Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Classics": A review of "The Black Cat" (1934)

Confessions of a Film Junkie: “Classics” A review of “The Black Cat”

By: Brian Cotnoir & Lauren Ennis

The Black Cat is certainly one of the most interesting horror films in Universal’s famed horror cannon. Part revenge tale, part house haunting, and part supernatural thriller, the film skims the surface of several genres without ever becoming fully immersed in any of them. The film chronicles the efforts of young newlyweds Joan and Peter Alison to escape from the house of a war criminal turned satanic cult leader after being stranded by a car accident. The couple is joined by the mysterious Dr. Werdegast (Bela Lugosi) who has come to the house seeking revenge on its owner, Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff). Werdegast was imprisoned and tortured in a prisoner of war camp run by former friend Poelzig, and finally escaped only to find that his wife and daughter had disappeared. While Werdegast executes an elaborate plan to have his revenge, the Alison’s quickly realize that they are in for far more than local hospitality when they are held as prisoners and Joan is selected as a sacrifice for Poelzig’s satanic ritual.                                                                       
Hollywood Legends Karloff (L) & Lugosi (R)
    The film has many strong points.  Probably its best asset is its acting.  Lugosi and Karloff, were two of the biggest Horror icon’s of their time, and appeared in many of the same films together throughout their careers.  Now, I downside to their careers is they pretty much played the same character in practically every film they appeared in (Lugosi as Dracula and Karloff as Frankenstein).  However, there are some distinct differences—and dare I say improvements—to their characters in “The Black Cat”.  Lugosi doesn’t really come off as being too much like Dracula in the film, and he actually demonstrates he is capable of playing more than just a vampire in films.  Karloff’s character is very Frankenstein like, but he has more human-like characteristics.  His character is almost like if Frankenstein lived and said to himself; “The humans wanted to play God with me, well now I’m going to play God with the humans”.  His character is very possessive and there is no doubt that throughout most of the film it is his character, Poelzig, who is in charge.  Poelizig is the person pulling the strings and Dr. Werdegast and the Alison’s are his play things.   
The Alison's are tired of being terrorized by Poelzig
Although the film has many notable aspects, including the teaming of Universal horror legends Karloff and Lugosi, it never comes together to form a coherent narrative. Throughout the film, the plot moves along without clear explanation, leaving the audience as baffled as the stranded Alison's. Similarly, Werdegast is shown to have a crippling fear of cats that result in a temporary psychological break each time one appears. These incidents closely resemble the stress induced flashbacks of a man suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but are instead explained to be the effects of the inherent spiritual evil in cats. The Alison’s constant ‘golly gee’ optimism contrasts with the story’s sinister proceedings to the point that they seem to belong in another movie entirely. Much of these confusing aspects of the plot could be explained by the film’s particularly short running time of sixty-five minutes. Had the film been made a half hour longer, the characters’ actions and motivations could have been more extensively explored, which would have made the story more coherent and easier for audiences to engage in. 
"I am going to skin you alive!"
    The film also has a lot of great mystery and build up.  It’s actually surprising how edgy it is for a 1930’s horror film.  Karloff’s character keeps dozens of women perfectly preserved in glass coffins in his basement.  Why would he be doing that unless he was having sex with them?  They don’t come out and say it in the film, but is definitely implied in the film that Poelzig practices necrophilia.  Not to mention the most famous scene in the film that happens towards the end of the film where Dr. Werdegast ties up Poelzig and skins him alive.  It’s not graphic by today’s standards, but this was still pretty shocking for a 1930’s Horror film audience.  Stuff like this wouldn’t become more widely used until 30-40 years later, so if you think about it “The Black Cat” is actually a groundbreaking Horror film. 
Heeeeeerreee Kitty, Kitty Kitty!
Despite the film’s shortcomings, it does have several strong points. The acting of Lugosi and Karloff creates a believable subplot hinging on Lugosi’s quest for revenge, as well as an appropriately sinister atmosphere. The teaming of these two stars carries the film and allows the audience to remain interested despite its other, more outrageous, aspects. Similarly, the sets and musical score evoke an ethereal sense of the supernatural and highlight the danger that the characters face around every corner. The film’s inclusion of such taboo subjects as devil-worship and sexual slavery is particularly surprising given the fact that the Hollywood Production Code was finally being enforced by 1934. These elements not only move the plot along, but also add an extra layer of foreboding to the already ominous tale. As a result, while the film may not be frightening by today’s standards, it does maintain an eeriness that makes the plot all the more unsettling. Thus, while The Black Cat may not be the best written or most frightening horror film, it rightfully holds a place of distinction as an example of where American horror came from and where it would soon be going.

A Special Treat for y'all!  The Full Film (Courtesy of Youtube) 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A review of "Birdemic: Shock and Terror"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “Birdemic: Shock and Terror”

By: Brian Cotnoir

My Review

Not satisfied with that review?  I don’t care.  I’m not going to write a full review of this film because it doesn’t even deserve one. This is the laziest and most unprofessional film I have seen so far.  It’s not “so bad it’s good”.  It’s not “so bad, it’ll make you angry”.  It’s just bad.  It has terrible acting, terrible effects, terrible sound & editing.  This film is not a good spoof of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”.  I look at it like this: a film like “Sand Sharks” is a wonderful and enjoyable spoof on “Jaws”, but “Birdemic” is just a pile of crap that doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as “The Birds”.  This film is not even like a “done-bad-on-purpose” Horror film like “ThanksKilling”.  Oh and the “going green” messages throughout the film were stupid as all hell.  They made Captain Planet look like “The Big Bang Theory”, they were that dumb! 

