Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A review of "Scary or Die"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “Scary or Die”

By: Brian Cotnoir

I’ve been noticing that there are more films like this appearing on Netflix.  This isn’t a film with one story, rather than it is a multiple short films linked together by a thin strand of plot to make one full length film.  There are a few decent ones I’ve seen. “Devils Carnival” is probably the best one I’ve seen (yes, I’m counting it because each character got their own individual story and song that was linked together by Lucifer telling 3 of Aesop’s Fables to the character Daniel).  There’s also “V/H/S/” and “The Theatre Bizarre”.  The film I’m reviewing this week is called “Scary or Die”.  The plot to the film is based off a mysterious stranger searching through videos on a website called where there are different stories and videos for a person to click on and learn a story.  One interesting thing about this film is some of the actors appear in more than one story, but it doesn’t affect the plot of the film as a whole; not even in the slightest bit.  Rather than talk about the film as a whole I’m just going to give a brief summary of each story and what I thought about it.  There will be Spoilers in this review because I particularly didn’t find any of them to be all that good.  If you want more reasons why just read the rest of this review.

The Crossing

     The First Story in “Scary or Die” is “The Crossing”.  It’s a story about two red necks, who live in Arizona, and their hoochie girlfriend.  Recently, the two rednecks have been abducting Mexican immigrants from all over the state, driving them out to the border and executing them to “send a message” to all other illegal immigrants who think about sneaking into the country.  One day after murdering and burying their two latest victims, one of them decides to add insult to injury by pissing all over the graves.  This for some reason or another leads to the Mexican immigrants coming back as zombies and they attack the rednecks and the hoochie girlfriend.  The zombies kill the rednecks, but the hoochie girlfriend manages to escape, but she is later shot by the Border Patrol when she is mistaken for zombie; implying that the Border Patrol was already aware of this zombie problem.  In my opinion this was the least awful of the stories in the film. It’s short, sweet, to the point, and the make-up effects are half-way decent.

Tae Jung’s Lament

     “Tae Jungs Lament” had the most predictable story in “Scary or Die”.  It’s the story about a mourning widower named Tae Jung who lives in Los Angeles, and he basically wanders around looking sad and mourning his late wife.  One day he witnesses a beautiful women being abducted by a stranger.  Rather than use commonsense and report the abduction to police like a sane person, he instead goes after the abductor and tosses his IPhone into the car and then tracks the IPhone’s location on his laptop (again not ONCE does he consider calling the police and telling them he witnessed an abduction and that he was able to secretly track where this guy was going.  Tae Jung eventually finds them, knocks at the abductor and saves the woman.  The woman’s named is Min-ah (ßDRACULA REFERENCE!) and she is so thankful for Tae Jung coming to rescue her, so she invites him over to give him a reward. Unfortunately for Tae Jung, the Min-Ah turns out to be a vampire and the guy who abducted her was actually a vampire slayer, so sucks to be Tae Jung.  If only he would’ve called the police and reported the incident instead, he could have avoided this whole silly little incident.


     It’s “The Tel-Tale Heart”, but instead of a guy being buried under the house and the person thinking they can hear the victims heart beat, it’s a dismembered body in the trunk of the car and the driver thinks he hears a person knocking on the trunk.  It’s boring and it’s unoriginal.


The Real reason we all checked it out.
He's on the Poster and the DVD Cover.
This is the longest story in “Scary or Die”, it’s about a man named Emmet, whose just trying to survive and take care of his mother and little brother.  The day of his little brother’s birthday party, he is attacked and bitten on the leg by “Fucko the Clown”.  If being called “Fucko the Clown” wasn’t ridiculous enough, he also wears the exact same costume and make-up that American serial killer John Wayne Gacy wore; No freaking subtlety whatsoever!  It’s clear as day that this clown was meant to look just like John Wayne Gacy!  The clowns bite begins to take an effect on Emmet and he slowly begins to turn into a “Were-Clown”???  I don’t f*cking know! This film story makes no sense and it’s kind of all over the place.  Anyway Emmet tries to find the Clown that bit him so he can protect his brother, but the longer Emmet stays a clown the more psychotic he becomes and yearns to eat other peoples flesh.  He eventually saves his little brother Andy from being killed and eaten by Fucko the Clown, but then Emmet decides he can no longer go on living for fear that he might harm his little brother or another child. So he hangs out around a play ground the police show up, he pulls out a fake gun and the police kill him.                  
That is some Wicked Make-Up :)
Make’s no God d@mn sense, huh?  This story tries to condense and force out way too much material in a short span.  I will say this though; Emmet does turn into a pretty gnarly clown with this permanent evil grin on his face.  Even in the scenes where he’s sad and crying he still has that evil smile on his face and it just looks cool.  That unfortunately is the only positive thing I have to say about this part of the film.  It was a stupid idea and it was poorly executed. 

Lover Come Back

Spoiler alert: Her character is the framing device!
The last story in “Scary or Die” is also the shortest and the Worst part of the film.  A woman is beaten to death by her abusive husband, her grandfather was a Voodoo Priest or Witch Doctor or I don’t give a crap, and anyways he cast a spell on her as a child so she has the ability come back from the dead so she does and she finds her ex-husband and kills him. The End! 

