Sunday, June 9, 2019

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 708th Edition


Welcome to the 708th Edition of my series.  After years of doing this on a weekly basis, I'm about to announce something I have never done.  No, I'm not stopping altogether but I am going to take a break until maybe mid-July.  I am having to work a little bit later than usual and the play I am doing requires me to leave a lot earlier leaving me pretty little time to put the dedication I need.  I am proud to be in THE LARAMIE PROJECT and hope that people in or near my area will be able to come out to the show.  I want to thank everyone for their support and I will return.


Casino (1995):  This is part four of my Robert De Niro series.  Martin Scorsese directed this mob film which is based on the novel by Nicholas Pileggi who co-wrote the screenplay.  Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci star as mobsters Sam "Ace" Rothstein and Nicky Santoro who movie to Vegas where Rothstein becomes a casino owner and Nicky is his very violent enforcer.  The story really revolves around Rothstein's relationship with with Nicky which is very difficult due to Nicky's violent nature and Rothstein's volatile relationship and marriage with socialite Ginger, played by Sharon Stone.  James Woods, Don Rickles, Alan King, Kevin Pollak, L.Q. Jones, Dick Smothers, Frank Vincent, John Bloom, Pasquale Cajano, Paul Herman, and many others co-star in this film.  This is based on a true story of mobsters Frank Rosenthal and Anthony Spilotro whose characters that De Niro and Pesci and based upon.  This does not hold back much on the violence so that could be a precaution to take.  It is easy to compare this movie to GOODFELLAS but I just say these are both two mob films that each have their own very interesting mob story and could be made into a good double feature.


Creed (2015):  This is my third fight movie in three weeks dealing with either boxing or MMA.  Ryan Coogler directed and co-wrote this film which stars Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson whose father was the legendary boxer Apollo Creed who died before he was born.  Adonis has had a troubled life and looks to rise up in the boxing ranks.  He decides to move to Philadelphia and enlist the help of former champion Rocky Balboa, reprised by Stallone, who reluctantly takes Adonis on as a trainee.  Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Andre Ward, Tony Bellew, Ritchie Coster, Jacob Duran, Graham McTavish, and many others co-star in this film.  This was a pretty good passing the torch sort of film where we once again get to see the iconic Rocky Balboa and on the other side of the trainer this time around.  I also really liked how Rocky was supportive of Adonis in his relationship with Bianca, played by Thompson, where I have seen others discourage this sort of thing including Rocky's own trainer Mick.  This is a very realistic looking film about boxing with Jordan and Stallone working very well together and a lot of the fighters are real-life boxers including Bellew who plays "Pretty" Ricky Conlon.


The Post (2017):  Steven Spielberg directed this film which has the first teaming of Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep.  Hanks stars as editor Ben Bradlee and Streep stars as Kay Graham who has the first female published newspaper.  They uncover a scandal regarding Vietnam which spans four different presidents and must fight for their freedom of the press to get their story out.  Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys, Allison Brie, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons, David Cross, Zach Woods, Pat Healy, Michael Stuhlbarg, and many others co-star in this film.  It's a pretty complicated film to really describe.  It is pretty relevant to our society today with politics and the media.  If looking for a good political film, this is one to give a look.


Carrots and Peas (1969):  This is my short film for the week.  This is an experimental short by Hollis Frampton and my understanding is that the narration is the compare and contrast of peas and carrots.  Unfortunately there are no subtitles in what I saw so I don't really know what his thoughts were.  Frampton made a career of short films and as a photographer.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel and is only about five minutes.


Baby Face (1933):  Alfred E. Green directed this film which is part of what they call the pre-code era and based on a story by Darryl F. Zanuck using the pseudonym Mark Canfield.  Barbara Stanwyck stars as Lily who has been sexually exploited all her life and decided to turn the tables by sleeping her way to the top of a bank including a lovesick John Wayne in a much different role than we are used to seeing him in.  George Brent, Donald Cook, Alphonse Ethier, Henry Kolker, Margaret Lindsey, and many others co-star in this film.  This was a pretty daring film for its time and maybe of worth just to see John Wayne as a rather lovesick puppy.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.


The Big Heat (1953):  Now I go the Film Noir route which was directed by Fritz Lang and based on a Saturday Evening Post serial by William P. McGivern.  Glenn Ford stars as tough cop Dave Bannion who looks to go against a crime syndicate and goes full force after a car bomb meant for him gets his wife and daughter instead.  Gloria Grahame co-stars as mob girl Debby who does not like her place with them and looks to help Dave in his fight.  Jocelyn Brando, Alexander Scourby, Lee Marvin, Jeanette Nolan, Peter Whitney, and many others co-star in this film.  Jocelyn Brando is the older sister of Marlon and plays Dave's wife in the film.  She obviously did not achieve the fame her brother was able to get.  Grahame is probably most known as Violet in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE and always felt she was rather underrated.  This was a pretty hard nosed action film from that era and holds up well today.  This is also available on the Criterion Channel.


Charlie's Angels (2000):  Now I bring the fun guilty pleasure based on the popular tv series from the '70s.  Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu star as our angel trio that work for Charlie Townsend, reprised by John Forsythe in the same sort of format that show does, and are hired on cases.  Bill Murray co-stars as Bosley who also works for Charlie and works with the angels.  Sam Rockwell, Kelly Lynch, Tim Curry, Crispin Glover, Matt Leblanc, LL Cool J, Tom Green, Luke Wilson, Sean Whalen, Melissa McCarthy, and many others co-star in this film.  What more do I need to say about this one.  This is an absolute fun action movie with the characters and the action that I just cannot help but enjoy.


Someone I Touched (1975):  This is my tv movie for the week.  Cloris Leachman stars as Laura Hyatt who learns she is pregnant but also learns her husband, played by James Olson, had an affair and has venereal disease.  Glynnis O'connor co-stars as Carrie who had the affair with her husband.  Andrew Robinson, Allyn Ann McLerie, Lenka Peterson, Kenneth Mars, and many others co-star in this tv movie.  These were a pretty popular tv movie subject at the time and essentially propaganda for sexually transmitted diseases.  Nothing great but still of interest and is available to watch on Amazon Prime.


