Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Screening of "Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A Screening of "Paranormal Activity: Ghost Dimension"

A Video Review by Brian Cotnoir

This week I take a look at the 6th Installation in the "Paranormal Activity" Franchise.  Why the hell don't people ever turn on the lights whenever they're trying to investigate something Paranormal or Supernatural?  *WARNING* this Video Review contains some Spoilers.


Film Trailer

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Tribute to Maureen O'Hara By Lauren Ennis

On Saturday, October 24, 2015 Hollywood lost one of its legendary leading ladies with the death of Maureen O’Hara. Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1920, O’Hara arrived in the US after being cast in Charles Laughton’s adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1939. Her portrayal of the equal parts tormented and sensual gypsy dancer, Esmeralda, earned the notice of studios and audiences alike and marked the start of a Hollywood career that would last decades. While her flame colored tresses and emerald eyes brought her the nickname ‘the queen of technicolor’, it was her fiery portrayal of a host of intelligent, no-nonsense, heroines that brought her from the realm of alluring starlet to the much deserved status of leading lady. Here are three of my favorite Maureen O’Hara films that I recommend not only to viewers unfamiliar with O’Hara’s work, but also to cinema buffs looking for an inspiring film experience.

Dance, Girl, Dance: Released just one year after O’Hara’s arrival in Hollywood, this film was considered a commercial and critical failure upon its initial release. As the feminist movement of the 1970’s took hold, however, the film was re-examined and touted for its themes of female independence and artistic integrity. The film tells a tale of a group of aspiring dancers struggling to make a living on the stage, focusing upon two very different women; brassy stage veteran, Bubbles (Lucille Ball) and naïve newcomer, Judy (O’Hara). As the film progresses, the pair are continually put in competition with one another in their pursuits of both romantic and career success, with Bubbles repeatedly outshining Judy through her willingness to do whatever it takes, with whoever it takes, to get ahead. Although not a classically trained dancer, O’Hara beautifully carries off the ballet, jazz, and hula routines that the script calls for, adding a sense of realism to the film’s proceedings. Over the course of the film, she develops the character of Judy from an innocent, but determined, girl to a disillusioned, but self-respecting, woman in such a way that Judy’s evolution is a natural progression, rather than a required plot point. While Bubbles, with her constant wisecracking and racy antics, would initially seem the more enticing character to play, O’Hara imbues Judy with a steely resilience and strength of character that endears her to audiences. Similarly, O’Hara succeeds in the difficult task of holding her own against the formidable comedic talents of Lucille Ball. Despite the fact that it debuted in 1940, the film remains startlingly modern with Judy’s burlesque hall speech to a heckling audience offering insight into women’s roles in entertainment and society at large still which still resonates today. For a dance drama that will get your mind working as well as your toes tapping, look no further than Dance, Girl, Dance.

That best not be heckling I hear...
Miracle on 34th Street: With a cast featuring Kris Kringle himself, the role of jaded divorcee Doris Walker easily could have been relegated to a background part. In Maureen O’Hara’s hands, however, Doris is no humbug, but is instead an entirely believable and relateable character. While the film’s main story arc concerns the trial of a beloved department store Santa Claus wrongfully accused of being criminally insane, the film also contains another more poignant, if less flashy, tale of a hardened woman reconnecting with her childhood idealism. At the film’s start, Doris is a recently divorced department store manager and devoted mother, whose rigid approach to office management is directly mirrored in her strict home life. Her initial dismissal of both neighbor Fred Gaily (Jeffrey Lynn)’s optimism and Kringle’s whimsy make her at first seem a difficult character bordering on unsympathetic. As the story progresses, however, it is revealed that Doris’ efforts to instill practicality in her daughter are all part of an attempt to shield Susan from the pain of later disillusionment. Even with this insight into her  past, however, the script still threatened to leave Doris a stereotypical scorned woman, but O’Hara’s warmth and wit ensures that her character is a multifaceted person rather than a mere plot device or type. Over the course of the film, she develops the role with a nuance and subtlety that makes the drastic change in Doris at the film’s finish a logical and hard won metamorphosis rather than the overnight transformation typically found in inspirational tales.  While Kringle’s exoneration is the miracle usually associated with the film’s title, Doris Walker’s rediscovery of her lost faith in life and love are equally miraculous, and it is this adult aspect of the script that continues to resonate with audiences long after their belief in St. Nick has faded. 
Fine, you can believe in Santa, but the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy are off-limits

