Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Retrospect on "Antichrist"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A retrospect on “Antichrist”

By: Brian Cotnoir

     So I wanted to try something different.  I have a simple method when it comes to writing reviews for this blog: I watch a film, I take notes on it, and then I write a review.  Normally, when I review a film for this blog, I watch it only once.  My reasoning is because sometimes I get easily bored watching a film more than once, but it’s mainly because I watch a lot of crap.  I know a lot of critics watch a film at least twice before forming an opinion, to give a more “fair judgment” of the film.  Now, in attempt to do some of those film’s some “justice”, I will be re-watching some of them writing a retrospect review on how my feelings have changed since I watched them the one and only time.  The first film I will be re-reviewing is Lars Von Trier’s 2009 film “Antichrist”.

My First Impression of the Film

What was the point of you Random Talking Fox???
I absolutely hated this film the first time I saw it.  It actually took me over a year to watch the entire film in just one sitting, I found it that boring.  I hated this film so much after the first time I saw it that I declared it “the Worst Film I’ve ever seen” (only for me to recant that declaration one week later after watching and reviewing “Cool World”).  I have bashed this film to no end.  I ranked it #2 on my list of “Ten Films that make me want to punch somebody”, and I listed this film’s director, Lars Von Trier, as one of my “5 Signs of a Bad Movie”.  I just could not find one thing about this film that I liked.

My Opinion after watching this film for the second time

I dotn even know how to describe this scene
So shortly after I posted my original review of “Antichrist”, one of my best friends told me that they wanted to watch the film with me because they thought it might actually be good.  I decided to humor them and we watched it.  They agreed that it was nothing special, but thought it was better than I gave it credit for, and I actually started to see that the film did have some nice cinematography.  Though, I still couldn’t get pass the fact that Charlotte Gainsbourg is a terrible actress—probably one of the worst I’ve ever seen in a film—and there’s just so much random and boring crap that Von Trier piles into his films that make me regret watching anything that he’s made.     
God, you're a weirdo!
     Now this next part is very difficult for me to admit, but maybe...Lars Von Trier isn’t as bad as of a director as I thought.  I guess what I’m trying to express is that even though I don’t understand or like a lot of the things Von Trier does in his films, I think that might be why so many people like him.  He does as he pleases and he does it all in the name of his art.  He makes the kind of films that he wants to make, and he is proud of his work.  Also, he keeps landing big name stars in most of his films.  Everyone from Willem Defoe and Kirsten Dunst to Kiefer Sutherland and Stellan Skasgaard has appeared in Von Trier’s films.  Even one of my favorite actors, John Hurt, managed to find himself playing a role in Von Trier’s “Melancholia”.  I don’t understand how Von Trier keeps landing so many big name stars for his films, but if he can do it, then people must really like his work. 

What I’d do to make this film better

     Well...can this film be made better?  How can you improve upon Von Trier’s work?  Did this film actually have a plot?  I couldn’t tell.  Well if it didn’t have a plot then what can you really do to make the film better?  I mean besides the obvious: replace Charlotte Gainsbourg with a better actress and STOP SHOWING US CLOSE-UPS WILLEM DEFOE’S PENIS!

My Present Feelings on the Film

     So do I still think “Antichrist” is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen?  Yes. However, I don’t think I would rank it as high up on my list of Worst Films I’ve ever seen, but I’d definitely say it’s somewhere in my Top 20 Worst Films (possibly top 15).  If you, personally, like this film I can understand it.  I’ve seen it three times now, and it’s just not my cup of tea.

*Upcoming Reviews*
August 8th- “The Tall Man”
August 15th- “Infected”
August 22nd- “Elfie Hopkins: Cannibal Hunter”

August 29th- A Retrospect on “A Serbian Film”

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Reverse Review: A Review of The Haunting By Lauren Ennis

Meet the guinea pigs

Show business is often considered a business made up of various forms of smoke and mirrors designed to attract audiences. One of Hollywood’s favorite tricks is creating the illusion of something new out of something that has already been made. This mirage is achieved through a variety of methods, the most popular of which are sequels and remakes. While some sequels and remakes manage to improve upon their original source material, many others unfortunately pale in comparison to their predecessors. The Haunting, is one of the films that falls into the latter category yet still manages to be enjoyable, albeit unintentionally.

