Lee Daniels’ The Butler-2013

Lee Daniels’ The Butler-2013

Director-Lee Daniels

Starring-Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey

Scott’s Review #81


Reviewed June 30, 2014

Grade: A

Director, Lee Daniels, is a recent favorite of mine (Precious, The Paperboy) and his latest is an excellent, true story, undertaking.

While the trailer looked appealing, I was concerned that the film might be overwrought or have a Hollywood sappiness to it.

While it’s certainly a Hollywood film, it is a powerful, emotional experience.

The viewer is taken on a journey from 1926 through the current president from the viewpoint of White House butler Cecil Gaines, who serves several presidents and is privy to the goings-on in the White House.

He is played by Forest Whitaker and his boozy, troubled wife is played by Oprah Winfrey. Both give tremendous performances.

It is a political journey through time and I loved the authenticity of each decade from the sets to the costumes to the hairstyles.

The casting of the Presidents is curious (Robin Williams as Eisenhower and John Cusack as Nixon), but somehow worked.

The rivalry of Cecil Gaines and his rebellious son is quite interesting as the viewer sides with each individual at different times.

The film is more emotional than I anticipated and much of the audience was teary during certain scenes of heartbreak and triumph.

I feel this is a must-see for everyone.

Well done.



Director-James Cameron

Starring-Sigourney Weaver

Scott’s Review #80


Reviewed June 29, 2014

Grade: B+

Aliens take away the rawness of the original Alien and infuse a glossier, slick look to the film franchise.

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

There are wonderful special effects that were quite extraordinary for the time that the film was shot-1986. The tunnels and spacecraft are perfectly lit and designed, giving it a bright and fun setting and the audience knows that doom is lurking. The actual aliens are visually frightening and, compared to the original, are more plentiful. Sigourney Weaver takes center stage and leads this film successfully.

I’m not sure many other actresses could pull off her level of authentic toughness and give no sex appeal in the process and successfully get away with it.

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

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

2000 Maniacs-1964

2000 Maniacs-1964


Starring-William Kerwin, Connie Mason

Scott’s Review #79


Reviewed June 28, 2014

Grade: B

Two Thousand Maniacs is a 1964 offering by gore director H.G. Lewis set in the south. The premise of the film is a southern town, ironically named Pleasant Valley, slaughtered and destroyed during the Civil War, is resurrected every 100 years to enact revenge on northerners who are unlucky enough to stumble upon their town.

Five nice looking, fashionable tourists, headed to Atlanta, are duped by local townspeople into making a wrong turn and given the hero’s welcome by the town folk for a festive centennial celebration. The welcome is, of course, a guise for a sinister plot to dismember and barbeque the tourists as part of the feast of the celebration.

The film takes a bit to get going, there is no killing until 30 minutes into it, but then kicks into high gear as some of the most graphic, brutal deaths ensue.

A woman is tied to a platform as one townsperson after another attempts to hit a bullseye so that an enormous boulder falls, carnival dunk-tank style, stoning her to death. Another victim has each limb tied to a horse as they gallop in different directions, thus dismembering him. Still, another is forced into a barrel laced with nails and sent rolling down a hill. Another has her thumb and arm chopped off and served for dinner. These are gruesome deaths.

Certainly, a film like this is done for fun, thus the term horror-comedy, but surely heavily influenced other macabre films that followed- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Deliverance. The southern rednecks are played to the hilt by mostly real townspeople and the cheerful song “The South will rise again” sticks in the viewer’s mind long after the film ends.

In fact, the entire tone of the film is bright, cheerful, and the townspeople, on the surface, seem happy-go-lucky and warm. They even kill with charm. Two Thousand Maniacs is a fun, splatter film from one of the genres most revered filmmakers.



Director-Joachim Ronning, Espen Sandberg

Starring-Pal Sverre Valheim Hagen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen

Scott’s Review #78


Reviewed June 28, 2014

Grade: C+

I don’t know what has happened to the nominating process for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar (it has been controversial for years), but it used to be you could count on any of the 5 nominated films to be interesting, edgy, and even controversial.

