Friday, January 30, 2015

Trickery And Magic Night

Tonight's marathon is all about two simple themes: Trickery and Magic. Both are very polarizing themes and make for what is sure to be a very exciting and mystifying night. We begin with the simple heist of a casino which raises many questions of how the crew of Oceans Eleven managed to pull it off then introduce the theme of magicians pulling off a heist of their own and further exploring the theme of magicians battling to discover each others secrets. All makes for a thrilling marathon of pure thrills and mind-blowing story arcs. We have on our menu for this evening:

    Oceans ll 2001, Now You See Me 2013, The Illusionist 2006, and The Prestige 2006

We begin the evening with Steven Sodenbergh's remake of the 1960's classic Oceans Eleven starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Julia Roberts, Bernie Mac, and Don Cheadle. In this stunning and exciting remake, Danny Ocean played by George Clooney and his eleven accomplices plan to rob a total of three Las Vegas casinos simultaneously. Conflict arises when an old flame of Clooney's character played by Julia Roberts is romantically involved with the owner of the casino he's planning to rob played by Andy Garcia.The next film in the lineup Now You See Me, deals with an FBI agent played by Mark Ruffalo and an Interpol detective tracking a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and during the process, give their money to the audiences.With a supporting cast among the talents of Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Woody Harrelsen, and Jesse Eisenberg, Now You See Me takes the concept of heisting and group effort introduced in Oceans Eleven and brings it to newer heights. The third film in the lineup deals with a magician in the turn-of-the-century Vienna using his skilled abilities to secure the love of a woman he desires, but is also far above his social standing. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography, The Illusionist takes the theme of magic from Now You See Me and allows it to blossom. However, it's not until the climatic film of the night where the themes of trickery, magic, betrayal, revenge, and desire all come together with Christopher Nolan's The Prestige. Boasting a terrific cast among the likes of Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Hugh Jackman, David Bowie, and Andy Serkis, The Prestige is a fantastic story of two stage magicians engaging in a competitive one-upmanship in an attempt to create the ultimate stage illusion to become the greatest magician of all time. With Prestige, Nolan crafts a pure spectacle that plays on the imagination of the audience while delivering some great performances and a visually stunning atmosphere. It only further cements the belief that Christopher Nolan is one of the greatest directors of this generation.

So what's the message of all these films and how do they all tie together ultimately. Oceans Eleven being a heist film ultimately says that sometimes crime does pay, especially if you're George Clooney. Now You See Me says that magic requires belief and patience. The Illusionist says that love and power can drive people to the extreme, and The Prestige says that obsession is what ultimately leads to misery.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Birdman Review


So I finally got to see Birdman


I think I can speak for many people out there that this is going to end up being Michael Keaton's big hollywood comeback. I truly do hope so because he is a genuine talent that's been gone from the screen far too long and is missed by many. In my humble opinion, he was the best Batman to this day. No disrespect to Christian Bale who was also really good but he was a better Bruce Wayne than acting as Batman in the suit. Not many people truly like that whole bat growl and make fun of it consistently. With Keaton, he didn't need to put on a voice, he WAS Batman. The little suttle things he did when playing the part such as eating at the far ends of a dinner table with Vicky Vale and hanging upside down when sleeping really added so much to his character going off the 1989 film. He was simply brilliant as a man whose on the edge after witnessing his parents gunned down as a child. The consensus is when Keaton left being Batman, his career faded after that. All he's been doing since then is voice animation and side parts in films, nothing in a long time that's truly shows off his full potential as an actor. Not until Birdman.

Birdman is hands down the best Michael Keaton performance in a very long time, perhaps ever. Where he gave truly awesome performances in Beetlejuice, Clean and Sober, Batman, Batman Returns, Pacific Heights, and My Life, this film really shows us his full range and man has he been truly missed. This movie 's success lies almost completely on his performance alone, as he is the star of the film and it's his journey. In Birdman, Keaton plays a washed up actor who was once an iconic superhero, finds himself battling his ego and trying to recover his family, his career, and himself in the days leading up to the opening of a Broadway play. The movie is expertly directed in one long continuous take by Amores Perro's, 21 Grams, and Babel filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. In terms of getting top notch performances out of his actors, this filmmaker is one of the best whether you agree with his stylistic approach to filmmaking or not. Other great performances in this film come from method actor Edward Norton playing another method actor giving the second best performance behind Keaton, Emma Stone, and Naomi Watts who all truly shine in this film. However this is always first and foremost Keaton's movie and will be looked upon as such by many viewers. His performance is a lot of fun and just downright terrific to watch. One whose a real fan of this guy will get a certain ounce of excitement and thrill watching this film because it shows everyone exactly why he deserves the Oscar. He is phenomenal in this film and one gets the feeling that it's really him in this part and he is connecting so well with this character. Maybe deep down he was feeling like this prior to accepting the part and jumped at the first chance to take it because this really does feel like it was made for him in mind for the lead role. He is the essential key figure in what makes this film work so well. Everyone else backs him up with stellar performances and the film is thought provoking and very creative. Creativity is this films next great strength. It's an original storyline that's down to earth and gives insight into theater performers lifestyles or what it could be like. Not saying anyone is secretly a superhero on Broadway but this movie encourages the thought to pass through the brain. Keaton's acting in the final 10 minutes along with Emma Stones are phenomenal.

Birdman is a film that should be seen by every Michael Keaton fan out there and every lover of good films or likes artsy stuff. One is reminded of other great movies where the actors take their job professions very seriously like Mickey Rourke in Wrestler and Natalie Portman in Black Swan. The whole message of Birdman is it is challenging the viewer to think of the question of love vs. admiration. Which one would you rather have? That is the constant struggle that Michael Keaton endures in this film and one which he pulls off so well. I sincerely hope that come Oscar night, he walks away with the award and begins a new prosperous career as one of the most serious actors working today. This really does feel like his comeback.


