Saturday, September 16, 2017

Classics: A Review of Gigi By Lauren Ennis

Musicals of the 1950’s were one of the major studios greatest weapons in their war against television. While these films contained stunning visuals and iconic musical numbers, they were all too often all spectacle and no story. One 1950’s musical stands out not only for its emphasis upon its story, but also for its controversial subject matter; 1958’s Gigi. Marketed as a family-friendly romantic comedy, the film chronicles a young girl's coming of age in turn of the century Paris as she prepares to enter…the corrupt life of a courtesan. Easily one of the most inappropriate and outlandish films that I’ve reviewed, Gigi is a film that will live on in viewers’ memories, for better or worse.

You want me to what?! With who?!
The story begins in 1890’s Paris as fifteen year-old Gigi (Leslie Caron) is groomed by her aunt and grandmother (Hermione Gingold and Isabel Jeans), both retired courtesans, to enter the family business. Although Gigi has been prepared for this role her entire life, she continuously rebels against her family’s expectations by maintaining her tomboyish habits and refusing to pay attention to her lessons. Meanwhile, her best friend, playboy Gaston (Louis Jordan) is leading the high life of parties, champagne, and affairs with the city’s most sought after courtesans. When he learns that his latest mistress, Liane (Eva Gabor), has begun an affair with her skating instructor he throws himself into the city’s most debauched pleasures in an effort to soothe his wounded pride. Despite his best efforts, however, his meaningless pursuits do nothing to fill his empty life, and he finds no joy except in his visits to Gigi and her grandmother. Just as he realizes that he possesses feelings for Gigi, however, she prepares to make her debut as a courtesan, leading to a conflict between lust and love.

Although it is refreshing to see a classic musical that lends proper weight to its plot, this focus only makes the story’s disturbing content all the more obvious. Even as the characters rely upon innuendo and insinuation there is no question that the film is attempting to relate a tale of underage prostitution in an entirely inappropriate manner. While many films have focused upon prostitution and too many have glamorized the sex trade, few films endorse prostitution with the brazenness of Gigi. The film’s opening scene features Gaston’s womanizing uncle Honore (Maurice Chavalier) joking about his hobby of “collecting pretty young things” before launching into the truly cringe-worthy ‘Thank Heaven for Little Girls’. Although the song’s lyrics about little girls growing up to become enticing young women would be enough to draw ire, the fact that it is sung by an aging lothario as he watches children play in the park sets a base tone for the rest of the film. Similarly while the films states that Gigi is fifteen years old, the already youthful appearing Caron is consistently shown in costumes that make her appear as young as twelve (the character’s age in the original novel). Although the young age of many women in the sex trade remains a tragic fact, the film never even implies that there is anything amiss about its underage heroine being groomed to be sold to the highest bidder. While the film could have used Gigi’s child-like innocence to highlight her heartbreaking plight, her naiveté is instead played for laughs as she struggles to make sense of the sordid world around her.

What's a little distribution to minors gonna' hurt?
The film portrays its supporting characters in an equally baffling fashion as Gigi’s grandmother and aunt are presented as merely misguided, rather than exploitive, guardians and Honore is regarded as lovably zany instead of predatory. Gaston fares little better as even Louis Jordan’s charm fails to disguise the character’s basic callousness. As if his interest in the significantly younger Gigi is not squirm-inducing enough, his treatment of Liane makes him a better candidate to be the film’s villain rather than its romantic hero. Instead of merely ending his relationship with Liane, he schemes to ensure that her lover abandons her and plots her public disgrace, effectively ending her career as a courtesan. In an effort to escape her bleak future as a ruined courtesan, Liane attempts suicide, prompting Gaston and Honore to laugh and toast to Gaston’s, ‘first suicide…and many more to come’, as if driving women to suicide is some sort of masculine milestone. Rather than help Gigi to escape a fate similar to Liane’s, Gaston sees her debut as an opportunity to be capitalized upon and proceeds to make an offer to become her first patron. Even after she tearfully rejects his offer and reminds him of what a future as a courtesan would mean, he sees nothing objectionable about his proposition. It is only after her family forces her to reconsider and she adopts the same vapid manner as his former mistresses that Gaston realizes his error, but even then he is more repelled by the prospect of another bland mistress than by the implications of what his offer means to Gigi. Perhaps the most damning aspect of the film is the light tone with which the film dismisses its characters' behaviors, making what could have been an indictment of the social structures and attitudes that fuel the sex trade a tasteless attempt at romantic comedy.

