Sunday, February 5, 2017

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 586th Edition

Welcome to the 586th Edition of my series.  Not a lot going on this week except that the Super Bowl is tonight.  For me, I am just wanting a good game although rooting for the Patriots is tempting just to anger Colts fans.  I hope no one boycotts me if I do root for them.  Nothing else really happening so on with the recommendations.

Lord, Save Us From Your Followers (2008):  I start the week out with this documentary.  Dan Merchant directed this documentary looking to understand why it is that religion seems to be dividing us when religion is supposed to be about love.  He dons a costume full of bumper stickers that pretty much look at all sides and goes around asking people to choose which one they like the most.  He also goes around interviewing a variety of people in the religious world and some outsiders trying to look at all sides.  Keep in mind, Merchant himself is a Christian and one of the most touching parts was him learning his own flaws and admitting he has work to do as well.  There are a lot of pretty humorous moments in this documentary but gives a good message in the end.  This could be a good double feature to Bill Maher's RELIGULOUS which take more a look at why people believe whereas this one is less cynical and wants to know why we are become so divided.  This is available on

The King of Masks (1996):  This is my Chinese film for the week which is not the usual action and martial arts that I usually post from the Asian world of film.  Tian-Ming Wu directed this film that is based on a true story that I want to say takes place in the early 1900s but maybe the late 1800s.  Xu Zhu stars as Wang who is the master of the Bianlian street art that he performs as a street performer.  He has concerns that since he no longer has a son, died from illness at 10 years of age, that his talent will die out making him feel the need for an heir, in other words a son.  He thinks he has found the grandson needed in a boy named Gou Wa, played by Zhou Renying, that he buys from a slave trader nicknaming him doggie which I guess was an affectionate termed used toward children.  Things change when it is revealed that this boy that he bought is a girl and as tradition dictates his talent cannot be passed down.  This Hong Kong drama has a lot of sadness, humor, and suspense and is a very moving story of their relationship and is a really good escape from Hollywood.

Mr. Mom (1983):  Stan Dragoti directed this comedy that was written by John Hughes which I feel is an homage to the stay at home parent.  Michael Keaton in his first starring role stars as the hard working Jack in a really good marriage with his wife Caroline who stays at home with their kids, played by Frederick Koehler and Talieson Jaffe.  Changes happen at his work making Jack's future in the air as a laid off worker.  When then happens, Caroline manages to find herself a job making Jack the stay at home dad, a job he has idea what to do.  This leads to a lot of great moments and might rank in my list of favorite comedies thanks to Keaton being perfectly cast as the clueless father that slowly learns how to become a good stay at home dad.  Martin Mull, Ann Jillian, Jeffrey Tambor, Christopher Lloyd, Graham Jarvis, Carolyn Seymour, Valri Bromfield, and many others co-star in this comedy.  Some of the moments I liked most were Jack getting emotionally invested in Victor and Nikki Newman in THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, a poker game with other stay at home moms that involves coupons each have, and parody scenes to ROCKY and CHARIOTS OF FIRE.

Tear Gas in Law Enforcement (1962):  This is one of my two short films for the week.  This comes from the sponsor of Lake Erie Chemical Company and was a training video showing the variety of uses of tear gas which from what I understand was a lot more dangerous than it is now.  This was shown on TCM during the Underground Shorts so in other words a pretty dated educational video that is more entertaining than anything.  This can be seen on Youtube.

Four Sons (1928):  This is my silent film and war film for the week which is an early film for John Ford.  This takes place during WWI where Margaret Mann stars as the German Mother Bernle who as the title indicates is the mother of four sons named Joseph, played by James Hall, Johann, played by Charles Morton, Franz, played by Francis X. Bushman Jr., and Andreas, played by George Meeker.  Joseph gets a job in the United States and starts a new life there.  Unfortunately WWI gets in the way and Joseph enlists for the United States in the war effort while the other three go into WWI for Germany putting them on different sides.  I would venture to say this is Ford's last silent film as talkies were just getting on the rise.  It is a pretty moving war film about a family being torn apart by a war.  It would be mostly enjoyed by silent film buffs.

