Friday, January 29, 2016

When A Girl Goes On A Journey

Tonight's marathon is one of the best movie marathons ever, period. This one centers around several young girls, who leave behind their homes or places they think of as their comfort zones and begin their journeys for several different reasons. One of the main reasons is to find out: A) Who they are as people B) Wanting to see the world ( or Galaxy) and do something besides being a farm girl or trolling the desert or C) To retrieve a sibling or to search for someone that is missing or presumed dead. This is a clever yet epic marathon that is totally female empowered with the main theme being a young woman who goes on a crazy yet unforgettable journey regardless of how each story ends. These women are forever changed by their ordeals and end up not just altering their own timeline but helping others in the process. They also meet a pair of loyal and unforgettable group of friends who assist them along the way giving the marathon a deep message regarding friendship. For tonight's beautiful marathon, we have on the following menu:

The Wizard Of Oz 1939, Alice In Wonderland 2010, Labyrinth 1986, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2015

       Is this a freaking awesome marathon or what? This is not only visually stunning and totally family oriented but it's also a great marathon that is totally female centered. Each movie follows a similar formula but they are all executed differently and have different general storylines to them. One of the main connecting points is the female character all being young and wanting to leave their comfort zone to go to a different place. Another is that each female has to contend with a main antagonist who holds more power over them at first but then as the story progresses that begins to change. Some of the main characters such as Dorothy from The Wizard Of Oz, Sarah from Labyrinth, Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Ofella from Pans Labyrinth, and Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens are all iconic yet strong-willed women and go through different worlds and galaxies to complete their journeys although their outcomes are different. They meet great companions along the way such as Dorothy being aided by loyal companions such as Scarecrow, The Lion, and Tin Man, Sarah from Labyrinth making friends with creatures named Hoggle, Ludo, and Didymus, and Rey from The Force Awakens befriending a stormtrooper named Finn, a droid named BB-8, a wookie named Chewbacca, and a former rebel pilot named Han Solo. With each great leading lady comes the loyal friends who take notice of her innocence and beauty while deciding to aid her in her quest. Outside of a girl experiencing a personal journey, an underlying theme of this marathon is about friends coming together and sharing friendships that will follow them through life.
       The first movie of the marathon is the 1939 fantasy and family classic titled The Wizard Of Oz starring Judy Garland. Nominated for 6 academy awards including Best Picture and winner of two, the story centers around a young farm girl from Kansas named Dorothy who runs away from home when her dog is threatened to be taken away from her and returns to her now a fugitive. When the young girl is shown that her family misses her, she heads home only to discover a tornado has emerged placing her house inside the tornado and placing it in the land of Oz. Once Dorothy awakens from the ordeal she begins a quest to see the Wizard of Oz who can help her return homer but before befriending some great friends along the way such as Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man. While on their quest to Oz, the team encounters the Wicked Witch Of The West who tries to throw them off track at every turn and steal the red Ruby slippers from Dorothy but ultimately gets defeated by the young girl and her misfit companions. Dorothy not only completes her mission and brings joy to Oz and her friends but returns to Kansas with a deeper appreciation for her family and friends. The Wizard of Oz is the perfect movie to start this marathon because it sets the tone for the rest of the movies with a young woman who dreams of going places beyond the farm of Kansas, and is accompanied by her dog Toto much like Rey from The Force Awakens is accompanied by her droid BB-8.  The Wizard of Oz is a triumphant piece of filmmaking that is visually stunning and all heart. The performances are memorable especially Judy Garlands and the movie continues to remain as one of the most influential fantasy and family movies of all time with an underlying theme of friendship.
      The second movie of the marathon is 2010 Tim Burton sequel to the animated Disney classic titled Alice In Wonderland. Starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, and Michael Sheen.  The story centers around a 19 year old girl named Alice who returns to the magical world that she once visited as a child on another adventure. While returning to Wonderland she reunites with her old friends and figures out that her purpose in Wonderland is to end the reign of terror committed by the Red Queen. Generally praised for having spectacular visuals, art-set decoration, and costume design as can be expected from a Tim Burton movie, the movie received criticism for having a fully fleshed out story like it's predecessor. Tim Burtons take on the classic Alice in Wonderland story is certainly darker than its animated classic predecessor but it lacks the heart of that film and the more detailed storyline of it's novel.