It Happened to Jane (1959):  Richard Quine directed this comedy that is part romantic comedy but much more.  Doris Day stars as Jane Osgood who is a single mother of two children and runs a lobster business.  When the train shipment screws up, she turns to her friend and attorney George, played by Jack Lemmon, and sues "the meanest man in the world" Harry Foster Malone, played by Ernie Kovacs, who is the head of the train.  Steve Forrest, Teddy Rooney, Mary Wickes, Philip Coolidge, and many others co-star in this film.  While there was the romantic comedy element in the film, it is more about going after what is right and not settling.  I guess this is the theme of all the injury attorney commercials out there.  This is also available to watch on Amazon Prime.


Home (2008):  I end the week with this Swiss film which was directed by Ursula Meier.  This is centered around a rural family, which includes Isabelle Huppert, Olivier Gourmet, Adelaide Leroux, Madeleine Budd, and Kacey Mottet Klein, who have always enjoyed their isolated life but things change when a highway is opened right by their home.  It really has a different effect on each character and the script really revolves around the characters.  This was a really compelling and sometimes sad film on how quick lives can change.  This is available to watch on Hoopla Digital.

That is it for this week and the next few weeks.  I will be back so stay tuned.



Sunday, June 2, 2019

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 707th Edition


Welcome to the 707th Edition of my series.  I would like to announce that I am going to be in the play THE LARAMIE PROJECT at the Center Stage Community Theater in Lebanon, Indiana.  I am known to make commutes to be in plays but this is one I would usually say is out of my radius but a friend of mine in Anderson who was in the show reached out to me letting me know there is one more role and that I could ride with him if I get the part and that is how I'm getting to rehearsals.  Info on the show is on the bottom.  That is all I really have going on at this time so I will just get on with my selections for the week.


Warrior (2011):  This is part one of a possible two-part Joel Edgerton series.  Gavin O'Connor directed and co-wrote this film that centers around the world of mixed martial arts.  The story centers around a broken family that involves brothers Brendan and Tommy Conlon, played by Edgerton and Tom Hardy, and their father Paddy.  Tommy is a former marine with a haunted past and returns home enlisting his father to train him for an MMA tournament.  Brendan has his life more together but is struggling financially and takes fights to make extra money in addition to being a school teacher and finds his way into the tournament.  Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo, Kevin Dunn, Maximiliano Hernandez, Denzel Whitaker, Noah Emmerich, Kurt Angle, and many others co-star in this film.  Former WWE champion and olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle has a cameo as the Russian fighter Koba so is an American gold medalist playing a Russian.  MMA was the backdrop but in the end, it was more about trying to reconnect with family and people coming together in support.


Robin Hood Makes Good (1939):  This is my animated short for the week.  This centers around a trio of squirrels who like to play Robin Hood.  The littlest one always has to be the villain even though he wants to be the hero.  An actual fox captures the other two where the youngest squirrel must play Robin Hood to rescue his friends.  This was pretty entertaining and I am pretty sure these squirrels came before the famous chipmunks Chip and Dale.  This is available on Amazon Prime on "Cartoon Classics Vol. 3" and can likely be found on Youtube.


New York, New York (1977):  This is part three of my Robert De Niro series that is intended to go six parts.  Martin Scorsese directed this film on the music industry.  Robert De Niro stars as ambitious saxophone player Jimmy Doyle and Liza Minelli stars as a singer named Francine Evans who meet on V-J day and form a very up and down relationship along with their successful music careers that at times are what divide them.  Lionel Stander, Mary Kay Place, Barry Primer, Clarence Clemons, Diahnne Abbott, Frank Sivero, Casey Kasem, and many others co-star in this film.  Scorsese had this very well framed to look like the period it was to be in at the time.  De Niro learned the saxophone for this movie and it shows very well.  This also brings us the iconic title theme song from Fred Ebb and John Kander which I didn't know this was the movie that brought us this song.  That song was not the original song and the one originally wrote was scrapped at the insistence of De Niro which brought us the NEW YORK, NEW YORK song that I think just about everyone knows so a similar story to the song HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS from MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS.  De Niro and Minelli work very well together and a pretty good film on music and relationships.


Four Lions (2010):  Chris Morris wrote and directed this very dark comedy.  Riz Ahmed, Kayvan Novak, Nigel Lindsey, Arsher Ali, and Adeel Akhtar star in this film as a group of British Jihadists that are all disgruntled about something in their country and look to commit an act of terror.  The only problem is they are very incompetent in being terrorists.  Julia Davis, Craig Parkinson, Preeya Kalidas, Waleed Elgadi, Alex MacQueen, Benedict Cumberbatch, and many others co-star in this dark comedy.  This is not for everyone but is very funny if not offended easy.  There were times I thought "wtf" but yet could not take my eyes off of it and in the end I just laughed.  This is a very interesting satire that is available to watch on Hoopla Digital.


Street of Shame (1956):  This is one of two Japanese films featured this this week's edition.  Kenji Mizoguchi directed this film based on a novel by Yoshiko Shibaki.  This centers around a group of prostitutes in a Japanese brothel who at this time are working legally but learn there is a good chance that prostitution will be banned.  They each have different stories when considering what they can do if they are no longer able to do the jobs they have done.  This is a really good and even heartbreaking film that focuses on the characters trying to figure out how they will transition if prostitution becomes illegal.  They are all portrayed as decent people just making a living.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.


Mission:  Impossible (1996):  Brian De Palma directed this film based on the popular tv series and what started a very popular film franchise.  Tom Cruise stars as American agent Ethan Hunt who was on an assignment gone wrong and framed for the murders of members of his team.  Hunt, with a new team, must do what he can to clear his name.  Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart, Henry Czerny, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Andreas Wisniewski, and many others co-star in this action film.  As stated, this is the start of what has become quite the franchise.  This is hard to explain without really giving away too much.  It can be rather convoluted but I can give that a pass with all the enjoyment I get from the action.


