Category Archives: 2008 Films

Vantage Point-2008

Vantage Point-2008

Director Pete Travis

Starring Matthew Fox, Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker

Scott’s Review #1,271

Reviewed June 25, 2022

Grade: B-

The premise of Vantage Point (2008) is clever and hook-laden stirring up the feeling of intrigue. After all, the idea of several ‘vantage points’ to one perilous event, in this case, an assassination in a European country, exudes promise, and excitement.

An imagined fun game of whodunit or what happened to whom and when and from whose perspective prompted me to want to see this film.

The trailer looked good.

The film doesn’t satisfy and feels like a muddled mess with little character development and surprisingly mediocre acting given its A-list cast. The dialogue is forever repetitious with characters yelling out the same expletives in frustration that soon results in the incredible, teetering on laughably bad.

It plays too much like a carbon copy of the popular and exceptional television series ’24’ which ran on FOX during the 2000s when Vantage Point was made.

The inspiration, Vantage Point borrows heavily from the political thriller theme setup and the day-in-the-life concept popular during this decade. The editing is rapid-fire quick.

I was able to struggle to find a couple of redeeming values in the otherwise forgettable film.

Usually, seeing a film on the big screen in a slick, air-conditioned movie theater is a treat and increases my enjoyment of it, and that matters here.

In the case of Vantage Point, this raised its final grade from a mediocre C+ to a not much improved and generous B- score.

A stellar company of actors including Dennis Quaid, Sigourney Weaver, Forest Whitaker, William Hurt, and others joins Matthew Fox, hot at the time for his lead role in the massively successful ABC television series, Lost.

Did these actors read the script before signing on?

Witnesses with different points of view try to unravel an assassination attempt on U.S. President Henry Ashton (Hurt) while he is giving an important speech in Salamanca, Spain.

Special Agents Thomas Barnes (Quaid) and Kent Taylor (Fox) are assigned to protect Ashton during the summit on the war on terror. Television producer, Rex Brooks (Weaver), directs news coverage while American tourist Howard Lewis (Whitaker) films the audience.

After the leader’s arrival, shots ring out, and Ashton is down. In the resulting chaos, Howard comes forward with his camcorder, which he believes contains an image of the shooter.

Everyone attempts to solve the mystery by giving different accounts of what transpired.

Vantage Point is fantastic for about the first thirty minutes until it quickly runs out of gas. The setups are rapid with Rex, Howard, Barnes, and Taylor experiencing different perspectives and the film moves around in the timeline from pre-shooting to post-shooting well.

The novelty wears thin once the perspectives are revised repeatedly and the plot becomes unnecessarily complicated and downright convoluted.

This makes a normally fast running time of one hour and twenty-nine minutes feel like a lifetime commitment.

Comparisons that I’ve heard to a 1950 Japanese film called Rashomon which unfortunately I have never seen are laughable.

My hunch is that the art film is worlds away from the slickly Americanized Vantage Point and a slow build in the former is superior to the quickly edited mainstream latter.

Vantage Point (2008) is not a well-remembered film nor should it be. There is no reason to watch it a second time. A better choice is to watch the series 24 again instead.

It’s nearly the same with one being superior.



Director John Erick Dowdle

Starring Jennifer Carpenter, Steve Harris, Jay Hernandez

Scott’s Review #1,154

Reviewed June 18, 2021

Grade: B+

Patterned after 28 Days Later (2002), Cloverfield (2008), and other horror zombie offerings popular during the 2000s, Quarantine (2008) is more of a film of its day than anything fresh or original. The funny thing is it works fairly well as an entertaining popcorn horror flick.

It’s not going to be remembered very well but it provides jumps, frights, and thrills.

It’s shot like a reality television show with seemingly handheld cameras following the characters which also gives it a 2000s feel. The irony is that the story involves a reality television series (all the craze in those days).

The dark glowing lighting and Los Angeles apartment building setting provide a good amount of peril.

While suspenseful, that doesn’t mean that Quarantine is necessarily a good film. It’s not and my grade of a B+ feels generous but the bottom line is that every film is not a cinematic gem. Some are just plain ole entertainment.

Quarantine is one of those types of films.

Quarantine is a remake of a 2007 Spanish film called REC which is set in Barcelona. The United States replaces Spain and the characters are Americanized for the mainstream masses.

Reporter Angela (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman Scott (Steve Harris) are doing a story on night-shift firefighters for a reality television program.  One night while filming, a late-night distress call takes them to a Los Angeles apartment building, where the police are investigating a report of horrific screams.

Angela, Scott, and firefighters Jake and Fletcher, played by Jay Hernandez and Johnathon Schaech respectively, report to the building to find a loony old woman who suddenly attacks with teeth bared.