Now, a few of the nominated films squeaking through barely rise above mediocrity and are such mainstream stories. Kon-Tiki is one such film.

It tells the tale of a Norwegian scientist determined to sail, via raft, from Peru to the Polynesian islands to prove a Sun God, centuries ago, did the same voyage. He forms a team and off they go.

Supposedly based on a true story, the team faces the typical challenges in an oceanic adventure- bad weather, sharks, the raft in peril, dissent among the ranks. These high sea clichés have gotten to me recently.

The film is similar in context to Life of Pi. It’s not a bad film, but there is nothing special about it and it has glossy and safe written all over it- the score is Spielberg to the nines (who has nothing to do with this film).

The 5 adventurers are bronzed with buff bodies when nobody was buff in the 1940s when this film is set, and the scruffy beards, after months of sailing, look perfectly phony.

For the top-tier foreign language group, I expected something more cutting edge and with more substance.

Oscar Nominations: Best Foreign Language Film

The Theatre Bizarre-2011

The Theatre Bizarre-2011

Director-Tom Savini, Douglas Buck

Starring-Udo Kier, Lena Kliene

Scott’s Review #77


Reviewed June 28, 2014

Grade: B+

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

The main story centers on a young woman’s attraction to an odd theater in her neighborhood and her hesitant pursuit of the theater. Once she musters the courage to enter, she is treated to 6 stories told by the strange owner of the theater, who is a wax figure.

The audience also experiences the stories in one-by-one vignettes. The stories range from the morbidly gruesome (A bitter, angry woman castrates her cheating boyfriend. An unstable woman serves her boyfriend to her friends for dinner) to poetic (a young girl and her mother discuss the process of death upon witnessing a deadly motorcycle crash).

The first vignette (Mother of Toads) was not one of the best, but the subsequent stories fascinated me. The ambiance, especially inside the theater, is dark, dream-like, and surreal, which adds much atmosphere to the film.

It reminded me quite a bit of Masters of Horror, a popular series on Showtime in the mid-2000s.

Highly recommended gem for horror fans.

The African Queen-1951

The African Queen-1951

Director-John Huston

Starring-Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn

Scott’s Review #76


Reviewed June 28, 2014

Grade: B-

The African Queen (1951) is a difficult film to review. Revered and appearing on many greatest films of all time lists, overall this film is disappointing to me. Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn star as a couple who despise each other, stranded together on a tugboat in Africa on the eve of World war I.

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

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

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

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



Director-Denis Villeneuve

Starring-Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal

Scott’s Review #75


Reviewed June 27, 2014

Grade: B+

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

The gray, somber, Pennsylvania town is a perfect backdrop for a story involving child abduction and a father that seeks a confession from the presumed kidnapper.

The mood and cinematography are impressive and the bleakness is perfect for the tone of the film- a cold Thanksgiving holiday weekend in a working-class, steel town.

At 2 hours and 26 minutes, the film is lengthy, but on the edge of your seat.

What intrigued me was the audience conflict of whom to root for. Is the father purely innocent? Is the kidnapper guilty? Is someone else involved? These questions go through the viewer’s mind throughout the film.

The film does have a major drawback in the high number of plot holes and questions asked after the film.

The kidnapper’s motivations are weak and never fully explained. Portions of the story do not add up and make little sense.

The film is similar in style to Zodiac and Mystic River.

The film is an intense, thrill-ride to be enjoyed, but certainly not over-analyzed.

Oscar Nominations: Best Cinematography



Director-Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Starring-Audrey Tatou

Scott’s Review #74


Reviewed June 27, 2014

Grade: C+

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

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

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

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

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Foreign Film (won)

All About Eve-1950

All About Eve-1950

Director-Joe Mankiewicz

Starring-Bette Davis, Anne Baxter

Top 100 Films-#84

Scott’s Review #73


Reviewed June 27, 2014

Grade: A

All About Eve is a cynical masterpiece from 1950 set in the competitive world of the New York theater.

