Thursday, May 30, 2013

Classics: A Review of Roman Holiday By Lauren Ennis

Look, Ma, no license!

Cinderella has enchanted generations with her rags to riches story of a commoner who is able to capture the prince of her dreams in a single meeting. Like her fabled counterpart, unknown actress Audrey Hepburn was able to capture her audiences’ affections in a single performance in her American film debut, Roman Holiday. Hepburn’s reverse-Cinderella portrayal of a princess desperate for the freedom of common life made her an over night celebrity, and America’s enduring sweetheart. After the prevalence of hard hearted femme fatales and world weary heroines that dominated post-war cinema, Americans found the escape they were looking for in Hepburn’s fresh face and infectious charm. Following the success of the film, Hollywood ushered in a new kind of femme who, though far from fatale, was irresistible nonetheless and remains so even in today’s cynical age.
The film begins as Hepburn’s Princess Ann greets various dignitaries upon her arrival in Rome. The princess is on the trip in an effort to promote good will between her unnamed country and the rest of Europe’s nations. Although she is able to maintain the utmost dignity in her voice and facial expression, her increasing restlessness is revealed when the camera moves under her dress while she removes her shoes and attempts to shift her balance from one aching foot to another . Upon returning to her hotel after the day’s grueling activities, she is presented with the schedule for the rest of her trip, which proves to be equally demanding and only adds to her building stress. When she is denied the right to visit any of the city’s attractions she finally reaches her breaking point and becomes hysterical. Rather than addressing the cause of her distress, her aides instead opt for a temporary solution by administering her a sedative to help her sleep, and sending her to bed like a misbehaving child.
As soon as she is alone, Ann strikes back by sneaking out of the hotel to the city streets ,where she promptly passes out on a park bench. Just as the local police attempt to arrest her for vagrancy, she is rescued by American journalist Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) who vouches for her. Bradley mistakes her for a party girl at the end of a wild night and finally takes her back to his apartment after several failed slapstick attempts to be rid of her. After sleeping on the couch while Ann occupies his bed, Joe arrives late for work the next morning only to realize that not only is she the princess he was assigned to interview, but she has also been reported missing. He immediately realizes the possibilities that an exclusive interview with a princess would open to his career and sets about getting the interview without blowing his cover. Over the course of the next twenty-four hours, Joe and his friend, photo journalist Irving (Eddie Albert), accompany Ann on a series of ‘normal’ activities that quickly escalate into life-altering adventures. Through these experiences, Ann and Joe find themselves seeing both the world around them and each other through new eyes and begin to fall in love. Although the film is in many ways a modern fairy tale, it avoids becoming completely escapist through a bittersweet, but honest, ending.
Audrey unleashed!
Roman Holiday made film history not only through the meteoric success of its star, but also through its use of location shoots. Prior to this film, most American films would be filmed on Hollywood sound stages with stock footage serving as the background. In Roman Holiday, however, the background provides the story with a true sense of setting that lends a sense of realism to the otherwise idyllic tale. Throughout the film, viewers join Hepburn and Peck on a tour of both the renowned and private sides of Rome until the city almost becomes a character in its own right. Such scenes as Peck and Hepburn’s famous motorbike ride and Peck’s “Mouth of Truth” gag simply would not have had their spontaneity and magic had they been shot on replicated studio sets rather than their authentic settings. While the sets grounded the story in real life locations, they also added another layer of fantasy for the average American audience, for whom this film would likely be the closest they would ever come to exploring a European capital.
The film’s performances are light, comedic, and expertly executed to create a true classic. Hepburn perfectly captures the princess’ internal conflict between her duties to her country and her duties to herself. She also imbues the princess with a mixture of innocence and inquisitiveness that makes her seem more like the girl next door than an unattainable member of royalty. Similarly, Peck inhabits his character with an endearing combination of worldly cynicism and well hidden idealism that makes audiences fall for him along with the princess. Finally, Albert nearly steals the film with his hilarious turn as a bohemian photographer.
Roman Holiday marked the beginning of America’s on-going love affair with star Audrey Hepburn. Prior to the film’s release, Peck reportedly requested that his co-star’s name be billed above his, insisting that it wouldn’t look right for him to be billed above a performance that he was sure would win an Oscar. Peck’s prediction more than came true, as Hepburn went on to take both the film and fashion industries by storm. As her acting skills gained notice so too did her unique appearance and sense of style. In response to the public’s warm reception of Hepburn’s waif-like figure and simple style, fashion designers quickly began to churn out clothes and advertisements that suited the ‘Audrey’ look. Hepburn's signature chic quickly replaced the previously dominant frills and curves associated with stars like Marilyn Monroe.  The Audrey look has maintained dominance over the last sixty years, as is evidenced by the sex symbol status of petite stars such as Natalie Portman and Keira Knightly. Hepburn later went on to star in numerous other films including the iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s before devoting herself to charity. While she enjoyed her career as an actress and worked diligently to perfect her craft, her heart was truly in her work with children’s charities such as UNICEF. She is reported as crediting her experiences living through Nazi occupation and Allied liberation in Belgium as her inspiration to give back her good fortune to children in need.

Through its combination of 50's fantasy and timless romance, Roman Holiday has gone on to become an essential title for both classic and contemporary movie fans. The film reinvigorated the romantic comedy with plot devices and technical details that have since become staples of the genre. The film also launched the now legendary career of star Audrey Hepburn and established co-star Gregory Peck's status as a top leading man. Roman Holiday truly is a must-have for fans of old fashioned romance and those in need of a brief holiday from every-day life.

You want me to put what, where?!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A 2-4-1 Special of Corin Nemec in Horror (PT II)

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A 2-4-1- Special of Corin Nemec in Horror Part II.

