High Art-1998

High Art-1998

Director-Lisa Cholodenko

Starring-Ally Sheedy, Radha Mitchell

Scott’s Review #21

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Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: A

Superlative indie drama by acclaimed director Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right) and an incredible performance by Ally Sheedy, who makes viewers forget all her past, forgettable “80’s roles” as she portrays a lonely, drug-abusing, star photographer enamored with a new neighbor in her New York City apartment building. Her life is spiraling out of control and she is inspired by her new friend, who is on an upward career path.

The film is a dark love story and has a raw, moodiness to it. It’s a raw, emotional, mesmerizing film. Patricia Clarkson is her usual awesome self as Sheedy’s even more drugged-out, unhappy partner. The love triangle is interesting and painful. The three leads (Sheedy, Clarkson, and Radha Mitchell) all give knockout performances, but the film belongs solely to Ally Sheedy, who is spectacular.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Female Lead-Ally Sheedy (won), Best Supporting Female-Patricia Clarkson, Best First Screenplay, Best First Feature, Best Cinematography

Four-2012

Four-2012

Director-Joshua Sanchez

Starring-Wendell Pierce

Scott’s Review #20

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Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: A

Oh, how I wish more films like this received mainstream support.

Movies like this are why I love and support independent film. Much better than much of the drivel at the local multiplex.

This is a purely character-driven movie, not at all plot-driven with silly special effects or CGI.

It centers around 4 people one 4th of July evening. There are 2 separate stories and the heart of the movie is the character’s loneliness, isolation, and need to reach out for human connections.

The stories interrelate at times throughout the film.

Exceptional acting involved. Four is an excellent little film.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Male Lead-Wendell Pierce

All Hallows’ Eve-2013

All Hallows’ Eve-2013

Director-Damien Leone

Starring-Katie Maguire

Scott’s Review #19

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Reviewed March 25, 2014

Grade: B+

All Hallows’ Eve is an above-average, low-budget, independent horror film from 2013 reminiscent of the wonderful Showtime series Masters of Horror.

The film has the main story, then divided into three tales, and finally all meshing together, which was very effective. A babysitter and her two charges find an old VHS tape and, of course, watch it. Three short films are on the tape.

The antagonist of the film is a horrific supernatural clown that reminded me of Pennywise from “It”. The motivations of the clown are not explained, nor is that necessary.

One of the three stories feels out of place, but the other two are excellent.

Anyone looking for some late-night fright would do well watching this creepy little film.

The Counselor-2013

The Counselor-2013

Director-Ridley Scott

Starring-Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt

Scott’s Review #18

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Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: A-

The Counselor is a star-studded, unique, drug trafficking thriller set in Mexico and Texas. The film has met with some level of debate as some seemed to either love it or hate it. There appears to be a case made that those who hated it did not understand the movie.

It is not a “by the numbers” or “predictable” popcorn film. It’s much better than that. It’s a thinking man’s movie. I saw shades of Quentin Tarantino’s influence and parts were reminiscent of the wonderful TV series “Breaking Bad”.

There are intersecting stories and heavy acting talent (Fassbender and Diaz are the standouts). I feel this is Cameron Diaz’s best role and wish she would go edgy more often.

There are three brilliantly well-done scenes (motorcycle, Brad Pitt on street, and landfill scene) that are as disturbing as they are artistic. There are some plot holes, but in this case, that can be overlooked.

It’s not simply an action film, but a character-driven one.

The viewing of this film is a unique experience.

20 Feet from Stardom-2013

20 Feet from Stardom-2013

Director-Morgan Neville

Starring-Bruce Springsteen, Sting

Scott’s Review #17

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Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: B

Must-see for any lover of popular/rock music as so many songs have background singers that nobody realizes let alone knows their names.

It is said that many of them didn’t do much “past their day”, but Hollywood is littered with thousands of broken dreams. Nice that some of them still perform to this day.

A reality check in the documentary that was brought up many times is that you need to be egotistical and narcissistic to be in the spotlight. Makes you look at many of the big stars a bit differently.

Sometimes they are not so nice when the cameras are not rolling and have tremendous egos.

No names were revealed-this is an interesting documentary to watch.

Oscar Nominations: Best Documentary-Feature (won)

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Documentary Feature (won)

The Great Beauty-2013

The Great Beauty-2013

Director-Paolo Sorrentino

Starring-Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone

Scott’s Review #16

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Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: A

The Great Beauty is an Italian film and winner of the 2013 Best Foreign Language Oscar and, in my opinion, well deserved.

The film is hardly conventional- it is thoughtful, character-driven, and quite Fellini-influenced.

