Welcome to the 609th Edition of my series. Not a lot going on this week, except continuing my rehearsals for BURNT PART BOYS in Fortville that happens next month. Other than that, just my usual normal self so I'll get on with my selections.
Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013): This is part two of a two-part Oprah Winfrey series and part one of a possible John Cusack trilogy where he plays the former president Richard Nixon. I also inadvertently pay homage to TRUE BLOOD alum Nelsan Ellis who just left us. Lee Daniels directed this film which was co-wrote by Danny Strong which stars Forrest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines who serves as a respected butler at the White House for many years and through many administrations and recalls his ups and downs through his career with the racial relations and with family. Oprah co-stars as Cecil's wife and does a really good job and could make many non-Oprah fans like her in this movie. David Oyelowo, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz, Vanessa Redgrave, Robin Williams, James Marsden, Minka Kelly, Danny Strong, Liev Schreiber, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, David Banner, Mariah Carey, Michael Rainey Jr., Aml Ameen, Clarence Williams III, and many others co-star in this film. Whitaker does really great in his times when he is younger and ages very well through the film. I also really liked Rickman in his portrayal of Reagan and played the part far better than I thought but should not have thought any less being Alan Rickman. This is based on a true story about Eugene Allen but a lot of parts are fictionalized in the film. This is still a very compelling film with some good performances and a moving story.
Diary of Yunbogi (1965): This is my documentary short for the week. Last week I featured the Japanese film DEATH BY HANGING which was directed by Nagisa Oshima and on the Criterion Collection copy of this film also included is this short film. This is taken through a collection of still photos and narration of a young boy named Yunbogi who must grow up fast after being abandoned by his mother and take care of his younger brothers. From what I can see this can either be found on the Criterion Collection DVD or on youtube.
Twentieth Century (1934): This is my Broadway comedy for the week. Howard Hawks directed this film which stars John Barrymore as Broadway director Oscar Jaffe. Carole Lombard co-stars as actress Lily Garland who was discovered by Oscar and went onto Hollywood which made his career tumble a bit. They have an encounter on a train and Oscar does what he can to re-sign her into the theater but hard feelings from the actress make it difficult. Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, Ralph Forbes, Charles Lane, Etienne Girardot, Dale Fully, Edgar Kennedy, and many others co-star in this film. Barrymore shows more of a comedic side in this film as he usually did more dramatic roles and made this movie very entertaining. He has cited this as his favorite movie he has appeared in and even cites Lombard as the finest actress he worked with. Fun comedy especially for theater people. Just a little useless fact for those that did not know, John Barrymore is the grandfather of Drew Barrymore.
Don't Bother to Knock (1952): Roy Ward Baker directed this film which is essentially a film noir. Richard Widmark stars as Jed who goes to a hotel to visit his girlfriend Lyn, played by Anne Bancroft in her film debut, who is a nightclub singer and their relationship is having some problems. He sees a girl named Nell, played by Marilyn Monroe, who he starts to talk to not knowing that she is babysitting for a young girl. He slowly starts to see that Nell is rather crazy and does what he can to stop her from doing something really bad. Donna Corcoran, Jeanne Cagney, Lurene Tuttle, Elisha Cook Jr., Jim Backus, Verna Felton, and many others co-star in this film. This was a much darker turn for Marilyn and is very disturbing in this film. Anybody who has only seen things like SOME LIKE IT HOT and THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH really have not seen Marilyn until this one. Widmark seemed a bit different than usual essentially playing the hero in the film. This was really worth a look if you want to be disturbed a bit and see Marilyn in a much different role.
Drive (2011): Nicolas Winding Refn directed this action film based on the novel by James Sallis. Ryan Gosling stars as a mysterious driver who is a Hollywood stuntman, works at an auto shop and is the getaway driver for people at heists. He begins to fall for his neighbor Irene, played by Carey Mulligan, whose husband is in prison and when he gets out, the driver gets more than he bargained for and must help to protect this girl and her child. Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Oscar Isaac, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Russ Tamblyn, and many others co-star in this film. This movie is very violent and when someone is killed, it really shows. If you can get past this extreme violence, it is really a very moving film and those are the kinds of action movies I enjoy the most. Others that come to mind at least for me are THE CROW, FACE/OFF and the Hong Kong film THE KILLER. Gosling does a great job and even does a lot of his own stunts. It also has a really good soundtrack including the song NIGHTCALL by Kavinsky that is essentially the theme song. This is one of those that just works on so many levels.
Moby Dick (1956): John Huston directed this adaptation of the novel by Herman Melville and the screenplay was written by Ray Bradbury. Gregory Peck plays the very obsessive Captain Ahab who was maimed by a the white whale named Moby Dick and leads a voyage of vengeance even if it means his life and the crew's lives. Richard Basehart, Leo Genn, Bernard Miles, Noel Purcell, Mervyn Johns, Royan Dano, Orson Welles, and many others co-star in this film. Welles has a cameo in the beginning as Father Mapple before the others go on their voyage. It was good to see peck much darker that usual, kind of like Marilyn Monroe in my selection of her for the week. I don't know enough about the novel to be able to judge this one. I am aware that Ahab is usually much older but I still really enjoyed a younger Peck in the role.
The Station Agent (2003): Tom McCarthy wrote and directed this independent comedy/drama and is his directorial debut. GAME OF THRONES star Peter Dinklage stars as Fin whose friend has died and inherits a train depot in a small New Jersey town. He intends to lead a life of solitude which gets interrupted by an emotional artist named Olivia, played by Patricia Clarkson, and a very social hot dog vendor named Joe, played by Bobby Cananale. These three very different people form an unlikely friendship. Michelle Williams, Richard Kind, Jayce Bartok, John Slattery, and many others co-star in this film. This is a movie that is driven by its script and the characters who were all well cast. It is good movie with a really good small town feel and a good film on friendship and working through differences. It is really hard to further describe this film and even give it justice. Best I can say is to just give it a shot and I don't think you'll regret it.
Yongary, Monster from the Deep (1967): This is the 9th episode of the MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 reboot so that should already tell you something. This is a Korean film and is about a prehistoric creature named Yongary that eats gasoline to keep going. This was Korea's attempt to rival Japan's iconic Godzilla and not to much success. There is a pretty funny scene of Yongary actually dancing. It is mostly to be enjoyed as a Godzilla ripoff whose claim to fame was being on an episode of MST3K. I found they made a sequel in 1999 that was not much better and an obvious ripoff to another Godzilla movie. I guess we can say that Yongary never got his due, those racist Japanese never even invited the Korean Yongary to take on Godzilla. I will end by saying to just enjoy it for what it is and it is on Netflix along with the rest of MST3K.
Just Desserts (2015): I end the week with this dark comedy short from Britain. Michael Yanny directed and co-wrote this short film. This is loosely based on a true story where Alex Macqueen stars as Dennis who is a compulsive lottery player out with his wife an friends for a meal. During this, his friends play a practical joke that backfires. Rebecca Laney, Tracy Brabin, David Schaal, and Julian Sims co-star in this short film. I've tried to find what the true story of which this is based and am unable to do find it so it could be some real event or saying this for dramatic effect like the Coen Brothers' film FARGO. Either way it is still quite entertaining and worth about 15 minutes. This is available 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 Morgan Freeman, Meryl Streep, John Cusack, Joan Crawford, and many others.