Sunday, June 11, 2017

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 604th Edition

Welcome to the 604th Edition of my series.  Tomorrow, I start rehearsals for my next show BURNT PART BOYS which is to be performed in August at the Ten West Center for the Arts in Fortville, Indiana.  This will be my first show in Fortville and the 10th town I have worked in with community theater where I continue to be the drifter of community theater.  Glad to see the weather is getting nicer but not much else happening so I'll just get on with my selections.

Black Mass (2015):  This is part one of a two-part Peter Sarsgaard series.  Scott Cooper directed this film which is based on the book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill.  This is based on a true story where Johnny Depp stars as James "Whitey" Bulger who is an Irish Mobster and in the '70s makes a deal with FBI agent John Connolly, played by Joel Edgerton, to help take down the Italian mafia.  Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons, Rory Cochrane, David Harbour, Adam Scott, Corey Stoll, Julianne Nicholson, W. Earl Brown, Bill Camp, Juno Temple, and many others co-star in this film.  I found this to be a very intriguing story and one I had not heard until seeing this film.  Depp shows his range as Bulger and also liked Edgerton as the FBI agent who slowly realizes the mistake he makes in recruiting Bulger as an informant.  I saw one review on imdb that criticized the movie for the characters being unlikable and I'm sure these people were rather unlikable.  Depp also cites this as his favorite movie he has done and has broken his rule of not watching his own movies.  Some of Bulger's associates have also said that he played the part to perfection.

The Crunch Bird (1971):  This is my animated short for the week.  Ted Petok directed this Oscar winning animated short film.  A wife is out to get her husband a gift for his upcoming birthday and decides upon a bird with a rather unusual ability.  This is less than three minutes long and remains the shortest film to win an academy award even by short film standards.  This does get right to the point and is really very funny and has some good dark comedy.  This is available to watch on Youtube.

Thunder Road (1958):  Arthur Ripley directed this film which is based on a story by Robert Mitchum who also stars in the film as Lucas Doolin who is a Korean War veteran returning home to his small town to take over the family moonshining business which is during Prohibition.  He must battle gangsters and the police who are out for him while also doing what he can to make sure his younger brother Robin, played by his son James Mitchum, does not end up like him.  Gene Barry, Jacques Aubuchon, Trevor Bardette, and a young Mitchell Ryan who would go onto become quite the actor mostly in television.  There is no mistaking James Mitchum to be Robert's son.  This is a pretty good and simple story with some pretty good action and performances.  Mitchum first asked Elvis Presley to star as his brother Robin but Colonel Tom Parker would not allow it since it was not going to make the kind of money the cheesy musicals made for them.  I mentioned last week how much I like when an actor takes on their own project like this that may not make the most money but does it more for the art and Mitchum took on a good project in this film.

Jesse Stone:  Night Passage (2006):  This is part four of my Viola Davis series.  This is my tv movie for the week which is a series of tv movies based on books by Robert B. Parker.  This is the second one of the nine-part tv movie series and is a prequel to STONE COLD.  Tom Selleck stars in Jesse Stone who we see in this one was a cop in L.A. with some alcohol issues and relocates to the smaller town of Paradise, Massachusetts.  When arriving there, he must solve some local crimes, mostly a murder to look like a suicide.  Saul Rubinek, Kuhl Sudduth, Polly Shannon, Mike Starr, Britt Robertson, Stephen McHattie, Stephen Baldwin, and many others co-star in this movie.  I have seen some of these and they are pretty well-done small town cop movies.  Selleck is very well cast and is really very likable in the cop willing to do what it takes to get the job done even if he must bend the rules a bit.  I found that the actor Kuhl Sudduth, who plays the role of Suitcase looks a bit like my friend and WWE referee Jason Ayers.  I have enclosed a photo of the two down below.  If you can, I would take a look into some of these tv movies.


Two Alone (1934):  Elliott Nugent directed this film that is based on a play by Dan Totheroh.  Jean Parker stars as orphan girl Mazie who works on a farm and is mistreated by cruel farm Slag, played by Arthur Byron.  Tom Brown co-stars as reform school runaway Adam who stumbles upon the farm and is put to work by Slag.  Soon, Adam and Mazie fall in love but Slag makes it very difficult in his tyrannical ways.  Zasu Pitts, Beulah Bondi, Nydia Westman, Willard Robertson, Charley Grapewin, and many others co-star in this film.  Grapewin is the comic relief in this very dark and sad story.  It is still quite compelling even today and was worth a little over an hour.

We're the Millers (2013):  This is part two of my two-part Emma Roberts series.  Rawson Marshall Thurber directed this comedy which stars Jason Sudeikis as David Clark who makes his living in dealing pot.  After dealing in a more small time way, he soon gets a job that involves smuggling over the Mexican border.  He decides that a way to make things easier is to recruit people to be his "family" taking a vacation.  Jennifer Aniston co-stars as Rose who works as a stripper, Will Poulter co-stars as David's naive neighbor Kenny, and Roberts co-stars as street teen Casey.  They people go along with David to be his family that is on a vacation.  Ed Helms, Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, Molly C. Quinn, Tomer Sisley, Matthew Willig, Luis Guzman, Thomas Lennon, Ken Marino, and many others co-star in this comedy.  I thought this was a pretty clever comedy and did deliver me a lot of laughs.  It is a bit raunchy so may not be for everyone but a very fun crime comedy.

Hitler's Madman (1943):  Douglas Sirk directed this film that obviously takes place during WWII.  This is story about the assassination of Nazi commander Reinhardt Heydrich, played by John Carradine, in Lidice, Czechoslavakia by resistance group lead by Karel Vavra, played by Alan Curtis.  It also focuses on the aftermath and the revenge taken by Heinrich Himmler, played by Howard Freedman.  Patricia Morrison, Ralph Morgan, Edgar Kennedy, Ludwig Stossel, and many others.  This is an admitted fictionalized story on the assassination.  It is still a fascinating watch from the era and Carradine really good as Heydrich.

The Unknown Known (2013):  This is one of my two documentaries for the week.  Errol Morris directed this film which is an interview between Morris and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  This discusses his early political career but mostly talks about the post 9/11 decisions made, most notably the invasion of Iraq.  Something also of interest is that Rumsfeld had a blizzard of memos which were come to be known as "snowflakes" so they were using that word long before society started using it towards liberals.  In this we see a rather different language in the way Rumsfeld talks.  It is also a good look at the abuse of power.  Like him or not, this was a very good interview to watch and Morris was able to bring out quite a bit out of Rumsfeld.

Starcrash (1978):  This is part two of my two-part David Hasselhoff series which I never thought I would ever do but here is is.  This is episode six of the new MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 where Jonah, Tom Servo, and Crow and forced to watch what is essentially a STAR WARS rip-off.  Caroline Munro stars as smuggler Stella Star who her and her alien sidekick Acton, played by Marjoe Gortner, are recruited by the emperor, played by Christopher Plummer, to rescue his son, played by the Hoff.  Akton was just constantly showing various powers with really bad special effects and at one point he even had a light saber.  There was also a redneck robot helping them a lot.  Munro is always good too look out as she wears a bikini most of the time no matter where she goes.  The episode has a cameo from Jerry Seinfeld and has some good riffs.  I kind of like the way the robots are more mobile now.  Last week as I was promoting this on Twitter, I came across this really interesting event in November which is a the David Hasselhoff World Fan Cruise in Europe. is the link to check this out.  I would almost consider going to this if I had a lot more money.  Worth a look to get some laughs.

Crumb (1994):  I end the week with this documentary on underground comics writer Robert Crumb which was directed by Terry Zwigoff.  I suppose you could call Crumb the father of underground comics, maybe that's pushing it.  I don't claim to know a lot of that world and believe my dad could give better insight than me on that sort of thing.  He wrote some very obscene comics like Fritz the Cat, Keep on Truckin', Mr. Natural, and many others.   This takes a look at his life and what has contributed to his rather warped mind to create the rather bizarre things he has come to create.  This also takes a look at his family and a couple of his brothers who are artistic in their own right but never really got the notoriety that Robert got and they clearly have their own issues.  There was also a struggle with Zwigoff that does not get mentioned in the film that he really struggled to come up with the funds to get this movie made and turned out to be a six year project but got a very critically acclaimed documentary in return.  A good double feature would be to follow this with AMERICAN SPLENDOR WHICH is a biopic/documentary of fellow underground comics writer Harvey Pekar who Crumb helped a lot with the illustration and distribution.

Well, that is it for this week but I did include my "Movie Night at the Shera" segment.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Natalie Portman, Viola Davis, and many others.


Labyrinth (1986):  Last Tuesday, my friend Shera and I decided to have a movie night at her house.  A couple weeks ago we watched PSYCHO which was her first time seeing but had seen BATES MOTEL.  This week she wanted to watch something she was more familiar with and her youngest daughter wanted to see it as well so we agreed upon this 80s fantasy classic.  Jim Henson directed this film where a young Jennifer Connelly stars as Sarah who gets frustrated with her baby brother and makes the wish for him to be taken by the Goblin King, played by David Bowie, not knowing he is real.  Sarah has 13 hours to solve a labyrinth in order to get her brother back.  Toby Froud, Shelley Thompson, Christopher Malcolm, Shari Weiser, Brian Henson, Dave Goehls, Frank Oz, Steve Whitmire, Kevin Clash, and many others co-star or have voices.  Notable midget actors Kenny Baker and Warwick Davis are part of the Goblin Corps.  Also of interest is that we have Jim Henson as the director and having a lot of other involvement, we have George Lucas as the executive producer, and we have Monty Python alum Terry Jones who wrote the screenplay.  This also has some good musical numbers, especially with Bowie.  This is quite the classic and a pleasant evening doing a dinner and a movie in the home of my very dear friend.  I got to some thinking and I'm thinking before watching this, start with the short film CAPTAIN EO which came out the same year and has Michael Jackson in this musical short.  This way you have kind of the classic movie theater experience of old that I would love to see come back thought Disney does do that a lot I have found.

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