The Young Boss (1958):  This is my second Japanese film for the week.  Kiyoshi Saeki directed this Japanese film which centers around twins that were separated by birth under the belief that twins bring bad luck to the family.  One of them is raised in a family of peace and the other by the Yakuza only to reunite years later.  I can see that this never really had much of a release judging by no user reviews or rating on imdb.  This is a pretty compelling film which is available on Amazon Prime but appears to have been buried as even that does not have anything in the way of reviews so maybe we can make a cult classic out of this one.


Incredibles 2 (2018):  Brad Bird wrote and directed this long awaited sequel of the popular 2004 Pixar film.  We join the Parr family of Bob, Helen, Violett, Dash, and Jack-Jack, played by Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, and Eli Fucile, who still live in a world where superheroes are illegal.  They have an opportunity to prove to the world when Elastigirl is hired to try solving the mystery of the identity of a villain named Screenslaver.  Bob is left with the hardest job of his life in a stay at home dad while learning of baby Jack-Jack's powers which are some of the funniest scenes in my opinion.  Soon, things get difficult for Helen and the rest of the family inevitably must join in on the action.  Catherine Keener, Samuel L. Jackson, Sophia Bush, Phil Lamarr, Isabella Rossellini, Jonathan Banks, John Ratzenberger, Nicholas Bird, Paul Eiding, Barry Bostwick, Jere Burns, and many others co-star in this film.  I feel this is a great sequel and has its own really good story that is not really a rehash to the first one.  Like the first one, it is a very good story of family banding together in difficult times.  I will let everyone know that there is no end credit scene.  I recall staying in the theater waiting around but never happening.  This is available to watch on Netflix.


Skin Game (1971):  This is my western comedy for the week which was directed by Paul Bogart.  James Garner and Louis Gossett Jr. star as con man duo Quincy Drew and Jason O'Rourke.  Their scheme is Quincy posing as a slave dealer and selling off Jason who is really a free man.  They make their money and Jason goes escapes back into freedom.  Susan Clark, Brenda Sykes, Edward Asner, Andrew Duggan, Henry Jones, Neva Patterson, Parley Baer, George Tyne, and many others co-star in this comedy.  I realize that in this week, I have this movie and my other selection of FOUR LIONS that make comedy out of very taboo topics but manage to make it work and make it enjoyable.  Garner and Gossett make a great team that goes unknown today and probably could have done more.  This would be a really good double feature to have with the more known 1974 western comedy BLAZING SADDLES.


Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine (2014):  Upon joining the cast of THE LARAMIE PROJECT, we were asked to watch this documentary.  Michele Josue directed this documentary about her friend Matt Shepard who was a gay man attending the University of Wyoming and murdered in 1998 in a hate crime murder.  She goes around interviewing those closest to him including his family and friends who reflect on the ups and downs of Matt's short but memorable life and the awareness that came after this horrific incident.  For those who do not know, the play I am in is also based on this murder and the aftermath of it.  This is a very emotional but rewarding watch with Josue doing a great job putting this together.  This would be a good double feature to follow up with the 2002 movie THE LARAMIE PROJECT and to come see my show if possible.  This is available to watch on Hulu.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone and many others and no I don't have any movies that feature both De Niro and Stallone.



Sunday, May 26, 2019

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 706th Edition


Welcome to the 706th Edition of my series.  It's good to finally see some nice weather for a change.  I hope everyone enjoys their Memorial Day weekend however celebrated.  I don't have much going on at this time so I will just get on with my selections for the week.


Hands of Stone (2016):  This is part two of my Robert De Niro series that could go six parts.  Jonathan Jakubowicz directed and wrote this biopic which is based on boxer Roberto Duran, played by Edgar Ramirez, and his legendary manager Ray Arcel, played by De Niro.  This is mostly based on their relationship that lead to a championship bout with Sugar Ray Leonard, played by Usher Raymond, but also based on their personal lives.  Ruben Blades, Ana de Armas, Ellen Barkin, John Turturro, Oscar Jaenada, Jurnee Smollet-Bell, Ilza Ponko, Anthony Molinari, Rick Avery, Robb Skyler, Joe Urla, Eliud Kauffman, Reg E. Cathey, and many others co-star in this film.  I thought this was a good boxing film that focused well on the two main people in Duran and Arcel in their troubled lives.  This would be a good double feature to watch along with De Niro's RAGING BULL where I learned when filming that movie, De Niro met Arcel in which he portrayed.


Doggone Tired (1949):  This is my animated short for the week which was directed by Tex Avery.  This centers around a very energetic hunting dog who needs his sleep to be ready for rabbit hunting.  A very clever rabbit does what he can to keep the dog awake.  There is a little bit of human dialogue, otherwise everything between the animals is non-verbal and the rabbit's actions toward the dog with the dog's reactions do all the talking necessary.  Lots of interesting cartoon violence and lots of humor in this animated short.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime as part of the "Cartoon Classics Vol. 3" series.


In Harm's Way (1965):  I saw this in a showing of the "Coffee and Classics" series at my local library.  Otto Preminger directed this film that is based on the novel by James Bassett.  This centers around WWII where John Wayne stars as U.S. Naval Captain Rock Torrey who must reprimand his friend Cammander Paul Eddington, played by Kirk Douglas after Pearl Harbor.  Eddington later gets a chance to prove himself again the Japanese.  The movie mostly centers around the friendship of to characters as well as Rock with his love interest in military nurse Maggie, played by Patricia Neal, and him trying to connect with his son Jere, played by Brandon De Wilde, who is now in the military and has not seen since he was a little kid.  Tom Tryon, Paula Prentiss, Jill Haworth, Dana Andrews, Stanley Holloway, Burgess Meredith, Franchot Tone, Patrick O'Neal, Carroll O'Connor, James Mitchum, George Kennedy, Bruce Cabot, Barbara Bouchet, Tod Andrews, Larry Hagman, Henry Fonda, and many others co-star in this film.  De Wilde is probably most known as the boy from the classic western SHANE.  This is Wayne's last black and white film.  This is pretty good movie centered around the navy but really around the characters.  There are some pretty intense scenes in the movie and is not always easy to watch which I feel in some ways should be that way in war films.  This could be good to have a double feature with FROM HERE TO ETERNITY.