Selma Review

So I finally got to see Selma


It's been a long and aggrevating journey to see the heroic and unforgettable story of Martin Luther King Jr. make it's way to the big screen but now I can happily say that journey has finally reached it's end. Not only is Selma out in theaters, but it's sparking numerous debates ranging from the lack of true diversity with this years Academy Award nominations, a debate that sparked when the nominations for this year were announced and director Ava DuVernay and lead actor David Oyelowo got snubbed of rightfully deserved Oscar nominations for this film. The film has left such a big impact on American audiences that 275,000 students in America will soon have the chance to experience the famous march on Selma in their own school auditoriums with the movie being screened free of charge as compliments of the filmmakers. It can be said that this film is this years 12 Years A Slave, except it most likely isn't going to go home with the Oscar this time. That golden boy is saved for either Boyhood or Birdman. So how good exactly is Selma?

It's very good. The film does exactly what it sets out to do and gives moviegoers a window to go back in time to one of America's darkest and controversial moments in history. The plot of Selma focuses on the campaign to secure voting equal rights led by Martin Luther King Jr. in an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. One of the key elements that makes this film work is the momentous performance by David Oyelowo as the reverend who throughout his entire campaign for equal rights preached for non violence. There are several moments in the film where that approach is tested by the higher powers of Montgomery such as Governor George Wallace played brilliantly by Tim Roth. There are several key players at work in this film with those two at odds with each other and President Lyndon B Johnson played by the always great Tom Wilkinson caught in the middle. There is a lot of controversy aimed at the portrayal of Wilkinson in this film for being shown as acting quite passive during the marches, not doing enough to help the marchers in securing voting rights and constantly assuring Martin Luther King that the voting rights act will happen but not right away. Director Ava DuVernay made a point to place more emphasis on the efforts of the marchers in this film rather than the efforts of the president. This might've been what ultimately cost her the best director Oscar nomination, and a reminder for viewers who are interested in this piece of history to do their own research after viewing this film to see how accurate it is. The performances are all stunning, and the film even manages to give a human portrayal of it's heroic figure. King is portrayed not as a Jesus Christ type of figure but as a human whose struggling to come to terms with the fact that his supporters are receiving little to no help from the government in their quest for equality, while at the same time battling his own personal demons. One character who brings out this aspect of King beautifully is his wife Coretta played by Carmen Ejogo. Can they seriously find anyone else who is pitch perfect for this part? She nailed it with the little time she had in the film. The moments she had in the film were quite powerful such as a sequence where she questions King about his marital affairs after listening to a tape recording sent by the FBI in an effort to defame King. It's a great scene for two reasons. The first being it touches on an aspect of Kings life that people easily overlook because of all the amazing things he did for others and two because it shows a more down to earth and human aspect of this entire story. Other awesome movie stars such as Oprah Winfrey, Martin Sheen, and Cuba Gooding Jr. make notable appearances throughout the film in support of the ultimate message of the movie. That message that's conveyed so powerfully within the 2 hour running time of Selma is that the civil rights movement was fought at a great cost for many Americans and is still a battle were fighting today.

Selma is a film that makes no efforts to sugarcoat the brutality of the civil rights movement and speaks to the viewers as a constant reminder that these events while being horrific didn't happen very long ago. It is a film that needs to be seen by everyone to learn about the past and to prevent the same mistakes from happening again in the future. Selma has a lot to offer in the realm of great filmmaking such as outstanding performances, beautiful imagery, a fairly accurate portrayal of historical events, and a better understanding of what was at stake in terms of fighting for these basic human rights. Every once in awhile, a film like this comes along that reminds people about how hard times were back then and how grateful we should be of the progress that's been made so far. But even with the progress that's been made, there is always room for more. That is the whole point of Selma.


American Sniper Review

So I finally got to see American Sniper


Before I begin with my thoughts on the film, I feel it's only beneficial to discuss my thoughts on the previous works of director Clint Eastwood's resume. I have always been a major fan of him both as an actor and filmmaker. His Spaghetti westerns are great along with Dirty Harry. I really admire his work as a filmmaker but I feel it is his recent films since his remarkable trend began in 2003 with Mystic River that define his true talents and abilities as a filmmaker. Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby are great films. Flags of Our Fathers was a solid warm up for the far superior Letters from Iwo Jima. Changeling was very good with an outstanding performance from Angelina Jolie which remains her finest work to this day. Gran Tarino is a modern day classic, and it's snubbing of Oscar recognition is disgraceful. I feel that his work since that film with Invictus, Hereafter, J Edgar, and The Four Seasons have all been decent but nothing since has touched the hot streak this filmmaker was on during his 2003 to 2008 reign. And now we have American Sniper. So how did this one do? Is it one of Clint Eastwood's better films? Does it live up to the hype and expectations of many and establish itself as a pure Oscar contender? The answer is good, yes, yes, and maybe. The film has taken a life of it's own and built it's own success story with a 200 million domestic gross in the United States currently after a sensational 90 million debut. It may appear to some that the patriotism that America expressed within the first several years of the 21st century is slowly coming back in full swing.

