Sunday, August 18, 2019
Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 713th Edition
Welcome to the 713th Edition of my series. I started rehearsing for THE INTERROGATION OF BIBLICAL CHARACTERS and always enjoy doing a locally written production when I can so I'll be promoting this more in the coming weeks. I hope everyone is having a good week, I don't have much else happening so I'll just get on with my selections for the week.
The Laramie Project (2002): This is part two of my two-part Steve Buscemi series and also turned into a tribute to Peter Fonda who died after I watched this one. I start the week out with this HBO movie which was directed by Moises Kaufman and based on his own play of the same name. This is mostly a docudrama based on the aftermath of the horrid murder of Matthew Shepherd which happened in Laramie, Wyoming. Kaufman and his group the Tectonic Theater Project did some interviews of the townspeople and got some recordings of others like in the news or court. There is no linear plot, just people reflecting on their times with Shepherd. Buscemi, Laura Linney, Peter Fonda, Jeremy Davies, Nestor Carbonell, Camryn Manheim, Grant Varjas, Kelli Simpkins, Clea DuVall, Frances Sternhagen, Michael Emerson, Margo Martindale, Christina Ricci, Janeane Garofalo, Joshua Jackson, Ben Foster, Lois Smith, Amy Madigan, Clancy Brown, Tom Bower, Steef Sealy, Dylan Baker, Stephen Belber, Noah Fleiss, Summer Phoenix, Bill Irwin, James Murtaugh, Richard Riehle, Terry Kinney, and many others co-star in this film. As many know, I had the honor of getting to be in this production last month at the Center Stage. In that one, we were a group of eight actors playing many roles and I had the honor of playing parts played Buscemi and Emerson. This movie version was also very well done. It was not an easy play to get through just to be in and the movie is also very emotional at times but very rewarding. Mr. Kaufman and those involved with the Tectonic Theater Project, I thank you for putting this show together. I think I can speak for the rest of my castmates when I say that this is the most meaningful play I have ever been a part in. A good double feature could be to follow up with the documentary MATT SHEPHERD IS A FRIEND OF MINE. This movie version is available on Amazon Prime.
Blackkklansman (2018): Spike Lee directed this film that is based on a true story and is based on the book by Ron Stallworth, played by John David Washington. Stallworth was the first black man to be a police officer as part of the Colorado Springs Police Department. He struggles to make his way into the department where he starts out being assigned to the records room but requests undercover work. He gets the idea to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan where he manages to talk to them on the phone and his colleague Flip Zimmerman, played by Adam Driver, goes undercover into the Klan using Stallworth's name. Corey Hawkins, Topher Grace, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Robert John Burke, Brian Tarantina, Arthur J. Nascarella, Ken Garito, Frederick Weller, Michael Buscemi, Laura Harrier, Damaris Lewis, Nicholas Turturro, Harry Belafonte, Alec Baldwin, and many others co-star in this film. This is a really good look at the '70s and a very interesting real-life event. I was not aware until now that the star of the movie is the son of Denzel Washington and this Washington seems to have a promising career ahead of him. It has moments of humor but some disturbing scenes with the KKK like them screening the movie A BIRTH OF A NATION. Even some I know who dislike Spike Lee really liked this one.
The Expendables (2010): Now I bring this ultimate guilty please action film which was directed and co-written by Sylvester Stallone. Sly also stars as Barney Ross who leads a group of mercenaries that include Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lungren, Randy Couture, and Terry Crews. Mickey Rourke also co-stars as their friend and weapons guy Tool who operates a tattoo shop. They are hired to overthrow a ruthless Latin American general, played by David Zayas who they learn is more of a puppet to ex-CIA operative James Munroe, played by Eric Roberts, and his ruthless henchman Paine, played by Stone Cold Steve Austin. Charisma Carpenter, Gary Daniels, Giselle Itie, and many others co-star in this film. If that group of mercenaries, the ultimate villain duo of Eric Roberts and Steve Austin, and hot girls like Carpenter and Itie are not enough, there are also cameos from Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger who have the first ever on-screen encounter with their fellow former Planet Hollywood owner Stallone. Willis and Schwarzenegger have more expanded roles in the next film. Rourke also has a really cool monologue reflecting on the old times that I might use in the future for my own auditions. I kind of feel like the wrestling world missed the boat on Eric Roberts as he could be a great heel manager. This was such a fun movie to watch and is quite the adrenaline rush.
Gym College (1955): This is my short film for the week and part of the Sportscope short film series. This takes a look at the men's gymnastics team with Florida State University and takes a look at some of the events with the gymnastics as well as some of the team members. Nothing great but good to see the earlier days of Florida State athletics. This is available on TCM On-Demand.
The Getaway (1972): Sam Peckinpah directed this road and heist film which is based on the novel by Jim Thompson. Steve McQueen stars as convict Doc McCoy who has been released through the help of his loyal wife Carol, played by Ali MacGraw, through a crooked businessman, played by Ben Johnson, with political connections. Doc is forced to do a heist which goes awry and is on the run along with Carol looking to avoid the police and those involved in the robbery. Sally Struthers, Al Lettieri, Slim Pickens, Richard Bright, Jack Dodson, Dub Taylor, Bo Hopkins, Roy Jenson, and many others co-star in this film. McQueen and McGraw work really well together. We also get treated to some awesome chases and shootouts. This is some classic action that still holds up today.
Poor Little Rich Girl (1936): I'm sure only I would go from some violent shootout movie to a Shirley Temple musical but that is exactly what I did. Shirley stars as Barbara who is the daughter of a rich businessman and usually watched by people who work at the house while her dad works. It is decided for her to go to an actual school but in the process she gets lost and taken in by a couple of struggling entertainers in Jimmy and Jerry Dolan, played by Jack Haley and Alice Faye. They see she has quite a talent so they make her part of the group. Gloria Stuart, Michael Whalen, Sara Haden, Jane Darwell, Claude Gillingwater, Paul Stanton, Henry Armetta, and many others co-star in this. Many will probably know Jack Haley as the Tin Man in THE WIZARD OF OZ and others likely know Stuart the most in the 1997 film TITANIC. This might be Shirley at her best and was very enjoyable in her song and dance numbers along with Haley and Faye. I just wish Quentin Tarantino could have worked something out with her to make a comeback role in one of his movies. This is available to watch on TCM On-Demand.
The Remains of the Day (1993): James Ivory directed by this film which is based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Anthony Hopkins stars as Stevens who is a butler working for Lord Darlington in the events leading up to WWII, played by James Fox. Stevens has been a very loyal worker and mostly runs the house but things change when Miss Kenton, played by Emma Thompson comes to work there. Christopher Reeve, Hugh Grant, Peter Vaughn, Ben Chaplin, Patrick Godfrey, Peter Halliday, Michael Lonsdale, Lena Headey, and many others co-star in this film. It is a good look at the life of a butler with Hopkins doing really well in his role. It was also good to see Reeve in a non-Superman role before his accident that put him in a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. This was a pretty good British drama and worth a look.
The Pearl of Death (1944): Roy William Neill directed this adaptation of THE SIX NAPOLEONS by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which many might guess features Sherlock Holmes. Your deduction is correct which might make the detective proud. Basil Rathbone plays Sherlock and Nigel Bruce plays his loyal sidekick Dr. Watson. Sherlock must investigate a stolen pearl that was taken from a museum and finds that the pearl ties in with murders that are happening. Dennis Hoey, Evelyn Ankers, Miles Mander, Ian Wolfe, Holmes Herbert, Mary Gordon, Rondo Hatton, and many others co-star in this film. This was a really good mystery to follow and and some pretty good humor to go along. This is the ninth of fourteen teamings for Rathbone and Bruce as the iconic duo. This is only a little over an hour long and will be a good hour to use especially to those who love a classic detective story.
The Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight (1971): This is my mafia comedy for the week. James Goldstone directed this movie which is based on the novel by Jimmy Breslin. This centers around a couple of rival mafia gangs. Jerry Orbach stars as Kid Sally who leads one of the gangs and uses a lion of all things to get what he wants like when blackmailing rival clients. A young Robert De Niro co-stars as Mario who is a con man posing as a priest and gets caught up in the mafia war. Leigh Taylor-Young, Jo Van Vleet, Lionel Stander, Herve Villechaize, Joe Santos, Philip Bruns, Sam Coppola, Paul Benedict, Burt Young, and many others co-star in this comedy. This is mostly of note to see Orbach but even more to see De Niro before he really hit it big. Also notice, this came out before THE GODFATHER and maybe the start of De Niro's future mafia roles.
Hook (1991): I end the week with some Steven Spielberg in his variation of J.M. Barrie's PETER PAN. Robin Williams stars as attorney Peter Banning not remembering his past when he was Peter Pan. Banning is now married with some children and sometimes neglects family for his job. He learns his kids, played by Charlie Korsmo and Amber Scott, were kidnapped by Captain Hook, played by Dustin Hoffman, looking to lure Peter back to Neverland for another showdown. Maggie Smith co-stars as the elderly Wendy who tries to make Peter remember his past and Julia Roberts co-stars as Tinkerbell who takes him to Neverland to try to get Peter to remember who he is with help from the Lost Boys. Bob Hoskins, Caroline Goodall, Laurel Cronin, Arthur Malet, Isaiah Robinson, Jasen Fisher, Dante Basco, Thomas Tulak, Alex Zuckerman, Ahmad Stoner, Gwyneth Paltrow, Glenn Close, Tony Burton, Nick Tate, and many others co-star in this film. There are also some cameos from musicians like Phil Collins and David Crosby. It was good to revisit this movie after many years and see Williams and Hoffman as rivals to one another. It would be good to have at least the basic knowledge of the story to get the many references this movie gives to the original stories. A good double feature for this one could be to follow up with FINDING NEVERLAND.
Well, that is it for this week. I was considering doing the "Fun and Useless Facts" segment but decided against it due to time and just a little too much to go on with this one. I will say thought that I have two sibling combinations in Steve and Michael Buscemi as well as Eric and Julia Roberts. I did decided to do a segment called "The Bookworm Corner" so read on for that one. Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week.
THE BOOKWORM CORNER
Magnolia Moonight by Mary Ellis (2016): I am trying to do more reading and I found this book when I was at my local library for their monthly Coffee and Classics movie series. They had a group of books for us attendees to choose from and this looked most interesting to me. The book really involves two different stories. Part of it involves private investigator Nate Price and his new wife Isabelle who finally get around to taking a honeymoon and things take a turn when Isabelle spots her ex-husband Craig gambling again finding that he is in a complicated situation. The other story involves Nate's employee Beth Kirby who is an ex-cop turned PI and has been hired by a preacher's wife whose husband has died being ruled a suicide but believes it was murder. Beth must also training Nate's accountant friend Michael Price to be an investigator and both look to get to the bottom of what happened to the late preacher whose church that Beth had attended when younger. The two stories mostly alternate by chapter and both are pretty compelling. This is the third book in a book series called "Secrets of the South Mysteries" and could be compelled to try the others in the future. I know the title has the word "bookworm" in it and I think I would be insulting other bookworms if I said I was one. I am trying to do more and this did keep my attention. I did not realize this was Christian novel but it does not make heavy-handed religious references so I think just about anyone can read this book. You can learn more about the author at the website http://www.maryellis.net and has quite a few novels that are both mystery and Amish fiction.
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