Sunday, August 28, 2016

Classics: A Review of The King and I By Lauren Ennis

The weather is growing cooler and the nights are growing shorter; that can mean only one thing; autumn is on its way and summer vacation is reaching its inevitable end. In keeping with the season, this week’s review will focus upon a tale of teachers and students that reminds us that we all could learn a lesson or two no matter who we are or how old we grow. Combining the elements of the biography and musical genres, 1956’s The King and I is a sumptuous feast for the senses that is also a study of cultural and gender clashes. Featuring powerhouse performances from Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr, and an iconic Rogers and Hammerstein score The King and I is an example of the movie musical at its most entertaining, which continues to teach and inspire audiences sixty years after its release.
Pure movie magic

The story begins in 1860’s Bangkok as English widow Anna Leonowens (Kerr) arrives to assume her new position teaching English to the many children of King Mongkut (Brynner). Although she experiences culture shock upon entering Siam, willful Anna refuses to adhere to the local cultural norms, which demand subservience from women. She even goes so far as to argue with the king when he breaks the terms of her contract and refuses to provide her with a residence adjoining the palace for her and her young son (Rex Thompson). Despite her initial difficulties, however, Anna becomes devoted to her work and teaches both the royal children and harem lessons that extend far beyond the facts and figures of the classroom. Although the two continue to question the mores and values of each other’s cultures Anna and the King form a begrudging respect for one another as she comes to admire his progressive ambitions and he learns to appreciate her independence and intelligence. As time goes on, Anna even takes on the role of advisor to the King as he consults her in his efforts to modernize his nation. The delicate balance between teacher and ruler is put to the ultimate test, however, when the pair is faced with conflicts both foreign and domestic that bring their fundamental differences to the fore.

What makes The King and I stand out amongst other classic musicals is its approach to its subject matter, which seemed to defy every standard set for the genre. While many musicals of the era utilized plot merely as an excuse to showcase elaborate song and dance numbers, the music in The King and I serves as a means of enhancing the story, which remains the film’s central focus. Similarly the characters are all written with depth and sympathy in a way that avoids the black and white characterizations that were so prevalent in early musicals. Furthermore, the film avoids genre clichés by focusing upon the complicated friendship between Anna and the King, rather than forcing the pair into a forced, conventional Hollywood romance and finishes on a hopeful, but still far from happy, ending.

Perhaps the film’s greatest strength, however, is its emphasis upon education as a means of both personal and societal growth. Throughout the film, the King declares his intention that Siam become a modern nation and wisely recognizes that education is the best means of achieving this goal. The film takes this notion a step further by showing that in spite of their many cultural differences, the one thing that truly sets modern and independent Anna apart from her tradition-bound charges is her education, which has provided her with the knowledge and skills to build a life for herself as a single mother in a distant land. Similarly the King’s tireless efforts to further educate himself remind us that learning is a lifelong necessity and the crucial starting point in changing the world around us. While the film does not feature the genre staples of inner city youth, test scores, or administrative interference, The King and I is a testament to the enduring value of education in all its forms.
This map illustrates our need for updated school supplies

The film’s star studded cast ensured a successful transition from stage to screen by breathing fresh life into the well-known tale. Rita Moreno brings a haunted quality to her unwilling concubine in her portrayal of Tuptim’s isolation as a foreign consort in the King’s harem. Similarly Carlos Rivas infuses Lun Tha with depth as he highlights the dignitary’s conflict between his love for Tuptim and his duty to his country. Terry Saunders lends warmth and intelligence to her role as the King’s head wife, Lady Thiang and Martin Benson is appropriately formidable as the King’s traditionally-minded right hand man, Kralahome. Deborah Kerr’s Anna is a woman who is truly ahead of her time as she infuses Anna with an endearing combination of warmth, dignity, charm, and ferocity that leave little wonder as to how she is able to win over the King, his children, and his harem while still remaining true to herself. Yul Brynner is in short made for his role as King Mongkut as he brings the role he originated on Broadway to life in all of its nuance and complexity. Even as he continually expresses views and makes decisions that are in direct contrast with today’s mores and social advancements, Brynner’s charisma, ironic humor, and commanding presence ensure that his King remains a character audiences can’t help but root for.


