Monday, September 28, 2015

A Double Feature Screening of "The Green Inferno" and "Black Mass"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A Double Feature Screening of "The Green Inferno" and "Black Mass"

Videos by Brian Cotnoir

Hello Friends.  I actually went and saw two movies this weekend and I decided I wanted to review both this week :) This week I am reviewing Eli Roth's new film "The Green Inferno" and "Black Mass" the biopic based on the crimes of real life criminal James "Whitey" Bulger starring Johnny Depp and Benedict Cumberbatch.  *WARNING* "The Green Inferno" video contains spoilers (and excessive Fanboy Squealing). The "Black Mass" video contains no spoilers.  Both "The Green Inferno" and "Black Mass" are out in theaters as of this posting.

My Review of "The Green Inferno"

My review of "Black Mass"

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Classics: A Review of The Barefoot Contessa By Lauren Ennis

We are often warned against judging books by their covers and told to be wary of grass that looks too green on the other side of the fence. Yet, despite having been instilled with these lessons since childhood, we all still fall into the inevitable trap of comparing ourselves, usually negatively, to those around us. This habit, while all too human, serves little purpose but to blind us to the better aspects of our own lives in favor of an ideal that may not be all that it appears. The 1953 drama The Barefoot Contessa perfectly captures both the ease with which we are all too often seduced by appearances and the darkness that can lurk behind even the glossiest of surfaces.
Flamenco; hotter than twerking since 1954

The story begins in flashback as a series of acquaintances and friends gather at the funeral of Hollywood sensation Maria Vargas (Ava Gardner). As the funeral gets underway, each of the men who were closest to Maria reflect upon their relationships with her and her influence upon their lives. With each new reminiscence, however, emerges a new and distinct version of Maria as her publicist (Edmond O’Brien) recalls the glamour girl he promoted, her husband (Rosanno Brazzi) looks back on the woman he loved and lost, and her director (Humphrey Bogart) remembers his much missed friend. At the film’s start Maria’s life of fame, fortune, and luxury seems nothing short of enviable, leaving viewers all the more curious as to the cause of her mysterious death. As the film progresses, however, the layers of makeup and marketing are stripped away until all that remains is the poverty stricken dancer director Harry Dawes first met at a Madrid nightclub. The story eventually takes on a cautionary tone as it is revealed that throughout her life, the people in Maria’s life continually tried to control and manipulate her, and that only in death was the elusive star truly free. By the film’s shocking finale, it revealed that Maria’s glittering life was far from golden despite what the public had been led to believe.  

While Hollywood has chronicled the dangers of its fame machine both before and since the release of The Barefoot Contessa, few films have done so in such a subtle or realistic fashion. Unlike fellow Hollywood tale Sunset Boulevard, which emphasized the excess of life on the big screen, The Barefoot Contessa abandons all histrionics in favor of a deceptively simple tale of one actress’ meteoric rise and tragic fall. By utilizing multiple narrators the film also succeeds in balancing divergent tales as Maria’s outward success is chronicled while she continues to battle her inner demons behind closed doors. These dual tales in turn highlight both the falsities of fame and the ways in which private struggles are often masked by public success. As a result, the film is a cautionary tale that emphasizes the pitfalls not just of life in the fast lane, but also of trusting in the lure of appearances. This warning remains particularly relevant in today’s age of social media in which we are constantly bombarded by the supposed excitement, happiness, and success of our friends and acquaintances, all while their hardships and shortcomings remain carefully obscured.
Yes men; no actress' ensemble is complete without one

The cast brings a diverse array of characters to life in roles that easily could have been reduced to types. Warren Stevens is both formidable and pitiful in his portrayal of Kirk Edwards, the bitter Hollywood mogul who first discovers Maria. Similarly, Mari Aldon and Marius Goring light up the screen in their brief but memorable performances as Kirk’s tragic alcoholic girlfriend and a smarmy South American playboy who attempts to add Maria to his collection of showy possessions. Rosanno Brazzi adds depth to his role as Maria’s husband as he develops from a cardboard, Prince Charming-esque, love interest to a haunted character whose outward calm masks his internal battle against a traumatic past. Edmund O’Brien provides a comic center to the dramatic proceedings as Maria’s bumbling publicist, who by the film’s finish finally learns that there is more to living than promoting other people’s lives. Despite the array of fine performances surrounding them, the film truly belongs to Bogart and Gardner in their roles as Maria and Harry. Any questions concerning Gardner’s talent can be ended with one viewing of this film as she evolves from ambitious new-comer desperate to escape her circumstances to established star for whom happiness remains elusive. Gardner also deserves an extra nod for her successful imitation of a Spanish accent in the film’s early scenes and sensual performance of a unique take on the flamenco. Bogart brings his usual world-weary charisma and breathes new life into his persona by imbuing Harry with a fatherly tenderness as well as his standard cynical charm. Together the duo add a warmth and familiarity to a script that could otherwise be too coldly observant and removed from the everyday to elicit much emotion.

Part Cinderella story, and part cautionary tale The Barefoot Contessa is above all thoroughly entertaining. The script lends audiences an inside look at Hollywood in all of its glitz and sleaze with enough razor sharp barbs and parallels to actual celebrities to populate the spiciest of gossip columns. Despite its 1950’s setting, the film remains strikingly relevant in its themes as it warns against the lure of illusions both on-screen and off. For a juicy look at Hollywood behind the scenes, kick up your heels and hop onto the nearest couch for a viewing of The Barefoot Contessa.
A good friend is the stuff that dreams are truly made of

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Screening of "The Gift"

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

A Video Review by Brian Cotnoir

This week I take a look at the Horror/Thriller "The Gift".  *WARNING This Video Contains SPOILERS*

My Review of "The Gift"

The Gift Trailer

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Trailer Previews: "Krampus"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: Trailer Previews: "Krampus"

A Video By Brian Cotnoir

This week I take a look at the trailer for the upcoming holiday film "Krampus".  "Krampus" will be out in theaters on December 4, so stay tuned for that review later on this year.

Trailer Previews "Krampus"

"Krampus" Official Trailer

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Classics: A Review of Tea With Mussolini By Lauren Ennis

The old adage says that “it takes a village to raise a child”. The semi-autobiographical 1999 film Tea with Mussolini proves just how true that sentiment can be. Based upon a chapter in Italian director Franco Zefirelli’s memoir, the film chronicles the efforts of a diverse group of friends to raise a child under the threat of fascism. By turns endearingly quirky and deadly serious, the film highlights the impact and importance of family upon our lives even in the face of the most devastating of adversity.
Sometimes the closest families are made and not born

The story begins with a group of eccentric female British expatriates living abroad in Florence, Italy in the mid nineteen thirties. The ladies soon find their idyllic world shaken with the arrival of two very different outside forces; Mussolini’s fascists and a little boy grieving the death of his single mother. The boy, Luca (Charlie Lucas, and later played by Baird Wallace), is quickly taken under the wing of the nurturing Mary (Joan Plowright) after her boss, the boy’s father (Massimo Ghini), places him in an orphanage in order to hide the child’s existence from his nagging wife. Determined that Luca have a better life, Mary and her friends take him in and each play a role in raising him, instilling within him an appreciation for all forms of art and culture. Under their tutelage, he embarks upon a journey to lead an artist’s life and become, “a perfect English gentleman”. Just as Luca begins to adjust to his new family however, the threat of war begins to loom heavy over Florence, prompting his father to pack up the family business, move to Austria, and reluctantly take his son abroad with him. Five years later, Luca returns after running away from an Austrian boarding school to a war-torn Florence that he hardly recognizes. When Mary and her friends are interned as enemy aliens, he springs into action to aid the only family he’s ever known.

While the film chronicles the effects of the rise of fascism and outbreak of World War II upon Florence, the script’s real story lies in the way that the characters cope with and overcome the adversity that they are faced with. When Luca is confronted with the loss of his mother, he finds solace in the world of love and art that Mary and her friends introduce him to. As the film progresses, it is these same foundations that inspire him to leave occupied Austria, join the resistance, and return to pursue the life that he always dreamed of. Similarly, when the women are interned, they turn to their friendship and artistic passions to find the strength and courage to keep going. Even after suffering deprivations, betrayal, and imprisonment at the hands of the fascists, there are two things that the regime cannot take away the diverse group; their love for life and each other. By the film’s finish it is evident that the experiences that they have endured have only left them with a reaffirmed sense of who and what matters most in life.
Tea time anyone?

Despite its many hard-hitting themes, the film largely maintains a gentle pace, focusing more upon the inner world of the characters than the devastating historical events surrounding them. As a result, it was crucial that the cast convey the distinct and diverse personalities that populate the film’s version of Florence in order to maintain viewers’ interest and add emotional weight to the often episodic story. Fortunately, the cast proves nothing short of stellar with each member of the ensemble adding their own distinct flavor to the film’s melting pot of characterizations. Judi Dench and Lily Tomlin, although somewhat underused, infuse their roles as a dog-obsessed struggling artist and sarcastic, openly lesbian, archaeologist with quirky charm and an anarchic spirit that leaves audiences wishing they had more screen time. Joan Plowright is utterly enchanting as the loving Mary, and imbues her part with a sincere sweetness and warmth that ensures her bond with Luca is entirely believable. Maggie Smith makes great use of her usual comic haughtiness as the formidable Lady Hester, whose delusions of grandeur leave her unable to see the realities of her changing world. Cher dominates each frame that she appears in as the lovably loud and always entertaining show-girl turned wealthy art collector, Elsa, bringing a necessary pathos to an outwardly superficial but subtly complex character. Both Charlie Lucas and Baird Wallace are joys to watch as they portray Luca’s progression from grieving child, to unsure teen, to courageous young man.

Coming of age tale, inspirational story, and family film, Tea With Mussolini is all of these things and more. Through the combined power of the performances of its uniformly outstanding ensemble cast and equal parts witty and poignant script, the film brings to vibrant life a time and place long since passed. Although the film is set over three quarters of a century ago, its central themes of the importance of family and the power of art speak to all eras and cultures.  If you’re looking for a film that will make you want to get up and seize life in all of its glory, sit back and take a sip of Tea With Mussolini.
They ain't afraid of no dictator!