The Simpsons Movie (2007):  This is part two of my two-part Hank Azaria series.  This very popular and long running animated series gets the movie treatment.  Homer, voiced by Dan Castellaneta, accidentally pollutes the town's water supply which results in a dome being put over Springfield and with him and the rest of the family, voiced by Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, and Yeardley Smith, become fugitives.  Corrupt EPA boss Russ Cargill, voiced by Albert Brooks, looks to take advantage of the situation by destroying Springfield.  Azaria, Harry Shearer, Pamela Hayden, Tress MacNeille, Marcia Wallace, Russi Taylor, Maggie Roswell, Joe Mantegna, and many others provide their voices.  To enjoy this, you must be a fan of the series.  I have always been a casual fan but enjoy it when I see it usually and thought this was a fun movie that some could say was just an extra episode.


An Inn in Tokyo (1935):  This is my silent film for the week which was directed by Yasujiro Ozu.  Takeshi Samamoto stars as Kihachi who is a single and unemployed father with two sons and struggling to find work.  Through his struggles, he manages to hit it off with a cafe owner and begins to rethink his life.  This is a statement on the struggle of the common man and has been a common theme in our own country and can happen anywhere else we go.  I am also sure some will see the year and not be able to believe this is a silent film.  In the United States, we were well into the "talkie" films with some exception to Charlie Chaplin.  Japan had started doing them in 1930 but I don't think they had the budget or technology to do them regularly so they made a lot more in the '30s period.  Regardless of whether or not they talk in this movie, it is still a very compelling film that stays relevant today.  This can be found on the Criterion Collection.


The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (2001):  This is my second one that was featured at the Muncie Public Library as part of their "Attack of the Movie" series.  Larry Blamire wrote and directed this film that is essentially an homage to the old B-movies.  Blamire also stars as scientist Dr. Paul Armstrong who along with his wife, played by Fay Masterson must look to save the world and find an Atmospherium.  There is also an alien couple, played by Andrew Parks and Susan McConnell, and a mad scientist, played by Brian Howe, who are after it for the own reasons.  Jennifer Blaire, Dan Conroy, Robert Deveau, and Darrin Reed co-star in this comedy.  I had never heard of this until it was presented.  Blamire and the cast do a great job of making this into a bad movie and was extremely funny and enjoyable.  Blaire was also very amusing as Animala and clearly had a very fun time.   Much of the cast was very experienced and had to put a lot of effort to be bad enough to achieve the vision of a B-movie.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime and really deserves to get more exposure.


The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978):  This was another presentation from Muncie Public Library showing what is technically the second STAR WARS movie.  My last selection was meant to look like a bad movie that is funny, this one is just unintentionally funny and so bad that it is rather enjoyable.  Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford, and Chewbacca, played by Peter Mayhew, are trying to get to Chewbacca's planet Kashyyyk for Life Day which is the equivalent of Christmas in this universe but get themselves into a battle with the empire.  The other storyline going on involves Chewbacca's wife, son, and father who await Chewy to get home so we have some wookies talking to each other a lot but have no subtitles to know what they are saying.  This is the only time we would ever see these particular wookies in a STAR WARS film.  Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Carrie Fisher, Kenny Baker, and James Earl Jones reprise their roles from the 1977 film.  There is also an animated sequence that introduces Boba Fett which might be the best part of this movie.  Bea Arthur, Art Carney, Diahann Carroll, Harvey Korman, and even Jefferson Starship have cameos in this movie with some of them having musical numbers as well as Carrie Fisher.  George Lucas has seen to it that any copies found need to be destroyed so this is not one that will be included on any of the boxed sets of the STAR WARS franchise.


Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016):  Tim Burton directed this fantasy film which is based on the book by Ransom Riggs.  Asa Butterfield stars as Jacob whose grandfather, played by Terence Stamp, has been telling stories to him all his life that seem impossible but learns these stories might be true.  He finally meets the title character, played by Eva Green, who runs a home of youth that have special abilities which is in danger from others that use their powers for evil.  Jacob learns that he is not as normal as he thought and that his own "peculiarity" is what they need to save them.  Ella Purnell, Judi Dench, Samuel L. Jackson, Rupert Everett, Allison Janney, Chris O'Dowd, Finlay MacMillan, Lauren McCrostie, Georgia Perberton, Milo Parker, Raffiella Chapman, Pixie Davies, O-Lan Jones, and many others co-star in this film.  I have not read the book so I cannot judge on account of that but still a pretty enjoyable fantasy movie in my opinion with really good visuals set against an interesting WWII backdrop.


The Burglar (1957):  This is my film noir for the week which was directed by Paul Wendkos and based on the novel by David Goodis.  Dan Duryea stars as professional burglar Nat Harbin who along with his associates rob a wealthy spiritualist.  Most of the movie is dealing with the aftermath of this crime on on both the criminal and cop sides.  Jayne Mansfield, Martha Vickers, Peter Capell, Mickey Shaughnessy, and many others co-star in this crime drama.  This has not gotten much attention through the years.  I did feel that it captures the tension very well with the characters and has some good twists in there.  This really is worth a look and is available to watch on Amazon Prime.


The Favourite (2018):  This is my royalty biopic for the week which was directed by Yorgos Lanthimos.  In the early 18th Century England, a frail Queen Anne, played by Olivia Colman, occupies the country while her close friend Lady Sarah, played by Rachel Weisz, governs the country.  Emma Stone co-stars as Abigail who is a new servant that Sarah takes under her wing but soon form a bit of a rivalry toward the Queen.  James Smith, Nicholas Hoult, Mark Gatiss, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a very interesting look at royalty showing they are high class but act no different than anyone else is what I took from this film.  There are some very obscene scenes and may not be for everyone as I did this "wtf" at times.  It is still a very compelling film with good performances and Colman, Weisz, and Stone being a very good trio.