By: Brian Cotnoir

The Return of Corin Nemec
     Some of you may remember that in February of 2013 we celebrated “Corin Nemec Appreciation Month” on the blog, where I only reviewed films that featured the acting talents of Mr. Corin Nemec.  However, I realized the irony of “Corin Nemec Appreciation Month” a few months later that I only wrote positive reviews for two of the films.  In fact, in my “2-4-1 Special of Corin Nemec in Horror (Part I)” review I bashed his acting and said that they were both the worst films he was ever featured in.  So, I would like this week to review two more Horror films that I saw that starred Corin Nemec and I will attempt to do him some justice, but first a little background ont the two films I’m reviewing today.                              
He's not a really good screenwriter
Most of the Horror films that I’ve seen Corin Nemec in are Serial Killer Biopics which were all written and directed by the same man; Michael Feifer. Between 2007-2009 Fiefer wrote and directed 6 Horror Films that were based on popular American Serial Killers.  They were all released straight to video/DVD by the same company—Barnholtz Entertainment—and they all pretty much have the same plot:  It starts out with a early look into the life of an American Serial killer and in 10-15 minutes the audience is supposed to get a loose interpretation of the events that led them to commit their crimes.  Everyone at the Police Station is looking for the killer, the Police Chief (Or Police Commissioner) is being a total d!ck because he wants the killer captured and brought to justice.  There is one older male on the police force that takes a special interest, and makes it his mission to find and stop the killer himself.  Out of the 6 Serial Killer Biopic films that Michael Fiefer wrote and directed, three of them feature Corin Nemec.  The first was “Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck”, which I despised entirely, and the other two—which I am reviewing today—“Bundy: An American Icon” and “Boston Strangler: The Untold Story”, both of which were filmed in 2008.

Bundy: An American Icon

Yeah...that doesn't look
anything like Corin Nemec.
So right away from the opening scene of “Bundy” I am immediately reminded of “Chicago Massacre”, and I call that strike one against this film.  Then his opening monologue speech is very reminiscent of Otis B. Driftwoods “I Am the Devil Speech” from “The Devils Rejects” and I counted that as strike two against this film.  Within 5 minutes of watching this film I was prepared to despise it, but much to my surprise it gradually improved.  Corin Nemec’s acting in the film get’s better and better throughout the film.  He really nails down the “charming” aspect of Ted Bundy.  When he’s talking to women in the film he comes off as suave, charming, and like a nice guy, and that’s just how Ted Bundy lured most of his victims into his trap.  Bundy’s real life motivation for committing his horrific murders was being left by his girlfriend—who is named “Stephanie” in the film—and he typically murdered women who looked like or reminded him of his girlfriend.  However, my complaint is that the girlfriend who comes off as loving and caring early on and then flips out and breaks up with him, seemingly, out of nowhere.  We later see Bundy and “Stephanie” reunite only for him to abandon her just as soon as they got back together.  That makes no sense!  I’ve done some research on Ted Bundy and I haven’t been able to find a passage yet that says he got back with his ex at one point.                                                    
There he is that likable psycho
    Another great thing I can say about Corin Nemec’s performance is that the further into the film we get the less and less his character speaks.  His Ted Bundy character is very talkative early on in the film, and then the scenes where he’s in prison and eventually breaks out we see he speaks only seldom implying that he has had a dramatic change to his personality.  Then in the later scenes when he’s committing murders he doesn’t speak at all and instead let’s his facial expressions and body motions do the speaking for him.  I was actually impressed with how much Corin Nemec improved as an actor from the same type of role he played only one year earlier.             
    This film does have a ton of flaws in regards to the accuracy of Ted Bundy’s crimes and there are a lot cliché lines and scenes—especially towards the end—but Corin Nemec does not give a bad acting performance.  The rest of the cast is all pretty bad, but if I wanted to talk more about the bad acting from the rest of the cast and the other flaws throughout the film I’d be here all day.  So Corin Nemec does give a good performance in this film, but that’s still not enough to save it.

Boston Strangler: The Untold Story

     If I can be perfectly honest with you this film should not have been made.  Now, with that being said you should also know that Corin Nemec doesn’t play the Boston Strangler in the film—he actually plays the Strangler’s attorney—but I still felt that since it was a Michael Feifer film distributed by Barnholtz Entertainment that it would tie in perfectly.   
Not the best choice for the role, but okay.
The role of Albert De Salvo (The alleged “Boston Strangler”) is played by Corin Nemec’s good friend and “Killer Bud” costar David Faustino.  That is the films first problem.  Now, I like David Faustino as an actor, I am a fan of “Married...With Children”, but come on, there is no way I’m finding Bud Bundy to be the least bit scary in anything.  No surprise to anyone who’s seen Faustino, he’s really short, so right away he doesn’t have the tall menacing looking figure to use to frighten or intimidate.  I just wanted to laugh at him because everything else I’ve seen him in because he’s so funny in everything else I’ve seen him in; sorry, Mr. Faustino, but you don’t belong in any Horror film you belong in comedies.           
    Second problem with the film is it’s a really difficult case to tackle.  Yes, Albert De Salvo did confess to being the “Boston Strangler”, but many other people speculate that he confessed for publicity or reward money, and don’t think he really was the “Boston Strangler”.  The film does try to address that fact, by always showing the “Strangler” character wearing a mask to imply that maybe De Salvo was the killer, but maybe he wasn’t, or maybe there were possibility of a “copy cat” strangler.  So, if you don’t know for sure if your main character was the killer then you’re casting too much doubt and leaving way too much of the films plot to various interpretations and speculations, and you’re going to end up confusing more people then entertaining them.                    
aaaannnnd that doesnt look anything
like David Faustino, now does it?????
The third problem with this film, none of the supporting cast can freaking act!  Oh my God, I hated the supporting cast of this film almost as much as I hated the supporting cast in “Chicago Massacre”.  All the female victims in the film come off as dumb and moronic instead of kind-hearted and naïve, so thanks to their poor acting I didn’t feel the least bit sad when their characters got killed off in the film.  Just about everyone in the film tries to speak with a Boston accent.  I lived in Boston for 4-years, and yes, some people in the city do sound like that, but not every single person in the city talks with a Boston Accent.  No one in this film did could even do a decent Boston Accent.  Faustino’s accent keeps going in-and-out between a Boston Accent and a New York Accent.  Corin Nemec, was one of the few cast members who had the commonsense to not use a Boston Accent in the film.  He’s really the only positive thing I have to say about this film, because it has a ton of plot points that go nowhere and it just wasn’t a well made film.  They half-a$$ed way too many things, and the makers of this film should be embarrassed.  There are just too many questions and too much doubt in regards to the case that it is near impossible to make an “accurate” film about a real life crime.

