Friday, January 3, 2014

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 422nd Edition

Welcome to the 422nd Edition of my long running series.  I hope everyone is having a good holiday season and has a great holiday no matter what you might celebrate.  I'm a little late in putting this out and apoligize for not having pictures but the website I use was not working well so I will just release as is and hope you it.  I will not get onto my selections for the week.

The Lost Weekend (1945):  I start the week out with this Billy Wilder film which takes a look at the life of an alcoholic and something that was rather controversial to show in that era.  Ray Milland stars as Don who is supposed to go away with his girlfriend Helen, played by Jane Wyman, and his brother Wick, played by Phillip Terry.  He decides not to go with them and when finding $10, he resorts back to the bottle.  Eventually he ends up at a bar where he reflects on his past as an alcoholic.  This is a very brutal look at the effects off alcoholism and what it can do to those involved including the alcoholic and their loved ones.  Milland was very good in his role and was a very compelling film to watch.  I watch a lot from this era and usually prefer these more gritty films that at the time took more guts to make.  The alcohol industry and Paramount were very leary about the film but then it became very praised by the critics and won an Academy Award for Best Picture.

Stuff for Stuff (1949):  This is my short film for the week.  This takes a look at the importance of trading through the years starting with the early days of the cavemen up to the days of WWII.  This is a rather entertaining short film which shows the evolution of our society.

Scrooge (1970):  This is my holiday selection of the week which was directed by Ronald Neame.  This is a musical version of the classic novel A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens and possibly the first musical version of the timeless classic which is really one of my favorite holiday stories.  Most people know the basic story pretty well.  A bitter man named Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Albert Finney, each year expresses his disdain towards Christmas and those who he feel are trying to take adventage of him making him think "bah humbug".  He is soon visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley, played by Alec Guinness, who informs him that their business practices which only focus on money and very little towards mankind are not the right ways.  Marley has been given the fate to wear many heavy chains and hopes to save Ebenezer from that fate.  He then informs him he will be visited by three ghosts which are the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Future who will show Ebenezer the times of him and those around him in each of these eras in hope that he will become a more generous man.  Leslie Bricusse wrote the music and lyrics to this film and wrote some very good music numbers.  Finney was only 34 years of age at this time and did a great job of playing much older.  This is always a great one to watch with family to show that Christmas is so much more than gifts.

This is England (2006):  This British film came per suggestion of my friend Chris.  Shane Meadows wrote and directed this film which is based on some of his experiences.  Thomas Turgoose stars as a young troubled boy named Shaun and thanks for spelling the name correctly.  He is trying to get through life and after a fight he comes across a group of skinheads who he becomes good friends with and hangs out with them.  He becomes willing to shave his head and dress like them and soon must decide if this is the right group to be around as he takes part in some dangerous and mean activities towards others.  This is a really good look at '80s Britain from the point of view of a troubled pre-teen.  It is very compelling throughout the film and one which deserves a look.  This is available on Instant Netflix.

Living in Oblivion (1995):  Tom DiCillo wrote and directed this independent film about making and independent film.  Steve Buscemi stars as director Nick Reve who is the director of this indendent film and just about anything that can go wrong goes wrong in such a low budget movie.  Dermot Mulroney co-stars as Wolf who is the camera man is a lot of fun in his role.  Other actors include Catherine Keener, James LeGros, Peter Dinklage, and many others.  It's really hard to go into detail into this film except that it is a great tribute to filming an independent film.  This is available on Crackle.

Picture Snatcher (1933):  Lloyd Bacon directed this film which stars James Cagney as Danny Kean who is being released from prison and looks to go straight.  He soon takes takes a job as a photographer for a tabloid.  He begins to cause a lot of controversy when sneaking a photo of an execution which was unheard of at that time.  Cagney clearly had a great time in this role and this movie had some pretty good action scenes including a climatic shootout at the end.  This is a good early look into the world of photography and a good and overlooked Cagney film.

Gimme the Loot (2012):  I continue with my independent film kick of the week.  Adam Leon wrote and directed this independent film that is in New York and centers around a group of graffiti artists.  Ty Hickson and Tashiana Washington star as Malcolm and Sophia who decide to target of the New York Mets home run apple which always comes up when home runs are hit and do the ultimate graffiti.  This was a pretty well-done low budget film where they made a couple small-time crooks rather likable.  People who hate the Mets will really like this one.  This is available on Instant Netflix and has been pretty well received.

Gamera vs. Guiron (1969):  This comes from an episode of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000.  In this movie, aliens kidnap two children to be taken to their planet.  Soon, everyone's favorite flying turtle Gamera comes to the rescue though I don't really know his connection to the whole situation.  Gamera must soon take on the other title character Guiron who is a monster with a giant knife on his head.  This I don't really believe requires much more detail.  This is a b-movie which MST3K chose to pay homage for being so bad that it is good and give some great commentary through the movie.  This episode is available on Instant Netflix though it might be good to get a copy, invite some friends and have your own MST3K or Rifftrax.

Bonnie and Clyde (2013):  I end with Movie Night at the Shera where we watched this two-part mini-series about the depression-era outlaws.  Holliday Grainger and Emile Hirsch star as the outlaws which show them in their younger days where they soon meet up and form a relationship while going on quite bank-robbing spree.  In 1963, Arthur Penn directed the film of the same name which starred Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.  That movie is quite a classic and portrays them more as anti-heroes wheras this movie really didn't so much.  I also thought this version did a better job in the costumes and the looks as well as some of the real-life photos of Bonnie and Clyde.  Shera was researching some as we were watching and found the imagery in this mini-series was pretty good in that regard.  In this one, Bonnie was portrayed as the more villainous one and really kind of coerces Clyde into much of these crimes which the 1963 version was not quite like that as I recall.  I am not quite sure of the accuracy of the Bonnie Parker portrayal but was an interesting spin.  The first episode was more establishing of the characters where the second episode was the gang at full force and held nothing back in terms of violence.  This was a decent version though I will look to check out the original one again at some point.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week.  Happy Holidays everyone.

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