      The third  movie of the marathon is the 1986 cult classic due to the iconic performance of David Bowie as well as it being one of Jim Hensens darker films. The film Labyrinth starring Jennifer Connolly and David Bowie centers around a selfish and self-centered 16-year old girl named Sarah who wishes for her baby brother Toby to be taken away by Goblins but doesn't really expect her wish to be taken literally. When her baby brother is taken by the Goblin King played by David Bowie, he gives Sarah 13 hours to reach the castle where her brother is being held hostage at and rescue him before he becomes one of the Goblins forever. Much like The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and Pans Labyrinth, Labyrinth is a movie that works solely on the imagination of it's director Jim Hensen, who makes the film more of a visual treat rather than a piece of storytelling. The story is essentially the same as the others with a girl wanting to be taken into another world and finally gets her wish but not without the cost of her brother being kidnapped forcing her to save him. Along with the visuals are the striking performances of a young and beautiful Jennifer Connolly and David Bowie in the lead roles with the latter making for a penetrating villain combining both his acting and music talents. Labyrinth brings the same concept of the first three movies to a modern day setting with Sarah being brought into another world and having to fight to get back home. In the end, Sarah defeats The Goblin King and gets her brother Toby back with a much deeper appreciation for him.
      The fourth and final movie of the marathon of the evening is the same concept of a girl going on a journey but this time it's in a galaxy far far away. Recently becoming the biggest blockbuster of all time domestically and beloved by millions of Star Wars fans alike, the seventh film of the saga titled The Force Awakens, centers around a young scavenger girl named Rey played by Daisy Ridley, who befriends a droid that possesses a map that can lead the rebels to the location of missing Jedi master named Luke Skywalker. Rey befriends a young Stormtrooper turned ally named Finn as well as two smugglers named Han Solo and Chewbacca in her quest to find Luke Skywalker. While doing so they get caught up in the battle between the resistance and the ruthless legions of the First Order. The Force Awakens follows the same formula as the films before it because the character of Rey is the central focus of the film as well as the person who possesses a special power called "The Force", that typically is associated with Jedi Knights and Sith lords. Rey's special abilities and suspicions of them become more noticeable as the film progresses with her feeling it when using a Jedi mindtrick to escape from being captured by nemesis Kylo Ren and his fleet. Rey's journey like Dorothy's begins with her desiring for a journey and befriending group of people who will become essential to her journey as it progresses in later films. Rey's childhood is revealed to be a tragic one with her being separated from her parents at a young age and her essentially being a drifter who explores wreckages of fallen Imperial ships and camping out infront of fallen battle droids. The droid BB-8 is to her what Todo was to Dorothy and Kylo Ren being her main antagonist that terrifies anyone in his way. Force Awakens ends with Rey fully realizing the potential of her powers and setting out on her own personal journey to locate Luke Skywalker at last. The Force Awakens is essentially the perfect finish to this line up as all of these girls have not only fulfilled their journeys but have grown stronger as people by the end of each one but not without making some great friends along the way. Unlike the prequel trilogy, The Force Awakens scored high marks with both critics and audiences placing it in a similar liking to the original Star Wars Trilogy, while giving us new characters and heroes to root for.

So what is this marathon trying to say as a whole when you put all the films together as one? The Wizard Of Oz says that a girl who desires to go somewhere outside her farm may get her opportunity but also has a chance to meet some great people along the way that she can be honored to call her friends. A young girl like Dorothy can defeat someone as evil and hideous as the Wicked Witch and she can learn to appreciate her family and friends when all is said and done. Heroines can arise in the most unlikely forms of people and make a difference along the way. Alice In Wonderland 2010 says that you should choose your own path and not one that someone else gives you. If you truly believe in the path that you've chosen then life will find a way. Labyrinth says that you should never take a family member for granted nor be so selfish towards them because if the situation came, it will be you that will have to help them and no one else. What goes around comes around. Labyrinth says to think about others and not just yourself. Star Wars: The Force Awakens says that sometimes it takes a journey and being put in a cross battle between two sides for a person to fully realize their potential and ultimately make a difference,. There are some things that are worth fighting for and family ties are strong.
Our main characters for this evening:


