Sunday, June 28, 2020

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 758th Edition

Welcome to the 758th Edition of my series.  Next week is the week of our play YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU at the Elwood Opera House.  To those in and around the area the show is on July 7th, 8th, and 9th at 7 pm and tickets are $8.  The show is happening on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday which is unusual for theater but it was the only way to keep the original cast together that we had earlier in the year.  I am grateful for this and I recall thinking there was just going to inevitably be dropouts in the cast but our directed was able to think outside the box and keep it.  Tickets are are available at .

Judy (2019):  This is part three of my Renee Zellweger series where she takes the helm as the legendary Judy Garland.  Rupert Goold directed this biopic based on the stage play END OF THE RAINBOW by Peter Quilter.  This takes place much later in Judy's life where she gets booked for a series of sold-out shows in London at the Talk to the Town nightclub.  As she prepares for the shows, she battles with management, reminisces with fans and friends, and shows her romance with Mickey Deans, played by Finn Wittrock, who would go onto be her fifth husband.  There are also flashbacks of her younger days that shape Judy, played by Darci Shaw in her younger days, into the person she is to become during the modern part of the film.  Jessie Buckley, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, Richard Cordery, Royce Pierreson, Andy Nyman, Bella Ramsey, Lewin Lloyd, Tom Durant Pritchard, John Dagleish, Adrian Lukis, Gemma-Leah Devereux, and many others co-star in this biopic.  Zellweger is nearly unrecognizable as Garland as we mostly see Judy Garland in this role instead of Zellweger.  I learned that this is based as a stage play so this would be interesting to see and maybe be a part of someday.

Private Parts (1997):  This is part three of my Paul Giamatti series.  I go from an actor biopic to the biopic of the controversial disc jockey Howard Stern, played by himself.  Betty Thomas directed this film based on Stern's book of the same name.  This starts out in his childhood with the difficult relationship he had with his father and his inspiration to be on the radio.  We then see him in college as he is trying to find himself in the radio world and meets his wife Allison, played by Mary McCormack.  We finally see him when he meets his partners Robin Quivers, played by herself, and Fred Norris, played by himself, where they would break all the rules in radio.  Giamatti, Carol Alt, Richard Portnow, Kelly Bishop, Henry Goodman, Jonathan Hadary, Allison Janney, Michael Murphy, James Murtaugh, Reni Santoni, Lee Wilkof, Melanie Good, Amber Smith, Althea Cassidy, Jenna Jameson, Bobby Boriello, Matt Friedman, Leslie Bibb, and many others co-star in this biopic while there are many cameos from people playing themselves.  This is a really good look at the early days of Stern before his big rise.  Stern has some amusing narration throughout the film and is has a lot of laughs.

The Salvation (2014):  Last week, I brought the violent western APPALOOSA, now I bring this violent western.  Kristian Levring directed and co-wrote this western.  Mads Mikkelson stars as European settler Jon Jensen who has welcomed his wife and son to 1870s America only for them to be murdered.  He takes his revenge on the murderers only to find one of them was the brother of local land baron Henry Delarue, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who seeks vengeance on Jenson.  Jon must also fight the local townspeople who are afraid to stand up to Morgan.  Eva Green, Mikael Persbrandt, Douglas Henshall, Michael Raymond-James, Jonathan Pryce, Alexander Arnold, Nanna Oland Fabricius, and many others co-star in this western.  This western really engaged me and found it to be strangely moving through all the violence.  I also really liked the dynamic between Mikkelson and Green who plays a character who cannot speak but does such a good job conveying her emotions.

Mercy, the Mummy Mumbled (1918):  This is my silent short comedy for the week which was directed by R.W. Phillips.  A professor of Egyptology seeks a mummy for experimentation so a young man devises a plan to give what he wants in order to win the professor's daughter.  The film could only be saved so much so it gets very scrambled at times but that even leads to some more interesting stuff in the short.  This is part of the early African-American film movement and is really quite funny.  This is available on the Criterion Collection.

5 Against the House (1955):  Phil Karlson directed this heist film which was based on an article written by Jack Finney.  This is the story of four vets, played by Guy Madison, Brian Keith, Alvy Moore, and Kerwin Matthews, decide to pull off a crime that is said to be impossible which makes Al, played by Madison, to pull it off but also give the money back.  Things become complicated with Brick, played by Keith, when he has no intentions of returning the money.  Kim Novak co-stars as a cabaret singer that goes along with them in their scheme.  William Conrad, Jean Willes, and many others co-star in this film.  This is an earlier example of the heist film, especially the casino heist which would be made popular a few years later in 1960 with OCEAN'S 11.  This was worth a look and is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.

