Sunday, December 8, 2019

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 729th Edition


Welcome to the 729th Edition of my series.  My 49ers suffered a close loss to the Ravens last week so I'm hoping they rebound this week.  Other than that, not much else is going on so I will just get on with my selections for the week.


Ray (2004):  This is part four of my four-part Regina King series where she plays Ray's band member and mistress Margie Hendricks.  Taylor Hackford directed this biopic which stars Jamie Foxx and the legendary blind singer Ray Charles Robinson who would go onto be known as Ray Charles.  This goes into some of the pivotal moments in his childhood into his struggle in the start of his music career where people tried to take advantage of his blindness.  It also takes a look at his rise but his problems with drugs and infidelity. Kerry Washington, Clifton Powell, Harry Lennix, Bokeem Woodbine, Aunjanae Ellis, Sharon Warren, C.J. Sanders, Curtis Armstrong, Richard Schiff, Larenz Tate, Terrence Howard, Wendell Pierce, Chris Thomas King, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Rick Gomez, Denise Dowse, Warwick Davis, Patrick Bauchau, Robert Wisdom, Kurt Fuller, Julian Bond, Kimberly J. Ardison, Gary Grubbs, and many others co-star in this biopic.  This looks at many ups and downs of the life of Charles.  Jamie Foxx plays him to perfection.  Ray unfortunately died shortly after production and was able to sit through the first edit of the film.


Home Alone (1990):  This is the start of my holiday selections for the week.  Chris Columbus directed this holiday comedy which was written by John Hughes.  Macauley Culkin in his star-making role stars as the eight year old Kevin McCallister who gets into a scuffle with his older brother and is sent to the third floor of the house.  The entire family is set to go to Paris the next morning and running very late, they forget about Kevin they leave him at the house by himself.  While enjoying being by himself, at least a first, he discovers two burglars, played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, who are plotting to rob all the houses in the neighborhood that are off vacationing.  He takes charge of this leading to a rather violent confrontation with the criminals through some rather interesting traps that Kevin makes.  Catherine O'Hara, John Heard, Roberts Blossom, Angela Goethals, Devin Ratray, Gerry Bamman, Hilary Wolf, John Candy, Larry Hankin, Michael C. Maronna, Kristin Minter, Diana Rein, Kieran Culkin, Hope Davis, and many others co-star in this holiday comedy.  I remember this was my absolute favorite movie in my childhood when it came out and I believe this is the first time in my adult life revisiting this movie.  This was a great revisit and seeing it in a different way.  I also was not aware until now that John Williams wrote the music score.  I have to say that was some rather extreme violence, almost like cartoonish violence but still entertains if we can just suspend our disbelief for a little bit.  I know it never made me try coming up with my own traps.  This is available to watch on Disney + and I know people will wonder how it ended up on there.  This is from 20th Century Fox and Disney bought them out and now this and the sequels are on Disney +.


Christmas in Evergreen:  Letters to Santa (2018):  This is my Hallmark selection for the week and is the second of a trilogy of this title.  Jill Wagner stars as retail designer Lisa who decides to go to her old hometown of Evergreen.  She is sad to see that her favorite historic general store has been closed and with her skills she decides to help bring the store back to life in hopes they will have a buyer.  She is able to get another visitor named Kevin who is a local contractor to help him put it together.  Holly Robinson Peete, Barbara Niven, Michelle Martin, Chris Cope, BJ Harrison, Andrew Francis, Rukiya Bernard, Colin Lawrence, Marlon Kazadi, Daryl Shuttleworth, Ashley Williams, and many others co-star in this holiday movie.  This has the usual Hallmark feel with the small town, the successful person that left and this case there is more than one, and the predictable romance that goes on.  I don't really know anything of the first or third one, this was just the one I was able to get at the library that is on dvd.  Seems like typical Hallmark that its audience will enjoy.


The Vampire (1945):  This is my documentary short for the week which comes from France.  Jean Painleve directed this this short that is not about an actual vampire that feeds on us even though it does have footage of the classic silent film NOSFERATU.  It is about a vampire bat and how it lives.  It has some rather disturbing footage of a vampire bat in a cage with a guinea pig both literally and figuratively.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.


