Sunday, February 1, 2015
Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 481st Edition
Welcome to the 481st Edition of my series. Tonight is the Super Bowl before this starts, I will give the non-football fans of things to do being snowed in. I want to announce that I will be doing a Murder Mystery Dinner Theater at the Amvets in Muncie. This show will take place on March 6th and 7th. It is called I'M GETTING MURDERED IN THE MORNING and will give more details in later weeks. At least January is over so now we just got to get through February and maybe a little of March. I will get to my selections for the week.
School Ties (1992): This is part five of my Matt Damon series which is one of his earlier roles. Robert Mandel directed this movie which was written by LAW AND ORDER writer Dick Wolf whose personal experiences this movie is based upon. Brendan Fraser stars as David Greene who is a high school senior football player and is brought to a prestigious 1950s school in order to help beat their football team. He finds that he does not fit into the school very well with his working class background and also finds he must hide his Jewish religion due to the bigotry of the school. Matt Damon plays Charlie whose starting quarterback job David takes. Charlie shows he is the least accepting of the Jewish religion and makes life very difficult for David. Chris O'Donnell, Ben Affleck, Cole Hauser, Anthony Rapp, Amy Locane, Kevin Tighe, Ed Lauter and many others co-star in this coming of age high school drama. I thought Fraser did a good job in a more toned down role. It is also interesting to see that in addition to bigotry towards the black race, we also had a lot of bigotry towards Jews which was really not that long after the Holocaust.
The House I Live In (1945): This is my short film which also shows a prejudice towards the Jewish were a group of kids make fun of another one for being Jewish. Leave it to Frank Sinatra to talk sense into these kids when he is taking a break from recording and tell these kids that there is nothing wrong with him being a different religion. Frank then goes into another music number and it is over. It was a good effort and this was quite accurate. The overtones may have been a bit preachy but necessary to get their point across. I found this on the Pub-D-Hub app on my Roku.
Take the Money and Run (1969): This is an early Woody Allen film which he directed, stars, and co-wrote and while it is not perfect, it remains my favorite Woody Allen film. Woody stars as Virgil Starkwell who is a petty criminal and not very good at it. This is shot like a documentary starting from his childhood into his failed music career into his times as a bank robber. I thought there were quite a bit of funny moments like his prison break attempt and trying to play a tuba in the parade. Many credit Rob Reiner to the mockumentary genre but this was put out before THIS IS SPINAL TAP.
Heavy Metal: Louder than Life (2006): I go from a mockumentary to an actual documentary which focuses on the music genre of Heavy Metal. This talks about the history, the many forms of it, and the fans that keep it going. A lot of heavy metal members like Scott Ian of Anthrax, Dee Snider of Twister Sister, Rob Halford of Judas Priest and many others reflect on their times in the industry. This documentary was very interesting and educated me some being a more casual fan of the genre though I do like to karaoke it every once in a while. I will say that people who just do not like the genre probably will not want to see it but it does cover a lot of history on heavy metal and will be enjoyable to metalheads out there and those who don't mind it.
Charlie Chan in Shanghai (1935): I continue this Charlie Chan series of mine where Warner Oland reprises his role of the famed Chinese detective. In this one Charlie returns to his country of China to be honored at a banquet for all his accomplishments. In this tribute, a murder happens in a very unusual way prompting Charlie and his loyal son Lee, played by Keye Luke, to investigate the killing which leads to an opium smuggling ring. I thought this one had a better plot than others and is the only one where Chan in actually in China. As I have mentioned from previous weeks, Oland is not Asian which could be misconstrued as racism. One must consider the times and that in this era, it really was not considered racist. Oland does a pretty good job of portraying a Chinese man. They serve as pretty good murder mysteries with a good amount of humor.
