Sunday, December 10, 2017

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 630th Edition

Welcome to the 630th Edition of my series.  The playoffs have started in my fantasy league and this one is more like the NFL playoffs that go three weeks and take the top six teams.  I ended up in second place and was able to get a bye for this week so will play next week and hope to win it all.  There is not much else happening so onto my selections.

Joyeux Noel (2005):  I start the week out with this WWI holiday film which is based on a true story.  Christian Carion wrote and directed this film based on the WWI unofficial and unauthorized event which is referred to as "the Christmas Truce".  This happened in 1914 where French, British, and German soldiers all agreed not to a ceasefire during Christmas Eve.  This is the most known occurrence of what happened and is told through the eyes of multiple characters.  Diane Kruger, Benno Furmann, Guillaume Canet, Gary Lewis, Dany Boon, Daniel Bruhl, Lucas Belvaux, Ian Richardson, and many others co-star in this film.  There is still some war footage in the the film so there is some pretty brutal violence but still a pretty moving film.  My own hometown of Muncie wrote a radio play of this event in which I auditioned for but unfortunately was not cast.  This is in both the French and German languages for those that just cannot do subtitles but for those that can, they should give this a shot.

Arthur Christmas (2011):  This is my animated movie for the week and a holiday movie.  This takes place around the north pole and the title character Arthur, voiced by James McAvoy, is the younger and clumsy son of an aging Santa Claus, voiced by Jim Broadbent, and the North Pole has come a long way with the technology and is no longer just a reindeer and sleigh but many other state of the art vehicles with a mission control group seeing over the homes.  Arthur discovers that one home was missed which does not sit well with him and along with his grandfather, voiced by Bill Nighy, who was Santa and not liking the newer ways, they set out on a sled in hopes of getting gifts to the missed child.  Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton, Ashley Jenson, Marc Wootton, Laura Linney, Eva Longoria, Ramona Marquez, Michael Palin, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Robbie Coltrane, Joan Cusack, Rhys Darby, Jane Horrocks, Iain McKee, Andy Serkis, Dominic West, and many others provide their voices in this animated holiday movie.

Hugo (2011):  Martin Scorsese directed this film based on the book by Brian Selznick. Asa Butterfield plays the title character who is an orphan living in the walls of a train station after his father dies. He learns how to keep the clocks going so he sneaks around there so he does not get put in an orphanage. Before his father dies, they have a robot they were trying to get working so he spends his life trying to fix it and stealing from a crank vender, played by Ben Kingsley, who he finds has an unexpected connection.  Sacha Baran Cohen, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Jude Law, and Christopher Lee co-star. Christopher Lee had a small but very good part and was probably the most light-hearted character I have seen him play after years of seeing him playing parts like Dracula, Saruman, Count Dooku, among others. What this movie really is however is an homage towards the early days of cinema.  This movie has a great story and very educational into the pioneering days of film but will not give anything more away.   Years ago, I saw this in the theaters and purposely did not read anything into this and it was the best way to watch it in my opinion.  This is a pretty fun animated movie for the family to watch and an interesting take on the North Pole and how things have progressed due to technology.

Human Reproduction (1950):  This is my short film for the week which is one of those dated sex education videos.  A young boy learns he is to become a big brother and is curious on how babies are made so dad must explain to him.  This is mostly a straight forward short that talks about the human reproductive system and I believe one of the first educational shorts they showed in classes.  This is available on Amazon Prime with "Sex Education Films".

I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932):  Mervyn LeRoy directed this film based on the book by Robert E. Burns which the movie was written about but changed the name. Paul Muni stars as James Allen who gets home after serving in WWI and hoping to do more than be an office clerk in his hometown.  He decides he wants to be an engineer after some of his experiences in the army and becomes a bit of a drifter.  He ends up being a the wrong place at the wrong time and with the wrong person who ends up robbing a restaurant and James gets blamed.  He gets sentenced to the chain gang to a rather long sentence.  While he tries to serve it, the brutal conditions provoke him to make an escape.  Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson, Noel Francis, Preston Foster, Allen Jenkins, and many others co-star in this film.  Watching this again, I realized this is a LES MISERABLES sort of story so those that have seen Les Mis and then see this will likely understand what I am talking about so make this a double feature.  I have always liked Paul Muni and feel he has gone onto become a very underrated actor from this era who was just as talented if not more than the famous names out there today.  This movie did do a lot for prison conditions and the brutal chain gang.  Another interesting thing about this movie was that the real-life Robert E. Burns was pardoned after the release of this film after being on the run.

