebration. The welcome is, of course, a guise to a sinister plot to dismember and barbeque the tourists as part of the feast of the celebration.

The film takes a bit to get going, there is no killing until 30 minutes into it, but then kicks into high gear as some of the most graphic, brutal deaths ensue. A woman is tied to a platform as one towns person after another attempts to hit a bulls eye so that an enormous boulder falls, carnival dunk-tank style, stoning her to death. Another victim has each limb tied to a horse as they gallop in different directions, thus dismembering him. Still another is forced into a barrel laces with nails and sent rolling down a hill. Another has her thumb and arm chopped off and served for dinner. These are gruesome deaths.

Certainly, a film like this is done for fun, thus the term horror-comedy, but surely heavily  influenced other macabre films that followed- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Deliverance. The southern rednecks are played to the hilt by mostly real townspeople and the cheerful song “The South will rise again” sticks in the viewer’s mind long after the film ends. In fact, the entire tone of the film is bright, cheerful, and the town people, on the surface, seem happy-go-lucky and warm. They even kill with charm. Two Thousand Maniacs is a fun, splatter film from one of the genres most revered film makers.

Kon-Tiki-2012

Kon-Tiki-2012

Director-Joachim Ronning, Espen Sandberg

Starring-Pal Sverre Valheim Hagen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen

Scott’s Review #78

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Reviewed June 28, 2014

Grade: C+

I don’t know what has happened to the nominating process for the Best Foreign Language film Oscar (it has been controversial for years), but it used to be you could count on any of the 5 nominated films to be interesting, edgy, and even controversial. Now, a few of the nominated films squeaking through barely rise above mediocrity and are such mainstream stories. Kon-Tiki is one such film.

It tells the tale of a Norwegian scientist determined to sail, via raft, from Peru to the Polynesian islands to prove a Sun God, centuries ago, did the same voyage. He forms a team and off they go. Supposedly based on a true story, the team faces the typical challenges in an oceanic adventure- bad weather, sharks, the raft in peril, dissent among the ranks. These high sea clichés have really gotten to me recently.

The film is similar in context to Life of Pi. It’s not a bad film, but there is nothing special about it and it has glossy and safe written all over it- the score is Spielberg to the nines (who has nothing to do with this film). The 5 adventurers are bronzed with buff bodies when nobody was buff in the 1940’s when this film is set, and the scruffy beards, after months of sailing, look perfectly phony. For the top tier foreign language group, I expected something more cutting edge and with more substance.

The Theatre Bizarre-2011

The Theatre Bizarre-2011

Director-Tom Savini, Douglas Buck

Starring-Udo Kier, Lena Kliene

Scott’s Review #77

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Reviewed June 28, 2014

Grade: B+

The Theatre Bizarre is a little known horror treat from 2011 that was only shown in horror festivals upon its release and is otherwise, shamefully unknown. Horror buffs must give this film a chance.

The main story centers on a young woman’s attraction to an odd theater in her neighborhood and her hesitant pursuit of the theater. Once she musters the courage to enter, she is treated to 6 stories told by the strange owner of the theater, who is a wax figure. The audience also experiences the stories in one-by-one vignettes. The stories range from the morbidly gruesome (A bitter, angry woman castrates her cheating boyfriend. An unstable woman serves her boyfriend to her friends for dinner) to poetic (a young girl and her mother discuss the process of death upon witnessing a deadly motorcycle crash).

The first vignette (Mother of Toads) was not one of the best, but the subsequent stories fascinated me. The ambiance, especially inside the theater, is dark, dream-like, and surreal, which adds much atmosphere to the film.  It reminded me quite a bit of Masters of Horror, a popular series on Showtime in the mid 2000’s. Highly recommended gem for horror fans.

The African Queen-1951

The African Queen-1951

Director-John Huston

Starring-Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn

Scott’s Review #76

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Reviewed June 28, 2014

Grade: B-

The African Queen is a difficult film to review. Revered and appearing on many greatest films of all time lists, overall this film is disappointing to me. Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn star as a couple  who despise each other, stranded  together on a tugboat in Africa on the eve of World war I.

Sure, the chemistry between Bogart and Hepburn (Hollywood royalty in their day) is there and the opposites attracting has a definite rooting value as the passion between them oozes off the screen. He is a grizzled alcoholic, American. She is a repressed, puritanical British woman. The locales of Africa as the couple traverse on a makeshift boat are gorgeous to view. That is it for me though- nothing else about the film is spectacular.

The plot is rather silly and unrealistic and the two are obviously thrown together purely for plot purposes. The adventure seems quite secondary to the love story at hand. How far-fetched that an “old maid” and a sailor could build torpedoes and blow up an enormous German warship.