Purple Noon (1960):  Rene Clement directed this French film based on Patricia Highsmith's novel THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY which many years later would become very famous through the 1999 movie that starred Matt Damon.  Alain Delon stars as Tom Ripley who is quite the charming criminal and con artist.  Ripley is sent to Europe to get Philippe Greenleaf back to the United States but Greenleaf has no intention of going and they stay there where Ripley becomes very fixated on him and Greenleaf's girlfriend Marge, played by Marie Laforet, in a very dangerous way.  Erno Crisa, Frank Latimore, Ave Ninchi, Elvire Popesco, and many others co-star in this film.  Delon plays the title character to perfection and the locales filmed are great.  This is a really good adaptation of the novel and is the first feature film of the Tom Ripley character who would get used a lot through the years.  This is also available on the Criterion Channel.

Cinderella (2015):  Kenneth Branaugh directed this live action version of the timeless tale.  Lily James stars as the good-hearted Ella, later to be named Cinderella, who must live with her mean stepmother, played by Cate Blanchett, and her stepsisters Drisella and Anastasia, played by Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger.  She is nothing more than their unappreciated servant but soon Ella meets the Prince, played by Richard Madden, and looks to go to the ball where everyone in town is invited.  Helena Bonham Carter co-stars as the Fairy Godmother who uses her powers to get Cinderella ready for the ball.  Nonso Anozie, Stellan Skarsgard, Derek Jacobi, Ben Chaplin, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon, Jana Perez, Alex MacQueen, Tom Edden, Gareth Mason, Paul Hunter, Eloise Webb, and many others co-star in this film.  I thought this was a pretty adaptation of the classic story.  I really enjoyed the special effects of getting Cinderella to the ball and Carter as the Fairy Godmother.  I also really liked the interaction of Cinderella and her stepmother.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time (1975):  John Trent directed this comedy in which the title really says it all.  Anthony Newley stars as Sweeney, no not Sweeney Todd, who is willing to do whatever it takes to win back his ex-wife Georgina, played by Stefanie Powers, even to the point of kidnapping.  A couple inept cops, played by John Candy and Lawrence Dane, look to make sense of it all.  Isaac Hayes, Lloyd Bochner, Yvonne De Carlo, Henry Ramer, and many others co-star in this comedy.  This can be fun if not taken too seriously.  Hayes is rather amusing as Sweeney's artistic friend and is of worth to see a very young John Candy in his first feature role.  It also has one of those cool animated openings that a lot of '70s movies tended to have.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

Confidential Report (1955):  Orson Welles wrote and directed this film which is also known as MR. ARKADIN, in which Welles plays the title role.  Robert Arden stars as fortune hunter Guy Van Stratten who investigates the past of the mysterious Gregory Arkadin, which places him in grave danger.  Michael Redgrave, Patricia Medina, Akim Tamiroff, Mischa Auer, Paola Mori, Katina Paxinou, Gregoire Aslan, Peter van Eyck, Suzanne Flon, Jack Watling, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a movie that got released to many edits with this one said to be based on one of Welles' earlier edits.  The highlight of this movie in my opinion other than the story are the way it was shot.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel with a couple other versions.

Falling Down (1993):  I decided on a curveball to end the week with the recent death of Joel Schumacher who directed this film.  Michael Douglas stars as as fairly ordinary man who is trying to get home to see his estranged wife, played by Barbara Hershey, and daughter, played by Joey Singer, for his daughter's birthday.  This starts with him getting frustrated in a traffic jam and just leaves his car with the decision to walk home.  Along the way, the man credited as D-fens sees the flaws in society and goes on an unplanned crime spree against those who confront him.  Robert Duvall co-stars as Sergeant Prendergast who is a cop close to retirement but sees the connections in the crimes happening but his colleagues will not listen.  Rachel Ticotin, Tuesday Weld, Frederic Forrest, Lois Smith, Ebbe Roe Smith, Michael Paul Chan, Raymond J. Barry, D.W. Moffett, Steve Park, Kimberly Scott, James Keane, Macon McCalman, Richard Montoya, John Fleck, Brent Hinkley, Deedee Pfeiffer, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Al Mancini, Jack Betts, John Diehl, Amy Morton, and many others co-star in this film.  This has kind of gained a status of cult classic through the years.  This was one of my youth favorites so I was glad to revisit this one.  Douglas has said this is his best performance and I tend to agree.  This is a really good look at a man's slowly declining mental state.

Well, that is it for this week, stay tuned for next week which so far includes Jim Carrey, Ryan Gosling, Henry Fonda, Eva Marie Saint, and many others.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 757th Edition

Welcome to the 757th Edition of my series.  I hope we're all remaining safe.  I wish all the fathers out there including my own a Happy Father's Day.  We are getting closer and closer to YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU which is on July 7th, 8th, and 9th and the Elwood Opera House in Elwood, Indiana.  Tickets are $8 each and the show is at 7 pm, reserve your seats at .  This is a hilarious show with a great message so come get some laughs.

