Sunday, December 24, 2017

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 632nd Edition

Welcome to the 632nd Edition of my series.  I am excited to announce that I am in the finals for one of my two fantasy football leagues after quite the win last week.  The other league I did, I am nowhere close.  I have decided to make another announcement of something I am doing next week.  Many who know me know I am a two time contestant on AMERICA'S GOT TALENT which was in 2009 and 2011 and have also said that I am retired from those kinds of shows.  Recently some friends of mine have talked me out of this "retirement" to audition for THE VOICE on January 14th which is happening in Indianapolis.  I doubt anything will come from this but I said that last time.  I hope everyone is having a good holiday and and a good new year.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017):  I start with this likely Oscar nominee which was written and directed by Martin McDonagh.  Frances McDormand stars as Mildred Hayes whose teenage daughter Angela, played by Kathryn Newton in flashback scenes, was raped and murderd and no one has been arrested.  Mildred takes it upon herself to challenge the law enforcement to step up their efforts by purchasing those three billboards with a very controversial message which targets the local Chief Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson, and leads to quite a feud with the Ebbing police department, mostly in Officer Dixon, played by Sam Rockwell.  Caleb Landry Jones, Kerry Condon, Abbie Cornish, Lucas Hedges, Zeljko Ivanek, Amanda Warren, Sandy Martin, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes and many others co-star in this film.  McDormand is extremely compelling as always as Mildred.  This is a very dark comedy but also a very intense film to say the least.  I made my rare appearance into the movie theaters into the recently renovated recliner seats to check this out and it had me very engaged with a rather unpredictable story.

A Visit to Santa (1963):  This is my holiday short and not much better than last week's SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY.  This shows a couple of kids being advised by their mother to go to sleep or Santa will not come.  Santa soon sees their letter which is requesting to see how Santa lives and pretty much has these kids abducted to see the North Pole before Christmas in a magic helicopter.  This has been riffed by the Rifftrax guys in the past so a good B-movie short for the holidays.

A Christmas Carol (1951):  I bring this timeless classic story by Charles Dickens that I think just about everyone knows at least the basics.  Brian Desmond Hurst directed this definitive version which stars Alistair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge.  I have seen many versions of this story on film and stage and this one has some scenes I have not seen used in the past that involve Scrooge's sister Fan and Jacob Marley, played by Michael Hordern.  Mervyn Johns, Hermione Bradley, George Cole, Rona Anderson, Ernest Thesiger, Peter Bull, Patrick Macnee, and many others co-star in this holiday classic.  With most people knowing the story I won't go any further into my description.  This is a very good version with some saying Sim is the best Scrooge in film and he does do a great job.  It is also very well done during the ghost scenes and works on many levels.  I have been in two versions of the story and hope to one day take on the role of Jacob Marley and maybe even Ebenezer Scrooge in a few years.

A Dog Named Christmas (2009):  Now I bring a movie for the Hallmark crowd in this Hallmark Hall of Fame movie.  Peter Wernet directed this tv movie based on the book by Greg Kincaid.  Noel Fisher stars as Todd McCary who is as the plot says "developmentally challenged" which I'm pretty sure is autism but do not know for sure.  He is a 20 year old boy living on the farm with his mom and dad Mary and George, played by Linda Emond and Bruce Greenwood, and has a big liking for taking care of animals.  He learns of a program from an animal shelter to adopt a dog for Christmas which they promote they can take back on December 26th.  He takes an interest and must convince his dad who does not feel it is a good idea for him to have a dog but as we learn more about George, we learn it goes a lot deeper.  Through more convincing, Todd talks his dad into getting a dog but is adamant about getting the dog back on the day after Christmas.  Ken Pogue, Carrie Ruscheinsky, Sonja Bennett, Carrie Genzel, Trenna Keating, Josh A. Young, Anna Mae Wills, and many others co-star in this tv movie.  I was surprised to learn the Fisher is the same person that plays the part of Mickey in SHAMELESS and is pretty much the opposite of his character in this one  Keep in mind, this is one of those inspiration Hallmark movies which some may not like but they do have their audience, especially this time of year.  Yes, this is pretty predictable but still a good holiday watch.

