Sunday, March 16, 2014

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 435th Edition

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Welcome to the 435th Edition of my series.  As I announced last week, I am going to be in the Neil Simon play THE GOOD DOCTOR which was to be in April but now it is being bumped up to May and I will give more details soon.  It is now time to get you all my recommendations for the week.

 photo insomnia.jpgInsomnia (2002):  This is part two of my Al Pacino series that could actually go a couple months.  Christopher Nolan directed this thriller.  Pacino stars as Detective Will Dormer and along with his partner Hap, played by Martin Donovan, coming to a small investigate a murder of a teen.  In trying to apprehend the suspect, Will accidentally shoots Hap.  While dealing with this guilt, he must also deal with the suspect Walter Finch, played by Robin Williams in a darker than usual role.  Will must also deal with local police officer Ellie, played by Hilary Swank, who is doing her own investigation towards Hap.  Paul Dooley, Nicky Katt, Maura Tierney, and Joshua Jackson all co-star in this film.  This is a really well put together mystery with Pacino and Williams working very well together.  Swank is also very good in her role.  Nolan does a great job with this film and deserves a look.

 photo Hitchcock2.jpgHitchcock (2012):  Last week I featured Alfred Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND and now I feature his biopic.  Sacha Gervasi directed this film which shows Hitchcock's efforts to film PSYCHO when movie studios did not want to touch it.  Anthony Hopkins stars as the Master of Suspense who becomes obsessed over the novel PSYCHO and becomes determined to make it no matter what it takes.  Helen Mirren co-stars as his wife Alma whose marriage gets some tension during her husband's obsession.  Scarlett Johannson co-stars as Janet Leigh, Jessica Biel as Vera Miles, and James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins and all do a really good job as the PSYCHO actors and Hopkins doing really well as the famed director.  Danny Huston, Michael Wincott, Kurtwood Smith, Ralph Macchio, and many others co-star in this really fun biopic.  It was a very interesting story of how a classic that almost never was if it was not for the great efforts of Hitchcock who was at the peak of his career and had nothing else to prove showed he still had it.  This is available on HBO On-Demand.

 photo paris-1.jpgBlack Girl in Paris (2013):  This is my short film for the week which was written and directed by Kiandra Parks and based on a novel from Shay Youngblood.  Zaraah Abrahams stars as Luce who is a struggling writer in Paris.  She soon meets a prostitute named Eden, played by Tracey Heggins, and forms quite a bond experiencing new adventures and self-discovery.  I have been trying to focus on some more modern day shorts and was a pretty good 20 minutes with good performances.  This is also available on HBO On-Demand.

 photo pryor.jpgRichard Pryor:  Live in Concert (1979):  This is my stand-up concert for the week featuring the groundbreaking comedian.  In 78 minutes, Pryor covers many topics and holds nothing back to either the white or black audience and makes fun of himself just as much as he does everyone else.  He shows his great delivery, material, and many funny topics no matter how mundane they would usually be.  Pryor is considered by many to be one of the best comedians of all time and many cite him as an inspiration.  This was the first stand-up concert to be filmed live and was considered very risky at the time with Pryor's topics and language.

 photo soul.jpgA Free Soul (1931):  This is a rather detailed crime drama.  Lionel Barrymore stars as alcoholic attorney Stephen Ashe who successfully defends local mobster Ace Wilfong, played by Clark Gable, in a murder trial.  Stephen's free spirited daughter Jan, played by Norma Shearer, begins to date Ace much to the dismay of her father which puts a lot of tension between them as she does not like his alcoholism.  Leslie Howard and James Gleason co-star in this really compelling film.  Gable and Howard would much later be in the 1939 classic GONE WITH THE WIND and have quite an encounter in this one.  It is also a pretty daring movie for its time and before Hollywood adopted the Hayes Code which ruined many a film.  This is a very complex early film and a must for classic movie buffs.