Classics Review: Five Reasons to Give a Damn About Scarlett O'Hara by Lauren Ennis


In 1939, the American public got what it had been craving after three years of anticipation; a film adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s Civil War epic Gone With the Wind. Despite the initial skepticism of readers, who were convinced that no film could live up to the expectations of the novel, the film was an immediate success. Over time, Gone With the Wind has truly lived up to the expectations of its epic status and become firmly ingrained in American popular culture. Unfortunately, as tastes in film and cultural mores have changed, one of America’s most widely known films has also become one of its most misunderstood. The film’s heroine, Scarlett O’Hara has particularly borne the brunt of the public’s scorn, leading modern film goers to dismiss her as vindictive or shrewish without having ever seen the film. This review is dedicated to the iron willed Scarlett O’Hara-Hamilton-Kennedy-Butler, and all of the world’s Scarlett’s who are too complicated and independent to be ignored.

This Miss is no lady
1.     SHE’S A MODERN WOMAN: Unlike the heroines of many films both past and present, Scarlett is a multidimensional woman who defies the rules of stock characters. While Hollywood’s all too common “damsels in distress” spend the majority of their screen time either waiting to be rescued by or selflessly dedicating themselves to a male character, Scarlett remains firmly untamable. For instance, early in the film a teenaged Scarlett complains to Mammy that she does not understand “why does a girl have to be so silly to catch a husband”. This statement shows that she is not like the other women in the film (or in many other films) in that she resents being forced to “dumb down” and alter her personality in order to impress a man. She displays further modernity in her pursuit of neighbor Ashley Wilkes when she disregards the social mores of her time and takes on the dominant role in her interaction with him. Later, after her first husband dies of pneumonia, she again refuses to let society determine her fate and emerges from mourning as vivacious as ever, much to the shock of her fellow Confederates. She further bucks Atlanta’s strict social system when she openly fraternizes with war profiteer and social maverick Rhett Butler. Rather than adhere to the superficial dictates of society, Scarlett defies her role as a dedicated war widow, and instead pursues an active life in which she chooses what she does and with whom she does it.


2.     SHE’S BUSINESS SAVVY: Following the ravages of the Civil War, Scarlett finds herself faced with adult responsibilities for the first time. The most daunting of these responsibilities is reviving the family plantation, Tara, after her mother’s death and her father’s mental breakdown. Rather than wasting her time lamenting her losses, she immediately sets to work harvesting the limited resources that remain, and budgeting to make them last. She quickly takes on the role of mistress of the plantation, and even swallows her pride to perform strenuous work in the cotton fields. Despite her progress, she soon realizes that she will have to look beyond her limited land in order to satisfy increasing tax fees under Yankee occupation. She realizes the advantages of the ‘dumbed down’ behaviors she loathes, and dedicates herself to winning over the affection of mild mannered businessman Frank Kennedy (despite his engagement to her sister). Following her second marriage, Scarlett is not satisfied with mere contentment and determines that it is Frank’s business, rather than his money that can help her most. She then takes on an increasingly large role in her husband’s lumber mill until she becomes the unofficial head of the business. Through her tireless efforts, she eventually transforms the mill from a small business with minor profits to a virtual monopoly worth a small fortune.


If looks could kill she wouldn't need a shotgun
3.     SHE CAN SHOOT FROM THE HIP (LITERALLY): While many heroines can talk a strong game, few can truly ‘walk the walk’ quite like Scarlett. Throughout the film, she is confronted with situations that test her cunning and grit. During the siege of Atlanta, she manages to deliver Melanie’s baby without any medical assistance after the majority of the city has already fled. With Rhett’s help, she then takes Melanie, the baby, and her gratingly incompetent slave, Prissy, and transports them to Tara. Before their journey is halfway through, Rhett makes a last minute decision to support the dying Confederate cause and deserts Scarlett to enlist. She is then left to fend for herself and her companions as they travel across the war ravaged countryside. Later, she is confronted by a Yankee deserter, who makes his intentions towards her clear. Rather than flee or scream for help, she becomes her own savior and shoots her would-be attacker in the face without batting an eye. When confronted with the Yankee’s impossibly high taxes, she refuses to allow them to seize Tara. After consulting an inept Ashley, she determines to take action herself and sets out to charm Rhett into providing her the money. Although reduced to rags, she thinks on her feet and creates a lavish dress from the plantation’s curtains that showcases her creativity, even if it does fail to convince Rhett.


4.     SHE’S LOYAL: Viewers’ most consistent complaints about Scarlett are her ‘selfishness’ and ‘ruthlessness’. Contrary to this perception, however, Scarlett does display fierce loyalty to those whom she deems worthy. For instance, when she first returned to Tara, she could have easily sent her family to live with distant relatives, where they would be guaranteed hospitality free of charge. Rather than shirk her responsibilities, however, she instead opts to not only remain on the plantation, but also take on the majority of the duties that come with it. She then proceeds to devote herself to providing for her family through back breaking manual labor, and financial savvy. She even risks moral debasement and social ostracization when she offers herself to Rhett as his mistress in exchange for the necessary tax money for Tara. She also displays a begrudging loyalty to Melanie after she promises Ashley to look after Melanie and their baby while he is away at war. Although she could have left for Tara before the Yankees arrived in Atlanta, she chose to stay behind and assist a bed-ridden Melanie, despite the danger. Above all, Scarlett maintains constant loyalty to the memory of her parents in her efforts to not only revive Tara to its former glory, but also bring it to a new, even greater success.