Through its combination of signature songs, captivating performances and thought provoking story, The King and I is a prime example of the magic of the movie musical. Through its dazzling costumes and sets the film successfully transports viewers to 1860’s Bangkok, while its layered performances and well written script ensure that there is plenty for modern audiences to ponder and relate to. With a score including such Broadway standards as “Getting to Know You”, “Hello Young Lovers”, and “Shall We Dance” the film will be sure to have you tapping your toes before the final credits role. Through its musical journey into the importance of education The King and I is a film that belongs on every teacher and student’s back to school list. 
106 children...and you thought modern classes were too big!

Classics: A Review of The King and I By Lauren Ennis

The weather is growing cooler and the nights are growing shorter; that can mean only one thing; autumn is on its way and summer vacation is reaching its inevitable end. In keeping with the season, this week’s review will focus upon a tale of teachers and students that reminds us that we all could learn a lesson or two no matter who we are or how old we grow. Combining the elements of the biography and musical genres, 1956’s The King and I is a sumptuous feast for the senses that is also a study of cultural and gender clashes. Featuring powerhouse performances from Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr, and an iconic Rogers and Hammerstein score The King and I is an example of the movie musical at its most entertaining, which continues to teach and inspire audiences sixty years after its release.
Pure movie magic

The story begins in 1860’s Bangkok as English widow Anna Leonowens (Kerr) arrives to assume her new position teaching English to the many children of King Mongkut (Brynner). Although she experiences culture shock upon entering Siam, willful Anna refuses to adhere to the local cultural norms, which demand subservience from women. She even goes so far as to argue with the king when he breaks the terms of her contract and refuses to provide her with a residence adjoining the palace for her and her young son (Rex Thompson). Despite her initial difficulties, however, Anna becomes devoted to her work and teaches both the royal children and harem lessons that extend far beyond the facts and figures of the classroom. Although the two continue to question the mores and values of each other’s cultures Anna and the King form a begrudging respect for one another as she comes to admire his progressive ambitions and he learns to appreciate her independence and intelligence. As time goes on, Anna even takes on the role of advisor to the King as he consults her in his efforts to modernize his nation. The delicate balance between teacher and ruler is put to the ultimate test, however, when the pair is faced with conflicts both foreign and domestic that bring their fundamental differences to the fore.

What makes The King and I stand out amongst other classic musicals is its approach to its subject matter, which seemed to defy every standard set for the genre. While many musicals of the era utilized plot merely as an excuse to showcase elaborate song and dance numbers, the music in The King and I serves as a means of enhancing the story, which remains the film’s central focus. Similarly the characters are all written with depth and sympathy in a way that avoids the black and white characterizations that were so prevalent in early musicals. Furthermore, the film avoids genre clichés by focusing upon the complicated friendship between Anna and the King, rather than forcing the pair into a forced, conventional Hollywood romance and finishes on a hopeful, but still far from happy, ending.

Perhaps the film’s greatest strength, however, is its emphasis upon education as a means of both personal and societal growth. Throughout the film, the King declares his intention that Siam become a modern nation and wisely recognizes that education is the best means of achieving this goal. The film takes this notion a step further by showing that in spite of their many cultural differences, the one thing that truly sets modern and independent Anna apart from her tradition-bound charges is her education, which has provided her with the knowledge and skills to build a life for herself as a single mother in a distant land. Similarly the King’s tireless efforts to further educate himself remind us that learning is a lifelong necessity and the crucial starting point in changing the world around us. While the film does not feature the genre staples of inner city youth, test scores, or administrative interference, The King and I is a testament to the enduring value of education in all its forms.
This map illustrates our need for updated school supplies