Odd Man Out (1947):  This is my British film noir for the week which was directed by Carol Reed and based on a novel by F.L. Green.  James Mason stars as an IRA type leader named Johnny McQueen who has escaped prison and is hiding out in the house of Kathleen, played by Kathleen Ryan.  Soon, Johnny is wounded in a heist and disappears in the back-alleys of Belfast on the run from the law and fellow gangsters.  Robert Newton, Cyril Cusack, William Hartnell, Fay Compton, Robert Beatty, Dan O'Herlihy, and many others co-star in this film.  It was very interesting how it shows each had their own ulterior motive toward Johnny whether they were wanting to protect him or out for him.  This is a really good early film for Mason and has cited this as his best performance in his career.  One that has gone overlooked and hope to help this get on a radar a bit.

Bang Bang You're Dead (2002):  This is my Showtime film for the week.  Guy Ferland directed this movie which takes a look at the effects of bulling.  Ben Foster stars as Trevor Adams who has been bullied all his life in school.  He gets to return to school after being expelled for a phony bomb threat that is made and now is more ignored and feared by teachers and parents for his actions.  The group that pays attention to him is a outcast group called the "trogs" which tend to go to extreme and violent measures to make a statement.  Tom Cavanaugh co-stars as theater teacher Val Duncan who is looking to put on a play of the title which is about a school shooting and wants Trevor to play the school shooter hoping to raise awareness.  This obviously brings a lot of controversy from the community.  Randy Harrison, Janel Moloney, Jane McGregor, David Paetkau, Eric Johnson, and many others co-star in this film.  This takes a good look at the rather divided topic of bullying on how it is handled and how it should be handled.  I will say that growing up I was bullied a lot.  I suppose I should have done what a lot of people say and stand up to them, maybe even punch them as others suggested.  What I did instead was do what I could to "fit in" with the "popular" crowd by bullying other myself.  I realize now how stupid that was but at the time it seemed like the way to go.  The character Trevor has his way own way of handing those that have wronged him and Val does what he can to save him from doing something he regrets.  I know a lot of society say that children need to stand up to bullies which I have a lot of mixed opinions about.  I feel those that bully need to know that what they are doing now even if it does not necessarily resonate with them at that time.  If anyone underage is reading this, thank you for reading it and I just want to add to both the outcast and to those that are in the popular crowd that there is life after high school and as I learned it changes a lot.  The popularity becomes very insignificant when you start the adulting part of life.  The play within the movie has been performed at a lot of high schoools.

Stroszek (1977):  Werner Herzog wrote and directed this German film which stars Bruno S. as Bruno Stroszek who is a street musician getting released from prison and advised to stay out of bars and not drink alcohol.  This is advice that Bruno does not listen to and goes into a familiar bar while meeting and befriending a prostitute named Eva, played by Eva Mattes, who he befriends even forming a relationship.  He takes in Eva and lets her stay in his apartment.  They are soon attacked and beaten by Eva's pimps and decide they want to follow their elderly neighbor Scheitz, played Clemens Scheitz, to Wisconsin after hearing how great people have it and the American dream.  After Bruno gets a job and a low-end autoshop and Eva gets a job waitressing, they realize that the American Dream is the American Nightmare.  A lot of the characters in the film were written just for the actors whose lives were rather parallel to the life of the actor and real person, maybe why Herzog used a lot of their own names as the characters.  It is a well-done tragicomedy on how the American Dream is not everything it is cracked up to be.

The Giant Claw (1957):  I saw this over the weekend in Farmland, Indiana where the Farmland Gang decided to do their own MST3K and RIFFTRAX calling it "Don't Shoot the Projectionist".  They started out with a really bad short film which will be featured next week so those that were there, please do not reveal what was shown first.  After the soon to be revealed short film, we move onto this B-movie and lived up to its B-movie label.  Something very mysterious is encounted.  You might say a plane, you might say Superman but no it was as bird this time and a very big bird at that and no I'm not talking about that friendly yellow bird that lives at Seseme Street.  Jeff Morrow stars as Mitch MacAfee who is an Air Force pilot and is the first to say he saw this really big and destructive bird that does not seem to be there to make any friends.  This was a pretty cool event and a fun riff session that I hope they continue doing these.

Barnyard Aces (2015):  I end the week with this animated short film that is from Mexico which was directed by Irving Sevilla and written by Violeta Salmon.  This centers around a bar that is run by birds, and the mischievous waitress is wanting a jukebox instead of her boss booking singers.  There is not much in the way of dialogue but does have some pretty cool animation.  This 10 minute short film is available on HBO-On Demand.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Robin Williams, Ingrid Bergman, Naomi Watts, and many others.

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