It is difficult to judge the performances, as all of the central players, with the exception of Caron, are playing not just unlikeable, but illogical, characters. Caron shines in her role as hardened innocent Gigi, and creates a far more engaging performance than in her previous, more famous, film An American in Paris. Eva Gabor earns sympathy in her brief role as Liane, and imbues her jilted courtesan with heartfelt vulnerability. The rest of the cast manage as well as they can with the script’s jarring material.

Perhaps the least family-friendly film in the family section, Gigi is one of the most bizarre films to come out of classic Hollywood. A dizzying display of musicals at their most decadent, the film’s light tone glosses over its dark core. More curiosity than compelling the film provides modern viewers with an unsettling look into the views and norms of the past. While Gigi may not understand the Parisians, modern viewers will have equal difficulty understanding Gigi.

Better put a ring on it

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A review of "IT: Chapter 1" (2017)

Confessions of a Film Junkie A review of IT: Chapter 1 (2017)

A Video Review by Brian Cotnoir

This is my opinion on the 2017 reboot of the film "IT"  WARNING  This video review CONTAINS SPOILERS.  So do not watch if you don't want spoilers.  Enjoy

My Review of IT (2017)

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Classics: Cinema's Most Terrible Teachers By Lauren Ennis

After a season of fun in the sun it’s once again time to sharpen pencils and break out the backpacks. As students and teachers prepare to resume classes we can’t help but remember our own teachers who, for better or worse, influenced the people we have become. While many teachers serve as sources of inspiration long after we leave the classroom, others remain lurking in our memories despite our best efforts to forget them. This week I’ll be turning the spotlight on the very worst in cinematic education by profiling three film teachers that give teaching a bad name.
Don't even think of raising your had

Elizabeth Halsey: No bad teacher list would be complete without Cameron Diaz’s blackboard bad girl herself, Bad Teacher’s Elizabeth Halsey. At the start of the film, Elizabeth quits her job in anticipation of leading a life of leisure after becoming engaged to her wealthy boyfriend. Her plans are put on hold, however, when he breaks off the engagement and she is forced to earn her own income. She reluctantly returns to teaching, and makes it clear to everyone in her orbit that her only career aspiration is to earn her weekly paycheck until she is able to secure another sugar-daddy. As the year progresses she flagrantly disregards her responsibilities by playing an endless stream of inspirational teacher films in class instead of actually teaching and refusing to even learn her students’ names. All seems to be going smoothly enough as she charms the administration into allowing her shenanigans until she learns of a bonus that is awarded to teachers whose classes earn the highest standardized test scores. She then springs into action by lying, cheating, seducing, and even teaching her way to ensuring that her class has the district’s highest test scores, even as a suspicious colleague closes in on her schemes. By the school year’s end she has engaged in more bad behavior and adolescent hijinks than all of her students combined, all while learning about life, love, and the pursuit of a state pension.
On today's agenda; manipulation and mayhem

Miss Jean Brodie: The most deceiving entry on this list, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie begins as an homage to inspirational teachers. At the film’s start Maggie Smith’s titular educator is presented as an eccentric, but dedicated teacher in the mode of Dead Poet’s Society’s John Keating. Like Keating Miss Brodie encourages her students to defy convention and pursue larger than life aspirations. The inspirational tale quickly gives way to a cautionary warning, however, as it becomes apparent that Miss Brodie only encourages her students to defy the same conventions that she does, in the same way that she does. As the school year goes on, any guise of encouraging individuality dissipates as each of the girls in Miss Brodie’s class gradually transform themselves into younger versions of her. Her cult of personality takes a toxic turn when the girls begin putting her questionable lessons into practice. In keeping with Brodie’s staunch fascist politics naïve Mary (Jane Carr) travels to Spain to fight for the Nationalists where she is killed almost immediately after her arrival. Similarly, bookish Sandy (Pamela Franklin) embarks upon an affair with the school’s married art teacher, and Miss Brodie’s former lover Mr. Lloyd (Robert Stephens) in an effort to emulate Miss Brodie’s promiscuity. Even popular Jenny (Diane Grayson) nearly gives in to Miss Brodie’s manipulations after Miss Brodie attempts to groom Jenny into replacing her as Mr. Lloyd’s mistress. By the film’s conclusion Miss Brodie is finally dismissed and her students have all learned a shattering lesson in the dangers of following a group mentality. Based upon actual events at a girls’ school in Scotland, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a chilling example of how easily a teacher’s influence can be abused.
The price of chewing gum in class