Classics: Five Reasons That Atticus Finch Is The Best Father In Cinema By Lauren Ennis

Behold, the face of a true badass
In 1960, unknown author Harper Lee took the publishing world by complete surprise with the success of her first (and only) novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. A large part of the novel's success lies in the fact that, although told from a child's perspective, Mockingbird is an adult novel that works with many complex themes including injustice, intolerance, and adversity. While the novel's two young protagonists, Scout and Jem, have much of their innocence shattered over the course of the story, they are always able to maintain and rely upon their faith in their father, Atticus. Lee based the story's setting off of her childhood home of Monroeville, Alabama and many of the characters off of people she had grown up with, including her own father, Amasa Lee, who became the model for lawyer Atticus Finch. According to Scout's perspective, Atticus is more than hard working or morally upright, he is the hero that many children want to envision their own father as. Two years after the novel's debut, a film version of Lee's masterpiece was released starring Gregory Peck as Atticus. Peck so embodied the novel's image of Atticus that upon seeing him on the set during filming, Lee reportedly burst into  tears and said "why, you even have a pot belly like my daddy!", to which Peck replied, "that's no pot belly, that's just great acting". When shooting was complete, Lee gave Peck her father's watch to congratulate and thank him for his honauthentic performance. The American Film Institute ranked Atticus number one on its list of Top Screen Heroes of the Last 100 Years; here are five reasons which prove that they made the right choice.

1. Quality Time: Parents have been told the importance of spending time with their children so often that it has become a tired cliche. During the Great Depression of the 1930's when the story is set, however, families had far more pressing responsibilities than spending time with one another. Despite the hardships that he and the rest of Maycomb County are facing,  Atticus always makes an effort to spend time with Scout and Jem. While the children spend the day in the care of housekeeper Calpurnia when not at school (their mother died prior to the story's start), Atticus always spends his evenings with them. Also, because the 1930's was an era before the advent of television and computers, time spent with one's family truly was quality time, as families interacted with one another directly rather than through a media distraction. During the time he spends with Scout and Jem, Atticus gives his children his full attention while he listens to their problems and provides them with advice about life and how best to live it.

2. Boys will be boys (and some girls will be tomboys): One of Atticus' greatest strengths as a father is his ability to let his children be themselves and love them as they are. Scout's insistence upon playing with boys and wearing pants makes her an anomaly in 1930's Alabama, where girls are expected to embrace their roles as Southern belles. Rather than try to force her to conform, Atticus encourages Scout's independence by accepting her tomboy streak as part of who she is. He further encourages her independence when she comes home crying because her new teacher has forbidden her to read at home. Recognizing how important reading is to Scout both personally and intellectually, he agrees to let her read as much as she wants as long as she behaves and avoids getting into fights at school. He shows similar support for Jem when he lets his son accompany him on a business visit after Jem insists that he is old enough to come along. Although he supports his childen in their decisions, Atticus still maintains the authority to reprimand them when they are wrong. On the occasions when the children's behavior does warrant consequences, he informs them of why their actions were wrong, and avoids holding their mistakes against them after the fact.
I don't care what your teacher says, books aren't the devil

3. Humble Pie: Despite the fact that Atticus is one of the most respected residents of Maycomb County, he maintains a sense of humbleness throughout the film. For instance, when Scout asks him if they are poor, he readily admits that they are, rather than allowing her to go on believing otherwise. While many men would prefer to hide their financial difficulties from their children, Atticus chooses to face reality, simultaneously showing his children that a man's honor does not come from his money. He also refuses to use what little money he does have against those less fortunate than himself. For example, when Scout informs him that Mr. Cunningham has arrived to pay him, Atticus asks her to not mention it the next time he visits. Scout is confused by her father's secrecy and asks why he doesn't want to see Mr. Cunningham, to which he replies that he knows Mr. Cunningham is a proud man and doesn't want to force him into an embarrassing situation by accepting his payment in person. Similarly, he gratefully accepts the Cunninghams' payments of vegetables in lieu of money because he knows that they are paying him with the only resources that they have. He remains just as quiet about his own advantages as he does about others' disadvantages. Atticus is in fact so nonchalant about his talents that Jem is shocked to learn that his father, who he thought was "too old to do anything", is actually the best shot in the county. Most notably, Atticus is able to lose with humility when his client, Tom Robinson, is unjustly convicted at trial and avoids lashing out or blaming anyone else for the trial's outcome.

