Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Screening of "While We're Young"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A Screening of "While We're Young"

A review by Brian Cotnoir

This week I take a look at the 2015 Comedy-Drama "While We're Young".

My Review

Trailer for "While We're Young"

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A review of "Hansel vs. Gretel"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “Hansel vs. Gretel”

By: Brian Cotnoir

     Back in 2013 I saw a dreadful Horror film called “Hansel & Gretel”, which was made by The Asylum as a low budget knock-off of “Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters”.  Even though, I didn’t review either of these films on the blog, I did not think highly of either film.  Then while browsing Netflix this past week, I came across another film with a similar title this one called “Hansel vs. Gretel”, and much to my surprise it was a sequel to the Asylums “Hansel & Gretel”.  So how bad can the sequel be to a film that was so bad, I didn’t even feel the need to review it?  Well let’s take a look.                                           
So the story continues off with Hansel (played once again by Actor Brent Lydic) who travels the country in his sketchy white van to hunt and vanquish witches.  Meanwhile his sister Gretel (now played by actress Lili Baross) continues to own and operate The Gingerbread House bakery that was left to her by Lillith (aka the Witch they killed in the first film).  It is then established that Hansel and Gretel has been somewhat estranged.  Gretel has stayed in town to run the bakery—which is more popular than ever—and Hansel travels to country slaying witches with little to no contact with his family.  Gretel hopes Hansel will stay in town and move back in with her and their grandmother, but Hansel has other plans in mind.  Hansel suspects a covenant of witches—related to Lilith—may be responsible for the disappearance of one of their friends and might possibly be trying to bait and trap Hansel and his sister. Unbeknownst to Hansel his sister Gretel has been experimenting with witchcraft, and is planning to double-cross her brother and the covenant of Witches for her own personal gain.                
You did better this time Brent
So no surprises here, that the acting in a production from the Asylum is quite lackluster.  I will say this though, actor Brent Lydic has improved as an actor greatly in the two years since “Hansel & Gretel”, but still he’s know Brad Pitt.  “Hansel vs. Gretel” isn’t that stand out of a film, but it does have a few things going for it.  One thing that the film has going for it is that it is better than “Hansel & Gretel”, I didn’t’ find it as boring as the first film, and like I said the acting—slightly—improved.  “Hansel vs. Gretel” also as some good gore and violence, but other than that not much stands out.                 
You on the other hand....well you weren't as good
Now let’s talk about what I didn’t like about this film.  For one thing there are plot holes galore.  For one thing, I like how Gretel claims that she followed Lilith’s secret Meat Pie Recipe, when the pies they people are eating are clearly fruit filled.  Also, how the hell did the witches manage to kidnap Gretel and the other girl so quickly without either Hansel or Jacob (the other main guy) noticing? Oh, and the final battle between Hansel and Gretel has the worst fight choreography I’ve seen in a film since “Fading of the Cries”.     
    No surprises here that “Hansel vs. Gretel” is a bad movie that is only slightly better than its predecessor.  You can go ahead and skip “Hansel vs. Gretel” there is nothing of importance and significance.  I mean The Asylum has released stuff more decent and entertaining than “Hansel vs. Gretel, so there’s absolutely no need to waste your time on this splat trek film.   

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Classics: A Review of Breakfast at Tiffany's By Lauren Ennis

Films are remembered for a variety of reasons including dazzling special effects, clever dialogue, and powerful storylines. Some films, however, are remembered for something more subtle than their technical aspects; those are the films that manage to rise above their individual parts to become complete works that are truly timeless. One such film is the 1961 romantic comedy Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Adapted from a Truman Capote novella, the film overcame its slight plot and controversial characterizations to become a fan favorite, which has cemented the places of both Audrey Hepburn and Holly Golightly as darlings of popular culture around the globe.
The days when carbs were chic

