Monday, September 28, 2015

When Relationships Turn Towards Obsession

Tonight's marathon is centered around the theme of obsession and how it evolves once you get to know someone. The title is very broad and allows for that theme to be shown in several different angles such as a guy working at a photo lab becoming obsessed with a family after creating endless photos of them, a cop and a serial killer sharing a unique and disturbing relationship that is largely based around a cat and mouse game, a cop getting involved with his female suspect in a passionate relationship and whose also a potential killer in a homicide, two old colleagues reuniting after a decade to stop a villain more sinister than Hannibal Lecter, and an ex con being released from prison and seeks revenge on the lawyer who defended him 14 years prior and his family. This is a marathon that's strategically planned out and it's objective is to show how deep the rabbit hole goes in regards to obsession. Obsession can be a very dangerous game that's not without it's consequences. Tonight's marathon shows those consequences. We have on our superb menu for this evening:

One Hour Photo 2002, Insomnia 2002, Basic Instinct 1992, Hannibal 2001, and Cape Fear 1991

      What makes this marathon stand out is the sheer power of the performances behind the camera. The acting is what makes these movies special and propel the storytelling. A movie like One Hour Photo is made the film it is today because of the career turning performance of academy award winning actor Robin Williams. His convincing turn of a lonely photo shop employee at Save mart with a downright creepy edge made the film exciting and engaging. His second villainous turn in Insomnia alongside acting titan Al Pacino and director Christopher Nolan cemented him as one of the most versatile actors of his generation with this epic turn as a killer. Anthony Hopkins chilling performance as Hannibal Lecter made Hannibal a highly anticipated blockbuster as well as one of the greatest movie villains that ever graced the screen. Cape Fear is the classic remake it is today because of Robert Deniro's unforgettable turn as ex convict Max Cady who reconnects with his lawyer after spending over a decade behind bars swearing vengeance upon him for sabotaging his case of viciously raping a young underage girl. Some of the greatest directors of the last 20 years also help direct these actors to critical acclaim such as Christopher Nolan helming Insomnia, Paul Verhoeven behind Basic Instinct, Ridley Scott behind Hannibal, and Martin Scorsesse behind the 1960's remake of Cape Fear.
      The first movie of the night is the 2002 critically acclaimed thriller titled One Hour Photo starring Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, and Michael Vartan. The story centers around an employee at a one- hour photo lab becoming obsessed and infatuated with a young wife, husband, and son through the creation of their pictures from the film they deliver to him on occasion. As Williams gets more obsessed with the family, he begins to gain insight into their personal lives and imagines himself as a member of the family such as the beloved uncle that usually is in the background of the scenery in the pictures. What makes One Hour Photo such an exciting and crafty psychological thriller is you totally buy Williams performance as a man whose lonely in the world and see's his glimmer of light through doing these families photographs but also appears to be someone with a dark side to his nature. Someone that if pushed in a negative way can do some sinister things. One Hour Photo is a triumph not just as a movie but for Williams himself who proved to audiences that he can do much more than just Comedy and Drama. The films quality was always going to rely on the strength of it's lead actor and Williams carried the entire film on his back.