American Sniper is a very good movie and a nice return to form for Clint Eastwood's hot streak of making films, though I don't consider it his best work. I still very much prefer Letters from iwo Jima, Changeling and Gran Tarino but it's one of his more effective war movies. With this film, he avoids some of the conventional styles of filmmaking such as using tired old clich├ęs and heavy dramatic music. There is virtually no music in this film which makes the whole experience better and feel more realistic. Not every movie can pull that off, but that also shows some of the great talents of Eastwood's directing skills. What makes him such a great filmmaker is he slowly builds up the story and holds back on obvious tools of manipulation such as the music until the right moment comes in the film then he strikes. When Eastwood hits you with his moments of peril or gut wrenching emotion, you feel it. Visually this is one stunning film, and the performances are top notch, especially from Bradley Cooper as Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle whose pinpoint accuracy has saved countless lives on the battlefield and is ultimately what turned him into a legend. The heart of this film not lies in how many shots he takes, but the emotional weight each shot takes on the character himself. The viewer is presented with several moments in the film where Kyle is hesitant to shoot right away and weighs out his options before committing an act that he had no choice left but to do. An example of this is when he is faced with the ultimatum of shooting a young kid who picks up a missle. Chris Kyle is shown to not be your average sniper who gets drunk at a bar afterwards and raves about how many people he killed, but a human being who has the life of another in his hands. Regardless of what side the two are on, the viewer understands through the sheer power of Cooper's performance and Eastwood's directing, that it is not a decision that's taken lightly and has lasting consequences. Other parts of the film that make it standout is Chris being at home with his wife and kids after four tours of duty and coming to the realization that he cannot leave behind the war he became involved with. This is also  the subplot that made The Hurt Locker directed by Katheryn Bigelow and starring Jeremy Renner an exceptional film because it played on the theme that deep down, there are some men who just love war and live by it. Eastwood follows a similar path with this character not painting a perfect image of him but showing Kyle as a rather conflicted soul whose forced into making choices if given another alternative, probably would avoid altogether.

Not everyone is going to like American Sniper and may view it's message as being pro war. What American Sniper is really trying to say is for someone to understand their purpose and stresses how serious of a condition PTSD can be for veterans of war. Eastwood conveys this message nicely in the film giving a tense atmosphere with moments of sheer power in an effort to pay tribute to it's subject. Is American Sniper as great of a masterpiece as his previous war epic Letters from Iwo Jima? Never, that one proves beyond all doubt how truly incredible of a filmmaker he really is. Is American Sniper one of last years better films and worthy of it's Oscar nominated stature? Yes it does. Not everyone will agree with this review and will find their own faults with the film either on political grounds or their own personal issues with it but as a piece of filmmaking, American Sniper continues to reaffirm the notion that Eastwood is one of America's great living directors. Regardless of political beliefs, everyone should see this film and make up their own minds on it. At 84 years old, Eastwood still has the power to not only drive us to the theater with his name on the directors chair, but he makes us think about the topics he covers and feels the pain of his characters. That is the mark of a real filmmaker.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Brief Moments Of True Romance

Tonight's marathon is about witnessing brief moments of true romance that gets progressively smaller with each film as the window of opportunity closes. Beginning with a romance that blossoms over the labor day weekend to becoming a 24 hour romantic story then a mans glimpse into what his future would've been if he had made better choices, and ultimately a good moral soldiers few moments of brief romance with a German girl during war time. There's a saying that less is more, and that is what tonight's marathon places heavy emphasis on. We have on our menu for this evening:

                  Labor Day 2014, Before Sunrise 1994, The Family Man 2000, and Fury 2014

We begin the evening with the 2014 romantic drama titled Labor Day. The film Stars Kate Winslet, as a depressed single mother named Adele and her son Henry who are forced into giving a wounded, fearsome man a ride to their house. What they come to find out is the man is an escaped prisoner who is being hunted by the police. As the cops search the town for the escaped convict, the mother and her son cope with their imprisonment while learning about his true story and their options becoming increasingly limited.What begins as a suspenseful and terrifying situation quickly evolves into a tale of a brief yet forbidden romance. Kate Winslet, received a well deserved Oscar nomination for her performance in this film, and Josh Brolin received critical acclaim for his role as the misunderstood escaped prisoner. The next film in the lineup is the romantic classic Before Sunrise starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Deply, from the director of Boyhood. The story centers around a young man and woman who meet on a train in Europe, and end up spending one day together in Vienna. What they both realize ultimately is this will be the only chance they will spend together before parting ways. Before Sunrise is the beginning of a three part trilogy in which the two people meet at the end of every decade and rekindle their lost romance. The third film in the lineup is a modern day retelling of the Frank Capra classic It's A Wonderful Life. The Family Man starring Nicholas Cage, Tea Leoni, and Don Cheadle, centers around a fast-lane investment broker whose given the opportunity to see how the other half lives, wakes up one morning to find that his sports car and girlfriend have become a mini-van and wife. Of all the romantic stories told this evening, this one deals with the "what if" scenario. What if Nicholas Cage changed his life around and made better decisions, would he be better off than he is now? Family Man is hands down one of the better films both Nicholas Cage and Brett Ratner have made within the last decade and demonstrate their true skills both as actors and filmmakers. The fourth and final film in the lineup is 2014's epic war drama Fury starring Brad Pitt, Michael Pena, Shia Labeouf, and Logan Lerman. The plot of the film centers around the time period of April, 1945 where the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre. While Fury is not a romantic drama and is by tradition a war drama, the film has a brief but potent romance between a new rookie soldier and a German girl whose captured along with her mother by him and colonel Wardaddy played by Brad Pitt. What first begins as a routine securing the perimeter scenario for the allies, the young soldier played by Logan Lerman begins to fall for the young girl during a piano song duet. Wardaddy taking notice of the young attraction that quickly blossoms between the two, tells Norman to take Emma into the bedroom and have his way with her citing "They are young and alive." Why does this movie work with the rest of this lineup? Because it fits the pattern of the romances getting briefer with each film but the impact becomes greater. In the case of the one between Norman and Emma, it gives Norman something to fight for and ultimately becomes a better soldier.

