Category Archives: 2012 Films

Magic Mike-2012

Magic Mike-2012

Director Steven Soderbergh

Starring Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey

Scott’s Review #1,302

Reviewed September 28, 2022

Grade: B

In 2012, Channing Tatum was a major Hollywood star. He was cast in starring roles focused on his looks but parts that also allowed him to showcase sensitivity and even some acting chops.

Magic Mike (2012) takes Tatum’s beefcake body and makes a likable hero out of his title character. He is not just brawn but possesses intelligence and a worldly quality that is sometimes lacking in comedic roles.

Unfortunately, the screenplay isn’t developed well and we get just a glimpse of what Tatum, the good actor, could do. Fortunately, two years later he would play his best role to date in Foxcatcher (2014).

Magic Mike teeters a tad too soft for my liking and gives the stripper world a glossy, lightweight haze. Given the subject matter and the director, Steven Soderbergh, the film could have gone much darker as Boogie Nights did with the porn industry in the late 1990s.

Still, Tatum is a star and boogies and shakes his muscular body enough to warrant the price of admission. Matthew McConaughey is also appealing and shockingly plays against type as an older and wiser former stripper, now the manager of club Xquisite.

By day, Mike (Tatum) works as a struggling employee of odd jobs-handyman, car detailing, or designing furniture. But when the sun goes down and the hot spotlight comes on Mike is the star attraction in an all-male revue.

Mike mentors a nineteen-year-old named the Kid (Alex Pettyfer) and teaches him the tricks of the trade. However, Mike’s blossoming romance with the Kid’s sister Joanna (Olivia Munn) is threatened when the drama begins.

Most viewers are not going to see a film like Magic Mike for the dramatic bits or any other measure of story. We’re not discussing The Conversation (1974), Chinatown (1974), or other heady and smartly written dialogue.

That’s a relief because the plot is banal. Who cares if Mike and the Kid are at odds or if Mike and Joanna break up, make up, or launch a mission to the moon?

No, the recipe of the day is flesh and there is plenty of it. Nobody goes full monty or anything but between Tatum, McConaughey, Matt Bomer, and Joe Manganiello, who plays a character aptly named Big Dick Richie, the audience will be left aflutter and quite satisfied.

Soderbergh, an impressive director, knows this and the best sequences occur on the stage. There is music, lights, and razzle-dazzle, as the troupe dance and strips with gusto. With each tie or vest shed amid a shimmering dance routine, pulsating energy makes the sequences appealing.

As showy as these numbers are, and there are plenty of them, I longed for some down-and-dirty drug use or ‘gay for pay’ situations but Soderbergh doesn’t dare copy Boogie Nights with any seriousness.

He intends to entertain and he does.

I wanted more darkness and more investment in the characters. We know little about the supporting characters except for McConaughey’s Dallas, who sadly will never leave the industry.

In the end, I was okay with the stories being secondary. This one has plenty of buff dudes taking their shirts off, and more, for the camera.

And who doesn’t like that?

Magic Mike (2012) was followed by the disastrous and stupid Magic Mike XL (2015) which makes the former seem like a masterpiece.

Dark Shadows-2012

Dark Shadows-2012

Director Tim Burton

Starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter

Scott’s Review #1,203

Reviewed December 3, 2021

Grade: C+

Sometimes a great idea doesn’t pan out. On paper, relaunching the unique and gothic 1960s daytime television series Dark Shadows with a tribute on the big screen with even bigger stars sounds wonderful.

The endless possibilities and the inevitable nods to history are head-spinning.

Sadly, the film version of Dark Shadows (2012) directed by Tim Burton is miscategorized and misunderstood by all involved. It’s billed as a dark comedy rather than horror or even fantasy and comes across as more of a mockery than a real nod to the series.

It’s completely over-the-top and misses any of the wonder and the spookiness that made the long-ago black and white show a daily adventure.

I do not profess to have seen the entire series but I have watched much of the first season and understand the appeal. Fans will be disheartened by Burton’s botched attempts to recreate a great idea.

Depp, a frequent guest star in Burton’s film works, strikes out as the iconic character Barnabas Collins, the eighteenth-century vampire who awakens in the twentieth century though he’s not as bad as he was when he feebly stepped into the Willy Wonka character in 2005.


The only saving grace is the creative and magical visual effects and set design which provides enough imagination and macabre fascination to at least partly save this otherwise messy experience.

The plot gives a brief explanation of the history.

In eighteenth-century Maine, Barnabas Collins (Depp) presides over the town of Collinsport. A rich and powerful playboy, Barnabas breaks the heart of a witch named Angelique (Eva Green) who deviously makes him pay.

Angelique turns Barnabas into a vampire and buries him alive.

Two centuries later, Barnabas escapes from his tomb when builders are erecting a Mcdonald’s and finds the current 1970s Collinsport a very different place. His once-grand estate has fallen into ruin, and the dysfunctional remnants of his family have fared no better.

His resurrection creates complications and drama for the entire family.

Burton knocks it out of the park with the visuals.

The gothic mansion, in particular, is right up his alley and he embraces the possibilities with gusto. Every creak or wind sound heard within the mansion co-aligns with the dark and dreary purples and brown colors.

Frequent candles mark the proper mood and investigating the vast number of rooms was something to look forward to.

Since the rest of the film sucked I had nothing better to do than fully embrace and focus on the art and set designs.

Heavyweights like Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, and Depp do their best but oddly overact in nearly every scene. Their direction must have been skewed toward comedy instead of adding any meat or emotional relevance to the characters.

The original series created something strangely dramatic and compelling on a shoestring budget. There was a delicious haunting and grabbing nature that made you anticipate the next episode and who might fall victim to the vampire.

The film veers into a vastly different territory.

Burton and Depp’s Barnabas struts around emitting one-liners for intended giggles. The other characters appear to be dressed for Halloween and are dumb and morose.

