Sunday, September 18, 2016
Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 566th Edition
Welcome to the 566th edition of my series. Last week in football, I lost my first week of fantasy football and was not successful in my first week of Draft Kings. However, my real team of the 49ers won and hope they can continue this success. I am also glad to announce that next month in the last weekend of October, I am going to be in the play BAD SEED in my debut at the Commons Theater in Alexandria, Indiana so I'll talk more on that as it gets closer. Now we are in the 2nd week of the NFL hoping for more than 1 out of 3 in my success. I will shut up now and get to my selections.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015): Marielle Heller directed this film based on the graphic novel by Phoebe Gloekner. This takes place in 1970s San Francisco where Bel Powley stars as 15 year old cartoonist Minnie. Minnie's bohemian mother Charlotte, played by Kristen Wiig, is too busy to go out with her boyfriend Monroe, played by TRUE BLOOD alum Alexander Skarsgaard, so she suggests that he take Minnie instead. She goes to a bar with him which was probably a little more acceptable by today's standards and as they get to talking, she reveals he wants to sleep with him and then they enter into an affair. Christopher Meloni, Abby Wait, Miranda Bailey, Carson D. Mell, and many others co-star in this film. This movie has a really good non-judgmental tone and despite the illegal act that takes place is a really good telling of what is based on a true story. It also has some really good animation sequences to go along with the film.
Kristopher Kolumbus Jr. (1939): This is my short film for the week which comes from Merrie Melodies. Porky Pig is Kris Kolumbus in this take toward Christopher Columbus where he looks to discover the world is round and accidentally discovers America. As we get older and the years go on we realize these things about Columbus really are not true but at the time that's what was taught. It is a much different Merrie Melodies short and rather politically incorrect with its Indian portrayal and even that at the time was not considered racist like today. It is worth a look and one I had never heard of until I checked out the dvd of last week's selection THE OLD MAID.
The Wanderers (1979): This is my teenage gang movie for the week which takes place in '60s New York. Philip Kaufman directed this film based on the novel by Richard Price. The Wanderers is an all-Italian street gang which has to deal with rival gangs and their high school years. There is some comedy to this, teen angst and a pretty entertaining film. Ken Wahl, John Friedrich, Karen Allen, Toni Kalem, Alan Rosenberg, Tony Ganios, William Andrews, Erland Van Lidth, and many others co-star in this film. This does have a 50s Rock and Roll soundtrack that goes along well with the film. I had never heard of this movie until I came across it at my local library. It has a pretty unknown cast and the only one I had really heard of is Karen Allen. This came out the same year as THE WARRIORS and each have their own statement. They are very different from each other but might make a good double feature sometime.
Blood Simple (1984): This is part two of a Coen Brothers and Frances McDormand series. This is an early film for the brothers and McDormand and a modern day noir or Neo-Noir I believe they call it. Maybe it would be easier to say crime thriller. Dan Hedaya stars as small town Texas bar owner Julian whose wife Abby, played by McDormand, is having an affair with his employee Ray, played by John Getz. Julian is well aware the affair is going on so decides to hire out a very sleazy private detective in Loren Visser, played by M. Emmet Walsh, to kill Abby and Ray but Loren has is own ideas to benefit himself. The character of Loren Visser may very well be the most corrupt private detective in movie history and they wrote the part specifically for Walsh which might be his best performance. It is a very clever and well-written film with some great characters and having a lot of suspense. This is the directorial debut for the Coen Brothers and to get their funding, they went door to door to show a 2 minute preview of what they plan to make and raised a lot of money in this unusual method in a time when things like gofundme and kickstarter did not exist yet. Those that helped fund did the right thing so check this out to the Coens get started.