4. Life Lessons: Throughout the film, Atticus instills in his children valuable life lessons. At one point , Jem tells his neighbor, Dill, "Atticus says cheating a black man is ten times worse than cheating a white man". This quote demonstrates that Atticus has already taught Jem the important lesson of why it is wrong to take advantage of those less fortunate than yourself. He teaches Scout equally valuable lessons when she complains that her teacher has forbidden her from reading. While many parents would be tempted to agree with Scout's conclusion that her teacher is acting foolish, he instead chooses to take the high road and explains that the teacher probably believes she is acting sensibly. He goes on to explain that "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it".  Through this discussion, he prepares her for life beyond the classroom where she will have to get along with people of all walks of life, who may not share her point of view. Perhaps the most memorable of Atticus's life lessons comes when he tells Jem that his own father taught him that is a sin to kill a mockingbird. When Jem asks why mockingbirds are so special, Atticus goes on to explain that "they don't do anything but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat people's gardens, don't nest in the corncribs; they don't do one single thing but sing their hearts out for us". It is only after Scout is saved by neighborhood outcast Boo Radley that the children learn the meaning of Atticus's story and realize that in life, as in nature, there are those who do their best to make the world a better place, and are often punished or misunderstood for their actions. It is at that point that Scout learns that there is perhaps no greater sin than destroying the mockingbirds of the world and depriving humanity of the good that they bring.

5. Do As I Say And As I Do: The greatest lesson that Atticus teaches his children is one that they learn not from his words, but from his actions. One of the most crucial points in the film is when Atticus agrees to defend Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. When Scout asks him, "do you defend niggers" after being picked on at school, he explains that he is defending Tom because if he didn't, "I couldn't hold my head up in town. I couldn't even tell you and Jem not to do something". By not only agreeing to defend Tom, but also doing so to the best of his ability,  he shows Scout and Jem the importance of integrity. It would have been much safer for both Atticus and his children if he had refused to defend Tom or restricted himself to going through the motions at trial, but he chose not to take the easy way out. By upholding the principles that he teaches his children in his own life, he provides them with an example of how to live their lives. He also goes on to exemplify those same princples outside of the courtroom by treating those around him, from his colleagues, to his neighbors, to his housekeeper with dignity and understanding. Furthermore, Atticus sees himself and his family as equal to those around them, particularly in the eyes of the law. When he learns that Bob Ewell has been killed after attacking Scout and Jem, Atticus assumes that Jem committed the crime in self-defense. Rather than using his connections in the police force to cover up the crime and protect Jem, he instead determines to bring the case to the police and eventually to trial. It is then that his friend, Sheriff Tate, tells Atticus that Boo Radley killed Ewell, not Jem. This realization forces him to put aside one of his most cherished principles and hide the truth, not to protect Jem, but to ensure Boo's right to privacy. Through his willingness to put Boo's well being above his own sense of justice, Atticus upholds another of his principles in that he refuses to 'kill a mockingbird'. By witnessing how their father conducts himself in the various aspects of his life, Scout and Jem learn the importance of living with integrity in a compromised world. Although the film does not mention their adult lives, I like to believe that, with Atticus to guide them, Scout and Jem grew up to become true individuals who understood the world for what it was and saw it for what it could be.

Stop whining and you can narrate the next movie

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A review of "Psycho Gothic Lolita"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “Psycho Gothic Lolita”

By: Brian Cotnoir

     I have no idea what the hell I just watched.  I mean the title alone is enough to peak interest, but the truth is this 2010 Japanese film has very little of a story, and a ton of random plot points that don’t make much sense to me.  I’m not sure some of the symbolism is lost in translation, but I was very confused for most of this film. So without further adieu here is my review of the film “Psycho Gothic Lolita”.   
     The plot to the film is the following.  A young girl named Yuki is on a quest for vengeance.  A few years back her family was attacked by a group of assassins.  The attack left her mother dead, and her father—who is a Christian Minister—paralyzed.  Now armed only with a lethal parasol Yuki puts on a Gothic Lolita costume and goes around taking vengeance on those who wrong her family.     
Dont Bother looking for logic!
That’s about as much of a plot I could comprehend, but trust me there are a bunch of flaws with this film.  Throughout the film there are way too many unnecessary close-up shots.  It’s like the director stuck the camera right up to the face of all his actors and decided that he would film the entire movie like that, even when nothing’s happening.  For example we get a ton of close up shots early on of one guy just eating noodles.  Later in the film we get more close-up shots of one of the assassins talking on her cell phone with her boyfriend.  So those were pretty distracting/annoying.  Oh not to mention one of the other first shots we get in the film is of two guys at a “Game Club” having sex on a mattress.  What was the point of that you may be wondering?  No clue.  Also, why does Yuki have to dress up like a Gothic Lolita to get her revenge?  And why did the assassins attack her family to begin with?  I haven’t the slightest idea. Yuki is trying to kill the 5 people who were responsible for her moms death, but when she only has one person left to kill, her father—who was aiding her through her vendetta—tells her to stop and that he doesn’t want her to continue with her quest to avenge her mother.  Why does he want her to stop when she’s so closed to finishing?  It doesn’t make any sense!      
Our Hero (???) Ladies & Gentlemen