After all, tomorrow is another day!
5.     SHE ALWAYS RISES AGAIN: Like a mythical phoenix, Scarlett is reduced to near ashes by life over and over, but she always rises again. She survives losses that would crush an average person and still manages to keep going. Before the film’s intermission, she has already outlived her first husband, and arrives home to find that her mother has died. She also witnesses the mental deterioration of her father, who succumbs to dementia following the death of her mother. She survives the horrors of war and the agony of enemy occupation. She eventually suffers the loss of both her daughter and best friend towards the end of the film, but still manages to look towards tomorrow. Even the loss of her marriage to Rhett, the one person who truly understood her, does not lead her to accept defeat. Through her relentless determination to face life on her own terms she personifies both resilience and independence, making her a true heroine of American culture. It is little wonder that her story became a black market hit in numerous oppressed countries, including nations occupied by both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, as she continues to provide inspiration and hope to those facing adversity. She may have had to lie, cheat, steal, and kill, but she survived to see another day. For this reason, Scarlett O’Hara is a true heroine for the ages who we owe it to ourselves to give a damn about.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Classics: A Review of "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"

This better include a 401k plan
By the 1960’s, the Hollywood studio system had reached its end, ushering in a new era of independent productions and fresh faces. While the end of the studio system meant greater freedom for rising stars, it also meant the end of an era for many icons of the system’s Golden Age. As a result of the emerging changes in the industry, many fading stars quietly stepped aside and retired from the business. Some actors, however, refused to accept that their best years were behind them and chose to cling to any work that they could find, accepting bit parts or work in minor films that did not utilize their talents. Fortunately, a select few actors managed to reinvent themselves and establish second careers that enabled them to become icons to a new generation. In one instance, not one, but two careers were revived through an unlikely collaboration between legendary rivals. The resulting film was the horror camp classic Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, which launched the comeback careers of leading ladies Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as mistresses of horror.

The film begins with a flashback to ‘Baby’ Jane Hudson’s childhood as a successful, vaudeville star in 1917. Her time on the stage proves to have been the high point of Jane’s life, as when the scene flashes forward to 1933 it is revealed that she has grown up to be an out of work actress with the start of  a drinking problem. As Jane’s life has begun to decline, her older sister, Blanche, has become a Hollywood success, and the family’s new meal ticket. After clips are shown of yet another of Jane’s failed screen tests, the two sisters are seen arriving home from a Hollywood party. One sister remains in the car as the other exits the vehicle to open the front gate of their house (their faces are never shown in this scene). Suddenly, the sister in the car puts the vehicle in gear and runs the other sister down. The scene fades out as footsteps and crying are heard off screen. The film then flashes ahead to 1960 as the sisters continue to live together in their old house. Jane is now a slovenly alcoholic who shows signs of mental instability, while Blanche attempts to remain optimistic despite the fact that she is confined to a wheel chair.

As the film progresses, Jane declines further into mental illness and keeps Blanche a prisoner in the house while she attempts to revive her childhood career. The plot quickly becomes a struggle between reason and insanity as Blanche tries to break free from Jane, who has surrendered to her illness and retreated into memories of her childhood. Despite the fact that Jane is clearly the villain of the story, Davis manages to gain the audience’s sympathy through her portrayal of a woman whose life has passed her by. By the same token, Crawford holds her own against Davis (who has the arguably more interesting part) by maintaining a restrained performance that adds realism to the often hysterical plot. Although the film is technically classified as horror, there are enough moments of cynical humor, outlandish plot twists, and criticisms of Hollywood to qualify Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? as a black comedy.

Because the film has a relatively simple premise, its true strength lies in the interactions between its characters. Both Davis and Crawford add layers to their caricatured roles as a faded movie star and her deranged former child star sister. For instance, while Crawford seems to be a helpless victim at the film’s start, she imbues Blanche with enough warmth, and later resilience to make her a character that audiences can identify with and feel for. Similarly, Davis’ mix of beaten woman and wounded child provides Jane with a complexity that is rarely found in horror villains. The supporting cast is equally excellent, with Victor Buono’s hilariously smug turn as pianist/gigolo Edwin Flagg proving especially memorable.

Although they had once been the undisputed queens of the silver screen, by 1960 Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were struggling to find work. When Hollywood’s Golden Age ended, the predominance of strong female parts also ended, resulting in a lack of opportunities for actresses who were too old to play ‘pretty young things’ and ingénues. Landing a part became so difficult for Davis that at one point she placed an ad in a Los Angeles newspaper that described her as an actress with “thirty three years experience” who “wants steady employment in Hollywood”. The studio scoffed at the idea of casting Davis and Crawford, even in decidedly unglamorous parts, with Warner Brothers head Jack L. Warner saying, “I wouldn’t give a plugged nicked for either one of those two old broads”. Regardless of how Warner and other studio executives regarded the pair, director Robert Aldrich saw an opportunity to draw audiences while simultaneously thumbing his nose at Hollywood and the ‘monsters’ it often creates.