The film’s star studded cast ensured a successful transition from stage to screen by breathing fresh life into the well-known tale. Rita Moreno brings a haunted quality to her unwilling concubine in her portrayal of Tuptim’s isolation as a foreign consort in the King’s harem. Similarly Carlos Rivas infuses Lun Tha with depth as he highlights the dignitary’s conflict between his love for Tuptim and his duty to his country. Terry Saunders lends warmth and intelligence to her role as the King’s head wife, Lady Thiang and Martin Benson is appropriately formidable as the King’s traditionally-minded right hand man, Kralahome. Deborah Kerr’s Anna is a woman who is truly ahead of her time as she infuses Anna with an endearing combination of warmth, dignity, charm, and ferocity that leave little wonder as to how she is able to win over the King, his children, and his harem while still remaining true to herself. Yul Brynner is in short made for his role as King Mongkut as he brings the role he originated on Broadway to life in all of its nuance and complexity. Even as he continually expresses views and makes decisions that are in direct contrast with today’s mores and social advancements, Brynner’s charisma, ironic humor, and commanding presence ensure that his King remains a character audiences can’t help but root for.


Through its combination of signature songs, captivating performances and thought provoking story, The King and I is a prime example of the magic of the movie musical. Through its dazzling costumes and sets the film successfully transports viewers to 1860’s Bangkok, while its layered performances and well written script ensure that there is plenty for modern audiences to ponder and relate to. With a score including such Broadway standards as “Getting to Know You”, “Hello Young Lovers”, and “Shall We Dance” the film will be sure to have you tapping your toes before the final credits role. Through its musical journey into the importance of education The King and I is a film that belongs on every teacher and student’s back to school list. 
106 children...and you thought modern classes were too big!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Das Film Junkie's thoughts on the upcoming "Rocky Horror Picture Show" remake

Confessions of a Film Junkie: Das Film Junkie's thoughts on the upcoming "Rocky Horror Picture Show" remake

A Video Editorial by Brian Cotnoir

Das Film Junkie Shares his thoughts on the upcoming Rocky Horror Picture Show remake that will be shown on Television on the Fox Network on October 20th

Das Film Junkies Video



Sunday, August 14, 2016

Classics: A Review of Mr. Selfridge By Lauren Ennis

Some stories are tailor-made for film with a clear story arc that can neatly can be contained within just a few hours of cinema. Some stories, however, are so complex and epic in scale that they require entire seasons to contain all of the drama, suspense, and passion that they entail. Such is the case with the biography of larger than life turn of the century entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge, the man who started a retail revolution when he founded the London department store Selfridge’s. Beginning in 1909 and ending in 1929, the ITV series Mr. Selfridge chronicles the personal struggles and social changes that swept through Selfridge’s doors as the Edwardian era gave way to the upheaval of World War I and eventually the fast living modernism of the 1920’s. Part biography, part historical drama, Mr Selfridge is as enticing as an upscale window display and as addictive as shopping itself.
One day at work you won't want to be late for

The Story: The story begins in 1909 as Harry Selfridge (Jeremy Piven) arrives in London driven by a singular ambition; to open the world’s greatest department store. He soon encounters resistance, however, when his prospective partner withdraws funding and London society rejects his project as an affront to the status quo. Eventually, however, he enlists the aid of savvy reporter Frank Edwards (Samuel West) and shrewd socialite Lady Mae (Katherine Kelly) to land the new backer and public interest needed to take Selfridge’s from an innovative idea to a glittering reality. Through the dogged persistence of Harry and his talented staff, the store opens to a successful debut that marks the beginning of his reign as the ‘Earl of Oxford Street’. As season one continues, he continues to build upon the store’s success, even as his personal life becomes a casualty to his taste for life in the fast lane, and his staff face a host of personal crises of their own. Season two begins on an uncertain note five years later as Harry struggles to rebuild his family while he and his staff brace for the arrival of World War I. Season three picks up at the end of the war and chronicles the myriad of ways in which the aftermath of war continues to impact the store in the wake of trauma and loss. Season four brings the story full circle as Harry struggles to hold onto his crumbling empire as personal loss drives him to revert to his old, self-destructive, habits. From political upheaval and sweeping social change to personal triumphs and tragedies the series relates a historical tale that still manages to be cutting edge in true Selfridge’s fashion.
You can't keep a good cast down