Good thing Corin Nemec was in the film.

     My ultimate advice to you, my audience, is that if you want to see a decent Serial Killer biopic see something like “Dahmer” or “Dear, Mr. Gacy”, but whatever you do avoid any films made by Michael Fiefer or distributed by Barnholtz Entertainment.  If you’ve seen one Michael Fiefer/Barnholtz Entertainment film collaboration then you’ve seen them all, so don’t even bother!  They’re not that good for a number of reasons; they are very loose interpretations of what actually happened, the films try to cram way too much information and events into 90+ minutes, not to mention they jump around a lot; such as starting at one scene in present day of the killer and then flashing back to their childhood, and jumping back five minutes later to the present day.  In regards to Mr. Nemec in both films, his acting was the only thing liked in both, he was not a bad actor in either film, and if I had to pick just one out of the three Serial Killer Horror Films he’s been in to recommend to you I’d say see “Bundy”, but don’t keep your expectations for it to high.  And one last thought before I go: I think David Faustino and Corin Nemec should have switched leads in their films, because that way we all could’ve made the joke that David Faustino/“Bud Bundy” was playing Ted Bundy. 

2-4-1 Special of Corin Nemec in Horror PT I


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Classics: Four Reasons that Before Sunrise is Generation X's Affair to Remember By Lauren Ennis

This really is a small world after all.
In 1957, director Leo McCarey created a frame by frame remake of his 1939 hit romance, Love Affair, as An Affair to Remember. In an unusual twist, the film not only became a success with 1950’s audiences, but went on to become a bona-fide classic that outshone the original. As in fairy tales, three seems to be a charm in Hollywood, and the plot went on to inspire indie favorite Before Sunrise in 1995. Eighteen years later, filmgoers have been able to relive their nineties love affair through Before Sunrise’s commercially and critically successful follow-up Before Sunset and now the final chapter in the saga Before Midnight (opening in US theaters May 24, 2013). History has repeated itself with the success of this series that in many ways serves as another, extended, remake of McCarey’s classic tale of star-crossed sophisticates. Please note that while An Affair to Remember is an established remake of Love Affair, this review will focus upon the similarities between the Before… trilogy and the more well known An Affair to Remember.
1.     THE CHANCE MEETING: While chance meetings between lovers is a plot device that precedes even Shakespeare, the meetings between Jesse and Celine and Nick and Terry contain striking parallels. First, both couples are of differing nationalities, one American and one European. Also, both couples meet while in transit on a trip in Europe; a train in Sunrise and a cruise ship in Affair. In both instances, the man starts the interaction with an awkward conversation that nonetheless charms the woman, although she is initially reserved and guarded. Furthermore, both couples fall in love not in a clichéd ‘at first sight scenario’ but instead through the process of sharing their memories and viewpoints and slowly (maybe not as slowly in Sunrise) getting to know one another. Finally, both couples meet while in places and situations outside of their comfort zones that enable them to reevaluate themselves and gain a fresh, more honest, perception of the world around them.

Gen Xer's play telephone ironcially
2.     MAGIC MOMENTS: In both films the focus is almost solely on the characters and their interactions with one another. It is through this isolation that the audience is able to attain an understanding of and bond with the characters as we witness their bond develop before our eyes. There are select moments, however, in which the characters are brought back to the outside world through interactions with periphery characters. In Before Sunrise, Jesse and Celine are approached by a fortune teller while sitting outside a café in Vienna. Celine eagerly listens as the ‘psychic’ tells her of the great things that will eventually enter her life. Jesse scoffs at the idea and mocks the psychic, in a rant that Celine describes as “like a little boy looking for attention”, which provides her with greater insight into his insecurities. Similarly, Terry sees a different side of Nick when they visit his grandmother’s villa, and she sees him abandon his suave playboy persona to take on the role of a humble and loving grandson. At one point in Sunrise, the couple encounters a street-poet who offers to write them a poem that they can compensate him for in whatever manner they deem fit. In a moment of unreality in this otherwise realistic film, the poet sells them a poem that perfectly captures the essence of their night together and the uncertainty that they will inevitably face the next morning. In a parallel moment, Nick and Terry’s meeting with his grandmother serves as a break from the film’s reality as they temporarily find refuge in the old woman’s serene haven. It is during this scene that the couple realizes their growing feelings for each other, and the emotional security they find in their budding relationship.

