Sunday, March 20, 2016

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 540th Edition

Welcome to the 540th Edition of my series.  There is not a lot going on for me right now.  Hopefully I'll be returning to the theater soon though I have made myself a "no musicals until 1776" rule as 1776 happens in November I would love to have my second round of that show and my biggest supporter of this blog Jim gets to direct.  For right now I just want to see what else is out there.  I do have a few prospects in mind and will keep all posted.  I will get to my selections for the week.

Inherent Vice (2014):  Paul Thomas Anderson directed this film based on the novel by Thomas Pynchon.  Joaquin Phoenix stars as hippie private investigator Larry "Doc" Sportello who is visited by his ex-girlfriend Shasta, played by Katherine Waterston, who tells of a new lover named Mickey Wolfman, played by Eric Roberts, and believes his wife Sloane, played by Serena Scott Thomas, wants to have him committed to an asylum.  She asks Doc to help prevent the abduction of Mickey and being put into an asylum.  Along the way, he meets some rather unusual characters and learns a lot more than he wants.  Josh Brolin, Michael Kenneth Williams, Maya Rudolph, Benicio Del Toro, Jena Malone, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Martin Short, Martin Donovan, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a rather unusual film and there will be some that really like it and some that do not like it.  For me, it was rather intriguing and good to see people like Eric Roberts and Martin Short.  It is really hard to describe this surreal film without giving more away.  Could be one of those that would be good to be stoned.

Hamlet (1996):  This is part two of my Robin Williams series where he makes a cameo in this one as Osric.  Kenneth Branagh directed this film in which he stars as Hamlet.  It is the usual Shakespeare story where Hamlet comes home to attend his father's funeral to discover his mother Gertrude, played by Julie Christie has married his Uncle Claudius, played by Derek Jacobi, setting out Hamlet to seek his revenge.  It has quite the all-star cast in addition to those already mentioned like Richard Attenborough, Brian Blessed, Billy Crystal, Judi Dench, Gerard Depardieu, John Gielgud, Rosemary Harris, Jack Lemmon, Rufus Sewell, Timothy Spall, Kate Winslet, and many others.  Most who want to see this know what to expect.  This is a full version in every sense of the word being about four hours long.  Branagh does a great job in both his direction and acting.  It has some really good visuals.  Even with all this, if you are not into Shakespeare, this will not be the one for you.  It might also be good to get a little background on the story before watching.  Also after watching this, maybe have some fun by following up with HAMLET 2 which I think should also be done on stage sometime.

Muppet Treasure Island (1996):  Now I bring more family entertainment.  This is the Muppets' version of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel which was directed by Brian Henson.  Tim Curry stars as Long John Silver who teams up with Jim Hawkins, played by Kevin Bishop, Gonzo, voiced by Dave Goelz, and Rizzo the Rat, voiced by Steve Whitmore.  The rest of the Muppets are on board to take on a band of pirates and most of them play different characters like Kermit the Frong and Miss Piggy, voiced by Frank Oz.  Billy Connelly, Jennifer Saunders, Jerry Nelson, Kevin Clash, Bill Barretta, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a real fun adaptation of the novel and with the Muppets, not much can go wrong for me.  This one has a lot less celebrity cameos than most.  Curry is really good as Long John Silver and Connelly is very amusing as Billy Bones.  Curry has cited this as one of his favorite roles.  It also has some pretty underrated music numbers.

Social Seminar:  Changing (1971):  This is my short film for the week.  This is a documentary where an aging hippie reevaluates his life and leads a more conventional one to what society looks more up upon.  He is also married with two kids and discusses and argues with his wife on how to deal with their children.  They also talk about if they should continue their use of marijuana in the way of being an example for their children with the legality issues of it.  He also talks about how it has never lead him to take any heavier drugs.  It is an interesting look at the changing of society.

Day-Time Wife (1939):   This is my romantic comedy for the week.  Linda Darnell stars as Jane who is the wife to businessman Ken Norton, played by Tyrone Power.  She realizes he is getting involved with his secretary Kitty, played by Wendy Barrie.  To get a form of revenge, Jane decides to apply for the secretary job for architect Barney Dexter, played by Warren William, in order to make her husband jealous having a rather funny climax when Ken realizes what his wife was doing.  Binnie Barnes and Joan Davis co-star in this film.  This does not rank high in the golden year for film but still a very interesting watch that brings some laughs for a little over an hour.  Darnell is not really known by today's standards but gives a good performance in this one.  This was probably controversial in its time and is available on Comcast On-Demand on FX Retro.