What's for din-din?
The pairing of icons Davis and Crawford led to fireworks both onscreen and off, just as the director hoped. Early in their careers, Davis and Crawford formed a bitter rivalry, which some reports indicate started when Davis had an affair with Crawford’s then husband Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and which was undoubtedly further fueled by their fight for box office supremacy. Although Crawford generally avoided discussing other stars, Davis candidly shared her feelings towards Crawford saying, “Why am I so good at playing bitches? I think it’s because I’m not a bitch. Maybe that’s why she (Joan Crawford) always plays ladies”. The actresses’ off-screen resentment carried over behind the cameras during production, resulting in a series of mean-spirited pranks between the two. Regardless of any tension behind the scenes, both women were able to maintain professionalism in front of the cameras and produce career reviving performances. Following the success of this film, both Davis and Crawford went on to have successful careers in horror that introduced them to another generation of film goers.
It's like looking into the future, isn't it?

Through its combination of Hollywood nostalgia, camp hijinks, and genuine terror, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? became, and remains, a classic. The film’s success led to a series of imitations and parodies that have ensured its place in popular culture. This film proved to have a lasting influence upon the film industry that resulted in numerous similar tales of child stardom gone wrong and old age gone psychotic. It also revived the careers of two Hollywood legends, ensuring that fans will never need to ask, “whatever happened to Bette and Joan?”. I highly recommend this film to fans of horror and black comedy. Give this film a try and you’ll learn what really happened to Jane, and much more.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A review of "Humanoids from the Deep" (1980)

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “Monsters: Humanoids from the Deep”

By: Brian Cotnoir

     You know what; I’ll give the makers of this film some credit for creativity.  When you essentially combine “Jaws”, “Alien”, and “Evil Dead” into one horror film it sounds like a great idea and noble effort.  Unfortunately when you have no budget for decent effects and actors that make the cast of “The Crawlers” look like World Class Shakespearean Actors, your ideas are going to come up a little short.  But still I feel like I must give a fair and just review to the 1980’s Horror film “Humanoids from the Deep” or “Monster” as it is also known as.     
So the plot to the film goes something like this: The small fishing community of Noyo has fallen on some tough times.  The town’s primary source of income comes from salmon fishing, but this year the salmon aren’t biting and town is on the verge of financial ruin.  Rumors that a large canning company wants to open a factory in Noyo could mean jobs for all of their residents, but something strange begins to happen.  One night all the dogs in town are slaughtered, and then women in town begin to disappear, the town is in a panic because not only are they losing residents, but they’re about to lose the canning companies business as well.  As it turns out a group of humanoid sea creatures were accidentally released into the waters near Noyo, and now they’ve evolved to the point where they can attack humans and are driven by a desire to breed with human women.  Now it’s up to the residents to stop these creatures before they destroy the whole town.      
Silly Effects are Silly
This film is just silly.  Nothing about it is scary in the least bit.  The humanoid monsters have to be some of the lamest and cheapest costumes I have ever seen in a film.  Unless you’re 5-years-old you will not find these creatures to be even a little bit scary.  Some of the other effects, however, are  way over the top.  I mean it seems like every time a person lights a small fire a catastrophic
explosion follows.  The opening scene shows a young boy accidentally knocking over a gallon container of gas, and then once a spark reaches it the whole boat explodes thirty feet in the air.  There’s another scene where the town’s residents throw a Molotov cocktail at the home of the town’s only Native American resident and it wipes out like 3 acres of land.  For crying out loud was their napalm in C-4 in that bottle?  Most of the actors in this film are bad. The only real notable actor in this film is Vic Murrow (before his decapitation).  I’m convinced that most of the “female victims” in the film got their roles, not because of their acting, but because they look good with their clothes off.               
No lie, this is from the actual film; Total rip-off of "Alien"
     The one major flaw this film had going for it was it could not decide what genre it was going with?  It tried being a sci-fi tale, a cabin in the woods horror, and Sea Monster film.  You could make a drinking game out of how many references to “Alien” and “Jaws” that appear in this film (anyone else notice the number of films I review for this blog that reference “Jaws”?  It’s kind of a strange coincidence, don’t you think?)   Well nonetheless this is one of those movies that’s so bad it’s funny.  I think this film is ideal for a “Bad Movie Night Drinking Game”, but nothing else.  It’s cheesy, it’s childish, and it’s just a generic early 80’s horror film.    

