Monday, March 28, 2016

Classics: A Review of The Song of Bernadette By Lauren Ennis

In a world fraught with conflict, violence, illness, and injustice is can seem almost impossible to maintain faith. During this Easter week which comes in the wake of another week in which terror and violence dominated the headlines, it is crucial to remember that there is more to life than the negativity that seems to permeate our world. This week’s review tells the story of an ordinary girl who through an extraordinary experience learns the full meaning and power of faith even as she endures public scrutiny, ridicule, and physical illness; 1943’s The Song of Bernadette. While the story focuses upon the true story of a girl who would become a Catholic saint, the film’s message of hope and faith extends beyond the confines of any one religion or belief system and has something to offer viewers of all walks of life.
Who could interrogate that face?!

The story begins with recently unemployed miller Francois Soubirous (Roman Bonhen) forced by poverty to take odd jobs and live in the city jail with his wife and children, including teenage daughter Bernadette (Jennifer Jones). Although a dedicated student, Bernadette’s poor health forces her to frequently miss school, earning her the ire of her stern teacher, Sister Vauzous (Gladys Cooper). One afternoon while walking home from school she takes a short-cut by wading through the contaminated river by the Massabaille caves and sees a vision of a lady surrounded by light and holding a pearl rosary. She tells her friends of her ethereal encounter, but makes them swear to keep her story a secret. Of course, the secret is too tempting for teenage girls not to divulge, and soon Bernadette is the talk of the town. All this furor draws the attention of local and church authorities who repeatedly question her story and attempt to dissuade her from visiting the cave. Despite protests from her parents and ridicule from the townsfolk, Bernadette continues to visit the cave and follow the lady’s often cryptic instructions. Eventually she begins to win over her critics when her prophecy of a spring appearing at the cave comes true as not only does a spring appear but the spring actually seems to possess miraculous healing capabilities. While the spring proves a source of healing and inspiration for some, its appearance proves to be just the start of Bernadette’s trials as the church launches an investigation into her claims and rumors swirl that the girl’s visions are either a cry for attention, or a symptom of mental illness brought on by wading through the contaminated river. The ensuing investigation is only the first step in Bernadette’s long and arduous journey to becoming a modern-day saint.

The film manages to be largely faithful to the true story of Bernadette Sobouris and her controversial visions while still maintaining an uplifting message and inspirational themes. Throughout the film, Bernadette is portrayed as an ordinary girl as she balances the familiar responsibilities of school and helping out at home, while still enjoying fun with her friends and a budding romance with a local boy. Noted for her poor health and academic difficulties, the only areas that she seems to truly excel in are her capacity for patience and kindness. Even after she begins seeing visions of the Virgin Mary, Bernadette continues to see herself as an average girl and struggles to maintain an ordinary life in spite of her extraordinary experiences. Through this portrait of a saint as a young woman, the film presents viewers with a surprisingly relateable heroine who serves as an apt reminder of the potential for goodness in us all. Bernadette’s story takes on an even more inspiring aspect in its darkest moments as she steadfastly maintains her faith in herself and her religion in the face first of accusations from church and local officials and later petty jealousy and devastating illness. She continues to face adversity even after she stops seeing the visions and reluctantly gives up all that she knows to enter religious life as a nun, but through it all carries herself with a humbleness and grace that are nothing short of saintly. By the film’s finish, it is not the otherworldly visions that viewers will remember as much as the extraordinarily resilience and inherent goodness of the ordinary girl who witnessed them.
Only the real deal can convert the likes of Vincent Price