Lady Elle (Pictured Right) was a lot of fun
    Now let’s get to the people Yuki is trying to get vengeance on.  The first person Yuki gets revenge on is a woman who runs a game parlor that’s very similar to The Drake’s arcade in “Hobo with a Shotgun”, where people’s lives are on the line for every game.  She was an okay character.  The second person Yuki get’s revenge on is the old perverted teacher with psychic abilities.  He’s really annoying and very stupid.  The third person Yuki get’s revenge on is a locksmith gone clean.  Yuki saves him from being killed by a street gang known as “Kamikaze”.  After Yuki saves the man he cries and begs Yuki to spare his life, which she doesn’t grant.  He was really whiny and pathetic.  The fourth person Yuki takes vengeance on was my favorite.  She was this really bubbly school girl with a glittery eye-patch, and a pink cell phone built into her gun named Lady Elle.  Lady Elle is pretty much the closest thing you will ever see to a real-live anime character, and was just a lot of fun to watch on screen.  The last person Yuki has to kill is some sword master, and probably the worst actor in this film (and that’s saying something because there were a lot of bad actors in this film).  Long story short, he gets killed, and Yuki has her vengeance. 
    I’m absolutely flabbergasted over this film.  It makes little sense plot wise and it has really bad special effects.  The only thing it really has going for it is a few memorable characters like Yuki, Lady Elle, and “Kamikaze”.  I did not care much for this film, and I think most of you would feel the same. 

Classics: A Review of The Producers by Lauren Ennis

A beautiful friendship in the making
How to make a surefire comedy masterpiece: step one take a pair of amateur swindlers and make them into lovable heroes, step two have the daring to approach controversial subjects with satire, step three add infectious showtunes, step four convince stuffy old Broadway to laugh at itself, step five sit back and watch the critics work their way to your side. Screenwriter and director Mel Brooks completed all these steps and more to create his comedic classic The Producers. The film mixed the best of Old Hollywood’s screwball comedies of the 1930’s and infused it with the cynical sensibilities of the tumultuous 1960’s to create a whole new kind of comedy all its own. The Producers paved the way for Brooks’ subsequent comedies as well as numerous imitations, ushering an era that truly was springtime for comedy.
The film begins as washed up Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) goes about his daily routine of seducing old women in exchange for donations for his stage failures. In the midst of one of Max’s meetings with a donor, accountant Leopold Bloom (Gene Wilder) arrives to do Max’s accounting for the last year. Leo discovers that Max has an overcharge for $2,000 in his account after raising too much money for a play that closed on its opening night. Leo assures Max that he can hide the discrepancy, as it is a relatively small amount, and offhandedly comments that a producer could make more money off of a flop then a hit. With that one comment Max sees a way out of his gigolo lifestyle and forms a plan to produce a guaranteed flop, oversell the production shares, and use the extra funds to start a new life in Rio de Janeiro. Meek Leo is initially horrified by Max’s dishonesty, but eventually determines that having “everything I’ve ever seen in the movies” is worth the risk of prison, and joins Max as a partner in crime.

The two then embark upon a quest to create the worst production ever mounted on the professional stage, beginning with a script written by devoted former Nazi Franz Liebkind (Kenneth Mars) entitled “Springtime for Hitler”. They continue their efforts by securing flamboyant transvestite Roger de Bris (Christopher Hewett) as director and hiring flower power spouting hippie Lorenzo St. Dubois, better known as L.S.D. (Dick Shawn), as their star. During preparation for the production, Max and Leo begin to prematurely celebrate their scheme and spend absurd amounts of money on limousines, new clothes, and a Swedish secretary (Lee Meredith) whose grasp of English is restricted to the phrases “Go to motel” and “Now Ulla dance”. When the play debuts, Max and Leo are mortified to learn that their “gay romp for Adolph and Eva” has been misconstrued as a satire and become an overnight success. They then find themselves trying to evade the IRS while being pursued by an enraged Liebkind, who is bent on avenging the fuehrer’s reputation following L.S.D.’s counter-culture infused performance.