                  I'll Give them an A for Effort

Thursday, April 11, 2013

"Classics" A review of "Ninotchka"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: “Classics” A review of “Ninotchka”
By: Lauren Ennis

     Critics often say that the best year in American cinema was 1939. That year Hollywood produced an unusually high number of financial and artistic successes that led to an Oscars ceremony that was nothing short of nail biting. 1939 saw the release of such classics as The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach, Destry Rides Again, Wuthering Heights, and Gone with the Wind. Several of these films proved to have groundbreaking effects upon the history of American film. One of the less well known classics of 1939 proved to have an even greater effect than its contemporaries, as it went on to influence the business of its producing studio, the career of its leading lady, and even the outcome of an international election. This film is the political satire/romantic comedy Ninotchka.
Oh, that Greta!
Ninotchka combines the Hollywood standard ‘boy meets girl’ scenario with a scathing critique of life in the USSR. The film begins with Soviet envoys Buljanoff, Iranoff, and Kopalski arriving in Paris to complete a transaction on behalf of the Soviet government. The transaction involves the legally convoluted sale of several expensive jewels that had been confiscated from Grand Duchess Swana during the Russian Revolution. The three bumblers are dazzled by the beauty and carefree atmosphere of the city, and almost immediately find themselves on the path to capitalism. Their conversion is accelerated by the arrival of French aristocrat/gigolo, Leon D’Algout, who is in the midst of an affair with Swana, and takes it upon himself to bring the sale to the French courts. Although the three Soviets initially resent Leon’s interference, they are soon won over by his charms, and discard their political obligations to indulge in the high life he presents to them. Word quickly reaches Moscow of the men’s incompetence, and the Soviet government dispatches envoy Nina Ivanovna Yakushova, aka Ninotchka. Upon her arrival, Ninotchka is a stern and grim woman whose only concerns are her obligations to the Soviet Union. After a chance meeting with Leon, however, Ninotchka also finds herself becoming susceptible to the charms of Paris. After much politically tinged verbal fencing, Ninothcka and Leon begin a relationship and learn that there more to life than high society’s mindless parties and communism’s brotherly love.
Looks like someone just saw "Office Space" for the 1st time
     In many ways, Ninotchka was ahead of its time. Although several films in 1939 explored both contemporary and historical politics, the makers of Ninotchka took their film a step further by not only incorporating criticism of a foreign nation into its script, but basing the film’s entire premise upon that criticism. By the time the United States entered World War II in 1941, the USSR became one of the United States’ most important allies, and such criticism would become strictly forbidden in American cinema until the start of the Cold War. Although the Soviet Union was still an ally of Nazi Germany’s (as of the 1939 Soviet Non-Agression Pact), many in the United States were sympathetic to the Soviet cause, particularly artists. Throughout the 1930’s, various high profile actors, writers, and film makers offered their financial and public endorsements to the Soviet Union, which they believed really was the ‘workers’ paradise’ that its propaganda claimed it to be.
Those Commie B@stahd's!
The MGM team behind Ninotchka defied popular trends by successfully revealing and criticizing the reality of Stalin’s Russia through a combination of screwball antics and dead pan humor. The film includes a virtually nonstop series of anti-communist ‘one liners’ including “Comrade, I’ve been fascinated by your five-year plan for the last fifteen years!” and “the last mass trials were a great success; there will be fewer but better Russians”. Through its exceptional writing and delivery, the film manages to inform viewers of such weighty issues as Stalin’s purges and the instability of Soviet economics without once breaking its rapid pace or losing its sense of humor. This use of satire ultimately led to the film being banned in the Soviet Union and its satellite states. In an interesting turn of events, the United States government later used the film as a propaganda device in the Italian elections of 1947 to 1948. In order to combat the spread of communism to formerly fascist Italy, U. S. covert operations embarked upon a sophisticated propaganda campaign, which included repeated showings of Ninotchka. After the election was won by the Christian Democrat Party, one communist worker reportedly lamented “what licked us was Ninotchka”.
"Michelle Bachman is running for President?  Pfffft XD"
     Although the inclusion of political humor was clearly a risky decision, the greatest risk that MGM took in making Ninotchka may have been its choice to cast Greta Garbo as its leading lady. From the mid 1920’s to the mid 1930’s, Garbo was the undisputed queen of MGM, and a consistent box-office draw. By 1939, however, her career began to lag following the commercial failure of her historical romance Conquest two years earlier. After being typecast first as a ‘femme fatale’ in her silent years and later as a tragic ‘fallen woman’ after the advent of talkies, she began to wear on audiences who were tired of seeing her in what was essentially a series of variations on the same character. In a surprise decision, MGM determined that the problem was not Garbo, but the parts that she was repeatedly cast in. In order to capitalize upon her maiden voyage into comedy, the studio recycled her old tag line from her first talking picture (Anna Christie), “Garbo Talks!” and changed it to “Garbo Laughs!”. The change of pace was a success for Garbo and earned her a Best Actress Oscar nomination. Unfortunately, the success of Ninotchka was not able to completely revive her career, and she retired from acting after the commercial failure of her romantic comedy Two Faced Woman two years later.
       Although it is often eclipsed by its more renowned contemporaries, Ninotchka truly was a classic in 1939 and remains so today. The film daringly combined politics and humor in a time when international relations were often precarious at best, paving the way for political satire in Hollywood. This film also allowed audiences a glimpse of Greta Garbo’s acting range and comedic talents, causing many audience members to lament ‘what might have been’. Through its combination of dry wit and unabashed romanticism Ninotchka provides its audiences with a brief escape into a Parisian fantasy, while simultaneously reminding them of the possibilities of a well-executed romantic comedy. To quote the film’s poster, don’t pronounce it, watch it; you won’t be disappointed.

A review of "The Skeptic"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “The Skeptic”
By: Brian Cotnoir

     How awesome is Tim Daly?  I mean when you’re the voice of Superman/Clark Kent being awesome is kind of a requirement for the job.  Though like many others in my age group I think more people recognize Tim Daly for his voice acting than his live action performing.  Recently, I saw a film starring Tim Daly called “The Skeptic”, and I was very impressed with this film.  It’s kind of like a B-Movie version of “Insidious”, so let’s dive into this film, and I will explain why. 

 So “The Skeptic” is focused around the life of Tim Daly’s character, an attorney named Bryan Becket.  Bryan’s Aunt recently passes away and seeing as he is her only living relative he becomes the new owner of her house.  Bryan is a very bland, unfeeling person and people begin to resent him for it.  He claims that his attitude and inability to have strong emotions is just part of who he is, but his wife begins to question his constant emotionless state.  Soon after he puts his Aunts old house on the market, Bryan’s best friend and Law Partner (played by Tom Arnold) tells him that his Aunt actually wrote a will and she left her house to a man named Dr. Warren Koven, who runs a Sleepy Study Lab at a local college.  Bryan is outraged and confronts Dr. Koven to tell him that he’s not getting the house. As it turns out Dr. Koven wasn’t treating Bryan’s Aunt for sleep troubles, he was actually searching her house for spirits.  As a hobby Dr. Koven also runs a lab to test for E.S.P., and he went to Bryan’s Aunt’s house to see if it was haunted.  The ever skeptical, Bryan, doesn’t believe what Dr. Koven is doing is anything worthwhile, but pretty soon he begins to claim more and more that he’s seeing ghost in his house, and soon with the help of Dr. Koven and others Bryan begins to learn and uncover much more about his life than he ever realized.          
Tim Daly is Awesome
Tim Daly, just gives a fantastic performance in this film.  I’d say it’s one of the best acting performances I’ve ever seen.  I know that’s quite a bold statement to make about a film that nobody’s ever heard of, but it’s true.  When the film starts out he’s just this quiet, straight-talking, no frills, no nonsense kind of a guy.  He has his daily routine and will not deviate from it for anything.  As the movie progresses we see him dive deeper into paranoia, but despite all the strange things that keep happening to him, he tries to use logic and skepticism to explain everything.  The scenes towards the end of the film where he does his soul searching and uncovers the truths to his past just explain so much about his character early on in the film, and it’s just great to see him do a complete 180 with his character.                                             
He's been in worst films people
    This film also has a great supporting cast.  Tom Arnold, plays Tim Daly’s boss and business partner, and normally I don’t like films that feature Tom Arnold, but he was actually quite good in “The Skeptic”.  Actor Bruce Altman plays Dr. Koven, and I just like how even though he’s a Professor at a College and believes in E.S.P., he still tries to use logic and other theories to explain what’s happening to Tim Daly’s character, rather than claiming that it is ghosts that are haunting him right from the beginning.  There’s also a Priest in the film that Tim Daly’s character also goes to for guidance.  Daly’s character is not a religious man, but the Priest is an old family friend who knew Bryan’s parents very well and knew him from a very young age, and he actually tells Bryan the truth about his Aunt’s old house and it causes him to uncover some repressed memories and really adds to the development of Tim Daly’s character.  
She was pretty useless to the film
Towards the end of the film Bryan get’s help from a student of Dr. Koven’s named, Cassie, but I think she was more of a filler than anything.  She’s a psychic who also helps out Tim Daly’s character, and helps him confront his past so that he can go on with his life. I really think her character could have been replaced by Dr. Koven and the film would have flowed together much better.  I assume the addition of Cassie to the plot was just an attempt to appease any female demographic who watched this film.                                          
     There are a few jump scares in the film, but nothing really out of the ordinary terrifying.  A lot of the jump scares have some great build up leading up to them that were totally worth it when they happened, and other times throughout the film the buildup leads to nothing.  As a horror movie, this film isn’t really all that scary, but as a mystery film it gets to be pretty good at parts.  I think people should see it just to see Tim Daly’s performance, but there are other things in the film that you are sure to like as well, so do yourself a favor and check out the film “The Skeptic”

Friday, April 5, 2013

"Classics" a review of "Cat People"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A “Classics” review of “Cat People”
By: Lauren Ennis

From the advent of silent pictures through the Golden Age of cinema, Hollywood was controlled by a system of production studios. Although each studio had its own sensibility and style, they all managed to release a startling amount of films across various genres each year. As remains the case today, the studios would often produce “B-pictures” that contained little substance but guaranteed to produce a sizable profit. In a few notable instances, these studio after-thoughts managed to rise above the expectations of cast, crew, and audience to become landmarks of popular culture. One of these unexpected gems was the 1942 horror film Cat People, which has since become a genre classic.