The story begins with Holly (Hepburn) longingly gazing into the display window at Tiffany’s as dawn breaks over New York City. Upon her return home, it is revealed that the elegant Holly is actually an escort attempting to dodge the advances of an insistent client. The film then introduces the whimsical characters who inhabit her apartment building, including photographer Mr. Yunioshi (Mickey Rooney), and new tenant Paul Varjak (George Peppard). Like Holly, Paul arrived in New York in pursuit of fame and fortune, and has also resorted to trading sexual favors to wealthy clientele in order to survive. The two become fast friends with Paul drawn to the mercurial Holly and her quirky lifestyle, and Holly finding stability and trust in the straightforward Paul. The film then chronicles the various arguments, reconciliations, and adventures of the pair, as Paul attempts to make sense of the girl he soon finds himself falling for against his better judgment.

The mere mention of either Holly Golightly or Breakfast at Tiffany’s conjures a wealth of iconic images and sounds. The opening shot of Audrey Hepburn ethereally treading down a deserted street epitomizes the glamour of Old Hollywood and the loneliness of life in Holly’s New York. Similarly, the closing shot of Holly, Paul, and her nameless cat in a rain soaked alley contains all the hope and promise of a modern fairy tale. Holly’s signature slang and distinctive world view have gone on to be referenced in numerous books, films, and television shows, as well as the passing conversations of would-be trendsetters eager to capture a bit of the signature Golightly charm. Despite its witty script, heartfelt scenes and excellent performances, the film is perhaps best known for its fashion. Each year countless women and girls adorn their rooms with pictures of Audrey Hepburn in Holly’s little black dress and don her famous cigarette holder and tiara, sometimes without having even viewed the film. Part of the film’s enduring fashion influence lies with its star, Hepburn, who brought the simplicity and chic of the European gamine to curve and curl worshipping 50’s Hollywood. Even today, the phrase ‘that’s so Audrey’ remains the ultimate fashion compliment. Still, even with her unparalleled style, none of Hepburn’s other ensembles have enjoyed the iconic status of Holly’s evening costume. The film’s theme song, ‘Moon River’, has also gained its place in cinematic history and is today considered a standard of the Great American Songbook, which has been covered by artists ranging from Andy Williams to Sir Elton John.

As incomparable as the film is, it was almost a very different story. The most famous change is the casting of Hepburn as its endearingly off-kilter heroine after Truman Capote had specifically insisted upon the casting of his friend, sex symbol Marilyn Monroe. Although Monroe had previously turned down the part for being too similar to her past roles, Capote remained bitter and insisted that Hepburn was unable to convey the complexity and sensuality of his leading lady. There were also numerous alterations to the script from the original novella, which portrayed Holly as a mercenary, marijuana smoking, bisexual prostitute and Paul as her gay best friend rather than her love interest. Capote’s original, grittier depiction of the pair was ultimately too hot for early ‘60’s censors to handle, which lead to the sanitized script that viewers have come to know and love. The lilting Moon River also narrowly escaped the cutting room floor after Hepburn told studio executives that the song would only be cut, ‘over my dead body’.
Holly doesn't need shades to see through this arrangement

Despite its iconic appeal, the film’s script amounts to little more than a character study of two compromised dreamers struggling to make it in the big city. As a result, the film almost entirely depended upon the cast to carry it to success. Regardless of Capote’s critiques, Hepburn is nothing short of a revelation as the outwardly carefree, but inwardly wounded Holly. Throughout the film, she captures each of the many facets of her ever-changing character with depth and raw emotion, while still infusing her role with the guile and charm that it calls for. George Peppard’s Paul makes for an ideal foil to Hepburn’s flighty flirt, as he keeps his character grounded in a reality that Holly refuses to acknowledge. Peppard also ensures that Paul is more than a cardboard love interest by portraying him with a weariness and cynicism befitting an artist turned kept man, while still maintaining the role’s basic decency. Buddy Epsen and Patricia Neal steal the film in each of their scenes, with Neal’s catty society maven and Epsen’s kindly country vet capturing the extreme world’s that Holly and Paul are caught between. The one misstep in the cast is Mickey Rooney’s miscast performance as Mr. Yunioshi, which drags the film into minstrel show caricature each time that he appears.