Insecure Margo Channing, played to perfection by Bette Davis, is an aging actress whose career is on the downturn. She meets naïve Eve Harrington, played by Anne Baxter, who insinuates herself into Margo’s life and career.

One interesting facet of this film is how the opening scene is of an acceptance speech by Eve. The look of anger and disdain from the front table gives a good indication of things to come. From there the film backtracks to the first time the two women meet and the story really begins.

It is certainly a dark film and jealousy and back-stabbing are common themes throughout as had never been done before in film set in the world of theater. One by one, each of Margo’s friends catches on to Eve’s plot, but at what cost?

This is Bette Davis’s comeback performance as a talented Broadway star and she makes the most of the opportunity as she deliciously utters her famous revenge-minded line “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night”.

Marilyn Monroe has a cameo role as a debutante in her first film role. The film deservedly won the 1950 Best Picture Oscar.

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

Swept Away-1974

Swept Away-1974

Director-Lina Wertmuller

Starring-Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato

Scott’s Review #72


Reviewed June 27, 2014

Grade: B+

Swept Away is an Italian version of the film remade starring Madonna in 2004.

A wealthy, spoiled woman is stranded on a deserted island with her male servant. The 1974 film is superb and, at times, deeply disturbing, as scenes of humiliation are almost too much to watch.

The theme is certainly about the class system- the haves and the have-nots; and what happens when roles are reversed and individuals are stripped of titles is interesting, shocking, and, at times, troubling.

I was stunned, yet mesmerized, by a very animalistic scene in which a man beats a woman. At first, the man is the sympathetic one and the woman despised, then the roles are shockingly reversed. Amazingly, the film was directed by a woman, Lina Wertmuller, a brave, underappreciated German director.

When, inevitably, the pair are rescued and return to normalcy, the plot takes a very dynamic turn.

Enough Said-2013

Enough Said-2013

Director-Nicole Holofcener

Starring-Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini

Scott’s Review #71


Reviewed June 25, 2014

Grade: B+

Enough Said is a surprisingly well-written, small indie romantic comedy and, sadly, James Gandolfini’s final film performance.

The film stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who portrays a down-to-earth massage therapist who meets her odd match (Gandolfini) at a party. They slowly begin dating and some interesting misunderstandings ensue.

The seemingly odd couple fall in love and form a special bond over time. They are both struggling to overcome past relationships and trust someone again so they are vulnerable and interesting characters. They strive to be happy but are not quite there yet.

I found the dialogue very sharp and witty and Dreyfus is perfectly cast in this film. She and Gandolfini have enormous chemistry and the film is not contrived in the least as many romantic comedies are.

The film feels like a West Coast Woody Allen film from a female perspective with many neurotic, flawed characters.

I enjoyed it immensely.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Supporting Male-James Gandolfini, Best Screenplay

American Beauty-1999

American Beauty-1999

Director-Sam Mendes

Starring-Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening

Top 100 Films-#65

Scott’s Review #70


Reviewed June 25, 2014

Grade: A

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

The film is a thought-provoking story of the American Dream gone wrong and how most people live ordinary, humdrum, on the surface, happy lives, but in truth are unhappy, damaged, or otherwise unfulfilled.

It is a truthful film and reminds me quite a bit of The Ice Storm, a film from 1997. American Beauty is not a downer, but rather is witty, dark-humored, and filled with dry sarcasm. Kevin Spacey is tremendous as the central character going through a mid-life crisis and Annette Bening is frighteningly good as his neurotic, controlling wife.

Their daughter, played by Thora Birch, has her own teenage angst and falls in love with a neighborhood misfit. Every character, even small and supporting, is troubled in some way.

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

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



Director-Alfonso Cuaron

Starring-Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

Scott’s Review #69


Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: B

Gravity has become a film that has divided people- some have described the film as “brilliant”, “groundbreaking”, and “phenomenal”.

Due to the hype, I was expecting somewhat of a masterpiece. Not being a 3-D fan (it’s usually unnecessary), I gave in and saw it in 3-D, which did help the film. I have discovered the theory- the techies will love it, the storytellers will not.