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



Sunday, May 19, 2019

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 705th Edition


Welcome to the 705th edition of my series.  Wednesday is my birthday so what better way to celebrate that at the Mark in Muncie for karaoke.  It is great seeing the weather getting nice again.  There is not much else happening at this time so I will just get on with my selections for the week.


West of Memphis (2012):  I start the week out with this documentary which was directed by Amy Berg and produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh.  This is a documentary that is based on the infamous West Memphis Three which were Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley.  As most know, these were three 17 year olds accused of the horrific murders of some children in Arkansas and convicted under very questionable evidence.  They have all since been released and are now moving forward in their lives.  Some might say that the last thing we need is another documentary on these guys after there have been three documentaries that have been done on HBO all called PARADISE LOST.  This is a really good companion piece that takes a closer look at the evidence and shows all the people that came together including a group of celebrities that included Peter Jackson, Johnny Depp, Henry Rollins, Eddie Vedder, the Dixie Chicks, and many others.  It also looks at some things that have been found since the third PARADISE LOST film as well as interviews from the loved ones involved.  There is also a really good music score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis that I just had to mention as a Nick Cave fan.  I do recommend watching the mentioned documentaries that were on HBO before watching this one but this goes along with them very well.


The Octopus (1928):  This is my short film for the week which was directed by Jean Painleve.  This takes a look at some underwater footage of an octopus and some of the things an octopus does in their lives.  Painleve did a lot of early documentaries mostly on sea life and I suppose was kind of a pioneer in this regard for the animal documentaries we love today.  This could have had a little music to it but that is okay, it was still interesting footage and is available on the Criterion Channel.


Roots (1977):  This is my mini-series for the week which is a dramatization based upon author Alex Haley's book about his family line.  This starts with Kunta Kinte, played by STAR TREK alum Lavar Burton in his younger days and by John Amos in his older days, who was born a free man in an African village then captured to be taken to America and enslaved.  Once enslaved, he is renamed Toby and was determined to become free.  The other characters mainly focused upon are Kunta's daughter Kizzy, played by Leslie Uggams, and his grandson Chicken George, played by Ben Vereen.  BRADY BUNCH alum Robert Reed, Louis Gossett Jr., Lynda Day George, Olivia Cole, Madge Sinclair, Lloyd Bridges, Georg Stanford Brown, Chuck Connors, Lorne Green, Sandy Duncan, Ralph Waite, Brad Davis, Edward Asner, Ji-Tu Cumbuka, Hilly Hicks, Vic Morrow, Lynne Moody, Lillian Randolph, Thayer David, Austin Stoker, O.J. Simpson, Scatman Crothers, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, George Hamilton, Burl Ives, John Schuck, Ian McShane, Richard Roundtree, Brion James, Cicely Tyson, Yvonne De Carlo, Yaphet Kotto, and many others co-star in this mini-series.  This spans over 100 years so no one is really the "star" of the movie and there is no one that was in all six episodes.  This was a very landmark showing.  I don't think it is the first mini-series but I know they were really on the rise yet.  This was a really good look towards these years and the kinds of lives they lead as well as their efforts to become free.  This has six episodes that were about a hour and a half each and is really worth a look.


A Goofy Movie (1995):  This is my Disney feature for the week which was directed by Kevin Lima.  After many years of making us laugh in shorts, supporting roles, and tv shows, Goofy, voiced by Bill Farmer, gets his first feature film.  His high school son Max, voiced by Jason Marsden, has a crush on Roxanne, voiced by Kellie Martin, and tries to impress her but getting trouble at school in the process.  When Goofy gets word of this, he is made to believe Max is a troubled kid and that he needs to take him on a fishing trip much to the dismay of Max who finally gets the date he is looking for with Roxanne.  Jim Cummings, Rob Paulsen, Wallace Shawn, Jenna von Oy, Frank Welker, Kevin Lima, Jo Anne Worley, Julie Brown, Joey Lawrence, and many others provide their voices to this very fun and maybe underrated Disney film that seems overlooked in my favorite period of Disney which is the '90s.  This takes road trips to a new level and is a really good look at the bonding of a father and a son with Goofy as funny as ever.


The Man with the Golden Arm (1955):  I had the family selection and now I get far more serious.  Otto Preminger directed this film which is based on the novel by Nelson Algren.  Rat Pack member Frank Sinatra stars as Frankie Machine who is a skilled card dealer and drug addict and just getting out of prison.  He tries to go clean but returning to his location does not help.  Eleanor Parker co-stars as his wheelchair bound girlfriend Zosh who is a big part of his problem.  Kim Novak, Arnold Stang, Darren McGavin, Robert Strauss, and many others co-star in this film.  Sinatra rises to the occasion in this much different role for him as the addict trying to go clean.  This is a great early look at addiction and the effects that it has on everyone around them.


The Wizard of Lies (2017):  This is part one of a possible six-part Robert De Niro series and part one of a two-part Hank Azaria series.  We have had the wizard of Oz who was not the most honest man in the world but did not compare to the real-life Bernie Madoff in his lies.  Barry Levinson directed this HBO movie that is based on the book by Diana Henriques and Laurie Sandell.  De Niro stars as Madoff who has run a seemingly successful business but in the end robbed $65 billion from unsuspecting victims in the biggest Ponzi scheme of all time.  Michelle Pfeiffer co-stars as Bernie's wife Ruth whose life as well as their children's lives change when learning of Bernie's theft.  Nathan Darrow, Alessandro Nivola, Michael Kostroff, Kathrine Narducci, Steve Coulter, David Lipman, Hank Azaria, and many others co-star in this HBO movie.  This was partly shot as a documentary with those involved in his life giving interviews about their times with Madoff.  Co-author Henriques plays herself when interviewing Madoff in prison.  This does a really good job of not only focusing on Bernie but also focusing on how other people in his life were effected by what he did.  This has some very good performances and digs very deep on Madoff's criminal activity.