The feeling I got was that of a retread to a situation comedy like The Addams Family rather than a horror soap to be taken seriously.

The sexual references and the occasional bloody vampire effects are okay but seem peppered in to justify the dark comedy.

Even an uninspired cameo by shock rocker Alice Cooper is perceived as a weak attempt to add something frightening or dangerous.

Unsurprisingly, Dark Shadows (2012) performed poorly at the box office and was derided by true fans of the series and almost every other film critic.

This caused Barnabas and his family to slink back into their coffins possibly for good.

What a shame.

Zero Dark Thirty-2012

Zero Dark Thirty-2012

Director Kathryn Bigelow

Starring Jessica Chastain

Scott’s Review #1,133

Reviewed April 14, 2021

Grade: A-

Director Kathryn Bigelow, not far removed from her Oscar win for The Hurt Locker (2008), returns with a similar style of film centering around war and more specifically about the emotional tolls and psychological effects from not just the battlefields but from dangerous missions.

The main character suffers from many conflicts and inevitably the viewer will as well.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012) is unique for the genre by having a female in the lead role and star Jessica Chastain is front and center and terrific.

She is calm, restrained, and in control. She is tough to rattle and a powerful and inspirational character to be admired.

Chastain exudes cool in the face of danger.

Chastain does have a brilliant emotional scene at the end of the film. Her character, Maya, boards a military transport back to the U.S., as the sole passenger. She is asked where she wants to go and begins to cry. The emotion finally gets the better of her as it would to anyone.

The film is not all Chastain’s to brag about and there is little wrong with the film.

Beautifully directed, Bigelow layers her film with enough tension and magnificence to enshroud the moral questions viewers will ask, specifically about torture.

It’s somewhat fictionalized, and in fact, Chastain’s character is made up, but Zero Dark Thirty is a gem nonetheless.

But we also know the events happened.

The film starts incredibly well and immediately grabs the viewer’s attention with a brilliant first scene. Amidst a dark screen and soundtrack of actual calls made to the 911 operator from inside the World Trade Center Towers on 9/11, the scene is about as powerful an opening as a film can have and bravely sets the stage for what follows.

These include many scenes of Arab detainees being interrogated (that is, tortured) for information about Al Qaeda. Is this justified or unnecessary abuse?

The viewer is immediately saddened and in tears and conflicted about whether the torture is justified having just heard the 911 calls.

I know I was.

From there, the viewer also is told a summary story putting the pieces of the first scene together.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden becomes one of the most wanted men on the planet. The worldwide manhunt for the terrorist leader occupies the resources and attention of two U.S. presidential administrations.

This is the crux of the film and the story told.

Ultimately, it is the work of a dedicated female operative  (Chastain) that proves instrumental in finally locating bin Laden. In May 2011, Navy SEALs launched a nighttime strike, killing bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

We all know this but troubling is the use of torture. I keep coming back to this point.

I think what I like most about the film besides the riveting pacing, action sequences, and psychological appeal is the controversy that surrounds it.

The fact that it ruffled feathers at the CIA and in Congress about whether the info was leaked to the filmmakers makes me think that at least some of it is based on facts, despite what other reviewers (likely with a strong political bias) might claim to the contrary.

But as a political junkie that’s just my belief.

The film’s reproduction of enhanced interrogation techniques is brutal. Some critics, in light of the interrogations being depicted as gaining reliable, useful, and accurate information, considered the scenes pro-torture propaganda.

Acting CIA director Michael Morell felt the film created the false impression that torture was key to finding bin, Laden. Others described it as an anti-torture exposure of interrogation practices.

I guess we may never know the truth. But the film compels and provokes feeling.

Bigelow is at the top of her game with Zero Dark Thirty (2012) crafting a genre film (the war one) way too often told from only a masculine “us versus them” mentality and leaving behind the fascinating nuances that can make the genre a more interesting and less one-note one.

The masterful director does just that and makes us think, ponder, and squirm uneasily.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Picture, Best Actress-Jessica Chastain, Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound Editing (won), Best Film Editing

Keep the Lights On-2012

Keep The Lights On-2012

Director Ira Sachs

Starring Thure Lindhardt, Zachary Booth

Scott’s Review #1,100

Reviewed January 16, 2021

Grade: A

With such a healthy dose of LGBTQ+ films released during the 2010s, most independent productions enough exist to please nearly everyone striving for good diversity in film.

Over the years in cinema, it was tough to find specific genre films, rather than being forced to seek out subtle clues that filmmakers would incorporate.

LGBTQ+ films are now a dime a dozen, which is good but makes some films fall under the radar.

Keep The Lights On (2012) is a romantic drama, rather mysterious, about two men and the nine-year-long love affair they share. It’s not a happy watch because drug addiction is a large part of the story.

It portrays the men as human beings with passion, and feelings, and experiencing joys and pains, instead of being written as caricatures or comic relief.

This is progress, and worthy of much praise.

The only issue with the film is that by 2012, and the decade as a whole, there were so many similar films being made that there’s not enough to distinguish it from other high-profile works.

The LGBTQ bar was set very high with Brokeback Mountain in 2006, and recent offerings like Carol (2015) and Moonlight (2016) thrust the LGBTQ+ community into the spotlight.

Keep The Lights On has many positives, especially cinematically, but it risks getting lost in the shuffle matched up against other genre films.

Advisable, is to check out this gem.

It might best be compared to the exceptional same-sex love story, Call Me By Your Name (2017). Both are character-driven and are both happy and tragic.

Keep The Lights On is technically an American film. It feels like an international film, though, because it centers around a Danish filmmaker who lives in New York City.

Erik (Thure Lindhardt) is a troubled, creative soul, struggling to complete a documentary about an artist named Avery Willard. He meets and enters into a loving but complicated long-term relationship with Paul (Zachary Booth), a lawyer in the publishing industry who struggles with drug addiction.