Yes, the film is inventive and the space scenes are magnificent, so much so that I felt as though I was floating in space looking down at planet earth.

Sandra Bullock is excellent as a lost astronaut fearful and desperate.

But, the story was quite basic and, frankly, weak. I kept waiting for the plot to thicken and was left wanting much more than the movie delivered.

The backstory for Clooney and Bullock was extremely limited.

I must stress, though, that technically this film is astounding and deserves the praise heaped on it, but as a complete movie, it did not deliver the goods.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-Alfonso Cuaron (won), Best Actress-Sandra Bullock, Best Original Score (won), Best Sound Editing (won), Best Sound Mixing (won), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography (won), Best Film Editing (won), Best Visual Effects (won)



Director-Anatole Litvak

Starring-Ingrid Bergman, Yul Brynner

Scott’s Review #68


Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: B+

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

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

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

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

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

Dead Ringer-1964

Dead Ringer-1964

Director-Paul Henreid

Starring-Bette Davis, Karl Malden

Scott’s Review #67


Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: B+

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

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

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

And Then There Were None-1945

And Then There Were None-1945

Director-Rene Clair

Starring-Barry Fitzgerald, Judith Anderson

Scott’s Review #66


Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: C+

And Then There Were None (1945) is adapted from a famous Agatha Christie novel of the same name from the 1930s, the first of 3 film adaptations over the years.

A group of 10 individuals from all walks of life is summoned for a weekend of merriment at a secluded mansion on a lonely island. The premise is perfectly set up for a fascinating whodunit as the characters are knocked off one by one in sometimes bizarre fashion- the bee sting death is great.

There is a wide range of characters- the rich movie star, the spinster, the doctor, the house servant, and his wife). For starters, I was very disappointed in the DVD quality (no Blu-Ray is available for this film). The picture and sound are abhorrent. The quality is quite grainy and faded and made watching an unpleasant experience. However, a great film might withstand those issues.

The film has some appeal that the novel had- an interesting whodunit. The character histories are similar to the ones in the book and, to be fair, the film is well-acted, and the wonderful Judith Anderson (Rebecca) is always a treat to watch. But the most disappointing aspect is the blatantly changed and completely upbeat, romantic comedy ending, which is vastly different from the dark novel ending and lost major points with me for the adjustment.

Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat-2002

Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat-2002

Director-H.G. Lewis

Starring-J.P. Delahoussaye, Christy Brown

Scott’s Review #65


Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: B

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

Director H.G. Lewis heavily influenced John Waters, who has a fantastic cameo as a perverted reverend. This movie is so over the top and campy it is certainly not to be taken at all seriously.

The premise, if one can call it that, involves a lunatic caterer intent on using various female body parts to concoct a scrumptious meal to serve at a wedding. The film is more of a comedy than a horror film in the traditional sense.

The victims are clearly bubbleheads, mispronouncing words and traipsing around in skimpy outfits (or less) for no reason. The mean-spirited mother of the bride is a delight. Scenes of taste testing and the presentation of “ladyfingers” are hilariously creative. Campy in every way and poorly acted, but good late-night fun.

Fruitvale Station-2013

Fruitvale Station-2013

Director-Ryan Coogler

Starring-Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer

Scott’s Review #64


Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: B+

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

While not perfect, the victim is presented as a good guy, helps strangers, stray dogs, loves his daughter, and has a great heart. He lives a tough life as he has been in and out of prison, and is forced to sell drugs to make a living.

But he has a strong family unit (mother, grandmother, girlfriend, friends) so he lives a decent life.

The cops in question are presented very negatively (intense, racist, and brutal).

Again, I don’t know what happened, but obviously, the filmmakers are on the side of the victim (as they should be). The police reasons are revealed at the end of the film.

It’s a heartfelt, good, solid portrayal.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Male Lead-Michael B. Jordan, Best Supporting Female-Melonie Diaz, Best First Feature (won)



Director-Oliver Hirschbiegel

Starring-Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews

Scott’s Review #63


Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: C+

Assuming all of the details of the film are accurate, this film was an interesting account of Princess Diana’s last two years of life and her transition from married royalty to single woman, all the while being the most famous woman on earth.

