Sunday, December 4, 2016

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 577th Edition

Welcome to the 577th Edition of my series.  This weekend we opened for IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE at the Marion Civic Theater and we still have one weekend left next weekend.  Check out this website for ordering information.  Tickets are $12 and shows are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2 pm.  That is all that is really going on in my life so now for my selections.

The Great Gatsby (2013):  This is part five of my five-part Leonardo DiCaprio series.  Baz Luhrman directed this adaptation of the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.  Tobey Maguire stars as Nick Carraway who recalls an encounter with millionaire Jay Gatsby in the Roaring 20s where they become friends but soon slips into obsession and tragedy.  Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, and many others co-star in this film.  If anyone has seen Luhrman's ROMEO AND JULIET and MOULIN ROUGE, you will expect rather lavish cinematography which does not fall short in this film.  Also has an interesting way that it works into rap an hip hop during the depression era like the way rock and pop music is worked into Moulin ROUGE  It has a rather complicated story that I have a really hard time describing.  It did manage to keep my interest with the way it was shot and the performances.

The Martian (2015):  This is part two of a potential four-part Jeff Daniels series.  Ridley Scott directed this Sci-Fi film based on the novel by Andy Weir.  Matt Damon stars as Mark Watney who is an astronaut that gets left behind in a misson to Mars by his crew assuming he is dead.  He has indeed survived and is stranded on Mars where he must fight for survival and looks to get word that he is alive to NASA.  When it is found he is still alive, a team at NASA, a group of scientists, and his crew fight tirelessly for his rescue.  Mark's resourcefulness and botany skills are what keeps him alive while they look to bring him home. Daniels, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Michael Pena, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Donald Glover, Nick Mohammed, Shu Chen, and many others co-star in this film.  I suppose this is a predictable film at least towards the ending.  I find I don't always mind predictability when I am on an enjoyable journey to get there.  Damon does really well carrying this film when he is by himself on Mars.  It is also a rather inspirational film on people coming together for a cause and when the rest of the world is shown rooting for his return to earth.  This could be a good double feature to go with GRAVITY, another sci-fi film that has a rather possible scenario.  It could also be a double feature to go along with 127 HOURS where on each one the protagonist is in some way stuck and they video themselves to give update in the event that they die or I suppose in the event they survive and maybe it can get used as a documentary.  This one really exceeded my expectations and is available on HBO On-Demand.

Rent:  Filmed Live on Broadway (2008):  With December starting, the more I thought of this, I realized this is in a sense a holiday film where much of it takes place Christmas Eve and has Christmas lyrics in the music.  In 2005, there was an actual film version of this musical and this is a live version that they filmed and put on DVD.  Will Chase, Adam Kantor, Michael McElroy, Rodney Hicks, Tracie Thoms, Justin Johnston, Renee Elise Goldsberry, and Eden Espinosa star as a group of friends in New York City's East Village during the rise of the AIDs crisis where they all struggle to live and survive.  Most know this is a musical but is more of a rock opera.  The difference between this version and the 2005 film is that the movie version used some of this as dialogue whereas the stage version is mostly singing.  As much as I liked the movie version, I find that I prefer this one.  Tracie Thoms is the only one from the movie that is in this version where she reprises her role of Joanna.  I think it is great that there is more and more live theater they put on DVD.  I really liked Goldsberry as Mimi especially when I think of the original Broadway soundtrack and always am a bit bothered by the singing voice of Mimi in the soundtrack.  The rest of the cast does great and cameos of Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Jesse L. Martin, Anthony Rapp, and Daphne Rubin-Vega happen after the finale.  They were all part of the original cast with Heredia, Martin, and Rapp being part of the movie version.  One of my favorite musicals and glad I thought of this one for the holidays.

The Bespoke Overcoat (1955):  This is my short film for the week.  Jack Clayton directed this film based on the one-act play by Wolf Mankowitz.  This takes place in a clothing manufacturing warehouse.  Alfie Bass stars as Fender who is an aging worker looking to have an overcoat at work which is refused by his cold-hearted boss Mr. Ranting, played by Alan Tilvern, so he turns to his co-worker friend Morry, played by David Kossoff, to make one for him.  Morry makes the coat but Fender dies before he can get the coat and gets buried with the coat.  Fender returns as a ghost asking Morry to steal a coat for him.  This is about a half hour long and is an Oscar winner.  It is a pretty moving story with great performances from the leads and a very well done half-hour that I recorded from TCM.