     The second movie of the marathon takes Williams dark side and brings it to his full potential with Christopher Nolan's 2002 thriller titled Insomnia. Fresh off the critical success of Memento, Nolan continues to stake his claim as one of the defining directors of the 21st century with his second big Hollywood feature that's a remake of a 1997 Norweigian film where two Los Angeles police detectives are dispatched to a small Alaskan town to investigate the murder of a local teen. The lack of night in the small Alaskan town takes its toll on Pacino's character as he makes a fatal mistake during the pursuit of Williams character and now has his fatal error used against him forcing the two men to join union in a deadly game of cat and mouse. Insomnia ended up becoming one of the best critically reviewed movies of 2002 but failed to generate any awards interest. It succeeds as a fantastic psychological drama due to the performances of Al Pacino and Robin Williams as a unique and fantastic duo combined with Nolan's slick directing and Alaskan scenery.
      The third movie of the marathon is the Paul Verhoeven 1992 blockbuster and controversial thriller titled Basic Instinct starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone. Nominated for two academy awards including Best Music and Best Film Editing, the story centers around a police detective played by Michael Douglas being placed in charge of a murder investigation involving a beautiful yet seductive woman. During the investigation, he begins a passionate obsession with the seductive woman regardless of the contradictions within the evidence. Basic Instinct received a lot of controversy upon it's release for all the explicit sex scenes and nudity. Sharon Stone's leg crossing moment became one of the most iconic moments in film history, and put her on the map of becoming a major movie star. The moral of this film is this: Cops should not get involved with their suspects.
      The fourth movie of the marathon is Ridley Scott's 2001 blockbuster sequel to the 1991 academy award winning film titled Silence Of The Lambs. Taking place a good ten years after the events of the previous film, the story finds Hannibal Lecter trying to reconnect with a disgraced FBI agent named Clarice Sterling after hearing of her missteps while on duty. He comes to her out of help when a more sinister villain targets Lecter with the intention of seeking revenge from a prior meeting. Hannibal didn't quite receive the critical acclaim that Silence Of The Lambs achieved due to a much darker storyline and the loss of Jodie Foster in the role of Clarice Sterling. Although Julianne Moore did a fitting job replacing Jodie Foster in the iconic role, the film lacked the personal interaction between the two which made the first film a classic. Hannibal does come with some iconic moments of it's own such as the famous dinner sequence in which Ray Liotta's brain is served on the menu. The final moments between Hannibal and Clarice are a fanboys dream come true but one wishes the books original ending where Hannibal and Clarice fall in love and run off together was used in the film instead of the original theatrical ending.
      The fifth and final movie of the evening is Martin Scorsesse's 1991 thriller titled Cape Fear
starring Robert Deniro and Nick Nolte. Nominated for two academy awards including Best Actor for Robert Deniro and Best Actress for Juliette Lewis, Cape Fear centers around an ex con named Max Cady being released from prison after a 14 year sentence and seeking his revenge by terrorizing the family of the lawyer who defended him prior. The twist in the case is that Cady's sentence was deliberate because Nolte's character Sam made a moral choice to bury evidence that would've set Cady free due to the heinous nature of the crime. Although the film didn't exceed the critical acclaim of the 1962 original starring Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum but the film is generally considered one of the definitive films that prove that remakes can be great movies on their own right if done correctly. Cape Fear 1991 has stood the test of time as one of the best thrillers ever and brings home the theme of obsession with a man becoming obsessed with a person's family in the same vein Robin Williams got obsessed with the family in One Hour Photo.

