Sunday, July 8, 2018

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 660th Edition

Welcome to the 660th Edition of my series.  Last week, I realized I focused a lot on the foreign cinema which was not intentional but but I never really know how things things will play out, not do I plan it.  This week is much different but still satisfied with the end result.  I like giving my own self suspense and playing through my rather methodical selection process.  I don't really have much to add at the moment so I will just get on with my selections.

Secret Honor (1984):  Robert Altman directed this film and is based on a play by Donald Freed and Arnold M. Stone which portrays Richard Nixon, played by Philip Baker Hall.  I should also add that Hall is the only actor in this entire film where as Nixon, he works on a message and reflection of his career on a recording.  This is a fictional account of Nixon in an attempt to gain insight into his personality, life, attitudes, and behavior.  Hall gives a very underrated performance as our former president but has been overlooked through the years compared to other actors that have portrayed Nixon.  This manages to keep my attention and I hope to get this on the radar.  This is available to watch on Filmstruck.

I, Tonya (2017):  This is part one of a potential Margot Robbie trilogy.  Craig Gillespie directed this documentary style biopic on former figure skater Tonya Harding, played by Robbie, and her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, played by Sebastian Stan, so I might as well say what will inevitably will be said which is portrayed by Harley Quinn and Winter Soldier.  This takes a look at Harding's childhood and getting into skating through her overbearing mother Lavona, played by Allison Janney, and then before and after the infamous incident where Harding's competitor Nancy Kerrigan, played by Caitlin Carver, is brutally attacked before the 1994 Olympics.  Cannavale, Julianne Nicholson, Paul Walter Hauser, Bojana Novakovic, McKenna Grace, and many others co-star in this film.  This takes an interesting and dark comedic look at Harding's life before and some after the incident and also is based on interviews by both Harding and Gillooly where most of them are conflicting accounts leaving it up to us to decide who if either are telling the truth or just telling a half-truth.  I also really liked the documentary feel of the film and gives a humanistic look at the former married couple.

Little Boy (2015):  Now I bring a more family oriented film which was directed and co-written by Alejandro Monteverde.  Jakob Salvati stars as 8 year old Pepper whose life changes when his father James has to fight in WWII.  Pepper wants his father back that he does whatever good deeds he can which was advised by Father Oliver, played by Tom Wilkinson, thinking that will increase the chances of ending WWII and bringing back his father.  Emily Watson, David Henrie, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Ben Chaplin, Ted Levine, Kevin James, Ali Landry, Abraham Benrubi, Eduardo Verastegui, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a very moving and inspirational film depicting a very loving father/son relationship and being separated by the war.  This also gives a good look at the treatment of Japanese-Americans in this era where Tagawa plays one and is looked down upon because of what his countrymen did.  This is rather predictable but not as much as I expected but in this type of movie it is to be expected so if looking for a suspenseful film, this might not be the one.

An Eastern Westerner (1920):  This is my short film for the week and is part one of a possible two-part Harold Lloyd series.  Hal Roach directed this silent short which stars Lloyd who is a young New Yorker whose Christian parents send him to live with an uncle in Plute Pass putting him into a more western type setting leading into many comical misadventures.  One really good scene and maybe one of the best silent film scenes of all time involves Lloyd playing poker at the bar and his unorthodox means of winning.  Lloyd is regarded as "The Third Genius" obviously along with Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton and while he was more popular at the time box-office wise, he is not as known but in my opinion is every bit as good as the other two.

Araya (1959):  This is my documentary for the week and a rather early documentary.  Margot Benacerraf directed this film and the title refers to the name of a salt mine located on a peninsula located in northeastern Venezuela.  This takes a look at the hard work done by the locals to extract it in order to survive in their remote community.  This is a very well-shot documentary with very good visuals being more effective with the decision to make the documentary in black and white.  I do not really have much to say about this except that this is a good documentary from the early days of documentary cinema with a subject matter we might have forgotten or not known.

