Sunday, November 13, 2016
Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 574th Edition
Welcome to the 574th Edition of my series. After the Madness and my anniversary, I am finally back to normal. I have been busy with rehearsals for IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE in Marion which happens in the first two weekends in December. Seeing how things are going in this election makes me realize how much I hate politics and how it brings out the worse in some people. Hate will not solve anything, that is all I will say. Now for my selections.
Captain America: Civil War (2016): I start the week out with the latest of the superhero films. This year we have seen Batman taking on Superman and Daredevil taking on the Punisher and to round out this I guess trilogy, we get to see Steve Rogers, reprised by Chris Evans, and Tony Stark, reprised by Robert Downey Jr., aka Captain America vs. Iron Man. The difference to the first two I named off as opposed to this one is that in those they did not know each other and in this one Steve and Tony have been fighting side by side for awhile. When on an assignment, things go wrong resulting in tragedy making the government push the Hero Registration Act which will limit what superheroes can do. Tony begins to feel guilt about what happened and felt that they needed to be kept in check while Steve felt that saving the world is difficult enough and that they did not need government interference pitting them against each other making the other Avengers have to choose a side. I am not going to name off the teams though by now most people know whose side each was on. I am just going to name off the other players that get involved which include returnees of Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson, Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie, Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner, Winter Solder, played by Sebastian Stan, Ant-Man, played by Paul Rudd, War Machine, played by Don Cheadle, Scarlet Witch, played by Elizabeth Olsen and Vision, played by Paul Bettany. Characters introduced to the universe are Spider-Man, played by Tom Holland, and Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman. You will see that Thor and the Hulk are excluded as I believe they are off doing other things which we'll soon learn in THOR: RAGNAROK. Other co-stars include Emily VanCamp, Daniel Bruhl, Frank Grillo, William Hurt, Martin Freeman, Marisa Tomei, John Kani, John Slattery, Hope Davis, Alfre Woodard, and many others. I thought this was very well put together and managed to showcase each character very well. I also really think I'll like Tom Holland as Peter Parker and Spider-Man and like that he has a more teenage personality than usual. I felt that there was a lot to like about this film and is also a lot of fun. Like any superhero film, it has its haters and maintain that the superhero genre is the most subjective genre in tv and film.
Boat Builders (1938): This is my animated short for the week that is from Disney. Mickey buys a boat kit in which the instructions lead on about how easy it is and when getting help from Donald Duck and Goofy, they realize that it is very difficult for them leading to some pretty funny moments. This is a pretty funny short of the trio, each of them showcased very well. I recorded this on TCM but I'm sure it's available on those Disney vault dvds of short films and is available for youtube.
Young at Heart (1954): This is part two of my Frank Sinatra series. Gordon Douglas directs this film which in a sense in a musical but not a conventional one as in they all have reason to sing like for performances. Doris Day stars as Laurie who comes from a musical family and all the sisters take a liking to Alex, played by Gig Young, who ends up getting engaged to Laurie. Sinatra co-stars as Barney who is a more cynical musician helping Alex with some work and takes a liking to Laurie himself complicating matters a lot. Ethel Barrymore, Gig Young, Dorothy Malone, Robert Keith, Alan Hale Jr., Frank Ferguson, and many others co-star in this film. This is a bit of a love story but not really upbeat with Sinatra's character. This includes the title song by Johnny Richards and Carolyn Leigh which had just gotten popular with it being a hit song for Sinatra which then became this movie title and would also be popular in the future, most notably the '90s movie IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU. This is a more underrated Sinatra film and as far as I know the only teaming for him and Day which has a really good supporting cast including a later film for Ethel Barrymore who is the great aunt of Drew Barrymore. This is a remake to a 1938 movie called FOUR DAUGHTERS which I know nothing about but may look to check it out soon.
A Raisin in the Sun (2008): This is part two of a possible Audra McDonald trilogy. This is a tv movie which a remake to the classic 1961 film and based on the play by Lorraine Hansberry so maybe in a sense it is not necessarily a remake but another movie based on the play. This is something I have come up with on multiple movies that are based on a novel as well, I'll talk about that another time. Kenny Leon directed this tv movie which was at first a Broadway revival and then they made it into a network tv movie. This centers around a black family in the '50s where they deal with poverty and racism. Sean Combs stars as Walter Younger who is in a low-level job looking to get the money needed to make a risky investment. McDonald stars as his wife Ruth who is dealing with issues of her own. Phylicia Rashad co-stars as Walter's mother Lena who is awaiting a $10,000 insurance check due to the death of her husband and everyone having different ideas on how it should get used. Sanaa Lathan is very good as Walter's more free-spirited sister Beneatha and rounding out the family is Justin Martin as the son Travis. Bill Nunn David Oyelowo, Ron Cephas Jones, John Stamos, Sandi Ross, and many others co-star in this tv movie. This may very well be the first time I have featured John Stamos on this blog. I'll start by saying that the first one is better but I thought this version was still done with care coming from a Tony Award winning Broadway revival. If you can look past the fact that Sean Combs has been more known as names like Puff Daddy, P Diddy, and even Diddy, he didn't do a bad job, the rest of the cast were very strong in their roles.