3.     THE PACT: In both films, the couples are forced apart when their life altering trip ends and they return to their former lives. Both couples realize the importance of what they have found with each other, and refuse to let this be the end of their relationship. Rather than maintain contact, however, they instead opt to test the fondness of their absent hearts and meet in six months at the point of their departure. While this may seem like an ideal solution for Terry and Nick, who first must shed their current dead-end relationships before pursuing a new one, the decision proves disastrous in both stories. In Sunrise, Jesse and Celine maintain that any contact other than face-to-face meeting would only result in awkwardness in what they see as the inevitable “fizzing out” of their relationship. In the film’s sequel, Before Sunset, it is revealed that the plan damaged their relationship more than any awkwardness could, because Celine was forced to leave Jesse waiting in Vienna in order to attend her grandmother’s funeral. The six-month pact proves to be equally distressing to Nick and Terry as, in a strikingly similar scenario, he is left waiting for Terry after she is struck by a car on her way to meet him. In both scenarios, the couples’ love for one another is tested by the uncertainty of time and distance, only to ultimately be rekindled stronger than ever.
For good measure, the one that started it all, Love Affair

4.     ARTISTIC REUNION: After the suffering that both couple’s endure while they attempt to move on, they are eventually reunited with a little help from the muse. In Affair, Nick’s relationship with Terry provides him with the emotional security and inspiration to return to his first love; painting. During their six-month separation, he finds employment painting houses as a day job until he finally achieves success as a portrait painter. It comes as no surprise that his first truly great work is a portrait of Terry wearing his grandmother’s shawl, which serves as a tribute to the two most important women in his life. Terry meanwhile, has avoided contacting him after the car accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. Her only connection to him after the accident is the painting, which was given to her by Nick’s art dealer after he took pity upon her. Even when Nick arrives at her apartment with the shawl, she still refuses to tell him the truth and hides her disability. It is only when Nick sees the painting in her bedroom that he realizes the truth and they finally reconcile. In Before Sunset, Jesse and Celine have had no contact with one another in the nine years since their first meeting. In order to cope with his empty marriage to another woman, Jesse writes a novel about his night with Celine that goes on to become a popular success. The book’s tour takes him to Celine’s home town of Paris, where he finds her waiting for him at a book signing. For Jesse, the novel serves not only as a celebration of their past ,but also as a declaration of his continued love for her in the present, and undying hope of meeting her again. Although Celine is initially hesitant, she eventually reveals that she still shares his feelings when she sings him a song she wrote about their night in Vienna and her desire to somehow recapture it. Through their art, both Jesse and Celine and Nick and Terry find the courage to overcome their past disappointments and give a second chance to the affairs that they always remembered.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A review of "100 Tears"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “100 Tears”
By: Brian Cotnoir

The film I’m reviewing this week is titled “100 Tears”, though I think a more appropriate title of this film should have been “100 Tears you’ll shed because this movie flat out sucks!”.  This film has the distinguished honor of being the first NC-17 film I’ve ever reviewed.  True, I’ve reviewed some violent films for this blog, but all of those films were either Rated-R or “Not Yet Rated”, this film however has a definite rating of NC-17 for “excessive horror violence”.  This film is really nothing special and I’m going to explain why. So the film focuses on two tabloid reporters are looking to do a report on a serial killer.  They eventually agree to do their story on a killer named Luther Edward Baxter aka “Gurdy the Clown”.  Gurdy was accused of rape (a crime he did not commit) by a jealous ex-lover and was beaten senseless by the circuses strong man.  Now Gurdy is out for vengeance against those who wronged him, and chooses to do it in the most violent ways possible.                                            
Not Scary!
     First of all the “killer clown” motif has been done to death by horror films since the trial of John Wayne Gacy.  Yes, some people are afraid of clowns, but not everyone finds clowns to be terrifying.  If clowns were purposely meant to be terrifying don’t you think they would be banned from performing in circuses and children’s hospitals? The makers of this film clearly don’t understand how to properly use a clown in a horror film.  If you’re going to write a horror film where your villain is a killer clown then you must have a reason or a good motive!   Also, if you’re going to contradict the original purpose of the clown you need a valid reason!  Why does the killer have to be a clown?  Because he works in a circus?  That’s not a good enough reason.  “Killer clowns” in films are becoming one of those ungodly awful clichés in horror films!  Look at Tod Browning’s 1932 classic “Freaks”; the film is set at a circus, but it’s not a clown who is out for vengeance; it’s not a clown who is committing the murders.  It’s the midgets and other carnival freaks that commit the murders.           
Speaking of midgets, there’s one of those in the film too.  The films midget is a guy named Drago who initially tries to run away from the reporters because he mistakes them for cops.  After a pointless chase scene, Drago eventually says that he can’t tell them about Gurdy because...the directors hate you and want to make the movie 40 minute longer?  We eventually find out the truth about Gurdy and how he was in love with another carnie and then another carnie spread a false rumor that he was a rapist and he was beaten senseless by the strong man.  This turns Gurdy from a happy-go-lucky clown to a stabby-go-hack-you with-an-axe clown.                                                 
There's Daddy's Little Psycho
    Here’s the part that makes no sense to me:  Drago says that he killed the strong man and the other carnie for beating and humiliating him, and yet he continues to go an unmotivated rampage!  The first time we see Gurdy in the film he wanders into a half-way house and hacks everyone in there to death.  Why?  What did he have to gain by murdering a bunch of ex-junkies?  It’s not like they were hiding the strong man or any of the others that were cruel to him or mistreated him.  So this scene is essentially pointless to the plot.  It only exists to show excessive violence and crappy special effects.  Oh and here’s another interesting twist-to-the-plot that goes nowhere (SPOILERS!).  As it turns out the clown actually has an adult daughter now, and she’s a homicidal lunatic just like her father.  So the father and daughter go into an abandoned warehouse and massacre a bunch of college kids who are holding an illegal party there.  We’re introduced to the daughter earlier in the film and she just comes off as this weird and obnoxious girl, but then once we find out she’s his daughter she puts on her big girl crazy pants and becomes a psycho!  Again, makes no God D@amn sense!                                          
    For a film that focuses so much of it’s attention on a circus clown, I was surprised to see that they never spent any time at actual circus!  Sure they talk to carnies, but not at a circus or carnival.  The tabloid reporters always have to meet them in a bar or a trailer.  This film has no focus, no motivation and it just a giant pile of crap!  The characters are unlikeable, the acting’s bad, the stories bad and lacks reason, the effects are bad, and this film is just not worth seeing! Anyone who was involved in this film (cast and crew) should never be allowed near a film set ever again!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Classics: A Review of Pandora's Box By Lauren Ennis

