Sunday, January 15, 2017

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 583rd Edition

Welcome to the 583rd Edition of my series.  I hope everyone is having a good year so far.  I ran into an old friend this week and let me know that my post last week made him want to see LAYER CAKE and he really liked it.  It is moments like those that make me glad I started this over a decade long weekly blog series.  I don't have much else going on right now so onto my selections.

D.C. Cab (1983):  I start out with this guilty pleasure 80s comedy which was directed and co-written by Joel Schumacher.  Adam Baldwin stars as the naive and good natured Albert Hockenberry who moves to the D.C. area to join his late father's army buy Harold, played by Max Gail, in his run-down cab business.  This is a struggling business and a very misfit group that includes Mr. T, Gary Busey, Paul Rodriguez, Bill Maher, among others.  The main premise is that Harold gets kidnapped and the cab group is finally motivated to work together.  Charlie Barnett, Gloria Gifford, Marsha Warfield, Otis Day, Irene Cara, John Diehl, Bob Zmuda, Timothy Carey, and many others co-star in this film.  This is very politically incorrect comedy with a lot of 80s fun.  I mean where can you go wrong with Mr. T and Gary Busey?  This is available on HBO On-Demand.

Bruno (2009):  I follow up with even more political correctness directed by Larry Charles and stars Sasha Baron Cohen, who also co-wrote, as the gay and flamboyant Austrian reporter Bruno.  Bruno has a fashion based show which is the most popular German-speaking show outside of Germany but disgraces himself prompting him to move to Los Angeles to look for fame in America.  This is a follow-up to his hit film BORAT and essentially filmed the same way in staging prank encounters.  This does not beat his previous one and at times does make me turn my head.  There were still some very funny moments like him targeting the Westboro Baptist Church and a song called DOVE OF PEACE which includes Sting, Bono, Snoop Dogg, Chris Martin, Elton John and Slash.  This may take pushing the envelope to a different level so use your judgement.

Rio 2 (2014):  Now I follow up with something more family oriented.  Carlos Saldanha directed and co-wrote this sequel to the hit animated bird film from 2011.  Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway reprise their roles as Blu and Jewel who are now the parents of three and living in a home for protection.  They decide to set out to find other birds of their kind and go to the Amazons where Blu meets his father in law Eduardo, voiced by Andy Garcia, and resumes his rivalry with his rival Nigel, voiced by Jermaine Clement.  A lot of this is Blu trying to adjust to a world of birds after being mostly domesticated all his life.  Another part of it are mean humans trying to destroy the Amazons.  Jake T. Austin, Kristin Chenoweth, Rachel Crow, Miguel Ferrer, Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, Bruno Mars, Janelle Monae, Natalie Morales, Rita Moreno, Tracy Morgan, Will.I.Am, and many others provide their voices in this sequel.  It does not beat the first one but still fun to watch with some very colorful animation and catchy music numbers.  I probably relate more to Blu in liking to be in a home with electronics and simpler life.

The Battle of Midway (1942):  This is my documentary short for the week which was a war propaganda short for the United States Navy and directed by John Ford.  This goes into what the title indicates which was a battle with Japan.  There is a lot of really good footage from naval photographers and there is a little bit of dialogue from Henry Fonda and Jane Darwell.  Ford and cinematographer Joseph H. August were wounded by enemy fire while shooting the film.  This was put together pretty well to promote our military during WWII and is worth about 18 minutes.

Tomorrow (1972):  Joseph Anthony directed this play that is based on a story by William Faulkner who adapted it from a play by Horton Foote.  Robert Duvall stars as lonely farmer Jackson Fentry who takes in a pregnant woman named Sarah, played by Olga Bellin, and helps her through pregnancy even becoming involved in their lives changing his life forever.  This came out in the same year as Duvall's star-making film THE GODFATHER and I am pretty sure this was first.  This is as low-budget as it gets but the director Anthony managed to make a beautiful film with this low-budget with Duvall and Bellin giving great performances in this more character driven film.  Duvall has cited this one as one of his favorite films and I had never heard of this until I found it on TCM On-Demand which is no longer available.  This is told in flashback and has a rather neat twist in my opinion so hopefully this is obtainable for everyone to check out.

The Big House (1930):  This is my prison film for the week.  Robert Montgomery stars as Kent who is a first time offender serving time for manslaughter in which he killed someone while driving drunk.  He clearly has a hard-time adjusting to his new life with his cell-mates John Morgan, played by Chester Morris, and long-time inmate Butch, played by Wallace Beery.  Part of this was propaganda for the prison system like the warden not wanting to put him with certain criminals to the point of putting him in a cell by himself but lack of funding did not give much choice.  This was a very popular genre in this era to show that prison was not a place to be and this movie conveys that very well, especially in the rather violent climax.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1973):  This is my British film for the week.  Glenn Jordan directs this film based on the classic horror novel by Oscar Wilde.  Shane Briant stars as the title character who becomes the subject of a portrait by an admiring artist, played by Charles Aidman.  When the painting is done, Dorian becomes upset with the thought that the person in the painting will stay young while he will just get old and has the thought of the painting aging while he stays young.  After this, he becomes rather cruel and sees the painting changing its looks to the point of being hideous through his sinful acts.  This is a pretty good adaptation of the novel and noticed how like a lot of classic horror it has someone who has good intentions, maybe just obsession but goes awry.  This is available on the website and usually takes a card to a local public library.

Manchester By the Sea (2016):  Kenneth Lonergan wrote and directed this film which stars Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler whose brother Joe, played by Kyle Chandler, dies and learns through his brother's will that he has been appointed to care for his teenage son Patrick, played by Ben O'Brien when younger and Lucas Hedges when older.  Lee struggles with this unexpected news and recalls through flashback moments that made him leave the town of Manchester and distance himself from the past which seems that his brother arranged for this to happen with some financial help in hopes his brother will get his life together.  Michelle Williams, Gretchen Mol, Tate Donovan, Kara Hayward, Josh Hamilton, Matthew Broderick, and many others co-star in this film.  These days, I actually try to stay away from previews and really started hearing about it through award shows and noticing how Affleck and Williams have been getting acting nominations.  In this mode, I kind of thought it was maybe some love story between the two and learned I could not have been more wrong.  It was really quite depressing and bleak at times but really kept me in through Affleck's performance in someone who punches someone in a bar, has a very foul mouth, has made some bad mistakes in life but still manages to get sympathy in his ability to convey emotion which I believe he does better than just about anyone.  This is another movie that is character driven and is really pretty unpredictable.

Rachel and the Stranger (1948):  This is my western for the week which was directed by Norman Foster and based on a story by Howard Fast.  William Holden stars as widowed farmer David Harvey who lives with his song Davey, played by Gary Gray, and is trying to raise his song the way he feels his wife would have with bible studies, an education, and manners despite his admiration for family friend and adventurous Jim, played by Robert Mitchum.  David decides to purchase an indentured servant named Rachel, played by Loretta Young, and marries her in hopes that she will be a mother figure to Davey.  At first, the guys don't really take to Rachel until Jim comes back and seeing that he is taking a liking to her while also showing that Rachel is more than a "bonds woman".  This is a pretty simple movie but still quite watchable movie about a widowed farmer that does not have a lot of action until the climax.

The Gruffalo (2009):  I end the week with this half hour animated short film.  Max Lang and Jakob Schuh direct this animated film based on a children's book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.  A mouse is determined to get a nut and in his journey he encounters a fox, an owl, and a snake, all of which invite him for dinner but the mouse suspects he is their dinner and makes up a very scary creature of the title to scare them but soon learns he is not making up the character.  Helena Bonham Carter, James Corden, Tom Wilkinson, John Hurt, Rob Brydon, and Robbie Coltrane all provide their voices in this short.  This is a pretty good telling and has some really good animation but I must say that anytime I see a fox now I cannot help but wonder what the fox says.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Martin Sheen, John Cleese, Fredric March, and many others.

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