Monday, January 25, 2016

When A Marriage Becomes Creepy

Tonight's marathon is all about witnessing several different story arcs of marriages that may seem perfect and great at first then turn out to be ultimately disturbing and creepy. When they say the words "Til death do us part" when people get married, you think that they will carry out their vows in a peaceful  and loving manner but in reality, these marriage are cover ups for something sinister lurking deep inside each relationship. A key part to the success of this marathon is SUSPENSE. This marathon is all about thrills and excitement while showing a darker side to the concept of marriage. This line up combines mystery, crime, supernatural, and horror all into one giving it all the right doses for a genuinely suspenseful evening. For tonight's star-powered and thrilling marathon, we have the following slick and stylish movies on the menu:
      What Lies Beneath 2000, A Perfect Murder 1998, Fracture 2007, and Gone Girl 2014 

      For a movie like Gone Girl, there were several different ways that this marathon could've gone such as being more of a marathon about scorned women seeing revenge than about trippy marriages. It could also be a when a girl gets revenge marathon more so than being both a creepy marriage and scorned women one. What makes movies like What Lies Beneath and Gone Girl such awesome movies is that they could work in more than one marathon much like A Perfect Murder could work in a typical murder mystery night and Fracture as a slick court room thriller. Each movie doesn't just show the perfect marriage but also shows the dark side of human nature such as the husband or wife secretly plotting to exact revenge on the other and has confidence that they'll get away with it.
       The first movie of the marathon is the 2000 box office smash and suspense thriller titled What Lies Beneath starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer. The marathon begins with the beautiful wife of a university research scientist being convinced that her Vermont lakeside home is either A) being haunted by a ghost or B) she is losing her mind and can't stop it. While the film pays undeniable tribute to the suspense and style of Alfred Hitchcock, it also presents the marathon with a supernatural feel to a murder mystery storyline. The couple that Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer play off is one that is both sexy and desirable. They are a wealthy, loving, and attractive couple who have the perfect family with their daughter going off to College, and the wife being a stay at home mom while the husband is working hard at the lab. Their love life is depicted as being healthy with Harrison Fords character being a slight workaholic but also has time to make love to his wife when she requests it. Their marriage takes a dramatic turn for the worse when mysterious things begin to happen around the house with the revelation that the husband had an ongoing affair with the wife with a younger student who mysteriously disappeared afterwards. The wife played by Pfeiffer is convinced that her house is being haunted by the ghost of the missing girl who is implicating that her husband may or may not have been involved in the disappearance. What Lies Beneath is a fantastic start to this marathon because it shows what looks like a happily married couple suddenly being torn apart by a dark secret that is beneath their relationship. The film was a box office smash when it came out despite some criticism from critics stating that the movie is unoriginal and borrows from many films of the same genre. While that may be true it doesn't take away from the fact that the movie is a well-crafted thriller and beautifully shot and paced. Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford give some of the best performances of their careers.
      The second movie of the marathon is the 1998 honorable remake of Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 thriller Dial M For Murder titled A Perfect Murder starring Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Viggo Mortensen. The story centers around a millionaire, who has the perfect marriage with a beautiful wife but is also secretly plotting to kill her because she's having an affair behind his back while trying to get her trust fund. The plot twist here is that Douglas character is trying to get the man whose having an affair with his wife to execute "the perfect murder" against her but she also asks the same from her lover against her husband. A Perfect Murder is essentially one big cat and mouse game that's done in the style of it's predecessor with Douglas and Paltrow giving chilling performances. The film generates it's suspense from many surprise twists and turns with it's story along with being expertly directed from Andrew Davis, the director of Under Siege and The Fugitive. While the film lacks the suspense, surprise, and passion of it's predecessor, it more than makes up for it's shortcomings with decent thrills and strong performances. While What Lies Beneath has a supernatural feel to it, A Perfect Murder shows how having money, power, and a beautiful wife doesn't necessarily equal a successful marriage and that some people will go to great lengths to get even.