Frothy romantic comedy, in-depth character study, and quirky slice of life, Breakfast at Tiffany’s easily could have been just another tale of life and love in New York City. Through the work of its cast and crew, however, just enough cinema magic was created to ensure that the film would remain a darling of audiences and critics alike for years to come. I wholeheartedly recommend that film fans, fashionistas, and all the dreamers who have ever found themselves drawn to city lights take a seat and enjoy a large helping of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Two drifters off to see the world...

Monday, April 6, 2015

A review of "The Last House on Cemetery Lane

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “The Last House on Cemetery Lane”

By: Brian Cotnoir

     Good news “The Mooring”; you’re no longer the Most Boring Horror film I’ve ever sat through, not after sitting through the 2015 film “The Last House on Cemetery Lane”.  And trust me; this film is so boring that’ll put you to sleep faster and better than Nyquil.  Let’s not waste any more time, and dive into the Horror Snoozefest that is “The Last House on Cemetery Lane”.         
So the film opens up with a Real Estate Agent played by an actress who looks like he/she got a botched sex change operation from the same doctor who did Bruce Jenner’s, showing a new rental property to a client named John Davies who is looking for a getaway so he work on his Horror screenplay (UGH!).  However, this new property comes with one small condition: the 3rd floor of the house is permanently rented out to an elderly blind woman named Agnes.  John is not happy, because he wanted to be left alone to work on his screenplay, but the Real Estate Agent assures him that Agnes will be no trouble at all.  So John moves in and tries to work on his screenplay, but he finds it difficult to focus on his work, and he finds himself being charmed by a cute neighbor, named Cassie. Not only that, but some bizarre things began to happen around the house, and John begins to suspect that it may be Agnes, or quite possibly something more sinister a foot.  
Do whatever you want to me just dont
make me watch this stupid film again!
Oh. Your. God!  This film is so boring! Like, I could not believe how frustratingly boring it was at times.  I did not think I could quite possibly find a Horror film more boring than “The Mooring”, but this one surpasses by far.  The conversations between the characters John and Cassie have to be the Most Boring thing I’ve ever seen heard in a film, I was finding it hard not to doze off while watching this.  There conversations remind me a lot of the conversations between Eli and Amanda from the film “Last Kind Words”, and what I mean by that is, they’re just mindless ramblings about life and have no effect on the plot whatsoever.  It truly is the most agonizing part of an already terrible film.  Not only that, but there isn’t one moment of scariness or intensity this entire film.  The “nightmare” sequences in the film aren’t the least bit terrifying and look like some weird Art-House style film made by someone who flunked out film school!  At least in a film like “Blood Runs Cold”—which also has a lot of nothingness going on it it—it at least had a creative and interesting killer!  But “The Last House on Cemetery Lane” has absolutely nothing to offer its audiences!      
Awful!  All of you are just awful!
As for the characters, I hate them all!  John Davies has got to be one of the Worst Protagonists ever in a film, and the thing I hate about him the most is that his character is a “Horror Screenwriter”.  I hate when the main character in a film is a person who writes others films, because that’s just lazy writing and poor character development.  Yeah, it works for Stephen King when he writes a story, but hey that’s Stephen F*cking King, he can get away with doing something like that because he’s a beloved Horror writer!  As for the character Cassie...I feel like you could’ve gotten rid of 80% of her scenes, and it wouldn’t have affected the plot in the slightest bit, and it would’ve prevented me from bashing my head against the wall during the excruciatingly pointless conversations between her and John.  As for Ms. Connelly (the Real Estate Agent) and Agnes, the only thing I remember about their characters is that they were both hideous, and I’m not sure if that was because of good make-up work, or if because they’re both really that ugly, but yeah, that was really the only memorable thing about either of them.                               
     The thing that concerns me the most about “The Last House on Cemetery Lane” is how it was first presented to me:  I found this film on Netflix, and when I saw the star rating on it, it had all 5-Stars filled in, and came HIGHLY recommended to me, based on the films I’ve rated on the site, and so I was expecting to see the next, best, unknown Horror film, and what I got was a Nyquil in DVD form!  There are only two reasons I could think of for why anybody would possibly want to see “The Last House on Cemetery Lane”: 1.) A Person suffers from severe insomnia and is looking for something to help them fall asleep or 2.)If you ever have to take care of a person who has suffered severe brain damage and you need to put something on for background noise to distract them while you do work around the house.  Other than those two types of people nobody will benefit or gain anything from watching “The Last House on Cemetery Lane”, without a doubt one of the worst and most boring Horror films I have sat through to date.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter With an Edge: Biblical Bad Boys and Old Testament Temptresses By Lauren Ennis