The Haunting follows the same premise as its two previous incarnations made in 1959 and 1966; a group of strangers are brought to the reportedly haunted Hill House as part of a clinical study. In the first two films, the doctor informs the other characters that he is conducting a study on the existence of ESP and haunted houses. In the 1999 version, however, Doctor Marrow (Liam Neeson) conceals his true purpose by misleading his subjects into believing that they have been chosen to study, and hopefully cure, their various sleep disturbances. While this change is small, it greatly affects the audience's and later the characters’ view of the doctor. The cast is made up of the doctor’s assistants (Alix Koromzay and Todd Field), the groundskeepers (Bruce Dern and Marian Seldes), and the three study subjects. The characters are all flatly written with the need to move the script to the next plot point often acting as their chief motivation. The assistants and groundskeepers are particularly expendable, and are fortunately restricted to minimal screen time. The study subjects consist of cynical everyman  Luke (Owen Wilson), bohemian artist Theo (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and sheltered loner Eleanor (Lili Taylor).
Nothing says 'home' like dead-eyed children

After the usual spooky welcome form the groundskeepers, Doctor Marrow begins the excursion by telling the group about the legend of Hill House, which at first glance reads more like a child’s fairy tale than a horror story. According to the story, benevolent millionaire Hugh Crane married a beautiful local girl, who later grew despondent when she was unable to have children. The legend goes on to explain that Crane built the house as a monument to the children he and his wife could never have. Before Marrow can finish the story, however, one of his assistants is wounded by a piano wire that snaps off of an old piano and cuts across her face. Both assistants leave in fear, leaving the doctor alone with his subjects…or so he thinks. Before long, strange things start occurring in the house that border on the supernatural. The guests’ anxiety is only increased when the doctor reveals the true story of Crane’s past as the brutal owner of a sweatshop in which hundreds of children were worked to death and later buried underneath Hill House. Eleanor is visited by ghosts of the dead children who beg her to help them escape from the mysterious force that still terrorizes them. Despite the many strange events in the house, the doctor and subjects do their best to find logical explanations, including the possibility that Eleanor is behind the supposed haunting. The accusations of the others add to Eleanor’s already unstable state and prompt her to dig further into the house’s past in order to exonerate herself. This of course leads the evil spirits in the house to retaliate against Eleanor and the other guests in special effects laden scenes that are more amusing than frightening. A personal revelation ultimately forces Eleanor to confront her internal demons in order to destroy the external ones plaguing the house.

One of the most interesting aspects of The Haunting is the way in which it places an A-list cast in a B-rate plot. Although all of the primary cast members would go on to star in commercial and critical successes, the best that they can manage with the film’s script are adequate performances. Oscar winner Zeta-Jones’ role is restricted to that of an art school stereotype who attempts to shock the other guests by repeatedly mentioning her bisexuality to the point of redundancy. Similarly, Owen Wilson is a long way from his successful turns in such films as Wedding Crashers and Midnight in Paris, as he spends most of the film meandering along the house’s hallways, nervously putting his hands in his pockets while declaring that he’s not afraid of ghosts. Neeson attempts to add a level of pathos to his ethically challenged psychiatrist, but can only do so much with lines like “We should have stopped this when Mary got hurt, and definitely when Eleanor did”.  Taylor perhaps has the most difficult of the roles to work with as her character repeatedly acts in ways that defy logic, despite the fact that she is supposed to be the relatable center of the film. As a result, the film is filled with credible performances of a cast of stock characters.

The film’s combination of early CGI effects and cliched script make for an experience that is more fun house than haunted house. Throughout the film, the guests comment on the plethora of statues and carvings of children in the house, which are truly eerie. The unsettling effect of the images is quickly diminished, however, when cartoonish CGI ghosts start flowing out of them. Similarly, the creaks and bumps in the night requisite of any haunted house film are unable to provoke the necessary fear of the unknown because they are constantly trumped by the visible presence of laughably exaggerated menaces. CGI images of the walls of the house morphing into various shapes and the chimney flu’s attack on one character are particularly side splitting. Eleanor’s final revelation and the climax confrontation in which she scolds the house demon into submission add the final layer of unintentional comedy to the film’s already ridiculous base.

Wakey, wakey!
While The Haunting does have a talented cast and Hollywood budget to its credit, the film is unable to reach the lofty goals that it sets for itself. As a result, the film is at its best when viewed as a parody rather than as a horror film. When viewed in this fashion, the film’s inane dialogue and awkward effects help elevate its comic impact rather than hamper its potential for fright. Although I would not recommend it for true horror fans or those looking for genuine scares, The Haunting would be ideal for a gathering of friends looking for a good laugh at a mediocre film’s expense.

"Classics" A review of: "The Black Klansman"

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

By: Brian Cotnoir

Just keep in mind that someone thought
that this was a good idea for an actual film.
     What.  The.  Frick?!  Did I read the title of this film correctly?  The Black Klansman?  The BLACK Klansman!  All right, I hope you’re all as intrigued as I was when I first read the title of this film and watched it for the first time.  So the 1966 blaxploitation (which was also released under the title “I Crossed the Color Line”) is the story of a black musician living in LA, named Jerry Elsworth, who gets a call from his hometown in the Deep South, and is told that his young daughter (from a previous relationship) was set on fire and killed in an attack by the Ku Klux Klan.  Jerry is distraught over the death of his daughter and vows to get his vengeance.  Jerry is black, but he is a very light skinned black and figures that with a little make up, a wig, and a fake ID he can pose as a white man and infiltrate the KKK and get his revenge.    