So what are these movies trying to say when you put them all together? The message behind the theme of when relationships turn into obsession is that there is ultimately relationships that are healthy and relationships that are unhealthy. The unhealthy relationships can lead to obsession which doesn't come without a disastrous cost and can also be a persons downfall. For a movie like One Hour Photo, the message is that no one takes a picture of something they want to forget. People who act like Robin Williams character just want to be loved and supported but can also take that desire in the wrong direction. Insomnias message is that you should always do the right thing at the end of the day and not lose your way. Basic Instincts message ultimately says that you should never get involved with your clients or suspects no matter how tempting it is. Hannibal says that you cannot escape your past and that it will ultimately catch up with you. Sometimes the one person who is the most unusual individual could end up being the person who understands you more than anyone else. Cape Fear 1991 says that sometimes the most creepy person can teach you a thing or two about commitment and appreciating what you have in front of you. A lawyer should always defend their client to the fullest regardless of whether they believe they are innocent and guilty.

Friday, September 25, 2015

When Groups Battle Against Outside Forces

Tonight's marathon is all about the fight for survival with several different story arcs involving groups of people banding together and fighting forces that are overpowering the environment surrounding them. This marathon packs scares, thrills, intensity, strong characters, terrifying creatures and chilling music and scenery. This is the perfect way to merge September and October together with horror, thriller, and science fiction. For tonight's exciting and thrilling marathon, anything goes. We have on the following menu:

The Fog 1980, The Thing 1982, Resident Evil 2002, The Faculty 1998, and The Mist 2007

      Now this is a fun one. The stage is set with these movies paired together and the stakes are high. We got creatures ranging from shipwrecked Lepers coming out of The Fog, to an extraterrestrial in Antartica that can take the form of a human being, flesh eating zombies that run rampant throughout a city, a High School going under siege and taken over by aliens, and blood thirsty creatures that hide behind a fog terrorizing a group of people trapped in a supermarket. The saying is that your villains are only as good as your heroes as you need people to care about in the films to root for their survival. No worries here as these films pack a memorable cast of up and coming actors from each respective time period of release playing the protagonists battling the dark aspects of nature. The first movie of the evening is John Carpenters The Fog starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook, and Tom Atkins. Riding off the success of Assault On Precinct 13, and Halloween, director John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill take the scares to Antonio Bay where a band of murdered lepers return to the Bay after 100 years of being killed for blood money and seek their revenge on the townspeople during a centennial. The townspeople are faced with little to no choice but to come together and fight for their survival during the fog. The Fog received critical praise upon it's release for maintaining the dark and spooky atmosphere of John Carpenter's earlier films but came under fire from a lack of strong villains that remain with you long after watching the film. The Fog works effectively as the starting point of tonight's marathon because it ties together with The Mist at the end with the same feel and similar story structure.
      The second movie of the marathon is John Carpenter's 1982 classic titled The Thing starring Kurt Russell and Keith David. Generally considered to be John Carpenter's finest hour as a director, the film centers around scientists in Antartica being confronted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the physical form of those that it kills. The Thing is a classic case of a great film coming out in theaters and getting totally brushed under the rug due to the public being key on the release of ET but has become a classic over time. Today it remains one of the most influential horror and science fiction movies in pop culture, and remains a benchmark that Carpenters later films never measured up to since. Whereas The Fog dealt with the dead coming out of the Fog to terrorize the living people on the island, The Thing focuses on a group of scientists in Antartica uncovering extraterrestrial life and trying to make sense of just what exactly they have before it destroys them all.
      The third movie of the marathon is the 2002 scfi thriller and horror movie based on the popular best selling game titled Resident Evil starring Milla Jokovich and Michelle Rodriguez. The story centers around a special military force battling not just a ruthless supercomputer but also hundreds of ex scientists now turned into flesh-eating mutated zombies after an accident in the lab. The group of military forces is in the fight of their lives as they fight to prevent the zombies from getting loose into the outdoors and affecting everyone in Raccoon cities. While many video game movies fail to capture the essence of the video games, this film does a reasonably decent job of trying to relive the sheer terror that millions of gamers experienced when first playing the Resident Evil games on playstation. Resident Evil brings the action and excitement to a whole other level with the theme of groups battling an outside force.
      The fourth movie of the marathon is Robert Rodriguez's 1998 Scfi thriller titled The Faculty starring Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, Robert Patrick, Selma Hayek, and Famke Janssen. In this film a group of High School students suspect that their teachers and faculty are aliens after several occurrences and a change of pattern in behavior. Realizing that they have little to no chance of outrunning the alien population, the group decides to cut it off at the source and search for the leader while hiding from their professors. The Faculty pays great homage to classic Carpenter and Science Fiction thrillers of the 80's and 90's while also putting a spin on the whole proceedings. The theme of a group battling outside forces is very much present here with the film providing great entertainment and an exceptionally appealing cast.
      The fifth and final movie of the evening brings it all back to where it all began with The Fog with the same background returning in Frank Darabont's critically acclaimed horror and science fiction thriller titled The Mist. Based on the popular Stephen King novel, the story centers around a freak storm that results in the release of several blood-thirsty creatures in a small populated town. The new species forces a small group of citizens to seek shelter and protection in a supermarket to fight for their lives. What makes Frank Darabont's The Mist such a brilliant film and a great ending to a pretty solid marathon is that it begs the question of whether the people in the supermarket should fear the creatures on the outside or their own species on the inside with the wrath of Marcia Gay Harden's over religious character. She poses a threat equally bad to that of the creatures by playing off peoples fears and insisting that a sacrifice be done to push back what she insists is Armageddon. The ending to this film is both heartbreaking and bold as it closes everything up beautifully while leaving you thinking long after it's over.

