Friday, January 3, 2014
Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 423rd Edition
Welcome to the 423rd Edition of my series. I hope everyone has a good holiday season whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or you just don't really celebrate at all. I will not really be celebrating until next week but I have both Christmas Eve and Christmas off work so I'll enjoy that part of it and probably just watch some Christmas movies all day. I will now get to my selections for this week.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946): This is my annual viewing and really my favorite holiday film. Frank Capra directs this classic which stars James Stewart as small-town boy George Bailey. The movie documents his life from mid-childhood to becoming and adult which marries and has children. All his life, George longs to leave his small town of Bedford Falls to travel the world but things change when the very greedy and ruthless businessman Mr. Potter, played very well by Lionel Barrymore, looks to take over the town if he can get a hold of the family business his father started. Through these years, George has benefitted the lives of many when not leaving town but things become very complicated for him making him feel worthless making all his loved ones pray for him in a prayer which becomes answered by the second-class angel Clarence, played by character actor Henry Travers in his best role, who does what he can to get through to George in order to earn his wings and exposes George to a world that would have been had he not been born. This is a movie I have watched annually since I was in high school when it is on NBC and never tire of it each year. Thomas Mitchell, Donna Reed, Beulah Bondi, Frank Faylen, Gloria Grahame, and many others co-star in this film. I really like the message this sends in how what we do for people can start a chain reaction that can help many others. Look for Carl Switzer, who is known for being Alfalfa, in an uncreddited appearance in the reunion scene and is the one who lets out the swimming pool. I have heard that there is actually a sequel in the works where Karolyn Grimes, who plays George's daughter Zuzu, plays an angel who shows George's unlikeable grandson what the world would be like if he had not been born so the opposite of this film. I really hope this is a hoax but have read quite a few sources and I suppose I could just be very wrong and this turns out to be good but it is just really difficult to mess with a classic like this one. This is on NBC on Christmas Eve so after you have viewed A CHRISTMAS STORY twenty times you should tune into this one to draw some great inspiration.
Peace on Earth (1939): This is my animated short for the week which has a holiday theme to it but then becomes very weird anti-war propaganda. This takes place among a family of squirrels and Grandpa Squirrel, voiced by voice acting legend Mel Blanc, who explains what "men" are explaining how their war ways have destroyed them with some very interesting war footage while singing the song of the title. This is available on Youtube and really deserves a look.
Where the Red Fern Grows (1974): This is a movie based on the novel for all ages by Wilson Rawls which many at least in my generation read it during elementary school and was one of the better books we were forced to read. Stewart Peterson stars as Billy whose family lives in the Ozark mountains during the depression era and is a poor but very loving family who fight for survival. Billy soon wants to get coonhunting dogs in which cannot be afforded by his family so works many odd jobs to get enough money to get them. When finally getting these dogs, Billy and the two hounds become very inseparable in their hunting adventures that lead up in an annual coon-hunt contest. James Whitmore, Beverly Garland, and Jack Ging all co-star. This is a very timeless coming of age story that can be enjoyed by all generations. This is available on Instant Netflix.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992): Last week I included which I believe was the first musical version of the Charles Dickens classic A CHRISTMAS CAROL. This week, I include the Muppets putting on the classic. Human being Michael Caine stars as the bitter Ebenezer Scrooge who hates the Christmas season which he feels everyone is picking his pocket but only really cares what goes into his own. Soon, he gets a visit by the ghosts of his former business partners, Jacob and Robert Marley and yes usually it is just Jacob but hecklers Statler and Waldorf were put into these roles and we know there cannot be one without the other. They are ghosts who due to their misdeeds must wear a chain for punishment and warn that if Scrooge does not change his ways, he is destined to the same fate. They soon warn of three ghosts who will come visit him to show him Christmas in the past, present, and future for himself and those around him. Kermit the Frog plays Scrooge's employee Bob Cratchit whils Miss Piggy is Mrs. Cratchit. It is a very interesting dynamic in which their sons are frogs and daughters are pigs. Fozzy Bear plays Fozziwig who in most stories is Fezziwig which is Scrooge's boss when he was younger. Michael Caine was great as the mizer and really had very few humans in this one unlike much of the Muppet movies there are lots of celebrity cameos. Paul Williams also wrote some really good musical numbers in thsi film. The only part that bothered me some was the Ghost of Christmas Past which was just a ghost image of a little girl but was really a bit weird even for me. Other than that, I really enjoyed this version and really like this time of year.
Safe (2012): I have done a lot of holiday and family selections for this week so for those who want the action movies, here you go. Boaz Yakin wrote and directed this action film which stars Jason Statham who is a former cage fighter and former elite agent named Luke, who looks to protect a young Chinese girl named Mei, played by Catherine Chan, who holds a very important numerical code, from the Triads, Russian Mafia, and corrupt NYC cops. Statham once again shows his great fight skills but this one has more of a plot than other Statham films while many entertaining action scenes that are very enjoyable as long as you can suspend your disbelief for awhile. This is a very fun and pretty moving action film at times which is available on Instant Netflix. This is also the end of the holiday films for the week.