Is it a white or is it a black
it's Pat...I mean Jerry.
That has got to be one of the most ridiculous plots to a film I have ever seen.  There are a lot of issues in this film—both good and bad—that I must address.  First of all, if I was a black man, the last thing I’m going to do is go anywhere near the KKK; I can’t tell if Jerry is supposed to be brave or just plain crazy?  The actor who plays Jerry, is named Richard Gilden, and he is very light-skinned, so it makes some sense that he could pass for a white man, but I couldn’t help but wonder throughout the film if he was just a light-skinned black man or if he was actually white?  I honestly could not tell.  I’ve tried to find pictures of him on-line, but all pictures I find of him are in black and white (ba dum ching!).  So I don’t know if he actually is a black actor or if he was just playing a black actor.       
How about a little emotion there, Richard?
Richard Gilden is a very montone actor in this film.  He rarely breaks from his mildly-disgruntled-customer-waiting-in-the-checkout-line tone of voice.  Seriously, when he first gets the news that his daughter was killed by the Klan, he talks about it like his car was just towed.  He doesn’t show any emotion until his white girlfriend says something to him, and then he proceeds to choke her because she’s a “white woman”.  Oh, and you can also tell how old this film really is because Jerry managed to sneak a loaded handgun in his luggage on the plane.  You know with all the craziness and gun violence around the world today, I just found that part to be very funny.            
     As a person with a B.A. in History, I can appreciate the historical significance of this film.  It was made in 1966, at the height of the American Civil Rights movement, and this film did show a fairly accurate reflection of how life was at that time, and showed a lot of “radical” and different ideas.  Jerry was a black man who is in a relationship with a white woman, only two years before this film was made, the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia that no state could ban or make interracial marriage illegal.  Not only is Jerry dating a white woman, but he attacked her in a fit of rage.  Those are some radical political statements this film was making for its time.       
Well that's just rude.
I also really like the scenes early on in the film that take place in the Deep South that show how so many people were resistant to the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings that no state could have segregated, or “separate, but equal”, sections in diners, bus stations, public schools.  There’s a scene where the black minster’s younger brother shows him a newspaper clipping saying that the courts say whites can’t discriminate against blacks anymore, and the minister tells his naïve younger brother that those words don’t mean crap, and that the white people in town aren’t going to change any time soon and welcome him with open arms in town.  He ignores the warnings from his older brother and goes into a diner and orders a cup of coffee, which he does not receive, and that night he is killed by the Klan for going into their diner.  There’s another part in the film I like, where the black residents of the town are having a mass at their place of worship, and you can hear the Klan outside making a raucous and shouting threats at the people, but they just ignore their words and only sing louder as an attempt to drown at the Klan’s hate speech.        
      I also like how Jerry had to work to get into the Klan.  He goes to office of the Klan’s leader in town, Mr. Rourk, and says that he is an architect named John Ashley from Los Angles who wants help staring up a Klan in California.  Mr. Rourk initially denies having anything to do with the Klan and insists to Mr. Ashley, that he has the wrong person.  Jerry’s persistence eventually pays off, Mr. Rourk and the other Klan members believe him to be sincere.  It’s at this point Jerry learns about the Klan really operates, and he ends up getting more details on the attack the night his daughter was killed, so he can figure out which member is the one responsible for her death.                                      
Alternative Film Poster
    There’s one more part of the film I want to talk about, just because I thought it was an interesting twist to the plot.  The black Minister hires a group of thugs from Harlem to come down and help them with their cause.  The thug’s ideas for the blacks in town are pretty basic.  Arm them and attack the Klan.  The thugs go to a rally and open fire on the Klan, but that only leads to more violence against the blacks in town, and then they realize they have to cut their ties from the Harlem gangsters, but now it appears that the gangsters are here to stay.  
    I would say that this movie is definitely a 2 ½ out of 4 stars.  It has a lot of interesting points to its plot that could make for some interesting retrospective discussions on the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s, among other things.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Classics: A Review of A Foreign Affair By Lauren Ennis

Ever hear of getting a room?!
Nazis, compromised morals, hypocrisy, and black market racketeering; these are not elements typically found in Hollywood comedies. For director Billy Wilder, however, the chaos of post-war Europe was the perfect backdrop for his biting satire, A Foreign Affair. With the help of a subversively witty script and a cast talented enough to bring it to life, Wilder took the supposedly safe romantic comedy genre and turned it on its head. The resulting battle of the wits and quips between Golden Age leading ladies Marlene Dietrich and Jean Arthur made A Foreign Affair one of Wilder’s most inventive, if also underrated, films.