So what is this marathon trying to say as a whole when you put all the films together for one night. The message behind all of these movies is that if there's a force out there that's more powerful and scarier than you can ever imagine than it's best that everyone sticks together and fight back. Some of the greatest nightmares can be combated through strength and unity once a group of strangers unite as one. Fear can also drive people to the extreme and make wild assumptions about what's happening. Just because something terrible is happening doesn't necessarily mean it's a sign by GOD and everyone should be corporating with each other to find ways of surviving such a horrific time. Standing up for what's right with the help of your friends can overcome any adversity with people putting their brains together to find solutions. As Resident Evil shows, greedy and powerful corporations if they are not careful can bring about the end of humanity for everyone.

Our characters for this evening:

Monday, September 21, 2015

When Things Aren't What They Seem

Tonight's marathon is to put it bluntly, thrilling. It's greatness stems from it simply not being what it appears to be and a lot of hidden secrets and plot twists lie deep within this one. For the theme of things aren't being what they seem, some of the most iconic psychological and supernatural thrillers of all time are chosen to help carry out the theme of tonight's marathon. What makes this one special and ultimately an unforgettable experience is the great acting that's done by many of the actors in these films along with the great directors helming them. When you think you figured out the twist of the whole story, the rug gets pulled from underneath you and something else presents itself that's far more shocking than what you originally thought. For tonight's wonderful and thrilling marathon, we have on the following menu:
Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho 1960, Shutter Island 2010, Unbreakable 2000, Memento 2000, and Fight Club 1999

