Sunday, December 31, 2017

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 633rd Edition

Welcome to the 633rd edition of my series.  This is my last post of the year.  I hope everyone had a good holiday however celebrated and here's to the upcoming 2018.  For those of you that like to celebrate beyond the holidays, I have a couple of holiday selections.  Unfortunately in fantasy football, I came up short and ended up in second on account of that last play made but I still win money so I'll be able to move on with my life.  Not much else happening right now so I'll get on with my selections for the week.

Bridge of Spies (2015):  I start the week out with this film based on a true story that reunites Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.  Steven Spielberg directed this cold war film which stars Tom Hanks as attorney James B. Donovan who is recruited by the CIA to defend immigrant Rudolf Abel, played by Mark Rylance.  Abel is arrested for espionage and Donovan gets the task of defending the Russian to assure he gets a fair trial much to the dismay of everyone else.  MASH alum Alan Alda, Amy Ryan, Austin Stowell, Jesse Plemons, and many others co-star in this historical cold war drama.  The Coens co-wrote the script along with  Rylance is great as Rudolf Abel who is a rather fascinating figure many do not know about.  I was a big vague in my explanation and goes way beyond the arrest and trial for espionage and was a very important part of the cold war with Russia.

Lone Star State of Mind (2002):  I go from a drama to a more irrelevant crime comedy.  David Semel directed this crime comedy.  DAWSON'S CREEK alum Joshua Jackson stars as Earl Crest who has always lived in a small Texas town and is engaged to marry his stepsister Baby, played by Jaime King.  Earl has also been entrusted to take care of Baby's inept cousin Junior, played by D.J. Qualls, and must get involved when Junior and his friend Tinker, played by Ryan Hurst rob a pizza delivery boy and end up with a bag of $20,000 which turns out to be drug money.  VAMPIRE DIARIES alum Matthew Davis, John Mellencamp, Sam McMurray, Thomas Hayden Church, Jules Douglas, Elizabeth Barondes, Rodger Boyce, and many others co-star in this comedy.  This is a rather unknown comedy and I got quite a few laughs out of this film with the dumb criminals.

The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005):  This is part one of a possible four-part Catherine Keener series.  I follow with another raunchy comedy directed by Judd Apatow and co-wrote with THE OFFICE alum Steve Carell who stars as the title character Andy who is very nerdy and has worked for a long time at the local electronics store.  When invited by his co-workers, played by Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, and Seth Rogan, to play a poker game, it comes out that Andy is a virgin so they look to get him laid.  In the process, Andy meets Trish, played by Keener, and forms a friendship and relationship with her.  Elizabeth Banks, Leslie Mann, Jane Lynch, Gerry Bednob, Shelley Malil, Kat Dennings, Jordan Masterson, Chelsea Smith, Jonah Hill, Mindy Kaling, Loudon Wainwright III, Kimberly Page, Lee Weaver, Kevin Hart, and many others co-star in this comedy.  Tsis is the feature directorial film from Apatow that was the start of these raunchy comedies and has helped the careers of many of the actors named off.  This is not for everyone but in the end, I thought this did have a good message.

Falling Hare (1943):  This is my animated short for the week with Bugs Bunny and one of many WWII propaganda shorts from this era.  Bugs is at an army air field relaxing and eating a carrot while reading the book "Victory Through Hare Power" and is laughing at the though of gremlins until he encounters a gremlin trying to sabotage a missile.  He has one of his more difficult battles with this gremlin and has some references of WWII.  This is available on Amazon Prime as part of "Patriotic Cartoon Classics".

Scrooge (1935):  This is one of my post-Christmas selections.  This is a more unknown adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic with Seymour Hicks plays the miser Ebenezer Scrooge.  I think just about everyone knows this story of the man who hates Christmas and is informed by the ghost of his business partner Jacob Marley that he will be visited by three ghosts and is given a glimpse of his life and those around him in the past, present, and future.  Donald Calthrop, Mary Glynne, and many others co-star in this film.  This is the first adaptation with the advent of sound and Hicks played Scrooge in a 1913 short movie.  I thought Hicks played the part a lot meaner than others.  Those still in the spirit can watch this on Amazon Prime on the Hoopla Digital website.

It's a Wonderful Life (1946):  This is my annual holiday film that I have been watching since my late high school days.  Last year, I got to make my debut at the Marion Civic Theater in a production of this story as Mr. Gower in possibly the most intense scene I have ever been in dealing with young George Bailey.  I usually either watch it with my dad or mom when it airs on NBC just depending where I am.  Frank Capra directed this film where I believe that the message conveyed is anything one person does to help another can make a big difference no matter how small the favor might seem at the time.  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 always look forward to seeing this one and am always moved to tears each time.  It always reminds me of how little things can be a lot bigger than they appear.  Please ring some bells and help angels get their wings.


The Secret of the Grain (2007):  Abdellatif Kechiche wrote and directed this French film on what I guess could be referred to as "the French dream".  Last week I featured him as an actor in the American movie SORRY, HATERS and now I feature him as the director and writer.  Habib Boufares stars as Slimane who has worked at a local shipyard for many years but loses his job.  He gets severance pay and decides to try opening a couscous restaurant on a boat.  It seems unrealistic but keeps at it with the help of his fractured family.  Hafsia Herzi, Alice Houri, Olivier Loustau, and many others co-star in this film.  This is not a very upbeat movie but I with Slimane through the movie in him pursuing a dream along with the others trying to help him despite tensions.

Horrors of Spider Island (1960):  This is my MST3K selection for the week.  A group of dancers survive a plane crash and end up on a deserted island inhabited by a pretty big spider which bites their manager making him turn into a monster that really looked more like a werewolf.  The women on the island seemed more concerned about their appearance than getting off the island or that their manager is I guess a giant spider.  This episode had some of the funnier comedy sketches in my opinion like a parody of FLASHDANCE.  This is perfect for the B-movie lovers out there.

Real Life (1979):  Albert Brooks makes his directorial debut in the mockumentary which spoofs the 1973 reality tv program AN AMERICAN FAMILY.  Brooks plays documentary filmmaker also named Albert Brooks who wants to create a reality program that documents an everyday family.  He convinces the Yeager family, played by Charles Grodin, Frances Lee McCain, Lisa Urette, and Robert Stirrat to take part in this groundbreaking series.  His idea is to let them be themselves but continues to try doing things "for the good of the show" and starts a descent into madness.  Dick Haynes, J.A. Preston, James L. Brooks, Norman Bartold, Harry Shearer, and many others co-star in this film.  I had never heard of this and am so glad I came across this comedy so I hope this gets it more exposure.  This came out long before the rise of reality tv that we know today.  Brooks is hilarious as the unscrupulous filmmaker and really liked the ending.

The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo (2005):  I end the week with this PBS documentary about Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.  Rita Moreno narrates this documentary which mostly goes into her paintings and the very complicated relationship she had with fellow artist Diego Rivera as well as her struggling health after a really bad accident that cut her life short in the long run.  Lila Downs provides the voice in parts for Frida.  In 2002, there was a biopic called FRIDA which starred Salma Hayek as the artist so that might have inspired this documentary to look further into her life.  This did give a good look into the short life of Frida and show some really good paintings, mostly self-portraits, beyond her most known painting of "The Two Fridas" like some that were symbolic of her health.  People in the art world might want to make a double feature of this and FRIDA.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far include Laura Dern, Catherine Keener, Sean Connery, and many others.

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