Alarmed, they realize that the building has been sealed by CDC workers. Then they start to panic.

Of course, laughably, they continue to film despite feeling desperate. Gotta keep those television ratings intact.

The film pairs well with The Blair Witch Project (1999) though nowhere near as fresh and inventive as that film. Instead, it feels like a copy of that film and other films with very little originality of their own.

Again, this didn’t bother me so much as I had no expectations of cinematic art when I agreed to see Quarantine. I had entertainment on my mind and that is what I received.

John Erick Dowdle writes and directs this project and creates a frenzied horror film. The action is quite quick and instantaneous amid a lightning-quick one-hour and twenty-nine-minute runtime.

Interesting to note is that Quarantine features no actual musical score, using only sound effects. As a fan of background music in cinema, this wasn’t a great decision but I understand the intent.

After all, the Hitchcock masterpiece The Birds (1963) featured no music.

Of course, the plot can be picked apart like a salad onion, but that’s not the point. But, for fun, why didn’t the firefighters provide the trapped residents with weapons or objects they could fight with? Why did characters try to ‘save’ characters who had been bitten only to put their own lives at risk?

Hasn’t anyone ever seen Dawn of the Dead (1978)?

All events and storylines feel like some sort of setup.

I’ve seen better acting. Jennifer Carpenter, whom I have never heard of, is in a constant state of hysterics. That’s fine but her endless cowering, whimpers, and hyperventilating do nothing to evoke a strong female character.

On a hot summer day, a cold air-conditioned movie theater is the perfect environment for a type of film like Quarantine (2008). There are worse ways to spend an hour and thirty minutes than munching on popcorn and being on the edge of your seat.

Rachel Getting Married-2008

Rachel Getting Married-2008

Director Jonathan Demme

Starring Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt

Scott’s Review #1,153

Reviewed June 17, 2021

Grade: A-

Rachel Getting Married (2008) is the film that put Anne Hathaway on the map as a powerful and respected actress. Deserving the heaps of praise put upon her she was congratulated with an Oscar nomination for the role and would win a few years later for Les Miserables (2012).

Hathaway proves that good nuts-and-bolts acting never goes out of style.

Director Jonathan Demme goes for simplicity with his project. The film is a quiet family drama with members gathered for a specific event. As the film progresses we witness deep-seated emotions and history bubble to the surface through terrific scenes exposing quality acting chops by the entire cast.

Pain, truth, and wry humor are explored as a naturalistic approach is possessed. Not all the characters are likable and debatable is if any of them are.

Thankfully, humorous moments are added to lighten the mood.

The screenplay was written by Jenny Lumet, the daughter of famed director Sidney Lumet and granddaughter of Lena Horne.

Filming took place in Stamford, Connecticut, a small city outside of New York City.

The Buchmans, an affluent New England family, prepare for the wedding of their daughter, Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt). Their other daughter, Kym (Anne Hathaway), is permitted to attend the wedding despite being in the middle of a stint at rehab- she’s been there before.

As Kym causes upheaval and drama, Rachel resents her sister, causing family tensions to resurface.

Parents Paul and Abby, played by Bill Irwin and Debra Winger do their best to calm the flames created by the bickering siblings. Unfortunately, tensions begin to erupt between Rachel and Abby and away from Rachel.

Events come to a head on Rachel’s wedding day, hence the title.

Under different circumstances, Rachel Getting Married could have been a standard lifetime television film. A girl with a drug addiction returning to the fold to stir up family drama is hardly a novel idea and has been told many times before in almost every medium.

I even cringed at first when I read the premise.

But, the film feels as fresh and energetic as a new idea. The pacing is the first notice as it moves at a brisk pace and the running time is under two hours. Kym is frenetic acting which also helps the allusion of a faster pace.

A dark secret is quickly revealed. Due to drunkenness, Kym caused the car she was driving to careen off a bridge, killing her younger brother. She has harbored guilt ever since and endured the wrath of her family.

It has made her struggle with addiction even worse.

I don’t think enough praise can be given to Hathaway for quite simply kicking the film’s ass. Nearly destined for wimpy romantic comedies, Kym gives the actress a role she can not only sink her teeth into but infuse with emotion and empathy.

At times the audience will hate Kym and other times will sob along with her.

DeWitt and especially Winger, returning to the cinematic spotlight after a long absence, have plenty to infuse their characters with. Anger, jealousy, and unbridled sympathy are just a few of the emotions their characters experience.

