Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Screening of "Ratchet & Clank"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A Screening of "Ratchet & Clank"

A Video Review by Brian Cotnoir

This week I take a look at the film "Ratchet & Clank", a film based off the popular Sony Video Game Series of the Same Name.  *WARNING* This Review contains SPOILERS


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Classics: A Review of Purple Rain By Lauren Ennis

On Thursday, April 28, 2016 music legend Prince Rogers Nelson, better known as Prince, died at age 57. In a career that spanned three decades, seven Grammy Awards, an Oscar, and five number one hits, Prince redefined popular music through his blend of pop, funk, R&B, and synth rock, which formed a completely unique and instantly recognizable signature sound. While best known for his work as a singer, songwriter, and composer, Prince also worked in film and starred in three films, two of which he also directed. Dearly beloved, these words have been gathered here in tribute to Prince’s film debut in which he showcased a performance that was the stuff of music legend; 1984’s rock musical Purple Rain.
Purple is officially the new black

The film begins with an everyman protagonist known only as ‘The Kid’ (Prince) struggling to start a music career amidst a troubled personal life. In order to escape his disruptive home life with his parents (Clarence Williams III and Olga Karlatos), whose relationship with both The Kid and each other is fraught with emotional and physical abuse, he throws himself into his music. Despite his devotion to his work, however, he continues to encounter personal conflict as his band becomes plagued with in-fighting and several members consider quitting to join other groups. The Kid’s primary musical rival, Morris (Morris Day), makes note of the band’s difficulties and quickly takes advantage of them by pitching a new girl-group to their club’s management and offering the position of lead singer to The Kid’s girlfriend, Apollonia (Apollonia Kotero). She reluctantly accepts the offer, which brings the already frustrated Kid to his breaking point, leading him to lash out at her in abusive behavior that directly mirrors the same abuse he has been trying to escape at home. Faced with continuing his downward spiral and repeating the very cycle of abuse he has been trying to rise above, The Kid is forced to re-evaluate his work, his relationships, and ultimately himself in a coming of age story for the MTV generation.

After numerous stale efforts throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, the movie musical threatened to become an outdated genre, but Purple Rain’s balance of tradition and innovation brought the classic genre into the modern era. While the movie musical had been an established genre since the early days of talking pictures, movie musicals had largely shied away from rock and modern pop, instead utilizing the tried and true show-tunes that the genre had been built upon.  Purple Rain reinvigorated the movie musical by not only incorporating, but framing an entire film around, modern rock and pop at their most electrifying. In many ways the film, which features several concert-worthy performances to propel its story, is as much a feature-length music video as it is a movie musical. For example, while most musicals feature characters spontaneously breaking out into song, Purple Rain restricts its musical interludes to the confines of the nightclub in which The Kid’s band performs, keeping the film firmly rooted in reality. Despite its restricted use of music, the film contains musical performances that, with their use of choreography, costuming, and sound that were all on the cutting edge of pop culture at the time of the film’s release would have fit in perfectly on an MTV special. Despite its trend-setting performances, the film’s coming of age story remains a universal one that could have been used in movie musicals of previous decades. Timelessly compelling and an apt glimpse into 1980’s pop culture, Purple Rain is truly a musical for the ages.
Chicks dig brooding

While the supporting performers all lend apt portrayals, Purple Rain truly belongs to Prince, whose charisma, showmanship, and passion carry the film. While The Kid is an everyman audiences can root for, he is also deeply flawed and displays dark tendencies. As a result, it was crucial that the role be filled by an actor who possessed the daring to fully portray The Kid without whitewashing his demons, but who could also balance the character’s faults with enough likability to ensure that audiences would remain invested in his story. In Prince’s hands, The Kid is a truly complex character whose struggle to break the cycle of his family’s abuse and make good in music is one that is at once deeply personal and wholly universal. While he holds his own as a leading man, the pop legend’s musical skills remain front and center as he brings The Kid’s story to life through a series of classic performances that have become the stuff of music history. With Prince at the helm, Purple Rain is a film experience that audiences continue to bask in today.

Singer, songwriter, composer, musician, actor, and director Prince was a true artist whose work was never less than revolutionary. In the three decades since he first appeared on the scene, music has continued to evolve and change as movements and trends have come and gone, but Prince’s influence remains a constant. In the wake of his death, his work remains a celebration of and testament to the sensuality, spirituality, and creativity that make up this thing called life. Next time that elevator tries to bring you down, look no further than Prince and his Purple Rain to give you the lift that you need.
All bow before the Prince

Monday, April 11, 2016

Trailer Previews "The Purge: Election Year"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: Trailer Previews "The Purge: Election Year"

A Video By Brian Cotnoir

This week I check out the trailer to the third Installment in the Purge Movie Franchise: The Purge Election Year.  Part of this new film was actually filmed in my Hometown, and I have some funny stories for you about what happened when I wandered on set one day.  "The Purge: Election Year" will be in theaters July 4th Weekend.