The Trunchbull: Roald Dahl is a writer best known for his ability to capture a child’s view of the adult world, and his portrait of public education in his classic novel Matilda proves no exception. In the 1995 film adaptation of the novel Matilda (Mara Wilson) is a child genius raised by a family of ignorant louts who neither recognize nor appreciate her value. While eager to attend school to escape her negligent family, she is stunned find that her intelligence is just as much a detriment to her at school as at home. Although her kind teacher, Miss Honey (Embeth Davidz), encourages Matilda’s abilities, the school administration, led by vicious headmistress Miss Trunchbull (Pam Ferris) see Matilda’s talents as a direct threat to the status quo. When she isn’t making it her personal mission to suppress Matilda’s brilliance, Miss Trunchbull spends her days tossing students out windows, throwing them over fences, and forcing them to eat potentially deadly cafeteria food. Worse yet, Miss Trunchbull maintains a modified version of an iron maiden known as ‘the chokey’ that she uses to torture ‘misbehaving’ students. Her cruelty is not restricted to students, however, as she psychologically torments her staff, particularly her own niece, Miss Honey, whom she has victimized since childhood. Her repeated phrase of, “I’m big, you’re small. I’m right you’re wrong, and there’s nothing you can do about it” serves as her motto in life as she transforms what should be a haven of learning into a children’s prison. Although portrayed to an absurd extremity, Miss Trunchbull personifies education at its most tyrannical.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Classics: A Review of Charade By Lauren Ennis

Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant are two names that are synonymous with glamour, sophistication, and the very best in romantic comedy. While it would seem an obvious choice to cast the two, who shared similar improvisational acting styles and status as box-office favorites, together Hepburn and Grant only costarred in one film, 1963‘s cold-war thriller, Charade. While CIA agents, Nazi gold, and murder may be a far cry from the romantic comedies that both actors built their careers upon, the duo exude such elegance, wit, and chemistry throughout the film that cinema buffs can’t help regretting that they didn’t recapture the same magic in another collaboration. A prime example of cold-war suspense and Hepburn and Grant at their finest, Charade is a must-see for classic and modern film fans alike.

Audrey Hepburn: Acrtress, philantrophist...secret agent?!
The story begins as Regina, ‘Reggie’ Lampert meets debonair Peter Joshua during a ski trip. While the pair share obvious chemistry, any chance at romance is held at bay when he learns of her crumbling marriage. Upon returning home to Paris, she is stunned to learn that her husband was killed when an unknown assailant threw him from a train. It is then revealed that her husband was wanted by the US government for his part in the theft of two million dollars in confiscated Nazi gold bullion. Making matters worse, her husband’s accomplices return in pursuit of their share of the gold and will stop at nothing to get it. In the midst of this chaos Reggie enlists the aid of and embarks upon a romance with Peter, who possesses dangerous secrets of his own. The pair are then drawn into a web of theft, deception, and murder as they struggle to get to the gold before the thieves can.

Often referred to as ‘the best film that Hitchcock never made’, Charade has all the suspense of a Hitchcock thriller with an added bonus of romance and humor. The elaborate murders, Macguffin item that holds the key to the stolen gold, and final character reveal create a twisting plot that serves as a perfect nod to Hitchcock. Even the use of the director’s favorite leading man, Cary Grant, follows in the tradition of the ‘master of suspense’. What sets Charade apart, however, is the way in which the story refuses to take itself too seriously. Even in the midst of its most tense moments, the script still finds humor in the absurdity of the characters and the outlandish situations that they find themselves in. The spyjinks work so well in large part due to the light tone with which they are approached as everything from the bodies that continue to pile up to sparks that fly between Hepburn and Grant are viewed through a lens of dry humor. Through this humor, audiences can enjoy the ride without completely suspending their disbelief assured that both they and the characters are in on the joke.

Cold-war comedy
The film also outdoes Hitchcock in the sheer fun of its romance. While Hitchcock’s films are known for melodramatic portrayals of love at first sight, Reggie and Peter’s relationship progresses over the course of the film. The film also doesn’t shy away from love’s inevitable conflicts as its leads bicker and argue throughout their adventures. By showing a more gradual progression of a relationship and including such mundane details as lovers’ spats the film adds a level of authenticity to the romance, which viewers can see shades of their own relationships in. Finally, falling in love has rarely looked so outright fun as it does in Charade. Just like many offscreen couples, Peter and Reggie build their relationship on a foundation of laughter as they tease, banter and joke with one another every step of the way. Through Grant and Hepburn’s sparkling chemistry the relationship maintains a playful sexiness that avoids both the histrionics of many classics and the immaturity of many modern rom-coms. Suspenseful, sexy, and with a tongue firmly in cheek, Charade is a blend of cinema at its most entertaining.