The Widow Couderc (1971):  This is my French film for the week which was directed by Pierre Granier-Deferre and based on the novel by Georges Simenon.  Simone Signoret stars as the title character who as indicated and has a dark family history regarding her father and son and is running a farm.  Alain Delon co-stars as Jean Lavigne who is a drifter that arrives at the farm and gives the widow some help in turn getting work from her.  They form a relationship but jealousy ensues when Jean starts talking to her beautiful daughter-in-law Felicie, played by Ottavia Piccolo.  This is a bit of a love story but a very dark and complex one.  It is not real easy to explain beyond what I already have without giving spoilers.  It is not for everyone but foreign film buffs should really enjoy this one.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel


Crazy/Beautiful (2001):  I follow up with another love story which was directed by John Stockwell.  Jay Hernandez stars as Carlos who is a poor but very hard working high school senior trying to do well to get to a good college.  Kirsten Dunst stars as Nicole Oakley who is very self-destructive and a black sheep of her family lead by her congressman father Tom, played by Bruce Davison.  Nicole takes a liking to Carlos and form a relationship but it becomes very complicated with the different type of people they are in life.  Miguel Castro, Taryn Manning, Rolando Molina, Soledad St. Hilaire, Lucinda Jenney, Taryn Manning, Richard Steinmetz, and many others co-star in this film.  Like my last selection, this is a pretty complex love story and far from a romantic comedy.  I really thought Dunst did a really good job of portraying this troubled character and I know a few who can really relate to her.  This is a really good story on working through differences and how much love can help someone.


The Law and Jake Wade (1958):  This is my western for the week which was directed by John Sturges and based on the novel by Marvin H. Albert.  Robert Taylor stars as the title character who is a reformed criminal trying to start a new life as a marshal.  He helps his former partner Clint Hollister, played by Richard Widmark, escape as one last favor.  Jake's past comes to haunt him when Clint and his gang make him take him to a buried loot by abducting him and his fiance Peggy, played by Patricia Owens.  Robert Middleton, Henry Silva, Deforest Kelley, Eddie Firestone, and many others co-star in this film.  This was a pretty action packed western from this era.  Widmark has gone onto be a very underrated actor but was a really good villain.  When watching this, I came to the thought that actor Walton Goggins could portray him in a biopic.  The western is not on of my favorite genres but I really enjoyed this one and think it has gone a bit overlooked so looking to get on the radar.


Julieta (2016):  I end the week on this Spanish film which was directed by Pedro Almodovar and based on three story stories from the book RUNAWAY by Alice Munro.  Emma Suarez stars as the title character in the modern era and Adriana Ugarte stars the younger version of the title character in the flashbacks.  This is another rather complex story of Julieta trying to reconnect with her estranged daughter Antia, played by Priscilla Delgado, after twelve years.  Flashbacks show how we end up where we are in the modern era and the dots connect very well.  Daniel Grao, Imma Cuesta, Dario Grandinetti, Michelle Jenner, Pilar Castro, Nathalie Poza, Susi Sanchez, Joaquin Notario, and many others co-star in this foreign film.  This is one that requires full attention as it jumps around a lot but is one that can be very rewarding if given the chance and okay with subtitles.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Robert De Niro, John Wayne, Albert Brooks, and many others.



Sunday, May 12, 2019

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 704th Edition



Welcome to the 704th Edition of my series.  I hope everyone is enjoying their Mother's Day however celebrated.  I don't really have any selections that are very "motherly" but hope you'll still read on anyways with the return of the "Fun and Useless Facts" segment.


The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007):  This is part three of my Jeremy Renner trilogy where he plays James Gang member Wood Hite.  Andrew Dominik directed this film based on the novel by Ron Hansen.  I believe this one to be a rather misunderstood film.  Some when they hear the name Jesse James, they automatically think western and then either they don't like westerns or it was not enough of one.  I believe this to be more of a drama and character study more than anything.  This mostly focuses on the relationship between Jesse James and Bob Ford from when Ford joins the James Gang up to his life after he kills Jesse.  The title already gives away that particular part and anyone that has any history knowledge usually knows what happened.  Many movies on Jesse James portray him as an outlaw but as a Robin Hood figure but this one is different.  This shows how the heroism of Jesse James is surrounded by the hype on articles and dime novels that people write.  Casey Affleck stars as Bob Ford who has always idolized Jesse James, played by Brad Pitt, and when he finally joins he begins to realize that Jesse is not the man portrayed in novels and is really very ruthless and a cold-blooded killer.  Sam Shepard has a part in the beginning as Frank James who is at the end of his life of crime and leaves around the time Ford joins.  Mary-Louise Parker, Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner, Garret Dillahunt, Paul Schneider, Alison Elliot, Zooey Deschanel, Pat Healy, James Carville, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a movie in my opinion that works on every level.  Affleck was phenomenal as Bob Ford and Pitt also does a great job as Jesse James.  The cinematography by Roger Deakins is beautiful.  Even the narration and the music score by Nick Cave comes in at the absolute right times.  In many ways, this is a story of the disappointment that one might have when meeting their idols.  If you are looking for some action packed western, then find another Jesse James movie but if you are looking for a more realistic interpretation, this is it.  This movie is both compelling and beautiful in so many ways.


High and Dizzy (1920):  This is my silent comedy short for the week which was directed by Hal Roach.  Silent comedic legend Harold Lloyd stars as Dr. Hale who is just getting out of college and gets tipsy with a friend while encountering a sleepwalking girl he must deal with that he also really likes.  This is some very early Lloyd and was a start to a lot of his stunt comedy that he would go onto be known for.  Lloyd has not gone onto be quite as known as Chaplin and Keaton have but still has his own image and is every bit as good in my opinion.  I do not usually comment on the featured photo but it shows how far we have come as this was 26 minutes and at this time billed as a two part special.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.