While many religious films fall prey to stagey performances that are all atmosphere, The Song of Bernadette remains mesmerizing because of the realism and depth that its cast brings to the film. Gladys Cooper provides excellent insight into the ways in which jealousy can transform even the most devout into hypocrites in her portrayal of Bernadette’s teacher turned Mother Superior at the convent, Sister Vauzous. Over the course of the film, Sister Vauzous evolves from merely stern to outright vicious as she sets out to make Bernadette pay for her own inadequacies. Although likely the last actor most viewers would expect to find in an inspirational religious film, Vincent Price not only fits right into the film, but nearly steals every scene in which he appears. While Price was known for delightfully over the top performances in camp horror classics later in his career, his portrayal of local prosecutor, Dutour, is both understated and layered. His natural approach allows viewers’ insight into the reasonably skeptical official’s conflicted perspective as he experiences a crisis of faith and comes to question whether there might be some truth to the girl’s fantastic story after all. Despite the superb performances surrounding her, the film belongs to Jennifer Jones, whose luminous performance exudes innocence and grace without becoming cloying or grating. Despite the fact that Jones was already a twenty-four year old mother of two, she effortlessly captures the naivete and grace of the adolescent Bernadette with a purity that is truly inspiring.

More than a mere religious tale, The Song of Bernadette is a testament to the hope and goodness that is present in the world even in its darkest hour. Through its combination of a literate script and a talented cast, the film brings the story of the young saint to life without once losing its cinematic appeal. Through its chronicle of a one girl’s miraculous experience, the film reveals the ways in which faith can transform our lives. For a tune that will lift your spirits look no further than the lilting song of Bernadette.
Hail Mary...

A Screening of "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A Screening of "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice"

A Video Review by Brian Cotnoir

My review of Batman vs. Superman

Friday, March 25, 2016

Das Film Junkies Top 25 Favorite Non-Horror Films

Confessions of a Film Junkie: Das Film Junkies Top 25 Favorite Non-Horror Films

By: Brian Cotnoir

Hello All.  So the other day I got to thinking about how it’s been a long time since I posted my first Top 10 Favorite Films list and I decided that I wanted to do an expansion of my original list.  However, as I was compiling my new list, I quickly realized that many of the films on that list were already featured on my Top 25 Favorite Horror Films of All-Time, so in order to avoid repeating myself; I decided to make this new list my Top 25 Favorite Non-Horror Films. 

25.) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

I wasn’t a huge fan of the Harry Potter books or films as a kid, and to be honest I hadn’t seen any of them films until a group of friends had me binge watch with them in college.  I really do appreciate the fun and mystique of the Harry Potter films and with that being said my favorite of these has to be the second film in the series “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”.  The first film was a great origin story, but I like “The Chamber of Secrets” better because now it’s just straight story telling.  It’s a story that has a lot of good mystery, scares, action, and plenty of entertainment.

24.) Goon

I’ve only recently seen this film, but it has quickly become one of my favorites.  I’m a big fan of Ice Hockey, and the 2011 Sports Comedy, “Goon” is about one of the most entertaining sports movies I’ve seen.  I know plenty of people who say “Slap Shot” is the gold standard for hockey movies, and I understand why (heck, I see a lot of references to “Slapshot” in “Goon”), but I really enjoy actor Sean William Scotts character Doug Glatt in the film because he is a character I can relate too: he is a bouncer who lives in Massachusetts who is a fan of hockey (just like me, only he gets to live the dream).  There’s also many other great acting performances that come from actors Jay Baruchel, Liev Schreiber, and Kim Coates. 

23.) Tokyo Gore School

Tokyo Gore School” is an indirect sequel to the 200? Japanese film “Tokyo Gore Police”.  The stories main premise is that that someone’s hacked the student records at a Tokyo High School.  If you send a text to this group then an embarrassing secret about that you will be sent to everyone in your contact list.   Soon kids go around beating up their classmates and texting the number from the kid’s stolen phones in order to find out their secrets, and primary attention ends up going towards a popular senior boy, and swarms of students all over Tokyo begin attacking him in an attempt to get his cellphone and find out his secret.

22.) The Lion King

This was the first movie I ever saw in theatres.  I’m amazed at how well it’s held up after all these years.

21.) Kongen Ov Bastoy

Kongen ov Bastoy” (or “The King of Devils Island”) is a Norwegian film inspired by some real life events from the Bastoy Prison Camp for Boys in Norway.  Our main story focuses on the lives of three boys who are incarcerated at the camp, and the events that lead them to stage a violent revolt against the corrupt adult leaders. 

20.) Beauty & the Beast

It truly is a “tale as old as time”.  I think the Disney adaptation is probably the best adaptation of the beloved fairytale.  It has spectacular animation, and a wonderful soundtrack created by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, and features my personal favorite Disney Princess, Belle.

19.) The Dark Knight

I’ve always been a fan of Batman ever since I was a little kid.  “The Dark Knight” is obviously my favorite Batman film (so far).  I know everyone likes to think that Superhero movies began to change with Marvels “Iron Man” and “Avengers” franchises, but the truth is it was actually Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” that took Superhero movies from a film for kids to films that could be for adults too.  I was 18 when this film was released in theatres; I had friends that couldn’t see it when it came out because it was Rated-R.  The film also features an All-Star Cast from Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and of course Heath Ledger who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the Joker.

18.) A Clockwork Orange

I’ve already talked to death about this film, and how much I love it, so I’m just going to post my Video Retrospective on “A Clockwork Orange” below for you to watch (and hopefully enjoy).

17.) Frozen

And now we go take a journey to the complete opposite end of the Spectrum.  I am very impressed and still amazed at how well made Disney’s juggernaut animated film “Frozen” is, and even more impressive is that I’m still not sick of it.  I mean, I have a 3-year-old niece, so everything we do revolves around the movie “Frozen”, and I’m still not tired of it.

Because you will NEVER be able to escape it :p

16.) Fight Club

What an entertaining film this is, and it’s not that hard to see why.  It’s based off of an awesome novel by Chuck Pahluniuk, and has an all-star cast featuring Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Jared Leto, Meatloaf, and Helena Bonham-Carter.  Toss in an some awesome directing from David Fincher, and you have one of the best films of the 1990’s.

15.) The Godfather Part II

I understand why people love “The Godfather”, but too me “The Godfather Part II” is so much better.  I really like the origin story of Don Vito, and how he came to the U.S., and his rise to power it was the perfect offset to his son Michael’s descent into isolation and despair.  To me “The Godfather Part II” is just one of those Perfect Movies.

14.) Jumanji

I already talked about this movie in an Editorial Piece I wrote last year, so I’ll just post a link below to that below.

13.) The Nightmare Before Christmas

Another timeless classic from my childhood:  I love the style and soundtrack of Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, everything about this film is just perfect.

12.) Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

I’ve always thought of Scott Pilgrim from “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” as a kindred spirit I could relate too.  I mean we are both socially awkward Canadians in their mid-20’s that play the bass, and have an evil ex-girlfriend and are constantly pursuing women there are way better than we deserve.

11.) Cashback

One of my Favorite all-time movies in college, “Cashback” is a wonderful Rom-Dram that has fantastic cinematography, a unique story, and comical cast.  I’ve already talked so much about this film before.  That I won’t bore you with it anymore; just see it.

10.)  Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Who wouldn’t want to be Willy Wonka?  He’s a millionaire with the heart of a child, the brain of a mad scientist, and he lives in a massive chocolate factory with a tribe of Oompa Loompa’s who do nothing, but sings songs all day while they work.  Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka is one of the most brilliant casting decisions ever, and the film also features one of the Best Child Casts I’ve ever seen as well.

It truly is a World of "Pure Imagination"

9.)  Coming to America

This is another one of those films I could watch over and over again and not get tired of watching.  I’ve watched this film up to 3 times a day when it’s playing on television.  The story of an African Prince (played by Eddie Murphy) who heads to America with his best friend (played by Arsenio Hall) in hopes of finding a wife for the Prince in Queens, New York.  I think the best scenes in this film happen at the barber shop where both Murphy and Hall take on multiple roles.  The film also features great performances from James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair.

8.)  Jurassic World

This film hasn’t even been out a year, and I love it!  Yes, I know it many people don’t think it’s as good as “Jurassic Park”, but it’s still a great movie! Just all the new dinosaur creations combined with an exciting story, and the awesomeness that is Chris Pratt make for a very entertaining film.  Plus, the sheer size and magnificence of Jurassic World, it makes the original Jurassic Park look like a petting zoo.  Even with the dozens of changes and rewrites I heard that went into the making of “Jurassic World”, it still turned out to be a great film in my opinion.

7.)  Lockout

I can’t begin to tell you how much I adore this film.  Luc Besson’s 2011 film “Lockout” is like the epic action film that the 90’s forgot to make.  It’s a film about a tough as nails agent (played by Guy Pearce) who has to enter a dangerous prison riot—in space!—in order to rescue the President’s daughter.  This film is a ridiculous action thrill ride, and I enjoy every single second of it.

6.)  Avengers: Age of Ultron

I already talked about this film last year in one of my video reviews so—again—I’m going to post my video review to explain why I like it.

My Review of Avengers Age of Ultron

5.) Five Minutes of Heaven

I adore this television film.  It stars two of my favorite actors James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson, and tells an epic tale partially inspired by actual events, about two men who met in their youth during the infamous killings in Northern Ireland.  Neeson’s character Aleister Little was a member of the Protestant Ulster Volunteer Force who murdered a Catholic man named Jim Griffin, while his younger brother Joe watched in horror.  Years later (after a much publicized stint in prison), Little has become a famous and popular television reporter, when his studio approaches him about doing a story about reconciliation and asking the younger brother of the man he killed for forgiveness they both agree to meet.  But little, does he know that Joe Griffin has been waiting and planning to murder Aleister Little for all the hell his family put him through because of what he did all those years ago.  This film has a lot of amazing tension, an interesting story, and probably the best climax, I’ve ever seen in film.

4.)  Hobo with a Shotgun

I’ve always had a fondness for the old Grindhouse style films of the 1970’s, and “Hobo with a Shotgun” is the perfect tribute to those old styles of films.  The story of an unnamed Hobo (played by Rutger Hauer) who ends up in the small Canadian town of “Hope Town” that is under the cruel reign of a corrupt drug lord known as “The Drake” and his two sadistic sons Slick and Ivan.  The Hobo decides one day he can’t take much more of the Drakes evil tyranny and begins going around the town, righting all the wrongs one shotgun shell at a time. 

3.)  Jurassic Park

I’ve always loved this movie, ever since I was a little kid.  I watched this film on VHS so much at my grandparents’ house that I wore out the tape.  I saw it multiple times when it was re-released in theatre in 3-D, I had a “Jurassic Park” themed birthday party for my 4th Birthday, and I still get goosebumps every time I watch the scene where Dr. Grant sees the dinosaurs for the first time.  This is an amazing film and is one of director Steven Spielberg’s best works, and every time I watch it I feel like I’m 5-years-old again.

It still gives me goosebumps to this day

2.)  Rocky Horror Picture Show & Repo! The Genetic Opera

Number two is a tie because anyone who is a fan of “Repo! The Genetic Opera” is also huge fan of “Rocky Horror Picture Show”.  I have seen both of these films in theaters dozens of times, and I never get sick of the events, the escapades, the call-backs, and the shear spectacle of these amazing films!  You must see both of these films in theaters at least once!  Just google local Rocky Horror Picture showings in your area, and just go to see it.

And My #1 favorite Non-Horror Film is...

1.)  Django Unchained

Man, oh Man do I love Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained”.  I like the historical setting, I like the story, I like characters, I like the action, the comedic moments, I like absolutely everything about it.  What’s most amazing to me is that this is a 3-hour long film, and I can sit and watch this film in its entirety and not feel bored even for one second.  I have always been a fan of Quentin Tarantino’s films, and I believe “Django Unchained” is his best work to date.  

