Sunday, January 19, 2020

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 735th Edition


Welcome to the 735th Edition of my series.  It's been a rather busy week.  I got myself cast in the radio play TREASURE ISLAND at the Richmond Civic Theater as part of their Richmond Radioworks.  We rehearsed the show for a week and yesterday we did the recording for the show.  I played the roles of Black Dog, Captain Smollett, and, Tom Morgan.  They still have some sound effects and editing to do in order to make the final product.  This will air on some station in Richmond and they do have a website.  I will keep posted on when that gets aired.  Tonight, I will be glued to the football game when the 49ers take on the Packers and I'm hoping the Niners will advance to the Super Bowl.  Not much else happening so I'll just get on with my selections.


He Got Game (1998):  This is part two of a possible four-part Denzel Washington series.  Spike Lee wrote and directed this basketball film.  NBA legend Ray Allen stars as Jesus Shuttlesworth who is a high school basketball star and the most sought after player.  Denzel co-stars as Jesus's estranged father Jake who has been in prison and is released to convince his son to sign with the governor's alma mater university.  Milla Jovovich, Rosario Dawson, Hill Harris, Zelda Harris, Ned Beatty, Jim Brown, Joseph Lyle Taylor, Bill Nunn, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Roger Guinveur Smith, John Turturro, Lonette McKee, Arthur J. Nascarella, Rick Fox, and many others co-star in this film.  Also look for porn star Chasey Lain who would probably become more known in 2000 when the Bloodhound Gang wrote a song about her.  There are also some cameos from a few people in the basketball world.  This is a pretty good look into the world of urban basketball.  Washington was also really good as Jake who was trying to reconnect with his family.  Spike Lee originally had Kobe Bryant in mind to play Jesus Shuttlesworth but he declined and Allen held his own with the cast.  This also has a pretty good rap soundtrack, a lot of which from Public Enemy.


Mr. Duck Steps Out (1940):  This is my Disney short for the week which centers around Donald Duck.  Donald is heading to meet up with Daisy but his nephews Huey, Dewie, and Louie follow their uncle with Donald trying to ditch them but to no success.  We eventually get to see Donald do the Jitterbug.  Clarence Nash voices all five characters very well and each one being very distinct  A question I thought of though was do Huey, Dewie, and Louie know who their parents are?  This is available to watch on Disney Plus.


One, Two, Three (1961):  This is part of a possible James Cagney series.  Billy Wilder directed this comedy that takes place in West Berlin during the Cold War.  Cagney stars as C.R. MacNamara who is an executive with Coca-Cola in West Berlin.  His life spins out of control when he is charged with watching the boss's daughter Scarlett, played by Pamela Tiffin.  She ends up marrying Otto, Horst Buchholz, who is a staunch communist and everyone else looks to make him presentable to his new father in law.  Pamea Tiffin, Arlene Francis, Howard St. John, Leon Askin, Hubert Von Meyerinck, and many others co-star in this comedy.  This is one of those that is hard to really put into words.  It is essentially satire on the Cold War.  This was Cagney's last movie until his actual last movie in 1981 where he was in RAGTIME.  A good double feature would be to watch this along with this one would be the 1964 film DR. STRANGELOVE which also has an interesting reference to Coke and has a rather similar message, just darker than the one featured.


Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008):  Peter Sollett directed this comedy which is based on the novel by Rachel Cohn.  Michael Cera and Kat Dennings star as the title characters.  Nick is going through a breakup and Norah's concerns seem to lie on the local music scene.  They have a chance encounter where they become friends and are looking for the same band.  Along the way among their friends, they go on a series of misadventures while slowly forming a relationship as long as Nick can let go of Tris, played by Alexis Dziena.  Aaron Yoo, Rafi Gavron, Ari Graynor, Jonathan B. Wright, Zackary Booth, Jay Baruchel, Seth Meyers, Lorene Scafaria, Andy Samberg, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Frankie Faison, John Cho, Kevin Corrigan, John Cantwell, and many others co-star in this comedy or have cameos.  This is a pretty funny movie with the leads working very well together.  It is also a nice homage to the local music scene.


The Skin Game (1931):  This is some early work from Alfred Hitchcock and based on a play by John Galsworthy.  This centers around a family feud between the Hillcrests and Hornblowers.  The Hillcrest family are upset with Mr. Hornblower, played by Edmund Gwenn long before his iconic role of Kris Kringle in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, who buying land and evicting tenant farmers.  Helen Haye, Jill Esmond, John Longden, Phyllis Konstam, Frank Lawton, and many others co-star in this film.  I usually favor Hitchcock's much later work in the '50s and '60s but this is still a pretty compelling watch about feuding families.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel but is leaving at the end of the month as well as some other Hitch selections.


Beast (2017):  Michael Pearce wrote and directed this independent film.  Jessie Buckley stars as Moll who lives in a tiny island community and is pretty much the black sheep of her family.  She meets the charming and intriguing Pascal, played by Johnny Flynn, who she forms a relationship with but he is a suspect in a series of murders.  Geraldine James, Charley Palmer Rothwell, Shannon Tarbet, Trystan Gravelle, Emily Taaffe, Hattie Gotobed, co-star in this film.  This is loosely based on a real-life person dubbed the Beast of Jersey.  This was really driven most by the chemistry of Buckley and Flynn.  Pearce makes his feature film debut with this one and is quite a start so hopefully things will just continue to improve.