Our Daily Bread (1934):  King Vidor directed this film on people banding together during the depression.  Tom Keene and Karen Morley star as John and Mary who are both hit very hard by the depression.  They decide to go to the country and manage to set up a farming community in a socialist environment.  They experience a lot of hardship with the elements, drought, and even each other at times.  John Qualen, Barbara Pepper, Addison Richards, Lloyd Ingraham, Henry Hall, Nellie Nichols, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a really good look at a desperate group forming their own community in a very difficult time in our era.  The relatively unknown cast makes this work very well and is available to watch on Amazon Prime.


It Happened One Christmas (1977):  This is a tv holiday movie that is a remake or maybe reworking of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.  Donald Wrye directed this tv movie where Marlo Thomas stars as Mary Bailey Hatch who dreams of leaving her small town of Bedford Falls but circumstances keep her in town.  She ends up marrying a man named George Hatch, played by Wayne Rogers, and have a great life for themselves along with some kids.  Things happen that couple get Mary into trouble and an angel named Clara, played by Cloris Leachman, is sent down to help Mary see she is not a failure.  Orson Welles co-stars as the town villain Mr. Potter.  Barney Martin, Karen Carlson, Dick O'Neill, Doris Roberts, Richard Dysart, Archie Hahn, Christopher Guest, Gino Conforti, Morgan Upton, and many others co-star in this tv movie.  I'm sure for those who have seen its predecessor, one big change is the gender reversal on the characters of Mary and George and having a woman angel instead of the male, though the personalities are very similar.  IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is a holiday favorite of mine and knew this was not going to top it.  I still enjoyed this variation though of the holiday classic which is also available on Amazon Prime.


An Extremely Goofy Movie (2000):  This is my Disney movie for the week which is a sequel to A GOOFY MOVIE.  Max, voiced by Jason Marsden, has graduated high school and is going to college also in hopes to get into the X-Games.  Things take a turn for the worst when Goofy, voiced by Bill Farmer, loses his job and needs an education to find something else.  He decides to join his son at college much to Max's dismay.  Jeff Bennett, Brad Garrett, Vicki Lewis, Bebe Neuwirth, Rob Paulsen, Pauly Shore, and many others provide their voices in this Disney sequel.  Not quite the original but still is a lot of fun and laughs with father and son in college together.  This is available to watch on Disney Plus.


Santa Claus (1959):  This is a mostly annual watch for me nowadays.  When watching it, I just keet watching and throughout this movie, I'm just thinking WTF but yet I cannot keep my eyes off of it.  There are many things I learn when watching this movie.  For starters, Santa does not have elves, he has child labor from all over the world in which sing very annoying music.  Also, he is apparently at another planet and have reindeer which are made up of what looks like Styrofoam and can only last for so long.  We also learn that Santa and Satan are rivals in which Satan tries every year to ruin Christmas and sends his very inept dance-loving minion Pitch who is told he would be punished with ice cream if he fails.  Now to add to that, we learn that after Merlin was done helping King Arthur, he decided to go work for Santa Claus.  Jose Elias Moreno stars as Santa in this movie and has probably been an a lot of really good Mexican films but will only be known by this one.  I don't really know what was going through the minds of those involved when this was being made but was bad enough to become a great holiday tradition and I actually prefer this over Santa Claus Conquers the Martians but that is a good double feature.


Placido (1961):  This is my Spanish holiday movie for the week.  Luis Garcia Berlanga directed this film which takes place in a small Spanish town.  This centers around a social experiment on Christmas Eve where each wealthy household has a homeless person dining with them that night.  It is there we meet that title character, played by Cassen, whose family is forced to stay in a public lavatory because of the lack of money for rent.   Jose Luis Lopez Vazquez, Elvira Quintilla, Manuel Alexandre, and many others co-star in this holiday movie.  This is a pretty touching film and for those who are looking for something different to watch for the holidays, maybe this is where to start.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.