Take that Tony Awards!
The film’s combination of non-stop gags and charismatic performances carries the already funny premise to the heights of greatness. Throughout the film, Brooks relies upon both typical slapstick gags and biting social commentary to create a truly zany atmosphere where anything can happen. For example, Liebkind’s unquestionable devotion to Hitler is made memorable through both his blatant lack of self-awareness and the way in which he serves as a parody of the dediacated followers dictators rely upon. Similarly, the contrast between Bialystock and Bloom works not only because it is a juxtaposition of two extremes, but also because both characters represent the extremes of modern society; those willing to do literally anything to succeed and those so paralyzed by fear of failure that they are unable to pursue an opportunity when they see it. The premiere of “Springtime for Hitler” perfectly demonstrates Brooks’ balance between high and low brow comedy as the cast satirically sings the praises of the Third Reich in the fashion of a Busby Berkeley style musical number.
The film’s cast members provide the story with just enough dead-pan humor and on-screen chemistry to add the necessary level of believability to an implausible premise. The interactions between Mostel’s shameless producer and Wilder’s anxious accountant are both hilarious enough to keep the plot moving, and heartfelt enough to make the audience care about the fate of the wacky pair. Mostel perfectly captures the equal parts lust for life and desperation that drive Bialystock to concoct and pursue his scheme. Similarly, Wilder plays Bloom with the ideal balance between anxious hysteria and repressed ambition. The cast is rounded out with riotous performances from the supporting players who each shine in their time on screen.
Now that is what I call a cougar!
The Producers has been on a production rollercoaster that is perhaps even more fascinating than that of “Springtime for Hitler”. The story originally began as a play entitled Springtime for Hitler that was deemed too difficult to be successfully performed on stage. In an instance of life imitating art, the public initially thought Brooks was making a joke when he told Playboy Magazine that he was working on a play entitled Springtime for Hitler, much in the same way that the audience misconstrues Bialystock and Bloom’s production for a tongue-in-cheek comedy. Despite early criticism, Brooks believed in the concept of the story and decided to take it to the screen.
After completing the difficult process of securing a production for the script, Brooks convinced producer Joseph E. Levine that he was the best choice to direct the film, despite his lack of directing experience. Throughout production, Brooks clashed with Levine, as Levine deemed Wilder too over the top as an actor and insisted that the title was too offensive to remain intact. Brooks relented on the title, eventually settling on The Producers, but refused to cast anyone but Wilder as Bloom. After several setbacks, including recasting Mars as Liebkind when Dustin Hoffman left the cast to play the lead in The Graduate and various disputes between Brooks and Mostel, the film completed production and became the underdog hit of 1968, winning the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. The film has continued to grow in stature over the years and has since been remade into both a Tony Award winning Broadway musical and a film version of that musical (both starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick as Bialysock and Bloom), proving that some jokes never do get old.

Mel Brooks once described The Producers as a film that “rose below vulgar”, but its legions of fans would argue that it rose above most comedies that came before it. Through its send-up of both history and theater, the film broke new ground in what could be portrayed as comedic onscreen and how far past the line of offensiveness a film could go. The film’s hilarious performances and non-stop gags proved to be a winning combination that has made it a comedy classic for generations. Enjoy the last official week of spring and treat yourself to an excursion into the world of theater courtesy of Bialystock and Bloom that you won’t soon forget.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Screening of "The Purge"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A Screening of "The Purge"

Video By: Brian Cotnoir & Caitlyn Edwards

So this past Tuesday night, I went to go see the film "The Purge" in theaters with my friend Caitlyn.  After the film we went and made a Dashboard video about what we thought about the film, so click on the video below to see what what we thought of the film, and which one of us was more surprised by the audiences reaction.  *WARNING* Contains Some Spoilers!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

100 Reviews Later!

Confessions of a Film Junkie: 100 Reviews Later!

By: Brian Cotnoir

     Wow.  That’s all I can really say about the milestone we’ve just reached. Just wow.  We have officially eclipsed 100 Film reviews on “Confessions of a Film Junkie”, and there’s just so many people I want to thank for helping us reach this amazing milestone, but before I get to that, I would just like to share a some background behind the this blog and the totally amazing journey that has led to this moment.  
The Three Musketeers in Black in
Sleepy Hollow, New York
It was my 22nd Birthday :)
    Back when I was a freshman at Lasell College, I met two totally awesome people; my friends Zee & Amanda, and the three of us for all four years of college were practically inseparable.  The three of us were the biggest nerds you had ever seen and if it was geek related we were into it: Video games, comic books, TV Shows, RPG’s, and Cos-Play, etc.  However the best thing we ever bonded over was movies.  Every day of my first two years of college was practically the same routine; get up, go to class, eat lunch, do homework, meet up for dinner, and then have a movie marathon at one of our dorms.  If had to make a rough estimate I say the three of us easily watched over 250 different films in college.                                  
    During our a freshman year there was a new website that launched called, and the star of the site was this guy named Doug Walker, who everyone called “The Nostalgia Critic”, and each week on this site he would review an old nostalgic movie or TV show and would just tear it to shreds and make the three of us laugh so hard.  We wanted to badly to be on this site and to be like Doug Walker, unfortunately for us, none of us had a camera (or a computer) that was good enough to make videos like Doug Walker, but we still watched his videos and admired them with awe.        
Our Hero Ladies & Gentlemen
The 1st Film I ever reviewed
During my sophomore year at college I received probably the greatest Christmas gift ever: A Netflix subscription.  With my subscription to Netflix, my friends and I now had an endless library of movies and TV shows to watch, so if somebody on thatguywiththeglasses, did a film review you could guarantee we would find a copy of it on-line and watch it, and we would laugh.  Films I never thought I’d ever get to see or find a copy of, were now just a click away and it was awesome. Shortly after getting my Netflix account, I began to write reviews of every movie I watched, and that’s when one of my Aunt’s suggested that I start my own film blog on line.  She helped me build a site (and even designed a logo for my blog) which I called “Confessions of a Film Junkie”.  On December 28, 2010, I posted my first official film review on-line.  The name of the film I reviewed was “Lo”.  I loved writing reviews for my blog.  I would ask my friends for suggestions of films to review and they would tell me what they wanted me to review and I’d write one.  The other thing I really enjoyed about my blog was I was able to expose my friends and family to dozens of new and awesome films that they never had heard of, let alone would ever see.              
     Every week, I would post a new film review: Sometimes a positive one and other times a negative one, and then one day my blog got dated. My hope for when I started this blog was to become like Doug Walker, but instead of making videos, I would just be a straight film blogger.  The site I launched my blog on had a tally counter to let you know how many people read my reviews, and for the most part it was the same 3 friends every week who were the only people who read my blog, and after a while I felt like I was practically only writing for myself, and I felt like a failure.  So after 40 reviews I decided to put an end to my weekly blog.  I would do occasional reviews for special occasions, but I never had any intention of starting my blog back up.         