The uniformly excellent cast weave a web of intrigue, suspense, and romance that will keep viewers guessing until the film’s final frame. James Coburn, George Kennedy, and Ned Glass by turns tingle the spine and tickle the ribs as villains Tex, Scobie, and Gideon who would be far more formidable if only they could stop fighting amongst themselves. Walther Matthau infuses his CIA agent with dry humor, adding a level of humanity to what easily could have been a stock role. Even while surrounded by a talented cast Hepburn and Grant shine like the stars that they are. Grant strikes the ideal balance between sophistication and warmth in his role as Peter, leaving little wonder as to why Reggie falls for him even as she learns his many secrets and lies. Hepburn is nothing short of a delight as the well-meaning but scatter-brained Reggie, and proves that she can tackle drama and comedy with equal skill. The scenes that the pair share are some of the best in romantic comedy as they play with both gender and genre conventions as Hepburn aggressively pursues the much older and more worldly Grant, who in turn switches sides as often as he switches his ‘drip-dry’ suits.

Packed with enough twists and turns to keep even the most seasoned viewer guessing, Charade is a vintage thrill ride that can still hold its own in the modern era of gritty filmmaking. Harkening back to an era in which suspenseful did not necessarily mean bleak, the film strikes a perfect balance between edge-of-your-seat drama and frothy romantic comedy. With all the thrills and romance of the greatest suspense films and plenty of laughs along the way Charade is a film that many a director wishes they had made.

Finally, a rom-com that's actually romantic and funny!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Classics: A Review of Moulin Rouge By Lauren Ennis

An art form that predates even the earliest cinema, the musical has grown into one of the most beloved genres of the stage and screen. Evolving from turn of the century vaudeville to today’s elaborate productions the musical has adapted to the trends of film and theater, with each generation creating its own unique variation. After the genre’s cinematic heyday in the 1950’s and 1960’s, however, the musical fell out of fashion with movie goers and the few musical films that were released received mixed reviews at best. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s the genre experienced a renaissance as studios began releasing musicals with a modern flair. One of the most successful and still one of the most unique examples of this trend is the 2001 hit movie musical Moulin Rouge. Part music video and part Bollywood extravaganza, Moulin Rouge is more than just a movie musical; it is a fusion of song, dance, and emotion the likes of which moviegoers have not seen before or since.
Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?

The story begins in 1890’s Paris, as impoverished writer Christian (Ewan McGregor) reflects upon his tragic affair with his muse, Satine (Nicole Kidman). The film then flashes back to his youth when he joined the city’s bohemian community and pitched his first play to the producers of the famed Moulin Rouge cabaret and club. While at the Moulin Rouge he meets and is instantly entranced by sultry singer and courtesan Satine, who mistakes him for one of the club’s wealthy patrons. In spite of his poverty and her profession, the two are immediately drawn to one another and embark upon a passionate romance. Their happiness is soon threatened, however, when her latest patron (Richard Roxburgh) becomes dangerously possessive.

While many more musical films have been released since Moulin Rouge’s debut, the film continues to stand out for its unique fusion of the modern and classic. The historical setting and plot, which borrows heavily from such stage staples as La Boheme and Camille, allows the film to pay tribute to past productions even in the midst of its extravaganza of modern music samples and cutting edge cinematography. These elements allow viewers to ease into the film’s surreal world and provides much needed grounding for the otherwise fantastic proceedings. The film uses the familiar technique of telling its story through song, with characters singing in both the central plot and the show-within-a-show that the characters perform. The film puts its own twist on this genre trope, however, by utilizing an eclectic collection of tunes that range from such artists as Nat King Cole, to the Beatles, to Nirvana and everything in between. The inclusion of beloved hits allows viewers to further invest in the story though songs that they already know and love, and lends a new twist on many of these classic songs by placing them within a new context. The visuals are also nothing short of stunning, with costumes and sets that virtually leap off of the screen. The film’s approach, while innovative, does have its drawbacks, however, as the constant shift from one musical genre to another can prove a jarring experience for viewers. Similarly, while the familiar plot does soften viewers’ journey through the changing songs and constant film cuts, it leaves little room for surprises. While Moulin Rouge may not be a film for every viewer, it is a cinematic experience that will linger long after the cast has sung their final note.
So exciting it will run for 50 years!

