Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A review of "Gangster No. 1"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A Review of “Gangster No. 1”
By: By Brian Cotnoir
                Gangster No. 1” is, in my opinion, one of the best gangster films to have come out in recent years.  The story opens with a group of middle-aged gangsters watching a boxing match.  One of the gangsters, played by Malcom McDowell, appears paranoid and leaves the fight upon hearing that a man named Freddie Mays has just been released from prison.  The gangster proceeds to tell the story of how his life changed thanks to a Mobster named Freddie Mays.  The story flashes back to England in the 1960’s when the narrator was young and was offered a job as security and a member of Freddie Mays entorauge; Mays was regarded as one of the most powerful and well-known gangsters in England.  Freddie takes the young narrator under his wing and introduces him to a world of excess, decadence, and things he could not even believe.  The narrators’ fascination with Freddie Mays eventually becomes an obsession and soon he is plotting how he can take everything Freddie Mays has and make it his own.  The narrator finds out through a fellow gangster that another mob boss, named Lenny Taylor, is plotting an attack on Mays and his fiancĂ©e Karen, who is played by actress Saffron Burrows.  Instead of telling his boss about the hit, the narrator watches the attack as Lenny Taylor and his group shoots Mays and slit Karen’s throat.  The narrator then breaks into a Lenny Taylor’s home and kills him slowly and strategically.  Upon, the discovery of the murdered mob boss Lenny Taylor, Freddie, who survived his assasination attack, is charged with the murder and is convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison.  What follows next is a montage of how Freddie Mays organization grew with the narrator as the new leader.  The narrator is shocked to find out that not only did Freddie survive the attack but so did his fiancee Karen, and now after 25 years of waiting they were finally to be wed.  The narrator tries making peace and give reperations to Freddie, but Freddie doesn’t want anything to do with him.  I’m not going to give away the ending of the film, but I will tell you that it’s creative, artistic, and McDowell’s character has one of the most memorable monologues I have ever seen in a film.                                                                                     
        “Gangster No. 1” is a wonderful gangster film; as close to perfect as a person could get with the genre.  The way I would describe it is “Resivoir Dogs” meets “A Clockwork Orange”.  And in interesting little piece of trivia for you, the actor Jamie Forman, who plays the rival mob boss Lenny Taylor, is playing a character based off of his father in real life, Freddie Forman.  This film is very violent, but the scenes with the graphic violence are done in very good taste.  The dialogue of the film is also very vulgar; I think you could probably make a drinking game out of how many times they say the C-word in this film.  This film is perfect for fans of crime-drama’s and gangster films.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

a review of "Caligula"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A Review of “Caligula”
By: Brian Cotnoir
                The 1980 film “Caligula” is one of the worst films I have ever seen and quite possibly one of the worst films ever made.  How bad as it you may ask?  Well considering that the film’s director, Tinto Brass, has since disowned making this film, I’d say it’s a pretty good indication that this is a bad film.  What’s even more shocking is that the person who wrote “Caligula” was Gore Vidal; Vidal has also disowned having to do anything with this film.                                                                                                                                
            The synopsis of “Caligula” is the rise and fall of the Roman emperor Gaius Caesar Germanicus; better known as Caligula.  The role of Caligula is played Malcolm McDowell, and even though his portrayal of Caligula is entertaining it’s still not enough to save this movie.  Most of the film was financed by Penthouse founder, Bob Guccione; seriously it’s almost impossible to go a couple of minutes into this film without seeing a topless woman.         
            This film, for the most part, is incredibly boring.  The story is dull, the acting is very bland, and the cinematography just sucks.  All this film really is, is porn; porn with a really bad story, really bad acting, and some of the most awkward dialogue I have ever heard in any film.  The only positive thing I have to say about this film is that the sets in the film were quite impressive.  However, when the sets are the only part you like in a film, it’s clearly evident that your movie sucks.  I recommend that nobody see this film; it is simply too bad and too boring to be seen and heard by human beings.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A review of "A Clockwork Orange"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A Review of “A Clockwork Orange”
By: Brian Cotnoir
                The best way that I can describe Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 Masterpiece “A Clockwork Orange” is a work of cinematic art and insanity.  Based off of an Antony Burgess novel of the same name, “A Clockwork Orange” is a narration-type film and tells the story of Alexander DeLarge, a rogue, young sociopath whose life revolves around violence, rape, and Ludwig Van Beethoven.  Alex’s life of crime and shenanigans come to a sudden halt when he is arrested and charged with murder.  He agrees to have his 14 year sentence reduced to 2-weeks if he agrees to take part in an experimental rehabilitation procedure known as the “Ludivico Technique”.  Alex completes his rehabilitation procedure, but he quickly finds out that even though he is a free man the Ludivico Technique has left him with some negative lifelong consequences.                                                                                                                                                  
           This film was highly controversial at the time of its release.  Often I’ve seen it ranked on film lists of the “Most Controversial Films of All-Time”, but I’ve never really seen what’s so controversial about it.  I’ve never really met a lot of people who are fans of this film and a lot of them have told me they don’t like it because “it’s too violent” and “it’s pro-rape”.  I can understand the violence aspect, but this film is NOT pro-rape.  Something I always like to point out is this film never actually shows scenes of rape.  It is implied throughout the film that rape is committed, but the scenes just show Alex and his “droogs” standing above a naked woman, right before it cuts to another scene.  So right there you can rule out that this film is “pro-rape”.                                                                                                                                                    