Therein lies the complicated nature of their relationship. They are bonded but plagued with outside challenges. It began in 1998 and ended in 2006.

They meet via a phone sex chatline which adds to the sexual mystique. Erik is gay and happily out, but Paul indulges in both men and women and is conflicted sexually.

He gets Erik high. Will he lead Erik down a dark path? Will Paul clean up his act or die? Erik and Paul bed numerous other men throughout the story. This is an intriguing addition to the complicated events.

Since the film is about a filmmaker it ought to include cool and inventive camera angles and trimmings, and it does. Ira Sachs, an American director, provides flourishing shots of New York City and gazes through the lens of an actual creative spirit, which justifies the character of Erik.

The story builds quite slowly and plenty of times I awaited something exciting to happen. But real life is composed of many small moments and I loved how the film simply is instead of big momentous scenes being added for effect.

The audience is meant to root for Erik and Paul to trot into happily ever after territory. This may or may not happen.

Keep The Lights On has a vague ending open to interpretation.

Erik and Paul look similar to each other which I found very interesting. They say that many same-sex couples are attracted to individuals who look like themselves. I’m not sure how true this is, but I wondered if Sachs had a point to make.

Can a person have multiple sides to themselves they see through other people? Keep The Lights On is told more from Erik’s perspective and sees in Paul the dark side of himself.

Key to the honesty that exudes from Keep The Lights On is that the story is based on Sach’s relationship with a publisher he met and fell in love with. The truthfulness comes across on screen, which is the main appeal to the overall experience.

I love the title which can be interpreted in a few different ways, especially once the conclusion is upon us.

I admire the fact that Keep The Lights On (2012) was made and the characters provide a longing and yearning that is quite humanistic. It feels like it was created based on fact rather than a studio idea conjured up around a boardroom table.

Ira Sachs creates an excellent, quiet film about two men and the love story they share. Their troubles come and go but their passion and bond never waver.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Feature, Best Director-Ira Sachs, Best Male Lead-Thure Lindhardt, Best Screenplay

Game Change-2012

Game Change-2012

Director Jay Roach

Starring Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Ed Harris

Scott’s Review #1,094

Reviewed December 23, 2020

Grade: B

Sarah Palin is an idiot. John McCain is not. We didn’t know that in 2008. We do now.

Somehow their different worlds collided as partners in crime for the 2008 United States Presidential election, she was the vice-presidential nominee to his.

McCain’s people wanted a fresh face, someone with charisma, who could help defeat the surging U.S. Senator from Illinois, named Barack Obama.

Game Change (2012), an HBO film, chronicles how an unknown female governor from Alaska was chosen as McCain’s running mate without proper vetting, leading to one of the biggest political fiascos of the twenty-first century.

The production is a well-acted, well-paced affair that makes even the most liberal viewer (me!) sympathize, ever so slightly, with Palin, who was thrust into the spotlight at lightning speed.

Julianne Moore takes center stage, giving the political figure empathy and some heart. Supporting turns by Woody Harrelson as the campaign’s senior strategist, Steve Schmidt, and Ed Harris as John McCain provide levity.

The acting is the best part of the film. Otherwise, the film might have been best served as a documentary (more about that below).

As believable as Moore, Harrelson, and Harris are, they feel like performances rather than authenticity. They try to give their best interpretations of the players instead of immersing themselves in their bodies.

Maybe that’s the point of the film?

I love how the film opens.

In 2010, after the debacle has ended, Steve Schmidt sits uncomfortably before Anderson Cooper from CNN. He asks Schmidt if Palin was chosen as the VP candidate because she would make the best vice president or because she could win the election.

The question is quite poignant and the basis for the entire film.

Another excellent sequence is set during the Republican National Convention. Palin’s speech is well received, bombastic even, and energetic, catapulting her as the potential saving grace of the party.

Sadly, for her, the campaign becomes concerned that she is ignorant about many political issues and grossly unprepared. These scenes are the weakest- the audience laughably realizes she believes Korea is one country, and many other gaffs follow.

But, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, this is common knowledge.

Game Change makes a mistake by editing too many snippets of real-life interviews and other news media moments. This detracts from the dramatization that is the intention and makes me wonder why a solid documentary wasn’t made instead.

Jay Roach, who directs Game Change, revels in close-ups, especially of Palin, perhaps as a nod to her being thrust onto every television station in the United States.

Danny Strong screen writes the project.

The duo sets up the predictable situations nicely. Palin’s disagreements with McCain, the woman, not his choice. For reference, he wanted Joe Lieberman, a moderate from Connecticut who was considered “boring”.

Let’s give the most credit to Moore. The actress doesn’t exactly embody Palin. She is more like a dressed-up impersonator, hardly Charlize Theron flawlessly playing Aileen Wuornos.

But what she does do is successfully make the audience care about her and feel sorry for her. Palin had no idea what she was in store for, nor knew what she signed up for. Moore portrays the emotions well.

Moore carries the film. Palin became a source of venom and mockery after her embarrassing interview with Katie Couric in which she was unable to name any magazines.

She quickly became the whipping girl rather than the ‘it” girl.

The message is competent without feeling preachy or overpowering, but there is something a bit dull about Game Change. Schmidt and Nicole Wallace chose Palin, making the enormous mistake of knowing very little about the woman.

Game Change (2012) is recommended for those who want to be entertained or who desire a history lesson without seeing the real people.

I still think a documentary would have worked better.

21 Jump Street-2012

21 Jump Street-2012

Director Phil Lord, Chris Miller

Starring Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill

Scott’s Review #992

Reviewed February 20, 2020

Grade: C+

21 Jump Street (2012) is a nostalgic ode to the general style of the 1980s, more specifically a popular television series that ran from 1987 to 1991.

The teen police drama launched the successful career of actor Johnny Depp.