The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975):  This is my tv movie for the week which was directed by Paul Wendkos.  Our favorite tv witch Elizabeth Montgomery takes a darker turn when playing Lizzie Borden who was the main suspect in the ax murders of her father and stepmother which happened in 1882 Massachusetts.  This movie mostly centers around Borden's trial which was quite a spectacle.  Fionnula Flanagan, Ed Flanders, Katherine Helmond, Don Porter, Fritz Weaver, Bonnie Bartlett, John Beal, Gloria Stuart, and many others co-star in this tv movie.  This was broadcast on ABC and was pretty daring for its time.  This is a legend that has lived on through many generations and strangely inspiring a nursery rhyme.  Montgomery was a real-life cousin of Borden and portrayed her cousin very well.  This is available to watch on Youtube.


Free Solo (2018):  This is my documentary for the week which was directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.  I know some might look at this title and think it is about people banding together to get Han Solo free from the frozen carbonate but this movie has nothing to do with STAR WARS.  This centers around Alex Honnald who attempts to become the first person to ever free solo climb El Capitan.  For those who do not know, free solo is climbing without any kind of wires.  The documentary centers around all the preparation it took for this to happen and some of the footage of the climb.  Honnold himself is already a fascinating person and his climbing exploits make this a must watch documentary.  There is not much more to say on this one except that this is available to watch on Disney Plus.


A Cantebury Tale (1944):  Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger wrote and directed this film.  Eric Portman, Sheila Sim, and Dennis Price all play different characters who arrive in a British town and unexpectedly come together to investigate some strange crimes going on in the town.  John Sweet, Esmond Knight, Charles Hawtry, Hay Petrie, George Merritt, Edward Rigby, Freda Jackson, and many others co-star in this film.  This is one that is really hard to describe.  It takes place during WWII and involves a couple soldiers but it is not a war film.  Something I found when looking into this is that GONE WITH THE WIND author Margaret Mitchell was on her way to see this movie and was hit by a speeding car in which she would die days later.  The movie has a fair amount of comedy in it and is driven well by the main characters.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Collection.


About Elly (2009):  I end the week with this Iranian film which was directed by Asghar Farhadi.  Golshifteh Farahani stars as Sepideh who invites her friend Elly, played by Taraneh Alidoosti, to join her and the family for a weekend at seaside.  Elly is also the Kindergarten teacher for Sepideh's daughter.  Elly eventually disappears and Sepideh and the family must figure out what happened which lead to a lot of secrets.  This is a pretty good story of how something like a disappearance affects each person in a different way.  This is another one that words don't really describe very well except it is a good story with good performances and deserves a look.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Joan Allen, Denzel Washington, Clint Eastwood, Buster Keaton, and many others.



Sunday, January 12, 2020

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 734th Edition


Welcome to the 734th Edition of my series.  I'm getting pretty excited about the NFL this year with the 49ers winning their playoff game last night and tonight I will find out if they play the Packers or the Seahawks.  I may have some announcements next week but I do not know yet so I'll just get on with my selections.


Cry Freedom (1987):  This is part one of a possible four-part Denzel Washington series where I start with some early work from Denzel.  Richard Attenborough directed this biopic based on the books BIKO and ASKING FOR TROUBLE:  THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A BANNED JOURNALIST by journalist Donald Woods, played by Kevin Kline.  Kline stars as Donald Woods who works for a South African newspaper and becomes friends with activist Steve Biko, played by Washington.  When Biko dies in police custody, Woods looks to get a book published but must put his life and his family's life on the line to flee the country.  Josette Simon, Kevin McNally, John Matshikiza, Penelope Wilton, Kate Hardie, Jim Findley, Julian Glover, Alec McCowen, and many others co-star in this biopic.  I was a little aware of Steve Biko before this movie on account of the Peter Gabriel song BIKO which was not part of this movie.  This is the only movie as of now that focuses on Biko but is more on Donald Woods who got the story out about him.  This is some really good early Denzel Washington and was very well done being worth a look.


Night Shift (1982):  This is part two of a two-part Henry Winkler series.  Ron Howard directed this comedy where he casts his HAPPY DAYS buddy Winkler as morgue worker Chuck Lumley whose life changes when he gets put on the night shift and his simpler life gets more complicated when obnoxious Billy Blazejowski, played by Michael Keaton in his feature film debut.  Chuck takes a liking to his prostitute neighbor Belinda, played by CHEERS alum Shelley Long in a role far from her role in the mentioned sitcom, and sees the abuse she is taking so when Billy hears about this, he suggests they turn the morgue into a brothel which Chuck reluctantly accepts.  Gina Hecht, Pat Corley, Bobby Di Cicco, Nita Talbot, Basil Hoffman, Clint Howard, Tim Rossovich, Joe Spinell, Ildkio Jaid, Richard Belzer, Vincent Schiavelli, Shannen Doherty, Kevin Costner, and many others co-star in this comedy.  The actress billed as Ildiko Jaid is actually Jaid Barrymore who is the mother of Drew.  Costner has more of a bit role as one of the frat boys and youth Shannen Doherty who is a "Blue Bell" which is essentially a girl scout.  Keaton and Winkler make a great duo in this '80s comedy which is one of those that could have really only worked in the '80s.  This is the start of what would be a great career for Keaton and this movie will give a lot of laughs.


