Sunday, September 11, 2016

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 566th Edition

Welcome to the 565th Edition of my series.  I can finally say we are officially in the NFL season now.  I am hoping for some success in my real team of the 49ers, my own Fantasy football team and this Draft Kings that I am trying for the first time this year.  Nothing as of now to report on the theater front as of now except that the place doing OLIVER has cancelled that production due to a lack of turnout so I will not be able to portray Bill Sikes as I was hoping so onto other things.  For right now I will get on with my selections.

I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988):  This is part three of my Chris Rock trilogy where he has an early bit part.  Keenan Ivory Wayans wrote and directed this homage and spoof to the Blaxploitation films of the 70s.  Keenan also stars as Jack Spade who is just coming home from the army to learn that his brother June Bug has died.  When this happens, he decideds to go after local crimelord Mr. Big, played by John Vernon.  He assembles a team that consists of Blaxploitation alums Bernie Casey, Isaac Hayes, Jim Brown, Steve James, and Antonio Fargas.  Ja'net DuBois, Dawnn Lewis, Kadeem Hardison, Damon Wayans, Clarence Williams III, David Alan Grier, Kim Wayans, Tony Cox, and many others co-star in this comedy.  I suppose this could be an early version of THE EXPENDABLES in getting together a group of actors from the genre.  Apparently Blaxploitation legends Fred Williamson and Ron O'neal were offered parts but declined.  This was a very enjoyable parody that is not as known today.  Before watching this, if you do not know anything on the Blaxploitation genre, it might be good to look into some of those so that this is easier understood.  This is available on the website

The Merchandise Mart (1956):  This is my short film for the week which is a documentary short.  It talks about this place that is in Chicago and likely one of the first of its kind that would now be referred to as a mall.  This place also had a police force and a postal service.  This is more like a tour of the facility.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975):  This is my tribute to Gene Wilder who recently left us.  I knew I wanted to feature something of his.  WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is one of my favorites and what he is most known by so wanted to feature something different.  He is also known for his work with Mel Brooks and his teamings with Richard Pryor.  I decided to look at one of his own projects and found that he wrote and directed this comedy which is his directorial debut.  Wilder stars as Sigerson Holmes who is the younger brother of Sherlock and always in his brother's shadow.  Douglas Wilmer plays Sherlcock and decides to lay low for a bit and sends a case to his brother in which he uses his brother's deductive abilities to varying success.  Madeline Kahn, Dom Deluise, Leo McKern, Marty Feldman, and many others co-star in this comedy.  Also listen for the voice of Mel Brooks and look for an Albert Finney cameo in the beginning.  This came right after YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN and contains much of the Brooks alums.  This was a pretty good directorial debut for Wilder and has some pretty funny moments in this Sherlock parody.

Steve Jobs (2015):  This is part two of a Seth Rogen series.  Danny Boyle directed this biopic in which the screenplay was written by Aaron Sorkin and based on the book by Walter Isaacson.  Michael Fassbender stars as the iconic co-founder of Apple which covers some of the product launches up to the 1998 unveiling of the Imac.  It also covers the times when he was voted out of Apple by the board and then him trying to form his own company NeXT to limited success before finally returning to Apple after they bought NeXT merging.  It also documents the troubled relationship he had with his daughter Lisa, played at various ages by Makenzie Moss, Ripley Sobo, and Perla Haney-Jardine, who he denied for many years.  It has some really well written confrontation scenes with people in his life including his own co-founder Steve Wozniak, played by Seth Rogen.  Granted, some were written for dramatic effect but adds a compelling element to the film.  Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Sarah Snook, Adam Shapiro, and many others co-star in this film.  A couple weeks ago I featured PIRATES OF SILICON VALLEY which features both Jobs and Bill Gates on their rises in their respective companies and this kind of picks up from where that one left off.  Fassbender does well as Jobs though I still believe Noah Wyle does the best portrayal of Jobs so make a double feature night, maybe throw in JOBS which I have not seen yet.

The Old Maid (1939):  Edmund Goulding directed this dysfunctional family drama which is based on a play by Zoe Akins.  Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins star as cousins Charlotte and Delia Lovell.  Delia is about to get married to Dr. Lanskell, played by Donald Crisp, but her former fiancee Clem, played by George Brent returns complicating matters.  Charlotte decides to establish an orphanage and confesses to Delia that her charge Tina was the result of an affair with Clem and hides this fact from Tina, played by Marlene Burnett as a child and by Jane Bryan in her teen years.  Charlotte and Tina are taken in by Delia where Charlotte passes herself off as Aunt Charlotte and Delia is more of the mother causing jealousy with Charlotte.  Davis and Hopkins apparently detested each other during filming which kind of works for a lot of scenes.  Either way, this is a pretty decent family drama with good performances all around.