Demme creates an independent film that feels raw and is filled with naturalistic settings and emotions. He takes a basic story and ravages it completely with great acting, handheld cameras that provide a real-life approach, and a story that will leave audiences thinking about the events and perhaps their own lives after the credits roll.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actress-Anne Hathaway

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Film, Best Director-Jonathan Demme, Best Female Lead-Anne Hathaway, Best First Screenplay, Best Supporting Female-Rosemarie DeWitt, Debra Winger



Director Oliver Stone

Starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks

Scott’s Review #1,130

Reviewed April 7, 2021

Grade: B+

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again- the United States political landscape forever changed with the dastardly 2016 presidential election. Presidents pre and post-2016 are held to a completely different standard.

We didn’t see this coming.

That said, the film W. (2008) is a biography and satire of George W. Bush, the forty-third president of the United States, who held office during the deadly 9/11 attacks.

Thought by some to be a moron, director Oliver Stone is careful to ease up on the obvious mockery and barbs that are usually thrown at Bush. There is some of that but surprisingly the film contains some sympathetic moments.

For example, a clever addition is a complex relationship between father and son, something shadowed from the spotlight. At least I was never aware there was any friction between Dad and Son.

Fans who lean or are conservative may not like the film. It’s not exactly pro-Bush but neither is it anti. It simply tells a good and accurate story.

Stone wisely features an all-star cast and offers a retrospective chronicling the life and political career of George W. Bush, from his troubles as a young adult through his governorship of Texas and to the Oval Office.

It’s well-made because it provides the uninformed viewer with an important history lesson.

The lineup is juicy featuring an array of elite Hollywood stars. Josh Brolin sinks his teeth into the title role while Elizabeth Banks is more low-key as former First Lady Laura Bush.

In support, James Cromwell and Ellen Burstyn play George H.W. Bush and Barbara, while Richard Dreyfuss is fantastic as Dick Cheney.

Finally, Thandie Newton is as delicious as Condoleeza Rice.

Flashbacks are key to his life events revealing the rise of George W. Bush from ne’er-do-well party boy and son of privilege to president of the United States. After giving up booze for religion, George mends his restless ways and sets his sights first on the Texas governorship, which he achieves, then on the presidency.

By a fluke, he achieved this too but lost the popular vote, forever a bee in his bonnet.

However, the country’s involvement in the Iraq war affects his reign and decreases his approval rating.

The historical accuracy appears to be valid and most details are taken from non-fiction books. That’s why the film is perfect for those who wish to brush up on their history or who are intrigued about the life and times of a modern president.

Just be prepared for a bit of comedy.

To be fair, there are moments in W. when it feels like a long Saturday Night Live sketch and the characters are caricatures. It’s not exactly a parody nor is it a documentary either.

Sort of a hybrid.

The heart of the film belongs to Josh Brolin (reportedly he stepped in for Christian Bale at the last minute). Major props go to Brolin for a nuanced, spot-on characterization of the former president.

He’s got the mannerisms down and turns of the head, his walk, and speech patterns. He is careful to take a controversial public persona and portray him with both humor and humanity. Never completely silly but not as a straight man either. The real Bush always had a bit of a devilish aww shucks persona.

Post 2016 it’s tough to care much about W. (2008) though. It’s sort of an “of its time” film.  Too much has happened since the Bush years, or even since 2008 when the film was made.

Donald Trump made so many things irrelevant. I can’t wait until a satire emerges about him. You know one is coming.

10,000 B.C.- 2008

10,000 B.C.- 2008

Director Roland Emmerich

Starring Steven Strait, Camilla Belle

Scott’s Review #988

Reviewed February 11, 2020

Grade: F

10,000 B.C. (2008) is a by-the-numbers adventure/action hybrid film that attempts to be slick and modern with catchy visual elements and instead bottoms out resulting in an example of terrible filmmaking.

The CGI usurps all other qualities providing no historical accuracy, with a ridiculous 2008 feel rather than the time at hand. Those involved only had maximum box office returns in mind when the film was created.

An irritating formulaic quality and poor acting across the board leave this one dead on arrival.

Fierce, masculine mammoth hunter D’Leh (Steven Strait) sets out on an impossible journey to rescue the woman he loves, Evolet, (Camilla Belle) from an evil warlord and save the people of his village.

While venturing into the unknown and frightening territories, D’Leh and his fellow warriors discover an amazing civilization rife with possibilities.

Predictably, the warriors are attacked and slaughtered, leaving the young man to protect the remaining group while winning the heart of a princess, well above his station in life.

The story is complete schmaltz and easy to predict from nearly the very beginning of the film.

Powerful invaders force the hunters of D’Leh’s tribe into slavery and accost the princess in such a fashion that the setup is all put neatly in place for the viewer, providing nothing out of the ordinary. When the young and naive boy has an epiphany and realizes he is the only one who can save his tribe from extinction, it is all too much.

The film is riddled with cliche after cliche after cliche.