Overnight (2003): This is the start of three documentaries for the week. This documentary focuses on Troy Duffy who is most known for writing and directed the cult hit BOONDOCK SAINTS. Duffy was a local bar owner who had the idea for this script which famous producer Harvey Weinstein really liked and signed him to a contract with Miramax. Soon though, Miramax jumped shipped and shows Duffy's determination and struggles to get this movie made. Much of Duffy's problem was his arrogance and alienation to those around him like the members of his band in which he had for his own soundtrack. This shows the promising overnight career of Duffy whose arrogance proved to be his downfall. I did admire his determination and drive in knowing exactly what he wanted and writing a clever script. After this, his only other movie he directed was the 2008 sequel which did not have near the success as the first one.
I Accuse My Parents (1944): This is from an episode of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000. Usually, they watch real cheesy sci-fi movies but this one was one of those "message" films from that era. We see a high school student who falls in with gangsters and when a job goes bad he blames his parents for ignoring him. The mother was amusing at times, crashing parties all drunk and the dad was just a working man which is all the reason to commit crime. The great message I got from this movie was that if I commit a crime, I just need to blame my parents. Yes, the perfect movie for Joel and his robots to make fun of and be forced to watch. This is available on instant Netflix.
Blackfish (2013): This is my second documentary for the week which was a suggestion from my Facebook friend Andrea. This movie shows the dark side of places like Seaworld where killer whales put on a show for the families out there in the world. This mainly talks about a killer whale named Tilikum which was responsible for the deaths of three trainers. Many former employees of Sea World reflect on their times at the place and a court case that happened between Sea World and OSHA, which is Occupational Safety and Health Admissions. It also talks about the consequences of keeping such intelligent creatures in captivity as well as some very cruel methods in training the whales. This is very informative and even disheartening. I remember as a kid seeing the dolphin shows at the zoo and now think twice about going to these types of shows. A really good double feature would be THE COVE which is a documentary more on the exploitation of dolphins. This is available on Instant Netflix.
Chariots of the Gods (1970): This is my third and last documentary for the week. This is based on a book by Erich Von Daniken concerning ancient mysteries on things like cave drawings, pyramids, the monuments on Easter Island, among many other things. It talks about these things could have been influenced by extraterrestrial visitations years ago. There is some interesting theories on the reasoning and I have always been a believer in alien life. This is nothing great but can provoke some thoughts into the possibility of other life out there beyond our planet which brings up some good points. This is available on Instant Netflix.
Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008): I end with this animated superhero movie which I put off watching for a long time but finally broke down. This is based on children of some of the Avengers who had made the ultimate sacrifice and now the kids are going after the enemy responsible for the demise. The characters are James Rogers who is the son of Captain America and Black Widow, Pym who is the son of Giant Man/Ant Man and Wasp, Barton who is the son of Hawkeye, Azari who is the son of Black Panther, and Torunn who is the daughter of Thor. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I really liked this movie. The characters are pretty well done with a story that is not bad. It also has some pretty good action to keep your attention. I do not really want to go any further into the storyline but might be a good prerequisite to first watch the animated series AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES first to know some of the characters in this one that the live-action Marvel films have not featured yet. The cartoon series and this movie are both available on Instant Netflix.
Well, that is it for this week. Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week. Continue to read on for a new segment.
NIGHT AT THE SHERA DOUBLE FEATURE
This was double feature that happened at my friend Shera's house where we watched two of my favorite movies.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946): This was already featured as the first movie of the week. I have DVD of this movie and for many years, I have either watched it with my dad or my mom, wherever I am at the time. This is the first time I have watched it with other first-time watchers. I watched this with Shera and her two older daughters who are 12 and 11. One of the kids made a good point in not really understanding why it is considered a holiday film. The Christmas part does not really come along until much later and this was not really meant to be a holiday film and in fact I learned it was billed as a romantic comedy which I would be quite disappointed if that was my expectation. Another comment that was continued in the beginning was how his life really didn't seem so bad and yes that is true. This does focus on getting established but things don't go nearly as wrong until much later when we first establish the kind of loyal person George is and so we care when things go wrong. We all in the end though really seemed to enjoy it. Shera really liked this movie and it was different experience being the one to present the movie.
Les Miserables (2012): This one was mostly watched by myself and Shera. This has really become possibly my favorite musical which is based on the classic novel by Victor Hugo which was published in 1862 and would stand the test of time throughout the years with the book and many movie adaptations which then brought about the musical by Herbert Kretzmer and Claude-Michel Schonberg. Hugh Jackman stars as Jean ValJean who is paroled from a prison in the 19th Century France after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. He finds that it is hard to be able to find any sort of work as an ex-convict and with the help of a noble priest, played by Colm Wilkinson who originated the role on stage, is able to start a new life with a new identity. Many years later, Valjean finds he just cannot escape the presence of the ruthless police officer Javert, played by Russell Crowe, who sees the law as very black and white. Valjean also promises a dying woman named Fantine, played very well by Anne Hathaway, to watch her daughter Cosette, played by Isabelle Allen in the younger years and Amanda Seyfried in the older years. Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Eddie Redmayne, and many others co-star in this musical. When we first saw it Shera realized it was going to be mostly singing with little dialogue and was on the fence at first but as we got more into it she really started enjoying the story and performances in this film. Jackman was great as ValJean and he fully exposes his vocal talent in this movie. Many will disagree but I really believe we have been too hard on Russell Crowe's singing ability. I really thought his singing voice fit that character very well and that he really did not sound that bad, especially within the context the character. The whole movie was so well done in my opinion. I have noticed more community theaters are trying this one and hope that one day I can be in this production.