The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013):  This is my Studio Ghibli anime selection for the week which was directed and co-written by Isao Takahata.  An old bamboo cutter, voiced by James Caan, finds a tiny girl in a bamboo stalk and along with his wife, voiced by Mary Steenburgen, takes her in but would rapidly grow and turns out to be Princess Kaguya, voiced by Chloe Grace Moretz and by Caitlyn Leone in the younger years.  She learns the ways of royalty but finds they are more restrictive that the more free childhood she had and must decide what she wants.  Beau Bridges, Dean Cain, John Cho, Emily Bridges, Darren Criss, Elisa Gabrielli, Daniel Dae Kim, Lucy Liu, James Marsden, Liam O'Brien, Oliver Platt, George Segal, and many others provide their voices in the American version of this film.  This is a lot different than other anime film especially in the presentation and drawings.  Hayao Miyazaki is usually the name that people associate with Studio Ghibli but Takahata has made his mark and this is one of them.  This is really one for the whole family.


Punch and Judy (1966):  This is my stop-motion animation short for the week which was written and directed by Jan Svankmajer.  This has a couple of puppets fighting over custody of a guinea pig.  This is some very early work from Svankmajer whose movie ALICE I featured a few weeks ago.  Svankmajer has a very strange mind and words cannot really describe this.  The plot description seems rather absurd but this short film shows some very clever animation used by about everything at hand.  This is available to watch on Youtube as well as quite a bit of his short works.


American Madness (1932):  Frank Capra directed this film which centers around a bank.  Walter Huston stars as Thomas Dickson who is the bank manager where everything is spinning out of control starting with the board wanting him to resign.  The more significant one is his protege Matt, played by Pat O'Brien, is being accused of robbing the bank but Thomas does not believe it but Matt does not make it easier when refusing to name sources.  Kay Johnson, Constance Cummings, Gavin Gordon, Arthur Hoyt, Robert Emmett O'Connor, and many others co-star in this film.  This is more early and unknown Capra but is kind of the first of his socially conscious films that he would be known for in the later years and really deserves a look.


The Harvey Girls (1946):  George Sidney directed this musical with the songs written by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer.  Judy Garland stars as Susan Bradley who comes to the old west when being a male order bride but does not take as much interest in her older suitor, played by Chill Wills.  She soon joins a new Harvey House restaurant being opened and finds competition in the saloon across the street.  She catches they eye of saloon owner Ned Trent, played by John Hodiak.  Angela Lansbury co-stars as the lounge singer at the saloon and Ray Bolger is very amusing as town blacksmith who has a very comical dance number.  Preston Foster, Virginia O'Brien, Marjorie Main Kenny Baker, Selena Royle, Cyd Charisse, Jack Lambert, Edward Earle, Ben Carter, and many others round out this all-star cast.  Judy does great in a more comedic role and is one of her more underrated films.  This is a very fun song and dance musical with a decent story to go along with it.


All That Heaven Allows (1955):  Douglas Sirk directed this love story of rather forbidden love.  Jane Wyman stars as the wealthy and widowed Cary Scott and becomes friends with her gardener Ron Kirby, played by Rock Hudson.  They soon fall in love but her being wealthy and him being a more modest and younger person, she meets the disapproval among her circle of friends and children for being so different.  Agnes Moorehead, Conrad Nagel, Virginia Grey, Gloria Talbott, William Reynolds, Charles Drake, Jacqueline deWit, Leigh Snowden, Donald Curtis, and many others co-star in this film.  The first thing that works about this movie is Wyman and Hudson in a very complicated relationship.  What also makes it work is the use of colorization that are symbolic to the feelings at that time.  It is hard to really describe this any further without giving anything away except that it really conveys the small town life and social class in this era.  Good date night movie that is enjoyable for both genders.


And Justice For All (1979):  Norman Jewison directed this trial thriller.  Al Pacino stars as defense attorney Arthur Kirkland who has a lot of difficult trials coming up but his most known one is of judge Henry T. Fleming, played by John Forsythe.  Fleming is being accused of rape and Arthur must defend him in court even though they do not like each other with Arthur questioning if his client is guilty or not.  Jack Warden, Lee Strasburg, Christine Lahti, Jeffrey Tambor, Same Levene, Thomas G. Waites, Larry Bryggman, Craig T. Nelson, Dominic Chianese, Joe Morton, and many others co-star in this film.  Tambor makes his feature film debut.  This is a pretty intense film and really conveys the morel dilemma of a defense attorney and the effect it can have on them.  This has a great climax in the courtroom that was was not out of order in terms of movie scenes.


Richard Jewell (2019):  Clint Eastwood goes behind the camera once again for this biopic on a man who saved the lives of many from an exploding bomb during the 1996 Olympics only to be vilified by the media and FBI as a suspect.  Paul Walter Hauser stars as Jewell whose idealism of law and order is really challenged when being suspected of exploding a bomb.  Sam Rockwell co-stars as Jewell's attorney Watson Bryant who really had more of a job in the way of how Jewell talks to the media and law enforcement with his social ineptitude.  Kathy Bates co-stars as Jewell's mother whose life was also turned very difficult with the media circus in front of her home.  Olivia Wilde, Jon Hamm, Mike Pniewski, Ian Gomez, Nina Arianda, and many others co-star in this biopic.  I remember these events going on when this was happening and thinking even then how ridiculous this was.  Hauser plays the part very well with Rockwell also very good as his attorney doing what he can to help both clear his name.  This conveys the competition of media and doing what they can to get the story out while having a big effect on others.  This was worth a trip to the theaters.