A tough ask to lead a film with summer blockbuster written all over it, newcomers Strait and Belle do their best, which only enhances how poor their acting is.

Cast for their good looks, they can offer little else. For audience delight, Strait is costumed with a bad wig, dripping sweat, and bulging muscles. Belle is also victimized as she pouts and sulks while wearing skimpy clothing.

The result is a standard boy meets a girl, the boy loses the girl, and the boy becomes a man to save the girl’s mess. Inexplicable is how they meet and fall in love before ever speaking or getting to know each other.

If only the bad acting were the only negative the film might be fair to middling, but nothing good is ever offered. All the hunters and tribesmen look like modern people dressed to look from a different period.

The endless battle scenes borrow from the legions of action and adventure films that have come before it. The animals prance across the screen in obvious timed moments providing little in the way of authenticity.

Director, Roland Emmerich, known for films such as Independence Day (1996) and The Day After Tomorrow (2004) has a knack for creating large epic adventures to please mainstream audiences.

There is nothing wrong with a conventional film if it manages to teach the viewer something or offer something of merit. With a target audience of pubescent boys and girls yearning to learn, Emmerich misses a golden opportunity to present an imaginative prehistoric moment and provide a lesson.

Complete with a bad story and bad acting, the drivel conjured up is nearly too much.

10,000 B.C. (2008) cannot be saved by the over-stylish visuals because they are so phony one cannot even fathom any credibility. The good-looking main stars look straight out of a glossy magazine and hardly from the prehistoric era presented.

With a little attempt at giving audiences anything of substance, this film is an epic fail to be missed.

Slumdog Millionaire-2008

Slumdog Millionaire-2008

Director Danny Boyle

Starring Dev Patel, Freida Pinto

Scott’s Review #786

Reviewed July 11, 2018

Grade: A-

Winner of the 2008 Best Picture Oscar (as well as seven other Academy Awards), Slumdog Millionaire (2008) arguably was the “feel good” film of the year.

While I am not sure if all of those awards are ultimately deserved, the film is nonetheless very good, offering a mixture of good culture, a young man overcoming enormous odds, and a love story.

Fans of the universal game show hit, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, will be pleased.

Young Dev Patel (critically acclaimed for 2016’s Lion) stars as a poor young Indian man, Jamal Malik. He is detained after being a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire after he comes one question away from winning a million dollars.

The producers go on a commercial break and Jamal is whisked away to custody as suspicions are aroused and the young man is accused of cheating. Since he is a “slumdog” and poorly educated, it is assumed there is no way possible he could know all the answers.

Jamal recounts, via flashbacks, through experience, how he came to know all of the correct answers.

Director, Danny Boyle does a fantastic job directing the film. Slumdog Millionaire is edited in a fast-paced fashion and the camera angles are quick and stylized, making for an excellent flow.

The soundtrack to the film is very effective and enhances the plot. For example, the music is extremely diverse and features genres such as traditional Indian classical music, European house music, and American-style hip hop.

This is an ingenious way for Boyle to incorporate multiple cultures and he, therefore, creates a rousing crowd-pleasing experience.

Another successful aspect of the film is its use of knowledge and intelligence to tell a story. As we experience Jamal’s difficult life beginning as a five-year-old orphan, the unlikely success story and his adventures on the streets are engulfed in both life lessons and education.

The audience is learning important details about the world while Jamal simultaneously is.

The romantic, love-story featured in Slumdog Millionaire is also a highlight and extremely well-crafted. Heartbreakingly, Jamal, his older brother Salim, and the lovely Latika (later played by the gorgeous Freida Pinto) are on the run when Latika vanishes.

Her disappearance and later reappearance are vital aspects to the heart of the film and Patel and Pinto make a handsome and highly likable couple. Their reconciliation is heartfelt and beautiful and gives the film a nice emotional investment.

The incorporation of a relevant and acclaimed game show into the story is wonderful, though hopefully as the years go by, the film does not suffer from a dated feel if and when Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is long forgotten, but alas this is a risk and only time will tell.

The glossy set and for American audiences, the Indian-style version of the game show is great fun as are the Indian locales, which visually dazzle.

A slight detraction of Slumdog Millionaire is the film is unquestionably uplifting and light feeling. Even though the characters face peril and dangerous experiences, the film just “feels” safe.

So much so that qualities such as slick and mainstream resound.

Don’t get me wrong, the film is genuine and has heart and soul, but just slightly too cheery. Of course, since the film is made well and the story and the acting great, this can easily be overlooked.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008) is a wonderful piece of work and is quite simply a film that lots of people will champion.  All of the elements are perfectly in place, which is a main selling point and a prime reason for the film’s many accolades.