The story starts as Jean Arthur’s Congresswoman Phoebe Frost arrives in Berlin to report on the progress that allied forces have made in occupied territory. She soon finds herself charmed by GI and fellow Iowan Captain John Pringle (John Lund) who is, unbeknownst to her, merely humoring her for propriety's sake. After seeing numerous American soldiers fraternizing with locals, she soon realizes that all is not as rosy as the local officials would have her believe. In an effort to investigate the soldiers' ‘shocking’ behavior, she poses as a Berliner and accompanies several soldiers to a seedy nightclub. At the club, she is horrified to see the men crowding around sultry singer Erika von Schlutow (Marlene Dietrich), who rumor has it is the former mistress of a top SS officer. Outraged, Phoebe determines to expose the soldiers’ antics and, more importantly, Erika’s fascist history. Unfortunately for Phoebe, however, she enlists Pringle’s help in her crusade without realizing that he is not only guilty of the fraternizing she is trying to stop, but is also the latest in Erika’s long list of allied amours. In an effort to sidetrack the stuffy congresswoman’s investigation Pringle pretends to be infatuated her, all the while doing his best to hide Erika’s tainted past. Eventually, the usual romantic comedy tropes come into play as Phoebe finds herself softening after a little fraternizing of her own with Pringle, and Erika proves that she still has a few tricks up her sleeve after all. The trio is finally forced to face some difficult truths when Pringle is ordered to keep seeing Erika in order to bring her notoriously jealous ex-boyfriend out of hiding, and Phoebe realizes she is not the only woman in Pringle’s life.
One of the most notable aspects of A Foreign Affair is the way that it captures the atmosphere of post-war Berlin. Wilder reportedly first formed the idea for the film after serving in Germany in World War II. He then went about conducting research by interviewing both soldiers and locals regarding life in a now divided Germany. One interview in particular inspired him to take a closer look at the local perspective when a woman expressed elation that allied soldiers had arrived to fix the gas in her building. Wilder was shocked when the woman informed him that she was glad to have the gas, not for a shower or meal as he had assumed, but so that she could commit suicide. After compiling various eyewitness accounts, Wilder realized that he had material for far more than a typical romantic comedy on his hands.

Cat fight!
Wilder’s first choice to play sexy singer Erika was Marlene Dietrich. He soon realized that casting would be no easy task, however, after she flatly refused the part. As a native Berliner, Dietrich had been careful to avoid any war related films in order to prevent being associated with Nazi Germany, which she vehemently opposed. Wilder was eventually able to win the star over by playing to her infamous vanity when he asked her to watch the screen tests of several other actresses auditioning for the part. After watching her critique the other women’s performances, Wilder said “Marlene, only you could play this part”, Dietrich could not resist agreeing with him and accepted the role on the spot. Wilder came close to regretting his decision, however, when Dietrich and Arthur clashed on the set after Arthur accused Dietrich of sabotaging her close ups. Tensions eventually got so high during filming that Wilder reportedly complained, “I have one dame who’s afraid to look at herself in a mirror and another one who won’t stop looking!”.
Despite the perfect sense of time and place that Wilder and his script created, the film would not have been nearly as engaging without the superb work of its cast. Arthur portrays the insecurity beneath Phoebe’s professional exterior in a way that demonstrates the difficulties that women in the political arena faced, and continue to face. She also makes the congresswoman’s transformation comical without resorting to ugly duckling stereotypes. Lund makes his GI rogue likable enough that audiences can understand his attracting two leading ladies, but imbues him with enough of a cynical edge to keep him realistic. Dietrich steals the film with her vampish portrayal of world weary Erika. In this film, she uses plenty of the wiles she became famous for in the thirties and utilizes them to highlight, rather than undermine her character’s complexity. Her performances of three songs written for the film provide enough sex appeal and scathing humor to show the duality of both her femme fatale turned survivor, and the film as a whole.

A Foreign Affair is a truly unique film that successfully mixes politics, romance, and cynicism to expert comic effect. Through its use of black comedy, the film reveals the aftermath of war and its effects on people from both sides. Despite its serious subject matter, the film never succumbs to complete cynicism and maintains a sense of optimism throughout. The rollicking antics of the stars keep viewers on their toes while reminding us of the harsh reality lurking beneath the surface. So, pull up a chair, take in the local culture, and enjoy a not so discreet affair that you won't soon forget.

