Sunday, March 30, 2014

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 437th Edition

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Welcome to the 437th edition of my series.  I will let know that THE GOOD DOCTOR is coming along very well.  The show is on May 8th, 9th, and 10th and I will give details as it gets closer to time.  I will now get to my selections for the week.

 photo killing.jpgKilling Them Softly (2012):  I start the week out with this action movie from Andrew Dominik who wrote the screenplay based on a novel by George V. Higgins.  Brad Pitt stars as mob hitman Jackie Cogan who is hired after a high profile poker game is robbed by three amateurs.  The criminal economy suffers as a result of the robbery and is up to Jackie to restore order.  James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, Max Casella, Sam Shepard, and many others co-star in this film.  This has some really good performances like from Pitt and has some good black humor in it.  It does not come close to THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD which reunite Dominik, Pitt, and Shepard for this film but this movie still highly entertains.

 photo richard.jpgLooking for Richard (1996):  This is part four of my Al Pacino series.  This is a documentary in which he directs where he looks into the meaning and significance of Shakespeare's play RICHARD III.  He interviews many people like James Earl Jones and Kenneth Branaugh while even staging it which feature actors like Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Winona Ryder, and Aidan Quinn.  To my knowledge, this never became any sort of feature length play or film but in scenes that were shot, the actors did a very good job.  More than anything this is more of an homage to Shakespeare who Pacino is a fan of his work.  This took Pacino four years to make and is very clear with his various looks like his level of beard and hair at times.  This is some really good work from Pacino and gives us a good homage into Shakespeare and his very complicated play which he looks to make it easier for the audience to understand.  This is available on Instant Netflix.

 photo stroll.jpgA Morning Stroll (2011): This is my animated short for the week which was written and directed by Grant Orchard.  This short film consists of a New Yorker walking past a chicken who then goes to knock on the door.  This shows three different time periods.  The first one is 1950s where the animation is a more minimalist style.  Then he goes into the modern day where we see a simpler CGI look.  The third is in a zombie future which uses more darker CGI and pretty clever.  This is a really good look at three different animation styles.  This was nominated for best animated short in 2012.

 photo decision.jpgCommand Decision (1948):  This is my military movie of the week.  Clark Gable stars as WWII General Dennis who makes some very difficult decisions in sending squadrons on suicide missions in order to destroy Germany's factories for fighter planes.  He must fight his congressmen and his own chain of command to continue what he believes will lead to victory.  He also hides his emotional turmoil which brings him down further.  Van Johnson, Walter Pidgeon, Edward Arnold, and many others co-star in this military drama based on a play by William Wister Haines.  I thought this was really best best performance I have seen from Gable.  He really tones it down and really lessens the smart aleck personality he usually shows and shows more emotional depth in this one that focuses on the emotional turmoil of war.

 photo west.jpgOnce Upon a Time in the West (1968):  This is my western of the week which was directed and co-written by Sergio Leone.  Claudia Cardinale stars as Jill McBain who goes home to find her new husband and family slaughtered.  Jason Robards co-stars as the coffee loving Cheyenne who is the prime suspect of the murder but convinces Jill he did not do it and befriends her to look for the real killer.  Joining them is Harmonica, played by Charles Bronson, who plays the harmonica very well but also shows he can shoot.  Henry Fonda co-stars as gang leader Frank, played by Henry Fonda in a rare villain turn, who is behind the murders.  Fonda was reluctant to do the role until Leone convinced him that he wanted the shock factor of Fonda being a villain.  There are many really good subplots, a really good Ennio Morricone scene, great characters, shootouts and many other things to keep this Spaghetti Western going.  This is available on Instant Netflix and is a very fun one.

 photo detour.jpgDetour (1945):  This is my film noir for the week which was directed by Edgar Ulmer.  Tom Neal stars as Al Roberts who is hitchhiking to Hollywood to join his girl Sue, played by Claudia Drake.  He is picked up by a sleazy gambler who ends up dead and fearing the police, he takes the identity.  Ann Savage co-stars as Vera who is well aware he is not the person he says and gets Al deeper into trouble through her blackmail.  I have always said that this is really my favorite genre from that era and this is really one of the best ones.  I don't want to explain anymore as I might give too much away but it has possibly the most clever endings I have seen from this era.  Savage was great in her role.  I found this on a Roku app called Premier and is worth a look for fans of this era and genre. 

 photo female.jpgFemale (1933):  Michael Curtiz directed this film that I guess you could say focuses on female dominance.  Ruth Chattererton stars as Alison Drake who is the successful owner and manager of an automobile factory and even sleeps with the employees some.  George Brent co-stars as inventor Jim Thorne who does not operate the way she does which begins complications and her rethinking her lifestyle.  This is a rather rare film from this era showing a woman just as successful in the workplace as the man and holds her own with the men in her world.  This is a very interesting from from that era and very compelling as well as being rather underrated.

 photo palindromes.jpgPalindromes (2004):  Todd Solondz wrote and directed this independent film.  This is centered around a 13 year old girl named Aviva who is actually played by many different actresses of many looks.  Aviva is determined to become a mother and when nearly succeeding, her parents, played by Ellen Barkin and Richard Masur, put a stop to it.  When this happens, she runs away and takes a bit of a road trip throughout a lot of the United States ending up in many awkward situations.  This is something that I put in the category of the WTF movie of the week.  I had no idea what to think of it, it was not upbeat by any means but then I could not take my eyes off it out of intrigue especially the Mama Sunshine scene.  This is not for everyone but is a very intriguing watch.

 photo scream-1.jpgScream of Fear (1961):  Now I bring a Hammer films selection which are mostly British horror films.  Susan Strasberg stars as the wheelchair bound Penny Appleby.  She grew up with divorced parents and when her mother dies, she accepts an invitation to live with her father.  Her father was away but meets her stepmother who is very welcoming.  Soon after she gets there she starts to see her father who appears dead but is the only one who seems to be seeing these images.  She believes her stepmother, played by Ann Todd, and Dr. Gerrard, played by Christopher Lee, are trying to drive her insane.  This is a very suspenseful film that keeps the suspense without getting really gory.  Lee cites this movie as the best one Hammer Films made. 

 photo grams.jpg21 Grams (2003):  Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu directed this multiple story film where they come together in the end due to a tragedy.  Sean Penn stars as a critically ill mathematician named Paul.  Naomi Watts co-stars as Cristina who is a grieving mother.  Benicio Del Toro co-stars as Jack who is an ex-con and a born again Christian trying to get his life together.  One tragedy changes these lives forever.  Danny Huston, Eddie Marsan, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Melissa Leo, and Clea Duvall all co-star in this film.  This is another one that if I don't want to give too much away.  The movie goes out of sequence a lot which could be the director's way of making sure you pay attention but then rewards in the end.  This is a movie which is driven by good characters and performances as well as the direction.  This is available on Instant Netflix.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike.  Stay tuned for next week which so far includes more Al Pacino, Ryan Gosling, Red Skelton, Mel Gibson, Bette Davis, Laurence Olivier, and many others.

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