Sunday, June 24, 2018

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 658th Edition

Welcome to the 658th Edition of my series.  There is not much happening this week besides just the typical me life but will have some announcements in the coming weeks.  That being said, I'll just get one with my selections.

The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996):  This is part four of my five-part Woody Harrelson series.  Milos Forman directed this biopic of the controversial owner of the porn magazine Hustler.  Woody Harrelson stars as Flynt who starts out as the owner of a strip bar and slowly starts putting out his magazine which took the porn magazine to a whole new level in the '70s.  This also goes into his legal battles trying to protect his freedom of speech including a lawsuit from Reverent Jerry Falwell, played by Richard Paul.  Courtney Love, Edward Norton, Brett Harrelson, Donna Hanover, James Cromwell, Crispin Glover, Vincent Schiavelli, Miles Chapin, James Carville, and many others co-star himself. Flynt himself has a cameo as one of judges in a trial scene.  This is one that is not for everyone but I feel that like him or hate him, Flynt does deserve some respect for his 1st amendment rights crusade.  Harrelson and Love work well together as the uneasy married couple and Norton is also good as Flynt's hapless attorney who makes it clear that he does not like what Flynt does but wants him to have his freedom to do what he does not like.

The Oath (2010):  I follow up with this documentary which was directed by Laura Poitras.  This takes a look at two men that have worked for Osama Bin Laden named Abu Jandal and Salim Ahmed Hamdan and both are interviewed and talk about their lives before and after they worked for Bin Laden.  Hamdan was the first defendant to be tried in the U.S. military tribunals established by the United States Department of Defense.  This is actually a very compelling look at these two people and is a rather complex character study for a lack of a better word.

Passion (1996):  This is my live musical for the week.  James Lapine directed this musical that was based on his own story and the music written by Stephen Sondheim.  This takes place in 19th Century Italy and stars Jere Shea as soldier Giorgio who must leave his fiance Clara, played by Marin Mazzie.  While away, Giorgio meets the unhappy and unhealthy Fosca, played by Donna Murphy, who forms an unhealthy obsession for Giorgio.  Gregg Edelman, Tom Aldredge, T.J. Meyers, and many others co-star in this musical.  I had never heard of this particular Sondheim show until I came across this one.  This is a pretty good love triangle story and has some pretty good music numbers.  I have gotten to play Beadle Bamford in SWEENEY TODD and have an obsession to one day be in his musical ASSASSINS.  Keep in mind, this is a live production of the show and was glad to find this unknown Sondheim production.

N.Y., N.Y. (1957):  This is my short film for the week which was directed by Francis Thompson.  This is day in the life of New York seen through a distorted camera.  This does not have any dialogue but has a kaleidoscope like look and a really good music score to go along with the footage.  This is about 15 minutes long and is available on Filmstruck.

City Lights (1931):  This is my silent film for the week which stars Charlie Chaplin who also wrote and directed and even composed the film score which was a known thing for him through his career.  Chaplin reprises his iconic role of the Tramp in this love story.  He falls in love with a beautiful blind girl, played by Virginia Cherrill.  He also forms a friendship with an alcoholic and suicidal rich man, played by Harry Myers, and through him, he is able to be a benefactor to the blind girl including raising the money to get her a surgical procedure to get her sight back.  Even though the talkie films have been on the rise, Chaplin decided to continue his formula of the silent comedy.  The one is more of a simple love story as opposed to his other works where he usually makes satire of of very dark times while working in a love story.  This still has some pretty funny moments including Charlie doing some boxing.  This is available to watch on Filmstruck.

Ocean's 11 (1960):  Lewis Milestone directed this Rat Pack vehicle where Frank Sinatra stars as Danny Ocean who decides to get some friends from his 82nd Airborne in order to plan a robbery of five Las Vegas casinos.  Fellow Rat Packers Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop join Sinatra in his robbery scheme.  Angie Dickinson, Richard Conte, Cesar Romero, Patrice Wymore, Akim Tamiroff, Henry Silva, Ilke Chase, Buddy Lester, Richard Benedict, Jean Willes, Norman Fell, Clem Harvey, Red Skelton, George Raft, Shirley MacLaine, and many others co-star or have cameos.  MacLaine makes her debut in her small comedic role that seems to have catapulted quite a career.  This is not technically a musical but Martin and Davis manage to work in some musical numbers including Dean's most known AIN'T THAT A KICK IN THE HEAD.  This also gave way to a franchise many years later which starred George Clooney as Danny Ocean and the more recently OCEAN'S EIGHT which gives way to a female reboot.  For those that enjoy this franchise, we must give credit where credit is due.  This is also a very fun Rat Pack vehicle that is also available on Filmstruck.

Frances Ha (2012):  Noah Baumbach directed and co-wrote this film along with Greta Gerwig who co-stars in the title role.  Frances lives in New York and apprentices at a dance company and finds it difficult to move further but is persistent towards her dreams through all the moving and changing of friends in her life.  Mickey Sumner, Michael Esper, Adam Driver, Michael Zegan, Grace Gummer, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a rather hard movie to put into words as it really revolves around the characters, most notably Frances and her relationship with her friend Sophie, played by Sumner.  This is shot in black and white which is done very effectively in my opinion.  In the end, I feel this is about an everyday person doing what she can and making some mistakes in trying to find herself.  This is also available on Filmstruck and is worth a look.

Black Hand (1950):  This is my film noir for the week which was directed by Richard Thorpe.  Gene Kelly stars as Johnny Columbo whose father was killed by a group called the Black Hand when he was a kid.  Now grown, Johnny returns to New York with sworn vengeance against those involved in his father's death some years earlier.  While there, he also gets involved with a girl from his past in Isabella, played by Teresa Celli.  J. Carrol Naish, Marc Lawrence, Frank Puglia, Barry Kelley, Mario Siletti, Burt Freed, and many others co-star in this film.  This is mostly of interest to see Kelly in a more dramatic role that does not involve song and dance.  For those curious though, this is also available on the Filmstruck app which many can see I have fully embraced.

The Sterile Cuckoo (1969):  Alan J. Pakula directed this film based on a novel by John Nichols.  Liza Minelli stars as the rather free-spirited misfit Pookie Adams who forms a relationship with a man more opposite of her nature in the more timid and studious Jerry, played by Wendell Burton.  This is a very complex relationship with two college students who must accept each other's differences for the relationship to work.  Much of us know that Minelli is the daughter of Judy Garland and apparently Garland expressed concern over her daughter playing this outcast sort of role being concerned she related too much to the character of Pookie.  Minelli ends up doing great as the role of Pookie who rather troubled still keeps her character likable and works very well with Burton in this more unknown film.  This is another simple but effective story on young love and it is also available on Filmstruck.

Gook (2017):  I end the week with this newer independent film which was written and directed by Justin Chon.  This takes place in the community of Paramount, California and takes place during the time where the cops that attacked Rodney King were on trial.  Chon and David So star as Korean brothers Eli and Daniel who run a struggling shoe shop and form an unlikely friendship with the streetwise 11 year old African-American girl Kamilla, played by Simone Baker.  Curtiss Cook Jr., Chris Jai Alex, Jeff Corbett, Sang Chon, and many others co-star in this film.  This takes a good look at the racial tensions with the Koreans and blacks in this area making Kamilla's friendship with the Koreans rather forbidden even though she seems more comfortable with them than her family.  Sang Chon is the father of Justin Chon and took some convincing to get his father to do this film with the nature of the plot.  This movie may not have any known actors but it has a good script and gritty story.  Don't let the derogatory word in the title sway you from this movie.  This is available to watch on Netflix.

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

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