What is this 'fascism' that you speak of?
If you enjoyed Marlene Dietrich's sultry double dealings, be sure to check out my WWII spy thriller Through Enemy Eyes

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A review of "Stake Land"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “Stake Land”

By: Brian Cotnoir

     I am very excited to write this review because I found this film to be very enjoyable.  This film has an awesome setting and more remarkable characters than I can count.  It’s like “Zombieland” meets Vampires!  All right, let’s not waste any more of your time.  Here is why you should watch the movie “Stake Land”.      
    So “Stake Land” is set in the not too distant future and its central theme revolves around the survival of a Vampire Apocalypse.  Our story is told in narration form by our protagonist—a young boy named Martin.  Martin’s family was slaughtered by vampire’s right before his eyes and if it wasn’t for a stranger—simply known as “Mister”—who just happened to be passing by Martin would be dead as well.  Mister takes the orphan Martin under his wing and acts as his Guardian/Mentor.  Mister begins teaching and training Martin in the art of vampire slaying.  Martin and Mister’s plan is to eventually leave South Carolina and head up North to a place called “New Eden”; where rumor is that there are no vampires in New Eden because they are incapable of surviving in the cold climates because they are Cold Blooded.  However, vampires aren’t the only dangers that Martin and Mister will face on their journey.  In a world where there is absolute chaos and the only law is those who take the law into their own hands Mister must teach Martin everything he knows or the two of them stand absolutely no chance at survival.    
See it! See it! See It!

    I absolutely love the characters in this film.  My favorite character, hands down, is Martin.  When the film starts off Martin is this young, naïve, good ol’ boy whose family is tragically massacred by a hungry vampire.  That tragic event led to Martin developing a bleak outlook on life.  He doesn’t whine, he doesn’t cry, he has just become numb to everything.  He yearns for a simple life where no one and nothing can bother him. Throughout the film Martin has to lots of things he doesn’t want to do, but he does them because he is helpful and loyal to Mister and over the course of the film we see Martin evolve from a quiet lost boy to tough self-reliant man.  Actor Connor Paolo was just fantastic in this role.  The role of Martin, I think, was a very difficult one to play, because he had to show how he evolved and changed over the course of the film.  Starting at one spectrum an ending at the other (without “jumping the shark”) is quite a feat for any actor to do in just one film.  It’s not like Paolo had 2-3 films to stretch and develop his character.  He did it just one.                               
Mister get's ready to battle some vamps!
     My other favorite character in the film is Mister.  Mister is a lot like Tallahassee in “Zombieland” except without the humor, but that isn’t to say that he doesn’t do some funny things in the film.  He’s tough, but he’s not mean.  He’s a man who knows to keep his emotions out of his decision making because he knows that letting his emotions get the best of him could get him killed.  This is a term that gets tossed around in the film, but Mister is a total “Bad Ass” character.  Whenever Mister and Martin enter a new town/area and are asked for I.D. he hands the person a pouch filled with vampire fangs; trophies he has taken from each vampire he staked.  How cool is that?  In another scene he comes across two men raping a nun and he kills them both without any hesitation and very little effort, so Bonus Points to Mister.  He is played by unknown actor Nick Damici, who also wrote co-wrote the script with the film’s director Jim Mickle.                     
Mister's Character "Prequel" Made before the films release
Jebediah Loven is a great villain in this film!
This film has a great villain as well, and I’m not talking about the vampires—though they are pretty cool looking.  The bad guy in “Stake Land” is a man named Jebediah Loven.  Loven is the leader of a Cult known as “The Brotherhood” and he believes the vampire plague was the work of God, and he believes that God sent him the vampires for him to control and use to “Do the Lord’s Work”.  Loven believes that he knows the only key to controlling the vampires and he acts with great hostility towards anyone who does not want to join the Brotherhood.  He even goes so far as to have vampires dropped out of helicopters on neutral towns as a way to spread the plague and conquer new areas.  Unlike religious leaders in other apocalyptic films that claim they’re doing the Lords work, but have ulterior motives, Loven seems very sincere in his beliefs that he was chosen by God to rule and rebuild the Earth, and that God sent the Vampires for him to control and use as Instruments of God to get people to join his cult.                 
Jebediah Loven's character "prequel" released prior to films release

     Very rarely to see unknown writers and directors hit a home run in with their first films, and the team of Nick Damici and Jim Mickle did just that.  With a list of strong, interesting, and heroic characters, great villains (both Human and undead), and story that is fairly reminiscent of two successful Hollywood films, “Stake Land” is just an all around awesome movie.  I would recommend this film to anyone.  I am so glad that I watched this film.  I really can’t say enough great things about it.