Chernobyl (2019):  I start the week out with this HBO mini-series which was directed by Johan Renck and created by Craig Mazin.  This is based on a true story that centers around the Chernobyl power plant in the Soviet Union where in 1986 there was a huge explosion.  Men and women all had to band together to investigate the cause and figure out what had to be done to contain it so that it did not become worse.  Stellan Skarsgard, Jared Harris, and Emily Watson mostly lead the investigation and try to figure out what must be done.  Jessie Buckley, Adam Nagaitis, Paul Ritter, Robert Emms, Sam Troughton, Karl Davies, Michael Socha, Laura Elphinstone, Jan Ricica, Adrian Rawlins, Alan Williams, Con O'Neill, Dougie McMeekin, Ralph Ineson, Donald Sumpter, Michael McElhatton, and many others co-star in this mini-series.  This is not easy to watch nor should be that way.  This was a very scary time but still a very compelling series which deserves a look.

Irrational Man (2015):  This is part two of my two-part Emma Stone series which is now part one of a possible Joaquin Phoenix series.  Like last week's Stone selection, this is also directed and written by Woody Allen and was a rather different kind of movie for him.  Emma Stone stars as college student Jill Pollard who forms a friendship with her outcast professor Abe Lucas, played by Phoenix.  When they are in a diner, they overhear a conversation in which Abe comes up with a plan that will change their lives forever.  Jamie Blackley, Parker Posey, Betsy Aidem, Ethan Phillips, and many others co-star in his film.  I remember when this first came out, I saw this being shown in the local independent theater in my dad's hometown and briefly checked it out without getting in depth and was just very compelled with this very unusual story.  I saw someone describe this as a philosophical noir which is a very good description.

Donnie Brasco (1997):  This is part two of my Paul Giamatti series where he has a bit role in this earlier film of his as an F.B.I. technician.  Mike Newell directed this gangster film which is based on the autobiography by Joseph D. Pistone, played by Johnny Depp.  Pistone is going undercover as a New York Jeweler named Donnie Brasco and befriends veteran gangster Lefty Ruggiero, played by Al Pacino.  With this, he is able to infiltrate his way into a mafia faction lead by Sonny Black, played by Michael Madsen, but his work forces him to alienate his wife and children who barely know him.  Anne Heche, Bruno Kirby, James Russo, Zeljko Ivanek, Gerry Becker, Robert Miano, Brian Tarantina, Rocco Sisto, Zach Grenier, Gretchen Mol, Larry Romano, Tim Blake Nelson, and many others co-star in this mafia film.  This is a very good look at an undercover agent and what must be done to keep cover like mostly becoming them.  Pacino and Depp are great together and perfectly cast in their roles.  Ranks up high among gangster movies.

The Big Shave (1967):  This is my short film for the week which is an early directorial effort Martin Scorsese.  A young man played by actor Peter Bernuth who is shaving as the title indicates.  When he gets done, he starts to cut himself in the face.  Scorsese has described this as a film about the after effects of the Vietnam War.  It is only about five minutes long and is quite bizarre.  This was not Scorsese's first work but is close as he was slowly becoming one of the most versatile directors in the film industry.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel as well as some other Scorsese short films.

Whirlpool (1934):  Roy William Neill directed this early film noir.  Jack Holt stars as Buck Rankin who is to marry local girl Helen, played by Lila Lee, and plays to end his life of crime.  A fight that results in death get Buck arrested and sentenced to twenty years for manslaughter while Helen was pregnant for their daughter.  Buck wanted Helen to move on with her life so he makes up a letter claiming he drowned while trying to escape.  Twenty years later, Buck makes a new life for himself as a man named Duke Sheldon and becomes a nightclub owner with mob ties.  Jean Arthur co-stars and Sandra who is a reporter and is able to recognized Duke from old photos making him rethink what he must do in life.  Donald Cook, Allen Jenkins, John Miljan, Rita La Roy, Oscar Apfel, Willard Robertson, Ward Bond, and many others co-star in this film.  This is kind of a breakthrough role for Arthur who would have a great career in film.  It is also a good story that takes place in two eras.  This is also available to watch on the Criterion Channel.

The Red House (1947):  This is part three of my Edward G. Robinson trilogy.  Delmer Daves directed this film which was based on the novel by George Agnew Chamberlain.  Robinson stars as Pete Morgan who along with his sister Ellen, played by Judith Anderson have been raising their adopted daughter Meg, played by Allene Roberts, on a farm.  Meg talks her friend Nath into helping with farming chores as Pete has trouble with his wooden leg.  Meg finds that Pete seems to have been hiding secrets after the way he warns Nath to not take a shortcut through an abandoned house.  Rory Calhoun, Julie London, Ona Munson, Harry Shannon, Arthur Space, and many others co-star in this film.  Throughout his career, Robinson mastered playing the gangster role but he also mastered playing characters very disturbed and secretive with this falling into that category.  This has gone onto be a bit overlooked through the years but is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

Beeswax (2009):  Andrew Bujalski wrote and directed this independent film.  Real-life twins Tilly and Maggie Hatcher star as sisters Jeannie and Lauren, one is a paraplegic.  They must deal with changes with Lauren considering a move overseas and Jeannie deals with conflicts with her business partner that could lead to a lawsuit.  Alex Karpovsky, David Zellner, Kyle Henry, Bryan Poyser, Nathan Zellner, and many others co-star in this independent film.  In looking into this movie, this is part of the Mumblecore movement which I had not heard of until now.  In this situation, the director used non-professional actors and a small crew.  This shows naturalistic conversation and lives that I felt really worked.  This is an interesting movement that I might try looking into further.