Grumpy Old Men (1993):  I end the week on this comedy which was directed by Donald Petrie.  Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau star as long-time neighbors, friends and also rivals John Gustafson and Max Goldman who insult and play pranks one another at every turn.  Their rivalry goes further when their new neighbor Ariel moves across the street and they are both attracted to her.  Burgess Meredith is very amusing as John's rather horny father.  Daryl Hannah, Kevin Pollak, Ossie Davis, Buck Henry, Christopher McDonald, Joe Howard, John Carroll Lynch, and many others co-star in this comedy.  I've always had a place in my hard for this comedy and its sequel.  This is the sixth of ten pairings with Lemmon and Matthau who I realize were frenemies before frenemies became a thing.  This will deliver plenty of laughs without getting too raunchy.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Denzel Washington, and many others.





Sunday, January 5, 2020

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 733rd Edition


Welcome to the 733rd edition of my series and the first of the decade.  I hope everyone is doing okay so far in this new year.  There is not a lot going on so far but next weekend is where the 49ers will play and hope for some big things.  I cannot think of anything else at this time so I'll just get on with my selections.


O.J.:  Made in America (2016):  I start the year and decade out with this documentary from the ESPN series 30 FOR 30 and is a five-part series.  Ezra Edelman directed this documentary which focuses on Orenthal James Simpson who most of us know as O.J.  This takes a look at his younger days when he rose in the world of college football for USC into the rise in the pros and fall when he went on trial for murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman.  A lot of this looks at two sides of Simpson with the charismatic guy in front of the camera and then the much darker side of him when he is not in front of the camera.  This has interviews from a lot of people including Marcia Clark, F. Lee Bailey, Carl Douglas, Mark Fuhrman, Danny Bakewell, Jim Brown, Fred Goldman, Peter Hyams, Walter Mosley, and many others.  This is shows as five episodes that are all about an hour and a half long.  This is a very intriguing and detailed documentary on a very big rise and fall of the athlete and actor who will be more known for his legal troubles.  This is available to watch on ESPN Plus.


Krampus (2015):  This is a movie I featured last week as part of my "Movie Time in the Town of Pottersville" segment and decided to use it for this week even if we're not an the holiday season anymore.   Michael Dougherty directed and co-wrote this horror comedy about the festive demon.  Emjay Anthony co-stars as Max who has always been a big believer in Christmas but becomes disillusioned over his dysfunctional family which unleashes the wrath of Krampus where the family must band together to stop the demonic force including a great take on the Gingerbread Man, voiced by Seth Green.  David Koechner co-stars as Max's Uncle Howard who is practically today's Cousin Eddie from NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION so could be a good double feature for the holidays.  Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Stefania LaVie Owen, Krista Stadler, Conchata Ferrell, Allison Tolman, and many others co-star in this horror comedy.  This was both fun and creepy at the same time and enjoyable if not taken too seriously.


Ponyo (2008):  This is my Studio Ghibli selection for the week which was written and directed by Anime icon Hayao Miyazaki.  A young boy named Sosuke, voiced by Frankie Jonas, rescues a goldfish from a bottle and names her Ponyo, voiced by Noah Cyrus, who longs to be human.  Sosuke finds Ponyo is no ordinary goldfish and together they embark on an adventure to save the world and try to fulfill Ponyo's wish of becoming human.  Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Cloris Leachman, Liam Neeson, Jennessa Rose, Lily Tomlin, Betty White, and many others provide their voices in this version.  Miyazaki has stated that his inspiration of this film was from Hans Christian Anderson's THE LITTLE MERMAID.  This is a very touching animated film and is really one that is good for the whole family.  I did start to wonder why Studio Ghibli are not on Disney Plus with it being produced by Disney.  Hopefully that network will include these in the future and I'm sure they've heard this from just about everyone.


The Firing of the Patchwork Quilt (1912):  This is my silent short for the week which does not have a credited director.  Robert Gaillard stars as Jack McCoy who is starting a new job as a train engineer.  His mother, played by Mary Maurice, learns of flaw in the track and goes to extreme measures to let her son know which involves the title.  This is an early Vitagraph film and is good to watch for historical purposes.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.


Houseboat (1958):  Melville Shavelson directed this comedy-drama which could also be considered a romantic comedy.  Cary Grant stars as government employee Tom Winters who is a widowed father to his three unruly children, played by Paul Peterson, Mimi Gibson, and Charles Herbert.  He gets unexpected help when Cinzia, played by Sophia Loren, comes into the picture and gets hired after the children take a liking to her.  Circumstances make them end up on a houseboat that has been badly neglected.  Harry Guardino, Martha Hyer, Eduardo Ciannelli, Murray Hamilton, Madge Kennedy, John Litel, Werner Klemperer, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a pretty decent film with what had elements that reminded me of both THE SOUND OF MUSIC and MARY POPPINS which had not been made yet.