The Easter and Passover seasons are a time in which those of the Christian and Jewish faiths reflect upon their religious beliefs and rejoice in the celebration of crucial events in their religious history. Since the silent era, studios have attempted to capture onscreen the larger than life tales of both the new and old testaments. The majority of those films focus relate the most famous of these tales including Moses’ deliverance of his people from slavery and Jesus’ crucifixion. In those films, the focus is placed upon the triumph of goodness over evil and the redemptive power of faith. While these films are powerful works, they ignore the darker aspects of the bible that helped make its tales truly epic. This week, I’ll be honoring the season with an added twist by exploring three films that will make you think twice about the goodness of the “good book”.
Sky rockets in flight, afternoon delight!

1.      David and Bathsheba: While King David is often remembered for his childhood triumph over Philistine giant Goliath, the kings’ story includes far more than that one chapter. The 1951 film David and Bathsheba chronicles the crises both moral and religious that the adult king encounters. The film begins by detailing the ways in which David (Gregory Peck) rules his kingdom, but quickly becomes a tale of lust and illicit love when he spies his neighbor, the beautiful Bathsheba (Susan Hayward) as she takes a bath by her window. Almost immediately after setting eyes on her he orders his men to bring her to the palace under the pretense of accepting an honor on behalf of her husband, Uriah (Kieron Moore), who is away fighting the kingdom’s enemies. It is soon revealed that Bathsheba is just as cunning as David and planned on bathing in front of her window in hopes of drawing his attention. Almost as soon as they are introduced, the pair embark upon a passionate affair and disregard the consequences until Bathsheba learns that she is pregnant with David’s child. It is only then that the couple consider the ramifications for their actions as they scramble to hide her condition before she can be accused of adultery; a capital crime. The pair first scheme to pass off the child as belonging to Uriah, and when that fails, plot to have Uriah killed so that Bathsheba can be free to remarry. The crosses and double crosses that ensue are more befitting of a noir than a biblical epic and make the film a truly sinful pleasure. Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of the tale is the ending, in which the couple escapes not just criminal prosecution, but all ramifications when David confesses to his sins and contritely prays, inspiring God to show mercy. While this twist shows the power of faith and mercy, it also goes against the moral lesson that the entire plot is built around and contradicts God’s supposed unbending law, which demanded the death of a minor character for an innocent mistake earlier in the film.  This in turn leaves viewers to grapple with the cynical question of whether or not there are in heaven as on earth two sets of laws; one for the privileged elite and another for the general population. Whatever your answer to this question, one thing remains unquestionable; the sheer entertainment value of an ancient scandal that could rival the most saucy of modern tabloids.
The days before Super Cuts
2.      Samson and Delilah: Samson and Delilah tells a similar tale of a biblical hero led astray by the temptations of the flesh. What stands out in the film, however, is the moral ambiguity of its traditionally cardboard characters. While touted by the other characters as Israel’s greatest warrior, Samson’s (Victor Mature) greatest enemy is not any foreign nation, but his own lack of self-control. Throughout the film, he behaves in a manner more befitting of an angst ridden adolescent than a national hero as he devotes more of his time to showing off his physical prowess and acting on petty grudges than furthering the cause of his people. When his retaliation for a lost bet goes too far and leads to his betrothed (Angela Lansbury) breaking their engagement, he refuses to take responsibility for his actions and instead chooses to immaturely lash out yet again, ultimately sparking a chain of events that ends with the murder of his fiancée. Beyond its morally compromised hero, the film also presents audiences with a complicated twist on the biblical tale’s femme fatale. Instead of a scheming seductress, Hedy Lamarr’s Delilah is portrayed as an ordinary woman hardened by personal tragedy. After witnessing the way that Samson’s recklessness led to the deaths of her father and sister, who in the audience could hold Delilah’s desire for vengeance against her? She is also shown to be ahead of both the ancient society of the film and that of the late 1940’s in which the film is released in her independence and willingness to break social norms. Rather than the passive tool of her countrymen that she is portrayed as in the bible, the film’s Delilah is an adept strategist and social chameleon who outsmarts the men around her at every turn. As a result, the film’s story of two people finding unexpected solace in one another as they cope with the loss and guilt of their pasts is far more relatable and complex than the original, simplistic, tale of a hero undone by a temptress. By 1940’s standards, the film also revels in the racier aspects of its story, showing off the physical charms of its leading man and lady in equal measure as it chronicles the forbidden love affair that ultimately proves to be Samson’s downfall. For a story that merges the battling best of the biblical with contemporary complications look no further than Samson and Delilah.
Is there any doubt as to why Andy Dufresne put her on his wall?