Harper Valley P.T.A. (1978):  Richard C. Bennett directed this dark comedy that was based on the hit song from 1968 that was written by Tom T. Hall.  Barbara Eden stars single mother Stella Johnson which is the "Mrs. Johnson who they are referring to in the song and is in the rather conservative town of Harper Valley.  Much of the townspeople, mostly the school PTA board, considers her too liberal and make life difficult to her teen daughter Dee, played by Susan Swift, and takes revenge by exposing secrets of the PTA and pulling humiliating pranks on them.  Ronny Cox, Nanette Fabray, Louis Nye, Audrey Christie, Ron Masak, John Fiedler, Pat Paulsen, Robert Hastings, Fay DeWitt, Clint Howard, and many others co-star in this comedy.  Woody Harrelson also has a role as an extra in his film debut so I guess that makes this a six-part Woody Harrelson series.  This is very enjoyable if not taken too seriously and has some very clever pranks..  This has an interesting message about standing up for yourself in this satire.  This could be a good double feature to have with the 1969 film ALICE'S RESTAURANT which is also based on the title song.

Monsieur Verdoux (1947):  I follow up with another very dark comedy which was written and directed by Charlie Chaplin and based on a story by Orson Welles.  Chaplin also stars as the title character who tries to support his wife and son but finds it very difficult since the depression.  To make the money to support his family, he goes out and marries rich women only to murder them to collect on their money.  Robert Lewis, Martha Raye, Ada May, Isobel Elsom, Marjorie Bennett, Irving Bacon, and many others co-star in this film.  Orson Welles was originally planning to do a dramatized documentary on French serial killer Henri Landru which this movie is based upon and Chaplin purchased this and made into his own statement of a film.  This is far from Chaplin's iconic character of the Tramp though not really far from his dark sense of humor he has shown through the years.  This was very controversial in its time with some anti-war messages within the film and Chaplin being deported from the United States shortly after this film.  While, this movie was not the only thing that got him out, I understand this was kind of the icing on the cake.  This is available to watch on Filmstruck as well as a lot of other works from Chaplin.

A Bug's Life (1998):  This is my animated selection from the week and bring some earlier Pixar which is their second film.  John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton directed this animated film which centers around a colony of ants.  They are forced by a group of grasshoppers lead by Hopper, voiced by Kevin Spacey, gather food for them but things get worse when misfit ant Flik, voiced by Dave Foley, knocks over a lot of food forcing them to gather more than usual.  Flik volunteers to leave the island to find a group of warrior bugs to save the colony and when he finds them, they turn out to be a group of circus bugs.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Hayden Panettiere, Phyllis Diller, Richard Kind, David Hyde Pierce, Joe Ranft, Dennis Leary, Jonathan Harris, Madeline Kahn, Bonnie Hunt, Michael McShane, John Ratzenberger, Brad Garrett, Roddy McDowell, Edie McClurg, Alex Rocco, Rodger Bumpass, and many other provide their voices.  This is the final movie for McDowell and this was released after his death.  This is a fun one that the family can watch with a lot of funny moments and banding together to overcome adversity.

Hanzo the Razor:  Sword of Justice (1972):  This is my Japanese film for the week and is part one of a trilogy which features the title character being played by Shintaro Katsu as an officer of the law who uses very unconventional and questionable methods to track a killer and mostly goes against protocol with the police force.  This is not going to be for everyone as there is a lot of violence and the use of sadomasochistic methods that he uses on women to get the answers he is looking for in his investigations.  This was very intriguing for me to watch and I'm sure this was the subject to a lot of controversy.  I had never heard of this character until I came across this film which is available to watch on Filmstruck as well as the others that are part of this trilogy.

Before I Disappear (2014):  I end the week this this rather unexpected surprise which was written and directed by Shawn Christensen and based on his short film CURFEW which was from the year before.  Christensen also stars in the movie as the troubled and suicidal Richie where he gets an unexpected call from his estranged sister Maggie, played by Emmy Rossum, who needs him to babysit her daughter Sophia, played by Fatima Ptacek.  Though all of his Richie's troubles with money he owns and hallucinations, he manages to form an unexpected bond with his niece while waiting for her mom to get home.  Paul Wesley, Ron Perlman, Richard Schiff, Fran Kranz, and many others co-star in this film.  While I was aware of most of the supporting actors through the shows I watch, I had never heard of Christensen or Ptacek whose names I struggled to spell and they carry the film very well together.  I hope to help this get more exposure through this feature.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Dennis Hopper, Frank Langella, Margot Robbie, and many others.

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