The Characters: Although the plot contains plenty of twists and turns, the thing that kept this reviewer consistently coming back for more was the rich characterizations of each member of the Selfridge family and the store’s staff. Jeremy Piven superbly brings the larger than life Harry Selfridge to life with all of his complexities and demons fully intact. Through Piven’s performance, Harry is revealed to be a man who is always on the lookout for the next big thing in both his professional and personal life, as he continually gambles on new store innovations as well as with his family life. Even as he indulges in such vices as gambling, drinking, and extramarital dalliances, however, he remains a character audiences will root for as he grows and learns from his many mistakes and displays a consistent generosity, kindness, and understanding. Although the series is set in the male dominated world of early twentieth century commerce, one of Mr. Selfridge’s greatest assets is its array of independent and strong-minded female characters. At the start of the series, Harry’s wife, Rose (Frances O’Connor), seems to embody the ideals of her era as she tirelessly supports her husband and devotes herself to their children. As season one continues, however, she becomes discontented with her relegated role in the background and steadily gains her own voice as she becomes determined to take control of her marriage and live life on her own terms. Similarly, shop-girl Agnes Towler (Aisling Loftus) begins the series as a meek, put-upon, heroine worthy of Dickens, but eventually develops a quiet strength and confidence that take her to the coveted role of head of the store’s art department. Agnes’ first boss, outwardly formidable but inwardly insecure head of accessories Josie Mardel (Amanda Abbington), also evolves in fascinating but believable ways as she develops a sense of self-worth beyond her career and allows herself to live her tumultuous life to the fullest. Even mean-girl Kitty (Amy Beth Hayes) develops as the series continues until she ends season four as a still strong-willed, but more mature and compassionate woman. While the ever sassy Lady Mae is already a force to be reckoned with in the show’s pilot episode, insights into her difficult personal life reveal her to be a far more complex and multifaceted character than her early one-liner’s would suggest, and make her one of the series’ most watchable characters. The show’s excellent writing isn’t restricted to its female characters, however, as its male cast continue to evolve right along with their female counterparts. Agnes’ love interest, waiter Victor Colleano (Trystan Gravelle), begins the series as an ambitious and charming young man, but hardens as his eyes are opened by a series of heartbreaks and the traumas of World War I. Similarly, Harry’s best friend and head of display, dashing Henri Leclair (Gregory Fitoussi), is humbled after his attempt to start over in New York fails and is eventually forced to redefine himself after returning from World War I with PTSD. Even Agnes’ childishly naïve younger brother, George (Calum Callaghan), develops his own inner strength and remains true to his moral code as he works both in and out of the store and becomes a family man. Perhaps the male character who undergoes the most drastic change is the stodgy chief of staff Roger Grove (Tom Goodman-Hill), as he finally begins to see life beyond black and white and recognize his own failings as he learns to forgive the faults of others.


The Relevance: British television is full of period pieces, but Mr. Selfridge stands out amongst these popular and critically acclaimed programs through its ability to be startlingly relevant even as it remains true to history. From the struggle between work and family, to addiction, to domestic violence, to racial and gender tensions, Mr. Selfridge regularly explores social issues that hold just as much relevance today as when Selfridge’s first opened. Through a combination of razor sharp writing, rich performances, dazzling sets, and vibrant costuming, Mr. Selfridge ensure's that 20th century London is every bit as entertaining as a Selfridge’s promotion. At once innovative and classically timeless, Mr. Selfridge is an apt tribute to its namesake character and the store he founded.
Far more than just pretty faces

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Screening of "Lights Out"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A Screening of "Lights Out"

By: Brian Cotnoir

How do you turn a two-minute short film into a feature length production?  Well, they found a way.