"I like the way you die, Boy"

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Classics: A Review of Sabrina By Lauren Ennis

From the first fairytales and fables that we hear as children to the novels and films that we enjoy as adults stories contain timeless themes that continue to touch and influence our lives. One such familiar theme is the rags to riches success story that makes up every underdog tale from Cinderella to the modern American dream. One film encompasses this familiar theme is a way that is both an endearing take on a classic and a comment on contemporary life; Sabrina. This 1954 romantic comedy continues to serve equally well as romantic escapism and social satire even decades after its release.
Nobody puts Audrey in the corner!

The story begins as chauffer’s daughter Sabrina Fairchild (Audrey Hepburn) longingly looks on as her father’s employers, the Larrabees, hold their annual summer party. Even though she is preparing to leave for cooking school and start a new life in Paris the next day, Sabrina is consumed with regret that she can never part of the glittering world of the Larrabees and their social set. As the party winds down, she comes upon her long-time crush, playboy David Larrabee (William Holden), in the midst of seducing another woman. Distraught, she impulsively attempts suicide only to be caught and rescued just in time by David’s older brother, staid businessman Linus (Humphrey Bogart). She then leaves for her trip as scheduled and embarks upon a journey of more than mere miles as she acquires a new outlook, self-confidence, and of course cooking skills. By the time that she returns to the Larabee estate two years later she no longer resembles the awkward girl living above the estate garage and is every bit the Parisian sophisticate. Her new persona quickly turns David’s head, putting his impending marriage and the Larrabee business merger depending on that marriage in danger. In order to keep the business and wedding plans in place the Larrabee’s send Linus to distract and ultimately send Sabrina back to Paris. What the Larrabee’s don’t count on, however, is the effect of the charms of the chauffer’s daughter on Linus as well as David.

The film is a rare romantic comedy that works equally well as both a comedy and a romance. Sabrina’s evolution from smitten schoolgirl to confident woman provides an excellent backdrop for her dual romances as she grows out of her infatuation with David in favor of a relationship with the more mature Linus. This same trajectory plays well for laughs with her teenage angst so over-the-top that it serves equally well as both dark comedy and insight into adolescent growing pains. Similarly her interactions with Linus build to a solid romantic foundation with their opposite personalities leaving plenty of opportunity for hijinks. The film also contains a satisfying mix of dry wit and broad comedy with each physical act of comedy such as David’s champagne glass accident matched by equally amusing witticisms courtesy of the sparkling cast of characters.
What a little la vie en rose can do

The exemplary cast carries off the romance and comedy aspects of the script with equal aplomb. William Holden imbues his playboy role with a roguish charm that offers no apologies for David’s shenanigans while leaving little doubt as to why Sabrina is so smitten with him. Humphrey Bogart, best known for moody dramas and thrillers proves himself an apt comedic actor in his portrayal of business savvy, but socially awkward, Linus which lends credibility to both Linus’ reputation as a ruthless tycoon and his sweet interactions with Sabrina. While the cast turns in uniformly excellent performances, the film belongs to Hepburn who is a pure delight in her innocent and effervescent performance as a modern-day Cinderella whose secret weapon is not a glass slipper but a winning personality and self-confidence.

Bubbly, witty, and hopelessly romantic, all these phrases aptly describe both Sabrina and its titular heroine. The film’s combination of heartfelt romance and razor-sharp wit make it a winner with something for audiences of all ages and cinematic tastes. The superb cast bring the script to life with a sparkling wit and genuine emotion that ensures that audiences will root for its happy ending, even while enjoying its sly jabs at social disparity. Light as a moonbeam across a starlit sky and effervescent as a fresh glass of champagne, Sabrina is an example of romantic comedy at its finest.
Who says nice girls finish last?!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Screening of "The Witch"

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

A Video Review by Brian Cotnoir

*WARNING* THIS VIDEO CONTAINS SPOILERS*  This week I made it out to see the latest Horror film "The Witch", a story set in New England during 1630 where a family leaves the safety of the colonial plantation in order to seek out God in the unexplored wilderness.  However, something sinister appears to be afflicting members of the family, and now they family begins to speculate what could be causing all these horrible things.

My Review of "The Witch"

My Trailer Preview of "The Witch" from October 20th