Welcome to the 646th Edition of my series. Yes, I release on April Fools Day but there will be no April Fools jokes on this blog. I hope everyone is having a good Easter however celebrating. It's hard to believe my show is in two weeks but it is in two weeks, the recommended time to give at a job before leaving. This is continuing to come together well. I continue to find the Bill Lee within myself so the bottom of this has the dates of my show and where it is at which is Alexandria, Indiana so if in the area come on out and check this out. Not much else happening so I'll just get on with my selections for the week.
Mao's Last Dancer (2009): I start the week out with this biopic. Bruce Beresford directed this film based on the autobiography by Li Cunxin, played by Chi Cao, who as an eleven year old, he is taken from his poor Chinese village and taken to Beijing to study ballet. Bruce Greenwood co-stars as Ben Stevenson who runs a dance studio taking interest in Li and taking him into his Texas home. Li starts to adjust to the American way and even falls in love while having tough decisions to make with his own country. Christopher Kirby, Kyle Maclachlan, Suzie Steen, Aden Young, Joan Chen, Shuangbao Wang, Ferdinand Hoang, Chengwu Guo, Steven Heathcote, Amanda Schull, Alice Parkinson, Kip Gamblin, and many others co-star in this film. This is a pretty compelling and moving story about a man trying to make it in a much different world that he is used to being in. Cao does a great job as Li Cunxin who actually wanted the actor to portray him. This is available to watch on the website Hoopla On-Demand.
Surf's Up 2: Wavemania (2017): This is the sequel to the animated hit from 2007. We follow Cody Maverick, voiced by Jeremy Shada, in the years after the surfing championship. He learns of a very reputable surf group called the Hang Five and along with his friends get to meet the group voiced by a very diverse array of WWE superstars that include John Cena, Triple H, Paige, the Undertaker, and Vince McMahon who all have animal characters to their likeness in wrestling. Jon Heder, Melissa Sturm, Dedrich Bader, and many others co-star in this sequel. This was a sequel produced the WWE Films department. If a fan of the first one and expect this to match it, you might be disappointed. This is more of a guilty pleasure than anything with the WWE stars. This does still have a good message about working together and is good for the family.
The Last King of Scotland (2006): I have another biopic for this week. Kevin Macdonald directed this film based on the novel by Giles Foden. James McAvoy stars as Dr. Nicholas Garrigan who is a very idealistic Scottish doctor that chooses to go to Uganda to assist in a rural hospital. Soon, he meets their dictator Idi Amin, played by Forest Whitaker, who wins over Garrigan in the beginning with his charm only for him to slowly see what a ruthless man he is in the country. This is from the point of view of Garrigan and his relationship with Amin. Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson, Simon McBurney, David Oyelowo, and many others co-star in this film. This might be Whitaker's best performance as the ruthless dictator. There is some graphic footage at times but still a very good film to watch on an idealistic man seeing reality.
Return to Glennascaul (1953): This is my short film for the week that I unexpectedly came upon. Hilton Edwards directed this short film where Orson Welles plays himself and is taking a break from filming OTHELLO. He picks up a man named Sean, played by Michael Laurence, that has car trouble and needs a ride. This man tells him a strange story of a time he picked some people up. Shelah Richards and Helena Hughes co-star in this short film. Welles really was taking a break from his filming and understand that money from this helped fund his Shakespeare film. This was an interesting watch and is available on Youtube.
Bulldog Drummond's Revenge (1937): This is part of a pretty long series of books and movies from the '20s to the '60s. John Howard stars as the title character and while many actors played the role, Howard has played him the most. Drummond is a WWI veteran always looking for some adventure and ending up doing some sort of detective work. In this one, Drummond travels to Britain to marry his fiance Phyllis, played by Louise Campbell, and plans are delayed when learning of the disappearance of of a dangerous cargo of explosives with Bulldog jumping right into the action. John Barrymore co-stars as his friend Colonel Nielson who helps with the case. Reginald Denny, E.E. Clive, and many others co-star in this detective movie. This is a pretty good detective movie for its time for classic mystery buffs. It could be better to start earlier in the series but I was watching this for purposes of John Barrymore, more on that at a later time. This is available to watch on the website of Hoopla Digital.