This unique vision would not have become the groundbreaking hit that it is without its stellar cast. Jim Broadbent is a comic delight as the club’s blustery manager, Harold. John Lequizamo lends plenty of impish fun to his portrayal of real-life painter Toulouse Lautrec. Richard Roxburgh captures the perfect balance between malicious and pathetic in his role as the villainous Duke. Ewan McGregor is swoon-worthy in his role as the idealistic Christian and brings a romantic innocence to his role that makes him an ideal foil to Kidman’s worldly courtesan. Nicole Kidman infuses Satine with a world-weariness and vulnerability that provides vital insight into the real woman behind her vampish persona. Together Kidman and McGregor share a chemistry that makes this tale of star-crossed love soar.

At once a millennial musical and an homage to the classics, Moulin Rouge is a thrill ride for the eyes and ears and a celebration of the heart. While its unusual approach remains polarizing, the film reinvigorated the musical with an energy and originality that other movie musicals have imitated but have never replicated. Few films can paint the town red quite like Moulin Rouge.

And we thought the past was buttoned up

Friday, July 21, 2017

Classics: A Salute to Summer By Lauren Ennis

The days are longer, the sun is hotter, and the vacations have started; summer has arrived at long last. The favored season amongst students and teachers alike, summer is for many synonymous with freedom, adventure, and fond memories of childhood fun. To celebrate summer I’ll be turning the spotlight on three films that personify summer at its finest.

School's out for summer
Stand By Me: One of the best coming of age dramas in modern cinema, Stand By Me is a nostalgic journey into the summers of the past. The film follows four middle school friends in 1950’s Oregon as they embark upon a quest to find the body of a missing local boy. During their two day trek the boys partake in such classic summer pass-times as campfire stories, hiking, and swimming as they enjoy the freedom of the great outdoors in a way that today’s children too rarely do. Even in the midst of all the fun, however, the boys are confronted with disappointments and traumas as they struggle to come to terms with the adult world and find their place within in. When they return home, each of the boys is profoundly changed as they begin to question who they are and who they want to become. At once a coming of age story and an homage to a simpler age, Stand By Me remains a classic for all seasons.

Fun in the sun
Now and Then: This 1995 film proves that summer’s not just for the boys as its heroines experience their own summer of love, loss, and growing up. The film follows four drastically different women as they reunite in keeping with a promise made during their momentous summer in 1970. The film then flashes back and follows the women as they reflect upon the events that propelled them from childhood to adolescence and all that lay beyond. Like Stand By Me, the film chronicles its characters’ growing pains as they cope with loss, broken homes, and find the bonds of their friendship tested. Despite these similarities, however, the film contains many of its own twists and turns as it follows its heroines though personal changes within the greater context of the drastic social change that had begun to sweep across America. Even in the midst of their many conflicts, the girls still enjoy summer to the fullest as they play red rover and softball, engage in water balloon fights, build their own treehouse and even hold the occasional graveyard séance. A tribute to the friendships that shape us and the memories that sustain us, Now and Then is a must-see for every girl struggling to become a woman and every woman who remembers all too well the journey that made her who she is.

Summertime and the livin's easy
The Sandlot: Few films celebrate summer with the abandon and fervor of The Sandlot. The film follows new kid in town Scotty Smalls as he struggles to adjust to a new town in 1962 California. In an effort to make new friends, Scotty does his best to earn a place on the town’s local baseball team. Unfortunately for Scotty, his enthusiasm fails to compensate for his complete lack of athletic skill and he is initially rejected. Eventually, with the help of the team’s charismatic and talented captain, Benny, Scotty joins the team and begins what will prove to be a series of summer adventures to remember. As the summer goes on the boys tangle with a sultry lifeguard, rival teams, and a menacing neighborhood dog known as ‘the beast’. Through it all the boys learn about the importance of friendship and the redemptive and unifying power of sports. For a summer favorite that remains a home-run with audiences look no further than The Sandlot.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Classics: A Review of The Mask of Zorro By Lauren Ennis

Long before Batman patrolled the streets of Gotham City another masked vigilante was fighting for justice in the California desert; Zorro. Inspired by real life outlaw Joaquin Murietta, who was popularly known as ‘Mexico’s Robin Hood’, Zorro has become one of popular culture’s most enduring heroes. First debuted in a 1919 novela, the character has been featured in numerous films, television series, and novels. Despite his popularity, however, Zorro lay dormant for years after his classic adventures fell out of favor with the rise of gritty reboots laden with special effects. In 1998, however, the franchise was revitalized as The Mask of Zorro introduced the adventures of the masked avenger to a new generation.