Barabbas (1961):  This is my biblical tale for the week which was directed by Richard Fleischer and directed by Par Lagerkvist.  Anthony Quinn stars as Barabbas who was chosen to be free over Jesus Christ by the public.  He would go onto be haunted by the image of Jesus for the rest of his life and continues his criminal ways only to get caught and sold into slavery.  He would go onto become a gladiator.  Arthur Kennedy, Silvana Mangano, Arthur Kennedy, Katy Jurado, Harry Andrews, Vittorio Gassman, Norman Wooland, Valentina Cortese, Jack Palance, Ernest Bornine, Arnoldo Foa, Michael Gwynn, Laurence Payne, Douglas Fowley, and many others co-star in this film.  This is obviously more of an interpretive story as the bible does not go into much detail on this character other than Pontius Pilate put him up against Christ.  It is still a pretty compelling look at who Barabbas could have been.


Key Largo (1948):  John Huston directed this crime drama which is based on a play by Maxwell Anderson.  Humphrey Bogart stars as veteran Frank McCloud who travels to the title town to honor the memory of a friend that died in WWII.  He goes to the hotel run by his friend's widow Nora, played by Lauren Bacall, and his wheelchair-bound father James, played by Lionel Barrymore, and while they welcome him, he finds the town is being lead by gangster Johnny Rocco, played by Edward G. Robinson.  Rocco takes the hotel hostage while a hurricane is happening but Frank is reluctant to act due to being disillusioned by the violence of war.  Claire Trevor, Thomas Gomez, Harry Lewis, John Rodney, Marc Lawrence, Dan Seymour, Monte Blue, William Haade, and many others co-star in this film.  This is the fourth and last teaming of Bogart and Bacall.  Bogart and Robinson also make great rivals and was a pretty intense film.  This is much later in Barrymore's career was really did suffer from arthritis.  I would like to see a play version of this done sometime.


Little Women (2019):  I decided to check out this one in the theaters on New Year's Eve making it the last movie I saw of the decade before going to get drunk at a friend's house.  While there, I was joined by my friend Tavia who had her daughter and a couple other kids with her.  Greta Gerwig directed this latest adaptation of the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott.  Saoirse Ronan stars as Jo March who reflects on her times with her sisters Meg, played by Emma Watson, Amy, played by Florence Pugh, and Beth, played by Eliza Scanlen, and their mother Marmee, played by Laura Dern.  It goes back and forth between time periods reflecting on the ups and downs within the family.  Timothee Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Jayne Houdyshell, Chris Cooper, Meryl Streep, and many others co-star in this film.  There have been quite a few adaptations of this novel and may have to start checking some of these out though I've seen a couple other versions.  This was very very enjoyable and a bit different than the others.  Each sister's story was told very well with Ronan doing a good job in leading the way.  I must admit I was quite mind-blown when I later learned that Florence Pugh is the same person who portrays Soraya Knight/Paige in the movie FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY.  When this was over, I got Tavia's permission to include her in this segment and told me how she lived with multiple sisters and how she really related to this story.  I also did a double take at times in scenes involving Watson and noticed some resemblance in the two.  This is a really good period piece that is driven by the script and characters.  Expect older versions in the coming weeks.


Heroes (1977):  This marks the first movie I saw this decade and is part one of a two-part Henry Winkler series..  Jeremy Kagen directed this movie which stars HAPPY DAYS alum Henry Winkler who plays Vietnam veteran Jack Dunne.  Jack has been home for four years and still has not really adjusted to life.  While on a bus, he meets Carol, played by Sally Field, who while being annoyed by him, she starts to form a more caring attitude towards him and accompanies him when searching for some of his former Vietnam comrades.  Harrison Ford co-stars as one of them with this coming out right after his star making role as Han Solo in the first STAR WARS film.  Val Avery, Olivia Cole, Hector Elias, Dennis Burkley, Tony Burton, Michael Cavanaugh, and many others co-star in this film.  It is good to see Winkler in a top billed theatrical film role and Ford is really good in his role to portray a bitter Vietnam veteran with his range of emotions.  This has gone a bit overlooked through the years but is really worth a look.


Glee the Concert Movie (2011):  This is based on that popular tv series where the cast at the time put on a concert which was billed as a 3D concert movie but what I saw was only 2D.  This is shown as part documentary and part concert.  There are documentary scenes a little bit for the actors, then it takes a look at fans who relate to the characters.  The main actors for this movie were Dianna Agron, Chris Colfer, Lea Michelle, Darren Criss, Kevin McHale, Cory Monteith, Heather Morris, Amber Riley, Naya Rivera, Mark Sailing, Jenna Ushkowitz, and Harry Shum Jr. are the main actors in concert while recurring actress Gwyneth Paltrow makes an appearance.  This is not going to be for everyone including people who already do not like the tv series.  I did enjoy the performances and seeing the fans relate to the show and the characters.  I can always watch Heather Morris play Brittany who was always my favorite on the show.  This show did bring a lot of respect to this particular world.

Well, that is it for this week but continue on for my returning "Fun and Useless Facts" segment.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton, and many others.


FUN AND USELESS FACTS

I haven't done this for awhile so I thought I'd start the new year out with this segment.  As always, I look at the interconnections, not so much actors within the same movie.  I am sure there are plenty of others to use so feel free to comment if I have missed something.

O.J. Simpson (O.J.:  Made in America) and Olivia Cole (Heroes) were in the 1977 mini-series ROOTS.

Adam Scott (Krampus), Laura Dern (Little Women), and Meryl Streep (Little Women) are in the HBO series BIG LITTLE LIES.

Adam Scott (Krampus) and Cate Blanchett (Ponyo) were in the 2004 film THE AVIATOR.

Stefania LaVie Owen (Krampus) and Saoirse Ronan (Little Women) are in the 2009 film THE LOVELY BONES.


