Sunday, May 8, 2016

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 547th Edition

Welcome to the 547th Edition of my series.  I hope everyone that celebrates has a good Mother's Day.  My show of MURDER IN THE GAZEBO starts in just a couple of weeks at the Goldspace Theater in Downtown Muncie where tickets are $8 and shows are May 20th and 21st at 7:30 pm and the 22nd at 2:00 pm.  I might have some announcements for next week but I will first see how things unfold before making them.  For now I'll just get to my selections.

I am Because We Are (2008):  I start the week out with this documentary which was produced by Madonna who is also the narrator.  This takes a look at the African nation of Malawi and most notably at the children of Africa who a lot are orphaned because of the AIDS problem in the nation.  This is a very eye-opening film where Madonna said that she was called by a group that asked for her donations and she expressed her ignorance then after that wanted to see what the talk was about.  It is also a pretty unbiased documentary and the people being interviewed have multiple outlooks on what is happening and who is to blame.  This is available on the website which you can likely sign up for if you have a public library card.

The Dropout (1962):  This is my short film for the week which was made by Sid Davis who made a lot of these kinds of educational, sometimes entertaining shorts.  This one was on a high schooler who feels he has had enough and believes he can make it by dropping out of high school.  This documents the consequences very well like most jobs wanting at least a high school education, among other things.  This can be found on Youtube.

After the Thin Man (1936):  This is my crime comedy for the week which was directed by W.S. Van Dyke.  This is the first sequel to the 1934 hit THE THIN MAN where William Powell and Myrna Loy reprise their roles as Nick and Nora Charles being joined by canine legend Asta.  They are called upon to solve the case of a missing man and possibly a murder.  A young James Stewart joins the cast.  This was a pretty fun comedy and probably more edgy at the time with things like Nick's drinking.  Powell and Loy always had some great chemistry and might be one of the underrated duos from this era.  There are also some very funny moments with Asta who I referred to as the canine legend.  

Stage Beauty (2004):  Richard Eyre directed this film based on the play by Jeffrey Hatcher.  This is based on theater in the 17th Century London where the end of an era happened where women got to play roles in theater.  Billy Crudup stars as Ned who has made a career of playing women, most notably Desdemona in OTHELLO.  King Charles II, played by Rupert Everett, makes a ruling that only women can play women characters which opens the door for dresser Maria, played by Claire Danes, who has aspirations of acting.  When she wins the part, she becomes a star while Ned starts to go off the deep end.  Tom Wilkinson, Ben Chaplin, Hugh Bonneville, Richard Griffiths, Tom Hollander, Edward Fox, and many others co-star in this film.  This is based on real events with much of these characters were real people.  It is also an interesting look into this era of theater.  I know we talk about how women could not vote for a long time but they also could not act in plays for a long time which was another travesty.  Danes and Crudup work very well together and Crudup does a great job as a cross-dressing actor.  Theater buffs should really check this one out.

Citizen Kane (1941):  This is part three of my Joseph Cotten trilogy and how fitting that I end it on possibly one of the most talked about movies of all time which many love and many hate but do not forget.  This is also part one of a two-part Orson Welles series.  Welles is known to be the director, writer, producer, and star in what is not really his directorial debut but what made him big.  Welles stars as newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane, which is based on media mogul William Randolph Hearst, who we first see on his deathbed and uttering the word "Rosebud" before succumbing.  A group of reporters try to piece together his life and what he meant by his last word taking us in flashbacks of his early life and how he came to rise.  Dorothy Comingore, Agnes Moorehead, Ruth Warrick, Ray Collins, Everett Sloane, and many others co-starred in this film.  This movie had a lot of very innovative camera techniques which is one of the praises.  Welles also had a hard time getting it made with Hearst objecting to it and from what I understand was not due to the portrayal of himself but of his girlfriend Marion Davies who the character of Susan Alexander, played by Comingore, was based upon.  This movie also gets a lot of criticism, some possibly for the hype of the film.  It was also named as the best movie of all time by the American Film Institute, not sure I agree on that one but in my mind was still a pretty compelling film.  Welles plays Kane through many years and does a great job of aging when playing the part.  I also liked the way the story was told in through a reporter's investigation of his life and last word.  It helped make the careers of many like Moorehead and Cotten.  Much of the cast came from Welles' own Mercury Theater.  I feel it is worth a look, it might be hard for younger generations to enjoy it the same way as others when it first came out but consider the trouble had during the making of the film.

