Welcome to the 627th Edition of my series. There is not much else going on right now. I am in two fantasy football leagues right now. There is one that there is no hope and another that I am ranked in second place so I hope to continue my success into that one. The only other complaint I have is this cold weather we are having but you all know that about me so I'll just get on with my selections for the week.
Il Divo (2008): I start the week out with this Italian biopic which was written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino. Toni Servillo stars as the 41st Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti who was elected after the declaration of independence in 1946 and served until 1992. This takes a look at the ups and downs of his political career and has a lot of things that remain speculation like his mafia connections. Anna Bonaiuto, Flavio Bucci, Carlo Buccirosso, Giorgio Colangeli, Alberto Cracco, Piera Degli Esposti, and many others co-star in this film. I had never heard of this man until I watched this movie. This was a very compelling film to watch of a man who was clearly very corrupt but always managed to stay in power and almost like someone out of a Shakespeare tragedy. This is available to watch on Hoopla On-Demand.
The Motel (2005): I follow up with this independent film which was written and directed by Michael Kang. Jeffrey Chyau stars as the 13 year old Chinese-American Ernest whose mother owns a small and run-down motel and lives and works there with his mother, sister, and grandfather. He has trouble connecting with his family and is misunderstood while also going through puberty. His life changes when he meets self-destructive but charismatic Korean guest Sam Kin, played by Sung Kang. Jade Wu, Samantha Futerman, Clint Jordan, and many others co-star in this independent film. This is a good look a family trying to make it in a struggling business and Ernest just trying to become his own person and not wanting to work at the motel all his life. This was a movie that had no big names but still had very good performances along with a good script.
On Broadway (2007): I came across this gem for the first time. Dave McLaughlin wrote and directed this independent film. New Kids on the Block member Joey McIntyre stars as Boston carpenter Jack O'Toole who becomes devastated when his Uncle Pete, played by Andrew Connolly, dies in an accident. With no theatrical experience, Jack decides to write a play inspired by his uncle and basing it on his family and friends from the community. The only stage that he could afford was a back room at a community bar where usually bands play but was still a good place to put on the show. Jill Flint co-stars as Jack's wife who does not always agree with him but stands by him and helps in every way she can to get the play produced. Mike O'Malley, Eliza Dushku, Sean Lawlor, Lance Greene, Lucas Caleb Rooney, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, and many others co-star in this independent film. I have to say, I actually kind of related to this movie and to Jack a little bit. It was just last month that we finished out murder mystery TO WAKE THE DEAD which was done in a rather unusual setting in the banquet room of the local Amvets. While I did not write the show, I did do most of the casting and took on many hates like being an actor, an assistant director, and essentially a stage manager. I also understood all of Jack's struggles like getting all the cast together and them maybe using that room that night so we'd have to go somewhere else. This shows that a play does not have to be put on in a conventional theater. Even in Muncie, we have a theater group that puts on shows in the upstairs of a bar and still do a good job. Anyone involved with local theater really needs to see this one.
As Boys Grow... (1957): This is my short film for the week and an early educational/entertaining sex education video. A track coach with a team of boys around 14 years of age decides to give his kids an education about puberty and the male and reproductive systems. This did not really hold much back but the production quality was pretty laughable. This among others can be found on Amazon Prime with "Sex Education Films" and probably more to come in the coming weeks.
Of Human Hearts (1938): This is part two of my two-part James Stewart series and like last week I take an earlier look at Jimmy. This takes place before and after the American Civil War and centers around a minister's family. Walter Huston stars as local minister Ethan Wilkins who like everyone in the town is rather poor but it is a community that tries to help each other out. Stewart co-stars as his son Jason in the adult years while Gene Reynolds plays him in the childhood years. Much of the film is the rather dysfunctional father/son relationship of people with different values. Beulah Bondi, Guy Kibbee, Charles Coburn, John Carradine, Ann Rutherford, Charley Grapewin, Leona Roberts, Gene Lockhart, Sterling Holloway, and many others co-star in this film. This is one that takes a look at human behavior and the consequences that can happen and can still resonate today.
Eegah (1962): This is my MST3K episode for the week where Joel, Tom Servo and Crow are forced to watch this sci-fi B-movie where a caveman named Eegah, played by none other than Richard Kiel, that wreaks havoc in the modern day. Most probably remember Kiel as the Bond character Jaws in THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and MOONRAKER but might remember him in the original THE LONGEST YARD as well as the Adam Sandler comedy HAPPY GILMORE. Also, I do not know how the caveman got into the modern era or how he survived. It is mostly for laughs and was a good one to force Joel and our favorite robots to watch. This like all of MST3K is available on Netflix.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017): I decided to include the Marvel Cinematic Universe for this week. Fresh off his debut as Spider-Man in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, Tom Holland reprises his role as the teenage Peter Parker who leads a double life in Queens as Spider-Man. After his experience with the Avengers, he returns home where he lives with his Aunt May, played by Marisa Tomei, and is under the watchful eye of Tony Stark, reprised by Robert Downey Jr., who has Peter as his "intern" at Stark industries. Stark also provides Peter a more state of the art Spider-Man suit. He comes across some criminals with some very unusual weapons and learns the leader is Adrian Toomes aka the Vulture, played by Michael Keaton. Jon Favreau, Gwyneth Paltrow, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Bokeem Woodbine, Tyne Daly, Abraham Attah, Jennifer Connelly, Chris Evans, Martin Starr, and many others co-star or have cameo appearances. This is our third live-action Peter Parker since 2002 with Tobey Maguire and then by Andrew Garfield but now Spider-Man for the first time is part of the MCU and they took a different approach with him. I suppose I forgot to name off Reeve Carney who played Spider-Man in the Broadway musical flop SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK. Peter Parker in this one is about 14 years of age and I like how he acts more like a teen and very overzealous at times being a superhero at such a young age. I suppose you could call this the coming-of-age superhero film and is a theme I seem to be focusing a lot upon in this week. I enjoyed this more non-origin story of Peter Parker just trying to balance his high school life and his superhero life which he found very difficult.
The Burmese Harp (1956): This is my Japanese film for the week. Kon Ichikawa directed this film based on the novel by Michio Takeyama. Shoji Yasui stars as Mizushima who is a Japanese soldier in WWII Burma and disappears from the group after a surrender to the British soldiers. The rest of the soldiers are trying to figure out what happened to him and try to uncover if he is a monk. They are correct as he becomes a monk and looks to bury dead Japanese soldiers that he finds. This is a pretty powerful film which in a sense is on the consequences of war. The performances, story, imagery and music score work very well in this Japanese classic.
A Clockwork Orange (1971): Stanley Kubrick directed this adaptation on the novel by Anthony Burgess. This takes place in future Britain where Malcolm McDowell stars as gang leader Alex De Large. They go around terrorizing homes but is betrayed and ends up in prison. To get out early, he agrees to have unusual therapy developed by the government which makes him fear everything he loves which includes violence and even Beethoven. When he is out, the people that he wronged are out for revenge where he is left defenseless due to his fear of violence. This was a very bizarre movie to say the least and was quite ahead of its time. It was so weird that it was originally rated X but in time got down to R. The imagery was probably the strangest part of this. There is a scene where Alex is torturing a couple while singing SINGIN' IN THE RAIN and always feel guilty about how much this amuses me. Apparently Gene Kelly was not amused by how they used the song he is most known for and remained bitter towards McDowell. I have heard someone say that this is a statement towards the use of psychological drugs. This is by no means for everyone but is a very well done film on many levels.
Coal Miner's Daughter (1980): I started the week out with a political biopic and now I end with a music biopic. Michael Apted directed this film based on the autobiography of Loretta Lynn, played very well by Sissy Spacek. The title is one of Loretta's biggest hits which is to describe who is and how she grew up. She grew up the daughter of a coal mining father with quite a few siblings in a poor but loving family. At the very young age of 13, she marries Doolittle Lynn, played by Tommy Lee Jones, where they start their own family. Loretta appears to have intended to just be the stay at home mom but some random singing from in the home makes Doolittle believe she has talent and potential. Levon Helm, William Sanderson, Beverly D'Angelo, Ernest Tubb, and many others co-star in this film. Tubb plays himself in the biopic and D'Angelo is really good in her small role as Patsy Cline. I'm not really a big country music fan but respect it enough and still enjoyed this biopic to end the week.
Well, that is it for the week. Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Richard Dreyfuss, Walter Huston, Scarlett Johansson, and many others.