David Koechner (Krampus) and Matt Damon (Ponyo) were in the 2013 HBO movie BEHIND THE CANDELABRA

Cate Blanchett (Ponyo) and Saoirse Ronan (Little Women) are in the 2011 film HANNA.


Cate Blanchett (Ponyo) and Harrison Ford (Heroes) were in the 2008 movie INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL.


Liam Neeson (Ponyo) and Harrison Ford (Heroes) were in the 2002 movie K-19:  THE WIDOWMAKER.


Liam Neeson (Ponyo) was a part of the STAR WARS prequel trilogy where he plays Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn.  Harrison Ford (Heroes) was in the original trilogy and is part of the newer STAR WARS trilogy where he plays the anti-hero Han Solo.  Laura Dern (Little Women) is in the newer one STAR WARS:  EPISODE VIII- THE LAST JEDI as Vice Admiral Holdo so I managed to get people from each trilogy.

Liam Neeson (Ponyo) and Florence Pugh (Little Women) were in the 2018 movie THE COMMUTER.

Tina Fey (Ponyo) and Saoirse Ronan (Little Women) were in the 2014 film MUPPETS MOST WANTED.

Matt Damon (Ponyo) and Tracy Letts (Little Women) were in the 2019 film FORD V FERRARI.

Matt Damon (Ponyo) and Chris Cooper (Little Women) were in the 2002 film THE BOURNE IDENTITY.


Matt Damon (Ponyo) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Glee) were in the 1999 film THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY.


Lily Tomlin (Ponyo) and Meryl Streep (Little Women) were in the 2006 animated movie THE ANT BULLY.


Cary Grant (Houseboat) declined the role of Linus Larrabee in the 1954 comedy SABRINA which would ultimately go to Humphrey Bogart (Key Largo).

Sophia Loren (Houseboat), Michael Gwynn (Barabbas) and Norman Wooland (Barabbas) were in the 1964 film THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE.

Martha Hyer (Houseboat) and Humphrey Bogart (Key Largo) were in the 1954 comedy SABRINA.'

Harry Guardino (Houseboat) plays Barabbas in the 1961 film KING OF KINGS.  Anthony Quinn plays the character in this week's feature BARABBAS.

Eduardo Ciannelli (Houseboat) and Humphrey Bogart (Key Largo) were in the 1944 film PASSAGE TO MARSEILLE

Arthur Kennedy (Barabbas) and Edward G. Robinson (Key Largo) were in the 1964 western CHEYENNE AUTUMN.

Valentina Cortese (Barabbas) and Humphrey Bogart (Key Largo) were in the 1954 film THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA.

Humphrey Bogart (Key Largo) plays Linus Larrabee in the 1954 film SABRINA.  Harrison Ford (Heroes) plays that character in the 1995 remake of the same title.

Chris Cooper (Little Women) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Glee the Concert) were in the 1998 film GREAT EXPECTATIONS.

Tony Burton (Heroes) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Glee the Concert) were in the 1991 film HOOK.




Sunday, December 29, 2019

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 732nd Edition


Welcome to the 732nd Edition of my series and to the last one of the year and of the decade for that matter.  I have continued a few holiday selections for those still in celebration mode.  I'd say it's been a good year, like any year it has ups and downs but the ups have outweighed the downs.  I hope everybody has had a good holiday however celebrated and it continues into New Year's.  I am ready for what 2020 brings to me but for now I'll just get to my selections for the week.


More than a Game (2008):  I start the week out with this sports documentary which was directed by Kristopher Belman.  This takes a look at five players on a high school basketball team in Ohio which includes Lebron James and his rise to fame.  In addition to James, this also takes a look at players Romeo Travis, Dru Joyce III, Sian Cotton, and Willie McGee and they bond they had with one another as well as their coach Dru Joyce.  This is a really good look at this young team with all the ups and downs among them and the early hype that came to James.


Comet (2014):  Now I bring an interesting love story which was directed by Sam Esmail.  Justin Long and Emmy Rossum star as Dell and Kimberly who are very different people but fit together very well.  This goes back and forth within alternate universes and goes into the ups and downs of their relationship through the years.  I don't really know how else to describe this movie.  Long and Rossum work very well together and this is Esmail's feature film debut which was a good one.  I think this is one that a group of friends could watch together and then afterwards could spark a very good discussion.


A Christmas Visitor (2002):  This is my Hallmark movie for the week and likely the last one for awhile as I have managed a Hallmark movie every week in December this year.  Christopher Leitch directed this movie which stars William Devane as George Boyajian who is still grieving over the death of his son in the Persian Gulf War.  Himself, his wife Carol, and daughter Jean have not celebrated Christmas in 11 years but George decides it is time to celebrate Christmas again.  He meets a stranger named Matthew, played by Dean McDermott, who appears to have nowhere to go and is brought into the Boyajian for Christmas and changes their lives forever.  Aaron Ashmore, Jonathan Whittaker, and many others co-star in this Hallmark film.  This one actually goes deeper than most Hallmark movies in my opinion.  This does not have the usual Hallmark formula that so many have these days and has a lot more emotional depth.


Pluto's Christmas Tree (1952):  This is my Disney animated short for the week.  Mickey and his pet dog Pluto set out to get a Christmas tree.  The tree that Mickey gets is the one that chipmunk duo Chip and Dale take refuge in giving Pluto a hard time which stars a battle of wills.  This is a pretty funny holiday short which also have cameos from Donald, Goofy, and Minnie Mouse.  This did kind of make me wonder though about why Pluto did not get to talk and has to bark like a normal dog.  This is available on the Disney Plus network.


Kind Lady (1935):  This may not be considered a holiday film but it does take place on Christmas Eve.  Aline MacMahon stars as the wealthy Mary Herries who likes to help people less fortunate than her.  She soon meets struggling artist Henry Abbott, played by Basil Rathbone, who she takes pity upon and helps him out while also becoming friends.  She soon learns Henry has a more sinister plot.  Mary Carlisle, Frank Albertson, Dudley Digges, Doris Lloyd, Donald Meek, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a pretty interesting film that has a rather slow unfolding which really works well to pull us into the story.  Rathbone does very well in his role and deserves a watch among old movie lovers.


Alice in the Cities (1974):  This is my German film for the week which was directed by Wim Wenders.  Rudiger Vogler stars in this film as journalist Phil Winter who is struggling to write a good story and decides to return to Germany.  At the airport he meets a woman named Lisa, played by Lisa Kreuzer, and her nine year old daughter Alice, played by Yella Rottlander.  Lisa has things to do and asks Phil to watch her which turns out to be a lot longer than expected.  While together, Phil and Alice form a friendship while searching for her grandmother on a road trip.  This is a good entry from Wenders into the road trip genre.  Look for Chuck Berry in an appearance which is something Wenders seems to like to do seeing as Wenders put Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in WINGS OF DESIRE.  This is available to watch on Criterion Channel.


Star Wars:  Episode IX- The Rise of Skywalker (2019):  I bring the conclusion of this particular trilogy that follows THE FORCE AWAKENS AND THE LAST JEDI.  As always, I approach these knowing as little as possible besides the movies that I have seen.  I have even walked out of the theaters during previews and then come back when it is done.  J.J. Abrams directed this film and I will be rather vague about this one except that our friends Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, Finn, played by John Boyega, Poe, played by Oscar Isaac, Chewbacca, played by Joonas Suotamo, C-3PO, played Anthony Daniels, BB-8, and R2-D2 must go after the First Order and Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver.  There are also many other characters brought and and introduced but I find it best when it is vague.  This is one of those where I have seen both sides of love and hatred for what is possibly the most subjective franchise in film.  I must say that I really enjoyed this and the conclusion that happened.


Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959):  Ed Wood directed this b-movie that may be a very bad movie but it's the best bad movie.  The plot here is that aliens resurrect the dead into essentially zombies to stop the humans from making what is called a Solbonite which I guess is a sun-driven bomb.  In Wood's defense to some extent is that he did have a very low budget to work with on his very ambitious project.  Bela Lugosi is in his last role here and dies during the filming.  To replace Mr. Lugosi, Wood cast his dentist Tom Mason and being much taller than Bela, they had the bright idea for him to cover his face with his cape so sometimes you see Lugosi and sometimes you see some guy covering his face with his cape.  Other legends include Vampira, Tor Johnson, and Criswell.   This has to be appreciated for what it is which is a b-movie classic which have cardboard tombs, really bad looking flying saucers, not great acting, among other things that make it what it is today.  This is available on Amazon Prime with or without Rifftrax commentary.


The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976):  Charles B. Pierce directed this very low budget horror film which is based on the Texarkana Moonlight Murders that happened in the '40s.  Ben Johnson stars as Captain Morales who comes to town to investigate the murders of "the Phantom Killer".  This was a hooded killer that would terrorize the town during the evening.  Andrew Prine, Dawn Wells, Jimmy Clem, Charles B. Pierce, Cindy Butler, Earl E. Smith, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a pretty well done slasher and one of the more underrated ones from this era.  I had never heard of this particular serial killer until I came across this movie.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.


I Am Santa Claus (2014):  I end the week with this documentary which was inspired by my Mick Foley reading binge that is featured in "The Bookwork Corner" segment.  Tommy Avallone directed this documentary where he goes around interviewing five different people who play Santa Claus during the holidays.  One of them is Hardcore Legend Mick Foley who had put on the costume during WWE shows but decided to go all the way and really become the character.  For the others it goes into their lives when it is not the holidays and their preparation for when the time comes around.  Foley would go onto do appearances as Santa after all this which he documents in his fifth autobiography.  This is a pretty moving documentary about the everyday people who give it their all to be Santa.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

Well, that is it for this week but I do have a special feature of "The Bookworm Corner" where I pay homage to Mick Foley and I have returned with "Movie Time in the Town of Pottersville" where I watched couple movies with my friend Stephanie.  Tell me what like and dislike and stay tuned for next week.


THE BOOKWORM CORNER

This is from a binge read I started back in October where I decided to take a look at all five autobiographies from WWE Hall of Fame wrestler Mick Foley which took me just a little less than three months to accomplish.  Some question why someone would need five different autobiographies.  To be fair, each of these books take place during different eras of his life and his writing is very entertaining where he is reflecting on a wrestling match, his family life, or his times of being Santa Claus.