Jazz Age icon Zelda Fitzgerald described one of her heroines as “She refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring”. In many ways, this description could just as easily have been attached to fellow roaring twenties jazz babe Louise Brooks. Born in Kansas in 1906 to a lawyer and would-be artist, Brooks’ all-American beginnings hardly read like the start of a Hollywood legend. After several moderate successes in American films however, Brooks embarked on a trip across the pond, where she found artistic and monetary success in a series of European films. One of these films was the silent tale of Weimar decadence Pandora’s Box, which would foreshadow the meteoric rise and fall of its star, just as her own story would go on to mirror the changing fortunes of countless Americans during the 1920’s.

You mean gay-marriage isn't a thing yet?!
The film begins as call-girl turned kept woman Lulu (Brooks) entertains her former pimp, Schigolch (Carl Gotz), at the home of her latest benefactor. Conflict soon arises as her boyfriend, Dr. Schon (Fritz Kortner) arrives at the apartment and attempts to break off their relationship, citing his impending marriage to a conveniently wealthy and well-connected woman. Lulu scoffs at his attempts to “let her down easy” and insists that “you’ll have to kill me to be rid of me”.  Schon starts to give in, but discovers Schigolch hiding in the next room and storms out of the apartment. Even in this first scene, Brooks demonstrates a strong understanding of the contradictions of her character, as she effortlessly alternates between childishly sitting on Schigolch’s lap one moment to seducing Schon the next. Lulu continues to manipulate Schon from behind the scenes as she meets with his son, Alwa (Francis Lederer), who is also smitten with her, and arranges to start a stage career in an attempt to make Schon jealous. Her efforts are rewarded, as he insists that Alwa feature her in his own upcoming stage review. Lulu gleefully accepts the role and all seems to be following her plan until Schon brings his fiancée to the performance’s opening night. Lulu is enraged at the sight of her rival, and refuses to go on with the show. Her tantrum leads the director to bring Schon backstage in an effort to coax her into performing. This of course plays directly into Lulu’s plan, and she quickly entices Schon into meeting her demands. Just as the two reconcile, Alwa and Schon’s fiancé walk in on them in the midst of a passionate embrace. Lulu triumphantly saunters past them to the stage as Schon resigns himself to the fact that he will not be rid of her as long as they are both alive.

After an intermission, the film then shows a dejected Schon as he helplessly watches Lulu engage in various indiscretions at their wedding reception. When he wearily enters his bedroom to find Lulu engaged with two other men, he finally reaches his breaking point and hands her his pistol, demanding that she shoot herself “before you drive me to murder”. They fight over the gun and it goes off, killing Schon. After she is convicted of Schon’s murder, she escapes prison with the help of her underworld associates, and temporarily lives the high life on the run until her luck finally runs out. At the film’s finish, Lulu is back where she started working the streets of London as a prostitute, where she ultimately seals her fate through an act of kindness.

Just try saying no to this face
Despite the fact that it has been over eighty years since the film’s debut, Pandora’s Box remains a cutting-edge classic. Although the film’s plot is in many ways outrageous, it is also far more honest than most other films of its time dared to be. Not only does the film feature a promiscuous young woman as its protagonist, but it also avoids blaming her for the havoc she causes. In fact, the film seems to share Lulu’s hedonistic world view, as she is continually rewarded for her misbehavior while those around her suffer the consequences. Through its willingness to not only observe, but actually embrace the sleaziness of Weimar era Berlin’s underworld, Pandora’s Box remains astoundingly modern. Similarly, Brooks' performance is anything but dated as she deftly alternates between her character’s highs and lows in her portrayal of a girl who somehow lost her way on the path to adulthood. Although the film is silent, its cinematography creates an intimacy with the audience that removes any doubt as to what is going on in Lulu’s fickle mind or those of the other characters.  Through its combination of technical triumphs and strong performances, the film is able to rise above what easily could have been a stilted product of its time, and instead becomes a chillingly relevant warning from the past against the all too familiar vices of the present.

The film could have also served as a warning to its star, albeit one that would have inevitably fallen on deaf ears. Following the success of Pandora’s Box, Brooks went on to make a follow-up with the film's director, G. W. Pabst, as well as a French talkie. At this point, Pabst was eager to capitalize on his success with his new muse and asked Brooks to remain in Europe to sign a contract with him. Brooks, bored of European cinema, instead chose to return to America, despite the fact that Paramount had suspended her contract. After refusing to dub her role in The Canary Murder Case so that the film could be re-marketed as a talkie, Brooks was deemed to be too rebellious for Hollywood, and blacklisted by its studios. She attempted to make a comeback with several small parts in talking pictures, but was unable to reclaim the success she had found in Europe. Eventually, she returned to her first love, dance, and returned to Kansas to open a dance school. Her willful temperament ultimately proved just as unsuitable for teaching as it was for studio acting, and she was soon forced to close the school, supporting herself as a sales clerk and occasional prostitute.

What are you looking at?!
Just as all hopes for success were growing dim for her, however, Brooks was offered a second chance from cinema. In the early 1950’s, French film historians rediscovered prints of her silent films and proclaimed her a lost icon. As a result, Europe faced another epidemic of Lulu fever that carried over to the United States. At this time, the George Eastman House purchased several film essays from her, and she began a second career as a film historian. Although she remained largely reclusive for the rest of her life, she became an authoritative voice on film history through a series of essays and documentaries. Over the course of her life, Brooks inspired numerous artists including the creators of the massively popular Dixie Dugan comic strip.