My earliest attempts to try to be like Doug Walker (can you say FAIL!)
This is what motivated my return to glory!
    Then in the Summer of 2012, something changed, and it got me thinking again.  One night at work, a co-worker and I were reminiscing about the time we watched “Cannibal Holocaust”, and then he asked me “I wonder if there will ever be a film worst than that?”  To which I replied “Yeah, I think ‘A Serbian Film’ might be worse than that”.  Back when I first started this blog “A Serbian Film” was the most popular request I got to a write a film review for, and I swore that I would never ever see that film or write a review for it.  After trying to convince each other that we did want to see it for the next two weeks, I eventually broke down and bought a copy of “A Serbian Film” and watched it with two of my co-workers.  After making it through that film with them, I went home, and thought to myself; “You know, everyone wanted me to review that film, and I said no.  Maybe I should just write this one review just for the hell of it” and I did, and my post got some moderate popularity on Facebook, and became one of my more popular reviews.  Writing that post was so much fun, that I decided I wanted to write another one the following week and it got twice as many views as my review of “A Serbian Film”, so after a few more weeks of debate I decided to bring my weekly film blog.  It took a few months to garner some popularity, and trying new types of films and adding new things like pictures and film clips to my weekly reviews, but thanks to some friends and few loyal followers I have to say that as of right now I am pleased with the present success of my weekly film blog.   
    So I would like to thank my friends Zee & Amanda for spending so many nights watching movies with me, and for just being the two GREATEST friends ever.  My friend Lauren for being one of my biggest supporters of the blog and for being a contributing film critic.  My parents for first getting me my Netflix Subscription, my Auntie Patty for designing my blogs logo, and my friends and co-workers Bobby & Tyler for sitting through “A Serbian Film” with me in just one sitting and helping provide the first spark to get me writing for my blog again.  I have a lot of readers abroad in the UK, Germany, Russia, and Urkaine; I’ve never been to any of those countries and only know one person who lives in any of them, and I would like to thank the readers of those fine nations for helping build up support of the blog.  Thank you all so much for your help and support and I look forward to see what’s in store for this blog another hundred posts from now!

What I've learned after 100 Film Reviews

STATS ABOUT THE SITE (As of June 2013)
THE FILM JUNKIE (Reviews mostly straight-to-DVD Horrors made between 2001-Present)

The Film Junkie in all his awesome glory

o   MOST POPULAR POST: 5 Scariest Moments in Children’s Films that you probably never realized were too scary for kids
o   LEAST POPULAR POST: “Glen or Glenda” & “Lo”
o   FAVORITE POSTS: “Sleeping Beauty”, “The Moth Diaries” (Joint Review), “Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hachet”
o   FAVORITE ACTORS: Malcolm McDowell, Edward Norton, Jason Statham
o   FAVORITE FILMS: “Crank: High Voltage”, “Gangster No. 1”, “Hobo with a Shotgun”

·         MISS- E (Reviews Film Noirs and "Classics")

Our Newest Reviewer Miss-E (Pictured Far Left)
o   MOST POPULAR POST: “Pandora’s Box”
o   LEAST POPULAR POST: “The Third Man”
o   FAVORITE POSTS: “Ninotchka”, “Pandroa’s Box”, “5 Reasons why you should give a damn about Scarlett O’ Hara”
o   FAVORITE ACTORS: Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, James Cagney

o   FAVORITE FILMS: “Gone With the Wind”, “Ninotchka”, “Casablanca” 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A review of "Pinocchio's Revenge"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “Pinocchio’s Revenge”