The messages that each film ultimately gives on a romantic level is Labor Day saying that trust and romance can happen in the most unusual places at any given time. Do not judge a book by it's cover. Before Sunrise says that love can happen anytime, and anywhere when you least expect it. The Family Man says that sometimes what was once was might've turned out to be the best thing in the end. If it really was true love, a second chance will present itself. The romance in Fury brings it all home with the notion that even in the most unusual circumstances and brief moments of peace, love or real companionship can happen.

The couples for this marathon.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Post Apocalyptic World Night

Tonight's marathon is about seeing the world in a post apocalyptic state from several different story arcs and perspectives. This is not the normal apocalyptic marathon in which the world is overrun by machines like in Terminator, Denzel Washington is traveling as a deserter carrying the last Bible on Earth in Book of Eli, or Mel Gibson in Mad Max. These movies were specifically chosen to give a different but colorful picture of the post apocalyptic world in a broader horizon. For tonight's marathon specifically, we have:

   WALLE 2008, Children of Men 2006, 12 Monkeys 1995, and Cloud Atlas 2012

We begin the evening with the 2008 classic WALLE. The film WALLE takes place in the distant post apocalyptic future where a small waste collecting robot embarks on a space journey that will ultimately decide the fate of mankind. Nominated for a total of six academy awards and a total win of only one for best animated film, WALLE is a film that handles the issue of the world being a rundown junk yard beautifully and is a touching start to the whole theme of the world becoming post apocalyptic. The next film in the lineup that advances the story arc is Alfonso Cuaron's epic scfi drama Children of Men. Children of Men takes place in the year 2027 during a chaotic atmosphere where the women in the world have become infertile. Clive Owen plays a former activist who agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea. From the director of A Little Princess, Great Expectations, Yu Tu Mama Tambien,Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Gravity, Cuaron takes you on a journey which involves humanities salvation in a post apocalyptic world. The film also boasts a strong supporting cast of Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, and Chiwetel Ejofor with Oscar nominations for best screenplay, best cinematography and film editing. The third film in the lineup is Bruce Willis scfi thriller 12 Monkeys. Using both themes of the post apocalpytic world and time travel, 12 Monkeys takes place in a futuristic world devastated by disease. To prevent this spreadout, a convict played by Bruce Willis is sent back in time to gather information about a man-made virus that wiped out the majority of the human population on the planet. The fourth and final movie in the marathon is the Wachowski Brothers epic Cloud Atlas starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry. The film centers around an exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact each other in the past, present and future. One soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution. Cloud Atlas is a film that's extroadinary in it's presentation but easily comes off as being misunderstood and misinterpreted by many moviegoers. This is a film that is going to take multiple viewings before people finally begin to grasp it's meaning but visually it's absolutely stunning.

One can sum up the message of all four films with WALLE saying that friendship, love and working together can change the world allowing it to take care of the environment. That is important to keeping human beings healthy, while over-consumerism and corporate greed are harmful to the environment. Children of Men says to never give up hope with 12 Monkeys saying that the future can be changed and there is no fate but what we make for ourselves. The final theme of the night is Cloud Atlas saying that our deeds are what ultimately define us.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Scorned Women And Unfaithful Marriages

Tonight's marathon deals with several unfaithful marriages and a web of conspiracy and lies that surround them involving infidelity and murder. It also boasts an all star cast among the likes of Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Viggo Mortensen, Ashley Judd, Tommy Lee Jones, Bruce Greenwood, Denzel Washington, Dean Cain, Eva Mendes, Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Ben Affleck, and Rosamund Pike. We have the following suspenseful movies on tonight's menu:

A Perfect Murder 1998, Double Jeopardy 1999, Out of Time 2003, Unfaithful 2002, and Gone Girl 2014

We begin the evening with the film A Perfect Murder. Starring Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Viggo Mortensen, this exciting thriller is a direct remake of the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock classic titled Dial M For Murder. The film revolves around Millionaire industrialist Steven Taylor played by Douglas, who has everything he craves for in life such as money and the woman he loves. Being a successful New York businessman, he considers his wife his greatest treasure. His wife played by Paltrow, feels the need to have more than simply being the wife of a powerful accessory figure such as her husband. She secretly has an affair with a struggling artist who fulfills her emotional needs. When her infidelity is discovered by her husband, he confronts the man whose seeing his wife and presents him with the ultimate bargain: Half a million to commit the perfect murder against his wife and inherit her trust fund in the bargain. A Perfect Murder is a fantastic warm up because it introduces the theme of infidelity, lies, deception, and conspiracy to murder and place the blame on the other person. The second film in the lineup Double Jeopardy continues this trend. Starring Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones, Judd plays a woman framed for the murder of her husband while suspecting that he's still alive. Having been tried for the murder of her husband, she discovers the law titled Double Jeopardy which doesn't allow her to be tried for the same crime twice, enticing her to seek out and kill her husband for revenge. Double Jeopardy continues much of the themes presented in A Perfect Murder, while also giving it a Fugitive cat and mouse chase feel to it. The third movie in the lineup is the thriller Out of Time starring Denzel Washington and Eva Mendes. The film centers around a Florida police chief who secretly has an affair with a woman he's investigating. The affair leads to a vicious double homicide that allows him to fall victim to suspicion of murder. He must work to divert the tracks being led to his doorstep while fighting to uncover the truth of what's really happening. The fourth film deals with marriage infidelity and murder cover up in Richard Gere's Unfaithful. In this film, a suburban couple from New York has their marriage turned upside down when the wife engages in an adulterous fling with a young man. The husband soon finds out through a private investigator and takes matters into his own hands. Diane Lane got a well deserved Oscar nomination for her role in this film. The final film of the evening is the one that ultimately ties all the films together and takes the intensity and creepiness to the next level. In David Fincher's Gone Girl, a Ben Affleck plays a husband whose trying to solve the disappearance of his wife's murder as it becomes an intense media fascination. As more facts come out concerning the case, the spotlight soon turns on the husband as it becomes suspected that he may be involved. Rosamund Pike like Diane Lane in Unfaithful, received a well deserved Oscar nomination for her outstanding performance in this movie.

