Friday, May 29, 2015

When Dinosaurs And Humans Collide

Tonight's marathon is about the evolution of dinosaurs from their humble beginnings in classic childrens movies such as Land Before Time and disney's Dinosaur to live action nostalgic films like Flintstones, and adventure epics such as Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park lll. Every stage of the dinosaur is shown in different time periods from where they first roamed the Earth, then the addition of humans into the frame both in the past and present. Whereas their first encounter with humans was a mutual coexistence, the present has dinosaurs hunting the humans they encounter for prey. For tonight's fun and exciting marathon, we have on the menu:

The Land Before Time 1988, Dinosaur 2000, Flintstones: The Movie 1994, Jurassic Park 1993, and Jurassic Park lll 2001

No dinosaur marathon is complete without the first Jurassic Park included in it. With the premiere of Jurassic World closing in, there's no better and appropriate time than to explore the origins of dinosaurs and the controversy over whether both dinos and humans lived simultaneously. Movies like The Flintstones and Jurassic Park demonstate the parallels of dinosaurs and humans coexiting with one showing them getting along in their natural environments, and the other has the dinosaurs roaming free in a century they have no idea of, and becoming aggressive. The first movie of the evening is the 1988 children's classic titled The Land Before Time. The story centers around an orphaned brontosaurus teaming up with young dinosaurs in an effort to reunite with their families in a valley. Originally Steven Spielberg and George Lucas decided on not having any dialogue for the film, but changed their minds when they realized they wanted kids to be able to see the film. The next film in the dinosaur lineup is Disney's 2000 blockbuster titled Dinosaur. Grossing 137 million domestically upon it's release in May 2000, Dinosaur centers around an orphaned dinosaur joining a dificult journey to a sancturary after his families home is destroyed by a meteorite. The first two films center around the perspective of the dinosaurs, with the next three films showcasing the interaction between dinosaurs and humans. The third film in the lineup is the Steven Spielberg executive produced blockbuster The Flintstones. Starring John Goodman and Rick Moranis in the title roles of Fred Flinstone and Barney Rubble, the story centers around Fred Flintstone finally getting the job he always wanted but only after his best friend swapped tests with him after realized Fred had the worst score out of everyone. Once Fred gets into his comfortable new job as vice president at Slate and Company, he unravels a web of corruption being performed within the company by an executive named Cliff, whose using Fred as the fall guy for an embezzlement scheme. The Flintstones was a box office success in 1994, but opened to mostly negative reviews, with criticisms stemming from it failed to properly capture the humor of the show even though the casting for the film is stunning. It also serves as the first parallel to Jurassic Park in regards to humans and dinosaurs coexisting. The film shows numerous scenes where dinosaurs have become apart of human nature, and work off each other for survival. It's a great representation of The Land Before Time meets the stone age. The fourth film in the marathon is the critically acclaimed blockbuster and Steven Spielberg classic titled Jurassic Park. An adventure 65 million years in the making, this unforgettable masterpiece has a group of the world's greatest paleontologists and dinosaur experts coming to tour a new amusement park full of live dinosaurs that were created through DNA cloning. During the middle of the tour, the theme parks power shuts down allowing it's cloned dinosaurs to run rampant throughout the park, and hunt the few remaining humans left on the island. Winner of three academy awards including best visual effects, Jurassic Park matches it's groundbreaking technology with it's powerful set of characters such as Dr. Grant played by Sam Neil, Dr. Ian Malcom played by Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern as Dr. Saddler, Richard Attenborough as John Hammond, Samuel Jackson as Ray Arnold, and Wayne Knight as the bumbling yet slimy character named Dennis. Spielberg's powerful trademark style of directing carries this one into the realm of being among the all time great films. The fifth and final movie of the night serves as a conclusion to the powerful story structure set up by Jurassic Park and the other dinosaur films. Joe Johnston's Jurassic Park lll is designed to be a direct sequel to the first film in which we see where the epic character Dr. Grant and his ex girlfriend from the first movie Dr. Saddler end up since the first film ended. Where's Laura Dern has limited amount of screentime in this film, Sam Neil once again picks up the reigns as the dominant character in the film, someone whose lived through the ordeal of the first film and knows the true horrors of what lies on the island. Joining the cast is William H. Macy and Tea Leoni as a what first appears to be an odd couple who convince Dr. Grant to return to Isla Sorna as a tour guide for the couple, but soon discover that they hold ulterior motives for bringing him back and the group ultimately suffers a plane crash. Although they survive the crash caused by one of the giant dinosaurs on the island, Dr. Grant and his party fight to survive becoming prey to the dinosaurs Grant first encountered when he visited Jurassic Park. It can be argued that Jurassic Park is more true of a sequel to the first film than The Lost World of Jurassic Park, simpy because it continues the story arc of Dr. Grant and Dr. Saddler, while also maintaining the atmosphere of the first film.