By: Brian Cotnoir

I know what you’re probably already thinking; that I am here once again to write an article about a straight to video horror film that I watched that I thought totally sucked, right? Just by the title alone, you’re probably thinking to yourself “oh God, this sounds like some awful ‘Child’s Play’ rip-off written by some schmuck screenwriter and made by some “nobody” director?  Well you would be wrong to assume that this week. I typically find that when it comes to reviewing straight to DVD (or Video) horror films the further you go back the worst they are; not always, but most of the time.  However, I was shocked at how well put together and done the 1996 straight-to-video horror film “Pinocchio’s Revenge” was.  In fact, I’d say that this probably one of the better straight-to-video horror films that I’ve ever seen.                                        
'dah hell is that thang?
    The film is the story of a Public Defender named Jennifer who has a lot to deal with; she was divorced over a year ago, her young daughter is having anxiety and abandonment issues, and one of her clients is on death row waiting to be executed for murdering his son.  Jennifer feels that her client—an expert carpenter—was wrongly convicted of the murders, but he claims the murders were his own work and he is ultimately, put to death for the murder.  The film flashes forward to the night of her daughter Zoe’s birthday.  Jennifer’s new boyfriend accidentally mistakes, a wooden Pinocchio puppet made by her deceased client for Zoe’s birthday gift and gives it to her.  Zoe loves the wooden Pinocchio puppet, and the mother decides to let her temporarily borrow it, but then many unfortunate begin to surround Jennifer’s life.  Her boyfriend dies in a horrible accident, her nanny is killed, and her daughter is accused of pushing one of her classmates in front of a moving bus.   When Jennifer confronts Zoe about these horrific incidents, Zoe claims that it was Pinocchio who is responsible for the injuries and death.  Now Jennifer must struggle with the choice of whether or not to believe her daughter.                           
Such a good young Actress.
The film does a great job of making you question parts of the plot.  For most of the film I was trying to figure out whether or not it really was the puppet who was the evil one, or if perhaps it was actually Zoe.  We get some scenes of Zoe meeting with a child therapist, and from these scenes we learn that Zoe has abandonment issues, which is understandable because her parents are recently divorced and her father is no longer in her life, and her mother is very busy at work.  Zoe confides a lot of her personal secrets in Pinocchio.  Sometimes she shares more of her fears and concerns with Pinocchio more than she does with her mother, nanny, or therapist.  The child actress who plays Zoe is Brittany Alyse Smith, and she does a fantastic job in this role.  I personally feel her performance was a tamer version of Patty McCormack’s, Rhoda from “The Bad Seed”.  I was actually upset to find out that she ended her acting career a few short years after appearing in this film, because I think she could have had a lot of potential to be like an actress similar to someone like Jodelle Ferdland.  Though, I did find out that she is now a singer—going by the stage name “Matisse”—and she actually had a #1 hit in 2010 with the song entitled “Better Than Her”.                                             
Some Public Defender you are!
Then there is Zoe’s mother, Jennifer.  I actually was impressed with how complex and interesting Jennifer was as a character.  She’s a Public Defender who deals with murderers and criminals on a daily basis and claims that she “stares into the eyes of evil”, but she is still a loving mother, and you really get the sense that she is using a blind ignorance to ignore the possible signs of evil that her daughter displays.  Let’s be perfectly honest for a minute; if you’re child told you that it was their doll, puppet, teddy bear, etc. that did something—whether it be something small like breaking a window or something big like homicide—would you actually believe them or think for even a split second that they might be telling the truth and that their toy might be sinister?  I’d certainly hope not.  The only negative thing I have to say about actress Rosalind Allen’s performance is that she and the actor playing her boyfriend have one of the worst sex scenes in a film I’ve ever seen.  It’s so bad, that is up there with the sex scene from “Troll 2” and “The Room”.  Other than that I thought she was fine.     
I'm having flashbacks to "Poltergeist"

    Then there’s Pinocchio who is voiced by actor Dick Beals, but is played in live action by Verne “Mini Me” Troyer!  The Pinocchio doll is pretty nice looking, and is somewhat reminiscent of the clown doll from “Poltergeist”.  Every time the camera focuses on him, you get the sense that something bad is going to happen involving him.  Now, as for the voice, I really didn’t like that they made Pinocchio talk.  Dick Beals voice acting specialty is doing roles of characters who are younger boys, but his voice sounds more like a woman trying to impersonate Mickey Mouse.  His lips don’t move when he talks, so it leaves it up to interpretation of whether or not the doll can actually talk, or maybe Zoe is making up the voices in her head.  There is, however, one scene where we actually see Pinocchio’s lips move while he talks, and I didn’t like that idea either.  I mean it was one thing to give him a voice, but to show his lips move only once seems kind of pointless and unnecessary.  
He's not that bad
This film isn’t one of the Greatest Horror films of All-Time, but I still thought it was well made and very enjoyable.  I would describe it as “The Bad Seed” meets “Child’s Play”, only it’s 100 times better than any of the “Child’s Play” films.  I think the films writer & director, Kevin Tenney, put a lot of thought and hard work into this film, and it shows.  If by chance you manage to find a copy of this film or watch it on Netflix, I will definitely recommend it to you.  Even if you think you’re probably hate it, you’ll still get to see the actress who plays the Hot Italian nanny completely nude on screen in a two-minute shower scene, so there is some incentive for you.  “Pinocchio’s Revenge” is probably going to be one of the Best Straight to Video/DVD Horror films you will ever see in your life time.