My Opinion on the trailer for "The Purge: Election Year"

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Classics: Three Cheers for Bette Davis By Lauren Ennis

The Kim Carnes song “Bette Davis Eyes” goes, “she’ll tease you, she’ll unease you all the better just to please you…”. Over the course of a career that lasted over five decades, Bette Davis did more than tease, unease, and please; she set the standard for what film acting at its most complex and fierce could be. From her Hollywood start as a budding ingĂ©nue to her final films in which she became known as a scene-stealing character-actress, Davis blazed a fiery trail not just for women, but for all actors seeking to create meaningful and challenging roles. In honor of what would have been her 108th birthday on April 5th, I will be discussing three of my favorite performances from Davis’ legendary career.
A romance that will leave you relieved to be single

Of Human Bondage: Described by Life Magazine as “the best performance ever recorded on the screen by a U.S. actress” Davis’ portrayal of wanton and malicious Mildred Rogers in Of Human Bondage was nothing short of explosive. The film follows the destructive on and off relationship between a mild-mannered medical student (Leslie Howard) and the vulgar tearoom waitress with whom he develops a masochistic obsession. After twenty films in which she was relegated to supporting roles and underwritten b-movie heroines Davis was finally able to show her full untapped dramatic range as the by turns seductive and abusive Mildred. While other actresses, including established stars Katherine Hepburn and Irene Dunne, refused to take on such an unsympathetic role, Davis rightly saw the part as an ample opportunity to make her dramatic mark. Despite the success of her performance, however, she was only nominated for a Best Actress Oscar after the Academy allowed ‘write in’ votes following public backlash when Davis was denied a nomination. She ultimately lost the Oscar to Claudette Colbert for her performance in It Happened One Night, but was awarded the title of Best Actress following year in what many deemed compensation for her earlier loss. Although her role as Mildred failed to earn her Oscar glory, Davis had passed the ultimate acting test with flying colors, and Warner Brothers took notice. Following the film’s successful release, the studio continued casting her in a series of increasingly complex and daring roles that built the foundation of her landmark career.
Bringing sexy 1914

Mr. Skeffington: This 1944 drama was released during Davis’ heyday when she reigned as the queen of Warner Brothers’ studios. The film is both a cautionary tale warning of the dangers of vanity and an unlikely love story. The story begins at the eve of World War I, with Boston beauty Fanny Trellis keeping a string of suitors at her beck and call and leading a life of luxury that her family’s depleted funds can no longer afford. She is forced to face reality, however, when she learns that to provide for their mutually lavish lifestyle her brother, Trippy, has turned to embezzling from his wealthy employer, Job Skeffington. In order to sway Job from turning Trippy in to the police, Fanny schemes to court and eventually marries the awkward, but devoted, Job. Ashamed that his actions forced his sister into a marriage of convenience to the much older and Jewish Job, Trippy enlists in World War I and is later killed in battle. After Trippy’s death, Fanny quickly loses interest in her husband and embarks upon a series of affairs, which eventually leads to the couple’s divorce. Years later, however, war and illness take their toll on both Fanny and Job, and the two are eventually reunited in time to learn that it is love rather than physical feature’s that constitutes true beauty.  Although billed as a ‘women’s weepie’ or melodrama, the film is actually an apt portrait of a fading society and those who clung to it even in the face of social change. Throughout the film, Fanny insists upon behaving like the high society belle she was before the war, even as her society is changed beyond recognition. It is this inability to see beyond the superficial world of her of her youth that eventually costs Fanny her marriage, her relationship with her daughter, and nearly costs her a last chance at love. Similarly, the film indicts the prejudices of Fanny’s world by highlighting both the absurdities and dangers of anti-semitism and the ways in which the anti-semitism already present prior to World War I eventually fueled the Holocaust during World War II. While not considered one of Old Hollywood’s great beauties, Davis is flawless in her role as a spoiled and vain debutante and leaves little wonder as to how she is able to charm her many conquests. The film once again demonstrates Davis’ willingness to put glamour aside as she portrays a character who not only ages over the course of several decades, but one who is also robbed of her beauty after contracting diphtheria. Over the course of the film she portrays Fanny as she ages from society belle, to sensual vamp, to humbled woman with equal aplomb and increasing nuance. While Fanny may not be “the most beautiful girl” that she is so often described as in the film, Davis’ portrayal of her is nothing less than a thing of beauty.
You feelin' lucky, punk?

Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte: Released towards the end of her career, during which time she transitioned to a successful character-actress and horror maven, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte is proof that even as she passed middle age Davis still had ‘it’. The film is a homage to southern gothic tales, which chronicles the ways in which an unsolved murder and the scandal that led to it have affected the citizens of a small southern town decades later. At the start of the film, local debutante Charlotte Hollis plans to run away with her married lover, John (Bruce Dern), only to later discover that he has been murdered. Although no one is ever charged with the crime, the locals suspect Charlotte and she becomes a social pariah. Decades later she has become a recluse and is struggling to keep her family estate, even as the threat of eminent domain looms. Just as it seems as though things cannot get any worse for the tormented Charlotte, a visit from her glamorous cousin (Olivia de Havilland) unearths old family resentments and secrets, which threaten the very fabric of Charlotte’s fragile existence. As the story twists and turns, questions arise concerning John’s murder and Charlotte’s sanity, which propel the film into the suspense of classic horror. The film is a prime example of Davis at her most fierce as she captures the defiance, pride, and anguish that define the character of Charlotte Hollis. While the horror plot is at times outrageous, Davis is always perfectly believable as she shows her character’s descent into a world in which not everything is as it seems, and makes audiences root for her even as evidence keeps building for why we shouldn’t. Although horror is a genre often maligned for lacking depth and complexity, Davis’ performance contains every bit as much nuance and gravitas as any of her earlier roles, and in many ways calls for even more skill. Thanks to her superb performance, even in the midst of an array of thrills and chills the film’s core remains its heroine’s entirely human struggle for understanding and empathy in the face of social ostracism.  For a horror film that truly is a scream, look no further than Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte.