Sunday, December 18, 2016

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 579th Edition

Welcome to the 579th Edition of my series.  Hope everyone is having a good holiday however celebrated.  I'm glad to say that I am in the playoffs for my Fantasy Football league so we'll see how this goes.  It feels weird not having a show to be in as I have been busy with plays since September but it is good to have a break and be in Muncie more.  Not much more to say right now so on with my selections.

The War Room (1993):  I start the week out with this documentary directed by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker.  This focuses on the 1992 campaign for Bill Clinton and focuses on spin doctors James Carville and George Stephanopoulos.  The title brings a bit of negativity in my opinion.  It is mostly about the adventures of these two guys in trying to help Bill Clinton elected and goes into the inner workings of a campaign.  This was not really pro or anti Clinton, just a look into his campaign.  We also don't see a lot of Clinton himself but the two spinsters who also deliver some laughs in the process of this political documentary.

It's a Wonderful Life (1946):  Frank Capra directed this holiday film and probably my favorite one.  Earlier in the month, I had the opportunity to be in a theatrical version at the Marion Civic Theater playing Mr. Gower in one of the most intense scenes I have done.  I have been watching this movie since my high school days usually with my mom or my dad depending on where I am on Christmas Eve on NBC.  I'll give a rather small synopsis.  James Stewart stars as small-town boy George Bailey who wants to get out of Bedford Falls but things always happen and ends up staying there.  He marries his childhood friend Mary, played by Donna Reed, and has four kids.  He does what he can to prevent Mr. Potter, played by Lionel Barrymore, from taking over the town and screwing everyone over.  Something happens where George feels he has hit rock bottom and contemplates suicide.  An unusual angel named Clarence, played by Henry Travers, comes down to stop him and show him a world that would have happened had he not been born.  Thomas Mitchell, Ward Bond, Beulah Bondi, Gloria Grahame, H.B. Warner, and many others co-star in this film.  I love the message of this movie which I feel is what one person does for another can go a long way no matter how small a favor may seem at the time.  This started out as quite a flop and did not become the classic it is known until the 70s when it was in public domain and it started airing on television.  Supposedly there is a sequel in the works but has been "in development" for a long time on imdb so I will believe that when I see it.  This is on NBC at 8 pm on Christmas Eve so after you have had many viewings of A CHRISTMAS STORY, this would also be a great watch.

Christmas Comes But Once a Year (1936):  This is my animated short for the week from Dave Fleischer.  This is a holiday selection in every sense of the word and this takes place at an orphanage among children who all receive gifts but find they are all broken.  Professor Grampy hears the cries and decides to make a good Christmas for the children through his inventing ways.  This was a character that was usually in Betty Boop cartoons and this is the only one he made without her.  I came across this on my Pub-D-Hub app on my Roku player and was a pretty good and different watch.

2 Days in the Valley (1996):  This is part four of my four-part Jeff Daniels series where he plays a burned out vice cop.  John Herzfeld wrote and directed this crime comedy which centers around multiple stories that all come together in the end.  Danny Aiello and James Spader star as Dosmo Pizzo and Lee Woods who are involved in an insurance exam until Dosmo learns it was a setup and fights for survival as well as revenge.  Charlize Theron stars as Lee's partner in crime and I believe this was the first time I really saw her.  Eric Stoltz co-stars as Wes who is a more idealistic vice cop being partnered up with Alvin, played by Daniels, but not agreeing with the undercover work he is doing and ends up getting in the investigation of the crime this film centers around.  Teri Hatcher, Peter Horton, Glenne Headly, Paul Mazursky, Keith Carradine, Louise Fletcher, and many others co-star.  I have always enjoyed this movie with the blend of action and comedy that is given.  This has a lot of very well-written characters and always feel this has been a very underrated flim.

The Iceman Cometh (1973):  This is part two of my two-part Fredric March series and part one of a possible two or three part Jeff Bridges series.  John Frankenheimer directed this film based on the play by Eugene O'Neill.  This takes place in a bar and as far as I know they were there the entire time of this four hour film.  Many of the bar patrons are contemplating their lost faith and dreams and then their friend Hickey, played by Lee Marvin, shows up saying he is reformed and hoping to get through to the other patrons in hopes they will give up their pipe dreams and focus more on reality.  Robert Ryan, Jeff Bridges, Bradford Dillman, Juno Dawson, Clifton James, and many others co-star in this film.  This is the final film for both Ryan and March.  I was amazed on how this movie was able to keep my attention for four hours that is only at one place.  It also managed to do this without any sort of music score or violence and just had great dialogue among the bar patrons.