The messages that each film delivers is A Perfect Murder saying no crime is foolproof and you will ultimately reap what you sow. Double Jeopardy says that you can't be tried for the same crime twice. Out of Time says that money ultimately does strange things to people's personalities. Unfaithful says to be happy for this moment because that moment is your life. Gone Girl says that you don't truly know someone even if you're super close to them.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Going On A Space Adventure Night

Tonight's lineup is all about going on a space adventure from several different story arcs. The marathon consists of top notch special effects, clever and witty humor, colorful characters and amazing background scenery, and some truly badass movie scores. We have on our menu for this evening:

   Lost in Space 1998, Galaxy Quest 1999, Starship Troopers 1997, Star Trek 2009, and Guardians of the Galaxy 2014

We begin the night with the 1998 blockbuster Lost in Space, based on the popular 1960's television show. In this space adventure, The Robinson family initially planned on going into space to fight for a chance for humanity to survive but instead end up fighting for a way back home. The style of Lost in Space appeals to the other films in this lineup, even though it received critical panning upon release for not being on the level of intelligence the show possessed. The second movie in the lineup is the 1999 comedy adventure hit called Galaxy Quest. Starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Alan Rickman, Galaxy Quest deals with an alumni cast of a space opera television series becoming forced to play their roles as the real characters when an alien race seeks their help. The sense of adventure and slick humor introduced in these two films pave the way for the next three films in the marathon that get progressively more exciting. Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers is a cult classic, centering around a battle between humans and an alien bug race in the outer parts of the galaxy. Great characters such as Rico played by Casper Van Dien, Carmen played by Denise Richards, and Dizzy played by Dina Meyer are introduced and played by then teen sensations from the late 1990s. The fourth film in the lineup is JJ Abrams 2009 mindblowing reboot of Star Trek. Nominated for four academy awards, Star Trek 09 goes back to its roots and shows us how the great enterprise team such as Capt Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty, and Sulu all meet and form one of the galaxies top leading enterprise teams. Star Trek combines all the elements that made the first three films so appealing and morphs them into one of the best science fiction adventures in modern times. Great character elements such as James T. Kirk trying to live up to his fathers legacy and Mr. Spock keeping him in check as they work together to take down a time-traveling Romulan who creates black holes to destroy the Federation one planet at a time. The fifth and final movie of the lineup for this evening is perhaps the biggest and most exciting of them all. It is what the first four films have been building up to and is ultimately the huge payoff. The 2014 science fiction blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy deals with a group of intergalactic criminals being forced to work together to stop a fanatical warrior from taking control of the universe.

So what are the messages behind all of these wonderful space operas? Lost in Space says that families that stick together are never lost. Galaxy Quest says that sometimes there's more to people than we automatically assume and situations like the one in the movie can bring out the best in them. Starship Troopers says that with heroism, courage, and sacrifice, humans can defeat any foe. Star Trek says that going by your gut instincts can prove to be more effective than what is being told for you to do. The message that Guardians of the Galaxy ultimately gives is that family and friends when working together can ultimately defeat evil.

Monday, January 12, 2015

An Examination Of Modern War And The Politics Behind It

Tonight's marathon is about exploring several modern day war stories along with the sacrifices and hidden truths that come with them. Most if not all of these stories are heroic ones, but they all don't come without a certain cost. The presentation of  modern war and the politics behind it are examined in this 8 hour lineup. We have on tonight's menu:

Black Hawk Down 2001, Lone Survivor 2014. Jarhead 2003, and Courage Under Fire 1996

We begin tonight's lineup with Ridley Scott's epic war drama titled Black Hawk Down. Nominated for four academy awards and winner of two, Hawk brilliantly tells the story of 123 elite U.S soldiers being dropped into Somalia to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord while also finding themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somali. The second film Lone Survivor, tells the story of Marcus Luttrell played by Mark Wahlberg, and his team being sent out on a mission to capture and kill Taliban leader named Ahmad Shah, in late June 2005. The end result is Marcus and his team being left to fight for their lives in one of the most brutal fights in modern warfare. Lone Survivor was nominated for two academy awards in sound and sound effects editing. The third film takes a more dramatic approach in terms of representing the harsh realities of war in Jarhead starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Jamie Foxx. Based on former Marine Anthony Swofford's best selling 2003 book about his pre-Desert storm experiences in Saudi Arabia as well as his experiences fighting in Kuwait. Whereas the first two represented the scope of war, this film is more about the soldiers feelings towards it and trying to understand the predicament they're in. The fourth and final film in this incredible lineup is Edward Zwick's drama titled Courage Under Fire. In this film, Denzel Washington plays a US Army officer who is hired to investigate a female chopper commander's worthiness for the Medal of Honor, while also dealing with a deadly mistake he made on the battlefield. Unlike the first three films, Courage Under Fire examines the politics of war, an has a story that starts off as being full blown heroic tale into a major cover up. Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan both give powerful performances in a film that covers themes such as war, military, investigations, friendly fire, forgiveness, sexism, courage, and truth.