    Cat People was the first of three successful collaborations between director Jacques Tourneur and producer Val Lewton, which also included I Walked with a Zombie (1943) and The Leopard Man (1943). The script originated as a pulp magazine short story written by Val Lewton in 1930 called The Bagheeta, which details the adventures of a Russian soldier as he attempts to kill a mythical femme fatale known for seducing and killing the men she comes in contact with. As the story evolved, the setting was moved from the forests of Russia to 1940’s New York and the femme fatale was changed to a reluctant anti-heroine.

    The film opens as newly arrived Serbian immigrant Irene Dubrovna draws sketches by the panther cage in the Central Park Zoo. Irena is distracted from her work by local engineer Oliver Reed, who chastises her for littering. The two strike up a conversation and he accompanies her out of the zoo. As they leave, however, the audience glimpses one of Irena’s discarded sketches on the ground; an ominous drawing of a panther with a sword through its heart. Irena later invites Oliver to her apartment 
This kitty's got claws
for tea and tells him of the legend of the cat people that haunted her village in Serbia. According to the legend, the people of Irena’s village turned to devil worship and were punished for their misdeeds by the fictional King John. She fearfully explains that the “wisest and most wicked” of the corrupted citizens managed to escape into the mountains, and continue to haunt the village with their memory. Oliver laughs at what he considers an old world superstition and disregards Irena’s obvious anxiety. Oliver continues to ignore Irena’s fears and eventually marries her despite the fact that she refuses to kiss him, let alone consummate the marriage, for fear that sexual passion will unleash the curse of her village. He tolerates her unusual behavior, but continues to treat her like a misguided child throughout their marriage. Eventually, the idea of a celibate marriage becomes too much for Oliver to withstand and he seeks comfort from his co-worker, Alice, who has no qualms about revealing her feelings for him. It is this act of marital betrayal that finally drives Irena to her breaking point, and unleashes the “cat woman” within her.

Oh Hai, Crazy Cat Lady
Cat People stands out from other horror films through the types of fears it instills in audiences, and the way in which it executes its thrills. While most horror films focus on an outside source of fear, Cat People maintains an inward focus on Irena’s fears and struggles to overcome them. Through its focus on the protagonist’s internal struggle, the film forces the audience to consider their own fears, however irrational they may be. The clash between the mystical forces of Irena’s past and the clinical explanations provided by her husband, and later her psychiatrist, provide another conflict; one between tradition and modernity. This struggle in turn brings another, much more real fear into the scope of the plot; mental instability. While perceptions of mental illness have become more sensitive today, in the 1940’s the mentally ill were routinely institutionalized in mental hospitals where they were often subjected to rudimentary treatments and questionable conditions. By including the possibility of mental illness in the plot, the filmmakers create fear for as well as of Irena as she starts to unravel while grappling with rejection from her husband and unwanted sexual advances from her psychiatrist.

    The film’s greatest triumph is its ability to create suspense through implication rather than explanation. Throughout the film, it is implied that extreme passions such as lust and jealousy will cause Irena to transform into a blood thirsty panther. Despite this implication, no transformation is ever explicitly shown, and the constant integration of rational explanations into the story casts doubt as to whether such a transformation does in fact take place. The few occasions that a panther is shown are restricted to Irena’s observation of the panther in the zoo and one scene in which what appears to be a panther (the creature is largely kept in shadow) stalks Alice and Oliver in their office after hours. By keeping the dreaded monster off-screen for the majority of the picture, Lewton and Tourneur allowed audiences to create an image in their own minds more terrifying than anything 1940’s special effects could produce.

Through its combination of subtle visuals effects and psychological conflict, Cat People has become the little “B-Picture” that could and maintains a lasting influence in horror and suspense films. While it does not provide the violence or gore that are used to shock audiences today, the film still manages to unsettle through its eerie atmosphere and implications of the sinister. Tourneur’s effective use of shadow and trick of building up to a moment of suspense are key elements of the film’s success that have been recycled in countless other suspense and horror films. I wholeheartedly recommend this film to fans of horror, suspense, and those brave souls willing to take a brief venture into the unknown.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A review of "Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: a review of “Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet”