The Lineup (1958):  Don Siegel directed this crime drama which stars Eli Wallach as Dancer who along with his mentor Julian, played by Robert Keith, and their driver Sandy, played by Richard Jaekel, are instructed to pick up some Heroin but gets picked up by unsuspecting tourists and they kill many get killed in their pursuit of the Heroin.  Lt. Ben Guthrie, played by Warner Anderson, leads the police on the hunt for the criminals.  Mary LaRoche, William Leslie, Emile Meyer, Marshall Reed, Raymond Bailey, Vaughn Taylor, Robert Bailey, and many others co-star in this film.  I think what sticks out to me most is how Wallach was a villain to the core with no redeeming qualities at all which might be something he was rather underrated at in playing villain characters.  This is a very suspenseful and probably pretty daring movie from this era that has quite the action climax at the end.


Begin Again (2013):  This is part two of a two-part Mark Ruffalo series.  ONCE director John Carney directed this film on the music industry.  Mark Ruffalo stars as Dan who has just been fired from his job as a music producer and decides to drink himself away at a bar while having a chance encounter toward a singer named Gretta, played by Keira Knightley, who he believes has some raw talent and is marketable.  She is having her own problems with a recent breakup with her boyfriend Dave, played by Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine, after his new found fame as a singer.  Dan is soon determined to help Gretta get herself out there as a singer and they find many clever ways using the limited resources that they have.  Catherine Keener, Hailee Steinfeld, Rob Morrow, Ceelo Green, James Corden, Yasiin Bey and many others co-star in this film.  I really enjoyed this one and thought Knightley did a pretty good job on the singing.  I also thought it was a good story on a father trying to reconnect with his teen daughter, played by Steinfeld.  This has a good soundtrack, story and cast and is a really good homage to the independent music scene.


The Iron Rose (1973):  This is my French film for the week which was directed by Jean Rollin.  Francoise Pascal and Hugues Quester star as a young couple who decide to go to a cemetery on a date.  As it gets darker, their fears begin to consume them and are unable to leave in this more visual horror film.  It is really hard to put this one into any real words.  It might need more than one viewing and it is a horror film without a lot of blood and gore so horror fans can decide in that regard.  It is also a really good watch for foreign film buffs.


Marshall (2017):  Now I go to a biopic which was directed by Reginald Hudlin.  Chadwick Boseman plays a young Thurgood Marshall who at this point in his life is an attorney working for the NAACP and goes throughout the country to defend African-Americans wrongly accused.  His latest case leads him to Bridgeport, Connecticut where a black man named Joseph Spell, played by Sterling K. Brown, who is wrongly convicted of the rape of his employer Eleanor, played by Kate Hudson.  Josh Gad also co-stars as attorney Sam Friedman who is used to criminal court and only intends to introduce Marshall as council but he must become lead council when a racist judge forbids Marshall to speak in court.  Dan Stevens, James Cromwell, Keesha Sharp, Roger Guenveur Smith, Derrick Baskin, Barrett Doss, John Magaro, Ahna O'Reilly, Jussie Smollet, TLC member Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a really good look at Marshall in this era where racism is really on the rise.  It was also a really good dynamic of Boseman and Gad having to co-exist to get their client a fair trial.


Two-Faced Woman (1941):  Now I turn to this romantic comedy which was directed by George Cukor.  Melvyn Douglas stars as Larry Blake who meets ski instructor Karin Borg, played by Greta Garbo, and takes a liking to her to the point of taking ski lessons.  Next thing we know they are married which puts Larry in a whole different world.  He goes back to New York to work on the magazine he works for but Karin refuses to go.  When learning of his old flame Griselda, played by Constance Bennet, she decides to go and claim to be Karin's wife.  Roland Young, Robert Sterling, Ruth Gordon, and many others co-star in this film.  This is the third of the three films of Douglas and Garbo as well as Garbo's last movie.  This is a bit unrealistic but it is still pretty funny with Garbo in her "dual" role.  It was also considered very immoral at this time so a bit controversial.  This was worth a look so go ahead and have a Garbo/Douglas day starting with their first two being YOU DESIRE ME from 1932 and their most famous of the three in the 1939 NINOTCHKA.


Basic Instinct (1992):  Paul Verhoeven directed this film which was directed by Joe Eszterhas.  Michael Douglas stars as Detective Nick Curran who has some violent tendencies and is assigned to investigate the murder of a former rock star which leads him to crime novelist Catherine Tramell.  Tramell was the girlfriend at the time and is the prime suspect with the murder happening the same way it does in her novel.  Nick finds it very difficult for him to overcome temptation.  George Dzundza, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Dennis Arndt, Bruce A. Young, Dorothy Malone, Wayne Knight, Daniel von Bargen, Stephen Tobolowsky, Benjamin Mouton, Jack McGee, and many others co-star in this film.  What can I say about this movie?  It has the very famous and imitated scene where Sharon Stone is in the interrogation room in the leg spreading scene.  It is a very interesting and provocative movie to say the least with Douglas and Stone working well together.


The Girl Most Likely To... (1973):  This is my tv movie for the week which was directed by Lee Phillips and written by Joan Rivers who I did not know has a writing background.  Stockard Channing, in her first credited role, stars as college girl Miriam Knight who is very smart and well-meaning but gets bullied because of her looks.  She gets into a car accident where her looks change drastically for the better as she is beautiful and ravishing but is very vengeful as she goes after those who tormented her.  Edward Asner co-stars as Detective Ralph Varone who is investigating the local murders going on in town.  Jim Backus, Joe Flynn, Chuck McCann, Carl Ballantine, Cyril Delevanti, Fred Grandy, Annette O'Toole, and many others co-star in this dark comedy.  I had never heard of this movie until I found it at the library.  It was pretty funny and is some very underrated work from fashion critic Joan Rivers.