The film is a decent, old fashioned romantic adventure film, but little more and that disappoints, because I was expecting much, much more due to the films accolades. Bogart won the 1951 Best Actor Oscar for this performance.

Oscar Nominations: Best Director-John Huston, Best Actor-Humphrey Bogart (won), Best Actress-Katharine Hepburn, Best Screenplay

Prisoners-2013

Prisoners-2013

Director-Denis Villeneuve

Starring-Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal

Scott’s Review #75

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Reviewed June 27, 2014

Grade: B+

The film Prisoners weaves a gripping, taught, psychological tale that is well acted (stellar cast of Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Viola Davis, and Paul Dano for starters) and that is what separates this from other similar, yet mediocre thriller types.

The gray, somber, Pennsylvania town is a perfect backdrop for a story involving child abduction and a father that seeks a confession from the presumed kidnapper. The mood and cinematography are impressive and the bleakness is absolutely perfect for the tone of the film- a cold Thanksgiving holiday weekend in a working class, steel town. At 2 hours and 26 minutes, the film is lengthy, but edge of your seat. What intrigued me was the audience conflict of whom to root for. Is the father purely innocent? Is the kidnapper actually guilty? Is someone else involved? These questions go through the viewer’s mind over the course of the film.

The film does have a major drawback in the high number of plot holes and questions asked at the films conclusion. The kidnapper’s motivations are weak and never fully explained. Portions of the story do not add up and make little sense. The film is similar in style to Zodiac and Mystic River. The film is an intense, thrill-ride to be enjoyed, but certainly not over-analyzed.

Amelie-2001

Amelie-2001

Director-Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Starring-Audrey Tatou

Scott’s Review #74

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Reviewed June 27, 2014

Grade: C+

Amelie was a major disappointment for me. Critically acclaimed and admired, I clearly did not get this movie at all. First the positives: this film is French, which gives it an edge for the beautiful language and the setting of France.

The cinematography, art direction, and set design are inventive and unique. The movie had a magical, whimsical feel to it which was appealing. The story, however, was an enormous drawback. The central character, a waif-like, sweet, waitress is lonely and feels unloved, yet avoids meeting the man of her dreams by playing a cat and mouse game of leaving silly notes and sending him on wild goose chases because she is afraid of happiness, yet she does everything she can to ensure others find happiness.

The story did not work for me at all, but I admired the creativeness of the film itself. Perhaps I should allow myself a second viewing as this film received much fanfare.

Oscar Nominations: Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen/Original Screenplay, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Foreign Film (won)

All About Eve-1950

All About Eve-1950

Director-Joe Mankiewicz

Starring-Bette Davis, Anne Baxter

Top 100 Films-#84

Scott’s Review #73

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Reviewed June 27, 2014

Grade: A

All About Eve is a cynical masterpiece from 1950 set in the competitive world of the New York theater. Insecure Margo Channing, played to perfection by Bette Davis, is an aging actress whose career is on the downturn. She meets naïve Eve Harrington, played by Anne Baxter, who insinuates herself into Margo’s life and career. One interesting facet of this film is how the opening scene is of an acceptance speech by Eve. The look of anger and disdain from the front table gives a good indication of things to come. From there the film backtracks to the first time the two women meet and the story really begins. It is certainly a dark film and jealousy and back-stabbing are common themes throughout as had never been done before in film set in the world of theater. One by one, each of Margo’s friends catch on to Eve’s plot, but at what cost? This is Bette Davis’s comeback performance as a talented Broadway star and she makes the most of the opportunity as she deliciously utters her famous revenge minded line “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night”. Marilyn Monroe has a cameo role as a debutante in her first film role. The film deservedly won the 1950 Best Picture Oscar.

Oscar Nominations: Best Motion Picture (won), Best Director-Joseph L. Mankiewicz (won), Best Actress-Anne Baxter, Bette Davis, Best Supporting Actor-George Sanders (won), Best Supporting Actress-Celeste Holm, Thelma Ritter, Best Screenplay (won), Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, Best Sound Recording (won), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White (won), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (won), Best Film Editing

Swept Away-1974

Swept Away-1974

Director-Lina Wertmuller

Starring-Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato

Scott’s Review #72

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Reviewed June 27, 2014

Grade: B+

Swept Away is an Italian version of the film remade starring Madonna in 2004. A wealthy, spoiled woman is stranded on a deserted island with her male servant. The 1974 film is superb and, at times, deeply disturbing, as scenes of humiliation are almost too much to watch. The theme is certainly about the class system- the haves and the have-nots; and what happens when roles are reversed and individuals are stripped of titles is interesting, shocking, and, at times, troubling.