While the film was interesting, I ended up feeling something was missing and it was not as gripping as I had hoped.

I also did not quite buy Naomi Watts as Diana. Her mannerisms were off to me and the real Diana was taller.

Also, I didn’t quite believe that Diana could throw on a brown wig and walk freely around London unrecognized.

There was no chemistry between Watts and Naveen Andrews, who played a successful heart surgeon with whom Diana begins a romance.

These criticisms do not mean the film was a total fail,(there was a sincere likability and charisma that Watts brought to the role), but not as good as one would have hoped.

12 Years a Slave-2013

12 Years a Slave-2013

Director-Steve McQueen

Starring-Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender

Scott’s Review #62


Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: A

At the time of 12 Years a Slave’s release, a ton of buzz began circulating. Was it that good?

Considered the front runner to win the Best Picture statue, it did indeed win the top honors.

The film is not an easy watch- it is brutal and heart-wrenching at times. I will spare the details, but the most intense scene involves a whip.

There are scenes of torture, degradation, and cruelty against the slaves by the slave owners.

While tough to watch, I applaud the film for not glossing over the atrocities of slavery. Some have criticized the film for being a retread of similar films, but I disagree. It is worlds more intense than watered-down versions.

However, the film is not a downer.

Yes, a class of people is beaten down and victimized, but they also rise above and never give up hope. The fact that it’s a true story and a book was written on the subject by the real Solomon Northup makes it all the more powerful.

The performances are clearly outstanding (Ejiofor, Fassbender, Paulson, and Nyong’o).

The look of the film and cinematography is sharp and I loved the distinctiveness of the north and south scenes. The setting is stifling hot and dreary.

There are at least 2 scenes where the camera pans on a shot and holds it for seemingly an eternity until an action occurs, which made the scenes effective.

While difficult to watch, this film should be viewed by everyone to see how far we have come, but not forget how far we still need to go to eliminate discrimination and victimization.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture (won), Best Director-Steve McQueen, Best Actor-Chiwetel Ejiofor, Best Supporting Actor-Michael Fassbender, Best Supporting Actress-Lupita Nyong’o (won), Best Adapted Screenplay (won), Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Feature (won), Best Director-Steve McQueen (won), Best Male Lead-Chiwetel Ejiofor, Best Supporting Male-Michael Fassbender, Best Supporting Female-Lupita Nyong’o (won), Best Screenplay (won), Best Cinematography (won)

Anatomy of a Murder-1959

Anatomy of a Murder-1959

Director-Otto Preminger

Starring-James Stewart, Lee Remick

Scott’s Review #61


Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: B+

Anatomy of a Murder is a thought-provoking, courtroom/legal thriller that is not a black and white, good and bad story. It is deeper and more complex than that.

Starring James Stewart as an everyman defense attorney, the film, shot effectively in black and white, pushed barriers for its time (1959), by using certain words such as “rape” and “panties” that were never spoken in films before this time. Much of the action takes place inside the courtroom.

The film pushed the envelope and is still enjoyable today. Over the course of the film, which is admittedly slow at times, the audience finds itself unsure of the guilt of the defendant and is wary and suspicious of him from the start, which makes for great drama.

The rooting value is with Stewart, who is clearly the hero, and the interesting supporting cast provides deeper layers than similar type films that run the risk of being wordy or preachy. As each new fact or twist and turn arrives throughout the film, it becomes more and more engaging until it reaches a satisfying climax.

Oscar Nominations: Best Motion Picture, Best Actor-James Stewart, Best Supporting Actor-Arthur O’Connell, George C. Scott, Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Film Editing

The Amityville Horror-1979

The Amityville Horror-1979

Director-Stuart Rosenberg

Starring-James Brolin, Margot Kidder

Scott’s Review #60


Reviewed June 23, 2014

Grade: B-

The Amityville Horror was undoubtedly more thrilling upon its original release in 1979, but sadly, the time has not been kind to this particular film, as it does not hold up well any longer. It feels dated, but that is not to say it is at all un-enjoyable.