A Force of One (1979):  This is my martial arts movie for the week which was directed by Paul Aaron.  Action star Chuck Norris stars as karate champ and instructor Matt Logan who is enlisted by the police when agents are getting killed by someone that appears to know martial arts.  Jennifer O'Neill, Clu Gulager, Ron O'Neal, Eric Laneuville, Clint Ritchie, Pepe Serna, Ray Vitte, and many others co-star in this movie.  I don't think I need to explain much more that I what I did.  It is good for what it is which is a martial arts movie with Chuck Norris.  This is a fun movie to see with a group of friends with nothing else to do.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

Le Silence de La Mer (1949):  Jean-Pierre Melville directed this French film which is based on a book by Vercors whose real name is Jean Bruller.  This takes place in a small-town in Nazi occupied France where Jean-Marie Robain and Nicole Stephane star as an uncle and adult niece whose home is commandeered for their officer Lt. Werner von Ebrennac to live in as long as he is conducting Nazi business.  The unnamed uncle and niece appear to sit in silent protest while the officer tries to connect with them and then bids them a good night.  This is a difficult one to really explain but it does a great job of conveying the tension and fear of these people in trying to understand what the officer wants but avoiding verbal talk.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel and is worth a look.

Appaloosa (2008):  I end the week with this western and part two of my Renee Zellweger series.  Ed Harris directed and co-wrote this western based on the novel by Robert B. Parker.  Harris also stars in this western as Marshall Virgil Cole.  Cole and his most loyal deputy Everett Hitch, played by Viggo Mortensen, and hired by the title town to go after the newly arrived Randall Bragg, played by Jeremy Irons.  Zellweger co-stars as the recently widowed Allison French who Cole falls for but may be more to her than meets the eye.  James Gammon, Timothy Spall, Tom Bower, Ariadna Gil, Mike Watson, Rex Linn, Corby Griesenbeck, Lance Henrikson, Adam Nelson, and many others co-star in this western.  This western had it all with some great action, drama, lots of gray areas in characters, and a little romance.  Western fans will love this and I think even the non-western fans can get into this one.

Well, that is it for this week but I did return with my segment "The Bookworm Corner".  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Renee Zellweger, and many others.


Blood Red Turns Dollar Green (2016, 2017):  This is a book trilogy which was written by Paul O'Brien with the first one having the title and the other two are A SHOOT and THE HURTING CIRCUS.  This takes place in the wrestling world during the territory days of wrestling within the National Wrestling Council which is the equivalent of the National Wrestling Alliance.  One character this story centers around is Danno Long who is and promoter in the New York territory and has a potential champion in the wrestler Babu and has to go through other means for this to happen.  This also centers around the character Lenny Lane who is a lifelong wrestling fan who becomes Danno's driver but evolves a lot throughout the series.  This is a series that combines the wrestling world and the crime world as there is a lot of murder and betrayal going on in this series.  This is a very well-written series of books that take place from the late '60s to the early '80s.  This whole trilogy of books is essentially one story.  Some things may happen in the first book and aren't fully revealed until the second or third book.  I do know if these characters were meant to be based on anyone.  I am not going to do a book by book description or I will just give a lot away.  This is a great page turner, and a really good look into the earlier days of wrestling.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 756th Edition

Welcome to the 756th Edition of my series.  I hope we're all staying safe right now.  In less than a month, we put on our play YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU at the Elwood Opera House.  The dates for this are July 7th, 8th, and 9th which is a Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Yes, usually a play is put on the weekend, maybe a Thursday but in this situation our director wanted to keep the original cast together that was supposed to perform in April and this was the only way to do it so I'm thankful for that.  I'll have more information in the coming weeks so for now I'll just get on with my selections for the week.

Sharp Objects (2018):  I start the week out with this HBO mini-series.  Jean-Marc Vallee directed this mini-series which was based on the book by Gillian Flynn who might be most known for GONE GIRL.  Amy Adams stars as reporter Camille Preaker who is sent to her small town to cover a brutal murder.  While there, she must also confront her psychological demons as she relives her past while trying to get to the bottom of the murders.  She must also face her mother Adora, played by Patricia Clarkson, and tries to get to know the sister she barely knows in Amma, played by Eliza Scanlen.  Chris Messina, Matt Craven, Henry Czerny, Taylor John Smith, Madison Davenport, Miguel Sandoval, Sophia Lillis, Lulu Wilson, Elizabeth Perkins, David Sullivan, Violet Brinson, April Brinson, and many others co-star in this mini-series.  This consists of eight episodes, all of which are around an hour.  This is not one of the easiest things to watch and is not for everyone with some of the images that are shown.  If you can get past that, this does unfold very well with the eight episodes.  Led Zeppelin fans will enjoy the soundtrack as their music gets used a lot in this series.  This was Flynn's first book which Stephen King gave praise.