 photo Jeremy.jpgJeremy (1973):  Arthur Barron wrote and directed this film on first love.  Robby Benson stars as the title character who is a shy high school Sophomore and really loves playing the cello.  Glynnis O'Connor stars Susan who is a senior and a dancer.  He really likes her but has a hard time coming up with what to say and Susan takes even more of a liking to him after hearing him play his cello.  This movie does a great job of developing this young relationship and friendship.  I had never heard of this but found it when I was at the library and recognized Benson as the voice of the Beast in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST but had not really seen anything else so I decided to check this out which turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.  The two leads were great.  I found them both to be very relating especially Jeremy.  This is one that just about anyone can get into and unfortunate that it has remained so underrated.

 photo seeing.jpgI'll Be Seeing You (1944):  Joseph Cotton stars as a soldier named Zachary Morgan who is on medical leave and suffering PTSD.  On a train, he meets a woman named Mary Marshall, played by Ginger Rogers, on a train and strike up a bond.  What Zachary does not know is that Mary is on an eight day Christmas furlough from prison for manslaughter where she accidentally killed a man trying to rape her.  Mary really likes him but does now know how to approach him.  Ginger Rogers is far more known for her singing and dancing musicals with Fred Astaire but shows her more dramatic side in this one.  A teenage Shirley Temple co-stars as Mary's cousin Barbara.  This would have obviously been more fitting for December but is still a very enjoyable one to watch.  Both characters had great back stories which bring them together.

 photo cutoff.jpgMeek's Cutoff (2010):  Kelly Reichardt directs this movie that takes place in 1845 Oregon.  A group of settlers are looking to get over the cascade mountains.  They hire a mountain man named Stephen Meek, played by Bruce Greenwood, who claims to know a short cut but things don't seem to be getting any better.  The settlers must face the hunger, thirst and their faith in each other.  The group encounters a Native American and all have mixed opinions on handling him.  They must choose to trust the seemingly unreliable Meek or the one seen as the enemy.  Michelle Williams stars as Emily who tries to keep things together.  Will Patton, Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano, and Shirley Henderson all co-star in this film.  This is a pretty decent depiction of the Oregon Trail that much of us grew up on in school on the more old school computers.  This is not the most fast paced movie of all time but has well-written characters, good music and good cinematography and is pretty realistic.

 photo everybody.jpgEverybody's Fine (2009):  Kirk Jones directed and co-wrote this film and I find it pretty cool that I start with Pacino and end with De Niro which was in no way intentional.  Robert De Niro stars as retired widower Frank Goode whose four kids bail on him for a reunion.  Against doctor's orders, Frank sets out to see each of his kids who are pretty spread out.  He has an artist son named David, played by Austin Lysy, a daughter named Amy, played by Kate Beckinsale, who is an ad exec, another daughter named Rosie, played by Drew Barrymore, who is a Vegas performer, and a son named Robert, played by Sam Rockwell, who is a conductor in a symphony.  He soon learns that none of them are as well off as he hoped and as well off as he pushed them in childhood.  He also finds there is some resentment from the children.  Frank must reflect on his parenting and must reconsider what he wants from his children.  Lucian Maisel, Damian Young, James Frain, Melissa Leo and many others co-star in this film.  De Niro is really good in this film.  This is a very honest portrait and a movie which gets driven by characters which I really like.  This is available on Instant Netflix and was another very pleasant surprise for me.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and what you hate and stay tuned for next week which so far includes more Al Pacino, Edward Norton, and many others.

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Christopher Nolan (Insomnia director) directed Scarlett Johansson in the 2006 film THE PRESTIGE.

Al Pacino (Insomnia) and Robert De Niro (Everybody's Fine) were in the 1974 film THE GODFATHER PART II, the 1995 film HEAT, and the 2008 film RIGHTEOUS KILL.  The first movie they were son and father, the second they were rivals on each side of the law, and in the last one they are partners on the police force.

Al Pacino (Insomnia) and Helen Mirren (Hitchcock) were in the 2013 HBO movie PHIL SPECTOR.

Al Pacino (Insomnia) was a client to Danny Huston (Hitchock) in the 2010 HBO movie YOU DON'T KNOW JACK.