The romance and adventure pieces are the best parts- with a quick flow and lots of fun, educational tools utilized.

The film is a nice pleasure to experience.

Oscar Nominations: 7 wins-Best Picture (won), Best Director-Danny Boyle (won), Best Adapted Screenplay (won), Best Original Score (won), Best Original Song-“Jai Ho”, “O Saya”, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing (won), Best Cinematography (won), Best Film Editing (won)



Director Gus Van Sant

Starring Sean Penn, Josh Brolin

Scott’s Review #744

Reviewed April 18, 2018

Grade: A

Milk is a 2008 film that successfully teaches its viewers both a valuable history lesson about the introduction of gay rights into the United States culture, as well as to the prolific leader associated with this, Harvey Milk.

The film belongs to Sean Penn, who portrays Milk, but is also a fantastic biopic and learned experience appreciating his wonderful journey through the 1970s- mainly in San Francisco and New York City.

Moreover, Milk portrays a gay character not played for laughs as many films do but portrayed as a hero.

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay person ever to be elected to any political office, winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.

The film, however, opens in 1978, after a stunning announcement of Harvey Milk’s assassination along with the Mayor of the city, which was met with much heartbreak.

The film then returns to 1970 as we meet Penn as Milk and follow his decade-long battles and prosperity of changing the gay culture.

Having seen actual footage of Harvey Milk, Penn perfects the mannerisms and the speech patterns of Milk giving him an immediate passionate and likable persona. The political figure had such a whimsical and innocent style all his own that Penn perfectly captures.

His determination for honesty and fairness is admirable and inspiring and Milk seems like he was an innately good person.

Particularly heartbreaking is Penn’s facial reactions during his assassination scene-a scene that director Gus Van Sant brilliantly shoots as a follow-up to a joyous scene when Proposition 6 is defeated.

As a troubled colleague, Dan White (Brolin), (rumored to be himself closeted and struggling with self-identity), fires several shots into Harvey at City Hall, the scene is filmed in slow motion for additional dramatic effect and poignancy.

The look of pain and sadness on Milk’s face will undoubtedly bring tears to even the most hard-hearted viewer.

The film shows the many close relationships that Milk formed throughout the 1970s, including his steady lover Scott Smith, played by James Franco. The two actors share solid chemistry as they are both fun-loving and driven in what they hope to achieve.

Sadly, Milk’s drive eventually outweighs Smith’s as they ultimately drift apart, but retain a special bond. Emile Hirsch is nearly unrecognizable as Cleve Jones, a young man who Harvey inspires and mentors throughout the pivotal decade.

A minute criticism noticed while watching Milk is that, except for Penn, many of the supporting characters (Hirsch, Franco, and especially Alison Pill) seem to be “dressed up” in 1970s costumes, giving a forced rather than authentic feel.

The costume designers seem intent on making them look so realistic that it backfires and looks more like actors made up to look like they are from the 1970s.

Penn, however, looks and acts spot-on and stands out from the rest of the cast by miles.

An inspiring biography of a legendary political figure, Harvey Milk, led by a fine lead actor (Penn), deserving of the Best Actor Oscar he was awarded, Milk is an astounding story of both triumph and tragedy.

The film successfully portrays a time when a class of people was not treated fairly and equal rights were barely a possibility and the uprising that occurred in large part due to one man and his followers.

Milk (2008) is a wonderful testament to a time gone by and the accomplishments achieved since then- a truly inspiring and tragic message.

Oscar Nominations: 2 wins-Best Picture, Best Director-Gus Van Sant, Best Actor-Sean Penn (won), Best Supporting Actor-Josh Brolin, Best Original Screenplay (won), Best Original Score, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 2 wins-Best Male Lead-Sean Penn, Best Supporting Male-James Franco (won), Best First Screenplay (won), Best Cinematography

The Stoning of Soraya M.-2008

The Stoning of Soraya M.-2008

Director Cyrus Nowrasteh

Starring Shohreh Aghdashloo

Top 10 Disturbing Films #2

Scott’s Review #618

Reviewed February 18, 2017

Grade: A

The Stoning of Soraya M. (2008) is a brutal film and one of the most disturbing films that I have ever seen. I have viewed the film a total of two times and that is enough for me.

The terrifying aspect of the film is that the story is true and the events depicted not only have happened to the woman featured but happen to women day in and day out in certain cultures.

The film is a frightening reminder of the atrocities of human suffering.

The film is an American Persian language film made in 2008. Academy Award nominee, Shohreh Aghdashloo, stars as a woman living in a remote village in Iran- the time is 1986.

Interestingly, the film begins following the events that conclude the story and works in reverse. A reporter who has car trouble and is lost in the village is taken by the aunt of Soraya (Aghdashloo) who must tell the journalist the painful story of a tragedy that befell poor Soraya the day before.