It takes some time to get into- the first thirty minutes are mostly people dancing and partying wildly.

Set in present-day Rome, it tells the story of a successful 65-year-old journalist who reflects on his life, past and present. The themes of loss and loneliness are explored, and while cynical, are not a downer.

Quite the contrary, as one party after another, is thrown and the nightlife and excesses of Rome are the centerpieces of the film.

A main aspect of The Great Beauty is that all the money and success in the world does not measure happiness- an aspect many people forget.

The main character loses people close to him and many of his wealthy friends are bored and alone. This film is about life and its complexities.

It left me thinking long after the credits rolled and that is a huge testament to its power. Rarely, a film like this comes along any longer.

I felt like I was watching a masterpiece.

Oscar Nominations: Best Foreign Language Film (won)

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best International Film

The Lair of the White Worm-1988

The Lair of the White Worm-1988

Director-Ken Russell

Starring-Amanda Donohoe, Hugh Grant

Scott’s Review #15

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Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: C+

This is a very strange film. Set in Scotland, it tells the tale of a giant snake skeleton found in the ground that leads to a series of strange events.

A wealthy Lady, brilliantly played by Amanda Donohue, begins a sinister plot to sacrifice the townspeople. The film is campy and way over the top, though Donohue is delicious and seems to have fun with the role of a slithering, sexy, bisexual creature. The gloomy ambiance is fantastic, mixed in with many psychedelic sequences that entertained.

It’s a somewhat fun, late-night B-movie, to be sure, but the plot did not seem to make much sense to me, especially in the final act. It is a trippy experience.

Maurice-1987

Maurice-1987

Director-James Ivory

Starring-James Wilby, Hugh Grant

Scott’s Review #14

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Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: A

A brilliant film adaptation of the E.M. Forster novel set at Cambridge University during the turn of the 20th century, it tells the story of oppression and social norms that took place at the time.

It is a gorgeously shot film, beautiful landscape, photography, and costumes. Reminiscent of the British films “A Room with a View”, and “Howard’s End”, it is a male love story during a time when it was absolutely forbidden and lives were ruined because of sexuality like this.

The film’s characters make choices: some repressed, others celebrate, with differing results. In the middle of it all is a beautiful love story. This is a timeless, brave treasure.

Oscar Nominations: Best Costume Design

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie-1972

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie-1972

Director-Luis Bunuel

Starring-Fernando Rey, Paul Frankeur

Scott’s Review #13

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Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: A-

This film is a wonderful satire by Director Luis Bunuel. The movie is very strange- 3 well-to-do couples meander from dinner party to dinner party and, due to circumstances beyond their control (an incorrect date, a mysterious corpse, a military raid) never end up sitting down and enjoying a meal together.

How the individuals are wealthy is a bit vague; though there is mention of drug smuggling. It’s unclear who is matched up with whom since frolicking amongst them is commonplace. Several of them experience odd fantasy/dream sequences throughout and oftentimes are seen walking aimlessly down the road.

The entire film is tongue in cheek and pokes fun at the wealthy class. It’s offbeat but highly enjoyable.

Oscar Nominations: Best Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Produced or Published, Best Foreign Language Film (won)

The Gore, Gore Girls-1972

The Gore, Gore Girls-1972

Director-H.G. Lewis

Starring-Frank Kress, Amy Farrell

Scott’s Review #12

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Reviewed May 14, 2014

Grade: B+

The Gore Gore Girls is a fun, late-night, campy horror film by the “Godfather of Gore”, H.G. Lewis.

An unknown assailant is hacking strippers to bits using very unusual methods. An investigator is hired to find out whodunit. It’s an entertaining experience and I love the use of the whodunit mixed in with horror. I enjoyed the outcome when the killer is revealed.

Another influence to John Waters (even the music seems identical!) and it’s a hearty viewing of wildness, merriment, and debauchery. Comedian Henny Youngman appears, though he later denied being in the film.

The strippers are over the top and unique and the investigator (sort of a Sherlock Holmes type) wonderful to watch. Quite a low budget as the audio is tough to hear at times and the video fuzzy, but this only enhances the fun. Continuity errors for miles, but it hardly matters.

Girly-1970

Girly-1970

Director-Freddie Francis

Starring-Vanessa Howard, Michael Bryant

Scott’s Review #11

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Reviewed June 14, 2014

Grade: B-

Girly is an unusual British horror film about an affluent, bored family, clearly deranged, who kidnap victims and force them to become “members” of the family by participating in game-playing escapades for their delight.