Have A Nice Day:  A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks by (2000):  This is the first of Foley's five autobiographies.  This covers a lot of his youth, more in his high school days where his wrestling inspiration comes about.  It also goes into the start of his wrestling training that was under Dominic Denucci.  It then goes into his wrestling career that consists of the independent promotions, Japan, his days in WCW, and up to the time in the WWE when he won his first championship.  This has a lot of funny stories and we get a more inside look into the mind of Foley who was known to do a lot to sacrifice his body like the King of the Death Match tournament in Japan.  While this is not the first wrestler autobiography, it is the one that started the trend.  Foley wrote this on the road with pen and paper, maybe pencil, I don't quite recall that one.  He is also a man that really paid his dues to get where he got and has some great road stories.


Foley is Good and the Real World is Faker than Wrestling (2002):  This is his second book which pretty picks up from where the first one left off.  This starts with I Quit match at ROYAL RUMBLE '99 with the Rock who many know got really carried away with his chair shots on Foley.  It goes up until his retirement match at the time at WRESTLEMANIA 2000.  This reflects a lot on his times in and out of wrestling.  He even talks about the development of his first book featured and his children's book MICK FOLEY'S CHRISTMAS CHAOS.  In this one, he also goes into some views on violence and the media, especially the extremist group the Parents Television Council aka the PTC.  This one is a lot shorter than the first one but still have over 400 pages but is still an informative and fun read on the wrestling industry.


The Hardcore Diaries (2008):  This is the third of his autobiographies but as the title indicates is more of a book of journal entries.  These are entries that lead up to his match at 2006 ONE NIGHT STAND where he envisions a tag team match where he teams up with Edge to take on ECW guys Terry Funk and Tommy Dreamer, or as Edge would say Tommay.  This talks a lot about him trying to get this together they way he wants and the disagreements from both creative and Vince McMahon that would continue to leave him derailed and questioning if it would be any good.  It also goes into some of his feud with Randy Orton and some of his outside projects.  He even talks some about his consideration to join the rival promotion Total Nonstop Action which most people know as TNA which would later happen.  This is far different from the first two where he would talk more about his personal and professional life.  This one as the title indicates is just him writing for a few weeks documenting his time leading to the mentioned pay per view.  This is still a very entertaining read and has some really funny as well as heartwarming stories.


Countdown to Lockdown (2010):  This is similar to the book before this one but this one is written during that stint he had with Total Nonstop Action which mostly people know as TNA.  In THE HARDCORE DIARIES, Foley talks about an offer he got to go there but turned it down when the WWE gave him a better deal.  As this book indicates, he did not stay in the WWE in this era.  This book reflects some of what makes him depart from WWE and writes weeks before leading into a match he had with Sting at their pay-per-view LOCKDOWN.  This also goes into detail about going to his work in Sierra Leone in West Africa where he did some really good things.  He talks a lot in high praise of Tori Amos and how her song WINTER is strangely motivational for him.  It is good to hear about the TNA guys in this one.  Foley continues his very entertaining and informative writing on his personal and professional life and we were blessed to have a fourth book from him.


Saint Mick (2017):  This is the last of his autobiographical novels at least for now.  This one focuses the least on his wrestling career and is more about his year-long obsession with Christmas.  The main focus is on his journey of becoming Santa Claus each year where it is far more than just putting on a Santa suit but is about making children believe he is Santa Claus.  There are also some funny stories of him trying to maintain the realness of being Santa with his two younger children.  There is also a lot of mention of Holiday World which is in my own state of Indiana and visited there on a few occasions in my childhood so maybe consider a trip to Santa Claus, Indiana with your children.  I enjoyed reading about his love for Christmas and putting smiles on the faces of children just as much as his wrestling career.  One thing that is for sure is whatever Mick does in life, he gives it everything he has.  This is the first I read digitally as I checked it out from the Hoopla Digital website.


MOVIE TIME IN THE TOWN OF POTTERSVILLE


Rocketman (2019):  When I went over to Stephanie's house, I had the idea she might want to see this movie and I was right.  Dexter Fletcher directed this rock biopic which features the rise of Reginald Dwight who would go onto be the iconic Elton John, played by Taron Egerton.  This shows Elton a little bit in his childhood when discovering his love and potential in music up to his rise.  Jamie Bell co-stars as Elton John's longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin who has been a very significant part to Elton's career.  This is told about his personal and professional life and is done in a fantasy way where his songs are turned into musical numbers which advance the story a lot of times.  Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, Gemma Jones, Steven Mackintosh, Tom Bennett, Matthew Illesley, Kit Connor, Charlie Rowe, Tate Donovan, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a very fun biopic on the legendary singer and is a great musical for those that are Elton John fans.  Stephanie and I laughed many times and really enjoyed this film.


Krampus (2015):  This night turned into a double feature when seeing Stephanie turn to her own dvds and so I just let her put the dvd in and watch whatever selection she made which turned out to be this horror comedy for the holidays.  Michael Dougherty directed and co-wrote this horror comedy about the festive demon.  Emjay Anthony co-stars as Max who has always been a big believer in Christmas but becomes disillusioned over his dysfunctional family which unleashes the wrath of Krampus where the family must band together to stop the demonic force including a great take on the Gingerbread Man, voiced by Seth Green.  David Koechner co-stars as Max's Uncle Howard who is practically today's Cousin Eddie from NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION so could be a good double feature for the holidays.  Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Stefania LaVie Owen, Krista Stadler, Conchata Ferrell, Allison Tolman, and many others co-star in this horror comedy.  This was both fun and creepy at the same time and enjoyable if not taken too seriously.  This is perfect for those that hate the Hallmark movies.  This was a great double feature for Steph and me to end the year out.