Sunday, January 26, 2014

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 428th Edition

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Welcome to the 428th Edition of my series.  Unfortunately, I will not get to see my San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl this year.  They did have a good season and have been in the NFC championship game three years in a row.  I will just look forward to next season.  I don't really have anything more to say so I'll just get on with my selections.

 photo distance.jpgGoing the Distance (2010):  I start the week out with this romantic comedy which is bound to get some to agree and some to disagree.  Nanette Burstein directs this movie about a long-distance couple.  Drew Barrymore and Justin Long star as the couple Erin and Garrett.  Erin is a journalist who just finished an internship in New York but ends up back in San Francisco.  Garrett lives in New York and is a music producer.  They meet in New York and fall in love but then have a long-distance relationship and must consider the pros and cons of living so far away as well as the sacrifices they are willing to make.  Christina Applegate, Charlie Day, Christina Applegate, Ron Livingston, Jim Gaffigan, and many others co-star.  Applegate is amusing as Erin's eccentric sister.  This is a good date movie and not a bad look into a long-distance relationship.

 photo ironman.jpgIron Man 3 (2013):  I now go from romantic comedy to superhero film.  Shane Black directed this third entry into the Iron Man series where Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as Tony Stark aka Iron Man.  In this one at terrorist known as the Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley, and destroys the world around Iron Man.  Tony finds himself in his most difficult fight of his life as he must fight for revenge and retribution.  I really enjoyed this one.  This one has more emotional depth than the first two.  I believe the first one is still the best of the three but this one tops the second one.  This one focuses more on Tony Stark though I guess the whole Iron Man franchise is really more about the man than it is the superhero.  Gwyneth Paltrow reprises her role as Pepper Potts where she is more in the middle than ever and Don Cheadle reprises his role as Rhody who is trying to establish himself as the War Machine.  Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, Paul Bettany, William Sadler, Miguel Ferrer, and many others co-star in this superhero film.  I also really like the narration in the beginning and middle from Stark.  This is available on Starz On-Demand.

 photo spot.jpgX Marks the Spot (1944):  This is my short for the week which actually came from the episode of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 episode KING DINOSAUR which I featured last week.  That can probably tell you a lot.  This was meant to be some message video to scare drivers and we start out with narration from Arthur W. McGee which is quite possibly the most boring narration of all time and then a storyline in the afterlife with bad acting which is a perfect way to get to Joel, Tom Servo, and Crow before their feature movie to pick apart.  It is really best to watch this through the MST3K episode which is available on Amazon Prime but cannot seem to find it anywhere on Netflix.

 photo intolerance.jpgIntolerance:  Love's Struggle Through the Ages (1916):  This is my silent film for the week which was directed by D.W. Griffith who is known by many to be the "Father of Cinema" and directed quite possibly the best silent film in this one.  This movie has four different stories which all take a look at the price of prejudice and hatred.  The first story is a more contemporary story which took place more around the time this movie came out which involves oppressed workers who go on strike.  The next story is the story of Jesus leading up to his death.  The next story takes place in France during the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of 1572.  The last story takes place in 539 B.C. during the Fall of the Babylonian Empire.  They are all linked by a mother, played by silent film legend Lillian Gish, rocking the cradle of a baby.  The stories jump around a lot and might have been the first multiple story film.  Also what lead to this film was Griffith's very controversial 1915 film A BIRTH OF A NATION which painted the black race as a bunch of savages and the Ku Klux Klan as the heroes.  My understanding is that Griffith wanted to show that he is not racist and makes a very innovative film here with a pretty good message.  This is for someone who likes to watch silent films and older films.  This is available on both Instant Netflix and Amazon Prime.

 photo heavyweight-1.jpgRequiem for a Heavyweight (1962):  This is one of the few DVDs my dad got me for Christmas.  Ralph Nelson directed this film which was written by TWILIGHT ZONE writer Rod Serling.  Anthony Quinn stars as boxer Mountain Rivera who is at the end of his career after a knockout loss to Cassius Clay, which to those who do not know is Muhammed Ali before he became Muslim and yes he plays himself in this movie. He must adjust to life after boxing but finds he really does not know much besides fighting.  His manager Maish, played by Jackie Gleason, finds an opportunity in a wrestling career which does not sit well with Rivera because he will have to purposely lose a lot of his matches though realizes he does not have much choice in order to survive.  Mickey Rooney co-stars as Rivera's trainer who does not like the way Maish treats him and Julie Harris plays the employment agency employee Grace who tries to help him find work beyond fighting.  I found it interesting that they talked about the wrestling industry in the way they did as in those days it was supposed to be protected in every way possible and while there was always speculation, it was never fully revealed that it is staged until the 80s when Vince McMahon Jr. came out and said so which in many ways was the right thing in my opinion.  As someone involved with wrestling, I do feel that fake is the wrong word for what they do and prefer to think of it as a form of theater.  Look for a cameo from boxing legend Jack Dempsey who plays himself in a scene in his own restaurant at the time and also look for a cameo from former wrestler Haystacks Calhoun.  One criticism I will give is that I really wanted to see more wrestling footage but was more about the person.  Quinn was great as Mountain Rivera and this really goes down as a rather underrated film.

 photo snow.jpgThe Snow Walker (2003):  I wanted to find something that seemed interesting and that I really knew nothing about on Amazon Prime which I am using their 30 day free trial so decided upon this one.  Charles Martin Smith wrote and directed this independent film based on the story WALK WELL MY BROTHER by Farley Mowat.  This takes place in the 1950s where Barry Pepper stars as a former WWII fighter pilot named Charlie Halliday who is now a Bush pilot.  He then goes on a personal trip and runs across a group of Inuits whose family member Kanaalaq, played by Annabella Piugattuk, appears very sick.  Charlie is asked by the group to take her with him so she can get to a hospital and in return give him some valuable ivory.  He takes her with him but then has problems with the plane and lands in the middle of nowhere in the Arctic tundra.  Charlie and Kanaalaq must fight for survival while having a language barrier between them but slowly take a liking to each other in the process.  James Cromwell, Jon Gries, Kiersten Warren, and Michael Buble all co-star in this film.  Pepper and Piugattuk work very well together in this character driven film.  It was also very realistic in the filming as it was filmed in very cold weather.  This is one I hope to give more exposure and can be seen on Amazon Prime.  I enjoy it when I find a gem like this that I had not heard of and becoem pleasantly surprised during filming.

 photo house-1.jpgRoad House (1948):  This is from another DVD my dad got me and notice the year so no this is not that 80s movie with Patrick Swayze nor is the Swayze movie a remake of this selection.  This is my film noir for the week.  Richard Widmark stars as Jefty who is the owner of a nightclub in a small town and hires torch singer Lily Stevens, played by Ida Lupino.  Jefty becomes smitten with Lily but she falls for Jefty's business partner Pete, played by Cornel Wilde.  This sends Jefty off into a jealous rage.  I do not want to go further in description.  This genre is usually my favorite from this era.  This has a lot of good performances and well-written characters in a film that has gone under the radar through the years.

 photo boys.jpgThe Boys are Back (2009):  Scott Hicks directed this film which is based on the novel by Simon Carr.  Clive Owen stars as sports writer Joe Warr whose wife Katy, played by Laura Fraser, dies of cancer making him a single father to their six year old son Artie, played by Nicholas McAnulty, and his teenage son Harry, played by George Mackay, from another marriage.  He must learn how to raise children on his own and finds it is not an easy job.  Emma Booth co-stars as Laura whose kids go to the same school and tries to help him.  Both Joe and Artie must cope with the loss of the woman they love and do it in much different ways.  This is a very moving story and is a much lighter character for Owen.  It has very good performances and is a good story of single parenting and the ups and downs of it.  This is a more character-driven film which does just as much for me as some big budget movie full of explosions and special effects.  This is available on Instant Netflix.