The Hatchet Man (1932):  When looking for a movie from this era, I thought how can I pass up the opportunity to see Edward G. Robinson as a Chinese man?  Well, I just could not pass this one up.  William A. Wellman directed this film which is based on a play by Achmed Abdullah and David Belasco.  Robinson stars as Wong Low Get in the Chinatown district of San Francisco where he basically inherits the title of Hatchet Man which is one that executes upon orders given and must execute his longtime friend Sun, played by J. Carrol Naish, who understands what is to happen but asks he look after his daughter Toya, played by Loretta Young as an adult, and marry her when she becomes of age.  Dudley Digges, Leslie Fenton, Edmund Breese, Tully Marshall, Charles Middleton, E. Alyn Warren, Edward Peil Sr., and many others co-star in this film.  Yes, these are all white men I named off and mostly play Chinamen.  This was pretty common in this era just like many white actors used blackface to portray blacks.  This is not bad and is based on real-life events of the Tong Wars.

Sorry, Haters (2005):  Jeff Stanzler wrote and directed this independent film.  I don't even know where to start in trying to describe this film.  Robin Wright stars as the very troubled Phoebe who gets into the cab of the Syria born Ashade, played by Abdellatif Kechiche, and changes their lives forever.  He tells her his life story like his brother being brother being detained as a "2nd tier suspect" and is looking for financial assistance to get an attorney which Phoebe claims she can do it for him and not pay so he goes along with her but learns she is not what she seems.  Elodie Bouchez, Asif Mandvi, Sandra Oh, Fred Durst, and many others co-star in this film.  I think I have put down enough on the film without really giving too much away.  I put this in and did not know what to expect and truly received the unexpected.  This is not an upbeat film but very compelling and a very well-written.

Holiday Affair (1949):  Now I bring the holiday romantic comedy.  This is part two of a possible Janet Leigh trilogy.  Don Hartman directed this romantic comedy based on the story CHRISTMAS GIFT by John D. Weaver.  Leigh stars as the widowed Connie Ennis who has a song Timmy, played by Gorden Gebert, and is engaged to marry Carl, played by Wendell Corey, who Timmy does not want as a stepdad.  Connie soon meets sales clerk Steve Mason, played by Robert Mitchum, who she strikes up conversation with and also inadvertently gets him fired.  She feels obligated to help him and Timmy takes an immediate liking to Steve.  Connie must also rethink her life.  Griff Barnett, Esther Dale, Henry O'Neill, Harry Morgan, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a very rare romantic comedy for Robert Mitchum who is known to play far more darker roles but does well in the romantic lead in this comedy.  This is one of the more underrated holiday films.

Maze (2000):  Rob Morrow directed, co-wrote, and co-stars in this romantic drama.  Morrow stars as Lyle Maze who is an artist with Tourette Syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder.  His friend Mike, played by Craig Sheffer, is on a humanitarian mission and tends to his pregnant girlfriend Callie, played by Laura Linney, helping her through the pregnancy while also falling in love with her.  Robert Hogan, Gia Carides, Betsy Aidem, Larry Flaherty, Wally Dunn, Ken Leung, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a pretty well-written film that has some very good performances and a really good story and script.  This also is one that revolves around the characters.  It also has a very interesting first person point of view when having Tourette reactions.  This is a romantic drama with a lot of emotional depth from the characters to get behind them.

They Call Me Trinity (1970):  This is my western comedy for the week which was written and directed Enzo Barboni.  Terence Hill stars as drifter Trinity who visits his brother Bambino, played by Bud Spencer in a town where he is the sheriff.  Actually, he is the sheriff because he broke the leg of the real sheriff and is posing as the sheriff at the time.  They have a lot of differences but agree to team up to take on a land baron trying to get rid of Mormon settlers.  Gisela Hahn, Farley Granger, Luciano Rossi, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a parody towards the spaghetti western.  This is one of a few teamings of Hill and Spencer and this one is their fifth time and many say this is their best one.  There are a lot of really funny moments like how Trinity has his horse trained, trying to teach the Mormons to fight, and many other times.