The Quiet Man: Despite acting in over sixty films in a career that spanned from the 1930’s until the early 2000’s, Maureen O’Hara remains best known for a series of films she appeared in opposite western icon John Wayne, in particular their 1952 film The Quiet Man. The film tells a deceptively simple tale of an American boxer connecting with his Irish roots following a devastating accident in the ring. The film begins in a gentle fashion with Wayne’s Sean Thorton acclimating himself to life in the Emerald Isle until O’Hara bursts onto the scene in a performance that is nothing short of pure dynamite. In her portrayal of Mary Kate Danaher she is at her most fiery as she by turns brawls with and bewitches Wayne’s world weary boxer. It is the complicated  relationship between the central couple that provides the fireworks in an otherwise lilting tale of small-town life. While the two are instantly attracted to one another, a land dispute between Sean and Mary Kate's hard drinking brother and Mary Kate's own insistence upon adhering to the arduous traditions of Irish courtship make their romance a hard-earned one. Throughout the film,  chemistry between O'Hara and Wayne lights up the screen, leaving little wonder as to why the two were paired together so often. Although the role of Mary Kate is one that can be best summarized by stubbornness, pride, and defiance, it is also one that equally called for tenderness and affection; a combination that required the actress playing it to walk a tightrope between the character’s extremes. Fortunately for audiences, O’Hara was more than equal to the task and her Mary Kate is fierce without becoming shrewish and loving without ever taking any nonsense from the men in her life; in short she is a lass that the film's hero and audiences alike can't help falling in love with. John Wayne once said of his frequent co-star, "She is a great guy"; as these three films and the many others that she starred in show she was also a truly great actress.
Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne; lighting up the screen through any storm

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Screening of "Crimson Peak"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A Screening of "Crimson Peak"

A Video review by Brian Cotnoir

My Review

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Trailer Previews "The Witch"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: Trailer Previews "The Witch"

A Video by Brian Cotnoir

This week, I take a look at the Trailer for the film "The Witch" which is being released in 2016

Trailer Previews

Trailer for "The Witch" (2016)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Three Reasons That There is Still No Place Like Oz By Lauren Ennis

1939 is often cited as “the greatest year in Hollywood”. This single year saw the release of such classics as Gone With The Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, Stagecoach, and Ninotchka, amongst numerous other excellent films. Though these films differed widely in style, subject matter, and genre, all of these films shared the ability to resonate with Depression-era audiences. Seventy-five years later, several of these films are still considered classics as they continue to enthrall modern audiences. While all of these films earned their place in cinematic history, few have cast a spell quite as enchanting or far-reaching as a children’s fable that still has us dreaming of a land beyond the rainbow. Here are three reasons that the streets of Oz remain paved with cinematic gold.
Lions and songs and dance, oh my!

A PRODUCTION FOR THE AGES: Although it was released over seven decades ago, The Wizard of Oz remains strikingly modern. From flying monkeys, to melting witches, to a tornado that is truly out of this world, the film’s endless list of iconic images alone would have been enough to earn it a place in cinematic history. Even in an era dominated by CGI, there is no single image that conjures the instant recognition or continues to inspire awe like that of Judy Garland stepping out of sepia toned Kansas into the vibrant array of sight and sound that is Oz. The stark contrast between the drab reality of Dorothy’s Kansas and the splendor of Oz creates more than just a memorable contrast; it brings viewers into Dorothy’s mind as the world around her is colored first in oppressive grey and then in the vibrant colors which represent her vastly different views of each world. In many ways, this same color scheme also stood in for the drabness of life in poverty stricken Depression-era America contrasted with the bright lights and glamorous images of Hollywood through which viewers sought a refuge from their harsh reality. Through ingenious use of camera-work and the efforts of an extensive creative team, the film successfully brings Oz to vibrant life in such a way that dispels audience disbelief until the closing credits. From the yellow brick road of munchkin land to the depths of the witch's forest and the cosmopolitan Emerald City, each region of Oz contains its own culture and characteristics which in turn lends a sense of realism to the  otherwise fantastic plot. Although the successful blend of realism and fantasy would be an accomplishment in of itself, the fact that the elaborate costumes, dazzling sets, and breathtaking special effects were created without the benefit of modern technology is nothing short of daunting, and makes the film stand out as a true ‘horse of a different color’.
It ain't easy being green

THE VERY ESSENCE OF AMERICANA: Despite the fact that it was originally marketed to children, The Wizard of Oz has become firmly ingrained in the fabric of American culture. The use of such classic lines as “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto”, “I’ll get you my pretty and your little dog too!”, “Lions, and tigers, and bears. Oh my!” and of course “There’s no place like home”, just to name a few are so commonplace that these bits of dialogue have entered the realm of popular vernacular. Similarly, each of the film’s central characters remains iconic as they continue to appear as Halloween costumes and adorn home décor, accessories, and a plethora of personal items. Similarly just a few notes of one of the film’s signature songs will get grown adults ready to break out into a rousing performance of their favorite childhood tunes. “Over the Rainbow” in particular continues to enjoy fanfare from a wide range of music fans with pop, jazz, and even punk rock artists covering the beloved ballad. With each passing decade a new generation has been introduced to the wonders of Oz and each of those generations in turn has enriched the film's legacy with their own unique appreciation and prospective on the enduring tale. 

MESSAGE/STORY: Originally written as a populist allegory, The Wizard of Oz has meant an array of divergent things to each generation and individual exposed to its brilliant combination of fantasy, drama, innocence, wit, and raw emotion. While the visuals, sound, and casting came together to create a truly dazzling production, perhaps the film’s true secret to its enduring impact is the power of its story. On the surface, the film tells a straight-forward, if imaginative, tale of an average girl thrust into an adventure in a strange land. At its heart, however, the script actually relays a far more relatable tale of one girl’s journey to find herself only to realize that already possessed all that her heart desired all along. Through its dual storylines the film is able to entertain children with its dramatic twists and turns while simultaneously reminding adults of the value of the simpler aspects of life. Although it is tempting to, like Dorothy, dream of the allure of far-off lands and excitement of adventure, the film reminds us that it is a far happier and healthier practice to take a harder look at the small thrills and everyday blessings in our own lives. Through its depiction of the hidden dangers behind the surface beauty of Oz and the powerful love and support that surround Dorothy in Kansas, the film provides an apt message that can be summed up in five words, “there’s no place like home”.  

A girl's best friend

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Movies You Should & Should Not Let Your Young Children Watch this Halloween

Movies You Should & Should Not Let your kids watch this Halloween

By: Brian Cotnoir

Well it’s that time again: October.  Halloween will be here before you know it, and each year there are plenty of Halloween themed movies for kids on TV.  However, not every movie shown on ABC Family or Cartoon Network is ideal for certain groups of kids, if anything, some of them are just downright too scary for kids, but sometimes I can be very difficult for kids.  Remember films like the original “Poltergeist” and “Gremlins” were rated PG when they were first released and they absolutely traumatized many kids.  So assuming a film is safe for kids just because it’s on TV can often be a poor judgement, and just because a film is animated doesn’t necessarily mean it’s meant for kids either.  And I just wanted to clarify that the films that I’m classifying as “Dangerous” aren’t bad films (In fact, I enjoy most of them), but I think are more intended for older audiences despite being advertised to younger audiences.  Also, the age recommendations I’ve placed are just my own opinion.


Hocus Pocus (ALL AGES)

Okay seriously, this movie is perfect for everyone!  It’s about as close to perfect as you can get to a perfect Halloween film.  We have the wonderful folks at Disney to thank for this wonderful live action film starring Bette Middler, Kathy Najimay, and Sarah Jessica Parker.  This film has everything, it has thrills, it has action, it has laughs, it has songs, it has a talking cat, and probably the coolest movie zombie ever!  If you only allow your kids to watch one movie this Halloween it should definitely be “Hocus Pocus”.

What's that you say? "Hocus Pocus" is playing on ABC Family

The Nightmare Before Christmas (AGES 7+)

Another Wonderful Halloween film released by Disney in 1993 (technically Touchstone, but I’m not here to debate that) is Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas”.  What started out as a poem written by Tim Burton has since blossomed into a huge cult phenomenon that makes Goths and creepy kids all over the world lose their every loving minds.  The creatively creepy stop-motion designs of Tim Burton, combined with the brilliant directing of Henry Selick, and the memorable & beloved songs of Danny Elfman make this cult classic a must see on everyone’s Halloween movie list.

