Sunday, March 29, 2015
Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 489th Edition
Welcome to the 489th Edition of my series. I hope everyone is doing well and I will stay positive that the weather will be warm soon. I really don't want to get into this new Indiana law so I will get to my selections for the week.
ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway (2007): I start the week out with this documentary which was directed by Dori Berinstein. This documentary takes a look at four new musicals of the 2004 season. One of them was WICKED which has gone onto becoming a very popular musical and one I had the pleasure of seeing in Chicago years ago. The next one was AVENUE Q which for a lack of a better explanation is SESAME STREET for adults and I got to see that one done at the Phoenix Theater years ago. Another one was written by Boy George called TABOO which was based on his life. The last one was a more unconventional one in CAROLINE, OR CHANGE which was more for artistic merit than mainstream. This goes behind the scenes including a group of theater critics discussing their thoughts on some of these. It can make one wonder how beneficial theater critics really are to Broadway. There are interviews from people like Stephen Schwartz, Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Boy George and many others. This was a very insightful documentary into the world of theater.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013): I follow up with the Coen Brothers in their look at the folk music scene in Greenwich Village in the 1960s. Oscar Isaac stars as the title character who is a struggling musician trying to make it in the music industry as well as struggling with the cold winter. This is one that is really driven by characters and is a brutally honest film. This is not some upbeat inspirational movie but is still enjoyable and I'm sure a lot of musicians relate to this one. Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Max Casella, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, F. Murray Abraham, and many others co-star in this film. Davis does a great job in this film conveying his desires and struggles. There is not a lot that can be put into words in this one so I say just watch the movie.
Lords of Dogtown (2005): Catherine Hardwicke directed this dramatization on a group of guys called the Z-Boys. They were a group of skateboarders in Santa Monica, California who started a lot of trends in the world of skateboarding helping what we have today in the sport of skateboarding. This movie also deals with some of the heartbreak when things turn into bug business. Emile Hirsch, John Robinson, Rebecca De Mornay, Nikki Reed, Heath Ledger, Shea Wigham and many others co-star. Charles Napier, Joel McHale, Bai Ling, Alexis Arquette, and Jeremy Renner all have bit parts as well as skateboarding superstar Tony Hawk. This is a pretty moving and inspiration film. I enjoy the parts where they look for an empty swimming pool to perfect their craft.
Ain't It Aggravatin' (1954): This is my short film for the week and is one of the Pete Smith Specialty shorts. Dave O'Brien stars as the hapless protagonist where we see his struggles in parallel parking and making a patio. Smith provides his usual good narration and is an enjoyable few minutes.
Vampyr (1932): This is my German film for the week. Carl Theodore Dreyer directed film which stars Julian West as a traveler named Allen Gray who arrives in a remote castle and sees some strange happenings. One of the daughters of the lord of the castle becomes very sick but Allen believes there is more to it and something very sinister going on. This is a mostly silent film but has some dialogue. The work gets itself through the camera work and the atmospheric direction. This is a very well-done and surreal film in which horror and foreign film buffs would really enjoy.
Play It Again, Sam (1972): Herbert Ross directed this film based on the play written by Woody Allen which is an homage to the classic CASABLANCA and to Bogart. Woody stars as film critic Allan whose wife has just left which really crushes his ego. He begins to channel his hero persona of Humphrey Bogart, played by Jerry Lacy, who actually gives Allan advice. He takes the advice of this married couple friends Linda and Dick, played by Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts, to start dating again. When Dick has to leave town, Allan spends a lot of time with Linda and finds that she is who he loves. Jennifer Salt and Viva also co-star in this comedy. This is one of my favorite works from Woody in what is many ways an homage to film. His apartment is great which consists of many posters of Bogart. This is a play I would love to someday be a part of so anyone involved in community theater selection, please get on it.
The Time Machine (1960): George Pal directed this adaptation to the novel by H.G. Wells. Rod Taylor stars as Victorian scientist H. George Wells who has developed a time machine and goes into the future to see how society has changed through the years. In many years into the future he encounters a society who just seem apathetic about everything. He soon learns they are run by creatures called Morlocks and tries to teach these people how to fight for what they love. Alan Young, Yvette Mimieux, Sebastian Cabot, Tom Helmore, Whit Bissell, and many others co-star in this film. This is the first film adaptation and is a tough one to top. It had good performances and special effects that were good even seeing them today. This is a very enjoyable sci-fi film that went way past the term "B-Movie".
Leila (1997): This is my Iranian film for the week which was directed and co-written by Dariush Mehrjui. Leila Hatami stars as the title character who has just met the love of her life in Reza, played by Ali Mosaffa, and they get married. Things become complicated when Leila discovers she cannot have children which Reza seems okay with but not his mother. His mother encourages him to get a second marriage in order to get her a grandchild. Reza is very resistant to this but even his wife encourages him due to tradition and all. This is a very interesting look at tradition in this country and how love can be torn apart because of it. I also like the portrayal of Reza who is really a pretty good person and not controlling or abusive like we might stereotype for that race a lot. This is a very well done film from Iran and really deserves a look if you are okay with English subtitles.
Brief Encounter (1945): This is my British film for the week which was directed by David Lean and based on a play by Noel Coward. Celia Johnson stars as housewife Laura Jesson who meets Dr. Alec Harvey, played by Trevor Howard, and slowly fall in love even though they are both married. They continue to meet every thursday at a cafe but know their love is impossible. This is a pretty good tale of a brief affair and was probably a pretty daring film to do in this era. I don't want to give away too much else except to just give it a watch and find out.
Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan (2007): I end with this Mongolian film based on the early days of Temudjin, played by Tadanobu Asano, who through the years struggles with starvation, humiliation, and being forced into slavery and his strength to overcome and become the legendary Genghis Khan. This is a pretty good and well researched look at the early life of Genghis Khan. It is also a more believable portrayal than what John Wayne gave in the 1956 movie THE CONQUEROR, yes you read that correctly that John Wayne played the Mongolian emperor. This was very well acted along with really good cinematography and action scenes which held nothing back in terms of the brutality. Originally, this was going to be the first part of a trilogy but the two sequels never got off the ground but director Sergey Bodrov in 2013 said that the shooting of the sequel has resumed but we'll see. Either way, this was a very good watch.
Well, that is it for this week. Let know what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Catherine Keener, John Malkovich, Richard Harris, Katherine Hepburn, Hugh Jackman, and many others.