Sunday, February 4, 2018

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 638th Edition

Welcome to the 638th Edition of my series.  Tonight is the Super Bowl and just about everyone I know will be rooting against the Patriots with some exceptions.  I will say I'll be rooting for an Eagles win myself.  I'm liking this work from home gig pretty well and hope it all works out.  There is not much else happening so on with my selections.

Life Itself (2014):  I start the week out with this documentary directed by Steve James which documents and pays homage to the career of film critic Roger Ebert who was far more than just a film critic.  This takes a look at the early days of Roger when he was in college and when he started working for the Chicago Sun Times.  It also went into his relationship with rival film Chicago film critic turned partner Gene Siskel.  This also goes into his last days where he had cancer and essentially amputated his jaw and could only speak by typing into a computer.  As depressing as that was to watch, it was admirable that he still made the most by still keeping his sense of humor and becoming the social media celebrity kind of like George Takei and the Iron Sheik.  There are also many filmmakers being interviewed that include Martin Scorsese, Werner Herzog, Errol Morris, Ava DuVerney, and many others who all reflect on how significant Ebert was to their careers in the way he was a big advocate for independent films he liked and would help give publicity to these movies that did not get much publicity.  The director Steve James also expresses his gratitude for his documentary HOOP DREAMS that Ebert liked.  I know a lot of people just hate the critics and while we may not agree with them, they do help give publicity and Ebert was very good about doing that for the young filmmakers that he liked.  This is a very compelling and sad documentary but was also inspirational at the same time about a man who lived his life to the fullest up to the last breath he took.  This is available to watch on Netflix and I think just about everyone with give this thumbs up.

The Goods:  Live Hard, Sell Hard (2009):  Neal Brennan directed this comedy about a struggling used car business.  James Brolin play the owner Ben Selleck who decides it is time to hire a group of "car mercenaries" lead by Don Ready, played by Jeremy Piven.  His team that includes David Koechner, Ving Rhames, and Kathryn Hahn and they look to motivate the employees as well as Don making his own promise to sell a pretty extreme amount of cars in a short period of time.  Ed Helms, Jordan Spiro, Tony Hale, Ken Jeong, Rob Riggle, Alan Thicke, Wendie Malick, Charles Napier, Craig Robinson, Bryan Callen, T.J. Miller, and many others co-star in this comedy.  For me, this did deliver a lot of laughs and kind of reminded me of the reality series BAR RESCUE which had a similar concept to this movie in hiring someone with experience in hopes they will save a place on the verge of going out of business.

Three O'Clock High (1987):  I follow up with another comedy with this one a comedy on bullying.  Phil Joanou directed this comedy which stars Casey Siemaszko who stars as the nerdy Jerry Mitchell.  Jerry ends up angering the new bully of the school Buddy Revell, played by Richard Tyson, and has a fight scheduled for 3 pm on that day.  He does what he can to get out of this fight which makes him resort to some things he would never usually do.  Annie Ryan, Stacey Glick, Jeffrey Tambor, Philip Baker Hall, John P. Ryan, Mitch Pileggi, Shirley Stoler, Yeardley Smith, and many others co-star in this comedy.  As far as actor Richard Tyson, his other most memorable role was likelyas the villain Crisp in the '80s comedy KINDERGARTEN COP.  This is one of the '80s movies that has gone rather overlooked and is really good in my opinion and possibly the best in these kinds of comedies.

Antoine and Colette (1962):  This is my short film for the week which was written by Francois Truffaut.  Jean-Pierre Leaud and Marie-France Pisier star as the title characters.  Antoine is a reformed juvenile delinquent who works at a record store allowing his love for music.  Through concerts he begins to notice Colette who when they meet, she tries to treat him as a friend but he wants more.  Antoine gets to eat with her parents and they like him while encouraging them to date.  This was shown as a short film but is actually a segment of the movie LOVE AT TWENTY which features four other French directors but I could not find a copy at this moment so I watched this when it was on TCM.  This was a pretty good half hour and would like to see the rest sometime.