Mountains of the Moon (1990):  I end the week with this period piece which was directed by Bob Rafelson and based on the novel by William Harrison.  Patrick Bergin and Iain Glen star as Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke who lead an expedition in the mid-1850s to Central America to find the source of the Nile River.  This takes a look at their meeting up to their own falling out and the hardships of the expedition.  Richard E. Grant, Fiona Shaw, John Savident, James Villiers, Adrian Rawlins, Peter Vaughan, Delroy Lindo, Bernard Hill, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a really good period piece that is based on a true story.  This is one that has gone overlooked but really deserves a look.

Well, that is all for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week.



Sunday, December 1, 2019

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 728th Edition


Welcome to the 728th Edition of my series.  I hope everyone has had a good thanksgiving weekend and that it is the start for a good holiday season for however celebrated.  I'm still in awe of the 49ers and they play they done this year and hope it continues.  There is not much else happening for me right now so I'll just get on with my selections for the week.


Down to Earth (2001):  This is part three of my four-part Regina King series.  The Weitz brothers directed this variation of HERE COMES MR. JORDAN and HEAVEN CAN WAIT.  Chris Rock stars as struggling comedian Lance Barton who is trying to make it into the world of comedy but is unable to win over an audience.  Things seem to be looking up until he dies unexpectedly.  It turns out this was an error from up above so is offered the body of a wealthy older man named Charles Wellington, played by Brian Rhodes, until they find him a better body.  When in this body, he begins to see the corrupt man that Wellington is and tries to make up for his misdeeds.  King, Chazz Palminteri, Eugene Levy, Frankie Faison, Mark Addy, Greg Germann, Jennifer Coolidge, Wanda Sykes, John Cho, and many others co-star in this comedy.  People might need to be a fan of Rock to really enjoy this movie and it might be a role he relates to some in his early career.  There are some pretty funny moments with the cast and I thought Palminteri and Levy made a good heavenly team.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.


Once Brothers (2010):  I follow up with this documentary which is technically an episode of the ESPN series 30 FOR 30.  Michael Tolajian directed this documentary which takes a look at former NBA players Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic.  This documents their early days when they were teammates on the Yugoslavian team which also included Toni Kucoc and Dino Radja who are both interviewed.  It then talks about they time they both made the NBA and the different paths they took.  The most important element of the documentary is the falling out between these friends when there is a civil war in Yugoslavia and they were part of opposite countries.  Unfortunately, they never got to bury the hatchet when Petrovic was killed in a car accident in 1993.  Divac provides the narration and reflects on the ups and downs of those times.  This was a very well done documentary while very sad at the same time.  I really did not know much about these guys until I watched this documentary.  One of my favorite scenes was in the modern times when Vlade and Magic Johnson sat down and had a reflective conversation.  This is available on ESPN + and is really worth a watch as well as many other episodes.


The Christmas Chronicles (2018):  This is the first of the holiday selections.  Clay Kaytis directed this holiday film which stars Judah Lewis and Darby Camp star as siblings Teddy and Kate who are looking to catch Santa Claus on camera and unexpectedly go on a journey where they must help Santa, played by Kurt Russell.  Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Oliver Hudson, Vella Lovell, Jameson Kraemer, Martin Roach, Lamorne Morris, Steven Van Zandt, and many others co-star in this future holiday classic.  Van Zandt is very amusing in his cameo appearance.  This is a very fun holiday movie that I think just about anyone can enjoy.  It has a lot of comedic moments and does good showing siblings trying to work together.  This is available to watch on Netflix.


Big Business (1929):  This is my silent comedy short for the week and is kind of a holiday selection.  This features the legendary comedy duo of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy where they are Christmas Tree Salesmen.  They get into an argument with a prospective customer and destruction ensues with comedic results.  They decided to stick to silent for this one even though talkies were getting started.  Maybe due to the budget or just something they preferred, I don't have any information with that one.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.


The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949):  This is my Disney selection for the week.  This features two different short stories made into one.  The first is THE WIND AND THE WILLOWS by Kenneth Grahame where J. Thaddeus Toad gets into quite a bit of trouble and is up to his friends Badger, Rat, and Mole to save him.  The other story is Washington Irving's THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW where schoolmaster Ichabod Crane tries to win the affections of Katrina but is made difficult by town bully Brom Bones which I'm pretty sure they modeled into the character of Gaston in their much later film BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.  He also has to deal with a mysterious Headless Horseman.  This is not quite that Tim Burton tale.  Both of these are good family entertainment and a little over an hour long.  This is available to watch on Disney +.


The Hired Hand (1971):  This is my western for the week which was directed by Peter Fonda.  Fonda also stars as Harry Collings who has been a drifter with his friend Arch, played by Warren Oates, for a long time and decides to return to his home where his estranged wife Hannah, played by Verna Bloom, lives.  She reluctantly allows Harry and Arch to stay as farm hands and Harry must decide where his loyalties lie.  Servern Darden, Ann Doran, Ted Markland, Owen Orr, and many others co-star in thsi western.  It is hard to go much further with his without giving it away.  It has pretty limited violence but still has a good story and is a rather underrated one for my favorite Fonda in Peter.  I found this one to watch on Youtube.


Christmas Comes to Canaan (2011):  This is my Hallmark movie for the week.  Neill Fearnley directed this Hallmark movie which stars Billy Ray Cyrus as widowed father Daniel Burton.  His son Bobber, played by Liam James, needs extensive orthopedic therapy.  Rodney, played by Matt Ward, who Daniel took in as his own and is now a successful writer being able to pay for Daniel and Bobber to get the therapy in California.  While they, they meet his therapist Briony, played by Gina Holden, who they both take a liking to while Daniel really hits it off with her.  We do find though his heart, as well as his daughter's, is still a bit achy and breaky for his late wife so a relationship could prove to be difficult .   Emily Tennant, Jacob Blair, Julian Christopher, Malcolm Stewart, and many others co-star in this movie.  I'm usually into the more dark and suspenseful but every once in awhile I just want a nice little heartwarming movie like this one.  This is quite predictable and Hallmark lovers should really like this one.  One element I really liked about this movie though is the small town element and a town coming together when needed.


Pickup on South Street (1953):  I get a bit darker on this selection.  Samuel Fuller directed this film noir.  Richard Widmark stars as pickpocket Skip McCoy who picks the purse of Candy, played by Jean Peters, not knowing that he has a microfilm for a communist scheme.  Thelma Ritter, Murvyn Vye, Richard Kiley, Willis Bouchey, and many others co-star in this film.  Ritter is very amusing as police informant Moe.  This is something that needs to be followed closely as many characters that are involved and none really seem to trust each other very much.  This is another I found on Youtube and is really worth a look.


Some of My Best Friends Are... (1971):  Mervyn Nelson directed and co-wrote this movie that took on a very taboo subject in this era.  This is as holiday movie in a sense in the way it takes place on Christmas Eve.  It takes place in a Greenwich Village gay bar called Blue Jay where a group of gays meet up knowing they can be themselves and not hide their sexuality.  James Murdock, Paul Blake, Carleton Carpenter, Candy Darling, Jeff Davis, Fannie Flagg, Joe George, Gil Gerard, Uva Harden, Rue McClanahan, and many others co-star in this movie.  This is more of a character driven movie and has multiple stories.  It is rather ahead of its time and is worth a look to see gay life in this era.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.


Killer Joe (2011):  For those tired of my holiday selections, I end the week with this much more bleak selection.  William Friedkin directed this film which is based on the play by Tracy Letts who wrote the screenplay.  Emile Hirsch stars as small town drug dealer Chris who is in debt with some people.  He learns of a very sizable inheritance he can get when his mother dies and is told of a hitman named Joe Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey, who leads a double life as a hitman and police detective.  When the deed is done, Chris does not have the money he thought he would have to pay off Joe and agrees to allow him to have his sister Dottie, played by Juno Temple, as a retainer.  Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon, Marc Macaulay, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a family that is as dysfunctional as it gets and is by no means a movie for everything with its dark, violent, and even sexual overtones.  McConaughey is great as the title character and this this ranks up in my favorite selections in film and my favorite of his.  I really hope that a theater near me will be daring enough to put this on as a play.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike but just know, there will be a handful of holiday selections this month so be prepared.  Stay tuned for next week.



Sunday, November 24, 2019

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 727th Edition


Welcome to the 727th Edition of my series.  I hope everyone has a good Thanksgiving and a safe black Friday for those crazy enough to get out in it.  I don't have a lot of else happening so I will just get on with my selections for the week.