So what is the message behind these movies being paired together for a unique dinosaur marathon. Land Before Time and Dinosaur say that the smallest thing can bring about the biggest change, and
anything can be overcome if everyone bands together. The Flintstones says that a job title should never get in the way of true friendship or any kind of petty issues. Dinosaurs and humans can live togther peacefully and benefit off each other. Jurassic Park l and lll say that some things remain extinct for a reason and should never be brought back, especially dinosaurs.

Our dinosaurs and heroes for this evening:

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Evolution of GOJIRA

Tonight's marathon is about the evolution of the iconic Japanese monster called Godzilla. This marathon is not designed to have him fight various other monsters but to show him at his most iconic state as he evolves from the shores of Japan into the shores of America in locations such as New York and San Francisco. The American versions might not have been as powerful as the original Japanese classic because Americans didn't create the monster out of blind fear that they'll be annihilated like the Japanese did after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, the American versions that came in 1998 and 2014 weren't terrible but simply didn't live up to the level of terror that plagued cinemas in 1954. The key to making a great Godzilla movie is to latch onto societies ultimate fear of history repeating itself. In the case of the Japanese it's experiencing another Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and for Americans it's experiencing another September 11th. Tonight's marathon taps into those fears with the following selections.

              Godzilla: King Of The Monsters 1954, Godzilla 1998, and Godzilla 2014


 It might not have been the marathon everyone was expecting and many would've chose to have Godzilla fight off other monsters of foes, but this one was never designed to have him fight Mothra or King Kong. It was mean't to represent the landmark times where he appeared both on Japanese and American shores. These were times where people got the most excited to see him and would wait in long lines to get a glimpse of the half hero and half villain. When it became appropriate, we feared him but when something else came that was more powerful than Godzilla, we rooted for him cause he was the last hope for civilization. The beginning of Godzilla's legacy began in 1954 where he first appeared within the shores of Tokyo after American nuclear weapons testing results in the creation of Godzilla, an unstoppable and powerful dragon that destroys everything he comes across. It's up to an American scientist who teams up with the Japanese to put a stop to the powerful creature. After he leaves a path of destruction along the shores of Tokyo, he makes his way to New York in the critically panned yet misunderstood 1998 blockbuster from the makers of Independence Day. This is America's first introduction to the legendary monster and ultimately was the first major disappointment for many fans on the American front. While not a terrible movie in any sense and often a fun and entertaining lizard movie, the name Godzilla in it's title turned off many fans of the Japanese version. The problem that lies with the Roland Emmerich film is that Godzilla in this film does a lot of destruction but simply is never frightening. He doesn't terrorize or destroy buildings like the 1954 monster did. He's more of a monster that's nesting within the streets of New York but never terrorizes or frightens anyone. The film was a huge disappointment because it doesn't capture the essence of the character but is an entertaining film in it's own right. It wasn't until 2014, 16 years after the last attempt to modernize Godzilla for American audiences that Hollywood decided to try again with the legend. Did they succeed this time? Yes and no. This time Godzilla terrorizes the city of San Francisco while battling two other monsters who have the power to wipe out our existence due to humanities scientific arrogance. This is probably the closest that America is going to get to having a Godzilla film that stands tall and proud against the 1954 Japanese classic. Unlike the 1990's where America's only fear was Monica Lewinsky, this movie comes after the impact of 9/11 on American society. It makes it more believable that something like this can happen on our shores and recapture the horror of that day. The filmmakers tapped into that fear but underestimated the patience of American audiences by putting Godzilla in the film for only 11 minutes, and sacrificing it's most bankable star Bryan Cranston within the first 15 minutes total. Still the film pulled in 200 million domestically and helped speed up the production to Pacific Rim 2 whereas Godzilla 1998 only made 136 million domestically. Note to the filmmakers of the sequel, put Godzilla in the movie more.

