Sunday, July 30, 2017

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 611th Edition

Welcome to the 611th edition of my series.  In just two weeks from now my show BURNT PART BOYS premiers at the 10 West Center for the Arts in Fortville, Indiana on August 11th and 12th at 7:30 and the 13th at 2:30.  You can order tickets at  That is all for now so I'll get to my selections.

Grosse Pointe Blank (1997):  I start the week out with part three of my John Cusack trilogy.  George Armitage directed this action comedy which stars Cusack as professional killer Martin Blank.  His next assignment is in his old home town of Grosse Pointe where there is also a 10 year reunion.  While on assignment, Martin tries to reconnect with his high school love Debi, played by Minnie Driver, and finds there is far more to his assignment as he is on the run himself from some federal agents that want him dead.  Alan Arkin, Dan Aykroyd, Joan Cusack, K. Todd Freeman, Jeremy Piven, Mitchell Ryan, Michael Culitz, Benny Urquidez, Ann Cusack, Barbara Harris, Jenna Elfman, Steve Pink, Bill Cusack, and many others co-star in the film and yes, you guessed right, there are four Cusack siblings in this comedy likely due to John who also produced.  This has always been a very enjoyable comedy to me and even the action is quite enjoyable seeing the resourcefulness of Martin.  Ayroyd is also very funny as a fellow hitman trying to get Martin to join a union.  This is available through Showtime On-Demand.

Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012):  This is part two of my two part Elijah Wood series.  Lee Toland Krieger directed this comedy which was written by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack who both co-star in the film.  Andy Samberg and Rashida Jones star as the title characters who are a couple that is separated but remain good friends.  Their friends don't think their friendship can last but they see no problem with it until Jesse gets into a relationship that Celeste has a hard time accepting.  Wood, Ari Graynor, Shira Lazar, Emma Roberts, Chris Messina, Rebecca Dayan, Janel Parrish, Rich Sommer, Chris Pine, and many others co-star in this comedy.  This was a very good comedy about a separated couple and the people around them that at times just need to mind their own business.  This has a lot of enjoyable moments to laugh and has a good message in my opinion.

Shame (2011):  Steve McQueen directed and co-wrote this film and no, not that actor known in the 60s and 70s.  Michael Fassbender stars as Brandon who has a successful job, a nice apartment, and he has a sex addiction.  His younger and more unstable sister Sissy, played by Carey Mulligan, moves into his apartment needing a place to stay.  When this happens, her own problems make his life spiral out of control.  James Badge Dale, Nicole Beharie, Alex Manette, Hannah Ware, Elizabeth Masucci, Rachel Farrar, and many others co-star in this film.  This is rated NC-17 so it is not for the family.  This is one of those that is really difficult to describe.  It is mostly driven by characters with Fassbender and Mulligan playing really well off each other in their characters who both have their own problems and have a hard time co-existing.  It is very compelling film that evidently McQueen had quite a vision and was willing to sacrifice potential money to keep the NC-17 rating.

Frog Story (1972):  This is my short film for the week.  Ron Satlof directed this Oscar nominated short film.  Ranold Gideon stars as Harry who hears a voice pleading to him to take her home which turns out to be a frog, voiced by Pamela Susan Shoop.  As he takes the frog home, he learns more and more about this frog but has a wife that does not like frogs very much.  This was about fifteen minutes long and was absolutely worth a watch.  It is very funny and and fun to watch.  This is available on Youtube.

Bird of Paradise (1932):  King Vidor directed this island film.  A young Joel McCrea stars as Johnny who is in a group of sailors and during a shark attack falls in the water and is saved by a beautiful Polynesian girl named Luana, played by Delores Del Rio.  He soon falls in love with the girl but learns that per tradition, she is to sacrifice herself to the volcano as they call the volcanic gods.  When finding this out, Johnny does what she can to convince Luana to leave the island with him.  John Halliday, Richard Gallagher, Bert Roach, Lon Chaney Jr., Wade Boteler, Arnold Gray, and many others co-star in this pre-code film.  Chaney made his debut in this film and was credited as Creighton Chaney.  There was a scene where Del Rio was swimming nude which does not look that bad by today's standards but at that time was very controversial.  This has some great locales and thought of it as a pretty good love story.