Her (2013):  This is part four of my four-part Joaquin Phoenix series.  Spike Jonze wrote and directed this pretty light-hearted futuristic film.  Phoenix stars as a letter writer named Theodore who is going through a divorce and is rather lonely.  He decides to purchase the new OS1 operating system that is being billed as the first artificially intelligent operating system.  When installing it, the operating system is in the form of a female calling herself Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, who seems to have a mind of her own.  Theodore becomes drawn to Samantha to the point they form a very unconventional relationship.  Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Rooney Mara, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Matt Letscher, Olivia Wilde, Brian Cox, and many others co-star in this film.  Jonze is very amusing in his voicing of Alien Child.  The plot of this seems very absurd but it really works and Phoenix does a great job in helping that to happen.  In my four part series for Phoenix, I have included his very dark characters, even playing "himself" in I'M STILL HERE.  In this one, he is a lot lighter in his portrayal.  This does a great job of portraying a future without having to get real dark.  This is available to watch on Netflix.


The Heat Theory (1966):  This is my animated short for the week which is technically the first episode of the animated series SPACE GHOST which was an early superhero cartoon.  This is the first one where Space Ghost, voiced by Gary Owens, and his sidekicks Jan and Jace, voiced by Ginny Tyler and Tim Matheson, and their monkey Blip take on a lava monster.  This was an animated series that did 20 episodes but would live on, most notably in SPACE GHOST COAST TO COAST.


That Hamilton Woman (1941):  I saw this in part of the "Coffee and Classics" series they do at my local library.  Alexander Korda directed this film that takes place during the Napoleonic Wars.  Vivien Leigh stars as Emma who marries British ambassador William Hamilton, played by Alan Mowbray.  Things are going well until she meets Lord Horation Nelson, played by Laurence Olivier, where they form a relationship but keep being torn apart by the war.  Sara Allgood, Gladys Cooper, Henry Wilcoxon, Halliwell Hobbes, Gilbert Emery, Miles Mander, and many others co-star in this film.  This is the 3rd and last movie between Leigh and Olivier.  This is based on true events and is played out very well with Emma telling her story through the use of flashback.  This is available to watch on Criterion Channel.


Winning:  The Racing Life of Paul Newman (2015):  Adam Carolla and Nate Adams directed this documentary on Paul Newman which I guess goes without saying seeing as his name is in the title.  Most people know Paul Newman through years of great film and iconic characters but not so much for his real passion which was the world of auto racing.  I admit, I was kind of aware of it but not to the extent I learned in this movie.  When Newman was cast in the 1969 racing movie WINNING, he had to get some training for auto racing and took an actual liking to it.  He decided he wanted to continue learning and even had a pretty successful career as a driver and as an owner in the later years.  There are interviews with Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti, Jay Leno, Patrick Dempsey, Robert Redford, John Lasseter, and Robert Wagner.  While I vaguely knew of Newman as having involvement in auto racing, I did know know that Patrick Dempsey is also a professional auto racer.  Lasseter was one of the directors of CARS which has Newman as one of the voices and expresses gratitude towards Newman for helping to make it more authentic in the way of the racing.  It also goes briefly into his Newman's Own salad dressing brand and the charities it would support.  This was a very informative documentary and is available to watch on Amazon Prime.


She (1935):  Now I bring this sci-fi movie and the second selection that is the title of a feminine pronoun.  Lansing C. Holden and Irving Pichel directed this film based on a novel by H. Rider Haggard.  Randolph Scott stars as Leo Vincey who is told by his uncle of a land visited 500 years ago by his ancestor.  He sets out with family friend Horace, played by Nigel Bruce, and a guide's daughter Tanya, played by Helen Mack, to discover its land and the secret to immortality.  When getting there, they meet an immortal queen named She, played by Helen Gahagan, who believes Leo is his ancestor John Vincey.  This is kind of some pre-Indiana Jones and most notably INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM in my opinion.  There is an action climax where they evidently did not have the camera to do close up shots that I think would have made it better.  Other than that, some fun action from the era in this guilty pleasure.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.