Through its meeting of old-world decadence and new-world rebellion, Pandora’s Box unleashed a new kind of heroine onto the silver screen. The unapologetic antics of Lulu and company paved the way for gritty tales of modern women that have continued on into the 21st century.  The film’s portrait of the hedonist as a young woman provides a view of the party lifestyle that overtook the western world in the 1920’s, and foreshadowed the inevitable hangover that was to come. Through its honest portrayal of a society that seems to have lost track of its priorities, the film remains startlingly modern and eerily relevant. I highly recommend opening this Pandora’s Box to film buffs and anyone curious as to what made the 1920’s roar.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A review of "Wake Wood"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “Wake Wood”
By: Brian Cotnoir

     Ireland, why do you fail so much at making horror films?  Even though I’ve only seen 3-4 Horror films that your country has released, I’ve been bored out of my mind each time.  Nothing happens for the first 80% of the films, and then it’s not like the pay off was worth all that boredom and frustration. Well this week Ireland, I have decided to review your “least awful” (and I’m using that term strongly) horror movie; “Wake Wood”.     
“Wake Wood” is the story of a couple whose only daughter, Alice, is killed when she is attacked by a dog.  Her grieving parents pack up all their things and move out to the small rural community of “Wake Wood”.  The mother, played by actress Eva Birthistle, is beyond devastated because she is no longer capable of having anymore children due to some “bodily complications” during her first and only pregnancy.  One night the couple accidentally stumbles upon a bizarre and cultish ritual that goes on at the home run by the Boss of the husband.  After asking around about the weird and mysterious things that the couple have noticed happening around Wake Wood, the town’s residents decide that is time that they can let Alice’s parents in on the towns dark secret: The people in town are able to resurrect the dead—-at least temporarily.  Through a bizarre and ancient ceremony the people of the town can resurrect any person for 3 days to give their families and loved ones the opportunity to properly say goodbye.  The only stipulations are that the person they bring back can’t have been buried for more than one year.  Any family that takes part in the ceremony must be a resident of Wake Wood and once they go through with the ceremony they are never allowed to leave the village of Wake Wood ever again.  The couple is willing to do anything to get their young daughter back, and the town agrees to help them, but unfortunately the couple is not entirely honest with the residents of Wake Wood and now the whole village is out to take back their daughter before any more damage can be done on the world.                                  
Aren't they just a, right, cheery lot?
    First of all, everyone in this film walks around with this bleak look of melancholy on their face.  It’s like everyone in town has depression and can only speak in monotone.  They make cast of “Schindler’s List” look a Broadway Musical cast; they’re just so depressed and detached from the world.  I can hardly recall anyone smiling in this film.  Except for maybe when the parents got their daughter back.  Because the cast seems so bored and uninterested in the film, I feel like I suffered from second-hand boredom of the film and lost all interest in wanting to make it through the film—but I did, because as long as you people continue to read my posts, I will continue to psychologically torture myself by forcing myself to sit through these films. 
Oh Yeah looks totally normal
Nothing Sketchy going on here (NOT!)
    I actually found it laughable, over how nonchalant the town is over their ceremonies, like it’s something they do every day.  There’s a scene in the film where they walk by the mothers pharmacy chanting and banging on drums and they just look over at her with this look that says “Oh yeah, this is something that we do in town every week, we should probably let you know about what’s going on real soon”.  Also, the ceremony to me doesn’t make much sense. I don’t understand why a person would want to bring back a loved one when they know that in three days they will be taken away.  I would imagine that it would be more difficult to lose a child a second time.  If I were to go through a ceremony like this I’d want to keep a person alive as long as I could.  Not to mention that rule that you can never leave the town again.  I can barely stand to be in the town I live in now, I couldn’t imagine living here if I was never allowed leave again.  For me the risk outweighs the reward and it wouldn’t be worth it.                                     
"Sometimes...dead is better".
Nothing really exciting happens in this film until the last 20 minutes.  For audience reactions this film depends way too much on gross out horror (like watching a cow give birth on screen or skinning a dog) or excessive blood loss.  I swear the residents of Wake Wood must have three times the amount of blood as normal people, because when someone gets stabbed or attacked that stuff gushes out everywhere. I feel like the films creators were just trying way too hard to “shock” and “impress” its audience.  Nothing of major importance happens in this film.  It’s a bland story with a weak delivery and things happen because the films plot say so.  There’s a somewhat interesting twist to the plot at the end, but that does absolutely nothing to save this film.                                                 
   If I had to give this film a grade I’d say it deserves a C-.  You can tell there were clear intentions that they tried to make a good film, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for and I still found it to be very boring.  My advice to the Irish is to go back to making awesome Rock Music and leave the Horror Movie making to the Japanese and the Scandinavian’s; they know what they’re doing.

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Classics: A Review of The Third Man By Lauren Ennis

Heeeere's Orson!
Following the start of the film noir movement in the United States, it wasn’t long until Europe inevitably took notice. In order to compete with the downbeat dramas that Hollywood was exporting to a world weary public, European studios took to the drawing board and began producing some dour dramas of their own. Many of these films expanded upon the genre by incorporating the moral ambiguity and desperation that had swept the continent following the horrors of the Second World War. This expert use of time and place in turn created a greater sense of realism that made European noir truly unsettling. One of the most expertly executed European noirs is the British suspense tale The Third Man, which combined the techniques and locations of Europe with the unexpected casting of two American leading men to create a truly universal masterpiece.

