Welcome to the 619th Edition of my series. So far I'm doing average in my two fantasy football leagues, hopefully things will pick up but I've been more busy with the murder mystery TO WAKE THE DEAD which happens on October 20th and 21st. For now I'll just get to my selections.
Courage Under Fire (1996): I start the week out with this military film. Edward Zwick directed this film which stars Denzel Washington as Lt. Colonel Nat Serling who is assigned to investigate the validity of a Medal of Honor about to be awarded to the first woman for combat in Captain Karen Walden, played by Meg Ryan, who died during combat in Desert Storm. His investigation leads to conflicting accounts of what happened making him question whether she should get the medal. Lou Diamond Phillips, Michael Moriarty, Matt Damon, Bronson Pinchot, Seth Gilliam, Regina Taylor, Zeljko Ivanek, Scott Glenn, Tim Guinee, Tim Ransom, Sean Astin, Bruce McGill, and many others co-star in this film. This is many ways jump started the career of Matt Damon whose performance Francis Ford Coppola saw making him want to cast him in his actual breakthrough role in THE RAINMAKER after hearing about the method acting Damon went through to do this movie. This has a good Rashomon style to to tell the story of conflicting accounts.
Superman II (1980): Richard Lester directed this superhero sequel in which mostly picks up right from where the 1978 film SUPERMAN left off. Christopher Reeve reprises his role as the man of steel who after preventing a huge tragedy, he inadvertently frees three Kryptonian criminals from the Phantom Zone in General Zod, played by Terence Stamp, Ursa, played by Sarah Douglas, and Non, played by Jack O'Halloran. Superman is not aware of this until after he makes the decision to sacrifice his powers for his love of Lois Lane, played by Margot Kidder. Yes, the stupid things people do for love and from there he must go back to the fortress of solitude and try getting his powers back which I'm sure you can all guess the result of that one. Gene Hackman reprises his role of Lex Luthor who is able to break out of prison and then hopes to help the three criminals destroy his biggest rival for good. Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Valerie Perrine, Susannah York, Clifton James, E.G. Marshall, Marc McClure, Richard Griffiths, John Ratzenberger, and many others co-star in this film. Richard Donner still had some unused footage from the first film that was used in this one I guess which was how Hackman was filmed as he did not return for this movie. There was a cut called "The Richard Donner Cut", I am not sure if I saw that version or not to be honest. It sounds like the actors and crew had a hard time making this movie but the end result was still quite good in this very decent sequel.
Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (1999): Martha Coolidge directed this HBO biopic which is based on the book by Earl Mills. Halle Berry stars as Dorothy Dandridge who I suppose one could say she broke the color barrier among Hollywood. This follows her early career when she was performing in nightclubs with a sister act among her family, into her rise in Hollywood where she became the first black actress to be nominated for Best Actress. It also shows her dark side in life. Brent Spiner co-stars as her her very faithful agent who stands by her no matter what. Klaus Maria Brandauer co-stars as director Otto Preminger who has an affair with Dandridge and also helped her career get going but might have made some wrong decisions afterwards. Obba Babatunde, Loretta Devine, Cynda Williams, William Atherton, D.B. Sweeney, Latanya Richardson Jackson, Tamera Taylor, and many others co-star in this film. This is a pretty decent story of an actress who broke ground being a black woman playing non-slave/servant roles but had a very tragic life. Quite the irony that the star of the film was the first black woman to win Best Actress and portrays the first black woman to be nominated for Best Actress.
Hired! (1940): This was the short film from the MST3K episode of MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE that I featured last week that Joel and his bots had to watch before the feature. This features an auto sales manager that has a hard time keeping staff and realizes he might need a different approach. It was one of those meant to be educational but is more entertaining and Joel and the bots have a good time on this one. It is of interest to see that apparently they had door to door car salesmen in this era.
The V.I.P.s (1963): Anthony Asquith directed this ensemble drama where a flight is delayed by fog and they must wait in the V.I.P. lounge and each person has something going on in their lives. The main story is of a love triangle between Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and Louis Jordan. There is also a pretty compelling story involving Rod Taylor and his trusted secretary in a young Maggie Smith. Orson Welles is also pretty funny as a film director and Margaret Rutherford is very amusing even winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Elsa Martinelli, Linda Christian, Dennis Price, Richard Wattis, Ronald Fraser, David Frost, Robert Coote, Joan Benham, Michael Hordern, and many others co-star in this film. This has multiple stories and intersect in some ways. This is the second of eleven Taylor/Burton collaborations.