The premise of the film is appealing and intriguing as to how it will play out. The family members (Mumsy, Nanny, Girly, and Sonny) are played with gusto by the cast but are never over the top. My favorite is “Mumsy”, wickedly played by British actress Ursula Howells. The film itself has a fairy tale quality to it with the sets of the house they share. The main victim (a male gigolo) is a miscast (too old, not sexy enough) and begins a cat and mouse game of trickery, plotting the family against one another until the inevitable bodies pile up.

The film loses steam midway through and the ending is not satisfying. Why the victims are not able to escape the vast property is weak (a 7-foot tall flimsy fence??). “Curious” film that becomes a tad boring towards the conclusion.

Ryan’s Daughter-1970

Ryan’s Daughter-1970

Director-David Lean

Starring Sarah Miles, Robert Mitchum

Scott’s Review #10

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Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: A

Ryan’s Daughter is a sweeping epic from the masterful director, David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, A Passage to India, Doctor Zhivago).

The film is sprawling and filled with fabulous locales of oceanic Ireland. Much of the action takes place using exterior scenes and this is arguably as prominent and important to the film as the story is.

Set in WWI-era Ireland, one will immediately notice the gorgeous Irish landscapes and the brilliant photography involved. This gives the film a timeless look, and one can simply escape into the scenery itself, forgetting the story, and dream away through the roaring waves.

The intense “storm scene” is second to none as Lean had to wait over a year to film this pivotal scene- and Mother nature had to cooperate.

The story is twofold: a love story involving a woman torn between her schoolteacher husband and a strapping, yet English (at this time there was no love lost between the Irish and English), officer. Rosy (Sarah Miles) is headstrong yet kindhearted, the daughter of a local, prominent man.

Her husband, Charles (Robert Mitchum) is dutiful and loyal to a fault. After Rosy’s affair with the British officer, she is deemed a tyrant by the townspeople, as her husband chooses to stand by her side.

The second story is political. A feeling of extreme nationalism exists among the townspeople against the British. Both stories blend nicely as small-town gossip and a subsequent witch hunt come into play.

The village idiot is played brilliantly by John Mills, who won an Academy Award for his efforts.

Character-driven is the story’s main appeal and the audience will surely feel perplexed about whom to root for or feel empathy for. I know I did. In fact, at different times one’s loyalties can fluctuate or be challenged.

The film is reminiscent of Doctor Zhivago to me as romance and politics intertwine and a dilemma involving the central female characters are similar. At over three hours in length, the film does not drag and remains interesting throughout as the conflict and drama reach a crescendo during the final act.

At no time is there any filler or unnecessary scenes, which, in itself is a positive.

Sadly, Ryan’s Daughter is not considered as worthy as other aforementioned David Lean efforts, but I disagree with this- the film ages exceptionally well- like a fine wine.

This film also focuses largely on a female character and, therefore, is female-driven, a wonderful aspect of the film, circa 1970.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actress-Sarah Miles, Best Supporting Actor-John Mills (won), Best Sound, Best Cinematography (won)

Rosemary’s Baby-1968

Rosemary’s Baby-1968

Director-Roman Polanski

Starring-Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon

Top 100 Films-#8     Top 20 Horror Films-#4

Scott’s Review #9

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Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: A

Rosemary’s Baby is not only a great film, it’s a masterpiece. Easily one of my favorites in the horror genre, it’s also towards the top of the list of my favorite films.

The beauty of this film is the power of suggestion and subtleties. It has none of the blood, gore, or standard horror frights one might expect. It doesn’t need them.

The audience knows something is off by clues that are given throughout the film. The closed-off room in the young couple’s apartment, the sweet, but a bit odd elderly neighbors, a strange suicide, a mysterious, horrid smelling, good luck charm. Rosemary’s due date (June 6, 1966- “666”).

The strange, dreamlike conception scene is intense and surreal. Her husband- claiming Rosemary passed out from too much alcohol- begins to become a suspicious man following the incident, but we are confused by his involvement- what are the neighbors up to, we wonder? Are they sinister or simply innocent and meddlers?

In a sinister scene, Rosemary gnaws on bloody raw meat, catches her reflections in the glass, and is horrified by her behavior.

Mia Farrow is frightfully good as the waifish, pregnant, Rosemary, who loses, instead of gains weight. The film also has a couple of real-life eerie occurrences: the building setting (The Dakota) is where John Lennon was shot and killed, Director Roman Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate, in a cameo, was murdered shortly after filming by Charles Manson.

