Sunday, March 3, 2019

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 694th Edition

Welcome to the 694th edition of my series.  I continue to have rehearsals for A FEW GOOD MEN and look forward to having it come together.  There is not much else happening so I'll just get on with my selections for the week.

Tropic Thunder (2008):  This is part two of my two-part Robert Downey Jr. series.  Ben Stiller directed this comedy where he stars as actor Tugg Speedman whose career is on the decline. Jack Black plays Jeff Portnoy who is an actor known for his crude and low-brow humor. Robert Downey Jr. plays Kirk Lazarus, an actor willing to do just about anything to get a part. Together, they are in a serious war film which turns much more real than what they expected when they end up is a real war.  Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson, Steve Coogan, Amy Stiller, Danny McBride, Bill Hader, Nick Nolte, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Cruise, and many others co-star in this comedy.   Downey was great as Lazarus who decides to turn his skin black so he can get the part of the African-American where he stays in character throughout the movie doing quite the imitation of a black man. I really did not find his portrayal as racist which I'm sure some did as I feel it was done pretty tastefully and I'm sure the Wayans got much less heat for playing white girls.  What I liked most is Robert Downey Jr. who is a method actor in real-life playing a method actor. The other two also hold their own in their efforts to stay alive in Southeast Asia. Tom Cruise was very amusing as the movie studio big shot who really only cared about money and is quite unrecognizable which is when cruise is at his best in my opinion.   I really enjoyed this violent comedy and found it to be very clever. The beginning consists of some good "previews" from the fictional actors with some more cameos.

The Sunshine Makers (1935):  This is my animated short for the week.  This features a group of sunshine-dwelling gnomes that go to battle with the Blue Devils of Melancholy.  This comes from the Rainbow Parade cartoons series produced by Van Beuren studios.  This is a pretty fun few minutes and something outside Disney and Merry Melodies.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime as part of the "Cartoon Classics Vol. 3" series.

House of Wax (2016):  Here is some classic horror for the week.  Andre De Toth directed this film which stars Vincent Price as Professor Henry Jarrod who is a very proud wax museum owner.  He likes to focus on historical situations even if more disturbing images might make more money which does not sit well with his business partner Matthew Burke, played by Roy Roberts, who decides to take violent action leaving Henry for dead.  As most will guess, Henry survives and takes revenge on those who wronged him.  Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jones, Paul Picerni, Angela Clarke, Paul Cavanagh, Dabbs Greer, Charles Bronson, and many others co-star in this film.  Bronson at this time went by his real name Charles Buchinsky before he became an icon as Charles Bronson.  He plays the role of Igor who is a mute henchman Henry.  This is some classic and very enjoyable horror with some really good historical references.

Chuck (2016):  This is part two of my Elizabeth Moss trilogy.  Philippe Falardeau directed this biopic on Chuck Wepner, played by Liev Schreiber.  For those who don't know, Chuck Wepner's story is the inspiration 1976 boxing movie known as ROCKY which might have lead some some sequels and spin-off.  Wepner was a small town boxer in Bayonne, New Jersey that had to work other jobs to maintain being a boxer and gets an unlikely title shot against Muhammed Ali, played by Pooch Hall.  When all this happens, unbeknownst to him, he gets a movie based on him written by Sylvester Stallone, played by Morgan Spector who was actually cast pretty well as Stallone and never thought I would see someone portray Stallone in a movie.  Ron Perlman, Naomi Watts, Jim Gaffigan, Michael Rapaport, and many others co-star in this biopic.  This focuses on the ups and downs of Wepner's life and was long overdue.  This is very entertaining and easy to get behind Chuck.

Kentucky Fried Movie (1977):  John Landis directed this film which consists of many different skits that were written by David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams.  This is a collection of comedy skits that parody things like martial arts, blaxploitation, and commercials.  This also consists of a lot of political incorrectness that would not happen today.  Barry Dennen, George Lazenby, Victoria Carroll, Donald Sutherland, Henry Gibson, Bill Bixby, Rick Baker, and many others co-star in this film.  It is hard to really describe this any further that what I have as there is no linear plot.  It is not for everyone, most notably those who offend easy.  Otherwise, this is some hilarious and underrated humor.

Youssou N'Dour:  I Bring What I Love (2008):  This is my music documentary for the week on Senegalese musician of the title who is regarded by many as the "voice of Africa".  This talks about his life in Africa, his beginnings, and the rise in his music career as well as an album he was working on at the time this movie came out.  I was aware of this singer from the work he has done with my favorite singer Peter Gabriel who is featured in this movie.  He is also an activist in his country and his music reflects his activism.  This is a very informative documentary and shows a lot of his talents.

The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950):  Felix E. Feist directed this crime drama stars Lee J. Cobb as veteran detective Ed Cullen.  He is having an affair with married woman Lois Fraser, played by Jane Wyatt, who claims to fear for her life and kills her husband when learning he has a gun.  Ed witnesses what has happened and looks to cover it up but also has his younger brother Andy, played by John Dall, who is newer and idealistic eager to prove himself.  Lisa Howard, Harlan Warde, Tito Vuolo, Charles Arnt, Marjorie Bennett, Alan Wells, Mimi Aguglia, and many others co-star in this film.  Decent film noir from this era with Wyatt more villainous than usual.  The dynamic of the two brothers was also a really good element for the film. 

In the Mood For Love (2000):  This was presented at my local library as part of the Cinemuncie series which looks to present foreign and independent films on a monthly basis.  Kar-Wai Kong directed this Hong Kong film and could not help but joke saying "Hong Kong with no violence or martial arts"?  Maggie Cheung stars as Su Li-Zhen and Tony Leung stars as Chow Mo-Pan in this film set in the '60s where they find that each of their spouses are having an affair bringing them closer as friends but looking to keep their relationship platonic to avoid committing similar wrongs.  This is a very beautifully shot film with the cinematography and performances with interesting close-up to the characters.  This has a lot of elements that make it stand out from a lot of other love stories in the world of film.

Private Property (1960):  This is part one of a two-part Warren Oates series.  Leslie Stevens wrote and directed this crime drama which star Corey Allen and Oates as murderous drifters Duke and Boots where Duke sets out to seduce unhappy housewife Ann, played by Kate Manx, for the dim and sexually inexperienced partner Boots.  A chain of violence leads their way to Kate's home and to the climax. Jerome Cowan and Robert Wark co-star in this film.  This is another rather unknown crime drama and at the time was condemned by Legion of Decency so was not released at the time.  It did not get a proper release until the year 2016.  When watching this I could not help but to think of Duke and Boots as a criminal version of George and Lennie from OF MICE AND MEN.  This is a pretty compelling film and deserves a look.

Weekends (2017):  I end the week with this animated short that was written and directed by Trevor Jimenez.  This is from the point of view of a young boy dealing with divorced parents and getting shuffled between homes.  This has no dialogue but surreal dream-like sequences mixed with the reality of the situation.  Jimenez wrote this film based on his own experiences of having divorced parents.  He is an animator for Pixar and made this movie through their co-op program that lends some of its resources to employees to make their own films.  This one of the nominations for best Animated short this year at the academy awards but lost.  It did win an Annie award for Best Animated Short Subject and is an award ceremonies focusing on animation in television and film.

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

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