Sunday, March 6, 2016

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 538th Edition

Welcome to the 538th Edition of my series.  Next weekend is my show which is on Friday and Saturday with details below on ordering tickets.  I make my debut at the Alley Theater in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.  I will get on with my selections now so let me know if you have any questions on getting tickets.

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015):  I start the week out with this guilty pleasure sequel of the 2012 movie.  Elizabeth Banks takes the helm as the director while reprising her role as Gail.  This starts out with the all-girl singing group the Bellas where they are in show and end up in a wardrobe malfunction in a show the the President of the United States is watching.  Their school suspends them and find that they can get the suspension lifted if they can win the International singing competition in which no American team has won.  A lot of the story is with freshman Emily, played by Hailee Steinfeld, dreams of becoming a Bella like her mother, played by MARRIED...WITH CHILDREN and SONS OF ANARCHY alum Katey Sagal.  Anna Kendrick reprises her role of Beca where she is on board with the Bellas while trying to think about life after school while Brittany Snow reprises her role as Chloe whose life revolves around the Bellas.  Rebel Wilson, Skylar Astin, Adam Devine, Anna Camp, Ben Platt, John Michael Higgins, Snoop Dogg, David Cross, Keegan-Michael Key, and many others co-star in this comedy.  One part that made this worth it to me was Snoop Dogg in a recording studio recording a Christmas album.  Rebel Wilson shines in her comedic role.  I also just enjoyed the spins on a lot of popular songs out there.  The first one is the best but I was still pulled in by this sequel.

The Lifeguard (2013):  Liz W. Garcia wrote and directed this independent film.  VERONICA MARS alum Kristen Bell stars as Leigh who has a pretty successful life in New York City as a reporter but finds that the job is becoming too much and returns home to her childhood home in Connecticut.  One can likely guess the job she takes in the smaller town.  She moves back in with her parents and tries to reconnect with all her childhood friends while forming a dangerous relationship with a teen.  Mamie Gummer, Martin Starr, Alex Shaffer, Amy Madigan, Joshua Harto, Adam LeFevre, and many others co-star in this film.  I went into this thinking this would be some inspirational coming of age film or maybe the beauty of small town life but I was quite wrong.  I find this is more of a character study.  Bell is great as Leigh who is trying to find her place in life while struggling.  We can kind of relate to her character so it is easy to get taken in my her.  It also really conveys that not everything in our world is black and white and that there is a lot of gray.  To understand what I am saying or to disagree with what I'm saying, this is available to watch on Instant Netflix.

Nebraska (2013):  Alexander Payne directed this independent comedy-drama which was written by Bob Nelson.  Bruce Dern stars as Woody who is convinced he has won a million dollars through a letter he receives.  Will Forte co-stars as his son David who knows that this is not true but decides to take his dad on a road trip from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska for if nothing else to try to get to know his father better.  June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Tim Driscoll, Devin Ratray, and many others co-star in this film.  I can usually enjoy anything from Payne whose movies are driven more by characters and this is no different.  There is some really amusing scenes and some real emotional scenes.  The black and white cinematography also works very well in this film.  Dern is really good as the alcoholic father and Forte also does a really good job as his son.  Squibb is very amusing as the matriarch of the family who clearly has some bitterness towards her family.  A really well-done road movie.

Cliff Edwards and his Buckaroos (1941):  This is my western musical short for the week.  Cliff Edwards lives out on a dude ranch that is not going so well.  When him and his musical cowhands learn some Easterners are coming they do what they can to make a good impression.  This is mostly a few musical numbers but rather amusing.  Edwards was more known for his voices which most notably is Jiminy Cricket in PINNOCHIO.  Now maybe I have your attention and are curious to see what else this guy did

Master of the House (1925):  This is my silent film for the week which was directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer whose movie THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC is my favorite of the silents.  He tones it down some in this one having both comedy and drama.  Johannes Meyer stars as Viktor who is a tyrannical patriarch and head of the household.  Astrid Holm stars as his wife Ida who no matter how much work she does can never satisfy Viktor.  Mathilde Nielson co-stars as their housemaid Mads who does not like the way Viktor treats his wife and helps Ida get revenge.  This is not revenge in trying to kill him or even physically harm him but revenge to show that he should not be treating his wife the way he does and has some rather comical moments when this is happening.  This is pretty touching and easy to follow.

Johnny Got His Gun (1971):  Dalton Trumbo wrote and directed this film which I suppose is a war movie but there is a lot more to it.  Timothy Bottoms stars as WWI soldier Joe who is in an explosion and loses everything from his eyes, nose, ears, arms, legs so in other words he only has his mind.  A lot of it is him in his thoughts.  From there, he has a lot of flashbacks of his life before the war and dreams including him talking to Jesus Christ in a very interesting casting of Donald Sutherland as our savior.  Jason Robards, Kathy Fields, Marsha Hunt, and many others co-star in this film.  This is the inspiration for Metallica's hit song ONE.  This is a very powerful film with a really good performance from Bottoms whether in the flashback sequences or him bed ridden trying to communicate with others.  While sad, it is also a pretty moving film that deserves a look.

Ed Wood (1994):  This is my favorite of all the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collaborations.  Johnny Depp stars as the title character who is regarded as "The Worst Director of All Time".  Wood was a very ambitious filmmaker and did the best he could to fulfill his dream no matter how much support he had.  Much of this focuses on the relationship between Wood and Bela Lugosi, played by Martin Landau in an Oscar-winning performance, where Wood befriends Lugosi in his last days and puts him in his movies even with him past his prime.  Bill Murray, Patricia Arquette, Jeffrey Jones, Vincent D'Onofrio, Mike Starr, Max Casella, Lisa Marie, George "The Animal" Steele, Juliet Landau, and many others co-star in this film.  Also, Wood alums Conrad Brooks and Gregory Walcott have cameos in this film.  The movie has a very good black and white feel.  When done with this one, maybe check out some Wood like PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE and GLEN OR GLENDA which are some of the best bad movies ever made with Burton making a great portrayal in this film.

Napoleon and Samantha (1972):  This is my Disney film for the week.  Johnny Whitaker and Jodie Foster star as the title characters and the film debut of Foster when she was about 8 or 9 years of age.  Napoleon has a pretty good childhood living with his grandpa and they end up with a lion that was in a circus.  Things begin to change when his grandpa, played by Will Geer, dies.  He has no other family and fears ending up in an orphanage so sets out with his lion and joined by his best friend Samantha to find a man he had met in town named Danny, played by a very young Michael Douglas who was likely in his early 20s and appears to be before his star making show STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO.  Henry Jones also co-stars in this Disney movie.  I also read that Jodie Foster was attacked by one of the lions and I am glad this did not turn her off from pursuing an acting career. This is not the greatest but is still quite watchable.  It is also really good seeing Foster and Douglas before they had their huge careers.  This is available on the website which have some really good selections.

The Man With the Golden Arm (1955):  Otto Preminger directed this film based on the novel by Nelson Algren.  Frank Sinatra stars as Frankie Machine who is a skilled card dealer and a drug addict.  He has just been released from prison and is trying to change his life by pursuing a career in music as a drummer but the people from his past make it very difficult for him to move on with his life.  Eleanor Parker co-stars as Zosh who is his very unstable girlfriend and Kim Novak is another woman in his life who is a lot more level-headed.  Arnold Stang, Darren McGavin, and Robert Strauss co-star in this film about addiction.  Sinatra has referred to this one as his favorite movie and I am inclined to agree with him.  After all these musicals, he has the performance of a lifetime as a man trying to move past his drug addiction.

Lone Star (1996):  I end the week with this murder mystery which is written and directed by John Sayles.  Chris Cooper stars as Sheriff Sam Deeds who investigates a murder after 40 years when a skeleton is found.  This takes place in the modern day and in flashbacks where Kris Kristofferson co-stars as corrupt sheriff Charlie Wade and Matthew McConaughey co-stars as Sam's father in that era Buddy.  Stephen Mendillo, Elizabeth Pena, Clifton James, Miriam Colon, Joe Morton, Ron Canada, Tony Amendola, Frances McDormand, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a very gritty film and I don't really want to go into any further explanation in the risk I might give things away.  This does do a really good job of capturing the racial tensions in a small Texas town between whites, blacks, and Mexicans.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Kevin Costner, Robin Williams, and many others.

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