Similar in theme to other devilish/demon films The Exorcist and The Omen. This is a film that must be seen by everyone and only shines brighter with each subsequent viewing.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actress-Ruth Gordon (won), Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium

The Gruesome Twosome-1967

The Gruesome Twosome-1967

Director-H.G. Lewis

Starring-Elizabeth Davis, Gretchen Wells

Scott’s Review #8

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Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: B+

This offbeat treat is an incredibly strange, super-low budget horror film from influential director H.G. Lewis. This film is definitely an enjoyable, campy, midnight-movie type of experience. The acting is completely over-the-top and played for laughs, purposely. It felt like watching a horror version of a John Waters film and the atmosphere and acting style surely influenced Waters.

Apparently, shots were added to fill the running time to warrant a film release. KFC and Michelob product placed and one favorite scene is a sorority type slumber party as the girls danced while eating KFC.

The 7-minute intro of the talking foam heads is wonderfully strange and not to be missed. While campy, there is one intensely gruesome scene towards the beginning of the film and a must-see for cult horror and/or late-night film fans.

The Apartment-1960

The Apartment-1960

Director-Billy Wilder

Starring-Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine

Scott’s Review #7

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Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: A-

Another gem by Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard, The Lost Weekend), this one is set in 1959 New York City, a setting and time period I just adore. The black and white are highly effective as it portrays loneliness and bleakness of the characters that are all friendless, sad, and starved for love.

It questions social morality and getting ahead in the corporate world, but goes from drama to romantic comedy, but with no sappiness. Quite the contrary, as the film has dark moments of despair and angst.

The film clearly had a direct influence on “Mad Men”. As with most Billy Wilder films, there is a darkness of humanity, which is fascinating to watch.

Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine are terrific but knocked down a notch as I didn’t exactly see the chemistry between them, but an excellent film. This won the 1960 Best Picture Oscar.

Oscar Nominations: Best Motion Picture (won), Best Director-Billy Wilder (won), Best Actor-Jack Lemmon, Best Actress-Shirley MacLaine, Best Supporting Actor-Jack Kruschen, Best Story and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (won), Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Black-and-White (won), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Film Editing (won)

Peyton Place-1957

Peyton Place-1957

Director-Mark Robson

Starring-Lana Turner, Lee Phillips

Scott’s Review #6

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Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: B+

Pure scandalous soap opera, but well made. The sleepy, seemingly wholesome, quiet New England town is captured well, but secrets lie within its white picket fences (don’t they always).

Topics such as adultery, rape, murder, and suicide are tackled. Not sure I quite agree with the slew of Oscar nominations it received that year (1957), but acting-wise, Hope Lange was the standout for me.

It reminded me of the syrupy prime-time soaps of the 1980s, but certainly much better written and acted than they were. This is not intended to demean the film as it is interesting, engaging, and dramatic, with good characterization, but when analyzed, it is fluff, just good fluff.

Oscar Nominations: Best Motion Picture, Best Director-Mark Robson, Best Actress-Lana Turner, Best Supporting Actor-Arthur Kennedy, Russ Tamblyn, Best Supporting Actress-Hope Lange, Diane Varsi, Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Best Cinematography

Stalag 17-1953

Stalag 17-1953

Director-Billy Wilder

Starring-William Holden, Don Taylor

Scott’s Review #5

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Reviewed June 16, 2014

Grade: B

Stalag 17 (1953), a film by famed director Billy Wilder, tackles the theme of POW during World War II. This film reminds me a bit of the acclaimed television show M*A*S*H in that the comedy elements are similar (men in drag, a light subplot of one soldier obsession with Betty Grable). However, this film is heavy on the drama side too and a deep cynicism that network television shows cannot match.

A group of American soldiers is held in a POW camp by Germans. Somehow any escape plan is realized by the Germans. A whodunit ensues to find out who exactly the mole is and what his motivations are. Liberties are taken- I doubt the real German soldiers would be as nice as they are depicted in the film.

William Holden stars as the cynic of the camp and the likely suspect, but is he the culprit? This film is a hybrid of other Wilder films- the cross-dressing theme in Some Like it Hot (1959) is depicted and shades of the darkness of Sunset Boulevard (1950) (also starring Holden) appear.

The black and white are effective in eliciting the confinement of the camp. Good film though a predictable “seen this all before” element nagged throughout.

Oscar Nominations: Best Director-Billy Wilder, Best Actor-William Holden (won), Best Supporting Actor-Robert Strauss

All is Lost-2013

All is Lost-2013

Director-J.C. Chandor

Starring-Robert Redford

Scott’s Review #4

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Reviewed June 16, 2014

Grade: D

The accolades heaped on this film from 2013 escape me.