The atmosphere of the movie and the building tension and sense of dread is effective. The audience knows bad things will eventually occur. The look of the film is dark and creepy and actors James Brolin and Margot Kidder are adequate in the lead roles.

The main problem with the film is all along there is a feeling that I am watching a pale version of The Exorcist or The Omen, far superior films in my opinion, with the religious theme that was heavily used in the horror genre throughout the 1970s.

Also, horror in 1970’s cinema was at its best and by 1979, horror had shifted into the knife-wielding maniac vein. Add to this the fact that the supposedly “true story” has since been proven a silly hoax, so it certainly takes away any shred of seriousness. To be fair, the scene involving the herd of flies is scary, but other scenes seem silly and inconsequential. The Amityville Horror is not a bad movie, but similar films are far superior.

Oscar Nominations: Best Original Score

The Waiting Room-2012

The Waiting Room-2012

Director-Peter Nicks

Starring-Cynthia Y. Johnson, Eric Morgan

Scott’s Review #59


Reviewed June 23, 2014

Grade: B+

The Waiting Room is an interesting documentary that takes the viewer on a day in the life shift in a very busy public hospital in a poor section of Oakland, California.

Most of the patients are uninsured, low paid or unemployed workers, who are sick and in need of medications and treatment and some cases are quite ill.

The documentary balances the perspectives of both the patients and the weary hospital staff, who strive to prioritize cases and treat everyone, which is not easy due to overcrowding and under-funding.

I found the documentary quite fascinating and felt like I was an actual observer during a chaotic, yet everyday experience in the busy and stressful Emergency Room.

The situations that arise are heartbreaking and the staff does their very best to accommodate each patient, but many times tragedy ensues or tempers flare due to frustration.

It speaks volumes of the shameless world of insurance company profits and selfishness at the cost of human lives and patient suffering.  Sadly, this documentary was overlooked by the Oscar academy but did receive an Independent Spirit nomination.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Documentary Feature, Truer Than Fiction Award (won)



Director-Brian De Palma

Starring-Rachel McAdams

Scott’s Review #58


Reviewed June 23, 2014

Grade: A

Passion is a must-see for all Brian De Palma fans (Carrie, Dressed to Kill). Unfortunately, the film received little fanfare and is mostly forgotten, but it deserves a viewing. The film is set in the world of advertising, where backstabbing and scheming are commonplace.

Rachel McAdams stars as an executive who steals her assistant’s ideas regularly. Fed up, the assistant plots revenge. McAdams is delicious as the callous, calculating, little girl over her head in the corporate world. The praise goes to DePalma, though, for creating yet another stylistic gem similar in tone to many of his other successful films.

The plot is almost secondary to the direction- twists and turns, cool camera angles make the film an enjoyable experience. A common DePalma trait is a dreamlike feel which I love in his films. The ending is a direct homage to Dressed to Kill.

The Snowtown Murders-2011

The Snowtown Murders-2011

Director-Justin Kurzel

Starring-Lucas Pittaway, Daniel Henshall

Scott’s Review #57


Reviewed June 23, 2014

Grade: C+

The Snowtown Murders is an Australian film, based on a true story, of a charismatic, manipulative man who influences a family of misfits into following his murderous streak.

The film is helped by a group of very talented actors (unknowns to me) who successfully relay a sense of bleakness and despair in their lives and some fine, emotional acting makes this film slightly above average.

In fact, the entire look of the movie is dreary, raw, and hopeless, from the lighting to the camera shots. The details of the film are impressive- from the confined, dismal house the family lives in, and the unhealthy meals consumed, all are filled with a sense of chaos.

The Snowtown Murders pushes the envelope with the explicitness of the murders and torture scenes, so the viewer is left feeling uncomfortable.

The downside of the movie is that it drags at times and meanders along at a plodding pace adding to the discomfort. I’m not sure if this is intentional or not, but it harmed me.