      I read the book before I saw this film and there are a few key differences between the book and the film that I feel should be pointed out.   In the book Alex is only 15-years-old, but for obvious reasons they couldn’t use a 15-year-old actor in the movie.  I think Malcolm McDowell, still does an excellent job for his portrayal of the young sociopath, Alex DeLarge.  Another difference between the book and the film that it is not really addressed in the film is that the story takes place in a virtually lawless future.  A lot of people I know who’ve seen this film have told me that they though the story took place in present-time, but the film is actually set in a bleak and dreary future where teenage gangs roam the streets at night creating mayhem and wreaking havoc.                                                                                                                                 
       Another thing I like about this film is the slang.  In the novel, Author Anthony Burgess invented a fictional language for Alex and his droogs to use.  The language used in the book and the film is called “Nadsat”, and essentially it’s a fusion between Cockney and Russian slang (ex/ head = “Gulliver”, a young woman = “Ptitsa”, blood = “the red red kroovy”, sex = “the old in out in out”).  I find the language used in the film to be both fun and amusing.                                                                                                                  
       My favorite part of “A Clockwork Orange”, hands down, is the music.  The soundtrack to the film includes many great classical composers such as Rossini and Beethoven, and the most beautiful classical covers done by Wendy Carlos.  The Soundtrack to “A Clockwork Orange” is my favorite movie soundtrack of all-time.  The music is just so wonderful and spectacular it’s as if the gods have opened up the gates to heaven release a euphoric bliss on to the entire world.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A review of "If..."

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A Review of: “If…”
By: Brian Cotnoir
            The only way I could possibly describe the 1968 British film “If…” is a cluster fuck of total randomness.  Seriously, the film makes no sense.  And I don’t mean this film doesn’t make sense in a “you’ll-only-understand-if-you’re-a-big-fan-of-British-humor-and-acting”, I mean this film make no-fucking-sense!                                                                                                                         
          The film essentially is a satire of school life in England.  Actor Malcolm McDowell makes his big screen debut in this film as the young rebel student, Mick Travis.  McDowell is the only really notable actor in this film and like I said he plays a young rebel in an English school, but he’s not a James Dean-like rebel, he’s the kind of rebel that does crazy things like grow his hair out, and skip out on a rugby game at his school and go to town, and he even has the audacity to question a senior boy at the school; I mean he just so out of control and rebellious that they’re just going to have to lock him up and throw away the key.  The film mainly focuses on Mick and his friends at school as they go around creating mischief and disobeying the senior boy’s orders.   
       One thing I should point out is that this film focuses on a tradition in British schools known as “fagging”, and fagging is sort of like hazing; the senior boys have authority over the first year boys and the first year boys at the school are expected to do whatever the senior boys say.  It also puts some focus on the corporal punishment in English schools; one scene shows Mick and his friends being caned by the senior boys for breaking the rules.                                            
      Other than that this film is pretty confusing; it digresses away from the story of Mick and his friends to focus on smaller stories.  In one case a first-year boy falls in love with an older boy, but there is no explanation as to why this is happening it just shows them staring at each other with longing eyes and bonding together, but we never officially get an explanation on how this all started.  Another part shows Mick and a girl working in a diner growling like wild animals at each other, before cutting to them having sex on the floor of the diner; what was the point of this scene you may ask? I have no fucking clue!  And I know this film is supposed to be a satire, but some of the “jokes” are a real stretch, like in one scene when the students are practicing for “War games” with blanks and Mick decides to fire live rounds at a canister full of tea.  And what is their punishment for firing live rounds of ammunition at their classmates?  They have to clean out the basement of the auditorium.  That’s fucking stupid!  They weren’t caned, they weren’t arrested, they weren’t even expelled they were just ordered to clean out the basement of the auditorium.  And to put the icing on the cake what do they find in the basement; automatic machine guns, hand grenades, and rounds and rounds of ammo!  What the hell kind of school keeps all this stuff in a basement?  In the end Mick and his friends make good use of their little discovery, using the guns and ammo to spread mayhem and destruction throughout their school.                                                                                                    
       Director Lindsay Anderson said that “If…” was supposed to be a satire of English Public schools, but also a story of a counter culture revolution.  Well Mr. Anderson, let me be the one to tell you, you did a really bad job!  This film is a real stretch even for a satire.  Also, I like how the some parts of the film are in color and other parts of the film are in black and white, but just like the rest of the film there is no signs of significance or an explanation why that the film is shot in two different colors.  If you ask me, I think that they ran out of money in their budget for colored film so they resorted to using black and white film and just hoped that people wouldn’t question it.                                                                                                                          
       For all the negative publicity I give this film, I feel I should mention that it did win the Grand Prix award at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival.   It is a satire, but the satirical jokes are really hit or miss.  “If…” also focuses on a lot of British stereotypes, many of them are actually quite accurate as to what we often associate British people to look, sound, and act like.  This film is weird, but you know what people you should go and see it, because even if you found “If...” to be as confusing as I did you’ll probably still enjoy it.