Some felt that this was Robert Redford’s late in life masterpiece. I’ve never found him to be a great talent as an actor, and while not horrible in this film, it is certainly not the Oscar-worthy performance being bandied about.

Many actors would play this role better- Tom Hanks, Sean Penn come to mind.

Beyond the performance, there are facets of the film that are unexplained (how did he become shipwrecked? Why did ships pass by not noticing him? who is he???).

Much of the movie dragged and a feeling of having seen this film many times before kept gnawing at me, albeit without a one-person cast, which I give it respect for.

But castaway, shipwreck movies have been around since the beginning. It had the standard plot developments of this type of film- broken equipment, sharks, storms, which made it feel quite contrived.

Fail.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Feature, Best Director-J.C. Chandor, Best Male Lead-Robert Redford, Best Cinematography

Noah-2014

Noah-2014

Director-Darren Aronofsky

Starring-Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly

Scott’s Review #3

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Reviewed June 16, 2014

Grade: B+

Upon hearing that Darren Aronofsky, a very dark director (Black Swan, Requiem for a Dream, and The Wrestler), would be tackling a religious film piqued my curiosity.

Those expecting an uplifting, happy film about “god” will be disappointed.

This film is generating a great deal of controversy from the religious folks, which I find interesting, but nobody wants me to go off on a religious tangent.

The film tells the tale of the biblical figure, Noah, and his quest to do God’s will through the signs he is given.

It takes incredible talent to make a film like this not seem silly and Aronofsky, Russell Crowe, and Jennifer Connelly succeed.

The film is quite dark and at times Noah comes off as more of a madman than a savior.

The visual effects and the musical score are wonderfully effective.

A few plots holes, but a nice fantasy/apocalypse type film.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2-2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2-2014

Director-Marc Webb

Starring-Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone

Scott’s Review #2

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Reviewed June 16, 2014

Grade: B+

Super-hero movies are not my top genre (although admittedly, I end up seeing most of them). They are fun, popcorn-type films not to be over-analyzed or taken too seriously.

One thing that confuses me is the seemingly constant reboots of the franchises and forgetting the previous installments. Wasn’t this series just made with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst not too long ago?

That being said, the strongest part of this film is the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, which is undeniable and great to watch.

Sally Field adds life to anything she appears in. The more “human” parts of the film are the best.

The special effects/CGI are admirable. I enjoyed how one “villain” is a close friend of Peter Parker’s, wonderfully played by Dane DeHaan. His character has many nuances.

The other villain, Electro, played by Jamie Foxx, is silly and his story almost seems botched. His motivations are weak. He hates Spider-Man and wants to destroy the city because of a contrived misunderstanding??

I do not want to over-analyze, as this is a fun, enjoyable summer film.

Enjoy.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire-2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire-2013

Director-Francis Lawrence

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson

Scott’s Review #1

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Reviewed June 16, 2014

Grade: B-

I confess to not having read any of the Hunger Games books, so I am critiquing the film on its film merits only with no knowledge of the books.

Interestingly, I graded the first Hunger Games film a B- and that is what I am giving this one, almost for the same reason.

The first hour of the film sets up the second hour, but it is unnecessarily drawn out. In fact, at times it’s slightly dull. The meat of the film then takes off and the film is quite good though the film still does not completely hold my attention throughout.

First and foremost, Jennifer Lawrence is the best part of the film- she has the charisma and likability to carry it off. The chemistry between the two leads (Lawrence and Hutcherson) is there so there is certainly rooting value for the couple.

The third part of the triangle is weak (Liam Hemsworth has far too little screen time to make him a viable rooting factor).

Donald Sutherland is wonderful as the evil President, but Philip Seymour Hoffman seems to phone in his performance and the character is not all that intriguing.

The mood of the film and visuals (fog, train sequences) are great there is modern darkness to the film, and the premise and wondering who will die next during the games are interesting.

The somewhat twist at the end was effective.

To summarize nice characters/acting, great looking film, mediocre story, and slow pacing in the first act.

Welcome to my blog! 1,250 + reviews posted so far! My name is Scott Segrell and I reside in Stamford, CT. My blog is a diverse site featuring tons of film reviews I have written since I launched my site in 2014. They range from dramas to horror to documentaries to Oscar winners to weird movies to mainstream fare and everything in between. I hope you enjoy perusing the site for latest or greatest films or to search for your own favorites to see how we compare. Please take a look at my Top 100 Films section! I periodically update these rankings. Simply scroll down to the Top 100 Films category on the left or right hand side of the page.