The message that each film possesses is Black Hawk Down saying that bad military planning leads to unimaginable disaster, and if you understand the opponent better then you shall prevail. Lone Survivor says that not everyone on the enemy side is bad and that war can be hellish. Jarhead shows that war can change people, and all wars are an exercise in insanity. The message that Courage Under Fire leaves the marathon with is that the truth shall set you free. It is better to honor those who died by telling what really happened instead of fictionalizing events.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Robots Take Over The World Night

Tonight's marathon is all about witnessing the world get taken over by MACHINES. The rise of artificial intelligence takes many forms here ranging from robots being placed in the Detroit Police Department to robotic boxers, to boxers coexisting with humans yet turning corrupt, and ultimately robots battling over the survival of the human race. We have on our menu for this evening:

                         Robocop 1987, Real Steel 2013, I Robot 2004, and Transformers 2007

The marathon begins with the 1987 classic titled Robocop which introduces the theme of robots becoming an influence on society. The plot for Robocop takes place in a dystopic, crime-ridden Detroit where a terminally wounded cop named Alex Murphy returns to the police force as a powerful cyborg haunted by memories of his past human life. Background subplots involve the rise of machines with the placement of Robocop in the Detroit police department and him battling other powerful robots named ED-209. The second film in the lineup is Real Steel that's set in the near future involving robot boxing. Hugh Jackman, plays a struggling promoter whose convinced he's found a champion in a discarded robot. While rising to the top with his golden goose, he discovers he has an 11-year-old son who wants to get to know his father. This goes perfectly after Robocop because that film introduces the concept of machnes becoming present in society and Real Steel shows society becoming adaptable to robots coexisting with humans. The third film I Robot starring Will Smith takes place further in the future in the year 2035. Smith plays a robophobic cop who ends up investigating a crime that might've been perpetrated by a robot, leading to a possible large scale threat to humanity. The fourth and final film of the evening is Transformers, centering around an ancient struggle between two robotic races on both sides of good and evil. The good being the heroic Autobots and the Decepticons being the evil forces. The two forces arrive on Earth searching for the ultimate power that is linked to a teenage boy named Sam.

Each film is strategically placed to emphasize the rise of machines from being a minor factor in society to becoming mankind's last hope for survival.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Horrible Bosses 2 Review

So I finally got to see the sequel to Horrible Bosses 2


The first Horrible Bosses was actually pretty damn funny. It took a simple concept about a few guys who can't stand their bosses because they're actually horrible people, and the end result was it being a lot of fun to watch. Going into Horrible Bosses 2, one understands that no matter how funny it is, the same joke can't top the first time it's told. A lot of mixed to bad reviews have plagued Horrible Bosses 2, but in all honesty, the sequel isn't as bad as people say it is. It actually is pretty funny just not as funny as the first film. It helps that many of the familiar faces from the first movie return for this one which adds greatly to the laughs, making this truly feel like part ll of the first film.

The storyline for Horrible Bosses 2 places the same three main characters from the first film Dale Kurt and Nick deciding to start their own business but things don't go as well as planned because of a slick investor played by Chris Pine. The trio is forced to pull off a harebrained and misguided kidnapping scheme. While doing so they encounter two of their old bosses in small but effective roles with the return of Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston. Jamie Foxx returns as the undercover advisor to the three main characters played brilliantly by Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day. One of the main things that makes this sequel work as comedy is it feels like it can be played right after the first film because nearly all of the same people from the previous one are in this film, and you can see where everyone ended up after how the ending of that film turned out. The story may not be as fresh as it was the first time around but it allows room for all the characters to grow and each have a moment to shine in the film. Chris Pine steals the show in this one as the slick investor that you end up both liking and disliking as the film goes on. As good as he is in this film, no one tops Kevin Spacey as being the true standout of the first film. His cameo in this film was awesome. The films greatest flaw can be attributed to it's script which could've been polished up better to allow for more outrageous things to happen in this sequel. I think a lot of people have an issue with this film because it's too much of what's been repeated prior with the first film and not enough originality, This film is guilty of that but it still maintains a good amount of laughs and comes off as being likeable.

Horrible Bosses 2 is undeserving of the bashing it's received from many critics for being a tired old rehash of the first film, and waste of a rather large and talented cast. Sure it has problems, no one denies that but its not the disaster it's being made out to be. It's a decent sequel to the first film which wasn't anything special but provided some serious laughs. It's worth watching in theaters or a rental from Redbox, just don't expect it to be anything spectacular.


The Interview Review

Finally got to see the much debated and highly controversial The Interview


Let me begin by saying this movie never should've been pulled from theaters due to threats being placed against cinemas if they released the film on it's initial opening weekend due to it's subject matter. Making a film about North Korean dictator Ki, Jong-un was always a risky business going into it, but the filmmakers didn't verbally bash him like the way the media does. They presented a pretty fair and accurate portrayal of the man giving both his good and bad traits, while combining those traits together to morph him into the figure that we all know and despise today. The release of this film has tested the freedom of speech that we Americans hold highly and care about so much in our culture, that to have someone else threaten to attack us for exposing them on their own faults and our own studios giving into the threat of terrorism is aggravating.  The Interview was never mean't to be an indictment but rather a harmless and fun piece of entertainment that sheds light on an issue that many people across the world are concerned and angry about. The Interview is a rather simple film that had the misfortune of being tied to a political issue that never should've led to its pulling from local multiplexes in the same vein that Dark Knight Rises never should've been tied to the Aurora theater shooting at it's midnight premiere. Because of events like these, both films garnered attention from them for both good and bad reasons. The Interview has benefitted from sold out screenings across the United States in limited theaters while making 31 million from online rentals that can be directly linked to all the massive hype it's been getting from the media. The biggest shame is never having the opportunity to get a full blown theatrical release and seeing how the controversy would affect it right now through the box office. Enough of the hype and lets discuss the actual film.