Magic in the Moonlight (2014):  This is part one of a possible two-part Emma Stone series.  Woody Allen wrote and directed this romantic comedy.  Colin First stars as Stanley who works as a magician under the name Wei Ling Soo.  He also specializes in exposing fraudulent mediums and sets his sights on celebrated spiritualist Sophie Baker, played by Emma Stone.  He finds that he is difficult to expose and wonder if she might be for real.  He also starts to fall in love with her.  Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, Simon McBurney, Catherine McCormack, Eileen Atkins, Erica Leerhsen, Jeremy Shamos, Hamish Linklater, and many others co-star in this comedy.  Firth and Stone work well together and I liked the idea of a romantic comedy have two people from interesting professions.  The persona of Wei Ling Soo is a reference to Chung Ling Soo whose real name was William Ellsworth Robinson and was similar in trying to debunk psychics in the late 1800s to the early 1900s.  This takes place in an era when it was more acceptable for Americans and British to take on these personas.

Cinderella Man (2014):  This is likely the start of a series for both Paul Giamatti and Renee Zellweger.  Ron Howard directed this biopic on depression era boxer James J. Braddock, played by Russell Crowe.  This takes place in the '30s at a time when his career seemed to be over and struggled to find work to support his family.  He finds himself getting a second chance at his boxing career and has a very celebrated comeback in boxing.  Renee Zellweger co-stars as Jim's supportive wife Mae and Paul Giamatti co-stars as his loyal manager.  Paddy Considine, Craig Bierko, Bruce McGill, David Huband, Connor Price, Ariel Waller, Patrick Louis, Rosemarie Dewitt, Linda Kash, Nicholas Campbell, Clint Howard, and many others co-star in this sports biopic.  DeWitt is the actual granddaughter of Braddock and is the daughter of Braddock's daughter Rosemarie.  Crowe gave everything he had in a rather literal way as he separated a shoulder and suffered concussions while doing boxing sequences.  In the end this is a beautiful story of redemption and overcoming the odds in a ROCKY kind of story that is actually true.

What About Prejudice (1959):  This is my short film for the week and is an early look at bullying and prejudice which go hand and hand in some ways.  A group of high school kids hear about a new kid named Bruce and have been told not to associate with him.  An incident happens that make these kids rethink their prejudice about him.  While a little dated, this is still relevant today.  The George character is never seen and is not even clear on the supposed issues.  I think they just want to take a look at pre-judgment in general.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime as part of the "Prejudice Films".

The Whole Town's Talking (1935):  This is part two of a possible Edward G. Robinson series.  John Ford directed this movie that is a comedy and a drama.  Edward G. Robinson stars as a clerk Arthur Ferguson Jones who is a pretty simple man who gets arrested due to his resemblance to notorious criminal Manion, also played by Robinson.  After getting released due to a case of mistaken identity, Manion learns of his look-alike and takes advantage of the situation.  Jean Arthur, Arthur Hohl, Arthur Byron, Wallace Ford, Donald Meek, Donald Meek, Etienne Girardot, Edward Brophy, Paul Harvey, and many others co-star in this crime comedy.  I'm sure there was a running joke on the set of all the Arthurs in this movie.  Robinson is great showing his comedic side in his dual role and Arthur was very amusing as Jones' love interest Wilhelmina.  Last week I cited the feature of SCARLET STREET as my favorite Robinson film and while that is still true, this one gets close.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.

Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971):  John Schlesinger directed this film about a polyamourous relationship.  Murray Head stars as free-spirited artist Bob and maintains an open love triangle with two lovers in middle aged doctor Daniel Hirsh, played by Peter Finch, and frustrated office worker Alex, played by Glenda Jackson.  Peggy Ashcroft, Tony Britton, Maurice Denham, Vivian Pickles, Frank Windsor, Thomas Baptiste, and many others co-star in this film.  This is hard to put into words much further except the obvious controversy this likely got at the time especially with the homosexual relationship.  Head is most known his hit song ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK which came from the musical chess and as I'm researching him, I learned his younger brother is Anthony Head of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER FAME.  Finch would go onto tell us to get mad and to open a window and yell "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" in his iconic role of Howard Beale in NETWORK.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime and is worth a look.

The Last Cowboy (2003):  This is my Hallmark tv movie for the week which was directed by Joyce Chopra.  Lance Henriksen, kind of looking like Tom Berenger, stars as rancher Will Cooper whose father has just died and struggles to keep his ranch going along with his long-time foreman and friend Amos, plaeyd by M.C. Gainey.  His estranged daughter Jake, played by 90210 alum Jennie Garth, returns for her grandfather's funeral and clashes with her father on how to save the ranch.  Bradley Cooper, Dylan Wagner, Muse Watson, John Vargas, Eugene Osment, Kelly Connell, Kim Robillard, and many others co-star in this tv movie.  I guess this is Hallmark's answer to a western.  This takes place in typical Hallmark fashion and is pretty predictable.  Gainey was very amusing as Amos and playing a nicer role than usual and does very well at it.  It is a feel-good movie more than anything else and the Hallmark crowd will really like it.