Hercules Against the Moon Men (1964):  This is my MST3K selection for the week.  Sergio Ciani stars as Hercules who is going against the evil Queen Samara.  Samara has aligned herself with aliens and demanding sacrifice of her own people to awaken a moon goddess.  There is not much else that I need to say I don't think.  It is a pretty fun camp classic if you are not expecting greatness.  Joel and is robots riff well into this one.  This like the rest of MST3K is available on Netflix.

Holiday Inn (1942):  I bring another holiday film that is mainly a Christmas movie but takes a look at many holidays.  Mark Sandrich directs this film that stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire as Jim Hardy and Ted Hanover who are sometimes partners but always seem to be romance rivals.  Jim gets tired of working all the time and has the ultimate idea to open a hotel and only have it open on the holidays so that he gets more days off.  Ted is also able to make his way into the business with his smooth ways which set off some tension.  Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale, Walter Abel, Louise Beavers, Irving Bacon, and many others co-star in this film.  I have always enjoyed this, mostly with the thought of the great idea for the business and seeing Bing Crosby in blackface also makes this worth it.  Irving Berlin wrote the music to these holidays and wrote some very clever songs.  He also introduced us to WHITE CHRISTMAS which Crosby sings putting the idea into the head of many people to think we just need a white Christmas when we really do not need it but I have always let that pass.  Anyone who knows me though knows I hate snow.

Lady Bird (2017):  I decided to make my way into the theater to see this film I have heard good things about and no this is not about former first lady Lady Bird Johnson.  I had not been there for a long time and for the first time saw the recliner chairs they put into our local theater.  Greta Gerwig wrote and directed this coming of age film which stars Saorise Ronan as Christine McPherson whose nickname is Lady Bird.  She is a senior in high school from the "wrong side of the tracks" in Sacramento, California and shows her struggles in life with a relationship, school play and trying to apply for colleges.  Timothee Chalamet, Odeya Rush, Laurie Metcalf, Kathryn Newton, Lucas Hedges, Laura Marano, Beanie Feldstein, Lois Smith, Tracy Letts, Andy Buckley, Stephen Henderson, and many others co-star in this film.  It is hard to describe this one further as it really revolves around the character of Lady Bird.  I thought Ronan did a good job of making her a mostly everyday person that many can relate.

The Silencers (1966):  Phil Karson directed this spy comedy which is based on the novels by Donald Hamilton and maybe came out due to the rise of James Bond.  Dean Martin stars as Matt Helm who is an agent in retirement but is talked out of it to go after an organization called Big O who has a plan called Operation:  Fallout which if happens could start WWIII so the charismatic Matt Helm must try to stop this plan.  Stella Stevens, Daliah Lavi, Victor Buono, Arthur O'Connell, Robert Webber, James Gregory, Nancy Kovack, Roger Carmel, Cyd Charise, David Bond, and many others co-star in this comedy.  I did not know that Dean Martin played this kind of character and it is part of a series in which this is the first.  This is nothing great but did have some pretty funny moments and some rather clever weapons that could compete with the ones they made in the Bond films.

Little Fish (2005):  I end the week with this Australian film.  Rowan Woods directed this movie that takes place in the Little Saigon district outside of Sydney.  Cate Blanchett stars as Tracy heart who is a recovering drug addict and clean for four years.  She is trying to make it in life managing the local video shop but is looking for more in life but struggles to get the loan she needs from the bank to get to become a partner in the business.  Her ex-boyfriend Jonny, played by Dustin Nguyen, claiming to be clean and a stockbroker but is not who he claims.  Desperate for the money, she joins Johnny and her brother Ray, played by Martin Henderson, in a drug deal.  Sam Neill, Hugo Weaving, Joel Tobeck, Lisa McCune, Susie Porter, Nina Liu, and many others co-star in this film.  This is another one that centers around the characters and showing how difficult it can be for a drug addict to move forward in life.  The good script and performances drive this crime drama and relatively unknown film.

Well, that is it for the week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far include Michael Douglas, and many others.

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