      The third movie of the marathon is the 2007 film titled Fracture starring Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling. The story centers around an attorney, whose determined on climbing the career ladder towards his own high level of success. While doing so he finds a strange and unlikely opponent in a
manipulative criminal who shot his wife after learning of her adultery and plans to get away with it scott free. He soon becomes an unlikely opponent towards the young lawyer forcing him to play a cat and mouse game with the criminal in question. Fracture is an exciting psychological thriller and courtroom drama that is well written, smoothly pace, and brilliantly acted by it's two leading stars that overshadow any flaws the film may have. Much like A Perfect Murder, Hopkins wife played by Embeth Davitz is cheating on her husband with a police officer and when confronted about it, her husband shoots her in an act of rage. Their marriage looks perfect on the outside but the reality is the wife was unhappy and decided to cheat on her husband, leaving him with the motivation to shoot her and confess it to his lawyer. His lawyer leads a career of having a 97 percent conviction rate and his desire to win keeps him on the case with Hopkins character fully understanding that and using it to his advantage with a plan to self destruct the case, murder his wife by having her taken off life support, and walking away scott free. With Rosamund Pike playing the love interest of Ryan Gosling's character as well as being the wife of Ben Affleck's character in Gone Girl, Fracture is the perfect prelude into what is arguably the main attraction and the peak of the evening.
      The fourth and final movie of the marathon is the 2014 David Fincher Oscar nominated hit titled Gone Girl starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tyler Perry. The film centers around a wife's disappearance that becomes the focus of an intense media circus as well as putting her husband in the main spotlight as the primary suspect of her disappearance and possible homicide when it's revealed he may not be so innocent after all. Based on the bestselling novel, Gone Girl is a sinister, highly intelligent, well-acted and directed thriller from acclaimed filmmaker David Fincher who helmed iconic films such as Alien 3, Seven, The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room, Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Social Network, and Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The films greatness stems from Fincher's knack for creating dark settings with stylish cinematography, and getting the best performances out of actors Rosamund Pike, who received a well deserved Oscar nomination for her outstanding performance, and Ben Affleck. The film is the perfect finale to the marathon because the opening narration with Ben Affleck's character specifies that the marriage isn't exactly what it appears to be on screen, giving audience a clue of what's to come. Taking narrations from both sides of the coin, we see flashbacks of a burning romance that turned into something far darker when it's revealed that Affleck's character had an affair behind his wife's back giving a motive for her disappearance and possible homicide. Unlike all the other films where the marriages crumble or are destroyed by dark secrets, this one holds its ground whether the audience agrees with it or not.

So what are these movies trying to say as a whole when you put all the films together as one? The marathon says that dark secrets, betrayal of trust, adultery, and jealously can lead people to do things that they normally wouldn't do even though it doesn't mean that it's right. What Lies Beneath teaches us that a husband should never go behind his wife's back and have an affair with a student. There are some people in this world who will go to great lengths to maintain their success in life, even though the dead can assist the living with finding out the truth behind one's murder. A Perfect Murder says that perhaps it's best to leave the person you're unhappy with and married to instead of deciding to cheat on them. Someone with the money and power of Michael Douglas character can actually set up their own wives to be murdered and walk away with it scott free if people are not careful. Some relationships are straight up twisted and Fracture teaches that knowledge can be a pain and everyone has a weakness. Powerful men like Michael Douglas and Anthony Hopkins can perform acts of homicide and buy their way out of trouble due to their resources and intelligence. A man like Anthony Hopkins character from Fracture can destroy lives as well as up and coming careers such as a young and talented career like Ryan Goslings. Criminals will slip up one way or another. Gone Girl ultimately says that you can never be truly sure that you know somebody until you know them and that if a woman is scorned, she will do whatever she can to exact revenge on the person who hurt her.

 Our characters for this evening: