Sunday, May 28, 2017

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 602nd Edition

Welcome to the 602nd Edition of my series.  Last night ended Shaun's 7 Night Karaoke Madness and I survived.  It was quite a journey but now I move on with my life and go to work.  Next month I'm starting my rehearsals for BURNT PART BOYS in Fortville so I look forward to that next journey.  For now, I'll just get on with my selections for the week.

Get On Up (2014):  This is part two of a possible four part Viola Davis series.  I start the week out with this music biopic on James Brown, played by Chadwick Boseman.  This takes a look at the ups and downs of Brown's life and the rise as a very iconic musician.  Davis, Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd, Lennie James, Fred Melamed, Craig Robinson, Jill Scott, Octavia Spencer, Josh Hopkins, Brandon Mychal Smith, Ahna O'Reilly, Allison Janney, and many others co-star in this film.  This was shot in a rather different way than other biopics.  It was shot in a non-linear fashion which goes between his childhood to his adult life in a parallel sense.  Boseman was very well cast as Brown and clearly researched him to achieve authenticity.  Everyone else does well in this complex biopic.

Wallenberg:  A Hero's Story (1985):  This is more of a mini-series which is based on the real-life Raoul Wallenberg, played by Richard Chaimberlain.  Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat during Nazi occupied Sweden.  He began to see the horrors of what was going on mainly with the Jewish population being put in concentration and took steps to offer many refuge and life-saving passports that saved thousands of lives.  Alice Krige, Kenneth Colley, Melanie Mayron, Stuart Wilson, Bibi Andersson, David Robb, Mark Rylance, Lena Olin, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a good look at someone who really stepped up during such a horrible period of time.  This could be a really good double feature to go along with SCHINDLER'S LIST and maybe even another more unknown story of Irena Sendler in THE COURAGEOUS HEART OF IRINA SENDLER which is also someone that did a lot to help the Jewish during the Holocaust.  This has two parts that go about 90 minutes each.

American Experience:  Walt Disney (2015):  I go from biopics on a singer and a Holocaust hero to a documentary on an American icon.  Technically, this is an episode from the tv series AMERICAN EXPERIENCE but since I own all the rights to my blog series, I am able to decide what is a movie and what is not one.  Oliver Platt narrates this two-part documentary starting from his childhood, his early days of animation, into his rise as the man we know today.  This was a very intriguing documentary on someone you might call a crazed genius in some ways.  The success his company had with the slapstick  comedy animation shorts with Mickey Mouse and friends were not enough for him.  He had the crazy idea to do feature animation that is not really comedy in SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS which no one around him thought it would work.  His much later vision of Disney Land was not met with much support but we all know the result of that one.  This also takes a look at Walt's brother Roy who does not really get the credit he deserves in the roles he played for the company.  This is a really good look into the good and the bad of the very complex visionary Walt Disney.  After watching this, I put him in a category with people like Steve Jobs and Vincent K. McMahon.

Three Little Pigskins (1934):  This is my short film for the week.  This one features the Three Stooges with the original three of Moe, Larry, and Curly Howard.  In this one, the Stooges are mistaken for the iconic football trio of "The Three Horseman of Boulder Dam".  They are hired to play for a football team and it becomes clear they are far from being good football players.  Lucille Ball has an early role in this short film and has some pretty funny moments herself.

Against All Flags (1952):  This is my swashbuckler film for the week.  Errol Flynn stars as British officer Brian Hawkes who is sent to infiltrate a pirate ship.  When getting there, he falls in love with pirate captain Spitfire Stevens, played by Maureen O'Hara, but things get complicated with the suspicions of Roc Brasiliano, played by Anthony Quinn.  Alice Kelley, Mildred Natwick, Robert Warwick, Harry Cording, and many others co-star in this film.  Fans of these types of movies should enjoy, nothing great but still a lot of fun with a pretty good action climax at the end.  O'Hara shows her sword wielding skills in her very strong female role.

The Conversation (1974):  Francis Ford Coppola wrote and directed this film which stars Gene Hackman as surveillance expert Harry Caul.  On an assignment, Harry hears far more than what he wants to hear making him question everything around him and his own sanity.  John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Frederick Forrest, Cindy Williams, Teri Garr, Harrison Ford, Robert Duvall, and many others co-star in this film and Billy Dee Williams has an uncredited role as an extra.  This was a project that Coppola had started in the mid '60s but did not have the funding necessary until the success of THE GODFATHER, which this movie is in between that and its sequel, that finally made this movie a reality.  Both Coppola and Hackman have expressed this movie to being their favorite they have done.  Hackman brings the part of a timid and private man to perfection with the downward spiral his life takes.  This is not a really easy film to describe and requires a lot of attention but it becomes rewarding in the end.  This is a rather overlooked film that I hope can give some exposure.

August:  Osage County (2013):  This is part three of my possible five-part Sam Shepherd series.  I first watched this as part of the segment that I have for "Movie Night at the Shera" when we thought this looked interesting so we decided up watching this one.  John Wells directed this film that is based on a play by Tracy Letts in which he wrote the screenplay to his own play.  Meryl Streep stars as Violet Weston who has cancer and an addiction to pills and alcohol.  Her three daughters Barbara, played by Julia Roberts, Ivy, played by Julianne Nicholson, and Karen, played by Juliette Lewis join her as well as the rest of the family after a tragedy.  When the family gets together, many secrets get out and tensions go through the roof for this family.  Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Misty Upham all co-star.  I enjoyed Cumberbatch in this film as someone who tries so hard to do right but has a hard time.  This is not a very upbeat film at all but a very good portrait towards a dysfunctional family and the price of secrets.  We both watched this movie, not really knowing what to expect.  There were many times both of us cringed on scenes but enjoyed it for the most part.  When it was over, we both discussed our feelings toward the end of the movie but won't go into detail on what was discussed seeing as this is not a spoiler blog.  This was a very good cast, each character was developed pretty well.  This is something I would love to see a local community theater around me do and it has been done in Indianapolis, I just want it closer.  Most of the time, these kinds of dysfunctional family movies tend to be holiday comedies where things finally come together, this is not one of them.

Elevator to the Gallows (1958):  This is my French film for the week which was directed by Louis Malle and based on the novel by Noel Calef.  Maurice Ronet stars as Julien who is having an affair with his boss's wife Florence, played by Jeanne Moreau, and they plot to kill him and make look like a suicide.  The murder was not fully thought through sparking an unexpected chain of events.  Georges Poujouly, Yori Bertin, Jean Wall, Elga Anderson, and many others co-star in this film.  Miles Davis wrote the music to this film and apparently improvised with other musicians.  This is a very well-shot film with a lot of suspense.  It is available on the Criterion Collection.  This is a must for the foreign film buffs out there.

J.W. Coop (1971):  The man most of us know today as Uncle Ben in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy Cliff Robertson takes up his own project that he produced, directed, and co-wrote.  He also stars as the title character who is just getting released from prison after about 10 years and looks to get back to being a professional rodeo cowboy.  While out, he must adjust to a different society that he knew when he was incarcerated and the new world of rodeo where he looks to get everything back.  Geraldine Page, Cristina Ferrare, and many others co-star in this film.  I always like it when actors take on their own project that is more of an independent production maybe after they did a big Hollywood productions for the necessary funding.  This is one that will never be really known except when people like me take interest and feature it.  I had not heard of this movie until I found it at the library.  This in some ways is rather inspirational but can also be sad at times where we are with a man trying to adjust to the changing times.  Robertson does a great job with this film and hope to get it a little more known after featuring on here.  Another really good but rather unknown Robertson film is CHARLY so maybe get these movies and make a double feature.

Spellbound (2002):  I end the week with my second documentary for the week so sorry to those that though I was featuring the Hitchcock film of the same name.  Jeffrey Blitz directed this documentary which takes a look at 8 teenagers who are in the 1999 National Spelling Bee.  It takes a look at the lives of these kids while they prepare for their big moment and also takes a look at the part their parents play in all of this.  The kids interviewed were all pretty likable and all had rather interesting stories and we even got quite a bit of suspense during this spelling bee.  I can kind of relate to these kids a bit.  No, I've never been in the National Spelling Bee but it did kind of remind me of getting myself ready for AMERICA'S GOT TALENT and things that go into it.  This is a pretty compelling documentary and even interviews past winners about their experiences.

Well, that is it for this week but I have returned with a selection for the Movie Night at the Shera segment.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Tom Hiddleston and many others.


Psycho (1960):  We haven't gotten to have this event for awhile but we both had some free time so we got together for this classic from Hitchcock.  Shera had finished watching the series BATES MOTEL and had not seen this movie so she decided she wanted to check out what started it all.  Alfred Hitchcock directed this classic horror film based on the novel by Robert Bloch.  Anthony Perkins gives an iconic performance as the Norman Bates who manages the Bates Motel which is in a very remote area.  Norman is a very quiet and timid man whose life seems to be domineered by his mother.  Things star when Marion Crane, played by Janet Leigh, goes on the run and takes refuge at the motel leading into some life changing events for her and a few people close to her.  Vera Miles, John Gavin, and Martin Balsam co-star in this infamous film.  Most people already know the story so I'm not going to go too in-depth for those who have not seen it but will after reading this summary.  This movie has lead into a few sequels, a remake and a successful tv series.  It has the very famous shower scene. and the very memorable performance from Perkins which is unfortunately the only role he is known for and while this is possibly his best, he did a lot more admirable work.  Another really great part of this movie is the music score by Bernard Herrmann which comprises of all stringed instruments and contributed to the creepy feel of the film.  This is based loosely on real-life serial killer Ed Gein which was has been the inspiration for many.  A great double feature would be this film and the 2012 film HITCHCOCK which is based on his efforts to get this movie made and went through some extreme measures to get this movie made when no one really wanted to help him.  Shera seemed to enjoy it and found it to be a lot creepier than the series she was into.  I'm hoping now to maybe talk her into the mentioned biopic and maybe even the rather decent 1983 sequel PSYCHO II.

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