      This one is incredible, it's epic, it's exciting, and carries with it a very emotional punch at the end. There is no real happy ending to any of these films but there is an underlying connection going on with each of them. Themes such as mental illness, lies, deception, supernatural power, murder, anarchy, and betrayal are present here with the bread crumbs beginning to unfold throughout each films story. The first movie of the night is Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic titled Psycho starring Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh in the title roles. Generally considered one of the greatest horror movies of all time and the finest hour of Alfred Hitchcock's prestigious film career, Psycho centers on a secretary from Pheonix named Marion Crane who ends up stealing $40,000 from her employers client. She goes on the run paranoid that everyone has caught onto her scheme and checks herself into the Bates motel run by a young man named Norman, who takes orders from his mother. When the woman disappears after a night at staying at the Bates motel, her sister and former lover go on the search for her whereabouts after the police notify them of her disappearance. Psycho is essential to the theme of tonight's marathon because it's all about suspense, and making you forget about what you thought you knew and what's actually reality. Hitchcock crafts a masterpiece of a film where a tormented young man is being dominated by his mother...or is he?
      The second film of the evening is Martin Scorsesse's critically acclaimed deep psychological and supernatural thriller titled Shutter Island starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, and Max Von Sydow. The story centers around a U.S Marshal who investigates the disappearance of a murderess who escaped out of the hospital for the criminally insane on an island. While conducting his investigation, the US Marshal Teddy played by Dicaprio begins to discover that the hospital is conducting experiments that are cruel, unethical, to downright sinister and is convinced he is not being told the truth about what's going on at the hospital. A hurricane emerges leading to the cutoff of communication on the island and the further escape of several other criminals, prompting Teddy to question everything that's happening before his eyes and what he thinks he knows. He questions his leads, his partner, his memory, and ultimately himself in regards to his own sanity. Shutter Island is filmed in Hitchcock style with a similar feel of suspense building like Psycho and convincing performances from the lead actors that sell the idea that there's something seriously sinister going on at Shutter Island...or is it?
      The third movie of the evening is M Night Shaymalan's critically acclaimed Psychological thriller titled Unbreakable starring Bruce Willis and Samuel Jackson. Added with a touch of a supernatural feel to it, Unbreakable centers around a normal everyday joe played by Bruce Willis who mysteriously survives a trainwreck without a scratch. When he comes to, questions began to arise about how he didn't get harmed during the wreck and if he can ever remember a time where he was hurt or sick in his life. The security guard named David who survives the trainwreck is contacted by an obscure comic book store owner named Elijah who presents him with a theory that the reason David survived the trainwreck is because he's a superhero. Unbreakable comes right off the phenomenal and overnight success of M Night Shaymalans career breaking film titled The Sixth Sense. Unbreakable succeeded as a psychological thriller due to strong performances from Samuel Jackson and Bruce Willis along with M Night Shaymalan's touch for creating a dark and mysterious atmosphere. Shaymalan directs in a style very similar to Hitchcock and creates a similar feel to Psycho where you realize there's something looming below the surface of the story that's going to present itself in a big way by the film's end.
      The fourth movie of the marathon is Christopher Nolan's stunning debut film titled Memento starring Guy Pearce, Carrie Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano. The story centers around a man creating a unique system to help him remember things in order to hunt for the man who killed his wife without his short-term memory loss getting in the way of things. Even though Memento is an independent film, it was an enormous success upon it's release in 2000 generating two Oscar nominations for Best Screenplay for Christopher and Jonathan Nolan as well as Best Film Editing. What makes Memento such a special kind of film is the way the story is told where the film begins at the end of the picture and slowly rewinds back to the beginning. It is the skillful direction of a up and coming masterful filmmaker that guides the audience through the wavy plot as everything unfolds backwards until we get to the beginning of the movie that includes one of film's greatest plot twists. Memento is a powerful intro into the 21st century in regards to being a psychological thriller and essentially being regarded in pop culture as "the birth of Nolan." It is a powerful stamp on filmmaking and halts any kind of doubt that independent films with low budgets can't be great movies. This one says yes they can and it proves you don't need a 100 million budget to conduct great storytelling.
      The fifth and final movie of the marathon is David Fincher's 1999 cult classic and defining movie of his career titled Fight Club starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. Nominated for Best Sound Effects, the story centers around an insomniac office worker played by Edward Norton who looks for a way to change his life. Upon doing so, he crosses paths with a devil-may-care soap maker and forms an underground fight club that evolves into something much bigger than that by the films end. Fight Club feels like the perfect finale to this marathon because it goes directly back to Psycho in terms of the plot twist between the two films. What the audience is led to believe in Fight Club isn't exactly what things really are like at the end of PsychoFight Club is the pop culture phenomenon that it is today because of the strong acting between the two leads, the slick direction by David Fincher, and great production design and cinematography. The end of the film is so large in scope that it feels like the appropriate finish to the marathon as well as a proper sense of closure. Fight Club came at the end of the 20th century, making the theme of anarchy in the film feel a bit revolutionary at the time

      So what is the message behind all of these films when you put them all together as one for an evening? The message is when you think something is what it looks to be, there's a very good chance that the real truth is still out there. Sometimes looking for the truth can be a stressful, intense, and scary revelation but it's also necessary to find out reality for yourself. Sometimes the truth can be so hard to bear that you reject it and intend to look the other way. Sometimes the truth can be a scary thing but also is something that ultimately needs to be heard and seen to believe.

Our characters for this evening: