Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Screening of "It Follows" (2015)

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A Screening of "It Follows" (2015)

By: Brian Cotnoir

This week, I take a look at the newly released Horror/Thriller "It Follows".  A Horror Film that has gained a lot of buzz and popularity over the internet.  Did this film meet my expectations or did it fall flat?  Watch my review below and find out.  Don't worry NO SPOILERS in this video.

My review of "It Follows"

The Trailer for "It Follows"

Monday, March 23, 2015

Trailer Previews: "Crimson Peak"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: Trailer Previews: Crimson Peak

By: Brian Cotnoir

      This week I take a look at the trailer for the upcoming Guillermo del Toro film "Crimson Peak" starring Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Hunnam.  How will I be able to keep my fanboy emotions on on this one???

My Review

The Teaser Trailer

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Classics: A Review of Broken Embraces By Lauren Ennis

Film noir is a genre that has become synonymous with the 1940’s and 1950’s. When they were first released, the thrillers, mysteries, and melodramas that compose the versatile genre were often pushed aside as ‘popcorn fare’ that were only produced to satisfy studio budgets. As time wore on, however, the gritty style and moral complexity of those forgotten films was finally recognized by new generations who saw the anxieties and broken hopes of their own era reflected back at them on the black and white screens of the past. Today, the genre has been hailed as both cutting edge and classic and is regularly, though rarely successfully, imitated. One film that successfully manages to blend the moral crises and dark sensibilities of noir with the issues and norms of contemporary society is the 2009 Spanish neo-noir Broken Embraces.
So familiar, but I can't think why....

The story begins with blind screenwriter Harry Caine (Lluis Homar) learning about the death of the producer of one of his films, tycoon Ernesto Martel (Jose Luis Gomez). Soon after this revelation, Harry’s agent approaches him with a new client, an amateur director known only as ‘Ray X’ (Ruben Ochandiano). Harry later realizes that Ray X is actually the alias of Ernesto Martel’s son, Ernesto Jr. The film then launches into a flashback to the early 1990’s when Harry still possessed his sight and was a director named Mateo Blanco who wrote screenplays under the pseudonym Harry Caine. Mateo is approached by Ernesto, who agrees to finance Mateo’s latest project, a comedy called “Girls and Suitcases”, in hopes of securing a role for his secretary turned mistress, Lena (Penelope Cruz). Mateo reluctantly allows Lena to audition only to find himself almost instantly captivated by her, and despite her lack of professional experience, he immediately casts her, leading the two to quickly embark upon an affair. Suspecting that something is amiss, Ernesto enlists the aid of his film loving son to spy on the pair under the guise of filming a documentary about the making of “Girls and Suitcases”. Ernesto Jr. soon finds the evidence that his father is seeking, leaving Lena to face the wrath of the increasingly abusive Ernesto Sr. The film then chronicles the tragedy that results when the lives of Mateo and his cast and crew intersect with those of the Martels.

Director Pedro Almodovar expertly pays tribute to film noir without resorting to blatant imitation. The film’s tone appropriately alternates between suspenseful and mournful, while still maintaining moments of wry humor. Rather than the stereotypical lights and shadows associated with the genre, Almodovar instead infuses the film with explosions of vibrant color. In this way, the film follows in the footsteps of such classics as 1945’s Leave Her To Heaven in its portrayal of the evil that lurks within broad daylight. The characters follow noir archetypes while still remaining entirely modern and believable. For instance, Lena enters the film with a femme fatale’s allure, but is later revealed to be using that same sensual charm to mask her tortured past and prison-like present. Similarly, Mateo, while an unabashed ladies’ man is decent at heart, and like many a noir hero, finds himself lost in the world of love, lust, and obsession that Lena’s presence transforms his life into. Finally, the ruthless Ernesto’s inhuman cruelty and all too human motivations earn him a place alongside the most infamous villains in the genre. The film also pays tribute to classic films outside of noir with Lena donning costumes that are direct references to such icons as Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe and Mateo viewing films that feature such classic stars as Ingrid Bergman and Jeanne Moreau. The story also includes a sly nod to Almodovar’s own early work with “Girls and Suitcases” serving as a clever stand-in for his hit comedy Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, making the film a treat for cinephiles both classic and modern.
Rainy days and Mondays always get them down

The cast provide uniformly excellent performances that weave an edgy mystery with a retro twist. Lluis Homar makes for an effective leading man, serving as the voice of reason in the film’s twisted tale, while still portraying his character’s unique blend of world weariness and charisma. Jose Luis Gomez is an excellent counter to Homar’s Mateo as he perfectly embodies the desperation that his obsession with Lena reduces the otherwise successful and powerful Ernesto to. Penelope Cruz shines in her role as the enigmatic Lena, proving that she can play far more complex and compelling characters than the pretty faces that she is too often limited to in American films. Blanca Portillo, Tamar Novas, and Ruben Ochandiano lend apt support in their roles as Mateo’s agent, Judit, Judit’s college student son, and Ray X, each excellently portraying characters who are not what they seem.

Broken Embraces is a film that blends the best of classic and modern cinema to tell a truly unique tale. Its winding story relates a powerful mystery that highlights the ways that art and creativity help us to find meaning in life despite its many obstacles. The dynamic performances and razor-sharp script perfectly merge to create an enticing film that could convert even the most staunch of film critics into cinema devotees. Whether you like your films at the forefront of innovation or bask in the nostalgia of screenings past, your heart is bound to break for Broken Embraces.
Proving that even call girls have professional limits
If you enjoy noir, check out my full-length noir style play, Call It Even http://www.jacpub.com/Full-Length/Ennis_CallItEven.htm

Monday, March 16, 2015

A review of "Mamula: Killer Mermaid"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “Mamula” (or “Killer Mermaid”)

By: Brian Cotnoir

     Back when I reviewed “The Seasoning House”, I made a remark about how I wished there could be just one film set in the Balkans that isn’t about War Criminals or Human Trafficking.  Then one day last year, a friend of mine posted a trailer for a movie produced by a Serbian film studio on my Facebook wall, a film called “Nymph: Killer Mermaid”, I of course was immediately intrigued.  So I decided to give it a watch, in hopes that it would be everything I hoped for and more.  What I got was very...meh.                     
So the original title of the film is “Mamula” and it is set in country of Montenegro on a beautiful island town, where two American Girls named Kelly and Lucy have traveled to visit an old college friend who lives there named Alex.  The three friends (along with Alex’s fiancĂ©e) meet a man named Boban (or Bobby) who convinces them to go explore a mysterious Island Military Base called Mamula.  A local man named Niko warn the young people to stay away from Mamula because it has a certain evil about it and was used by the Nazi’s during World War II as a Concentration Camp.  The friends still decide to tour the old Military Base where they come across a mysterious  old sea captain disposing of bloody remains down an old well.  The group takes a look down the well to discover a young woman trapped below, only she is not a woman, but unbelievably enough a mermaid—a killer mermaid at that.  The killer mermaid seduces Alex and Bobby with her song, and now it’s up to Kelly and Lucy, and Niko to stop her.                
     Well the film does have some positive things going for it.  For one thing it has a lot of beautiful panoramic scenery to work with, and I can honestly say the killer mermaid is a cool sounding idea...but let me make something clear:  Killer Mermaids SOUND cool, but sounding cool isn’t the same as looking and being cool.                                             
It's Not Worth the Payoff!
     Other than that this film is very underwhelming.  The story of the “American tourists who go to a foreign country, and go to a mysterious forbidden place/island despite the clear verbal warning of imminent death from a scary local” has been done to death! Also, there’s a ton of build up around these killer mermaid’s—or Killer mermaid I should say as there is only one shown the entire film—and boy do they make you wait to see it.  They build up this mermaid so much that I began to anticipate that I was going to see one of the most epic things I’d ever see in a film.  What I got was a CGI mermaid so bad, that it rivals the Scorpion King from “The Mummy Returns” for Most Terrible CGI creation ever!  I’m not kidding this mermaid looks so fake and horrible! That was an hour and twenty minute long build-up for absolutely nothing!  I mean, how can you have a film called “Killer Mermaid” and barely show it at all?   
Your spells can't stop this movie from sucking!
As bad as the Mermaid is as a villain/character, she at least has an interesting background story that I wish they would’ve talked about more in the film.  Niko explains that the mermaid was discovered by the Nazi’s during World War II, and that she used her song-spell to capture and devour groups of soldiers.  She granted immunity from death to one of the soldiers in exchange for bringing her sacrifices to the island.  There’s also a hint at the end that there are even more killer mermaids hiding in the seas of Montenegro (and it leaves it open-ended for a possible sequel).  I’ll be honest with you; I am more interested in learning the origins of the Killer Mermaid than anything.                        
     Unless you’re super interested in Mermaids, I don’t recommend you check out “Mamula/Nymph/Killer Mermaid”, it’s dull, it has a lot of build-up and no pay off, and it is about as generic as a plot as you can get performed by actors who speak the entire film in fractured-English.  So do yourself a favor, and skip over this one. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Trailer Previews: "Insidious Chapter 3"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: Trailer Previews "Insidious Chapter 3"

A Video by Brian Cotnoir

This week I take a look at the trailer for the third installment of James Wan & Leigh Whannel's "Insidious" movie franchise, and get to gush about how I'm such a fanboy for their films.  Check out what I think below and then watch the the trailer after.

Das Film Junkie's Review

Insidious Chapter 3 trailer

Monday, March 9, 2015

Classics: A Review of The Lives of Others By Lauren Ennis

Early in our lives we are taught how to protect ourselves. As children at school we learn to avoid strangers lock our doors, and look both ways before crossing the street. As valuable as these lessons are, however, they do little to protect what is perhaps our most valuable possession; our privacy; In a world in which our personal information is available with the click of a mouse and nearly every form of communication has been revealed to be subject to government surveillance the question remains; how much of our lives are solely our own? The 2006 political thriller The Lives of Others explores how citizens of the former German Democratic Republic of East Germany grappled with that same question while maneuvering through the intrigues of daily life under the ever-watchful eyes of the secret police.
Nothing escapes the notice of 1980's super computers!

The story begins as Stasi officer and college professor Gerd Weisler (Ulrich Muhe) teaches a class about the ways to interrogate a suspect. In the lecture, he chillingly reveals the methods that the Stasi uses to manipulate and coerce suspected "enemies of the state" until they finally break down and confess. Although the recruits are skeptical of the Stasi's much touted ability to determine true confessions from false ones, Weisel remains fully confident in his expert judgment, as does his colleague Anton Grubitz (Ulrich Tukur), who approaches him after class with a specially ordered surveillance assignment. The assignment, collecting information on supposedly loyal playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), at first intrigues Weisel, who is excited by the challenge. As the assignment carries on, however, Weisel's once iron-clad faith in the GDR is shattered when he learns that the assignment is really a means with which prominent party member Minister Hempf (Thomas Thieme) hopes to eliminate Dreyman in order to pursue Dreyman's live-in girlfriend, actress Christa-Maria Seiland (Martina Gedeck). With each new revelation of the true nature of the Stasi's surveillance, Weisel becomes convinced that the only way to maintain the ideals he has devoted his life to is to sabotage the efforts of the very establishment that he once believed personified them.

Although The Lives of Others is a period piece, the same dilemmas that the characterss face in the 1984 GDR remain timely and relevant thirty years later. The film's central conflicts are Dreyman's  moral need to take action despite the repercussions he will face if he is caught, and Weisel's desire to help Dreyman even though doing so would mean risking his position and freedom. Although the crises of conscience that both men face could easily stand in for a myriad of moral dilemmas, these conflicts are particularly resonant in the wake of the United States' NSA Scandal. In that political scandal, National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden was hired to collect information about average citizens across the U.S. through surveillance of citizens' online and telephone activity. After witnessing the repeated violations of citizens' constitutional rights, Snowden reportedly reached a point at which he could no longer remain silent. In a maneuver that dominated international headlines, he went on to publicly expose the NSA for intercepting the communications of private citizens and political leaders from across the globe. Although he was hailed as a hero by many, there were just as many who viewed him as a traitor, including the United States' government, whose threat of prosecution lead him to flee to Russia. Both Weisel and Snowden were ultimately forced to give up what they held most dear for the crime of trying to protect the right to keep one's private life private. Though one is a recent reality and the other is historical fiction, both examples present us as individuals with the fundamental question of what we would do if we found ourselves in Snowden or Weisel's position. Days after watching this film, I am still pondering how much action I would be willing to take in such a situation and questioning just where the line is at which proactive national defense ends and blatant abuse of authority begins.
It's not as if we're interesting enough to listen in on...right?

The superb work of the film's cast transports viewers into the world of its characters regardless of any generational, language, or historical knowledge barriers that audiences might have. Ulrich Muhe is truly dynamic in his turn as Gerd Weisel, as he allows the audience to witness his character's transformation from idealistic but unknowing tool of the state to jaded vigilante. Similarly, Sebastian Koch holds his own in the equally complex role of conflicted playwright Georg Dreyman as he aptly portrays the ways in which people desperately cling to the world they know even when everything around them demands that they let go. Martina Gedeck excellently rounds out the central cast in her haunting performance as tormented actress Christa-Maria Seiland. Ulrich Tukur and Thomas Thieme also lend excellent support as Grubitz and Hempf, adding just the right amounts of entitlement, greed, sleaze, and menace to their roles as top Stasi officials.

The Lives of Others is truly an example of what a well made historical film should be. The story works equally well as a journey into the past and a dire warning for the future, all while maintaining a core of genuine emotion. The intelligent script by fist time screenwriter and director Florian Heckel von Donnersmarck and multi-faceted performances merge to tell a heart-wrenching tale of duty, love, betrayal, and sacrifice that is as powerful today as it would have been in the midst of the Cold War. For a glimpse into a 1984 that is even more chilling than anything George Orwell could write, look no further than The Lives of Others.