Detachment (2011):  Tony Kaye directed this film which turned out to be quite a surprise for me.  Adrian Brody stars as Henry Barthes who is a substitute teacher which drifts from classroom to classroom not wanting to form an attachment.  His latest assignment finds more meaning in an inner-city school where he takes an interest in the unusual student Meredith, played by Betty Kaye, also forming a friendship with fellow teacher Ms. Madison, played by Christina Hendricks, and takes in a teenage hooker named Erica, played by Sami Gayle.  This is very hard to describe.  When I was about to watch it, I thought it was going to be one of those movies where a group of kids were losing hope and this unlikely teacher takes the helm and finds a way to get through to the kids like in COACH CARTER, FREEDOM WRITERS or the more underrated KNIGHTS OF THE SOUTH BRONX.  It turned out to be more of a character piece than anything but was still a very beautiful film.  Marcia Gay Harden, James Caan, Lucy Liu, Blythe Danner, Tim Blake Nelson, William Peterson, Bryan Cranston, and many others co-star in this film.  I found myself kind of relating to this Henry character some as I believe I exhibit some of these personality traits.  Caan was very amusing as a veteran teacher.  It takes more of a look at the faculty side of an inner-city school and their everyday struggle with students as well as the parents.  I had not really knew anything of this before seeing it and really believe it needs to be more exposed so hopefully I can help it with this one.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail  (1975):  After seeing a few versions of the musical SPAMALOT, I figured it was time to revisit this film which made it possible to have the musical.  The Monty Python group which included Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, and Graham Chapman play various character in this King Arthur comedy.  Chapman plays the part of Arthur who gets together a group of knights and running into silly obstacles along the way.  I don't believe much needs to be said here, they deal with a very relentless knight that just won't stop trying to fight even after losing his limbs and they deal with the famous killer rabbit.  All kinds of other things happen along they way in this great comedy.  It also has a great opening sequence before getting to the film and they were able to add in some good animated sequences as well.  This is the first feature film of the comedy troupe who became famous in Britain for the variety series MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS and an interesting thing I learned was that Pink Floyd helped fund the film from the success of their DARK SIDE OF THE MOON album.  Eric Idle would go onto write the musical SPAMALOT which also became a very successful musical so if you saw the musical but not this, then this is a must.  It is one of the best comedies of all time.

The World's Greatest Wrestling Managers (2006):  This is my second documentary for the week.  This is a WWE produced dvd which takes a look at a lot of the managers of wrestlers through the years like the male managers "Classy" Freddie Blassie, Bobby Heenan, Jimmy Hart, Paul Heyman aka Paul E. Dangerously, Slick, the Grand Wizard, Harvey Whippleman, Captain Lou Albano, Jim Cornette, many others.  It also takes a look at some of the women like Sunny, Miss Elizabeth, Sapphire, Sensational Sherri, Debra, among others.  I am sure there are many others that could have had more like featuring Virgil when he was Ted DiBiase's manager and help his fund.  I also would have liked to have seen a more feature story of ECW's Bill Alfonso but he did get a mention.  All in all, it was interesting to watch but likely only going to be enjoyed by wrestling fans.  This is available on WWE Network in the section of Originals under the show "FIRST LOOK" and is separated by year so go to 2006.  While I haven't done it for awhile, I have had some time in local wrestling promotions as a ring announcer and after being the announcer for Action Packed Wrestling from the beginning, my friend Walter who runs the promotion decided to put my acting skills to use and make me into a more managerial character like the guys named off.  It was really a lot of fun to make a crowd absolutely hate me so this is rather relating for me.

The Major and the Minor (1942):  This is part three of my Ray Milland trilogy.  Billy Wilder makes his directorial debut in this romantic comedy which is quite possibly the weirdest storyline of all time but still somehow works and is the start of possibly one of the best directorial careers of all time.  Ginger Rogers stars as Susan Applegate who needs to get home but only has a little bit of money which at her age she cannot afford but she manages to pass herself off as 12 in order to get half price and is able to pay for it.  On the train, she meets Major Philip Kirby who is with the army and believes she is a scared kid so takes her in for awhile as a father figure type even letting her stay with him and going to the military base.  She soon takes a liking to the major but does not know how to tell him she has been lying all this time.  Robert Benchley also co-stars in the film.  This might be the most gentleman character that Milland has ever played in his career after playing many villainous characters or if not villainous, still rather dark.  I suppose you must suspend disbelief that Ginger could ever pass for being 12 years of age but does make the most of playing the child and then later revealing herself as an adult.  Definitely one for the classic cinema buff.

Monkey Kingdom (2015):  This is my third documentary of the week and interestingly enough I start this week with a documentary narrated by Madonna and end the week with a documentary narrated by Tina Fey which is part two of a two-part Tina Fey series.  This is one of the Disneynature documentaries and is the first one to ever be featured on this blog.  This takes a look at the Toque Macaque group of Monkeys in the jungles of Sri Lanka.  It is combined with the ways of the breed of monkey and made into a story through Fey's narration.  It does a good job of combining fact with some comedy to make it a good family viewing to learn about animals.  This is available on Starz On-Demand.

Well, that is it for this week. Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Nicole Kidman, Ellen Burstyn, more Orson Welles, and many others.

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