Gabriel Over the White House (1933):  This is my political film for the week.  Walter Huston stars as the newly elected President Judson Hammond who at first taking a very hands off approach to the presidency but things change when he survives a near fatal car wreck.  He soon tries to get rid of all the social ills like helpilng the unemployed and addressing the mob by essentially becoming a dictator.  Karen Morley, Franchot Tone, Arthur Byron, Dickie Moore, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a pre-code film with some interesting irony of trying to make America a better place but by resorting to tactics of people like Hitler and Mussolini for it to happen.  Great movie to watch during the time of the recent election and one that has gone onto be mostly unknown but hoping to get it on the radar courtesy of TCM which is the channel I recorded from.

Pretty Baby (1978):  Louis Malle directed this film and co-wrote with Polly Platt.  This is not for everyone would be a bit of an understatement.  This takes place in 1917 New Orleans where Susan Sarandon stars as Hattie who is a prostitute from the era and lives with her 12 year old daughter Violet, played by a young Brooke Shields, who later starts working at the brothel herself.  Keith Carradine co-stars as Bellocq who takes an interest in photographing Hattie and Violet playing a pretty big part in their lives, especially Violet's life.  Frances Faye, Antonio Fargas, Diana Scarwid, Barbara Steele, Gerrit Graham, and many others co-star.  This in a sense is one of those coming of age stories but takes coming of age to a new level.  To watch this film, the mind must open up to the extreme.  Lots of actors declined this film on account of the content of the script.  Making a movie of this sort would never be acceptable in a modern society so I tried to keep in mind that in this era that times were much different.  Keeping the mindset, this was a really good portrait of this time period being very well shot and a look into the world of prostitution in what was essentially a depression even though it would be years before the official depression in 1929 started.  This is not very upbeat but still very well done with good performances especially out of young Shields.  I guess if we are talking about double features, this would go along well with TAXI DRIVER which also features an underage prostitute where then a debate of Brooke Shields vs. Jodie Foster can get started.

Nascar:  The Ride of Their Lives (2008):  Now I follow up with this documentary talking about the history of the racing world in Nascar from its beginnings into the modern era.  It starts with some of the pioneer days of racing where Lee Petty was involved to his son Richard that would become a name synonymous with racing.  It mostly featured how Nascar got into the spotlight and the racers who helped get it there.  It takes a look at the Earnhardt family, the Allison family, Tim Richmond, Jeff Gordon, Darrell Waltrip, and many others.  Kevin Costner provides the narration to this documentary.  I will say I'm not really into auto racing but am usually interested in the history of something and was able to get into this documentary that I found pretty insightful.  It also shows how much safer racing has become from the beginning and anything involving fast cars will never be fully safe but they have come a long way.  I believe this can be enjoyed by fans and non-fans alike since it focuses more on the people than the sport.

Gumby's Christmas Capers (1957):  This is my holiday short for the week which is really a compilation of holiday skits.  I have been exposed to the claymation of Gumby from a rather early age as my dad has always been a big fan of the character.  This is a green humanoid character and is always with his best friend Pokey which is a talking orange pony.  One of the abilities of this world is that people can enter books.  In this one, they had stories involving Ebenezer Scrooge and Santa Claus and Gumby as Sherlock Holmes at one point.  These are some very iconic characters and this is a fun watch for the holidays that most people may not know about.  This was about a half hour long and it is available on the website

Salesman (1969):  This is my second documentary for the week and there is some singing of Christmas Carols and involves the reason for the season in Jesus though not sure how he feels about these people.  This involves a group of salesmen who try to sell rather expensive bibles mostly to families that are in poor to lower-middle class standing.  These are illustrated bibles, even calling the Catholic Encyclopedias pretty much doing what they can to make families feel obligated to buy these even if they are not very affordable.  Even these salesmen seem to think they are doing everyone a big favor in paying to upgrade from a more basic bible.  I had not heard of this one but am glad to have come across it.  It was a very interesting look into bible salesmen.  I actually played one in INHERIT THE WIND which was possibly my favorite show I have done.  Great documentary, especially from this era and a good look into the world of sales.  This is available through the Criterion Collection and if nothing else, it can be watched on Youtube.

Meerkats:  The Movie (2008):  I end the week with my third documentary which is into the animal world.  Paul Newman narrates this documentary that focuses on the title animal which is from the Kalahari desert in Africa.  They filmed it by creating a character out of one of the meerkats and named him Kolo which is new to the world and showing his struggles in life as well as him maturing among his family.  It shows the dangers of other predator animals and the meerkats doing what they can to survive in this difficult world.  It is a very insightful documentary and I was amazed by the way they were able to film some of these scenes like some scenes underground.  I featured documentaries this week regarding race car drivers, bible salesmen, and get to end the week with some animals.

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 Spacey, and many others.

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