My Review of "Lights Out"





Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Classics: A Review of Meet Joe Black By Lauren Ennis

The late 1990’s and early 2000’s saw the rise of a unique cinematic trend as Hollywood turned to both the scientific and spiritual. With conspiracy theories surrounding the impending start of a new millennium and new technology all around society began to look both inward and upward as it considered the future that awaited. It was this thirst for all things both futuristic and mystic that led to the release of such films as Vanilla Sky, The Matrix, and What Dreams May Come, among many others. One film that particularly stands out in this niche genre is the 1998 fantasy drama Meet Joe Black, which through its mediations upon life and death, maintains a timelessness that continues to resonate long after Y2K has been reduced to a mere footnote in pop culture.
Leave it to Brad Pitt to make death look dreamy

The story begins with media tycoon Bill Parrish (Anthony Hopkins) preparing for his sixty-fifth birthday. After a glimpse into his wealthy lifestyle, successful business, and happy family life viewers are left with the impression that Bill is a man who truly has it all, until a fateful visit from a stranger who is truly out of this realm. One night a young man arrives at the Parrish mansion and is revealed to be none other than Death himself (Brad Pitt), but rather than fulfill his duty and collect Bill’s soul then and there Death offers Bill a proposition that even the shrewd mogul can’t refuse. The deal at first appears simple enough; Bill will offer his guest a tour of life as a mortal and in exchange Death will postpone Bill’s demise. As Death, renamed Joe Black, becomes acclimated to mortal life, however, he also becomes subject to human emotions as he develops an unusual friendship with Bill and faces temptation in the form of Bill’s beautiful physician daughter, Susan (Clarie Forlani). Eventually, Joe and Bill face the unknown together as Joe experiences life in all its complications and wonder for the first time, while Bill simultaneously comes to terms with leaving those same experiences behind.

Although the film’s entire premise and central character are built around death, Meet Joe the Black is at its heart a cinematic celebration of life. While a long line of uplifting and inspirational films preceded its release, the film stands apart through its unique approach in examining life from Death’s perspective. For new arrival Joe, every day is an adventure into the unknown, as even such simple acts as crossing the street and eating peanut butter inspire child-like wonder in him. As a result, the film reminds audiences of thrills and surprises that we are so often too busy to notice. While Joe’s enthusiasm encourages a fresh perspective upon the joys of everyday living, Bill’s struggle to come to terms with his inevitable death reminds viewers of just how fleeting and precious those simple moments are. Despite the consistent focus upon life’s many highs, however, death literally remains a consistent presence, with Joe serving as a sobering reminder of the inevitable end that awaits all of us. Yet even in its exploration of the characters’ attempts to cope with loss the film approaches its subject matter with a sensitivity and optimism that ultimately highlights the value of a life well lived and a death approached with dignity.
A deadly dynamic duo

The film’s uniformly superb cast brings the unusual story to life in a way that keeps the largely fantastic plot grounded. Marcia Gay Harden and Jeffrey Tambor lend apt support in their by turns comic and heartfelt performances as Bill’s older, extroverted, daughter, Allison, and her inept, but desperate to please husband, Quince. Jake Weber is appropriately smarmy as Susan’s boyfriend and Bill’s treacherous second-in-command, Drew without ever falling into stock villain caricature.  In Clarie Forlani’s hands Susan is more than an idealized love interest as she captures the vulnerability beneath Susan’s self-sufficient exterior. Even in the midst of these excellent performances, however, the film belongs to Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins. Pitt shows he is capable of far more than pretty boy charm as his Joe evolves from socially awkward and almost childlike during his early scenes to a fully fleshed and conflicted character as the film reaches its finish. Similarly Hopkins makes the most of what easily could have been a one-note role as the warm-hearted everyman, and infuses Bill with a pathos that keeps audiences invested in his journey long after we learn what its outcome will be.


A fantasy with real life resonance, Meet Joe Black is a lesson in life and love for every generation. The film’s excellent script approaches an infamously dark subject with a light touch and relays a first rate fantasy while still telling an all too human tale. The superb cast breathes fresh life into age old questions concerning life and death and lends depth and poignancy to each performances. Philosophical journey, romantic drama, and fantasy, are just a few of the things you’ll find when you Meet Joe Black
Don't fear the reaper...