Everybody Scream!  Everybody Scream!

Hotel Transylvania (ALL AGES)

Every now and then Adam Sandler is a part of a film that makes us all go; “Oh Yeah, he’s pretty talented”.  The story of a Hotel run by monsters for monsters is a fun and enjoyable adventures for kids and adults of all ages, and features an All-Star cast including Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, Cee Lo Green, and many others.  I haven’t seen the sequel “Hotel Transylvania 2” yet, but if it’s anything like the first film it’s has to be a must see for your kids.

The Addams Family Values (AGES 10+)

I love “The Addams Family”; the TV show was one of my favorites as a child (and truth be told, the first person I ever had a crush on was Morticia Addams), so as a kid this was always one film I looked forward to every Halloween.  “The Addams Family Values” may be a sequel film, but you don’t need to see the original to enjoy it.  It has all the charm and dark humor of the of the original TV sitcom from the 1960’s. It’s an ideal film to for your kids to watch this Halloween, and will hopefully introduce them to the awesomeness that is “The Addams Family” (da na na na *snap snap*)

Add caption

The Harry Potter Films (AGES 10+)

The “Harry Potter” is not just a great Children’s Fantasy film series, but it is also great to show your kids during the Halloween Season.  Think about it; it’s a story that revolves around a group of young children who are learning how to become witches and wizards!  That’s got to be the coolest and most interesting children’s story ever told!  Not only that, but the films are based off of a book series that is beloved by both children and adults.  Parents can read the story to their kids, and then have a weekend movie marathon.  The films aren’t scary, but do contain some scenes or sequences that might be a little too intense for some younger audience members, but nevertheless the “Harry Potter” films are great films for you to share with your kids this Halloween. 


Coraline (AGES 13+)

This is the film that actually inspired this review.  A friend of mine thought it’d be okay to let 7-year-old daughter watch the stop motion film “Coraline” last October, because she assumed it would be a lot like “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, and was shocked to see that the film contains some intense scary imagery, and even references to eye gouging.  This may be one of the darkest children’s films ever made.  I enjoy the movie “Coraline”, but trust me it is not for younger kids.

You Know; For Kids! 

FrankenWeenie (AGES 13+)

Another stop motion film brought to us by writer/director Tim Burton, but unlike “The Nightmare Before Christmas” this one just might be a little too dark for younger audience members.  The film is based off of a live action short film that Burton made back in the 1980’s, about a young boy who tries to bring back his beloved pet dog from the dead in a similar style to Dr. Frankenstein.  I mean the film is harmless enough, but it does contain a few intense scenes.  The film has multiple references to resurrecting the dead and contains a sequence where the kids in town are being chased and tormented by some of the animals they brought back from the dead.

ParaNorman (AGES 11+)

Same reasons as the previous two:  It’s a good film.  It’s stop motion.  It contains a few scenes that may be too intense for younger audience members.

Teen Witch (NO ONE!)

This movie was made in the 1980’s to capitalize on the popularity of “Teen Wolf” and appeal to a female audience.  Let me be very clear when I say this:  If you let your child watch “Teen Witch” then they will suffer massive brain damage and you should be charged with child abuse for letting your child watch such a stupid and moronic film.  For further explanation why please click the link below.

5 Reasons Why "Teen Witch" is the Worst Film you could ever let your children watch

The Witches (AGES 13+)

Base of the classic Roald Dahl novel “The Witches” is the story of a group of witches who are bent on destroying all children.  The scariest part of the film comes when the witches remove their disguises and reveal their true forms to one another.  That scene is the stuff that children’s nightmares are made of, and will definitely give younger children nightmares if you let them watch it.

This image could result in a lot of therapy for your kids. 
Scooby Doo on Zombie Island (AGES 11+)

I Love Scooby Doo; It’s one of the Best TV series ever made, and they’ve also made a bunch of straight-to-video films that are very good for the most part, and the one Scooby Doo film I remember the most as a kid has to be “Scooby Doo on Zombie Island”.  In this one Scooby and the gang witness hordes of zombies rise from the grave, and become hostage to a group of people who are members of some sort of Voodoo Cult that pray to an ancient Cat God, and can transform into Cat People...Wow, is this an frightening film or what.