Soraya was brutally stoned to death, and wrongfully accused of adultery, and the journalist wisely records the aunt’s tale with his tape recorder. The journalist must then escape the village alive for Soraya’s story to be told to the masses.

From this point, the film transfers to several days earlier.

Soraya’s abusive husband, Ali, wishes to divorce Soraya so that he can marry a fourteen-year-old girl from the village. When she refuses, Ali uses manipulation and blackmail to turn many in the village against Soraya, including her two teenage sons.

Ali convinces everyone that Soraya has been unfaithful to him with a widower whom Soraya innocently works for. Ali is then granted his divorce and Soraya is sentenced to be stoned, as an example, in front of the entire village.

The message is clear- women are not equal to men and are not permitted to do the things that men can.

Throughout the film, we get to know Soraya and she does have her loyal female friends and supporters. Aghdashloo portrays Soraya with gusto and bravery and the fact that we care for the character so much makes the inevitable stoning sequence heartbreaking and painful to watch.

When Soraya is chained to a short pole and buried up to her neck so that she cannot move, the scene of her victimization is almost unbearable to watch. Ali and her sons are the first to cast the stones that strike her square in the head.

Director, Nowrasteh provides the stoning sequence with a dull, muted sound so that we almost experience the thuds of the rocks from Soraya’s perspective, making the scene all the more chilling.

The scene also goes on for seemingly an eternity as it takes a long time for Soraya to succumb to her many wounds. Needless to say, she is a bloody mess and unrecognizable.

This scene is not for the squeamish.

How disheartening to know that experiences like Soraya’s still occurring to this day in Iran and many other countries and there is not much that is done to help.

The Stoning of Soraya M. is based on a 1990 book, Le Femme Lapidee, written by Freidoune Sahebjam, who appears in the film as a journalist. The book has been banned in Iran.

The Stoning of Soraya M. (2008) is one of the most disturbing films that I have ever seen and as much as the message is tragic and painful, I never want to see this film again.

The pain rings too real and the thought fills me with sadness.

The Reader-2008

The Reader-2008

Director Stephen Daldry

Starring Kate Winslet

Scott’s Review #603

Reviewed January 11, 2017

Grade: A

The Reader (2008) is by far my favorite of all of Kate Winslet’s film roles-and that is saying something! It is her most challenging and provocative to date and will ruffle some feathers for sure based on the subject matter of the story.

The subject of a grown woman in her thirties involved in a steamy and passionate love affair with a young boy half her age is too much for some, but I found the bravery of the film admirably.

To be fair, the film is a slow build-up type of story and it takes a little while to get going, but if you stick with it, it will be worth your time.

Winslet plays a woman (Hanna) in 1950’s Germany, living an ordinary life. She is a poor woman and a young boy she meets changes her life for the better.

He teaches her readings and other educational things and they are inseparable. When she leaves town one day, the boy is devastated.

The film then fast-forwards thirty years to the 1990s and the boy, now grown up and played by Ralph Fiennes, comes upon Hanna in a most unusual, dramatic, and devastating way.

The film is told from the perspective of Fiennes’s character, which is a wonderful decision.

The Reader (2008) is very heavy on sex and nudity (I mean lots!), so if anyone is offended by that you might want to skip it.

The story is riveting and the acting is top-notch.

An excellent film.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Picture, Best Director-Stephen Daldry, Best Actress-Kate Winslet (won), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography

Zombie Strippers-2008

Zombie Strippers-2008

Director Jay Lee

Starring Jenna Jameson, Robert Englund

Scott’s Review #599

Reviewed January 10, 2017

Grade: C-

Zombie Strippers (2008) is so filled with campy moments and so over-the-top, that it’s a film that is impossible to remotely take seriously.

As they say, there is a time and a place for everything, and this includes films.

It is completely a cheesy, campy B minus horror film.

The story, if one can call it that, involves a small strip club, in Nebraska, in the middle of nowhere. The star stripper is played by former adult film star, Jenna Jameson, who, I am pretty certain, was not hired for her acting talents.

One day, a government-controlled virus is released by the government, causing Jameson’s character to be transformed into a flesh-eating zombie.

The motivation is not there, and, who cares anyway?

This is not the film to watch for a compelling plot.

The acting all around in the film is poor, and the story is completely unrealistic-laced with stereotypes galore. However, how nice to see horror legend, Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street-1984) in a prominent role, even in a bad film.

Also deserving of credit is the makeup and prop department, having a small budget, for making the film look better than it might have.

If you are looking for a cheesy, after-midnight, and after-a-few-drinks fun film, this is it. Otherwise, don’t waste your time.