Olivia (1951):  Jacqueline Audry directed this French film which is based on the novel by Dorothy Bussy.  This takes place in the late 19th Century at which takes place at a finishing school which is essentially a girls' school.  Marie-Clare Olivia stars as the title character and becomes the obsession of both Mademoiselle Julie, played by Edwige Feuillere and Mademoiselle Cara, played by Simone Simon.  This is one that is really hard for me to explain.  It is an early look at lesbianism.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel and is worth a look.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965):  Martin Ritt directed this Cold War film which is based on the novel by John le Carre.  Richard Burton stars as British spy Alec Leamas who is sent to East Germany supposedly to defect but really to get information.  As Alec gets deeper, he starts to question what the purpose of the mission is that he is being sent.  Claire Bloom, Oskar Werner, Sam Wanamaker, George Voskovec, Rupert Davies, Cyril Cusack, Peter Van Eyck, Michael Hordern, Robert Hardy, Bernard Lee, and many others co-star in this spy film.  This is a much darker spy film and does not have the James Bond kind of fun.  Burton is perfect as the cynical spy questioning everything in his life.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

Man Up (2015):  I end the week with this romantic comedy which was directed by Ben Palmer.  Lake Bell stars as the single Nancy who after a misunderstanding is mistaken for the blind date of Jack, played by Simon Pegg.  Instead of saying she is not the one, she just goes along for the ride and they are about the have the night of their lives.  Rory Kinnear, Ken Stott, Harriett Walter, Olivia Williams, Sharon Horgan, Ophelia Lovibond, Stephen Campbell Moore, Keir Charles, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Robert Wilfort, Paul Thornley, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, and many others co-star in this comedy.  I was pleasantly surprised by this movie.  In the basic sense, it is a romantic comedy but it is so much more.  Both of the leads were very funny and likable that I strongly got behind them as a couple.

Well, that is it for this week but I do have the return of "Fun and Useless Facts".  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Emma Stone, Johnny Depp, Martin Scorsese, Edward G. Robins, and many others.


I'm bringing this segment back for the week as I had enough to work with and some time.  As always, I focus on connections from different movies instead of actors in the same movie unless there is another person to connect them.  I'm sure there are plenty more and I stopped at number 25 so feel free to comment other connections.

Amy Adams (Sharp Objects) is forced to work for FBI agent Bradley Cooper (The Last Cowboy) in the 2013 film AMERICAN HUSTLE.

Amy Adams (Sharp Objects) and Russell Crowe (Cinderella Man) were in the 2013 superhero movie MAN OF STEEL.

Patricia Clarkson (Sharp Objects) and Emma Stone (Magic in the Moonlight) were mother and daughter in the 2010 comedy EASY A and they were in the 2011 comedy FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS.

Patricia Clarkson (Sharp Objects) and Chris Messina (Sharp Objects) were directed by Woody Allen (Magic in the Moonlight director) in the 2008 comedy VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA.

Henry Czerny (Sharp Objects) and Bradley Cooper (The Last Cowboy) were in the 2010 movie THE A-TEAM.

Madison Davenport (Sharp Objects) and Russell Crowe (Cinderella Man) were in the 2014 movie NOAH.

Woody Allen (Magic in the Moonlight director) and Claire Bloom (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold) were in the 1989 comedy CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS which Allen also directed.

Colin Firth (Magic in the Moonlight) and Renee Zellweger (Cinderella Man) are a couple in the BRIDGET JONES trilogy.

Colin Firth (Magic in the Moonlight) and Claire Bloom (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold) were in the 2010 film THE KINGS SPEECH.

Emma Stone (Magic in the Moonlight) and Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man) are in the 2014 superhero movie THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2.

Emma Stone (Magic in the Moonlight) and Rosemarie DeWitt (Cinderella Man) were in the 2016 musical LA LA LAND.

Emma Stone (Magic in the Moonlight) and Bradley Cooper (Cinderella Man) were in the 2008 rock comedy THE ROCKER.

Marcia Gay Harden (Magic in the Moonlight), Jacki Weaver (Magic in the Moonlight), and Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man) and in the 2013 movie PARKLAND.

Jacki Weaver (Magic in the Moonlight) and Bradley Cooper (The Last Cowboy) were in the 2012 film THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.

Simon McBurney (Magic in the Moonlight), Eileen Atkins (Magic in the Moonlight) and Russell Crowe (Cinderella Man) were in the 2010 film ROBIN HOOD.

Eileen Atkins (Magic in the Moonlight) and Renee Zellweger (Cinderella Man) are in the 2003 film COLD MOUNTAIN.

Craig Bierko (Cinderella Man) and Lake Bell (Man Up) had stints in the legal series BOSTON LEGAL.

Paddy Considine (Cinderella Man) and Simon Pegg (Man Up) were in the 2007 comedy HOT FUZZ and the 2013 comedy THE WORLD'S END.