So what do all three of these films ultimately say about mankind and the monster it helped create? It says that we should be careful about being ignorant towards powers that we can't control such as Nuclear warfare and if were not careful, we can create something that's unstoppable and lead to our own destruction.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

When Good Men Go To War

Today's marathon is a very powerful one and epic in terms of having a full scale marathon dedicated to the theme of war, and the personal toll it takes on those who bravely fight in it. Great soldiers and patriots like Benjamin Martin and Chris Kyle mirror each other though they come from different historical times, but share the same character traits and motivations. Clint Eastwood's two part war epic centering around the battle of Iwo Jima and Steven Spielberg's masterful reenactment of the infamous D Day battle combine with our patriots to give an unforgettable stamp on the theme of good men going to war.  For memorial days marathon, we have the following:

The Patriot 2000, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo 1944, Flags Of Our Fathers 2006, Saving Private Ryan 1998, and American Sniper 2014

The theme of patriotism runs rampant throughout this marathon. What connects all of these films together is the story arc of good men having to leave behind things that they hold most dearly to them, and go off to defend their country against the other side. Different eras of war in American history are covered such as the American Revolution, The Doolittle Raid which was America's first attack against Japan after Pearl Harbor, the battle at Iwo Jima from the American standpoint and the drama the young men who raised the flag endured afterwards, the battle of D-Day and the fight for a group of American allies to save the life of one MIA soldier named Ryan, and finally the story arc of the American patriot coming full circle with Clint Eastwood's mega blockbuster titled American Sniper. The characters of Benjamin Martin and Chris Kyle are essentially the same type of soldier who carried a great deal of patriotism with them as well as a lot of emotional baggage for past actions they committed in war. Both men are faced with having to leave their families behind and dealing with the harsh realities of war when they return from the battlefield. The first movie of the night that introduces the theme of war and what good men leave behind when they go is Roland Emmerich's film The Patriot starring Mel Gibson, Joely Richardson, Heath Ledger, and Jason Isaacs. The story centers around a retired French-Indian war hero whose living a peaceful family life on a plantation during the middle of the American Revolution. Trying desperately to avoid going to the battlefield to fight the English, Benjamin Martin finds himself forced into it after a brutal English colonel kills his son. His anger turns into patriotism as he fights for not only his family but for his country, unleashing the dark nature of his character that was only seen on the battlefield. The Patriot establishes the ideal American hero that the rest of the men in the movies that follow live up to. The second movie of the lineup is Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo starring Spencer Tracy. Nominated for two academy awards and released in 1944 during the actual second World War, this epic war drama focuses on America's first retaliation against the Japanese after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In this tale of war, a young Lieutenant named Ted Lawson ends up leaving his wife and unborn child behind to join a group of pilots led by war hero Lt. Jimmy Doolittle in a top secret raid that took the war to the shores of Japan. Much like The Patriot and American Sniper, we see the husband having to leave behind what he values most in order to defend his country in the ultimate act of patriotism. The films groundbreaking special effects and cinematography earned well deserved academy awards at the time, and the film became the first major Hollywood film to focus on World War ll while it was still going on. The next film in the lineup adds to the theme of heroism in terms of a group of heroes with timeline stretching later in the war on the battle of Iwo Jima. Clint Eastwood's Flags Of Our Fathers tells the story of six men from the American point of view on the famous flag raising during the battle off Iwo Jima, which later became a turning point in World War ll, and the controversy that surrounded the incident soon afterwards. The fourth film in the marathon is perhaps the greatest war movie ever filmed in cinematic history with Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. Winner of five academy awards and generally considered one of the greatest Oscar snubs in movie history with Shakesphere in Love winning over Ryan, this tale centered around the battle of Normandy and the aftermath of it with a group of soldiers in the U.S army going behind enemy lines to save the life of a paratrooper whose brothers got killed in action. Tom Hanks leads the group of soldiers in a powerhouse performance with a strong supporting cast among the likes of Tom Sizemore, Barry Pepper, Edward Burns, Vin Diesel, Matt Damon, and Giovanni Ribisi. The opening battle sequence centering around D-Day is hands down the greatest war sequence in cinematic history, and one of the greatest opening scenes ever made. The final movie in the lineup is ultimately the one that brings it all home to war in present day and stirring the most controversy in the realm of pop culture. Clint Eastwood's American Sniper centers around a Navy SEAL sniper named Chris Kyle, whose accuracy at firing bullets that saved countless lives on the battlefield transformed him into the greatest sniper in U.S history. When he's not fighting a war in Iraq, he struggles with his wife and kids after four tours of duty to lead a normal life, but soon realizes that what he can't put behind is ultimately his war. Nominated for a total of six academy awards and winner of one for best sound editing, the film polarized American audiences with a domestic total of 349 million and 543 million worldwide. What American Sniper ultimately does is it brings the marathon full circle with the character of Benjamin Martin representing the ideal American hero in the past and Chris Kyle representing the ideal hero in present day war, regardless of the controversy surrounding his memoir and personal life.