He starred as the good-looking leader of a team of young police officers who can pass for high school students, and infiltrate potential drug rings, prostitution circles, or other such shenanigans.

The film is hardly high art nor cinematic genius. The gags are silly and trite, other times not funny at all. But the film contains a freshness that feels cool, sleek, and fun and a throwback to the decade of materialism, and the film never apologizes for this.

The combination of stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum have nice chemistry, turning a standard buddy film into something bearable to watch.

The film is formulaic, but not dull.

The filmmakers strive for an action-comedy hybrid even though the series was only conventional drama and taught a lesson with each episode. They also change course and focus on two characters instead of a group making it more of a guy movie.

Honor roll student Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and popular underachieving jock Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) reunite seven years after graduating high school at the police academy where they are studying to be cops.

Eager to leave their juvenile problems, and their dislike for each other behind, they use their youthful appearances to go undercover at a local high school as part of a Jump Street unit.

As they trade in their guns and badges for books and bagged lunches, Schmidt and Jenko risk their lives to investigate a violent and dangerous drug ring.

They slowly realize that high school is nothing like they left it just a few years earlier, and they revisit the terror and anxiety of being a teenager again and all the issues they assumed they had left behind.

The film is mediocre and while there is nothing wrong with the film, nothing is outstanding about it either. As the setup poises the audience, Morton and Greg are opposites in every way and must come together to achieve a common goal.

This is a standard cliche told countless times in films such as Stir Crazy (1983) and 48 Hours (1982), the reference being one of the 1980s.

Speaking of the decade of excess, 21 Jump Street achieves what it sets out to in this regard with a clever nod to a revived scheme from that decade.

Set in present times, the film is nonetheless a nod to teen films of the day.

Wild comedy and lavish adventures are in order in every high school situation imaginable. Dating, AP chemistry class, and the senior prom are heavily promoted so that any viewer above the age of twenty-five can reminisce.

A fun and necessary quality is the inclusion of a few of the original cast of the television series-Holly Robinson Peete, Peter DeLuise, and Johnny Depp all appear in cameo roles. This is a treat for fans of the original series and a tribute to its creation, though nothing else is utilized very well and no other history ever quite measures up.

Robinson Peete’s role is nice because she appears as a police officer.

While doing little to honor the television series it is based on, instead of churning out more of a male cop film, the incorporation of the original cast does deserve praise.

The lead actors are charismatic and clever in their roles which saves the film from being a disaster.

21 Jump Street (2012) kvetches too far into slapstick instead of sending an important message to its audience, which it could have.

The box-office hit was followed in 2014 by an unnecessary remake, aptly entitled 22 Jump Street.

Angels of Sex-2012

Angels of Sex-2012

Director Xavier Villaverde

Starring Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Alvaro Cervantes, Llorenc Gonzalez

Scott’s Review #934

Reviewed August 23, 2019

Grade: C

Angels of Sex (2012) is a Spanish LGBT drama that attempts to create an intriguing romantic relationship between its characters but slowly teeters into a plot-driven soap opera mess, leaving the viewer unsatisfied.

Casting good-looking actors and showing plenty of skin only goes so far before one’s attention span begins to wane and one starts yearning for more depth, which never comes in this film.

The filmmakers do get some props for crafting a diverse film, but the story ultimately sucks.

The urban setting of Barcelona, Spain is the backdrop of the film as a student, Bruno (Llorenc Gonzalez), is saved by karate instructor, Rai (Alvaro Cervantes), and begins to question his sexuality as the men grow attracted to one another.

Throwing a hurtle into their blissful affair is Bruno’s girlfriend, Carla (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), who is drawn to both men while shunning their romantic attraction to one another.

The three characters interact and carry on affairs with each other leading to a series of emotions that influence their decisions.

The premise is intriguing, at the beginning of the story anyway, as a “straight man meets gay man” moment immediately occurs, and sparks fly between the men.

When Bruno accepts his attraction to Rai while also continuing his attraction to Carla a unique bisexual premise is offered. Why can’t Bruno spend equal time with Rai and Carla? Which one will he decide to choose or will choose him? Will each of the three be okay with the arrangement?

These are the sorts of interesting questions offered by the film until it slips about halfway through.

Each character begins to crumble and become banal and wishy-washy, especially Carla. She accepts the “time-sharing” relationship but then gets mad when she sees Rai and Bruno kiss, finally falling for Rai and having an affair with him. Huh?

This is character assassination 101. Bruno’s motivations become unclear as he hedges on nearly every decision, while Rai becomes more brooding and indecisive.

It’s as if the writers did not know which direction to take the characters in or thought their good looks would carry the film.

Other gripes include the title of the film having nothing meaningful to do with the story and rather seems like a weak effort at gaining some attention (and viewers) by incorporating such a title.

Another irritant was the constant inclusion of unknown characters break-dancing to the song. Was this necessary? Rai has an interest in the genre, we get that, but the needless scenes seem like attempts to fill time.

Better use of time might have been additional scenes of Carla and her mother. A passing scene or two and a situation involving Carla’s father cheating on the mother is limiting and could have been an interesting sub-plot, perhaps even figuring into the main story.

Carla’s group of friends add little to the film especially her slutty friend bedding two others in the group. The situation seems more like an add-on or a time filler than rich writing.

Props go to any film with the desire to showcase an LGBT-themed story as, despite the film being made in 2012, most LGBT films are still indie projects.

I hoped for and expected more from the film especially the culturally interesting location of a European hotbed of sexuality and parties.

Angels of Sex (2012) starts well until disintegrating into a bad LGBT episode of “As the World Turns” or “Days of our Lives” with poor character writing, unnecessary supporting characters and a feeble attempt at a twist ending that merely turns into a red herring and thereby a disappointment.