Hilary Swank (Insomnia), Sam Rockwell (Everybody's Fine), and Melissa Leo (Everybody's Fine) were all in the 2010 film CONVICTION.

Hilary Swank (Insomnia) and Ralph Macchio (Hitchock) have both been karate kids.

Maura Tierney (Insomnia) and Anthony Hopkins (Hitchock) were in the 1999 movie INSTINCT.

Robin Williams (Insomnia) and Kurtwood Smith (Hitchcock) were in the 1989 film DEAD POETS SOCIETY.

Robin Williams (Insomnia) does the voice for the Genie in 1992 film ALADDIN.  My Facebook friend Ben played the part in a version at the Artist's Studio in Fishers, IN.

Robin Williams (Insomnia) and Robert De Niro (Everybody's Fine) star in the 1990 film AWAKENINGS.

Robin Williams (Insomnia) and Richard Pryor (Richard Pryor:  Live in Concert) were in the short lived 1977 tv series THE RICHARD PRYOR SHOW.

Robin Williams (Insomnia) and Bruce Greenwood (Meek's Cutoff) were in the 1997 comedy FATHER'S DAY.

Nicky Katt (Insomnia) and Kurtwood Smith (Hitchcock) were in the 1996 film A TIME TO KILL.

Martin Donovan (Insomnia) plays John F. Kennedy in the 2002 tv movie RFK.  Bruce Greenwood (Meek's Cutoff) plays Kennedy in the 2000 film THIRTEEN DAYS.

Anthony Hopkins (Hitchock) plays Robert in the 2005 film PROOF.  My Facebook friend Michael played the part in a production at the Muncie Civic Studio Theater production.

Anthony Hopkins (Hitchock) plays Captain Bligh in the 1984 film THE BOUNTY.  Clark Gable (A Free Soul) plays Bligh's rival Fletcher Christian in the 1935 film MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY.

Anthony Hopkins (Hitchock) plays Dr. Michael Grant in the 1976 tv movie DARK VICTORY.  George Brent (The Great Lie) plays the equivalent Dr. Frederick Steele in the original 1939 film DARK VICTORY.

Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock) was considered for the role of Jack Byrnes in the 2000 comedy MEET THE PARENTS which would ultimately go to Robert De Niro (Everybody's Fine).

Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock) and Bruce Greenwood (Meek's Cutoff) were in the 2005 film THE WORLD'S FASTEST INDIAN.

Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock) and Zoe Kazan were in the 2007 movie FRACTURE.

Helen Mirren (Hitchcock) plays Queen Elizabeth I in the 2005 HBO mini-series ELIZABETH I.  Bette Davis (The Great Lie) plays the famed queen in the 1939 film THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX.

Scarlett Johansson (Hitchock) and Sam Rockwell (Everybody's Fine) were in the 2010 film IRON MAN 2.

Toni Collette (Hitchcock) and Paul Dano (Meek's Cutoff) were in the 2006 comedy LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE.

Michael Stuhlbarg (Hitchcock) and Sam Rockwell (Everybody's Fine) were in the 2012 film SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS.

Leslie Howard (A Free Soul) and Norma Shearer (A Free Soul) plays Juliet in the 1936 film ROMEO AND JULIET.  My Facebook friend Jim and Kasey played the parts in a 2013 version in Farmland for Shakespeare Under the Stars which I played Paris, the one who wants to marry Juliet but is very unsuccessful in my pursuit.

Leslie Howard (A Free Soul), Clark Gable (A Free Soul), and Hattie McDaniel (The Great Lie) were all in the 1939 classic GONE WITH THE WIND.

Leslie Howard (A Free Soul) and Bette Davis (The Great Lie) were in the1934 film OF HUMAN BONDAGE and the 1936 film THE PETRIFIED FOREST.

Lionel Barrymore (A Free Soul) is the great-uncle to Drew Barrymore (Everybody's Fine).

Robby Benson (Jeremy) plays the Beast in the 1991 film BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.  My Facebook friend Sean played the part in a 2005 version at Muncie Civic Theater where I played LeFou.

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