So what are these movies all trying to say ultimately about war? When all five movies are combined, the message ultimately says that there are some causes that are worth fighting for and possibly dying over if it's for the cause of right. Victory in any war doesn't come without great sacrifice, even if it means leaving behind the people you love, cherish, and ultimately fight for.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bromance Night Part ll: When A Girl Intervenes

Tonight's marathon is a continuation of last Friday's lineup that dealt with the theme of two guys sharing a bromance. To give a brief recap of last Fridays lineup, the movies played were Free Willy, Toy Story, Batman Forever, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Boy in the Striped Pajamas. The themes set up in that marathon are two friends who develop a friendship that's thicker than blood and ultimately if it came to it, they would both lay down their lives for each other. Tonight's marathon continues that trend but this time it focuses on the addition of a female character in each film. These female characters either join the bromance or come between the two best friends and create conflict. For tonight's marathon we have on the following menu:

     Batman and Robin 1997, Free Willy ll: The Aventure Home 1995, Toy Story 2 1999, and
Transformers 2007

If anything this trio stays pretty consistent with last weeks lineup with Free Willy mirroring Free Willy, Toy Story ll continuing the story arc of Toy Story, and Batman and Robin continuing the bromance arc of Batman Forever for better or worse. Batman and Robin is most definitely not a good film in terms of cinematic value but it is undeniably one of the most enjoyably bad movies ever made. Because of it's strong and powerful themes of friendship and self sacrifice, it works here. The first movie of the trio is the 1997 cinematic disaster Batman and Robin. Picking up right after Batman Forever left off, the story takes place two years later with Batman and Robin being a dynamic duo together in terms of defending the streets of Gotham. This time they battle the evil Mr. Freeze, the dangerous Poison Ivy, and the powerful henchman named Bane, while at the same time fighting to keep their friendship together. The conflict that arises in the film is Robin wanting Batman to trust him more, and the two fighting over the misguided love they share for Poison Ivy. While the two struggle to put aside their differences and keep their bromance going, a mysterious neice of Bruce's butler Alfred shows up to visit and while doing so begins to discover the secret lurking in Wayne Manor. When she does, she makes no hesistation to join the bromance as partners while assuming the PC of Batgirl. She begin to falls for Dick Grayson while battling the evil villains. Batman and Robin within all its cheese has strong themes of courage, truth, brotherhood, friendship, and sacrifice within the film. It will never be classified as a good movie but remains great entertainment within its awfulness and totally fits the bromance theme. The second movie of the lineup is the sequel to the 1993 family classic titled Free Willy. Free Willy ll: The Adventure Home continues the story arc of a boy named Jesse befriending a killer whale named Willy with Willy returning two years later to reunite with Jesse whose now a teenager. This time Jesse has to once again protect Willy and his family from an Oil Tanker explosion that endangers all the animals nearby. The bromance is tested when Jesse meets a niece of his sidekick Randolph named Nadine whom he comes to share mutual feelings with as his first High School crush. Jesse also has to