Django Unchained-2012

Django Unchained-2012

Director Quentin Tarantino

Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz

Scott’s Review #699

Reviewed November 26, 2017

Grade: A

Quentin Tarantino, the brilliant filmmaker, can do very little wrong in my opinion, and he releases yet another masterpiece with 2012’s Django Unchained, a western story centering around the delicate subject matter of slavery.

As with several other talented director’s stories, the main focal point here is a revenge-driven tale with plenty of bloody scenes and stylistic ferociousness, making Django Unchained yet another masterpiece in the Tarantino collection.

Certainly not for the faint of heart, the film will please fans of film creativity and artistic achievement.

As with many Tarantino films a stellar cast is used and each actor cast to perfection- it seems almost every actor in Hollywood is dying to appear in the director’s films- this time Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson are the lucky ones, all featured in prominent roles- not surprisingly the acting is top-notch.

An interesting fact to note is that whoever appears in a Tarantino film seems to be having the time of their lives- what creative freedom and interesting material to experience.

A comparable director to Tarantino- as far as recruiting fine actors- is Robert Altman- also tremendously popular with talent.

The saga begins with clear Western flair as Django Freeman (Foxx) is led through the scorching heat of Texas with a group of other black slaves, presumably, to be sold by their abusive white captors- the time is 1858, and the abolition of slavery has not yet occurred the Civil War is still two years away.

Doctor King Schultz (Waltz), a former dentist and current bounty hunter, is on a mission to find and kill the Brittle brothers and realizes that Django can help him find the men.

To complicate matters, Django has been separated from his wife Broomhilda (Washington) and vows to find her and avenge her abductors.

As circumstances lead Schultz and Django to a vast Tennessee estate, the duo becomes business partners and friends. The race to rescue Broomhilda takes the pair to sunny (and equally hot) Mississippi- the home of vicious Calvin Candie (DiCaprio) and his dreaded “Candyland”.

The crackling heat and the atmospheric nature of Django Unchained combined with the revenge theme make the film an immeasurable success.

An ode to spaghetti westerns of yesteryear, the film incorporates similar music and grit so that the result is a modernized version of those films, with lots more blood and violence.

Slavery is a tough subject matter to tackle, especially when members of the Ku Klux Klan are featured, but Tarantino does so effortlessly, and as Django gains revenge on his tormentors, there is major audience satisfaction to be enjoyed.

The indignities and downright abuse that several black characters suffer can be quite tough to sit through.

The climactic dinner scene in Mississippi is splendid and the best sequence of the film. Schultz and Django dine with Calvin at his spectacular mansion. Calvin’s sinister and loyal house slave (Jackson) suspects a devious plan is about to be hatched and a vicious shoot-out erupts between the parties involved.

The ingenious and long sequence is a cat-and-mouse affair with all of the characters carefully tiptoeing around the others in fear of being revealed or discovered as fakes.

The scene is exceptional in its craft as we watch the characters dine on delectable food and drink, all the while motivations bubble under the surface.

Django Unchained is not for film-goers seeking either a linear story or a mainstream piece of blockbuster movie-making-Tarantino is not a typical Hollywood guy.

The film is exceptionally carved and constructed in a way that challenges the viewer to endure what some of the characters (specifically Django and Broomhilda) are made to go through. This discomfort and horror make the inevitable revenge all the more sweet and satisfying.

Quentin Tarantino has created masterpiece after masterpiece throughout his filmography of work.

Proudly, I can herald 2012’s  Django Unchained as one of the unique director’s very finest and will be sure to be remembered decades and decades in the future as being able to challenge, provoke thought, and satisfy legions of his fans.

Oscar Nominations: 2 wins-Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor-Christoph Waltz (won), Best Original Screenplay (won), Best Sound Editing, Best Cinematography



Director Jennifer Lynch

Starring Vincent D’Onofrio

Scott’s Review #627

Reviewed March 24, 2017

Grade: B-

Chained is a 2012 independent horror film directed by Jennifer Lynch, who is the daughter of the brilliant film and television director, David Lynch.

His influence is readily felt throughout.

The film is an exercise in cerebral, psychological horror, and is quite mesmerizing for most of the experience. The ending, however, is the pits and takes away from the enjoyment of the rest of the film in its asinine, quickly wrapped-up, conclusion.

The film is set in an unknown area- all the audience knows is a  decrepit, isolated, cabin in the middle of nowhere and that the shack exists in somewhat proximity to a college town.

Since the film is shot in Canada that is a good enough locale for me to accept.

One day a seemingly happy husband drops off his wife and nine-year-old son at the movies but implores them to take a taxi home as the bus is too dangerous. When they heed his advice, they are accosted by a deranged serial killer, Bob (D’Onofrio), who drives a cab and whisks them away to his remote home.

After he kills the mother, he makes the son, whom he re-names Rabbit, his slave, reducing him to household chores and a somewhat accomplice to the subsequent victims he brings home.

As the years pass and Bob continues to kill, he is determined to have, a now mature, Rabbit, follow in his footsteps.

A large chunk of Chained (and the film is aptly named because Bob commonly keeps Rabbit chained) takes place in Bob’s lonely home and Bob and Rabbit are all each other have for support. Bob presumably earns a living by stealing the cash his victims carry.

Many scenes of a binding nature, albeit perverse, are featured as the two dole away the time between Bob’s kills, almost like a father and son.

Jennifer Lynch wisely moves the film at a slow pace for appropriate build-up.

Bob’s psychologically troubled childhood is told through flashbacks as he is victimized by his abusive father and forced to have sex with his mother, who blames him rather than her husband.

As a result, Bob hates women, and lures victim after victim into his cab and then slices and dices them back at his home.

Bob is sympathetic, like a wounded bird, and whether he rapes the victims before killing them is unclear, as much happens off-screen.

The cabin is purposely suffocating and when Bob teaches Rabbit intellectual facts and encourages him to read and study to become smart, it is a bonding experience.