Hamlet 2 (2008): Andrew Fleming directed and co-wrote this theater comedy. Steve Coogan stars as Dana Marschz who was an actor who did a lot of commercials but was not getting the work so teaches a very small drama department at a high school in Tucson. THey do plays of movies like Erin Brockovich which always end up with bad reviews. At first there was only a couple people but ended up with a lot of unlikely students when other electives were getting cut. He is soon informed that the drama department will be cut when the year is out. He decides to direct a very daring play which is a sequel to Shakepeare's HAMLET where Hamlet along with Jesus look to go back in a time machine and stop the characters from dying. Catherine Keener, David Arquette, Elizabeth Shue, Amy Poehler, and many others star in this comedy. This is very politically incorrect so if you offend easy, this should be avoided. The theater person in me really enjoyed this one and there were a lot of really funny scenes. This is considered irrelevant but I do feel it has messages of freedom of speech and the importance of the arts in schools. The actors that played the students did a good job of playing to stereotype but then breaking away. This is really worth a look if you like theater and are not offended real easy.
The Devil's Carnival (2012): This was featured last week in the first ever "Triple Feature in the House of Callies" last week. Darren Lynn Bousman directed this very dark musical where lost souls enter a version of hell which is in a very weird carnival. Many lost souls find their way like with a kleptomaniac, a concerned father, and a gullible teenager. This is based on three stories from AESOP'S FABLES including THE DEVIL AND HIS DUE, THE DOG AND ITS REFLECTION, and THE SCORPION AND THE FROG. Terrance Zdunich portrays Lucifer and is who makes it all happen. It is from the same director of REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA and has alums Paul Sorvino, Alexa Vega, Bill Moseley, and Nivek Ogre as well as newcomers Sean Patrick Flannery, Jessica Lowndes, Emilie Autumn, among many others. There are some really good musical numbers and very dark imagery. Like my last selection, it is not really for everyone but is very enjoyable for those who like this sort of thing. This is only an hour long but will have a sequel. This is also available on Instant Netflix.
The Glass House (1972): This is my tv movie for the week which is based on a book by Truman Capote. MASH alum Alan Alda stars as college professor Jonathan Paige whose life took a turn for the worst when he is charged with manslaughter. He is sentenced to a year in prison and finds that it is not an easy thing where survival is not easy. Clu Gulager co-stars as an idealistic new guard named Brian who becomes very dismayed when people there look the other way when prisoners get into fights and such. Vic Morrow co-stars as Hugo who is the prisoner that mostly runs things. Billy Dee Williams co-stars as Lennox who is the leader of the black race and mostly protests the treatment at the prison. This is a very gritty look at prison life. I have not found much background on this Capote story which I understand was another non-fiction story he wrote. He is most known for IN COLD BLOOD but this is a very underrated Capote movie and a good tv movie. Alda is really good as the professor and the others do a good job as well. This is one I hope to get on the radar some.
Trapeze (1956): This is my circus movie of the week. Carol Reed directed this film based on the novel by Max Catto. Burt Lancaster stars as Mike Rubble who is a trapeze artist who was injured in an accident. Tony Curtis co-stars as Tino who is an up-and-coming circus star who seeks out Mike to teach his the "triple" which is the feat which Mike gets hurt. Mike reluctantly comes out of retirement to form a partnership with Tino as the catcher while Tino does the trapeze work. In the meantime, a beautiful girl named Lola wants to join the act and later causes a love triangle. This was a pretty good look at the circus world. This was on TCM On-Demand but may not be now.
Advanced Style (2014): I end with this documentary which focuses on seven New York seniors who are still living life to the fullest and have unique fashion styles. This is based on the blog by Ari Seth Cohen who is a photographer that likes to focus on the overlooked older generations for his fashion photos. I had never heard of this blog before but came to admire Cohen for what he does. The ladies all seem like pretty fun people too. As a blogger myself, I can always appreciate a fellow one and how far Cohen has come. You can see this movie on Instant Netflix and check out his blog at http://advancedstyle.blogspot.com/ .
Well, that is it for this week. Stay tuned for next week which so far includes Chris Cooper, Scarlett Johannson, Willem Dafoe, Jessica Lange, Clint Eastwood, Olivia De Havilland, and many others.