contend with a younger brother named Elvis whose been sent to live with his family, and challenges Jesse's temper. For a family oriented sequel to a classic, Free Willy ll stays pretty close to the first film in terms of having heart and upping the adventure spectacle. The third and final movie of the lineup is the critically acclaimed sequel to the 1995 animated classic Toy Story titled Toy Story ll. Picking up four years after the events of the first film, Tom Hanks and Tim Allen reunite as the ultimate pair of brothers who've grown to share the ultimate bromance. In this installment, Woody finds himself being captured by an evil toy collector leaving Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the toys faced with the task of rescuing Woody from the clutches of the evil Toy collector who plans on shipping Woody to a museum in Japan. While Woody is captured, he befriends a young cowgirl named Jesse whose also apart of the toy collection of the evil kidnapper. He comes to feel her pain of being alone and wanting acceptance, making him realize that the idea of being sold off to a museum for millions of people to see isn't such a bad thing. Toy Story ll is one of the few sequels that not only lives up to its predecessor but surpasses it. It's all heart and maintains the bromance established by last fridays marathon. The final scene with Woody and Buzz proclaiming that they'll always be together no matter what is a fitting parallel to their final scene in the first Toy Story movie. The fourth and final movie of the night brings the bromance to all new heights with Michael Bay's 2007 blockbuster Transformers. In this film Shia Labeouf purchases a new Bumblebee car in order to impress a girl in his class played by Megan Fox. Much like Free Willy ll where Jesse uses Willy to impress Randolph's daughter Nadine, Sam Witwicky uses the car Bumblebee to impress a girl named Mikaela who he has the hots for in the mist of an alien robotic invasion. When chosen with the task to save the world, he begins a hot and intense relationship with the damsel in distress while befriending Bumblebee.

So what are these movies ultimately trying to say? Batman and Robin says that you should trust your best friend even if you feel you may know more than they do, and that bromances can't be destroyed so easily. Teamwork conquers all. Free Willy ll says to accept your family roots and even though your siblings may not be who you pictured them to be, you should always love them. Toy Story ll says that friends stick together no matter what and whereas one friend may have stuck his neck out for you in the past, the day may come for you to do the same in reverse. Transformers essentially says that you need a car like Bumblebee to get with the girl of your dreams.

Our heroes and bromances for this evening:

Monday, May 18, 2015

When Addiction Conquers All

Tonight's marathon is a dark and heavy one. It is powerful, uncompromising and has a lot to say about people's actions towards the issue of drug addiction and how it can impact and hurt friendships, relationships, and ultimately can hurt society. If a marathon revolving around the theme of drug addiction is to be conducted, then it's only proper to seek out some of the greatest anti drug movies ever made so that the experience of witnessing these people's journeys towards addiction or redemption will be one that is unforgettable. Drugs is a major problem in American society and should not be treated lightly with a marathon revolving around that specific theme. For this evenings lineup, we have on our menu:

Trainspotting 1996, The Basketball Diaries 1994, Thirteen 2003, Requiem For A Dream 2000, and Traffic 2000