Classics: A Review of Gilda by Lauren Ennis

Jessica Rabbit, eat your heart out!
“Sure, I’m decent” Rita Hayworth purred when she first appeared on screen as flame haired femme fatale Gilda. With that one line, Hayworth set screens across the nation on fire and set the standard for sex symbols for generations. Hayworth’s performance as the tempestuous vixen was perfectly matched by the intensity of co-star Glenn Ford’s turn as revenge bent gambler Johnny Farrell. Through its combination of dizzying plot twists, razor sharp dialogue and star-making turns from Hayworth and Ford, Gilda went on to become a noir classic. It's little wonder that this film continues to make movie goers nostalgic for the days when a tale of standard pulp could become something far more than decent.
The film is framed by American gambler Johnny Farrell’s narration of his life in Argentina in the mid-1940’s. Johnny starts his story as he wins a significant amount from a crooked card game with a group of American sailors. When the sailors realize that they have been cheated, Johnny is quickly rescued by the intervention of a mysterious man with a spear hidden in his cane. The man recommends that Johnny start gambling in more respectable card games, and suggests that he visit one of the more popular casinos in Buenos Aires. Johnny takes the man’s advice and cheats his way to another winning streak until the casino’s security guards catch on to his scheme. The security guards proceed to rough Johnny up and bring him to office of the establishment’s owner. Johnny is shocked when he realizes that the casino’s owner is businessman Ballin Mundson (George Macready); the same man who had saved his life earlier that night. He manages to talk his way into Mundson’s good graces and obtains a position in the casino, where he quickly works his way up to becoming Mundson’s right hand man.
Just he seems to finally be in control of his life, Johnny finds his world thrown into chaos when Ballin arrives home from a trip with his new wife; Johnny’s ex-girlfriend, Gilda. Although the details are never fully explained, it is clear that Johnny and Gilda’s relationship ended less than amicably and left both of them bitter. Gilda embarks upon a crusade to exploit Johnny’s interest in her by making him jealous through constant taunts and openly flirting with other men. Although she succeeds in making Johnny jealous, she also exacerbates her troubled marriage to possessive Ballin. In order to curb Gilda’s seeming indiscretions, Ballin orders Johnny to act as her personal bodyguard. His plan only leads Gilda to strike back and rebel against both men. Eventually,  Johnny and Gilda renew their relationship in spite of their better judgment, only to be discovered by Ballin.
You know he's sexy if Rita's begging
The combination of his failing marriage and a police investigation into his casino leads Ballin to commit suicide, leaving Gilda and Johnny free to be married. Soon after their marriage, however, Johnny demonstrates maliciousness almost equal to that of his former employer. While Gilda married him out of love, Johnny reveals that he only married her in order to obtain access to her former husband’s assets and keep her from pursuing a relationship with anyone else. The most chilling aspect of Johnny’s behavior is the self-righteous way in which he uses their marriage to put himself in the role of Gilda’s personal judge and jury. The toxic nature of the relationship leads Gilda to run away, only to be tricked into returning for a final showdown in which it is revealed that not all in Buenos Aires is as it seems.
The film marked the second of four pairings between Hayworth and Ford, and is arguably the best of their collaborations. After several stage successes, Ford was just beginning to gain notice in Hollywood as a leading man in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s when he answered the call of duty to fight in World War II. Gilda proved to be the ideal comeback vehicle for Ford, who not only resumed his career, but also achieved full-fledged star status with the film’s release. The film also became a turning point in Rita Hayworth’s career. Although Hayworth had enjoyed success as a star of various musicals and comedies, she had yet to be taken seriously as a dramatic actress. Following Gilda, however, she went on to become a top leading lady and star in a series of noirs and dramas. Hayworth became synonymous with the role of Gilda, which cemented her place as America’s favorite pin-up.
Gilda was just as crucial to its stars' personal lives as it was to their professional lives. While working together on the set, Hayworth and Ford developed a close working relationship that evolved into a warm friendship. At the time of filming, Hayworth was separated from then husband, Orson Welles, following her discovery of his numerous affairs. Members of the cast and crew at the studio reportedly hoped that Hayworth’s relationship with Ford would take a romantic turn and lead her to obtain a divorce from Welles. The studio apparently supported the possible romance and began releasing various publicity stills of Ford and Hayworth together and fan magazine articles which implied that they were romantically involved. Before the film was released,  however, Hayworth reconciled with Welles, forcing the studio to alter its publicity and maintain that she and Ford were strictly friends. Despite the fact that Hayworth returned to her marriage with Welles before ultimately divorcing him in 1948, Ford reportedly kept a picture of her for the rest of his life. Hayworth later lamented the effect that Gilda had on her personal life, saying that “Every man that I’ve known has fallen in love with Gilda and awakened with me. No one can be Gilda twenty-four hours a day”.

With friends like these...
Gilda has maintained a lasting influence in film history that still resonates today. Rita Hayworth’s infamous strip tease in her “Put the Blame on Mame” number went on to inspire numerous imitations, most notably Jessica Rabbit’s nightclub performance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The film also inspired numerous covers of its two songs “Put the Blame on Mame” and “Amado Mio” including a recent cover of “Amado Mio” by Pink Martini. In the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption, the hero’s escape is inspired by and executed through the use of a poster of Hayworth as Gilda. In hindsight, it is shocking that the Hay’s Code allowed the film to be released with all of its innuendos and sexual tension intact; a fact which only adds to its sensual atmosphere. The film managed to portray the complexity and contradictions of romantic relationships with a realism that few other films of its day dared to. As a result, Gilda and Johnny’s love-hate story remains as relevant in today’s age of changing mores as it was the day of its release.

Through its intriguing plot, witty dialogue, and star making performances, Gilda truly is a noir classic.  It’s exploration of average people whose emotions lead them on the path to self-destruction is both realistic and timeless. The film’s mixture of the exotic and sensual creates an atmosphere that defines Old Hollywood glamour. As the posters said, “there was never a woman like Gilda”, and there will never be a film quite like it either.