Who needs superpowers with these skills?
The story begins in 1821 California in an homage to the original films and series with aristocrat Diego de la Veg donning his famous mask just in time to rescue a group of wrongly accused peasants from execution. The story takes a dark turn, however, when Diego returns home only to be arrested by his sworn enemy, corrupt governor Don Rafael Montero. During the ensuing struggle, Diego’s wife, Esperanza, is killed and his infant daughter, Elena, is kidnapped to be raised as Don Rafael’s child. Twenty years later, an imprisoned Diego learns that Don Rafael has returned to California with Elena after exile in Spain and accordingly plots his escape. Upon escaping prison he meets hapless thief Alejandro who is seeking his own vengeance. Together, the unlikely pair resurrect the legend of Zorro and embark upon a journey that will decide the future of California.

Through its nuanced characterizations and believable script, The Mask of Zorro presents a hero for the real world. While the majority of adventure and action films today utilize the excitement and visual flair of supernatural forces and super-powers, The Mask of Zorro relates an equally entertaining tale that remains firmly grounded in the parameters of its historical setting. For example, Don Rafael’s scheme for he and the other dons to regain their former power highlights the all too real evils of greed and political corruption and carries far more weight than a standard ‘take over the world’ super villain plot. Similarly, Diego and Alejandro’s exploits are more satisfying than those shown in many modern action and adventure films, as the duo earn their success by relying upon their wits and skills rather than triumphing through some elaborate gadget or otherworldly ability. The film particularly stands out for the complexity of its two leads. While Diego begins the film as a larger than life hero, the loss of both his family and freedom leave him humbled and jaded. Similarly, although Alejandro becomes a dashing Zorro, he begins the film as a crude thief who bears a closer resemblance to a masked bandit than the legendary hero. Despite their flaws, both men remain likeable characters, even as viewers watch them morally struggle with the difficult choice between justice and vengeance. What the films lacks in CGI effects it more than makes up for in its vibrant historical setting and daring stunts as its two protagonists ride, fence, and dance their way through the treacherous world of California’s elites. For an adventure that will satisfy the mind and heart as well as dazzle the eyes look no further than the infamous ‘Z’ for Zorro.

A very spirited dancer
The film’s uniformly excellent cast brings the adventures of Zorro to rousing life in a way that will appeal to devoted fans and newcomers alike. Anthony Hopkins infuses Diego with a world weariness and guarded compassion that highlight both the idealist he once was and the cynic he has become. Antonio Banderas is an ideal foil to Hopkins’ wounded hero in his role as the impulsive Alejandro. In Banderas’ hands Alejandro’s journey from outlaw to hero is a natural evolution rather than a jarring character shift as Alejandro continues to maintain his roguishness even as he answers the call of justice. The chemistry between the two leads provides the film with its emotional core and many of its most memorable moments, as Hopkins aptly plays straight-man and mentor to Banderas’ rebellious student. Through her sharp wit and even sharper swordplay, Catherine Zeta-Jones’ Elena is more than a standard love interest. Zeta-Jones infuses her role with an intelligence and nuance that ensure she holds her own in the male-dominated cast, particularly in her scenes with Banderas which spark with sensual chemistry. Stuart Wilson lends complexity and sinister charm to his role as the ruthless Don Rafael, who is motivated as much by personal loss and obsession as by greed. Matt Letscher aptly portrays the sociopathic Texas Ranger Captain Harrison Love and captures both Love’s genteel exterior and internal brutality with equal skill.

Through its combination of rousing action, engaging performances and classic storytelling, The Mask of Zorro is a worthy entry in the Zorro franchise. At once an homage to the franchise’s original tales and a fresh twist on the adventure genre, the film has something for all generations and serves as an apt reminder of what is sorely lacking in today’s youth and technology-centric cinema. Nearly one hundred years after his debut Zorro remains one of popular culture’s most thrilling and fascinating heroes; with just one viewing of The Mask of Zorro will unmask all the reasons why.

There are many who will proudly wear the mask of Zorro