Revolutionary Road-2008

Revolutionary Road-2008

Director Sam Mendes

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet

Scott’s Review #598

Reviewed January 10, 2017

Grade: A

Revolutionary Road (2008) is an outstanding film- what superior, human, raw acting by stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

The duo reunites in film over ten years after the monstrous success of Titanic (1997).

The trailers might lead one to believe that this film is a romantic comedy or some type of love story- it is a love story, but a very real, dark one.

Both characters are flawed.

Set in affluent New England, somewhere in Connecticut to be precise, April and Frank seemingly have it all. He is a successful doctor, and she is the perfect housewife, they live a happy existence free of problems- or do they?

Slowly, the audience sees their lives spin out of control and varying emotions between the pair emerge to the surface.

Great supporting turns by Kathy Bates and Michael Shannon as characters presenting roadblocks to April and Frank’s happiness.

If you are looking for a film with true, gritty, layered acting, this is it. Revolutionary Road (2008) is a much more complex film than the previews would allow you to think.

It shows the depth of DiCaprio’s and Winslet’s acting ability. Some might feel it is a bit slow-moving, but the payoff is worth it.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actor-Michael Shannon, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design



Director Ron Howard

Starring Frank Langella, Michael Sheen

Scott’s Review #595

Reviewed January 8, 2017

Grade: B+

Adapted from a Broadway play, director Ron Howard creates a powerful film surrounding the infamous 1977 interview between former President Nixon and interviewer David Frost.

Frank Langella and Michael Sheen star.

For someone too young to remember Nixon or the Watergate scandal, the film was very enlightening and historical for me on a personal level.

Frost/Nixon is also a very human story and well-made.

The interview scenes are fantastic as the constant back and forth, cat and mouse, each man looking for an opportunity to either pounce, avoid, or gain the upper hand is rich with character-driven possibilities.

The scuttlebutt and the behind-the-scenes scrambling by Nixon’s men is good drama.

In particular, Frank Langella steals the show as President Nixon. He is confident, strong, yet vulnerable, and sad.

An acting Tour De Force by Langella.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-Ron Howard, Best Actor-Frank Langella, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing



Director Andrew Stanton

Starring Various voices

Scott’s Review #594

Reviewed January 8, 2017

Grade: B+

After hearing so much buzz about WALL-E (2008), I decided to see for myself what all the fuss was about.

Disney-Pixar has created another fantastic film. Visually, it is a creative and intelligent experience that warrants the praise it has received. They also do a lot with intricate graphics and animations.

In a futuristic world where humans have destroyed their environment, and thereby abandoned planet Earth, robot, WALL-E, is left to clean up the mess.

He then meets a fellow female robot named EVE, and the two develop an innocent, sweet relationship that is charming and authentic.

The humans in the film are portrayed as fat, lazy, incapable of intelligent thought, and most unable to move very much since technology has trained them to be as such.


The story itself is very sweet, and touching, and sends a very important message about society and taking care of our environment.

Very enjoyable.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Original Screenplay, Best Animated Feature Film (won), Best Original Score, Best Original Song-“Down to Earth”, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing

Tropic Thunder-2008

Tropic Thunder-2008

Director Ben Stiller

Starring Ben Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr.

Scott’s Review #593

Reviewed January 8, 2017

Grade: D-

Tropic Thunder (2008) was a ridiculous film that I found to be harsh, tedious, and very loud. Attempting to be a satire of sorts, it fails on almost every level.

The main issue was with the characters, who are abrasive and unlikable.

The only redeeming qualities are Robert Downey Jr.’s and Tom Cruise’s portrayals, though they both play idiotic characters.

The plot is something of an ode to 1979’s Apocalypse Now, in that the plot throws back to the Vietnam war.

A group of narcissistic actors is filming a Vietnam memoir on location in the jungles of Southeast Asia when they are abandoned and forced to fend for themselves amid a group of drug lords.

The film’s attempt at humor fell flat for me. It just seemed like a group of crazed guys running around the jungle acting wild and the film held little point for me.

Cruise’s part was interesting but way too small.

Directed by, and starring Ben Stiller, who should stick to acting (if that).

How Downey, Jr. scored an Oscar nomination for this drivel is beyond me- despite his acting being one of the better efforts in the film.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actor-Robert Downey Jr.

Lovely, Still-2008

Lovely, Still-2008

Director Nik Fackler

Starring Ellen Burstyn, Martin Landau

Scott’s Review #543

Reviewed December 11, 2016

Grade: B+

Oh, how I wish this movie had gotten more attention! Lovely, Still (2008) is a small, independent venture, that is Christmas-themed, and set in Omaha, Nebraska.