The Outer Space Connection (1975): This is one of my documentaries for the week. Fred Warshofsky directed this documentary based on the book by Alan Landsburg which explores the speculation of alien visits in ancient times. It looks at some of the unexplained mysteries from ancient civilizations giving thought to the possibility that aliens started this world. Rod Serling provides the narration in what is essentially a science documentary, maybe even a sci-fi documentary. It also has a pretty cool music score to go along with it. Take this for what it is, nothing has been proven but interesting thoughts. This is available on Youtube at least.
J. Edgar (2011): This is part two of a possible five part Leonardo DiCaprio series. Clint Eastwood directed this biopic which is based on a screenplay by Dustin Lance Black. DiCaprio stars as the famed FBI founder J. Edgar Hoover. It goes into Hoover's rise and many of the events he was involved in. The main part of the story is with his hire Clyde Tolson, played by Armie Hammer, who is quickly promoted to assistant director and is of an alleged relationship they had through the years. David Cooper, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench, Jessica Hecht, Ken Howard, Jeffrey Donovan, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Lucas, Zach Grenier, Stephen Root, Adam Driver, and many others co-star in this film. This did go to mixed opinions. The big part of this in my opinion was DiCaprio's performance of Hoover and his ability and the way he can accommodate to playing almost anyone. It takes place in two eras and the jumps between the two were a bit confusing at times. You must also except that it is at least partly fictional seeing as there has never really been any proof one way or another on the alleged relationship with Tolson. It kind of made me think of the alleged relationship between Truman Capote and Perry Smith when Capote was writing IN COLD BLOOD that they played out in the movie INFAMOUS. Maybe this will be a good double feature.
The Secret Land (1948): This is my second documentary for the week. This takes a look at the Navy in 1946 on an expedition they took to Antarctica known as Operation High Jump. This expedition involved 13 ships and over 4000 men. There were various objectives to this trip that included things like testing equipment in frigid conditions, investigating base sites, among other things. Narration was provided by celebrity veterans Robert Montgomery, Robert Taylor, and Van Heflin. This was filmed by military photographers and they got a lot of really good footage. I had never heard of this expedition and was a very insightful documentary from this era.
Xanadu (1980): This is my musical for the week which was directed by Robert Greenwald. Michael Beck stars as Sonny Malone who is a struggling artist who is looking to do something big and meets up with musician Danny McGuire, played by Gene Kelly in his last feature role, and are inspired by a Greek muse named Kira, played by Olivia Newton-John, to build a roller disco rink and later forbidden love occurs with Danny and Kira. That is about the best way I can describe this movie. This is not great, at best can be described as fun and has become a cult classic through the years. It even got on the rise a bit with community theaters there for awhile. A lot of the soundtrack was from Electric Light Orchestra and some was from John Farrar. Kelly is in his last feature role so could have gone out with a bigger bang but it had to be this cheesy musical. This is available on the website hoopla.com which mostly requires a membership to the public library.
Lady Snowblood (1973): This is my Japanese film for the week. I watched this not knowing I was watching one of the inspirations for KILL BILL but more on that later. Toshiya Fugita directed this Japanese revenge film. Meiko Kaji stars as Yuki who is born only to be an instrument of revenge for her bitter and late mother. She is raised to be an assassin and wreaks havoc on those who wronged her mother many years ago. This was a very stylish and violent film and can see why it would inspire Quentin Tarantino. As soon as the movie started, I already recognized the theme song called SHURA NO HANA which is used in the first KILL BILL. Also, some of the elements like blood pretty much spraying out of the body was something I noticed in Tarantino's film. This and its sequel that came out the year after were released this year on the Criterion Collection and will venture to say that was helped by Tarantino in using this movie as the main inspiration for KILL BILL, at least the first one. It could be debated on if Quentin used it as homage or theft. For me, both movies are very enjoyable and I think Tarantino did helped give more exposure to a very good Japanese film that has not gone onto become very known. This film is based on a manga series of the same name.
Soldiers Pay (2004): I end the week with this documentary short directed by Tricia Regan, David O. Russell, and Juan Carlos Zaldivar. This documentary is mostly interviews from soldiers, journalists, politicians, and psychiatrists on the Iraq War, mostly on the more modern one but some on the first Persian Gulf war. The people interviewed are on all sides and get many different perspectives on the war. This is a good half hour watch on just people reflecting on their times during the war.
Well, that is it for this week. Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Rachel McAdams, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brie Larson, Beau Bridges, and many others.