The Man Who Wasn't There (2001):  This is my tribute to the late Jon Polito who recently left us.  The Coen Brothers wrote and directed this modern day noir film that takes place in '40s California.  Billy Bob Thornton stars as Ed Crane who works in a barbershop for his brother-in-law Frank, played by THE PRACTICE alum Michael Badalucco.  Frances McDormand stars as Ed's wife Doris who is having an affair with her boss Dave, played by SOPRANOS alum James Gandolfini.  Ed is becoming aware of this and a chance encounter with a client in the barbershop named Creighton Tolliver, played by the late Polito, who talks about investing in a newer kind of cleaning called dry cleaning which interests Ed driving him to a blackmail scheme that goes awry.  Scarlett Johansson co-stars as the teen Birdy whose piano talents interests Ed who forms a fatherly sort of relationship with her or maybe we could compare it to that of Humbert in Delores in LOLITA.  Katherine Borowitz, Richard Jenkins, MONK alum Tony Shalhoub, and many others co-star in this film.  This is very cleverly shot in black and white giving it that 40s feel.  It also has a very well used soundtrack from Beethoven which is almost like a co-star in the film.  Most importantly, it comes from a well-done script done well by the Coen Brothers.

The Adventures of Tartu (1943):  Harold S. Bucquet directed this WWII spy film.  Robert Donat stars as Captain Terence Stevenson who is fluent in the Rumanian and German language and goes undercover to sabotage a Nazi poison-gas factory becoming Jan Tartu, a member of the Rumanian Iron Guard.  Things happen when his contacts are destroyed making his job more difficult.  Valerie Hobson, Walter Rilla, Glynis Johns, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a rather overlooked film that I found on the Boxed set "The Fabulous Forties".

The Armstrong Lie (2013):  This is my documentary for the week which was directed by documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney.  This documentary is based on cyclist Lance Armstrong and his rise in the industry and his fall after finally confessing to using performance enhancing drugs after many years of allegations.  Gibney originally was filming this to look into his comeback year in 2009 after a four year absence from the sport and him being a cancer survivor.  It was scrapped after 2012 when Armstrong was banned from competition and stripped of his seven Tour De France titles.  He decided to go back to the documentary when Armstrong made a confession on a 2013 episode of Oprah.  I really did not have any knowledge of cycling before watching this and just knew some of Armstrong.  Watching footage of the race also made me wonder how they all stay together when riding and not having a lot of people crashing into each other with bikes  This shows that there has been a lot of corruption in the sport with performance enhancing drugs that goes beyond Armstrong but giving him the most success.  I have noticed with Gibney that he does try to take a look from all angles and does not really use personal bias in his documentaries.  It is a rather compelling film on a celebrity that accomplished a lot and even did a lot of really good things outside his sport but lived quite a lie for many years.

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969):  This is my Disney film for the week.  A young Kurt Russell in his Disney days stars as college student Dexter whose college will not get a computer so along with his friends, he goes to talk to the town businessman A.J. Arno, played by Cesar Romero who is most known as the first Joker in the 60s sitcom BATMAN, and he decides to donate a computer to the college through Dexter's persuasion.  This is not the same kind of computer that you would see now or even one from the 80s.  This was a very complicated looking machine to say the least and have no insight to give on the computers from this particular era.  Dexter tries to fix the computer which backfires by making him a human computer and has newfound genius abilities as well as information that uncovers corruption for Arno.  Joe Flynn, William Schallert, Frank Welker, and many others co-star in this film.  Welker makes a live action appearance in a career known for his voice work in animation.  There are actually two sequels to this film which I have not seen.  This is good family fun and of worth if you have not seen the much younger Russell who would go onto play roles like Snake and other action roles.

Never Let Me Go (2010):  I end the week with this I guess subtle science fiction film.  Mark Romanek directed this film based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.  The story centers around three friends from childhood Kathy, played by Izzy Meikle-Small and Carey Mulligan, Tommy, played by Charlie Rowe and Andrew Garfield, and Ruth, played by Ella Purnell and Keira Knightley where actors play the characters in childhood and adulthood.  They learn in childhood the are clones that exist for donations for transplants in their adult lives.  Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins, Hannah Sharp, Christina Carrafiell, Andrea Riseborough, Domhnall Gleeson, and many others co-star in this film.  This is one of those that I find difficult to explain.  It is a sci-fi story that takes place in a modern world hence why I referred to this sci-fi as "subtle".  It is also more than anything a love story in the complicated lives of the adults who look to come to terms with their fate and maybe see what else is out there.  It has a good narrative from Carey Mulligan reflecting back on their childhoods to the modern day.  It is a rather interesting sci-fi story that does not need any effects or unusual sets to convey that since it is only part of what they are going for if I just made any sense.

Well that is it for this week, stay tuned for next week which so far includes Kristen Wiig, Karen Allen, Frances McDormand, Dorothy Dandridge, and many others.

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