Filly Brown (2012):  I end the week with this film centering around the music industry.  Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos co-directed this film which stars JANE THE VIRGIN star Gina Rodriguez as aspiring hip-hop artist Majo Tonorio who lives on the lower-class streets of L.A. and struggles to keep her family together while considering a decision that would make more money but compromise her principles.  Jenni Rivera, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jorge Diaz, Edward James Olmos, Emilio Rivera, Noel Gugliemi, and many others co-star in this film.  Rodriguez is really good in this film.  Unfortunately, Rivera makes her deut as Majo's sister and this would be her only movie as she died in a plane accident shortly after the film.  This is a really good look at the hip hop industry and is available to watch on the Hoopla Digital website.

Well, that is it for this week but I had an additional segment called Movie Night in Pottersville so continue reading.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Tom Hanks, and many others.


The Wrestler (2008):  This was viewed last Friday at the home of Harry Potter's much cooler sister Stephanie and her fiance Drew.  It started earlier that day when Steph asked me to come over and kill a spider so I headed over to save her life.  Her and Drew had watched this another time making me wat to watch it in their home and do this segment so we put in the movie.  A little bit later into the viewing our friends Sean and Kenya joined us and educated them a little bit on wrestling and the type of wrestler this movie is based upon.  When I first heard about this movie, it was hard to contain my excitement.  When I first saw the title I for a moment thought "Oh another READY TO RUMBLE and NO HOLDS BARRED" but when I read into it more, I realized this is a drama about wrestling which stars none other than Mickey Rourke so that enhanced my interest in addition to being a fan and as someone who has had involvement in the industry.  Darren Aronofsky directed this film which is really more of a character study than anything.  Rourke stars as wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson who is past his prime but cannot get out of the industry and still working for smaller promotions while working at a grocery store.  Even in his deteriorating health, he still has delusions of getting back on top with a rematch from years ago against his rival the Ayatollah, played by real life wrestler Ernest Miller known as the Cat in WCW.  Marisa Tomei co-stars as Pam who works at a strip club that Randy frequents and while he likes her, she has a rule for herself against dating customers.  Evan Rachel Wood co-stars as Stephanie who is Randy's estranged daughter that he is trying to reconnect with after so many years.  This is a character who probably had some success in the 80s but then burned bridges with things like his drug problems.  At one point, Nicolas Cage was cast in this role due to producers not believing Rourke can draw money.  Cage pulled out and Aronofsky was able to cast Rourke which was who he always wanted.  I am grateful to Nicolas Cage for pulling out and I'm really not that anti-Nicolas Cage but know that Rourke was just perfect for this part.  I also believe that Aronofsky did a good job of casting Rourke and Wood as father and daughter.  I'm not sure if it was intentional but I notice Evan Rachel Wood has a pointed chin like Rourke.  Tomei and Wood did good in their supporting parts.  In this viewing, I noticed something about Tomei's character was that she had a really bad tattoo on her back.  As I pointed out to Stephanie, we agreed that it was probably a bad tattoo job and the best she could get.  Keep in mind, that is not her real tattoo but found that to be an interesting character point for her.  The wrestlers that fought and that were backstage were all actual wrestlers.  For those who do not know, I have worked for some independent wrestling promotions as a ring announcer and at one point even a managerial character.  I have met many people like Randy Robinson and it was a pretty accurate movie regarding wrestling which can be a rather dark world.  I think the most depressing scene in my opinion was when Randy attended an autograph session at a local American Legion and when he is seeing what he has become in the way of a has-been.  Even if you do not like wrestling, this is something that can still be enjoyed.  There have been some complaints about how it ended but I won't spoil it but encourage you to message me and discuss it.  I was glad to be able to watch this movie among my friends and even provide a little bit of commentary to it.  I also got to discuss wrestling quite a bit with Stephanie who I learned is a huge Undertaker fan.

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