Renee Zellweger (Cinderella Man) and Lance Henriksen (The Last Cowboy) were in the 2008 western APPALOOSA.

Renee Zellweger (Cinderella Man) and Bradley Cooper (The Last Cowboy) were in the 2009 horror movie CASE 39 and were in a relationship.

Russell Crowe (Cinderella Man) and Lance Henriksen (The Last Cowboy) were in the 1995 western THE QUICK AND THE DEAD.

Bruce McGill (Cinderella Man) and Muse Watson (The Last Cowboy) were in the 1997 film ROSEWOOD.

Jean Arthur (The Whole Town's Talking) plays Alice the 1938 classic comedy YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU.  My Facebook friend Rebecca plays the role in our upcoming play of the same name at the Elwood Opera House in Elwood.

Bradley Cooper (The Last Cowboy) and Ophelia Lovibond (Man Up) were in the 2014 superhero film GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.

Richard Burton (The Spy Who Came in the Cold) plays George in the 1966 film WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF.  One of my biggest supporters Jim Hunter played the role in a stage version of the same name at the Anderson Mainstage Theatre.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 755th Edition

Welcome to the 755th Edition of my series.  I hope everyone is staying safe out there in these times and getting along with one another.  I don't really have much to say so let's just get to my selections for the week.

Black Book (2006):  I start the week out with this Dutch WWII film which was directed by Paul Verhoeven.  Carice van Houten stars as Dutch-Jewish singer Rachel Stein who is in hiding from the Nazi regime and joins a Dutch resistance group.  She agrees to infiltrate a a Nazi group while falling in love with Muntze, played by Sebastian Koch, who does not support the war.  Thom Hoffman, Halina Reijn, Waldemar Kobus, Derek de Lint, Christian Berkel, Matthias Schoenaerts, and many others co-star in this film.  I am trying to describe this film but it is far too complicated to be put into words.  This is a very complex, compelling film and is at times very disturbing.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

The To Do List (2013):  Now I follow up with this rather raunchy comedy which was written and directed by Maggie Carey.  Aubrey Plaza stars as Brandy Klark who is graduating high school and has excelled academically but not sexually and with the pressures she makes herself a list of things to accomplish before going to college with her ultimate goal being to seduce the popular and sexy Rusty Waters, played by Scott Porter.  Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele, Rachel Bilson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Andy Samberg, Donald Glover, Connie Britton, Clark Gregg, Adam Pally, and many others co-star in this comedy.  One thing I have to say is if we ever need someone to play Jack Nicholson in a biopic it should be Bill Hader.  This takes place in 1993 and has a really good '90s feel to it that will bring back a few memories.  This does have some pretty funny moments and even a good message in the end.

Coup De Torchan (1981):  Bertrand Tavernier directed this film which is based on a novel by Jim Thompson.  This takes place in a French African colony where Philippe Noiret stars as Lucien Cordier who is a village cop.  As a cop, he is humiliated by many in the village including his unhappy wife Huguette, played by Stephane Audran.  He has also been very lenient towards everyone in the town but finally gets set off and turns into an exterminating angel of sorts.  Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Eddy Mitchell, Guy Marchand, and many others co-star in this film.  What else can I really say about this one?  This was a very interesting dark comedy.  On the surface, it's about revenge but it is so much more and worth a look.

Hot Biskits (1931):  This is my short film for the week which was written and directed by Spencer Williams.  Williams also co-stars in this short where we see the rivalry between two men in a comedic game of mini-golf.  This was written for the black cinema and Williams is likely most known as Andy in the tv series THE AMOS 'N' ANDY SHOW.  These kinds of movies were likely the best chance actors had to get roles where they were not servants and is an important part of cinematic history.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.

Scarlet Street (1945):  This is part one of a possible Edward G. Robinson trilogy.  Fritz Lang directed this film which is based on a novel by Georges de La Fouchardiere.  Edward G. Robinson stars as Chris Cross who has worked as a cashier for many years and likse to paint on the side.  He is also in an unhappy marriage and meets the younger Kitty, played by Joan Bennett.  She mistakes Chris for having a lot of money and uses him in a scheme to the advice of her boyfriend Johnny, played by Dan Duryea, which leads to disastrous results.  Margaret Lindsay, Rosalind Ivan, Jess Barker, Charles Kemper, Anita Sharp-Bolster, Samuel S. Hinds, Vladimir Sokoloff, Arthur Loft, Russell Hicks, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a remake of Jean Renoir's LA CHIENNE  This is my favorite movie of Edward G. Robinson's where he starts out as a very simple man in a mid-life crisis and is set off when he believes he has the love of a younger woman but learns he was used.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967):  Jean-Luc Godard directed this this French film which is based as part of the French New Wave.  Marina Vlady stars as Juliette Jeanson who is a housewife but also does prostitution in order to make extra money.  Anny Duperny co-stars in this film.  This is part of a trilogy that Godard did that year that consider of WEEK END and LA CHINOISE and are all regarded as stylistically and socially radical.  This is shot more like a documentary from the point of view of Juliette and her struggles in life.  It is a very good commentary on the times.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.