 photo birdman.jpgBirdman of Alcatraz (1962):  John Frankenheimer directed this film based on real-life convicted murderer Robert Stroud.  Burt Lancaster plays Stroud who is documented in his early and very dangerous days which get him put in solitary confinement much of his life.  Hey then finds a baby bird which he decides to nurse back to health.  He then finds something useful for himself in prison where he becomes a self-taught bird expert where he learns of medicines for sick birds in which in real life helped a lot of bird breeders and poultry farmers.  This is based on a book by Thomas E. Gaddis who was a believer in prison rehabilitation and I understand this was fictionalized for his statement.  Former inmates have said he was far more unpleasant than the person portrayed in the film though others have said different and in the beginning Stroud was not a good person.  Karl Malden, Thelma Ritter, Neville Brand, Telly Savalas, and Hugh Marlowe co-star in this film.  Lancaster was great as Stroud and no matter what kind of person he was, it was still remarkable that a man of such limited education and criminal background was able to learn the types of things he did.  This is available on Amazon Prime.

 photo slave.jpg12 Years a Slave (2013):  I now end with this movie which I made a trip to the movie theater to see and am glad I did.  Steve McQueen, no nothing to do with the legendary actor, directed this film based on the book of the movie title which was written by Solomon Northup who this moved is based upon in which John Ridley wrote the screenplay.  Chiwetel Ejiofor plays this person who was a free black man in 1850s New York who appeared to have been fairly successful and was married with two children.  His whole world was changed when he was abducted where people make up a new name and location and sold him into slavery.  He must then do what he can do survive his days as a slave while keeping his dignity and finding a way to get his freedom back.  Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson, Lupita Nyong'o, Alfre Woodard, Garret Dillahunt, Brad Pitt, and Quvenzhane Wallis all co-star in this very powerful film.  Ejiofor was really good as Solomon in many ways and Lupita Nyong'o has a great breakthrough performance as one of the slaves.  Through the years, I have some knowledge of famous slaves like Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, and John Brown but had never heard of this person and McQueen and Ridley with a great portrayal from Ejiofor really bring exposure to this real-life person.  This was not always easy to watch as it pulled no punches.  In scenes where the slaves were beaten, they really wanted to see the horror in what happens like the lash marks to the back.  This is also a very rewarding and powerful film and prefer supporting these types of movies in the movie theater.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Evans, James Cagney, Joan Crawford, Boris Karloff, and many others.  Also, continue to read for the return of Fun and Useless Facts.

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Drew Barrymore (Going the Distance) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man 3) are the goddaughters of famed director Steven Spielberg.

Ron Livingston (Going the Distance) and John Favreau (Iron Man 3) were in the 1996 comedy SWINGERS.

Ron Livingston (Going the Distance) and Paul Giamatti (12 Years a Slave) both went to Yale University.

Ron Livingston (Going the Distance) and Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) were in the 2001 tv mini-series BAND OF BROTHERS.

Jim Gaffigan (Going the Distance), Mark Ruffalo (Iron Man 3), Kiersten Warren (The Snow Walker) were in the 2004 comedy 13 GOING ON 30.

Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man 3) and Brad Pitt (12 Years a Slave) were in the 1995 film SE7EN and were at one time engaged.

Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man 3) plays Catherine in the 2005 film PROOF.  My Facebook friend Erica played the part in a production at the Muncie Civic Studio Theater.

Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man 3), Kiersten Warren (The Snow Walker), Paul Giamatti were in the 2000 film DUETS.

Guy Pearce (Iron Man 3) and James Cromwell (The Snow Walker) were in the 1997 film L.A. CONFIDENTIAL.

Guy Pearce (Iron Man 3) and Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) were in the 2012 film PROMETHEUS.

Guy Pearce (Iron Man 3) and Garret Dillahunt (12 Years a Slave) were in the 2009 film THE ROAD.

Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3) plays Fagin in the 2005 film OLIVER TWIST.  My Facebook friend Steve played the part in a version at the Muncie Civic Theater.

Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3) plays Sweeney Todd in the 1997 movie THE TALE OF SWEENEY TODD.  My Facebook friend Jimmy played Sweeney in a 2011 version at Jay County Civic Theater in which I played Beadle Bamford.

James Badge Dale (Iron Man 3) and Brad Pitt (12 Years a Slave) were in the 2013 movie WORLD WAR Z.

James Badge Dale (Iron Man 3) and Barry Pepper (The Snow Walker) were in the 2013 movie THE LONE RANGER.

Paul Bettany (Iron Man 3) and Clive Owen (The Boys are Back) were in the 1997 film BENT.  My Facebook friend Ryan was in a version at the Muncie Civic Studio Theater where he plays Owen's character Max and did a really good job.

Paul Bettany (Iron Man 3) and Laura Fraser (The Boys are Back) were in the 2001 movie A KNIGHT'S TALE.

Linden Ashby (Iron Man 3) plays Morgan Earp in the 1994 film WYATT EARP.  Burt Lancaster (Birdman of Alcatraz) plays his older and most famous brother Wyatt Earp in the 1957 film GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL.

Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man 3) plays Sherlock Holmes 2009 film SHERLOCK HOLMES and the 2011 film SHERLOCK HOLMES:  GAME OF SHADOWS.  Benedict Cumberbatch (12 Years a Slave) plays Sherlock Holmes in BBC tv series SHERLOCK.

Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man 3) and Alfre Woodard (12 Years a Slave) were in the 2003 movie THE SINGING DETECTIVE.

John Favreau (Iron Man 3) directed Paul Dano (12 Years a Slave) in the 2011 movie COWBOYS AND ALIENS.

Mark Ruffalo (Iron Man 3) and Paul Dano (12 Years a Slave) were in the 2009 film WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE.

Dale Dickey (Iron Man 3) and Garret Dillahunt (12 Years a Slave) were in the 2010 film WINTER'S BONE.

Don Cheadle (Iron Man 3) and Brad Pitt (12 Years a Slave) were in the OCEANS films.

Lillian Gish (Intolerance) and Mickey Rooney (Requiem for a Heavyweight) have had the two biggest careers in Hollywood.  Gish's career went from 1912-1987 and Rooney's career started in 1926 and still appears in stuff today.

Mickey Rooney (Requiem for a Heavyweight) and James Cromwell (The Snow Walker) were in the 1998 movie BABE:  PIG IN THE CITY.

Jackie Gleason (Requiem for a Heavyweight) and Karl Malden (Birdman of Alcatraz) were in the 1983 movie THE STING II.

Barry Pepper (The Snow Walker) and Paul Giamatti (12 Years a Slave) were in the 1998 film SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.

Richard Widmark (Road House) and Burt Lancaster (Birdman of Alcatraz) were in the 1961 film JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG.

Richard Widmark (Road House), Thelma Ritter (Birdman of Alcatraz), and Karl Malden (Birdman of Alcatraz) were in the 1962 film HOW THE WEST WAS WON.

Celeste Holm (Road House) and Thelma Ritter (Birdman of Alcatraz) were in the 1950 film ALL ABOUT EVE.

Clive Owen (The Boys are Back) and Paul Giamatti (12 Years a Slave) were in the 2007 action film SHOOT 'EM UP.

Clive Owen (The Boys are Back) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) were in the 2006 films CHILDREN OF MEN and INSIDE MAN.

Paul Giamatti (12 Years a Slave) was Friar Laurence in the 2013 movie ROMEO AND JULIET.  My Facebook friend Bob played the part in a version in Farmville last summer where I was Paris.

Alfre Woodard (12 Years a Slave) played Ouiser in the 2012 tv movie STEEL MAGNOLIAS.  My Facebook friend Phoebe played the part in a version at the Muncie Civic Theater.

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