Truly one of the most heartbreaking, most darkest, and one of the most powerful marathons ever conducted. There are moments and scenes that will burn in the memory long after viewing of these films. Together, these films give a realistic depiction of drug addiction and the influence of outside parties propelling that downward spiral. One question that should be asked going into this lineup is how do you fight the war on drugs? How do you wage war on friends and family? Those are questions that this evenings lineup is going to attempt to answer. The first movie of the lineup is the Oscar nominated critically acclaimed drama and cult classic titled Trainspotting starring Ewan McGregor and Ewen Bremner. This story centers around a man named Renton played by McGregor, who becomes deeply immersed in the drug world. Although he makes efforts to try and live a clean life, he finds that the power of the influence of friends and the temptation of drugs ultimately lures him back in. This film is the perfect opening for this marathon and introduces issues such as fighting addiction, trying to turn your life around, and being sucked back into the temptation and peer pressure. The second movie of the evening continues that trend but takes things down to a more personal level with The Basketball Diaries. Starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Mark Whalberg, and Ernie Hudson, the film centers around a young basketball played named Jim Carroll, who dreams of becoming a basketball star one day but finds himself getting pulled into a life of crime, drugs, addiction, and heartbreak as his relationship between him and his mother is tarnished. Coming right off his phenomenal performance in What's Eating Gibert Grape, Basketball Diaries showcases Dicaprio's growing talents going into the films that would turn him into the international heartthrob such as Romeo and Juliet and James Cameron's Titanic. Basketball Diaries introduces the mother and son dynamic that comes back full circle and ten times more powerful in Requiem for a Dream with Jared Leto and Ellen Burstyn. The third movie of the marathon is Catherine Hardwicke's 2003 true to life drama titled Thirteen. Nominated for an academy award for Holly Hunter's commanding performance as a mother trying to stop her only daughter from going down a path that leads her into the world of drugs, sex, and alcohol thanks to the influence of her troubled best friend. Evan Rachel Wood and Nikki Reed give unforgettable performances as the lead characters in this polarizing tale of the power of addiction and misguided friendships. The fourth movie of the evening is perhaps the darkest film of them all with the intensity reaching it's all time high in Darron Aronofsky's Reqiuem For A Dream. Magnetic and unforgettable, this crown jewel of the marathon centers around four different characters and story arcs of addictions reaching their peak and the downward spiral into hell being a heartbreaking one. No story arc in this film is more heartbreaking than the one revolving around the characters of Jared Leto and his mother played by Ellen Burstyn in a towering performance that's deeply haunting. Reqiuem for a Dream is essentially a story about four people's hopes and dreams being crushed by drug addiction and the consequences being worse than they could ever imagine. Special kudos also goes to the outstanding performances of Marlon Wayans in his only dramatic role of his career, and Jennifer Connelly in performances that burn in the memory. There isn't enough words to describe the sheer impact of this film long after it's over but just that it's a film that everyone should see at least once in their life. The fifth and final film of the evening gives the marathon it's proper closure and answers some questions concerning the issue of the war on drugs. Steven Soderberg's 5 time Oscar winning drama Traffic centers around four different stories that revolve around the theme of fighting the war on drugs. The one story arc that powers this film is that of a conservative judge played by Michael Douglas, being appointed to lead the frontlines in the war on drugs. While fighting this war in the political arena, Douglas also has to attend to his daughter's increasing addiction played by Erika Christensen. These two are backed by a strong supporting cast among the likes of Catherine Zeta Jones playing a trophy wife who discovers that her jailed husband runs a major underground drug business and has to preserve it for their own survival. Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman play two DEA agents who attempt to break down walls and barriers that are influencing the passage of drugs through the border, and Benicio Del Toro playing a vigilante cop who slowly begins to realize that his boss is not as anti-drug as he makes himself out to be. Traffic brings it all home with it's final message at the end of the film with Michael Douglas asking during a pivotal speech after saving his daughter from addiction "How do you wage war on your own family?" He closes the film out with a great afterthought that makes his character arc coming full circle when realizing that the war on drugs cannot be fought through political means but by listening to and supporting those who are fighting it with love and unconditional support.

So what are all of these movies trying to say as a whole? To repeat the message of each film would be repetitive but to sum them all up as a whole is more essential. Trainspotting, Basketball Diaries, Thirteen, Requiem for a Dream, and Traffic all say that  addiction is a force that only brings negative consequences to your life, and to fight the war on drugs, you have to listen to those who are on the battlefield and hear their testimonies while supporting them in their fight to overcome their addictions.

Our characters for this evening: