Sunday, February 21, 2016

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 536th Edition

Welcome to the 536th Edition of my series.  Tomorrow I am starting rehearsals for MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING where I make my debut for the Alley Theater in Anderson, Indiana and have performances on March 11th and 12th.  I am playing the part of George Seacoal in my second Shakespeare show.  This how process is about three weeks and soon after this we will be shooting our web series PIGFOOT 2 and more details will come after that is done.

Robin Williams:  Weapons of Self-Destruction (2009):  Last week I featured stand-up comedy from Bo Burnham and this week I follow it with the well known comedic actor Robin Williams.  He is his usual energetic self but those who only know him from film and tv are in for quite an awakening.  He covers topics like drugs, global warming, politics, sex, even the porn industry on titles they have made of movies he has done.  He is far more vulgar than usual but still his very funny self.  He does some very obscene celebrity impersonations.  It is just too bad that things ended with him the way they did.  Please keep in mind, this is an HBO show so many lines can be walked so if you offend easy, stick to the movies and tv shows of Robin.

Land of the Zuider Zee (1951):  This is my short film for the week which is part of the Traveltalks series which is always narrated by James A. FitzPatrick.  In this one, they travel to Holland.  They take a look at the economy of the country and much of the locations there.  The Zuider Zee was a bay by the North Sea.  Like most from the series, nice use of technicolor making the imagery stand out a lot with good footage of the country.

Dancing Lady (1933):  This is my Burlesque and Broadway pick of the week I guess.  Joan Crawford stars as Janie who is a dancer and will do her passion however necessary taking a job as a Burlesque dancer.  The group gets arrested for some sort of indecent exposure which in those days was probably pretty bad but now it really is nothing new.  A rich playboy named Tod, played by Franchot Tone gets her out of jail with the fine they required and looks to get her into a Broadway musical.  She tries to get into a musical directed by a well-known director named Patch, played by Clark Gable, who at first thinks Janie is using her charm rather than her talents to get to the top but things change.  Most of the highlights for me are some of the cameos like Fred Astaire, Nelson Eddy, Robert Benchley, and Ted Healy and the Three Stooges.  Astaire plays himself making his film debut and has a pretty good dance number with Crawford who is actually Astaire's first on-screen dance partner so there is a pretty interesting fact.

Out of Order (2003):  This is part two of a three part William H. Macy series.  This is actually a mini-series from Showtime but the copy i had was I believe the pilot episode.  Eric Stoltz stars as Hollywood screenwriter Mark Colm who is in a troubled marriage with his wife and writing partner Lorna, played by Felicity Huffman, who has issues with depression and alcohol.  He looks to resist the temptation to cheat but is very hard for him.  Macy co-stars as their neighbor and has-been producer Steven.  Kim Dickens, Dyllan Christopher, Justine Bateman, Peter Bogdanovich, and many others co-star in this mini-series.  What I saw very well written with a good ending to this particular episode that really played out like a movie.  Stoltz does a great job and also has some really entertaining narration.  I might just have to look into the series sometime.

Shaft in Africa (1973):  This is my Blaxploitation classic for the week and a tribute to actor Frank Finlay who left us a couple weeks ago.  This is actually the third and last in the Shaft series until the 2000 remake.  Richard Roundtree reprises his role as the private investigator John Shaft.  As the title implies, Shaft goes to Africa after he is hired to go undercover in a slavery ring.  This was a pretty good end to the series.  I have seem the first one but it has been a while and have not seen the second one.  This is possibly the best of Blaxploitation.  Some might call this a "poor man's James Bond" which works pretty well.  Good action, pretty women, and fair entertainment.  I think this can be watched without the first two but why not have a night with the trilogy of Shaft and then do the decent remake.

Hoop Dreams (1994):  This is one of two documentaries for the week.  Steve James directed this documentary on inner-city Chicago boys Arthur Agee and William Gates where they follow them through their four years of high school where they both dream of playing college basketball someday and then the NBA.  This goes through all their struggles like injuries, slumps, struggling with grades and many things.  This was a very well-done documentary on people who were very easy to get behind through the struggle and triumph.  This is really well worth the three hours for both basketball and non-basketball fans.  This is available on Instant Netflix.

Liliom (1934):  Last week I featured the classic musical CAROUSEL from Rodgers and Hammerstein after checking out the dvd at the library.  The further I looked at it, I noticed this movie which was the inspiration for the musical so how could I turn this one down.  This is a French film directed by Fritz Lang based on a play by Ferenc Molnar.  Charles Boyer stars as carnival barker Liliom who falls in love with Julie, played by Madeleine Ozeray, but loses his job to his jealous employer in the process.  Now that they are together, they have a very difficult marriage with Liliom struggling to find a job and then as things come to a head when he chooses a life of crime resulting in his death.  In the afterlife, he looks to make amends with his family in his one day he gets to go back to Earth.  The afterlife sequence and story was done in a very unique and interesting way where pretty much heaven and hell were the pretty much the same place where they decided where to put them and it was not permanent.  This is part of the 50th Anniversary dvd of CAROUSEL.

Big Easy Express (2012):  This is the second of the documentaries where the first focused on basketball, this one focuses on the music industry.  This shows a tour with the folk rock musicians Mumford and Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.  The transportation they use is a train going from San Francisco to New Orleans where they are usually at the show or jamming together in the train.  I'll give a brief reminder of a song or two each band is known for.  Mumford and Sons is likely most known for their song THE CAVE.  Old Crow Medicine Show is likely most known for WAGON WHEEL which it was a long time before I heard that song sung by them after hearing it a lot from Ashley and other local musicians.  Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are likely most known for the popular duet song HOME which I have heard sung many times at karaoke bars.  This was a pretty cool tour idea they did and was a well-done documentary.  I suppose if you hate the songs I have named off it may not be for you but if you are at least tolerant, this is a really good watch.

The End of Summer (1961):  This is my Japanese film for the week.  Yasujiro Ozu directed this drama centered around the widowed patriarch Kohayagawa who is the owner of a family run sake brewery.  It is a business which cannot compete with the bigger breweries so he looks to make sure his daughters are set financially after his passing.  This means finding husbands for his two daughters.  This is a really good slice of life film that has both comedy and drama.  The character Kohayagawa seems to be a more humorous patriarch than a lot of Japanese fathers in film.

Big Hero 6 (2014):  I end the week with this Animated Disney film.  This centers around a young slacker genius Hiro, voiced by Ryan Potter, and plus-sized inflatable robot named Baymax, voiced by Scott Adsit.  A tragic event takes place in his town where Hiro looks to make Baymax into maximum potential and gets together a few science nerd friends to become a group of high-tech heroes of the title name to save the city from danger.  Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayons Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk, Maya Rudolph, and many others lend their voices to this animated film.  This was a different and fun take toward the superhero genre that the family can watch.  This is available on Stars On-Demand at least with Comcast.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes William H. Macy, James Stewart, Maggie Smith, and many others.

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