A man without a country
FOR MORE ON LIFE IN EAST GERMANY DON'T MISS MY SCREENPLAY IRON WILLED http://offthewallplays.com/2015/05/31/iron-willed-world-war-2-movie-script/

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

An Important Message from Miss E.

Hello and thanks for following the blog to all my readers!

I regret to inform you that as much as I love working on Confessions of a Film Junkie, I will no longer be able to maintain my previous weekly output. I have recently obtained a second job along with night courses and an internship which would make it difficult to continue writing a new blog each week. In order to avoid sending out rushed articles that would sacrifice quality for quantity I will instead have a new blog available every other week instead. I appreciate your readership and will continue to take requests. Please be sure to check in next week for a review of the 2006 political thriller The Lives of Others.

Thank you and see you next week!


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A review of "Random Acts of Violence"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “Random Acts of Violence”

By: Brian Cotnoir

     It’s not always easy coming up with an original film idea.  I mean just look at the stuff put out by The Asylum (no groundbreaking ideas coming from there).  This is nothing new of course to the world of film, when one studio has a good idea every other studio—big or small—has to try to copy it.  However, when a smaller Independent studio tries to copy a popular Big Budget Big Studio production, they’re going to fall flat in some places.  Today we are taking a look at one of those films, the Independent Dark Comedy, “Random Acts of Violence”.                
    “Random Acts of Violence” plot is basically “American Psycho” meets “How to be a Serial Killer”, the plot revolves around an English national living in New York City, named Malcolm.  Malcolm is the star of a documentary where he goes around New York City murdering random people and trying to kick-start a “revolution”.  The documentary shows us an intimate look at Malcom’s personal life and how he blends in with normal society as he commits his random acts of violence.                   
This film was written/ directed/ produced/ edited/stars Ashley Cahill, who plays the titular Malcolm.  He spends the whole movie talking with a fake-a$$ British accent being as pretentious as humanly possible, while his friends follow him around with a video camera.  He is not charming, he is not likeable, in fact; he does very few things of interest throughout this film.  His motivation seems entirely flawed; he keeps talking about “starting a revolution” by committing these horrendous acts of murder, but he doesn’t explain why he wants to start a revolution or even why he feels there is a need for revolution.  The “Murder-For-Revolution” doesn’t even seem like a valid motive, because the people he chooses to kill for the most part all seem to be random victims: he kills one person at random, he kills another person for being rude, he plans to kill a woman because he finds her annoying, he even murders his best friend because she said that she didn’t like his spaghetti sauce!  There is little to no consistency in Malcolm’s motivation.       
Malcolm Sucks so Hard!
You get the vibe from the film that Cahill intended to write Malcom’s character as an anti-hero, but trust me you will not be pulling for him in this film.  Unlike other movie self-absorbed serial killer anti-heroes like Patrick Bateman and Alex DeLarge, Malcom comes off as dislikeable and overly pretentious!  Does Mr. Cahill think just because he made himself the star of the film that we have to like his character and root for him? If so he fails on a massive scale!  Also, if his character was raised in England for the first 10-15 years of his life as he states in the film, then why don’t either of his parents have English accents? A little inconsistency, eh?                
Dirty Harry, he aint.
Not only that, but for me the “Found Footage Mock-umentary” film is a major put off.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, they break the biggest rule of doing the “Mock-umentary” film: Don’t make your shots look staged! For most of the film the camera angle is Point-of-View, but there a few times they break that rule.  There’s one scene where the camera is shown filming a woman walking down the sidewalk, and then Malcom walks up behind her and shoots her in the back of the head (he was mad at the girl for giving him chlamydia).  Other than looking totally fake there are other problems with this scene.  If you were to stand in front of a person with a camera, it would be near impossible for them to not notice you, and most likely they would turn around to see if you were filming behind them!  Even Kirsten Dunst noticed the camera pointing right at her in this film...oh Yeah, that’s something else I wanted to talk about in this film.  The only interesting worth mentioning about this film is that it features a brief—involuntary—cameo by Kirsten Dunst. Yeah, there’s a scene where Malcom and the documentaries director are waiting in an elevator and Kirsten Dunst just happened to be where they were filming. At one point she even asks them to put the camera away.  Worst. Cameo. Ever.                 
     I would not recommend the film “Random Acts of Violence”, its cheap and overly-pretentious rip-off of two already better films. The characters range from forgettable to annoying, and I can’t think of anyone who would actually enjoy this film (that’s not Ashley Cahill).