The China Syndrome (1979): This is part one of a possible Jack Lemmon trilogy. Mark Bridges directed this film on a nuclear plant disaster. Jane Fonda stars as reporter Kimberly Wells who is out for a story on the power plant which seemingly has a disaster happen. Michael Douglas co-stars as her cameraman Richard who is convinced of a cover-up and becomes determined to get it uncovered no matter what happens to his job. Lemmon co-stars as plant worker Jack who decides to open up to Kimberly and Richard about what really happened. Scott Brady, James Hampton, Peter Donat, Wilford Brimley, Richard Herd, Lewis Arquette, and many others co-star in this film. This is a fictional movie and nothing notable had really happened as of yet but 12 days after the release, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident happened. Back to the movie, this was so well done and realistic. The performances were very good and it managed to keep my attention because of the story without using music like most moves use. Lemmon is most known for his comedy but excels in a far more serious role than we are used to seeing. This is still very relevant and holds up all these years.
A Very Long Engagement (2004): Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed this French film based on the novel by Sebastien Japrisot. This takes place during WWI and stars Audrey Tautou as Mathilde whose fiance Manech, played by Gaspard Ulliel, who is presumed dead but she begins a relentless search in the believe he is still alive. Dominique Pinon, Andre Dussollier, Ticky Holgado, Marion Cotillard, Jodie Foster, and many others co-star in this film. This shows the times with Mathilde searching for her fiance and it shows some very graphic war footage of what is happening. This is a very well done movie about searching for the one you love. Tautou is really good in her role and reunites with director Jeunet who worked together in the 2001 hit film AMELIE. Those into foreign films and those tolerant of subtitles should really enjoy this one.
12 Angry Men (1957): This is part one of a possible Henry Fonda trilogy so I bring one of my favorites to start. Sidney Lumet directed this film that revolves around a jury trying to come up with their verdict. Most of the room is convinced the defendant is guilty except for juror #8, played by Fonda, who sees reasonable doubt and slowly convinces others of what he believes. Juror 3, played by Lee J. Cobb, appears to be the hardest to convince. Martin Balsam, John Fiedler, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Edward Binns, Jack Warden, Joseph Sweeney, Ed Begley, George Voskovec, and Robert Webber play the rest of the jury. Anyone who has been in jury duty and relate to this one at least a little bit. I did it once which was a pretty cool experience I admit but we had to convince each other to come to an agreement. This movie really captures the tension of people being stuck in a small room and having to work together. This is one I would love to be in a play version of someday. This is a plot that has been used by many tv shows, has had a remake and a play so is very relevant today in the film world.
Willard (1971): Now I bring more of a horror film which was directed by Daniel Mann and based on the novel by Stephen Gilbert. Bruce Davison stars as socially awkward Willard whose only friends in life are his pet rats, most notably Socrates and Ben, and have very violent tendencies as he uses them to exact revenge on those that have wronged him. Elsa Lanchester is very amusing as his overbearing mother and Ernest Borgnine co-stars as his very mean boss. Sondra Locke, Michael Dante, and Jody Gilbert co-star in this movie. This is very interesting and entertaining to say the least. It reminds me a lot of the 1972 movie FROGS if that means anything so maybe have this as a double feature if you want to see what I'm saying. Also, I just want to clear up something real quick. No, I don't know how Willard knew the rats have such violent tendencies or how he might have taught them.
No C4 for Daniel-Daniel (1987): I end the week on this short film from Remy Belvaux, Andre Bonzel, and Benoit directed this mock trailer about a secret agent. This was made long before Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino did their mock trailers for their Grindhouse project. This is a pretty funny 12 minutes and shades of what the directors would do which include movies like MAN BITES DOG. This can be found on Youtube.
Well, that is it for this week. Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Henry Fonda, and many others.