3.      Salome: Racism, incest, and political corruption; 1953’s Salome tackles all of these taboo topics and more. While the film is loosely based off of the biblical tale of the princess who ordered the execution of John the Baptist, the film diverges from its source material and transforms the formerly vindictive villainess into a misunderstood and courageous heroine. The film begins with Salome (Rita Hayworth) returning home to Galilee after her Roman fiancée rejects her because she is an immigrant and the local authorities banish her from Rome as an enemy alien. Despite her vow to never trust another Roman, she soon finds herself infatuated with the roguish Captain Claudius (Stewart Granger) during her journey home. When her stepfather, King Herod (Charles Laughton), learns of her budding relationship upon her return he becomes jealous of the young man, whom it is revealed he views as a romantic rival. As if the unwanted advances of her stepfather weren’t enough of an obstacle, Salome is also forced to evade the manipulations of her mother (Judith Anderson), who encourages Salome to give in to the king’s desires in order to secure both women’s political power. Meanwhile, prophet John the Baptist (Alan Badel) adds even more turmoil to the princess’ life by inciting the citizens of Galilee to overthrow the king, and queen as adulterers and insinuates that the two conspired to murder Herod’s brother, the queen’s late first husband. After failing to persuade the converted Christian Claudius to arrest John as a traitor, she soon finds herself regretting her actions and sympathizing with the prophet’s teachings. Eventually, John is arrested and Salome selflessly offers to perform a striptease for Herod on the condition that he in return grant any request she makes, with the hidden intention of  using the bargain to demand John’s release. As soon as her performance is finished, however, her mother demands the execution of John, ruining Salome’s opportunity to plea on his behalf. The film then reaches its inevitable, gory, climax when John is decapitated and his head presented to the royal family on a silver platter, leading Salome and Claudius to embark upon a daring escape from the palace. While this adaptations sidelines the most depraved aspects of the original story, Salome was daring in its time for its willingness to explore the effects of sexual abuse, racism, and religious persecution, even if only within a historical context. The film’s multifaceted portrayal of its characters succeeds where many other religious epics fail and creates a truly engaging story that viewers can apply to modern life. Coming of age story, religious epic, and social criticism, Salome is a truly epic film with more layers than its heroine’s famed seven veils.