Unlike most American noirs, which often strove to create a mysterious and ominous atmosphere, The Third Man opens on a casual, almost cavaliar note. The film abandons the common Hollywood trick of framing the story through flashbacks and instead opts to begin with the observations of an omniscient narrator. The use of the narrator serves to establish the setting of post-war Vienna while simultaneously poking fun at the popular travel films of the era. The narrator introduces the audience to pulp fiction writer Holly Martins (Jospeh Cotton) as he arrives in the city at the request of his friend, fellow American Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Unfortunately for Holly, however, he is soon informed that Harry was recently struck by a car and killed. This news leaves Holly to cope with the loss of his friend as he attempts to maneuver through a city that is foreign in more ways than one. Holly attends Harry’s funeral, where he is approached by the British sector’s Chief of Police Major Calloway. Calloway insists that Harry was involved in some sort of black market racket and suggests that Holly leave Vienna as soon as possible. Holly is mortified by Calloway’s accusations and sets out to prove Harry’s innocence. Along the way, he encounters a variety of colorful characters including Harry’s gleefully unscrupulous associates and grief stricken girlfriend. Just as Holly begins to think he has a grasp of what became of his friend, he is confronted with a shocking truth that leads him to question his entire world-view.

You just had to give Orson top billing.
 In many ways, the film perfectly captures a time and place that history would rather forget. The film’s use of location shots in Vienna provides viewers with a glimpse into the devastation that continued to dominate after World War II ended. The desolation of the setting is beautifully contrasted by the nonchalant way in which the characters regard their surroundings. It is this contrast that demonstrates how much the characters have been able to get used to after years of compromises. The cinematography further adds to the film’s disquieting atmosphere by displaying nearly every frame just a bit off center and surrounding the characters in shadow. This use of imagery further reinforces the film’s recurring motif of a world gone awry. The film’s zither score stands in stark opposition to its bleak images as it carries the film along with a relaxed, almost jovial ,theme song that suggests life is moving  on in Vienna, albeit under unusual circumstances.

One of the film’s most striking aspects is the way in which it blends the conventions of both American and European noir. Holly stands in for the typical well-meaning hero who so often finds himself in over his head in American noir. Throughout Holly’s quest for answers he encounters the ravages of the war, but is too consumed with his personal concerns to pay them any attention. Although every street he walks seems to be strewn with rubble and every face he sees bears a hardened gaze, he still manages to remain naïvely idealistic.  It is only when he is forced to confront the victims of Harry’s poisoned penicillin that he finally realizes the world is not the black and white struggle between good and evil that he so often writes about.
On the opposite spectrum, Harry embodies the opportunism running rampant amonght the city's desperate citizens. Although he is only on screen for a limited time, the audience gains a clear notion of what drives Harry when he says to Holly,  

I've lived in worse places.
“in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.”

What makes Harry all the more troubling is the fact that Welles’ charismatic performance makes him a likeable, if not altogether relatable villain. As a result, the ethical waters of the story are made even murkier by the fact that the audience finds it almost as difficult to hate Harry as Holly does. Through his ability to win the audience’s interest, if not outright sympathy, Harry provides the audience with the same temptation that people across Europe faced when confronted with the charms of opportunistic racketeers and their profitable schemes. Thus, the presence of Holly and Harry provides the story with the dual perspectives of American optimism and European cynicism following World War II.

The Third Man truly stands out as a masterful tale of suspense even in today's era of quick shocks and gory thrills. The film remains one of the most iconic works in Welles' legendary career and it's twist still has the power to baffle audiences . The film expertly transports viewers into the defeated heart of post-war Vienna and serves as a reminder of the lengths to which people will go to retain the things that they hold dear. Through the combination of an intelligent script, captivating performances, gorgeous cinematography, and a memorable score, The Third Man took film noir beyond its pulp origins into the depths of existential despair. Take a walk down the streets of Vienna with Holly Martins and find out what it is about the adventures of Harry Lime that continues to charm and haunt viewers in equal measure. You'll remember it, but you certainly won't regret it.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

5 MORE SCARY Moments in Children's Films that you probably never realized were too scary for Kids

Confessions of a Film Junkie: 5 MORE SCARY Moments in Children’s films that you probably never realized were too scary for kids

By: Brian Cotnoir

     Without a doubt my Most Popular post (so far) is my “5 Scariest Moments in Children’s films that you probably never realized were too scary for kids”.  It’s a list that I compiled all by myself and I’m darn proud of it and will stand by it until the day I die.  However, I did have a few friends tell me that I should’ve included moments like The Tunnel Scene from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, Pink Elephant’s on Parade from “Dumbo”, Chernabog from “Fantasia” and Large Marge from “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure”.  I would agree 100% that those are scary moments that appeared in films made for and marketed to children, but those are way too obvious choices.  The lists I have compiled are to honor the scary moments in children’s films that people often overlooked or forgotten about.  So I decided to make another list of “5 More Scary Moments in Children’s films that you probably never realized were too scary for kids”.  My last list was the more “Mainstream” list (except for the honorable mentions), but these one’s are more obscure, so if you haven’t seen any of these films, you might have to check them out to understand what I’m getting at.

#5- Mewtwo- “Pokemon: The First Movie”

Yeah, Mewtwo's got some Anger Issues.
     I was 8-years-old when the Generation-1 Pokemon first came to the United States, so I was the perfect age for the first Pokemon film entitled “Pokemon: The First Movie”.  What I find most strange is I did not like this film as a kid, but as an adult I thought it was better than I remembered.  What’s most scary about this film is the character “Mewtwo”.  The reason why Mewtwo is scary is simple; he wants to destroy all humanity!  That’s a pretty intense character—even for a children’s film.  Metwo despises the idea that he was created only to be a servant, and destroys not only the scientist who created him, but any person who tries to control him.  He is the most powerful Pokemon and indeed one of the most powerful creatures on Earth.  He can change the weather and manipulate time just my flicking his wrist, he can blow things up with his mind, and is driven only to destroy.  If he can’t have something as simple as meaning in life, then he wants to make sure that life has no existence in his world.  He is a very intense character—voiced by the super-talented Philip Bartlett, who unfortunately passed away in 2001—and looking back, the writers of the film actually followed his story-arc from the game pretty well. 