I was stunned, yet mesmerized, by a very animalistic scene in which a man beats a woman. At first, the man is the sympathetic one and the woman despised, then the roles are shockingly reversed. Amazingly, the film was directed by a woman, Lina Wertmuller, a brave, underappreciated German director. When, inevitably, the pair is rescued and return to normalcy, the plot takes a very dynamic turn.

Enough Said-2013

Enough Said-2013

Director-Nicole Holofcener

Starring-Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini

Scott’s Review #71

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Reviewed June 25, 2014

Grade: B+

Enough Said is a surprisingly well written, small indie romantic comedy and, sadly, James Gandolfini’s final film performance. The film stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who portrays a down to earth massage therapist who meets her odd match (Gandolfini) at a party. They slowly begin dating and some interesting misunderstandings ensue.

The seemingly odd couple fall in love and form a special bond over time. They are both struggling to overcome past relationships and trust someone again so they are vulnerable and interesting characters. They strive to be happy, but are not quite there yet. I found the dialogue very sharp and witty and Dreyfus is perfectly cast in this film. She and Gandolfini have enormous chemistry and the film is not contrived in the least as many romantic comedies are.

The film feels like a West coast Woody Allen film from a female perspective with many neurotic, flawed characters. I enjoyed it immensely.

American Beauty-1999

American Beauty-1999

Director-Sam Mendes

Starring-Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening

Top 100 Films-#65

Scott’s Review #70

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Reviewed June 25, 2014

Grade: A

American Beauty is a film that holds up magnificently well and packs the same punch that it did when I originally saw it when it first premiered in 1999. The film won the Best Picture Oscar in 1999, surprisingly so, as it is not a mainstream film and is edgy, artistic, and poetic.

The film is a thought provoking story of the American Dream gone wrong and how most people live ordinary, humdrum, on the surface, happy lives, but in truth are unhappy, damaged, or otherwise unfulfilled. It is a truthful film and reminds me quite a bit of The Ice Storm, a film from 1997. American Beauty is not a downer, but rather is witty, dark humored, and filled with dry sarcasm. Kevin Spacey is tremendous as the central character going through a mid-life crisis and Annette Bening is frighteningly good as his neurotic, controlling wife. Their daughter, played by Thora Birch, has her own teenage angst and falls in love with a neighborhood misfit. Every character, even small and supporting, is troubled in some way.

American Beauty (1999) is a film that was loved or hated at the time of its release; some simply did not get it or did not want to invest in the thought it requires, but, to me it’s a work of art, which has achieved a timeless quality.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture (won), Best Director-Sam Mendes (won), Best Actor-Kevin Spacey (won), Best Actress-Annette Bening, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (won), Best Original Score, Best Cinematography (won), Best Film Editing

Gravity-2013

Gravity-2013

Director-Alfonso Cuaron

Starring-Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

Scott’s Review #69

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Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: B

Gravity has become a film that has divided people- some have described the film as “brilliant”, “groundbreaking”, and “phenomenal”.  Due to the hype, I was expecting somewhat of a masterpiece. Not being a 3-D fan (it’s usually unnecessary), I gave in and saw it in 3-D, which did, in fact help the film. I have discovered the theory- the techies will love it, the storytellers will not.

Yes, the film is inventive and the space scenes are magnificent, so much so that I actually felt as though I was floating in space looking down at planet earth. Sandra Bullock is excellent as a lost astronaut fearful and desperate. But, the story was quite basic and, frankly, weak. I kept waiting for the plot to thicken and was left wanting much more than the movie delivered. The backstory for Clooney and Bullock was extremely limited. I must stress, though, that technically this film is astounding and deserves the praise reaped on it, but as a complete movie it did not deliver the goods.

Anastasia-1956

Anastasia-1956

Director-Anatole Litvak

Starring-Ingrid Bergman, Yul Brynner

Scott’s Review #68

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Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: B+

Anastasia is an exquisitely shot historical drama set in Paris and Denmark circa 1928. The film tells the true story of a discovered surviving member of the Romonov Dynasty from early 20th century Russia, but is she an imposter or the real heir? This is the main question that encompasses the film.

The set and art direction are gorgeous. Ingrid Bergman is flawless as a tortured, lost, amnesiac woman attempting to discover who she is and what she feels- no surprise she took home the Best Actress Oscar this year (1956).

How wonderful to see Helen Hayes (typically a stage actress) as the Dowager Empress. How interesting to see Natalie Schaffer (Lovey Howell of Gilligan’s Island fame) in the film.