Yeah Do what the Poster says!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Classics: A Review of To Have and Have Not By: Lauren Ennis

Anybody got a match?
“You know how to whistle, don’t you?” Lauren Bacall asked as she captured the attention of both co-star Humphrey Bogart and audiences across America in her screen debut in To Have and Have Not. With her sultry stare, smoky voice, and insolent wit Bacall proved to be an ideal match for legendary tough guy Bogart both on and off screen. The interaction between the film’s stars elevated the story beyond its beginnings as a war time melodrama to a more relatable tale of ordinary people coping with extraordinary circumstances. To Have and Have Not proved to be a critical and commercial success through its combination of intrigue, humor, and camaraderie. The film also became the stuff of Hollywood legend by launching the career of then nineteen year old Bacall and her famous romance with Bogart.
The film begins as Bogart’s Captain Harry Morgan is renting out his boat in occupied Martinique to American tourist Mr. Johnson (Walter Sande). As they reach shore, Morgan requests payment for his services, but Johnson hesitates before promising to pay Morgan in the morning. Morgan begrudgingly agrees to wait for his payment and accompanies Johnson back to his hotel. Once at the hotel, Morgan is approached by proprietor and Free French resistance fighter Gerard, better known as Frenchy (Marcel Dalio). Frenchy begs Morgan to let his fellow resistance fighters use Morgan’s boat to transport a pair of fugitives on the run from the Nazis. Despite Frenchy’s pleas and offers of ample compensation, Morgan flatly refuses saying it would be too much of a risk. While trying to avoid Frenchy and his associates, Morgan befriends runaway and pickpocket Marie “Slim” Browning after catching her stealing Johnson’s wallet. Before Morgan can collect his money, however, a drive by shooting occurs at the hotel and both he and Slim are taken in for questioning by the local authorities. After the Vichy controlled police rough up Slim during her interrogation, Morgan decides to take action and agrees to rent his boat to the resistance free of charge. The plot then moves into several twists and turns as Morgan tries to outsmart the Nazis while fighting his growing attraction to Slim. As in Casablanca, the ultimate conflict at the core of To Have and Have Not is the struggle within Bogart’s world weary cynic between his desire for the safety of neutrality and his need to risk it all for the greater good.

Despite its similarities to other Warner Brothers' pictures of the era, To Have and Have Not actually has an extensive literary pedigree. The concept for the film was first conceived when director Howard Hawks boasted to famed writer Ernest Hemingway that he could make any book into a hit film. Hawks then called his own bluff and made a bet with Hemingway that he could make a smash hit out of Hemingway’s ‘worst novel’; To Have and Have Not. Hawks then enlisted the help of screenwriter Jules Furthman and literary icon William Faulkner to adapt the novel into a workable script. Although Hawks technically won the bet, he was only able to do so by drastically changing the plot to capitalize on war time patriotism, and extensively borrowing from Warner Brothers’ earlier hit, Casablanca. The combination of plot devices, international locales, and cast members carried over from Casablanca initially make To Have and Have Not appear to be Casablanca-lite. Upon closer observation, however, it becomes apparent that the film has its own unique flavor and is capable of standing upon its own merits.

Who's taking care of who?!
One of the biggest draws of the film is the interaction between its ensemble cast. Each scene between Bogart and Bacall sizzles with sensuality in a way that few post-Hay’s Code films could. The most striking aspect of their scenes is the way in which the characters play off of each other and build upon their mutual understanding. The scenes between Morgan and Slim were in fact so convincing that Hawks was forced to rewrite the script so that Morgan could have a happy ending with the brassy thief, rather than the originally planned bittersweet romance with a French resistance fighter. After watching the crackling chemistry between Bogart and Bacall, it is little wonder that the studio went on to cast the pair in three more collaborations.

The interaction between Bogart’s cool cynic and the colorful characters that he encounters are almost as engaging as those between him and Bacall. Walter Brennan’s performance as Morgan’s alcoholic first mate, Eddy, is by turns both humorous and heartfelt. Throughout the film, Eddy tags along on Morgan’s adventures in an effort to look out for his friend, all the while unaware that he’s the one who requires looking after. Brennan’s portrayal of the bumbling Eddy helps make the friendship between Eddy and Morgan believable, which in turn highlights Morgan’s hidden softer side. Similarly, Dolores Moran’s performance as the willful resistance member Madame De Bursac provides an excellent counterpoint to Morgan and Slim’s world weary skepticism. In keeping with the Casablanca tradition, Hoagey Carmichael’s bluesy piano player provides extra zest with musical and comic relief. Even the villains have their moments to shine, particularly Dan Seymour in his sarcastic portrayal of Vichy official Captain Renard.

To Have and Have Not was a crucial turning point in the lives of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Prior to being cast as Slim, Bacall had worked as a model and actress in minor theatrical roles. When one of Bacall’s modeling photos appeared in an issue of Harper’s Bazaar, Hawks’ wife took notice and convinced him to arrange a screen test. Despite her lack of film experience, Bacall won the role which would become the defining moment of her career. She soon attracted the attentions of both her director and co-star, despite the fact that both men were already married. Tensions rose on the set as Bacall spurned Hawks’ advances and eventually began a romance with Bogart, who was separated from his third wife, actress Mayo Methot. Hawks retaliated by embarking upon an affair with Moran, while Bogart and Bacall pursued what would become one of the most storied relationships in Hollywood. The two were married in 1945, and the marriage lasted until his death of esophageal cancer in 1957. The pair would go on to star in three more pictures together including Hawks’ classic detective noir The Big Sleep.