Slowly, Bob trusts Rabbit more and more.

When Bob makes Rabbit pick out a young girl in a school yearbook to kill, the film kicks into high gear. Suddenly, it becomes vague whether Rabbit is loyal to Bob or still determined to escape. Will he help his intended victim instead of killing her?

David Lynch’s imprint is blatant in both the pacing of the film and more specifically in the low hum musical score, common in his films.

Daughter Jennifer knows her father’s techniques as they continually come into play. A nice homage to Mulholland Drive (1992) appears when a sweet older couple rides in the back of Bob’s cab, reminiscent of the older couple featured in Mulholland Drive.

The gloomy ambiance is highly effective in Chained and the relationship between Bob and Rabbit, not sexual or overly violent, becomes rather sweet in some moments.

The rushed conclusion of the film is disastrous and Lynch’s attempt at a twist goes haywire in the “makes sense” department.

After a compelling fight scene with Bob, Rabbit finally kills him, escapes his clutches, and returns to his father’s open arms (now newly re-married with another son) only to reveal to his father that he knows he orchestrated Rabbit and his mom’s abduction years ago and that Bob is Rabbit’s uncle!

To matters even more confusing, after a dramatic event, Rabbit is sent away yet again and returns to the cabin as his only safe place.

This final act is a real dog, makes little sense, and is tough to digest.

I will give some liberties to 2012’s Chained since the director is spawned from the great David Lynch and the mood and several characteristics mirror his work, but still with her unique vision an obvious characteristic.

Most of the film is a solid effort, but due to the ending of the film being such a letdown, the body of work seems incomplete.



Director Steven Spielberg

Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones

Scott’s Review #476


Reviewed September 10, 2016

Grade: A

Lincoln is a 2012 film, which received a slew of Academy Award nominations. There appear to be differing opinions about the film itself, however.

Lincoln has audiences divided over whether it’s a brilliant film or a snore-fest.

My opinion leans decisively toward the former.

I recognize that (especially the first half) the film is slow-moving, but I found it engrossing and well-made.

Even the subtle aspects (costumes, art direction, lighting) are masterfully done.

I found Daniel Day Lewis’s (Abraham Lincoln) lengthy stories intriguing, not dull and found it to be a wonderful history lesson.

Steven Spielberg does what he does best- he creates a Hollywood film done well. He also has done controversial, shocking, or experimental, but the mainstream fare is his forte.

This film is not for everyone, but if you can find the patience it will be an enlightening experience. If nothing else, a thing or two may be learned.

Oscar Nominations: 2 wins-Best Picture, Best Director-Steven Spielberg, Best Actor-Daniel Day-Lewis (won), Best Supporting Actor-Tommy Lee Jones, Best Supporting Actress-Sally Field, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design (won), Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing

This Is 40-2012

This Is 40-2012

Director Judd Apatow

Starring Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann

Scott’s Review #473


Reviewed September 6, 2016

Grade: B

I must admit, I was not looking forward to seeing this movie, and my initial thought was “typical dumb comedy” that has been seen a million times before.

While This is 40 (2012) does contain those elements and is marketed toward a certain target audience, this movie is, surprisingly, smartly written and intelligent…overall.

I have not viewed Knocked Up (2007), but I understand it’s a somewhat follow-up to that film, as the two central characters are now married and traversing through a different time in their lives-adulthood.

I enjoyed Paul Rudd’s, Melissa McCarthy’s, and whoever played the oldest daughter’s, performances the most, though Rudd has become the latest actor to play the same role over and over again.

I enjoyed the rock n roll elements and the confrontation scenes as these were very cleverly written and nicely acted.

Sadly, at times the film relies on the standard bathroom humor done thousands of times before- a clear attempt at a laugh, and Jason Segal’s and Megan Fox’s characters are unnecessary to the main plot.

This Is 40 (2012) is a film that, at its heart, shows the trials and tribulations of generations of families, humorously, and done rather well.

The Tall Man-2012

The Tall Man-2012

Director Pascal Laugier

Starring Jessica Biel

Scott’s Review #457


Reviewed July 30, 2016

Grade: B-

The Tall Man (2012) is a cross between a horror/thriller/message movie that stars Jessica Biel as a nurse named Julia Denning, who lives in rural Washington. The town children begin disappearing and are abducted by a mysterious creature named “The Tall Man”.

Is he a legend or a reality? When Julia’s son is the next victim, she sets out to solve the mystery.

The aging mining town of Cold Rock is the setting for the events of the film and it is perfect, containing all the necessary elements: the remote, secluded location, and the various creepy townspeople.

Additionally, The Tall Man has an interesting premise, and the ending is somewhat of a surprise, though rushed, so it’s an interesting experience.

The plot is so far-fetched and convoluted at times that it is tough to follow and take seriously.

I am not a fan of Jessica Biel’s and I find her acting to be subpar, but she is adequate in her starring turn and gives a compelling performance as a haggard mom.

Given the actress’s good looks, I didn’t buy her as a blue-collar, small-town type.

Throughout the film, I found something missing, but could not put my finger on it.

A decent thriller, but nothing more.



Director Tim Burton

Starring Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short

Scott’s Review #454


Reviewed July 23, 2016

Grade: B

Frankenweenie is a very creative Tim Burton-made, stop-motion film that received a nomination for Best Animated Feature at the 2012 Oscars.

On the dark side, it is a pleasure to watch for the thought-invoked and left-of-center approach as compared to many safe modern animated features.

The story revolves around a lonely young man who experiments on his recently deceased dog to bring him back to life.

It is a black and white film, has nice horror references (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein) and interesting characters.

It is also heartwarming as the child’s love for the dog is evident.

The movie is easy to compare to 2012’s ParaNorman in multiple ways (lonely male teen, both dark films).