Minding the Gap (2018):  This is my documentary for the week which was directed by Bing Liu.  This takes a look at a group of young friends in Rockford, Illinois that have come together through their love of skateboarding and we see their struggles in everyday life as they face adult responsibilities.  This is a pretty compelling documentary that takes a look at everyday people and their lives which were mostly reflecting on their family lives and how that shaped them into who they are today.  It is hard to really describe this any further than what I have so just give it a watch and is available to watch on Hulu.

The Housemaid (1960):  Ki-Young Kim wrote and directed this very daring Korean film.  A piano teacher named Mr. Kim and his wife decide to hire a housemaid at their home and soon get far more than they bargained for.  Mr. Kim gives into temptation and has an affair with the employee where her psychotic personality slowly comes out as she targets the entire family.  This is not for everyone and is very disturbing at times.  It shows the wrongdoing of just about everyone in the home.  This has always been one of my favorites.  It was remade in 2010 but it just did not capture what this one did for me.  Martin Scorsese helped to fund the complete restoration and is worth the restoration.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.

Quicksand (1950):  Irving Pachel directed this film noir.  Mickey Rooney gets his turn in this genre where he stars as car mechanic Dan Brady who is just about to have a hot date with Vera, played by Jeanne Cagney, but is unable to get the money to do the things he wants to impress her.  He decides to take $20 from his employer under the belief that he'll be able to replace it before the auditor gets there but the auditor gets there earlier than expected.  His attempts to replace the money get him deeper in debt and crime.  Peter Lorre, Barbara Bates, Taylor Holmes, Art Smith, Wally Cassell, Richard Lane, and many others co-star in this film.  This was a much later role for Lorre who co-financed the film along with Rooney.  It was good seeing Rooney in a darker role after being known so much for Andy Hardy.  This unknown gem is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

Wendy and Lucy (2008):  Kelly Reichardt directed this film that I believe qualifies as a character study.  DAWSON'S CREEK alum Michelle Williams stars as Wendy who is an Indiana girl in Oregon as a drifter with her dog Lucy.  She is setting out to go to Alaska hearing there are a lot of jobs but her car breaks down and Lucy disappears as she sets out to find her making her situation even more dire.  Will Oldham, Wally Dalton, John Robinson, Will Patton, and many others co-star in this film.  This is not a very upbeat movie and I'm sure many out there struggling can relate to this character.  This movie was independent to the core but worked very well with the low budget.  There was even mention of my own hometown of Muncie.  Williams did everything she could get prepare and get into the role of a homeless person.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

Well, that is it for this week but continue on for my segment "Movie Time in the Town of Pottersville".  Tell me what you like and what you dislike and stay tuned for next week.


The Hobbit Trilogy (2012, 2013, 2014):  Stephanie is a big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien so really likes these movies as well as the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy all of which directed by Peter Jackson.  She likes these stories so much to the point she took the name Oakenshield as her own after dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield, played by Richard Armitage  She is also a fan of the books and is getting her son into the LOTR books as they have been reading them together.  I don't mind the LOTR series but I never really got into them like others did so I did not watch these in the beginning.  A while back, Stephanie had the idea to watch these so I went along with it and we watched the first one.  I found myself liking it a lot more than the LOTR series as I thought there was more to that one and I seem to be a minority among the Tolkien fans.  We kind of lost track of this and never continued in our series but she messaged me saying we need to watch the second one.  While ready I decided we also need to watch the first one and she agreed so last Sunday we found time to get the first one watched.  She did not have the other two so with the library open for pickup now I got the other two which we watched at her house on Friday night.  The three stories in the film series consist of AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, and THE BATTLE OF FIVE ARMIES.  Martin Freeman stars as hobbit Bilbo Baggins who reluctantly joins a group of dwarfs as they set out to the Lonely Mountain for the dwarfs to reclaim their home and the gold from the dragon Smaug.  Joining them is the wizard Gandalf, reprised by Sir Ian McKellan.  They also encounter some elves and humans as they must take on the Orcs.  Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O'Gorman, Aidan Turner, John Callen, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Sylvester McCoy, Barry Humphries, Lee Pace, Manu Bennett, Conan Stephens, John Rawls, Stephen Ure, Benedict Cumberbatch, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Mikael Persbrandt, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Ryan Gage, John Bell, Craig Hall, Billy Connelly, Andy Serkis, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Lawrence Makoare, Ben Mitchell, Stephen Colbert, and many others co-star or have cameos.  While LORD OF THE RINGS was written as a trilogy, the novel to this was really one book but Jackson decided to expand so I don't know what was or was not in the book.  I know some characters were wrote into these movies.  Jackson and his New Zealand crew put everything they had into this epic trilogy.  I did enjoy these more than LOTR as I have mentioned.  I was also impressed by the soundtrack in addition to Howard Shore like Ed Sheeran's song I SEE FIRE and THE LAST GOODBYE by LOTR alum Billy Boyd.  I have gone on long enough so I'll shut up now.