As the Earth Turns (1934):  Alfred E. Green directs this film based on the novel by  that takes place in the winter of Maine.  An immigrant family moves into the farming area and the drama and love that ensues in the neighborhood.  This also takes a look at the hardship of winter and Maine Life.  Jean Muir, Donald Woods, Russell Hardie, Arthur Hohl, Dorothy Peterson, David Landau, Clara Blandick, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a pretty decent soap opera movie that was one of the pre-code ones.

Aparajito (1956):  This is the sequel to last week's feature PATHER PANCHOLI and the second in Satyajit Ray's Apu trilogy.  This continues with the Ray family where Apu's father has died so moves to his uncle's house along with his mother.  When getting there, Apu gets a good education and graduates with a scholarship to Calcutta.  With this happening, this leaves his mother virtually alone and having a hard time adjusting to life alone torn between wanting her son to stay and him getting an education as well as becoming independent.  The other part of the movie is Apu trying to make that life for himself while still trying to have a relationship with his mother.  The first one needs to get watched first but they are both pretty moving films about small-town life in India.  The first man featured this week in Roger Ebert included this in his "great movies" list.  This is available on Blu-Ray as a trilogy set.

Fresh Cut Grass (2004):  Matthew Coppola wrote and directed this independent coming of age film.  David Wike stars as college graduate Zac Peace who is depressed about his father's recent death and goes back to his home in Long Island unsure about the future.  He passes the time by mowing lawns while meeting and falling in love with a girl named Eastern Grace, played by Katy Hansz.  Juanita Walsh, Robert Montano, James McCaffrey, Dylan Bruno, Bobby Cavanaugh, Alicia Coppola, and many others co-star in this film.  This is Coppola's directorial debut and he has done mostly documentaries since this one but he makes a pretty good debut with this very low-budget film.  From what I can tell, he is no relation to the extended Coppola family.

Act of Violence (1949):  This is part two of a two-part Janet Leigh series.  Fred Zinneman directed this film noir for this week.  Van Heflin stars as war veteran Frank R. Enley who has established a good life for himself with a wife, played by Leigh, and child.  Robert Ryan co-stars as fellow veteran Joe Parkson who seems to be out for vengeance for something that happened in a German POW camp that he holds Frank responsible.  Mary Astor, Phyllis Thaxter, Berry Kroeger, Taylor Holmes, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a really good post-war film and towards people who were POWs and things they did to stay alive.  This is a pretty intense watch, especially for these times.  Robert Ryan is another one of those actors to become pretty underrated.

Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964):  This is my sci-fi film for the week.  I will start by saying this is not the character Robinson Cruson getting stuck on Mars, just a man that has similarities to the character.  Paul Mantee stars as Commander Kit Draper who ends up stranded on Mars with his only companion being a monkee.  As he struggles to survive and hopes to be rescued, he finds out he may not be alone.  Victor Lundin and Adam West co-star in this sci-fi classic.  Don't be thrown off by the title as it is actually a pretty good sci-fi film.  It is a very compelling story about a man and his pet monkey doing whatever possible to stay alive.  This could be a good double feature to watch with something like GRAVITY or THE MARTIAN.

Last Men in Aleppo (2017):  I end the week with this Oscar-nominated documentary.  I have been trying to include a movie each week that is nominated for something and decided to dig a little deeper and came across this one.  Feras Fayyad directed this movie that takes a look at the Syrian civil war and a group called the White Helmets that is a group of ordinary citizens rushing towards military strikes trying to save lives.  There is a lot of very intense footage that is really hard to see while it was good to see good people that were being featured.  The footage seen is more like active footage and does not do much in the way of interviews but showing the horrors of this war happening in Syria.  This is available to watch on Netflix and maybe check out some of these kinds of Oscar nominees.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn, and many others.

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