Bright Road (1953): Gerald Mayer directed this film based on a teacher in an her first year teaching an all-black school. This is based on a story called THE LADIES HOME JOURNAL which ran in a 1951 edition of the magazine "The Ladies Home Journal. Dorothy Dandridge stars as the idealistic Jane Richards who is teaching a 4th grade class in an all-black school. Her main issue is with a young boy named C.T. Young, played by Philip Hepburn, who is rather rebellious is school but loyal to his family and has a love for nature so uses those things to get through to him. Harry Belafonte co-stars as the principle in his film debut. This is a rather overlooked gem of a film which is probably considered a b-movie but a pretty good one. Gives a good outside the box approach on dealing with kids that could be used in today's world.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015): I went to see this in a special showing last weekend outside in Downtown Muncie in an event called Moonlight Movies. J.J. Abrams takes the helm as the director in this film. I think just about anyone who has wanted to see this movie has by now. This is referred to as episode VII so follows years after RETURN OF THE JEDI. A new group called the First Order lead by Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver, tries to rule the galaxy after the Galactic Empire was defeated. A new group that consists of a scavenger named Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, a rogue stormtrooper named Finn, played by John Boyega, a resistance pilot named Poe, played by Oscar Isaac, and a new droid named BB-8 who are all out to find the missing Luke Skywalker, who was played by Mark Hamill but not giving away whether or not he is in the movie which I think you all know the answer. They are joined by Han Solo, reprised by Harrison Ford, and Chewbacca, reprised by Peter Mayhew. Carrie Fisher also reprises her role as Leia while Anthony Daniels reprises C-3PO. Other actors who mostly have voice cameos but some are human include Lupita Nyong'o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max Von Sydow, Greg Grunberg, Warwick Davis, Ken Leung, Michael Giacchino, Bill Hader, Daniel Craig, and many others. This has a rather similar premise to the first one in STAR WARS: EPISODE IV A NEW HOPE. I still think this worked very well with these new characters and getting nostalgic with the original characters. I really liked the idea of Finn who was a storm trooper but hated what he had to do and decides to defect from the First Order and Rey was also a great character and at least introduced me to Daisy Ridley and John Boyega who was Finn. This was a really well put together event except sometimes the lighting made the darker scenes harder to see, otherwise it was nice to sit outside and check this out. May the force be with you all.
Cross of Iron (1977): This is my war film for the week which was directed by Sam Peckinpah based on the novel THE WILLING FLESH by Willi Heinrich. This takes place in WWII Germany with a German platoon on a raid on a Russian forward outpost. James Coburn stars as Sgt. Rolf Steiner who is promoted to sergeant but has problems with the newer upper class commander Captain Stransky, played by Maximilian Schell, whose only interest seems to be the Iron Cross, a huge honor but is doing it at the expense of others. James Mason, David Warner, Klaus Lowitsch, and many others co-star in this war film. This is Peckinpah's only war film and conveys the horrors of war very well. Coburn and Schell had a great rivalry in this film with Coburn as the hardened and cynical soldier but still very loyal and Schell who was far more out for himself. This is a well-done war film from the German point of view and for anyone who loves war films.
The Gabby Douglas Story (2014): Yes, only I would go from the horrors of war to an inspiration true story on a gymnast. Gabby Douglas plays herself while Sydney Mikayla and Imani Hakim play her in her younger days. Regina King co-stars as Gabby's struggling mother Natalie who along with her older kids see a lot of potential in Gabby and all of them make a sacrifice of some sort to help Gabby to achiever her dream of one day getting to the Olympics. Brian Tee, David Haydn-Jones, S. Epetha Merkerson, and many others co-star in this tv movie and please don't go running for the hills when I say Lifetime. This is a very good story of perseverance and never giving up no matter what one might be told. Yes, it is formulaic and a bit predictable but sometimes we need a feel good movie with everything going on in this world.
Dick Tracy's Dilemma (1947): Now I bring a detective story based on the comic strip character created by Chester Gould. Ralph Byrd plays the detective who is investigating some theft and many murders leading to the ruthless killer known as "the claw", played by Jack Lambert. Kay Christopher stars as Tess Trueheart who is Dick's love interest, Lyle Latell who stars as Tracy's bumbling assistant, while Ian Keith is fun as Tracy's thespian friend Vitamin Flintheart. This is only about an hour long and a decent detective story watch on a rainy day.
The Meat Wagon (2011): I end the week with this short film which features my own Facebook friend Kelsey Zukowski. Lloyd Miller directed this short film where a deceased slob, played by Thom Oswald, is visited by a really hot angel and a really hot demon named Angelica and Demonica, played by Kristin Wilson and Zukowski, come down to compete over his soul to the point they get into it with each other at one point. This is only about five minutes long but manages to tell a good and rather funny story. This is available on Kesley's website at http://kelseyzukowski.com/ where other shorts and previews are available as well as her modeling and review writing she has done so get to know her at this website.
Well, that is it for this week, tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Christopher McDonald, Rosario Dawson, Ben Affleck, and many others.