It stars Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn as an older couple who fall in love. Landau is Robert, a lonely older man interested in dating again. He meets and falls in love with Mary, the mother of his next-door neighbor.

Before you start thinking Lifetime television movie, the last thirty minutes of the film will shock and fascinate you. A guttural reveal takes this film to a completely different place during the climax, making it a heart-wrenching, and powerful experience.

Landau and Burstyn are wonderful actors who mesmerize scenes together. They have a sweet, innocence, and are in glee, like teenagers, experiencing first love.

My only criticism is the first half of Lovely, Still is a bit slow, but this can be forgotten as the film kicks into high gear.

Also, some wonderful camera shots from novice director Nik Fackler.

Saw V-2008

Saw V-2008

Director David Hackl

Starring Tobin Bell, Donnie Wahlberg

Scott’s Review #532


Reviewed December 1, 2016

Grade: B

The Saw franchise films are fun, bloody, late-night flicks.

It is quite helpful if you see them close together, and in sequence, as they either continue or backtrack to previous films- past knowledge is very helpful.

Saw V (2008) is no exception, as we learn the hows and the whys of serial killer Jigsaw, an apprentice, and detective Mark Hoffman.

What would possess this man to follow in the footsteps of Jigsaw?

In their heyday, the Saw films were intriguing and more cerebral than the standard slice and dice ’em offerings.

I like these films because there is usually a plot twist or some other surprise connection to an earlier entry to look forward to.

Also, the victims are not merely innocent but are in the wrong place at the wrong time, nor are they killed for the sake of killing.

They typically have embezzled someone, maimed an innocent party, or caused someone pain in some fashion, so the audience does not feel sorry for them, making their various tortures tolerable to watch, if not satisfying.

In Saw V, as far as the kills go, we are treated to somebody being sliced in half, a decapitation, another blown to bits by a detonating bomb, bloodletting, a crushing to death, and various other forms of mutilation.

This is all well and good, but by Part V in a franchise, even the most clever of stories run out of gas, and by this point, the series is feeling a little tired, although still enjoyable for the puzzle of story connections.

Saw V (2008) is a very bloody film, so not intended for the squeamish.



Director Lance Daly

Starring Kelly O’Neill, Shane Curry

Scott’s Review #500


Reviewed October 28, 2016

Grade: B+

Kisses (2008) is an Irish film that tells the story of two pre-teenage kids (Dylan and Kylie), who run away to Dublin on Christmas to escape their dysfunctional families and their small town, morose life.

Instead, they become attracted to the “big city” and the hope of finding Dylan’s older brother, himself having run away to escape the oppressive environment.

At first, Dylan and Kylie barely know each other, neighbors, but far from close. Gradually they become best friends and form an unbreakable bond.

While in Dublin, they face terror and charming moments of wonderment as they traverse the city, mainly at nighttime.

Great acting and chemistry from the two leads, especially being untrained actors. Kylie- an extrovert and full of life, successfully brings out the best in Dylan, who is reserved and withdrawn, so the pair complement each other as they experience their adventures.

The cinematography in Kisses (2008) is fantastic as one gets to experience the hustle and bustle of Dublin, and the quiet countryside of a small Irish town, which is an immense threat, and a contradiction in lifestyles.



Director Gideon Raff

Starring Thora Birch

Scott’s Review #140


Reviewed July 28, 2014

Grade: C-

Train (2008) is a horror, torture film that has very similar elements to Hostel (Americans alone in an eastern country- in this case, northern Russia) and plotted films that were all the rage at this time.

The premise is fairly interesting- the college wrestling team misses a train in northern Russia due to late-night partying and has to take another one where they are systematically accosted, tortured, and dismembered by a strange Russian gang and have their body parts implanted in needy people who are passengers on said train.

However, the film fails on many levels. The bottom line is the film is not very compelling. It is purely plot-centered and has no character development.

Who are the athletes? What do they care about?

In the horror genre, one can make the argument that who cares about the characters, but it would have been nice to have a little background on them.

Also with horror, suspension of disbelief is mandatory, and I can almost buy the villains legitimately doing the surgical transplants for money (one bad guy’s claims that they are torturing the athletes to help save people is silly), but why they rape and torture the athletes before removing their body parts is never explained.

The film has an incredible amount of plot holes- why is the wrestling team male and female? Why do they perform the transplants on a train? How can an eye transplant recipient need no recovery time before he can inexplicably walk around with perfect eyes?

The list goes on and on.

I will give props to the torture scenes, which are cringe-worthy in their gross-out aspect. I didn’t think Thora Birch was successful as the lead actress in the film- a shame since she had so much career promise in American Beauty in 1999.

Train (2008) is a pale retread of the Hostel franchise, but nowhere near as interesting.