My only slight knock is I didn’t sense any chemistry between Bergman and Yul Brynner, but the romantic element is certainly secondary to the interesting period drama. Each and every scene is first rate in production and style and it is a gorgeous film to watch. Every frame looks like a painting.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actress-Ingrid Bergman (won), Best Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture

Dead Ringer-1964

Dead Ringer-1964

Director-Paul Henreid

Starring-Bette Davis, Karl Malden

Scott’s Review #67

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Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: B+

Dead Ringer is a black and white thriller from 1964 starring Bette Davis in her final leading role before she took on character and supporting roles. It’s an interesting dual role for Davis, and being a huge fan of hers, two is better than one.

The story centers on a wealthy widow and her twin sister, a struggling bar owner. The two have not spoken in decades and renew their animosity at a funeral. One plots the others death, which results in an entertaining game of mistaken identity. Davis clearly carries this film and is dynamic in every scene she is in- those eyes, facial expressions, and throaty voice. Her characteristic sexy pose with cigarette is utilized often. She is simply dynamic.

The story and plot are carefully crafted and the angles showing both characters are impressive for the time (1964). The differing lifestyles of the characters also make for a more challenging performance by Davis. Karl Malden is a treat as a love interest of one of the sisters.

And Then There Were None-1945

And Then There Were None-1945

Director-Rene Clair

Starring-Barry Fitzgerald, Judith Anderson

Scott’s Review #66

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Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: C+

And Then There Were None is adapted from a famous Agatha Christie novel of the same name from the 1930’s, the first of 3 film adaptations over the years. A group of 10 individuals from all walks of life are summoned for a weekend of merriment at a secluded mansion on a lonely island. The premise is perfectly set up for a fascinating whodunit as the characters are knocked off one by one in sometimes bizarre fashion- the bee sting death is great. There are a wide range of characters- the rich movie star, the spinster, the doctor, the house servant and his wife). For starters, I was very disappointed in the DVD quality (no Blu-Ray is available for this film). The picture and sound are abhorrent. The quality is quite grainy and faded and made watching an unpleasant experience. However, a great film might withstand those issues. The film has some appeal that the novel had- an interesting whodunit. The character histories are similar to the ones in the book and, to be fair, the film is well acted, and the wonderful Judith Anderson (Rebecca) is always a treat to watch. But the most disappointing aspect is the blatantly changed and completely upbeat, romantic comedy ending, which is vastly different from the dark novel ending and lost major points with me for the adjustment.

Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat-2002

Blood Feat 2: All U Can Eat-2002

Director-H.G. Lewis

Starring-J.P. Delahoussaye, Christy Brown

Scott’s Review #65

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Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: B

Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat is a sequel to the original Blood Feast from over 30 years ago. It is not necessary to see the original before seeing this film (I hadn’t). The original killer’s grandson is the gruesome caterer/maniac in this installment.

Director H.G. Lewis heavily influenced John Waters, who has a fantastic cameo as a perverted reverend. This movie is so over the top and campy it is certainly not to be taken at all seriously. The premise, if one can call it that, involves a lunatic caterer intent on using various female body parts to concoct a scrumptious meal to serve at a wedding. The film is more of a comedy than a horror film in the traditional sense. The victims are clearly bubble-heads, mispronouncing words and traipsing around in skimpy outfits (or less) for no reason. The mean spirited mother of the bride is a delight. Scenes of taste testing and the presentation of “lady fingers” are hilariously creative. Campy in every way and poorly acted, but good late night fun.

Fruitvale Station-2013

Fruitvale Station-2013

Director-Ryan Coogler

Starring-Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer

Scott’s Review #64

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Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: B+

Not knowing all of the actual details of this incident, and just taking account the details the film presents, it’s a very good film. Most of the film is the lead up to the big incident.

While not perfect, the victim is presented as a good guy, helps strangers, stray dogs, loves his daughter, and has a great heart. He lives a tough life as he has been in and out of prison, and is forced to sell drugs to make a living. But he has a strong family unit (mother, grandmother, girlfriend, friends) so he lives a decent life. The cops in question are presented very negatively (intense, racist, and brutal). Again, I don’t know what really happened, but obviously the film makers are on the side of the victim (as they should be). The police reasons are revealed at the end of the film. It’s a heartfelt, good, solid portrayal.

Welcome to my blog! My name is Scott Segrell. I reside in Stamford, CT. This is a diverse site featuring hundreds of film reviews I have created ranging in genre from horror to documentaries to Oscar winners to weird movies to mainstream fare and everything in between. Please take a look at my Top 100 Films section! This list is updated annually- during the month of September. Simply scroll down to the Top 100 Films category on the left or right hand side of the page. Enjoy and keep the comments coming!