The Red Badge of Courage (1951):  This is my war movie for the week which was directed by John Huston.  This is based on the Civil War novel of the same name by Stephen Crane.  Real-life war hero Audie Murphy stars as Henry Fleming whose view is who the movie is from.  He is a very young soldier who wrestles with the ideas of really wanting to fight and doubting his own courage.  After a very bloody encounter he runs away but guilt gets him back to fight with his unit.  Bill Mauldin, Douglas Dick, Royal Dano, Andy Devine, and many others co-star in this film.  This story does a really good job of conveying the fear of a soldier and a pretty realistic depiction.   The novel was released in 1893 and might be a statement from Huston that not a lot had really changed since the Civil War.  It is actually only 69 minutes long even though originally was to be two hours but was cut due to a power struggle with MGM.  Even with the cut time, it stands very well today even though at the time it was considered a flop though Huston refers to it as his best.

The Tree of Life (2011):  How to even really describe this Terrence Malick film that he also wrote.  This is a story of a 1950s family whose father, played by Brad Pitt, was very strict and the mother, played by Jessica Chastain, was far more compassionate.  It is centered around their oldest son Jack, played by Hunter McCracken, in the childhood years and by Sean Penn in the adult years.  As an adult, Jack seeks to understand his family life and just life in general.  Laramie Eppler and Tye Sheridan co-star in this film.  Like most of Malick's work, it is rather poetic and really centers around the cinematography by the Oscar winning Emmanuel Lubezki more than anything.  It has managed to get some mixed opinions and always will.  I guess you have to understand Malick first.  I have also found with Malick is that his work sometimes needs a second, maybe third watch.  It also might work better on a big screen tv which is not something I usually discuss but this is an exception.  I had seen it before but this tie on my Smart tv and I think it had a different effect this time.  It is hard to explain but it kind of reminds me of 2001:  A SPACE ODYSSEY.  There is a lot of very beautiful imagery that goes around this story of redemption leading to a rather interesting ending.

A Woman Under the Influence (1974):  John Cassavetes wrote and directed this film and is another one that is bit hard to really describe.  Peter Falk stars as blue collar husband Nick whose wife Mabel, played by Gena Rowlands, is for a lack of a better description mentally unstable.  He tries to keep things together with his wife's strange behavior but things happen where her children become endangered and has her committed.  A lot of this focuses on Nick trying to raise his kids by himself and maybe even testing his own sanity in the process.  The last part focuses on the adjustment for when Mabel returns home.  This is a very well done film with great performances from the leads on dealing with mental illness.  One that is easier to understand by watching than me describing.

Gate of Hell (1953):  This is my Japanese film for the week.  Teinosuke Kinugasa directed this film based on a play by Kan Kikuchi.  Kazuo Hasegawa stars as samurai Maritoo who takes a liking to a married woman named Kesa, played by Machiko Kyo.  This request comes after he helps a village defeat another and is rewarded with whatever he wants but they had to draw the line.  He begins more of an obsession with her as he threatens those closest to her.  This was one of the first Japanese films to use color in their films.  This is a much different samurai tale and a good story on obsession.  This is available on the Criterion Collection.

Once (2007):  I end the week with this contemporary musical.  John Carney wrote and directed this film which stars Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova.  Hansard stars a Dublin singer who works for his father's vacuum shop and at night sings some of his music on the streets.  Irglova stars as a Czech pianist when she gets a chance and takes odd jobs to support her daughter and mother.  These two meet and as they get to know each other they decide to write some songs for a demo disk.  This is a really good story and has some really good songs including FALLING SLOWLY which I have karaoked from time to time.  Hansard and Irglova work really well together as people who have experienced recent hurt and dealing with it through the songs they write.  I think just about anyone can enjoy and be inspired by this film.  People like Steven Spielberg and Bob Dylan have endorsed this movie.  This Irish film is available on HBO On-Demand.

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

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