Bullets or Ballots (1936): Now I turn to the Warner Brothers gangster genre. Edward G. Robinson stars as Johnny Blake who was a detective until police captain Dan McLaren, played by Joseph King, takes over as commissioner. Barton Maclane co-stars as mob boss Al Kruger who convinces Blake to join him after losing his job. Humphrey Bogart co-stars as "Bugs" Fenner who is the more wily gangster and does not buy into Blake's change. Joan Blondell, Frank McHugh, Dick Purcell, George E. Stone, Joseph Crehan, Henry O'Neill, and many others co-star in this film. I thought this was a very enjoyable entry to this genre and maybe Bogey's best role from his era in his career when he was being mostly typecast as supporting gangsters before becoming an unlikely leading man. This had some loosely based portrayals of real-life people like Blake being based on real-life policeman Johnny Broderick, Kruger being based on Dutch Schultz, and Fenner being based on Lucky Luciano. Keep in mind I said loosely.
Moonlight (2016): Barry Jenkins directed this film that spans three generations in an all-black cast. This centers around the character of Chiron, played by Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes in each generation, who grows up around his crack addicted mother Paula, played by Naomi Harris, and must find himself in the way of bullying in school and discovering his sexuality in a rough Miami neighborhood. In his childhood, he finds solace in the home of drug dealer Juan, played by Mahershala Ali and his girlfriend Teresa, played by Janelle Monae. Shariff Earp, Duan Sanderson, Jaden Piner, Edson Jean, Patrick Decile, Stephen Bron, Andre Holland, and many others co-star in this coming of age independent film. I thought the best part was when Chiron was a child and had Juan in the picture. Ali really came around this year not only for this one but his part in HIDDEN FIGURES and his role in the Netflix tv series LUKE CAGE. He won Best Supporting Actor and this movie was infamously read incorrectly by Warren Beatty when he said LA LA LAND was best picture when in fact this movie won which the highlights of this one winning are that it is the first time with an all-black cast, an LBGT film with the second lowest-grossing film domestically behind THE HURT LOCKER to win Best Picture. I try not to judge on account of awards but this was a very well-done independent film dealing with many subjects and this is available on Amazon Prime.
Storm Warning (1951): Earlier had had anti-gangsters, now I look at anti- Ku Klux Klan. Stuart Heisler directed this film which stars Ginger Rogers as Marsha Mitchell who goes to visit her sister Lucy, played by Doris Day, in the south part of America and shortly after arriving in town, she witnesses a murder done by the KKK. She also learns that her brother-in-law Hank is part of the KKK. Our former president Ronald Reagan co-stars as District Attorney Burt Rainey who is determined to bring down the Klan. Lloyd Gough, Raymond Greenleaf, Ned Glass, Paul E. Burns, Walter Baldwin, and many others co-star in this film. This is a really good look at a small town and at the Klan. This is a pretty daring film for the time and a rather violent climax for its time and where can you go wrong with Ginger and Doris together in a movie though don't expect any song a dance numbers.
Wild in the Streets (1968): This is my counter culture musical for the week and a very interesting political satire. Christopher Jones stars as rock star Max Frost who also becomes a political activist. Hal Holbrook stars as Senator Johnny Fergus who is out to get the voting age reduced from 21 to 18 which at that time was an actual thing. Max is on board with the political vision but then starts trying to reduce it more as well as other policies to the point that Max mostly takes over the United States politically. Shelley Winters, Diane Varsi, Millie Perkins, Richard Pryor, Burt Freed, Kevin Coughlin, Larry Bishop, Ed Begley, and many others co-star or have cameos. I wish I could describe this better. I had never heard of this until I found it on TCM. A lot of times, I'm thinking WTF, sometimes I'm laughing. It is a good look at '60s counter-culture.
Shotgun Stories (2007): I end the week with this low-budget independent film which was written and directed by Jeff Nichols. Michael Shannon stars in this film as a small town man whose name is actually Son and has brothers named Boy, played by Douglas Ligon, and Kid, played by Barlow Jacobs. A violent feud with their half-brothers erupts when their father dies and we see the lengths these people go to in order to protect their family. Michael Abbott Jr., Travis Smith, Glenda Pannell, Natalie Canerday, and many others co-star in this film. I suppose ways to describe this could be the modern-day Hatfields and McCoys though these are through brothers but half brothers an not a very good half. This could also be described as the anti-Brady Bunch. This is available on Amazon Prime.
Well, that is it for this week. Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Brie Larson, Winona Ryder, and many others.
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