The Interview is no Citizen Kane, Shawshank Redemption, Godfather, or Dark Knight but it's also no horrible movie either. It's mission from the beginning was to be harmless fun which it accomplishes right off the bat. The film is downright hilarious at times and makes a point to audiences that it's not meant to be taken seriously. Sure it's subject matter is a sensitive topic and presents some good questions concerning the personality of the Korean dictator but it was never meant to be an indictment, just an excuse for our brilliant comedic duo to go on an adventure and stage a comedic version of Ron Howard's Frost/Nixon film involving Kim Jong-Un. The storyline deals with Dave Skylark and producer Aaron Rapoport played by both James Franco and Seth Rogen, being landed an interview with surprise fan, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. Upon accepting the request to interview the North Korean dictator, they are recruited by the CIA to turn their trip to Pyongyang into an assassination mission. Right off the bat this movies storyline is supposed to be absurd but contain large amounts of fun with it. The humor ranges from clever nostalgic trivia involving movies to crude humor. James Franco is clearly the one star of the two that makes the whole film worth watching, possessing great comedic talent and moments of seriousness when it's appropriate. Seth Rogen backs him up as the more foul mouthed but caring producer and friend, even possessing some great comedic moments of his own. He falls for Kim Jong's assistant named Sook, who also shares the same form of attraction towards him. The real star of the film lies with Randall Park as President Kim. He is terrific for the part making Kim Jong both likeable and scary simultaneously. The fault of the film lies with the comedy sometimes feeling forced and it's storyline reaching rather absurd moments that take direct inspiration from Inglorious Bastards near the climax of the film. The script is the films weakest link making some of the humor come off as being not funny. The key to this films success is the two leads and their remarkable chemistry. They are perfect here like they demonstrated in their previous outing Pineapple Express. Kim Jong's balance of being good and bad is handled perfectly here with the two blending together at the end, and the innocence of having fun with such a unique yet controversial subject matter. It's a shame this films humerous side is being overshadowed by it's controversy and turned into a bigger issue than it actually is.

The Interview can be described as harmless comedy and a fun way to kill 100 minutes. It's purpose was to not be anything other than immature laughs. Sure it tackles some good issues that we all should be looking into and questioning but using the film as a tool for expressing first amendment rights, and being a form of anti-terrorism kinda overshadows the filmmakers intent when first setting out to make the film. When watching the film, try and keep out the heavy controversy and judge the film as the comedy it was meant to be viewed as before the controversy started. It deserves that right.


Into The Woods Review

Finally got to see Into The Woods


Let me start off by saying I enjoy the genre of musicals though it is not my favorite one of them all. When musicals are great, they have me, when their not, i'm disconnected from them. This one's a catch because it takes a bunch of classic fairy tale stories along with a talented cast and rolls them all into one with a stunning background and strong soundtrack. It's essentially the perfect film to release during the winter season, and is sure to fight hard for some awards recognition. So how good is Into the Woods as a film?

It's pretty good. The cast is a big factor in what makes it such an appealing film with Anna Kendrick in the lead role, followed by a supporting cast of Meryl Streep, Tracy Ullman, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, and Chris Pine. The plot of the film centers around a witch tasking a childless baker and his wife with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put in their family tree. The film meshes the storylines of Cinderella and Repunzel together, while also giving them interesting plot twists. The tone is darker in this adaptation but that isn't a factor that harms the movie, but rather makes it more appealing towards a newer generation. Into The Woods thrives on the nostalgia of the classic stories and the energy of it's actors involved with their stellar performances. Once again Meryl Streep proves to audiences that she is the acting goddess and should have a separate category for her in every academy awards ceremony here on out. No other female actress out there has enjoyed a track record as incredible as hers. She appears to be having a lot of fun with this part and sings her ass off with some remarkable makeup effects. Anna Kendrick turns in a worthy performance as Cinderella, giving us the image of the iconic character we've all grown up to live and giving her own interpretation of it. This girls been on a roll since she turned in a strong likeable Oscar nominated performance in Up In The Air. The darker tone of the story is what makes the film work, adding a new flavor to old concepts and keeping the interest of the audience fixated on the tale that's being unfolded infront of them. The film moves at a reasonably fast pace never feeling truly slow or too quick, and the musical ques are spread out throughout the film, not forced on you like the 2012 drama Les Miserables made the mistake of doing (I did like that one very much though). The only criticism that can really be drawn from the film is it might fall  a little too much on the dark aspect of the story making it feel like a Tim Burton world and too frightening for kids. I can definitely see some people taking issue with that but I personally feel the new look of the stories is what makes it work and is what will draw in newer fans both old and young.

Into The Woods is hands down the years best musical and one of the best movies of 2014. Those who have been waiting for this movies release and going into it with great anticipation will get their moneys worth. Whether it will land a Best Picture nomination in the academy awards top 10 list is a matter of speculation. My feeling is it might just miss it but will garner well deserved noms for Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt,  art-set decoration, makeup, costume design, score, and cinematography. If you're looking for a grand musical with strong storytelling, darker atmosphere and lots of imagination, then this is your ticket.


Unbroken Review

Finally got to see Angelina Jolie's directorial work titled Unbroken


When you see a trailer of a film that looks visually striking and then see a familiar name of an actor turned filmmaker helming the movie of the trailer you're viewing, you can't help but get curious and excited at what their cooking up. Questions such as what attracted them to the project and what they hope to accomplish by taking on this directorial duty arise. Those who know of Angelina Jolie's humanitarian efforts off screen know that taking such a sensitive and inspirational topic like Unbroken, will encourage her to give her best effort as a filmmaker to bring this story to life. So far the end result has been mostly positive with audiences though critics have been divided on this one. While praising the visual style and look of the film giving the authenticity that it's really happening in the time period being presented to audiences, the films problems lie within the story structure. So I guess the question on everyone's minds is how did Unbroken really fare from an honest unbiased perspective?