Compulsion (1959):  Richard Fleischer directed this film that was based on the novel by Meyer Levin.  This is based on the famous Leopold-Loeb case.  Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman star as Judd and Artie who are friends and fellow law students.  These students felt superior to everyone else and set out to do anyone one pleases which includes murder as they call "the perfect crime".  When committing the murder, they do what they can to cover their tracks but also taunt the police and things finally catch up to them.  Orson Welles co-stars as their attorney Jonathan Wilk who was known for being able to manipulate juries.  Diane Varsi, E.G. Marshall, Martin Milner, Richard Anderson, Robert F. Simon, Edward Binns, Robert Burton, and many others co-star in this film.  This was a fictionalized account of the case but is very thinly disguised where the biggest fiction was the names of the characters.  This was the second movie based on this case and the first being Hitchcock's ROPE which was also a very good film.  This is available on Netflix.

Justice League vs. Teen Titans (2016):  This is my superhero film for the week and an animated DC film.  This movie centers most around Damian Wayne aka Robin, voiced by Stuart Allen.  Robin is sent to work with the Teen Titans due to his volatile behavior where he must adjust to a different group and a group of teens he is not used to being around.  The Teen Titans in this movie include Starfire, voiced by Kari Wahlgren, Blue Beetle, voiced by Jake T. Austin, Beast Boy, voiced by Brandon Soo Hoo, Raven, voiced by Taissa Farmiga and they must go against Trigon, voiced by Jon Bernthal, who possesses some of the Justice League which gives way to the title.  Rosario Dawson, Christopher Gorham, Shemar Moore, Jerry O'Connell, Jason O'Mara, Sean Maher, Steve Blum, T.C. Carson, Rick D. Wasserman, and Laura Bailey provide their voices.  This is the first appearance of the Teen Titans in the DC animated universe.  They have been shown in a more kid oriented TEEN TITANS and TEEN TITANS GO but now they get to be in a more adult oriented movie.  This was a good introduction to the titans and integrated well with the Justice League.  I would have liked to see Dick Grayson have a bigger part but I'll let that go.  Still worth a look for superhero fans and is rated PG-13 so use judgement when it come to kids since this is not that cartoon series they are used to watching.

Gone in 60 Seconds (1974):  First of all, notice the year so no this is not the Nicolas Cage movie.  H.B. Halicki directed, wrote and stars as Maindrian Pace who is an insurance investigator who leads a double life in stealing cars.  Along with his team, they are paid to steal 48 cars which leads to a double cross and an amazing low-budget chase scene.  Marion Busia, Jerry Daugirda, James McIntyre, and many others co-star in this film.  This is low-budget to the core and does not have anyone who really became that famous afterwards.  The low-budget and unknown actors really make this movie work and worth it to see the climatic car chase scene.  The remake was done in 1999 it is a much different story as I recall.  This one is available on Amazon Prime.

Sweet Smell of Success (1957):  Alexander Mackendrick directed this film of greed and corruption.  Burt Lancaster stars as the powerful newpaper columnist J.J. Hunsecker and Tony Curtis stars as press agent Sidney Falco who wants to promote his client in Hunsecker's column.  Falco finally gets some very unscrupulous work under Hunsecker who wants to do whatever possible to break of the relationship of his sister Susan, played by Susan Harrison, and jazz musician Steve, played by Martin Milner, and has Falco do it by any means necessary.  Jeff Donnell, Sam Levene, Joe Frisco, Barbara Nichols, Emile Meyer, Edith Atwater, and many others co-star in this film.  The character of J.J. Hunsecker is based on Walter Winchell.  This is a rather dark but well done with that was very compelling from the characters to the cinematography.  Hunsecker and Falco may be the two slimiest characters in film.

Hidden Figures (2016):  I end the week with this film based on a true story.  Theodore Melfi directed this film based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly.  This film centers around the world of NASA and looking to get a man into space after Russia beat us to it.  It is mainly about three African-American female friends that are mathematicians and work in a group of African-American women at NASA in the time of segregation.  Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae star as Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson who all played a vital part in getting John Glenn, played by Glen Powell, into space and would be an important part of NASA for years to come.  Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, and many others co-star in this film.  Part of this is looking at segregation which was still happening at that time and at the workplace.  It shows them working at a job that is difficult enough but even more difficult dealing with the segregation but knowing they were very important to the place.  This is a very good and inspirational film I think just about anyone can get behind.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Jeremy Renner, Stanley Kubrick, Kevin Spacey, Vanessa Redgrave, and many others.

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