The Wind Rises (2013):  For the second week in a row I end the week with some Studio Ghibli anime and this one was directed by Hayao Miyazaki.  This is based on a real person named Jiro Horikoshi, voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who designed the Japanese fighter planes during WWII.  This starts out into his childhood, into his younger years where he has his vision up to Japan's involvement with WWII.  Voices for the American version include John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Martin Short, Stanley Tucci, Mandy Patinkin, Mae Whitman, Werner Herzog, William H. Macy, Elijah Wood, and many others.  This is a really good and complex story and a really good addition to the Studio Ghibli series.  Like last week's selection, this is more of an anime drama.  It is a very good story of sticking to dreams and a more adult oriented story but appropriate enough for kids.

Well, that is it for this week but continue on for my "Fun and Useless Facts" segment.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week.



FUN AND USELESS FACTS

I don't do this often but I had more time and enough people to work with to come up with a few connections and as always I do not focus one people within the same movie.  I know there is plenty more I could have done and might have missed so feel free to comment on something I could have missed.

Mary-Louise Parker (The Assassination of Jesse James) and Michael Douglas (Basic Instinct) were in the 2009 film SOLITARY MAN.

Mary-Louise Parker (The Assassination of Jesse James) and James Cromwell (Marshall) were in the 2003 mini-series ANGELS IN AMERICA.

Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James) and Kate Hudson (Marshall) were in the 1999 film 200 CIGARETTES.


Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James) and John Magaro (Marshall) were in the 2016 film THE FINEST HOURS.

Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James) and Wayne Knight (Basic Instinct) were in the 1995 dark comedy TO DIE FOR.

Sam Rockwell (The Assassination of Jesse James) and William H. Macy (The Wind Rises) were in the 2002 comedy WELCOME TO COLLINWOOD.

Sam Rockwell (The Assassination of Jesse James) and James Cromwell (Marshall) were in the 1999 film THE GREEN MILE.

MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE
-Jeremy Renner (The Assassination of Jesse James) plays Clint Barton aka Hawkeye.
-Mark Ruffalo (Begin Again) plays Bruce Banner aka the Hulk
-Chadwick Boseman (Marshall) plays T'Challa aka Black Panther
-Michael Douglas (Basic Instinct) plays Hank Pym who was the Ant-Man in his younger days.

Garret Dillahunt (The Assassination of Jesse James), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Wind Rises) and Emily Blunt (The Wind Rises) were in the 2012 film LOOPER.

Paul Schneider (The Assassination of Jesse James) and John Krasinski (The Wind Rises) were in the 2009 film AWAY WE GO.

Pat Healy (The Assassination of Jesse James) and William H. Macy (The Wind Rises) were in the 1999 film MAGNOLIA.

James Carville (The Assassination of Jesse James) and Emily Blunt (The Wind Rises) were in the 2011 action movie THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU.

James Carville (The Asassination of Jesse James), John Krasinksi (The Wind Rises), and Emily Blunt (The Wind Rises) were in the 2011 film THE MUPPETS.

Zooey Deschanel (The Assassination of Jesse James) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Wind Rises) were love interests in the 2009 film 500 DAYS OF SUMMER.


Zooey Deschanel (The Assassination of Jesse James) and Edward Asner (The Girl Most Likely To...) were in the 2003 comedy ELF.

Zooey Deschanel (The Assassination of Jesse James) and Kate Hudson (Marshall) were in the 2000 film ALMOST FAMOUS and they went to high school together in real life.


Zooey Deschanel (The Assassination of Jesse James) and James Corden (Begin Again) were in the 2016 animated movie TROLLS.


Zooey Deschanel (The Assassination of Jesse James), Sam Rockwell (The Assassination of Jesse James) and Yasiin Bey (Begin Again) were in the 2005 Sci-Fi comedy THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY.

Brad Pitt (The Assassination of Jesse James) and Catherine Keener (Begin Again) were 1991 film JOHNNY SUEDE.


Brad Pitt (The Assassination of Jesse James) and John Magaro (Marshall) were in the 2015 film THE BIG SHORT.

Eli Wallach (The Lineup) and Michael Douglas (Basic Instinct) were in the 2010 movie WALL STREET:  MONEY NEVER SLEEPS.

James Corden (Begin Again) and Emily Blunt (The Wind Rises) play husband and wife in the 2014 musical INTO THE WOODS.


Mark Ruffalo (Begin Again) and Stanley Tucci (The Wind Rises) were in the 2015 film SPOTLIGHT.


Rob Morrow (Begin Again) and Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct) were in the 1996 film LAST DANCE.

Catherine Keener (Begin Again) and John Magaro (Marshall) were in the 2013 film CAPTAIN PHILIPS.

Catherine Keener (Begin Again) and Daniel Von Bargen (Basic Instinct) were in the 2002 movie S1MONE.

James Cromwell (Marshall) and Elijah Wood (The Wind Rises) were in the 1998 disaster movie DEEP IMPACT.

James Cromwell (Marshall) and Daniel Von Bargen (Basic Instinct) were in the 1999 movies SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS and THE GENERAL'S DAUGHTER.

Jussie Smollett (Marshall) and Elijah Wood (The Wind Rises) were in the 1994 comedy NORTH.

Kate Hudson (Marshall) and Wayne Knight (Basic Instinct) were in the 2016 animated movie KUNG FU PANDA 3.

Wayne Knight (Basic Instinct) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Wind Rises) were in the sitcom 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN.

Wayne Knight (Basic Instinct) and Edward Asner (The Girl Most Likely to...) were in the 1991 film JFK.

Bruce A. Young (Basic Instinct) and William H. Macy (The Wind Rises) were in the 2001 movie JURASSIC PARK III.

Daniel Von Bargen (Basic Instinct) and William H. Macy (The Wind Rises) were in the 1998 movie A CIVIL ACTION.

Stephen Tobolowsky (Basic Instinct) and William H. Macy (The Wind Rises) were in the 2007 comedy WIND HOGS.