By: Brian Cotnoir

I swear to your God that the writer and director of this film, Frank Sabatella, has one of the worst cases of Adult ADHD I have ever seen, and it shows.  This film is all over the place.  It’s like he started writing one horror film and then 20 minutes in decided to write a story to another horror film, and then 20 minutes after that he started writing the story to a different film!  Not to mention this film helped me set a personal best record for watching a film.  Normally I can guess the outcome to the plot of a film I’ve never seen before within 35-45 minutes, but for the film “Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet” I shattered my old record.  Shortly after the 8 minute mark I accurately guessed how the film was going to end!  I hadn’t even been introduced to most of the main cast and within 8 minutes I predicted how this film was going to end.  Looking back that should have been my signal to skip the film entirely, because I already knew how it was going to end.  But you came to read a review of an awful horror film, and I’m going to deliver.         
Lizzie Borden Wannabe
    So “Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet” is a 2009 Horror film that—like I said—is kind of all over the place.  It starts off in Long Island, New York in 1978, and a young girl named Mary “Hatchet” Mattock butchers her parents to death.  Why does Mary murder her parents? I don’t know, Frank Sabatella forgot to write in a motive, but that wasn’t going to stop him from carrying on with this crap fest of a film.  Actually to be fair, they briefly touch upon it in the opening credits that she has some condition that causes her to “Menstruate” excessively (Eeeeeeeeewwwwwwww!) and that somehow contributes to some massive psychological defect that causes her to become a mute homicidal maniac.                                             
The film flashes forward to nine years later, and Mary’s now a young woman and is locked up in a room in a mental asylum...naked?  Why does the hospital let her sit around naked all day?  She wasn’t naked when they found her earlier in the film so why do they let her sit around her room naked all day long?  Any way’s I’m getting away from the plot, but I do have a valid point to make about this later.  So one night a security guard spots Mary sitting naked in her room and decides to go in and rape her.  Mary gets pregnant as a result of the rape, and all the Doctors in the hospital are outraged, but decide it’s in everyone’s best interest to not have the child aborted or have the guard fired and arrested (FYI, whether you’re pro-choice or pro-life, keep your personal feelings about abortion OUT OF THE COMMENT SECTION!).  So Mary has her baby, but it “dies.  So Mary becomes very upset and somehow manages to break out of her room and murder everyone who works in the Hospital.  How is that even possible?  For one thing, how did she break out of her room without making any noise or anyone noticing?  Second of all are you really trying to convince me that one woman in her early 20’s could not be stopped or slowed down and managed to kill every single employee of a mental hospital?  Yeah, I’m not buying it!  So Mary wanders out of the Hospital and is found by two cops wandering around the property naked with a severed head.  So despite not having any lethal weapons the police decide to open fire and kill Mary after she tosses the head at their car and begins to scream.  In the real world, both of those officers would be fired—or at least suspended—for using excessive force on an unarmed perpetrator.                         
Watch out for the Horror cliche fairy!
    The youth of Long Island decide to take this colorful incident and now every year on the anniversary of the massacre they hold an annual celebration of mischief and chaos known as “Blood Night”.  Yet, another thing in the film that makes no sense; this event is not like Halloween in Salem, MA or Sleepy Hollow, NY, it’s a festival to celebrate a killer.  What town would allow this?  I don’t think if you go to Plainfield, Wisconsin that they hold an annual festival celebrating the murders of Ed Gein, but again why am I wasting time on things in the film that don’t make any sense.  It’d be a lot easier—and a hell of a lot less stressful—to list all the things in this film that are done right!                                        
You're too good for this film, Bill.  What were you thinking?
So our main characters, and I call them characters instead of heroes because heroes is a term that implies that we actually like them, go to the cemetery where Mary is buried and try to contact the spirit of Mary Hatchet using a Ouija board (freaking cliché enough for you?!).  While in the cemetery they are spotted by the cemeteries loveable drunken caretaker “Graveyard Gus”, played by B-Horror Movie Legend Bill Moseley.  Gus tells the kids (and the films audience) the third different Legend of Mary Hatchet story in the film.  The kids leave Gus, and head back to the house for an alcohol fueled orgy, and that’s pretty much the next thirty minutes of the film.  You know for a film called “Blood Night”, there’s certainly not a lot of blood being shown.  There’s more hardcore nudity and sex scenes then murders scenes at this point in the film, and all I could think of during this part is I’m so bored, and can’t wait for people to start dying.  Oh another thing that this film does is make a big deal about how excited the kids are to watch “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” at the house.  I know there’s a taboo in film where you’re not supposed to reference better films in your own film, and it’s pretty sad that referencing a film as bad as “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” is implying that “Killer Tomatoes” is more credible then your film.                       
I expected better from you to, Ms. Harris
   At the party a new girl named Alissa has moved back to Long Island from Chicago.  She’s played by actress Danielle Harris, and is clearly the long lost daughter of Mary Hatchet who has returned to kill all the teens.  All right, I’m done wasting time talking about this films lack of plot, I’m speeding through.  So kids at the party start turning up dead, they think it’s the ghost of Mary Hatchet; it turns out its Alissa who is Mary’s long lost daughter.  She kills them all with a pick axe and scissors.  The End!                                                

What watching this film feels like!
Santa Maria this movie is bad!  And the reason why it’s so bad is that it has a story that’s all over the place.  It’s like three horror film plots trying to combine into one, not to mention has a lot of things that don’t make sense.  How does menstruating an excessive amount of blood (eeeeewwwwwwww!) turn you into a psychotic murder? And seriously what’s with the unnecessary nudity?  Even Mary’s ghost is seen wandering around naked, why is that?  Did the undertaker’s really think something like “Well no one’s coming to her funeral so why don’t we just not even bother to put a dress on her and bury her as is?”.  Or maybe it was contractual nudity stating that actress Samantha Siong had to appear nude for the part in the film, or you know maybe Frank Sabatella is just a pervert and wanted to exploit a pretty young woman on screen.  Don’t waste any time of this film, it’s a film so bad that not even Bill Moseley and Danille Harris could save it.  It’s Just Sucks.