If Beale Street Could Talk (2018):  This is part two of a possible four-part Regina King series.  Barry Jenkins directed this film based on a book by James Baldwin.  Kiki Layne stars as Tish who is a 19 year old learning she is pregnant.  She also is looking to prove the innocence of her friend and lover Fonny, who is the father of her child and in jail for a rape he did not commit.  King co-stars in this movie has Tish's compassionate mother Sharon.  Teyonnah Parris, Coman Domingo, Ebony Obsidian, Michael Beach, Aunjanue Ellis, Diego Luna, Emily Rios, Ed Skrein, Finn Wittrock, Brian Tyree Henry, Dave Franco, and many others co-star in this film.  This shows a family banding together to help Tish get through her pregnancy and with legal services.  It is a pretty moving story that can make one cringe at times and is available to watch on Hulu.


Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950):  Gordon Douglas directed this film noir which is based on the novel by Horace McCoy.  James Cagney stars as gangster Ralph Cotter who leads a very violent prison break.  He gets the help of Holiday Carleton, played by Barbara Payton whose brother was part of the prison break but did not make it.  Ralph manages to lure Holiday into a life of crime and others around him.  Helena Carter, Ward Bond, Luther Adler, Barton McLane, Steve Brodie, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a more unknown Cagney film but is very compelling in the way he manages to corrupt those around him.  This is available to watch on Youtube.


Big Time (1988):  This has nothing to do with the song by Peter Gabriel.  This is part of the library series "Attack of the Movie" where each month a few librarians choose a movie which is usually maybe a b-movie or cult classic.  Librarian Luke chose this movie which is a rather unique sort of concert film with Tom Waits which was a combination of music and a bit of comedy.  This is pretty hard to put into words and probably need to be a least somewhat a fan of Waits.  This was a very intriguing experience is the best I can really say about this movie.


Walk on the Wild Side (1962):  This has nothing to do with the song by Lou Reed.  Edward Dmytryk directed this film based on a novel by Nelson Algren.  This takes place in New Orleans bordello in the 1930s.  Capucine stars as their main attaction Hallie whose rather comfortable life is disrupted by past love Dove Linklorn, played by Laurence Harvey.  Jane Fonda, Anne Baxter, Barbara Stanwyck, Joanna Moore, Richard Rust, Karl Swenson, Don Barry, and many others co-star in this film.  This is more of an ensemble piece among characters.  This is a pretty compelling film that is another one that is difficult to put into words.  This relatively unknown movie is available to watch on Amazon Prime.


Wings of Desire (1987):  I end the week with this selection that I got to view as part of the Cinemuncie series so I'm pretty sure this is the first time I have included Coffee and Classics, Attack of the Movie, and Cinemuncie in one week.  Wim Wenders directed this German film for which he co-wrote.  Bruno Gans and Otto Sander star as angels Damiel and Cassiel.  They wander the West Berlin area to observe and preserve life.  Damiel sees a trapese artist in Marion, played by Solveig Dommartin, and takes a liking to her to the point that he wants to turn into a human.  Peter Falk co-stars in this movie as himself where he is working on the set of a movie and we learn a lot about him in this movie.  Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are also in this movie in a live music setting.  This would be remade into CITY OF ANGELS but could not come close to this one.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.

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




Sunday, November 17, 2019

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 726th Edition


Welcome to the 726th Edition of my series.  There is not much happening at this time, I've just been trying to survive the weather brought on this week.  I will just get on with my selections for the week.


I'm Still Here (2010):  This is part three of a four-part Joaquin Phoenix series.  Casey Affleck goes behind the camera to direct this "documentary" on his brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix.  This takes a look at the time that Phoenix decided to retire from the acting industry to pursue a career in hip-hop.  The most known part of this movie was when Phoenix went on David Letterman in a very unusual interview that inspired countless imitations.  We all know this "retirement" did not last and and as far as I know he did not put out any actual albums.  In the end, it was an Andy Kaufman sort of stunt.  This lasted about a year and they did a very good job with this.  Phoenix did make some recordings and performed in some nightclubs.  I will say that words cannot describe how weird this was but yet I could not take my eyes off it.  I also believe that Todd Phillips saw this and decided that Phoenix would be perfect for his movie JOKER which I featured last week.  This is available to watch on Hoopla Digital.