As much as I give major props to this film for the creativity involved, somehow it did not completely connect with me (I liked ParaNorman better) and I’m not sure why, but I have great respect for the creative achievements it encompasses.

Oscar Nominations: Best Animated Feature Film



Director Chris Butler, Sam Fell

Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick

Scott’s Review #453


Reviewed July 23, 2016

Grade: B+

ParaNorman (2012) is a highly imaginative and very enjoyable, animated film that I admired a great deal.

Creative colors and images are key and the film is stop-motion.

Despite being animated it is not a kid’s movie but rather geared toward the teenager or older demographic.

It is among the strongest, along with Frankenweenie, a similar type film, of the five nominated films for Best Animated feature, in the year 2012.

ParaNorman is so similar to Frankenweenie that they could almost be simultaneously reviewed or watched on the same day.  Both center around an isolated young male coping with his surroundings and both contain a light horror feel to them.

In ParaNorman, an army of zombies invades a small, suburban town, and our hero, Norman, a strange young man who can communicate with the dead, must save the day.

The film contains sympathetic peers, but the adults in the film present various obstacles.

I have gone on record as being not much of an animated film fan, but I do view the best of each year and this one impressed me immensely.

Oscar Nominations: Best Animated Feature Film

5 Broken Cameras-2012

5 Broken Cameras-2012

Director Emad Burnat, Guy Davida

Starring Emad Burnat

Scott’s Review #452


Reviewed July 22, 2016

Grade: B-

5 Broken Cameras is a 2012 documentary spoken in the Arabic language, which received critical acclaim upon release and heaps of award nominations.

A documentary about a Palestinian farmer, Emad Burnat who recounts Israeli soldiers overtaking his land for several years, it became a Best Documentary Oscar nominee.

Non-political in his life, Emad is threatened as the Israelis build a wall through his land, which he refuses to part with.

As important as the subject matter is, it never really captured my attention and I found it to drag a bit, which pains me to say because I was hoping to be really into it, given the topic.

This could simply be my opinion since it is a critically acclaimed piece.

I would have voted in the far superior Invisible War, from the same year, for Oscar glory.

Oscar Nominations: Best Documentary-Feature

Searching for Sugar Man-2012

Searching for Sugar Man-2012

Director Malik Bendjelloul

Starring Sixto Rodriguez

Scott’s Review #451


Reviewed July 17, 2016

Grade: B

Searching for Sugar Man (2012) is a heartwarming documentary that tells the true story of a forgotten rising Detroit rock singer (Sixto Rodriguez) from the early 1970s, rediscovered by South African DJs where he is a surprising legend in present times.

The documentary’s main talking point is how an icon can be idolized in one country while living in utter poverty in another.

Thought to be the next great thing in the 1970s, his two released albums bombed and he subsequently faded into oblivion, until tracked down by the South African DJs, curious about his current whereabouts.

Searching for Sugar Man (2012) is an inspiring documentary for any musician or fan of music since Rodriguez is a true artist. He is not in it for the money or obsessed with attention or fame, he finally receives some recognition for his talent.

He is a free spirit, reminiscent of Bob Dylan, a poet, whose story is a courageous one.

Thankfully, this inspiring documentary has brought some notice to Rodriguez.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Documentary-Feature (won)

End of Watch-2012

End of Watch-2012

Director David Ayer

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena

Scott’s Review #447


Reviewed July 8, 2016

Grade: B+

End of Watch (2012) impressed me much more than I was expecting. What I expected was a safe, by-the-numbers, buddy/action movie, since it was rather promoted as such from the previews.

It was worlds better than that and threw me for a loop, in a good way.

The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as two detectives patrolling the streets of grizzled central Los Angeles, which are riddled with drug and gang violence.

The viewer is brought along for the ride as we see a day in the life if you will, of their cop beat.

The one knock I’ll give the film is the implausibility factor of a cop videotaping everything. This seems silly and unrealistic.  Wouldn’t he be incredibly distracted? That said, some of the filmings were amazing, including the opening sequence.

The film contains a realistic, grittiness to it, and the Los Angeles locale is very effective.

End of Watch (2012) feels painstakingly real, is not always happy, and the dynamic between Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena is evident and their friendship feels real.

The movie feels like a day in the life of an LA cop, sparing no edgy detail, and does not gloss over the lifestyle as many cop films choose to do.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Supporting Male-Michael Pena, Best Cinematography

Ruby Sparks-2012

Ruby Sparks-2012

Director Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Starring Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan

Scott’s Review #442


Reviewed July 4, 2016

Grade: B

Ruby Sparks is a smart, creative, indie film released in 2012.

The film’s theme is fantasy versus reality as the main character is a troubled writer who envisions a character he has created is real.

Is she real or isn’t she?

The film centers around a writer (Paul Dano) with writer’s block who creates an imaginary dream girl (Zoe Kazan), who magically comes to life, one day.

This is an interesting premise and the film has some big-named actors (Annette Bening, Eliot Gould, Antonio Banderas) in small roles which is a delight to see.

The chemistry is lacking between the two leads and the film delves too much into a typical romantic comedy.

Additionally, the film never explains if it is going for seriousness or purely the writer’s imagination, but I admire its creativity and thoughtful premise.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Screenplay



Director Jonathan Lisecki

Starring Jenn Harris, Mathew Wilkas

Scott’s Review #441


Reviewed July 3, 2016

Grade: C+

Gayby (2012) is a sketch-type comedy about two best friends (a gay man and a straight woman) who decide to have a child together.

Both have reached a certain age and are unhappy to have not found the perfect mate. The story is not novel and feels more like a Saturday Night Live sketch than a film.

The film is also playing on the success of television comedies like NBC’s Will and Grace, the obvious dynamic of the central characters.

The two leads are quite appealing in a comic way, have wit (Jenn Harris is deliciously neurotic), and have great timing.

The subject matter is interesting, though as years go by and more LGBTQ+ topics are covered,  it is becoming rather dated and not novel anymore.

