Sunday, April 22, 2018

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 649th Edition

Welcome to the 249th Edition of my series.  Last weekend we ended with ON GOLDEN POND at the Commons in Alexandria and now I have started rehearsals for a production of LEND ME A TENOR at the Marion Civic Theater where I have landed the role of Tito Merelli.  This show is May 18th and 19th, I will have further details down the road but it fixing to be a really funny show.

When the Levees Broke:  A Requiem in Four Acts (2006):  I start the week out with this documentary mini-series from HBO and directed by Spike Lee.  This takes a look at New Orleans and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and interviews residents of New Orleans and their feelings toward how things were handled by the local and national government.  This is a very sad and compelling story on a community trying to band together that uses a lot of news footage, local interviews, and some celebrity interviews.  There is not much else I can really say to this mini-series so I guess technically this is not a movie but as I always say, it's my blog and I make the rules.  This is four episodes of about an hour long and is available to watch on HBO and also available on Amazon Prime which is where I watched it.

Don't Lie (1942):  I go from a mini-series to this classic comedy short which features some members of Our Gang.  This one centers around Buckwheat who sees that a monkey has escaped from the circus and when telling his friends Mickey, Froggy, and Spanky, they don't believe him due to some recent fibbing part.  That is a young Robert Blake as Mickey.  I have not really seen that many of these but seems rare that Alfalfa is not in them and the four characters named are the focus.  This has some pretty funny moments and a lesson in telling the truth.

The Glass Menagerie (1973):  Anthony Harvey directed this movie based on the play by Tennessee Williams.  Katherine Hepburn stars as Amanda Wingfield who is the mother of Tom, played by Sam Waterston, and Laura, played by Joanna Miles.  All of them have issues of some sort like with Amanda being very smothering of her grown kids, Tom trying to get away but cannot make his dreams come true, and Laura very slow minded and really lives in her own world.  Michael Moriarty co-stars as the Gentleman caller.  It will be very easy to point out that we have two future LAW AND ORDER alums in Waterston and Moriarty.  I thought this was a pretty good production of the play with Waterston standing out the most in my opinion.  Hepburn was also good in her much later role.  This was a very well acted production carried by the cast of four.

The Lady in the Van (2015):  Nicholas Hytner directed this film based on the memoir by Alan Bennett, played by Alex Jennings, who also wrote the screenplay.  Maggie Smith co-stars as the homeless Miss Shepherd who lived in her van which was not down by the river but in the driveway of Bennett where she stayed for 15 years.  While reluctant, Bennett forms an bond with the eccentric woman much to the dismay of much of the community.  As he digs into her past he learns there is far more to her that what she is saying.  Jim Broadbent, Clare Hammond, Deborah Findlay, Roger Allam, Nicholas Burns, Dominic Cooper, Frances De La Tour, Claire Foy, James Corden, David Calder, Eleanor Matsuura, Selina Cadell, and many others co-star in this film.  This has a really good blend of comedy and drama.  I liked the way they did the narration with Bennett and the way his character takes talking to himself to a new level.  This is also of worth to see the always charming Smith and her interaction with Jennings.

Night Nurse (1931):  William Wellman directed this film based on the novel by Grace Perkins.  Barbara Stanwyck stars as Lora Hart who wants to be a nurse and we go with her through her training which she completes.  She then lands a job as a night nurse to a couple of sick children who don't seem to be getting much better and discovers something more sinister is happening making her put her career on the line to uncover what is happening.  Ben Lyon, Joan Blondell, Clark Gable, Blanche Friderici, Charlotte Merriam, and many others co-star in this film.  This was a much earlier role for a more unknown at the time Gable who got the sinister role after James Cagney declined.  This was a pretty decent pre-code film with Stanwyck very strong in the lead.

Keanu (2016):  Peter Atencio directed this film that stars the comedy team of Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key.  Peele stars as Rell who is very miserable until a cat shows up at his door and names him Keanu.  Keanu gets abducted and along with his cousin Clarence, played by Key, they set out to find this cat finding themselves in the gangster world where they pose as gangsters in hope of getting their cat back.  Tiffany Haddish, Method Man, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Jason Mitchell, Jamar Malachi Neighbors, Luis Guzman, Will Forte, Nia Long, and many others co-star in this comedy.  There are also a couple pretty hilarious surprise celebrity cameos that I won't give away.  I honestly don't know a lot about the Key and Peele comedy team but they delivered me a lot of laughs as two people who have no street smarts but look to but on the act.  This has a lot of language and violence but if you can get past this, it might be very enjoyable.

Curse of the Demon (1957):  Jacques Tourneur directed this horror film which is also film noir in a sense.  Dana Andrews stars as Dr. John Holden who goes to London to attend a parapsychology conference looking to expose cult leader Julian Karswell, played by Niall MacGinnis.  He investigates a strange murder along with the victim's niece Joanna, played by Peggy Cummins, and remains a skeptic in the way of the paranormal.  Athene Seyler, Liam Redmond, Ewan Roberts, and many others co-star in this film.  This was a horror film that plays more like a mystery and has some really good suspense along with some really interesting imagery and special effects from this era.  This is one that is hard to explain without giving away further but a pretty underrated horror film that classic horror buffs will enjoy.

Wishful Drinking (2010):  This is my live show for the week which is an HBO special and one woman show with our STAR WARS icon Carrie Fisher.  She talks about multiple topics like what she is known for as well as other issues in her life like her alcoholism, mental illness, and her dysfunctional family.  I admit to not knowing much in the way of Carrie Fisher's personal life and really just knew her as Princess Leia but this shows there is far more to her.  She manages to make comedy out of her personal issues and keeps the crowd engaged the whole way through.  I managed to laugh quite a bit myself even if I felt a little bad doing it.  This is available to watch on HBO On-Demand.

Kwaidan (1964):  This is my Japanese film for the week which was directed by Masaki Kobayashi.  This takes place with a series of four different stories where each deal with ghosts in some way.  The first story is called BLACK HAIR where a poor samurai leaves the wife he loves feeling he needs to marry for money.  The second one is called THE WOMAN IN THE SNOW which involves a snowstorm and a life being saved at a price.  The third one is called HOICHI THE EARLESS which involves a blind musician.  The fourth one is called IN A CUP OF TEA where a man sees the reflection of another face in his tea.  I've given very basic descriptions but they are all really compelling story with great visuals and a must for Japanese film buffs and classic horror buffs.

Odd is an Egg (2016):  I end the week with this animated short film from Norway.  Kristin Ulseth directed this animated short and co-wrote with Lisa Aisato and Maria Avramova.  This centers around a boy named Odd whose head is literally the shape of an egg which gets him made fun of a lot and looks down on himself.  He meets a girl named Gunn who is both fearless and happy in life giving him a new outlook in life.  I came across this on Amazon Prime and has not had much exposure from what I can tell but was worth the 12 minutes to watch.

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

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