#4- The Ghost of Christmas Future- A Christmas Carol

Everyone and there sister has seen this film and knows the classic tale of a greedy businessman named Ebenezer Scrooge who is visited by three Ghosts Early Christmas Morning and is shown the events of his pass, present, and future to help him realize there’s more to life than money and profits.  This classic work, written by Charles Dickens, has since been made into many different film and television adaptations, and which one you like the most completely depends on your personal tastes, but one thing is for certain; the scariest part of the film is The Ghost of Christmas Future (or “The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come” depending on which version you watch). Compared to the other two ghosts—The Ghost of Christmas Past and the Ghost of Christmas Present—the Ghost of Christmas Future has way less screen time, and in many of the film and television versions he does not speak and he is always portrayed as a tall menacing character who covers his face with a black cloak.  What makes the Ghost of Christmas Future so scary is pretty obvious to anyone who has seen him; he’s the Grim Reaper.  I mean seriously what’s the deal with that?  Does the Grim Reaper really need to make some extra cash around the holidays, so he plays both the Grim Reaper and The Ghost of Christmas Future?  Oh well, you still got to give “The Ghost of Christmas Future” credit for being one of the best, oldest, and scariest characters in film.

#3- The Horned King- “The Black Cauldron

     Okay, so first of all I have a confession to make...I’ve never actually seen this film. It’s actually quite a difficult film for me to find, because this was a Disney animated film that bombed at the Box office, but I have seen the parts of the film that matter and I have to say that this character is more than deserving of the #3 spot on this list.  The Horned King is such a cool and frightening creation that I almost can’t believe that he was created by Disney no less (wow, I’m starting to realize more and more that Disney has made a lot more creepy and terrifying moments for children then I give them credit for).  Not only is the Horned King scary looking, but he also has this loud bombastic entrance music that plays whenever he enters a scene that sounds like it composed the Orchestra of the Netherworld.  Also, he wants the Black Cauldron to resurrect his Army of the Undead!  And Trust me he and his Army of the Undead are scary looking.  Not to mention his voice is very dark and ominous.  The Horned King is voiced by his Greatness John Hurt...and for those of you who don’t know already, I’m like in Love with John Hurt’s voice and wish there was a way that I could have the sound of his voice narrate my life on a daily basis because I think it’s that amazing.  If you want more proof of why the Horned King is an awesome and scary children’s film character just watch the video below.

#2- Jumanji the Game-“Jumanji”

Ahhhh Keep it away from me!!! @_@
   If you were a kid in the 1990’s then you’ve seen this movie at least once in your life.  Even though a lot of the CGI is crude by today’s standards it still is a freaking terrifying movie if you’re a kid.  It’s the story of a boy named Alan Parrish who is playing a mysterious old board game he found called Jumanji with his best friend Sarah Whittle.  Unfortunately, the two underestimate the power of the game and one bad roll of the dice sucks Alan into the game, where he remains for 26-long-years, until two young siblings named Peter and Judy find the game and start playing and Alan finally freed.  My God it’s like the Most Terrifying Board Game ever! One bad roll and you get sucked into a game right before your friends eyes, I mean, holy crap. Can you imagine if other board games were like that? Like, if you drew a Go Directly to Jail Card in “Monopoly” and you went to an actual jail where you’d get brutally sodomized every night until you managed to get out on bail.  Yeah, I bet you’d never play a board game after that.  Another Scary aspect of “Jumanji”, besides being able suck you into the game against your will, is that everything this game spits out is TRYING TO KILL YOU!  And whether the things that are trying to kill you are involuntary like a stampede of wild beasts or voluntary like A 18th Century Hunter and Man eating Plants you pretty much screwed no matter what you do in the game. The only way to stop all these horrible things from happening to you is for somebody to finally win the game and then all the deadly creatures are sucked back into the game.  Wow, “Jumanji” way to make board games seem like the most terrifying thing ever!

Take Your Pick on Which One is more Frightening

More Scary then you remember, huh?

#1- The Mysterious Stranger- “The Adventures of Mark Twain”

     This is a very obscure Stop-Motion film that was made in 1985, and it’s basically the story of Mark Twain travelling on an air-ship to meet Haley’s Comet.  The film shows Mark Twain, and some of his character creations—Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Becky Thatcher—interacting with other stories written by Mark Twain.  It’s a pretty harmless children’s film for the most part, but the stories kind of all over the place with all the other various story crossovers/interactions.  In fact, at times the film gets to be pretty boring. One part of the film that stands out is when Tom, Huck, and Becky enter a world and meet and angel named “Satan”—a character based off another character from Mark Twain’s story “The Mysterious Stranger”Everything about Satan is weird and creepy.  The way he looks, the way he talks, the way he acts, the way nothing impresses him, and the way human beings easily confuse and anger him, he’s just so bizarre and acts in a way that would terrify most children.  He’s not loud and threatening like the Horned King, but rather he’s subtle and the way he speaks sounds like he’s constantly contemplating something sinister.  If you ever manage to find a copy of this film on DVD or on-line you should check it out for this one scene.  Nothing else about the film is astounding and the stop-motion by today’s standards is pretty crude, but it’s worth it just to see this one scene on film.

I Hope You All Enjoyed This Post and If you Would Like To Check out My “Original Top 5” just click on the Link Below.  Thank you all so much for your love and support.