To Have and Have Not is a film that remains as entertaining today as on the day of its release in 1944. The film’s combination of excellent performances, interesting characters, and razor sharp dialogue make it a must see for fans of intrigue and old fashioned adventure. For many, there never was and never will be an on screen pairing quite as steamy as that of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, regardless of production code restrictions. To top it all off, the film even includes an unforgettable lesson in how to whistle.

The usual suspects

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A review of "Re-Animator".

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “Re-Animator”

By: Brian Cotnoir

Oh H.P. Lovecraft, it saddens me greatly that the films adapted from your stories have never quite reached their full potential.  Lovecraft’s “Lovecraftian Horror” has influenced and inspired many great writers and people in the film industry such as Stephen King, John Carpenter, and Sam Raimi.  So why is it that people can be inspired by Lovecraft and use his ideas for their own works, but they can’t quite adapt Lovecraft’s own works into successful films?  The films adapted from the literary works of H.P. Lovecraft are of the same caliber of the Claudio Fragasso’s B-Horror classic “Troll 2” and some of the films, adapted from his stories, make Stephen King Film adaptations look like freaking Alfred Hitchcock!  With that being said, I’ve decided to review the most (fan) popular film adapted from a work of Lovecraft, 1985’s “Re-Animator”.       
Hey is that Mountain Dew in that syringe?
    “Re-Animator” was adapted from a series of short stories by H.P. Lovecraft called Herbert West—Reanimator, and it is the story of a young medical student, named Herbert West, who helps discover a miracle serum (that strangely enough looks like Mountain Dew) that can bring corpses back from the dead.  West believes he has made the medical discovery of a lifetime, but it is all too apparent that the poor unfortunate people he’s brought back from the dead are not the same as they were before and chaos and destruction reign in a world where the formerly living can walk again.                                             
Author H.P. Lovecraft
First of all I would like to say is Bravo, Mr. Lovecraft.  You wrote a Horror spoof decades before those lousy producers who wrote the “Scary Movie” films did.  I’m not being sarcastic.  It is very clear to see Lovecraft drew inspiration from great Gothic works of literature, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and I even saw some references to Bram Stoker’s Dracula in the film.  Not only was Lovecraft’s work inspired by others, but his story itself went on to inspire others.  Even though the un-dead characters in the film in the story don’t have an official monster name, it appears to be the first clear representation of a “zombie-monster” in literature.  That’s a full ten years before the release of the first Zombie Horror film “White Zombie” (1932).                                                    
Actor Jeffrey Combs is Dr. Herbert West in "Re-Animator"
    So how was the film?  It’s was really bad, but bad in the good way.  I think the same way that many people will enjoy this film the way that they would enjoy films such as “Troll 2” or “Plan 9 from Outerspace”.  It’s a cheesy over-the-top Hollywood produced piece of crap that screams 1980’s.  Actor Jeffery Combs, who plays Herbert West, over-acts so much in this film that it is impossible to not laugh at his performance.  For most of the film he sounds like Christopher Walken trying to impersonate Professor Snape.  Not only that, but in my opinion, he reminds me a lot of Jeffrey Dahmer, which should make his character a lot scarier, but it just doesn’t.  I say that because, Combs character looks like Dahmer, he kills a cat to perform and experiment on it, and the way he believes in his experiments—despite constant failure—is very similar to that of Jeffery Dahmer.  However, when compared to Jeremy Renner’s portrayal of Jeffrey Dahmer in the 2002 film “Dahmer”, Combs is just laughable!         
Hey.  How's it going?
This film also has a lot of gross out horror and features Combs character and the other actors in the film butchering and mutilating nude re-animated corpses.  It is pathetically campy, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  Did this film do H.P. Lovecraft any justice?  Absolutely not, but you know what, I think if they ever decided to re-make this film and set it in the time-period, in which Lovecraft wrote it, and not set in modern times it could be a really great Gothic/Horror Themed film, instead of just being a laughably good and violent film that the 1980’s made and left behind.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My 5 Favorite Movie Kills

Confessions of a Film Junkie: My 5 Favorite Movie Kills

By: Brian Cotnoir

     Film and cinema has been around for over one-hundred years, and in that time Hollywood studios have pretty much run out of creative ways to kill people in their films.  We’ve seen guns, explosives, chainsaws, knives, swords, hands, animals, everyday objects, and Odin knows what else used to kill people in films, but cinema still has produced some creative kill.  This list is here to name My Personal 5 Favorite Movie Kill. Now just to clarify this isn’t the “5 BEST Movie Kills of All-Time” these are all my Personal Picks, so I’ know I’m probably going to leave off some obvious movie kills on this list, but please don’t tell me that I forgot about this movie kill or that movie kill, because these are my personal favorites.  Thanks and Enjoy!