I say the film did quite well. Unbroken is a fairly good inspirational human drama about overcoming captivity during war time while also remembering what makes you strong as a person in the first place and your life before the tragedy strikes. This storyline deals with captivity, survival, glorifying what's best in the human spirit, and beating the odds. It's no shocker that Angelina Jolie would be attracted to this project. It has her written all over it in terms of wanting to tell this inspirational true story. The plot of the film takes place mostly after a near-fatal plane crash in World War ll during a time when Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a total of 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewman before he ends up being caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. The films strongest points come from the music, the acting, the authenticity of the picture with the costume, art-set decoration and cinematography all looking visually stunning. The film is well-intentioned and has heart driving the story both from Jolie's directing and the performance of Jack O' Connell as the lead character Lou Zamperini. The pacing of the film often feels slow at times, almost as if the filmmakers are trying to make you exhausted after experiencing this journey of survival and captivity. You do indeed care about the characters in the film, but also can't help but feel the movie is missing something that makes it truly standout among other great inspirational dramas. Perhaps this being the first directorial work for Jolie, she is allowing her skills to grow and will get even better as time goes on. That may very well be the case but one can't help but feel there's something that's missing from this movie that makes it truly standout as one of the best films of 2014.It could've been more powerful but still garners some truly great moments, especially one involving the lead character having to hold a piece of wood over his head and fighting to keep it in the air otherwise he gets shot. The relationships he develops with his captives on the other side of the war carries with it a dramatic irony about World War ll. Whatever the issue with the film is, it doesn't make Unbroken a failed effort. The film works best as a piece of history and retelling of a story that involves tremendous amounts of bravery and courage.

Unbroken is one of the winter seasons best films, and deserves a spot as being one of the year's finest filmmaking achievements. It's intentions are genuine, and has a powerful message it's desperately trying to get across to people, despite some minor flaws that hold it back at times. It is a well crafted film that should be seen by all filmmakers, and hopefully is the start of a promising directorial career for Angelina Jolie. Her film often at times feels like a Clint Eastwood one from the look and style of it but just needs a more commanding presence. For her first effort, this is pretty good.


Monday, January 5, 2015

First dramatic marathon of 2015: Corruption Involving Mob Figures And Wall Street

Tonight's marathon marks the first official dramatic marathon of 2015. Tonight we dive into issues pertaining to corruption dealing with the mob and the shady things goings on at Wall Street. What better filmmaker is there to turn towards for this theme than Oscar winning filmmaker Martin Scorsesse. Scorsese's career goes as far back as the early 70's with a phenomenal track record of hits ranging from Boxcar Bertha, Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, The Color Of Money, Last Temptation of Christ, Age of Innocence, Kundun, Bringing out the Dead, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island, and Hugo. Tonight's attention is centered around three of his most prestigious works of art. We have on our menu for this evening:

                                Goodfellas 1990, The Wolf On Wall Street 2013, and Casino 1995

Beginning tonight's web of corruption within the mob and wall street is Scorsese's 1990s classic Goodfellas. Goodfellas packs a stellar cast among the likes of Robert Deniro, Ray Liotta, and Joe Pesci. He centers the storyline around mobster Henry Hill and his friends as they work their way up the food chain of the mob hierarchy. Unanimously considered Scorsese's finest work, Goodfellas opened to universal praise and critical acclaim upon it's 1990 release but ultimately lost the academy award for Best Picture to Kevin Costner's epic drama, Dances with the Wolves. Wolf On Wall Street  focuses on the true story of Jordan Belfort, covering his rise to a wealthy stock-broker living the high life to his downfall involving crime, corruption and the federal government. The third and final film Casino, reverts back to the theme of mob corruption except this time it involves corruption within the Casinos of Las Vegas. Themes of greed, deception, money, power, and murder run throughout this film as two mobster best friends since childhood and a trophy wife are surrounded by a gambling empire. If Goodfellas is the rise of the empire and Wolf on Wall Street is the empire flourishing, then Casino is the empire crumbling due to it's own corruption making it essentially the perfect trio.

Friday, January 2, 2015

First marathon of 2015: Sylvester Stallone Coming For Your Ass Night

Today's marathon marks the first official marathon performed in the year 2015. A new year brings a fresh new start and a reset button to cover new ground of movie lineups that didn't get the chance to shine in 2014. Tonight we open up the year with wall to wall action. We have the iconic movie star named Sylvester Stallone playing such iconic roles such as John Rambo, John Spartan and Judge Dredd. Their missions are simple: If you break the law or mess with one of these authorative figures, then Stallone's coming after you.  Here is tonight's lineup:

The plot for First Blood deals with a Vietnam Veteran named John Rambo, forced to use his combat skills against the lawman of a small town when they arrest and abuse him. The film Cobra deals with a tough-on-crime street cop who must protect the only surviving witness to a strange murderous cult with far reaching plans. Rambo First Blood Part ll follows up after the events of First Blood with John Rambo being released from prison by the government for a top-secret covert mission to go back to the last place on Earth he'd want to return to which is the jungles of Vietnam. Straying away from the Rambo story arc is the Demolition Man. In this film, a police officer named John Spartan played by Sylvester Stallone, being brought out of suspended animation in prison to pursue an old ultra-violent nemesis named Simon Phoenix played by Wesley Snipes, who ends up escaping prison and being loose in a non-violent futuristic society. Continuing the theme of justice taking place in the 21st century, the plot for Judge Dredd deals with a dystopian future where a police officer with instant field judiciary powers named Judge Dredd is convicted of a crime he did not commit while his murderous counterpart escapes. The final film of the lineup brings everything back to it's early roots with the fourth and final installment in the John Rambo series. Rambo 2008 takes place in Thailand where John Rambo joins a group of mercenaries to venture into war-torn Burma, and is forced to rescue a group of Christian aid workers who become kidnapped by a ruthless local infantry unit.