Chess in Concert (2009):  This is technically an episode of GREAT PERFORMANCES but as I always say, this is my blog so I get to decide what qualifies as a movie.  This is a musical which was written by Tim Rice and Abba members Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus.  Adam Pascal and Josh Groban star as Frederick Thumper and Anatoly Sergievsky who are rivals in both chess and love.  Idina Menzel, David Bedella, Kerry Ellis, Clarke Peters, and many others co-star in this live concert musical.  This takes place during the cold war in the '80s which was around the time it was written.  I actually was not aware the song ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK originated from this musical.  This does have some very good music numbers and performances and was very fun to watch.


The Life of David Gale (2003):  Alan Parker directed this film which really brings the death penalty into question.  Kevin Spacey stars as the title character who is a big advocate against the death penalty a and ironically convicted of murder while being sentenced to death.  Kate Winslet co-stars as reporter Bitsey Bloom who is assigned to do an interview with Gale and decides to investigate the murder a little further before he is put to death learning some disturbing things along the way.  Laura Linney, Gabriel Mann, Matt Craven, Brandy Little, Rhona Mitra, Jim Beaver, Cleo King, Melissa McCarthy, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a pretty disturbing and intriguing film that really kept me guessing.  They made very good use of flashback to learn of the character of David Gale and the people around him.  This is available on Amazon Prime.


Begone Dull Care (1949):  This is my animated short film for the week which was directed by Evelyn Lambart and Norman McLaren.  This short film uses abstract animation to music by the Oscar Peterson Trio.  The animation that is being done is called camera-less animation and is about eight minutes long.  People who are fans of abstract art and jazz music should really enjoy this one.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.


My Man Godfrey (1936):  Now I bring lighter comedy to the week.  Gregory La Cava directed this classic comedy which stars William Powell as the title character.  Godfrey is a homeless man and meets socialite Irene Bullock, played by Carole Lombard, who is playing a "game" and ends up hiring him as a butler in the Bullock home.  Godfrey soon learns how rich the family is and how nutty that family is as well.  We soon learn there is a lot more to our Godrey than meets they eye.  Alice Brady, Gail Patrick, Eugene Pallette, Jean Dixon, Alan Mowbray, Mischa Auer, Pat Flaherty, Robert Light, and many others co-star in this comedy.  This has many funny moments and makes good comedy out of the imperfections of a wealthy and rather dysfunctional family.  Powell and Lombard were a real-life divorced couple and Powell suggested his own ex-wife for the role feeling their relationship was similar to the characters in the movie.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime and has options of watching it in black and white and in color.


The Killers (1964):  This is part two of a possible Ronald Reagan trilogy.  Don Siegel directed this film which is based on the book by Ernest Hemingway.  Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager star as hitmen Charlie and Lee who perform a hired job of race car driver Johnny North, played by John Cassavetes, and Charlie becomes intrigued and curious on why the the victim did not run or put up a fight.  Reagan, Angie Dickinson, Claude Akins, Norman Fell, Virginia Christine, and many others co-star in this film.  This is the second adaptation of Hemingway's novel and a remake to the movie made in 1946 which I have not seen but will look to get a hold of it at some point soon.  The biggest reason I wanted to see this one was to see Reagan in his last feature film before he would go into politics and never return to the world of acting.  This is also the only movie where Reagan played a villainous character which he apparently hated but did a pretty good job.  Obviously I cannot say one way or the other if this is better than the first movie but still found this to be quite enjoyable.  This is available to watch for free on Youtube.


Mr. Church (2016):  I have had some pretty dark selections so far which I usually favor that sort of thing but sometimes I just want something much lighter and sentimental which comes in the form of this movie.  Bruce Beresford directed this film which was based on a short story called THE COOK WHO CAME TO LIVE WITH US and stars Eddie Murphy as the title character.  Mr. Church is a cook and seems to be just a jack of all trades when he is appointed to cook for the terminally ill Marie, played by Natascha McElhone, and her daughter Charlie, played by Britt Robinson and Natalie Coughlin in the younger years.  This was supposed to be a six month arrangement which was the estimated time that Marie had to live but it spanned many years and becomes more of a friend and family member.  Xavier Samuel, Lucy Fry, Christian Madsen, McKenna Grace, Madison Wolfe, Lincoln Melcher, and many others co-star in this film.  Madsen is the son of actor Michael Madsen and is very obvious.  This is a very touching movie and shows how little things can a make a difference in the lives of others.  Murphy does very well in this role which was his first movie in four years.  This is available to watch on Netflix.


Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954):  This is my second musical for the week which was directed by Stanley Donen with the musical numbers written by Gene de Paul and Johnny Mercer.  Howard Keel stars as Adam Pontipee who lives in the backwoods with six other brothers and is the oldest of them all.  He goes into town in search of a wife and finds one that very day in Milly, played by Jane Powell, who he convinces to marry him that very day.  The other brothers decide they want a woman in their lives and go about it by essentially kidnapping the women they liked.  Russ Tamblyn, Tommy Rall, Marc Platt, Jane Powell, Julie Newmar, Betty Carr, Ruta Lee, Ian Wolfe, and many others co-star in this musical.  This is a bit dated by today's standards and these sort of methods would not likely go over well when looking for love.  Either way, it was still a pretty well done movie with some good musical numbers which might have made the movie most watchable.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.


Boxcar Bertha (1972):  Now I bring some early Martin Scorsese with Roger Corman as the producer and loosely based on a book by Ben L. Reitman called SISTER OF THE ROAD.  Barbara Hershey stars as Bertha Thompson who was a labor organizer during the Depression and meets union man "Big" Bill Shelley, played by David Carradine.  Together, they band together to take on a corrupt railroad while becoming criminals in the process.  Barry Primus, John Carradine, Bernie Casey, Victor Argo, Harry Northup, and many others co-star in this film.  As far as I know this is the only time that David Carradine has done a movie with his father John but I could be wrong so I welcome any corrections.  This comes fresh after Corman's gangster film BLOODY MAMA and wanted to follow up with another female gangster sort of movie.  This does give a good look at the Depression era and the kinds of things people would do in order to survive.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.


Seven Seconds (2018):  This is part one of my possible four-part Regina King series.  I end the week on this mini-series so technically not a movie but as I said on my second selection, my blog, my rules.  Racial tensions hit in the Jersey area when an African American teen is hit and critically injured on his bike by a cop.  This officer happens to be part of a corrupt unit that could be comparable to the Strike Team on the FX series THE SHIELD and they do what they must to cover up the crime.  Clare-Hope Ashitey plays the main character in troubled prosecuting attorney KJ Harper who is assigned the investigation of the crime and later a trial.  She gets help in detective Joe 'Fish' Rinaldi in her investigation but have trouble coexisting at first.  Russell Hornsby and Regina King also co-star as the boys parents whose lives are changed forever and each handle it in different ways.  Beau Knapp, David Lyons, Raul Castillo, Patrick Murney, Zachary Momoh, Michelle Veintimilla, Nadia Alexander, Jeremy Davidson, Coley Speaks, Adriana DeMeo, Corey Champagne, Lesli Margherita, Fredric Lehne, Gretchen Mol, David Zayas, and many others co-star in this mini-series.  Lyons plays his role well as a corrupt cop being extremely unlikable and really having no redeeming qualities.  This is ten episodes long with each being around an hour.  This is a good look at how lives can change with a tragedy for both friends, family, and just those involved like the investigators.  This is available to watch on Netflix.

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


THE BOOKWORM CORNER


Wicked Ways by Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush (2014):  I obtained this book when I was at a movie viewing at the library and those attended got to pick a book and this one sounded the most compelling to me and with my wanting to start reading I figured I'd just give that a shot.  This story centers around surburban wife and mother Elizabeth Gaines Ellis whose husband and other people have died seemingly after she wished them dead.  A distant cousin named Ravinia hires a private investigator looking to find Elizabeth to let know what is going on with Elizabeth.  I found this to be a very compelling story that kept my interest and tried to read a chapter every day of the 400+ page book.  I see there are more books in the Wicked series that have various characters so could be something I look into in the future.