The Great Beauty (2013):  This is my Italian film for the week which was written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino.  Toni Servillo stars as reporter Jep Gambardella who has made and seduced his way through Rome nightclubs for decades but as his 65th birthday hits, he gets a shock from the past and starts to see Rome past the bars and nightclubs.  Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli, Carlo Buccirosso, Iaia Forte, and many others co-star in this film.  Servillo is great as Jep in his soul searching journey and has some really great cinematography.  Also takes a look at a darker side of rome than we are used to seeing.  This is really good for foreign film buffs.

My Sister Eileen (1955):  This is my musical for the week.  Richard Quine directed this film which stars Betty Garrett and Janet Leigh as small town sisters Ruth and Eileen trying to make it in Greenwich Village.  Ruth is trying to make it as a writer while Eileen wants to be an actress but find that it won't be that easy.  Jack Lemmon stars as publisher Bob Baker who gets the attention of Ruth while she tries to pass herself off saying the Eileen in the stories is really her.  Bob Fosse co-stars as Frank who lends a sympathetic and supporting ear to Eileen.  Kurt Kasznar and Dick York also co-star in this musical.  This is a rather overlooked musical with some really fun numbers from Jule Styne and Leo Robin.  There are also a lot of good comedic moments like the apartment the sisters take.  Garrett is perfect for the role of Ruth while Lemmon lends his singing talent.  This is a pretty fun musical that deserves a look.

Hacksaw Ridge (2016):  This is the time of year I start going to the movie theaters more often and I start the Oscar season out with this war film.  Mel Gibson goes back behind the camera to direct this film based a true story of WWII soldier Desmond Doss, played very well by Andrew Garfield, who goes into war but refuses to take up a gun due to part religious beliefs but we learn there is a lot more to it than just religion.  This starts with his upbringing and what lead to his beliefs but also felt he had a duty to serve in the war.  It then goes into him in boot camp where no one could understand his not wanting to pick up a gun.  He finally gets what he wants and become a medic slowly winning over his fellow soldiers in battle during WWII due to his resourcefulness and bravery not having a gun.  Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Vince Vaughn, Milo Gibson and many others co-star in this film.  This was a very moving war film to me.  I don't usually favor the war genre but was really into this one and liked it over last year's war film AMERICAN SNIPER though really enjoyed LONE SURVIVOR from 2013.  Garfield does great as the rather naive small-town boy looking to make a difference but standing up for what he believes.  The rest of the cast does really well including Vince Vaughn in a more serious role.  The end has a very touching tribute to the real Desmond Doss which I admit really made me tear up a bit.

That Darn Cat (1965):  Now I go from a war movie to this fun live-action Disney classic.  The protagonist of the story is essentially an adventurous Siamese cat named D.C. aka Darn Cat.  This cat manages to stumble upon a kidnapping of a bank employee Margaret, played by Grayson Hall, and she puts her watch around the cat's neck.  D.C. manages to make it back home to his owner Patti, played by Hayley Mills, who concludes it is part of the kidnapping scheme and calls the FBI with her theory prompting to send FBI agent Zeke to come to her town in order to look into it.  This is some good fun of an overzealous teen and an FBI agent teaming up to look into a crime.  Dorothy Provine, Roddy McDowall, Elsa Lanchester, Neville Brand, Frank Gorshin, and many others co-star in this Disney film.  This is the first Disney film for Dean Jones who would go onto be in many of the live action Disney films and was the last Disney film for Hayley Mills until the mid-80s.  This is some good and harmless fun for the family to watch unlike my next and last selection for the week.

Filth (2013):  I end the week with this film that has been on my list for some time.  My original intention was to get a group of movies together, then draw out which one gets featured but then as I look more into it, this is a holiday selection.  Jon S. Baird directed this film based on the novel by Irvine Welsh.  James McAvoy is far from Professor X in this British film where he stars as the corrupt cop Bruce who is trying to get a promotion pretty much by any means necessary while also wanting to get back with his wife, played by Shauna MacDonald, and daughter who have left him.  Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Imogen Poots, Brian McCardle, Jim Broadbent, Shirley Henderson, and many others co-star in this film.  This takes place during the holidays and plays a lot of Christmas songs.  There are a lot who love those sappy Hallmark Christmas movies while there are others who want more action in a holiday film like DIE HARD and LETHAL WEAPEN.  There might be some who prefer things like BLACK CHRISTMAS or SANTA'S SLAY.  There might be those that prefer the more raunchy comedies like the BAD SANTA films.  This the holiday film to a whole new level.  The title pretty much says it all so if you offend easy, this is not a holiday movie for you.  It is also not really one for the family.  It is mostly a character study on this corrupt cop manipulating his way to the top but also shows his more human side at times.  McAvoy was great in his performance as the cop.  This is available on Instant Netflix.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Emma Stone, Christopher Lee, Zooey Deschanel, and many others.

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