The negative is the frenetic, quick pacing of the film, ultimately making it rather off-putting and annoying, to say nothing of the irritating stereotypical, supporting characters.

They are written so over-the-top that it is tough to take the film as seriously as it should be taken.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best First Screenplay

Safety Not Guaranteed-2012

Safety Not Guaranteed-2012

Director Colin Trevorrow

Starring Mark Duplass, Aubrey Plaza

Scott’s Review #440


Reviewed July 3, 2016

Grade: B-

Safety Not Guaranteed is similar in style to another 2012 independent film, Ruby Sparks, in that they pose the question of “Is this fantasy or reality”?

The film deals with the subject matter of time travel.

The story centers around a magazine journalist, who, along with two interns, follows a man convinced that he is building a time travel machine.

The story then develops into a romantic comedy of sorts and the audience is unsure if the guy is crazy or purely a genius.

It’s an interesting concept, intelligently written, and Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass are both quite likable in the lead roles.

The one flaw for me was, at times, the movie dove into slapstick territory with a silly secondary story of a stereotypically written Indian character attempting to lose his virginity.

Besides that, Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) has intriguing intentions.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 1 win-Best First Screenplay (won), Best First Feature

House at the End of the Street-2012

House at the End of the Street-2012

Director Mark Tonderai

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue

Scott’s Review #438


Reviewed July 2, 2016

Grade: B

House at the End of the Street (2012) is a perfect example of a horror/thriller film that has excellent effects and great potential, but the storytelling brings it down.

It is also a film starring Jennifer Lawrence before she was the Oscar-winning star. Her performance is an adequate effort, and she does what she can in the lead role.

Lawrence is likable in this role and is the clear hero of the film.

The film itself looks great. It has all of the necessary horror elements: a creepy house in the woods, darkness, and sudden scares.

The buildup during the first half of the movie is very interesting and the audience is not quite sure what’s to come and what mysteries and secrets lurk in the title house.

During the final thirty minutes, however, when the twist is revealed, the film becomes predictable, by the numbers, and disappoints at the end.

The story becomes so convoluted it hardly matters anymore.

The first half is great but the second half fails.

I was happy to see Elisabeth Shue in this movie, as she has been out of the limelight for years, her character, though,  is quite one-dimensional.

Film summary- great-looking horror film, with mediocre writing.



Director Nicholas Jarecki

Starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon

Scott’s Review #437


Reviewed July 1, 2016

Grade: B+

Arbitrage (2012) is an exciting, interesting, little indie thriller starring Richard Gere as a successful, but troubled, CEO, whose life begins to unravel around him through a series of circumstances.

He is a billionaire but at risk of losing everything due to shady dealings and fraudulent activity.

The film is the type that keeps the audience guessing and is never predictable. The plot slowly unravels into something of a pot-boiler. It is tense.

Richard Gere is the standout as he gives a wonderful, believable performance. Once known as little more than a hunky Hollywood star, Gere has blossomed in recent years, taking on more compelling and complex roles.

Arbitrage (2012) contains some Hitchcock elements throughout in its complexities, though Gere’s character is an anti-hero whereas Hitchcock’s were frequently good guys in bad circumstances.

The car crash scene is brilliantly done.

I wish this movie had received more attention than it has as it is a fun, thrill ride.

Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present-2012

Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present-2012

Director Matthew Akers, Jeff Dupre

Starring Marina Abramovic

Scott’s Review #436


Reviewed July 1, 2016

Grade: B+

The wonderful thing about documentary features is that they can introduce the viewer to a world of knowledge or provide an experience that you may not ordinarily be exposed to.

This is the case for me with Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present (2012).

Knowing nothing about this inspiring artist prior, I had no idea who she was going into this documentary and had no exposure to performance art.

The film does a great job of telling Marina’s career history, extreme discipline, and the honesty of her work. The documentary is also a biography as it gives a history lesson of who she is and the various obstacles she has hurdled in her life.

Marina is portrayed as an extreme artist and it was a wonderful experience learning about her.

Seeing a video of The Museum of Modern Art in nearby New York City was a treat since I have been to the museum before.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Documentary Feature



Director Craig Zobel

Starring Dreama Walker, Ann Dowd

Scott’s Review #435


Reviewed June 30, 2016

Grade: A

Compliance (2012) is a ninety-minute riveting experience that will leave you thinking, talking, and feeling for days or weeks after viewing it.

The film is that intense.

The fact that it is based on true events is even more startling. It is, at times, quite disturbing and unsettling to watch, and if one likes their movies happy and wrapped in a bow, this will not be for you, but for film fans who truly want an emotional experience check it out.

At times I wanted to scream at the characters, look away from the screen, and shake my head in disbelief.

A truly riveting experience.

Major props to actress Ann Dowd, who does a bang-up job as the restaurant manager, and main character. What an amazing talent this actress is.

My range of emotions toward this character (sympathy, confusion, anger, disbelief) blew me away.

Compliance (2012) is one of the best modern films of late.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Supporting Female-Ann Dowd

Hope Springs-2012

Hope Springs-2012

Director David Frankel

Starring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones

Scott’s Review #434


Reviewed June 30, 2016

Grade: B

Hope Springs (2012) is a cute, lighthearted romantic comedy-drama with enormous talent (it is tough to go wrong with heavyweights like Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones).

The story tells of a middle-aged, married couple who reach the point of boredom in their long marriage. They decide to go away on a retreat to repair their marriage and add some spark.

That’s the movie in a nutshell.

There are no surprises to speak of and I expected a bit more from this film given the talent involved. It has safely written all over it, and while nice, it could have been much more.

What’s the reason for the conflict? They suddenly reach a point of boredom for no reason.

Props to Steve Carell for an against-type performance.

Hope Springs (2012) has great acting all around, but too safe of a story.