#5- Curb Stomping (American History X)

When I was in High School “American History X” was my favorite film, and one of the best aspects of the film is from the opening scene.  For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, “American History X” is the story of a young Neo-Nazi named Danny Vinyard—played by Terminator 2 star Edward Furlong—and he is forced by his high school principal to write an essay on his brother Derek’s imprisonment for a racially motivated murder.  Years ago Danny was woken up in the middle of the night after hearing a group of young gang-bangers trying to break in and steal his older brother’s truck.  When Danny informs his older brother Derek—played by actor Edward Norton—he goes into a homicidal rampage and shoots one of the thugs point blank killing him instantly.  Derek manages to shoot another one of the gang-bangers in the leg leaving him immobile.  In a racially motivated rage, Derek drags the injured gang-banger to the sidewalk and tells him to bite down on the sidewalk.  He then stomps at the back of the thug’s skull; killing him.  What else is there to say about this kill, other than “Say Good night!”.

#4- Dragged to Hell (Drag Me to Hell)

This one comes from a Horror film that I feel is definitely under appreciated.  I mean it’s a pretty scary premise: you piss off or “shame” a gypsy and they put a curse on you that causes all of these horrible things to happen to you, and then at the end of it all you get dragged straight to hell.  Personally I felt the opening scene where the young boy got dragged to hell was more scary, then when Christine got dragged to hell, but either way it’s looks freaky as all hell to see someone you care about get dragged to hell, and there’s nothing much you can do.

#3- “Dogs get put down” (The Watchmen)

Love it!
So in this kill Walter Kovacs (aka Rorschach) is telling a therapist about the time he caught a kidnapper who raped and murdered a girl, and then fed her remains to his dogs.  Rorschach kills the man’s dogs and has him in the corner. The man admits he killed the girl and begs Rorschach to take him to prison, but Rorschach doesn’t feel that will be necessary.  He looks the sobbing criminal in the eye and tells him “Men get arrested; dog’s get put down”, and then he proceeds to hack the man’s face with a large butcher’s knife.  This is how we learned of Rorschach changing over from a vigilante crime fighter to a super hero with a never ending quest for blood and vengeance.

#2- Death by typewriter (Repo Men)

One of these things is not like the other.
One of these things is a total rip off!!!!!!
     Let me just start off by saying that “Repo Men” is not a good movie.  It is a complete rip off of Terrance Zdunich’s “Repo: the Genetic Opera” and to be honest it doesn’t even deserved to be mentioned in the same sentence as “Repo: the Genetic Opera”.  So why did I put this kill so high up on my list?  Because it has probably the funniest death I’ve ever seen on film (and probably the films only redeemable part).  So Jude Law’s character and this woman are being chased by two Repo Men through an abandoned building when one of the Repo Men is about to shoot one of them, when a type writer comes flying out of know where and squishes his head.  When I saw this scene for the first time I laughed hysterically for almost five minutes, I found it to be that funny.  This film may be a total rip-off of another—much better—film, but it still gets my vote for having the funniest kill of all-time.

#1- The Glory Hole (Hobo with a Shotgun)

The Lamb being led to the slaughter!
     How awesome is “Hobo with a Shotgun”?  I mean you’ve got Rutger Hauer playing a hobo who goes around with a shotgun, righting wrongs in a corrupt town run by a ruthless crime boss known as “The Drake”.  This film doesn’t just have one creative kill, it has many!  You’ve got a guy getting his head crushed between two bumper-cars, you’ve got a guy getting cut to shreds by a baseball bat covered in razor blades, you’ve got a school bus full of kids being torched by flame thrower, you’ve got a guy getting his d!ck blown off with a shotgun.  Not to mention the bad-a$$-ness that is “The Plague”, but I think the most iconic kill from “Hobo with a Shotgun” has got to be The Glory Hole; a public execution that requires a person to have a hinged man hole cover placed around their neck and be dropped into an empty sewer hole.  The more time you spend in the glory hole the less blood circulation that travels to the rest of your body.  Then after all that pain and anguish you have a barbed wire noose placed over your head and tied to the bumper of a car, as it the driver slams the accelerator and decapitates your head from the rest of your body.  This is a creative kill that strike fear into all that see it.  This film is more than deserving of holding the title of “Most Creative Kill(s) in Film”.

This was a good Kill Too!

Most of these are pretty funny too

The Drake was an awesome villain too

·         July 11th- “Re-Animator”
·         July 18th- “Stakeland”
·         July 25th- “The Black Klansman”

·         August 1st- A Retrospect on “Antichrist” (New Segment J)