Sunday, April 28, 2019

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 702rd Edition

Welcome to the 702nd edition of my series.  I hope everyone had a good Easter however celebrated.  I may have some things in the works and will announce as I get more details.  That being said, I don't have much to say so I'll just get on with the selections.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018):  I star the week out with this biopic which was directed by Nicole Holofcener.  Melissa McCarthy stars as writer Lee Israel who made a living in the '70s and '80s as a celebrity biographer but has fallen out of favor through the years struggling to make a living.  She finds a way to forge letters claiming they were written by a celebrity to make the money she needs.  With the help of her friend Jack, played by Richard E. Grant, they use the art of deception to make money but how far can they go before people get suspicious over the letters.  Dolly Wells, Ben Falcone, Gregory Korostishevsky, Jane Curtin, Stephen Spinella, Christian Navarro, Anna Deavere Smith, and many others co-star in this film.  This is an interesting look at what a person will stoop to in order to make a living once they are past their prime.  I had not seen Curtin do anything for awhile so it was good to see her in a feature film.  McCarthy was nearly unrecognizable in her role and don't know if I would have recognized her had I not known she was in it already.

Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002):  I follow up with this music documentary.  Paul Justman directed this documentary that obviously centers around the world of Motown and takes a look at the band the Funk Brothers, and no I'm not referring to the famous wrestling family, who backed many of the famous Motown artists that we know today but have gone onto become unknown today but respected by their colleagues.  This takes a look at each band member and them reuniting where people like Chaka Khan, Joan Osborne, Bootsy Collins, Ben Harper, Meshell Ndegeocello cover some of the songs they would help make famous.  I always enjoy the music documentaries that take a look at the unknown but very talented people of the music industry.  This could be a good double feature to go along with 20 FEET FROM STARDOM which also takes a look at the unsung heroes of the music industry.

The Paranoids (2008):  This is my Argentinean film for the week which was directed co-written by Gabriel Medina.  Daniel Hendler stars as struggling screenwriter Luciano whose friend Manuel, played by Walter Jakob, returns from Madrid returns with his girlfriend Sofia, played by Jazmin Stuart.  Things change for Luciana when Manuel leaves Sofia with him for a couple days, she starts to take a liking to causing a potential love triangle.  This is a pretty good independent film that is driven by the characters that has a good soundtrack to go along.  This is available to watch on Hoopla Digital.

Acera, or the Witches' Dance (1972):  This is my short film for the week and I might disappoint some when I say this is not about witches dancing.  Acera are a group of ball-shaped mollusks that are only about two inches in diameter.  This has musical accompaniment and shows the lives of these water species and is pretty intriguing few minutes.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.

Fear in the Night (1947):  This is my Film Noir for the week which I believe is listed as a "B-list Film Noir.  A young Deforest Kelley stars as bank teller Vince Grayson who has a dream that he committed murder and as he wakes up the dream seemed all too real.  His cop brother-in-law Cliff tries to help him figure out what is happening.  Ann Doran also co-stars in this film.  This was a rather interesting premise to the Film Noir genre that can make us look past the flaws.  STAR TREK fans might enjoy seeing their beloved Bones McCoy in a much earlier role.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

...And Your Name is Jonah (1979):  Richard Michaels directed this tv movie which stars Sally Struthers and James Woods as Jenny and Danny Corelli whose son Jonah, played by Jeffrey Bravin, was misdiagnosed as intellectually disabled as they called it in those days only to learn that he is deaf.  Along with the previous diagnosis, Jonah had been institutionalized but released to go home when determining he is deaf.  Even at home, Jonah had not learned any communication skills and struggles along with his parents to be able to communicate.  They sent him to a school where sign language was not allowed and thought they only constructive way to communicate was for the kids to read lips.  Robert Davi, Titos Vandis, Randee Heller, Antony Ponzini, Paula Shaw, Jeremy Licht, and many others co-star in this tv movie.  Bravin is a real-life deaf person as well as others cast in roles that are deaf.  I have lately come across a lot of tv movies from this era that try to convey a really good message at that time.  This one I think is my favorite so far.  Apparently sign language was looked down upon by some at this time and the movie shows how it is not such a bad thing.  This has a really good message in my opinion and remains pretty relevant but under the radar because of its tv movie status.  The good news is that is on Amazon Prime.

Arrival (2016):  This is my sci-fi film for the week.  Denis Villeneuve directed this film which is based on the short story STORY OF YOUR LIFE by Ted Chiang.  Amy Adams stars as Louise Banks who is a linguistics professor recruited by the military in hopes she will be able to communicate with alien lifeforms that have landed on earth while also preventing other countries from declaring war on the aliens.  Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlberg, Mark O'Brien, Tzi Ma, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a very deep and rather moving sci-fi film.  It is too complex to really describe further into words but is one that requires full attention.  This comes in the vain of movies like CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND and even CONTACT.  It does rank up there pretty high among modern-day sci-fi and is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

The Wages of Fear (1953):  I saw this last week as part of the monthly Cinemuncie series put on by my friend Dennis at the Muncie Public Library.  Henri-Georges Clouzet directed this French film which takes place in South America and based on a novel by Georges Arnaud.  In the South American jungles, supplies of nitroglycerin are needed at a remote field where an oil company pays four men to transport it in two trucks.  The problem they have is that the trucks are not the best trucks in the world and the roads are really rough making their journey to deliver the nitroglycerin very dangerous.  In addition to the dangers of the road, the teams of two form a very intense rivalry that does not help things.  Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Folco Lulli, Peter Van Eyck, Vera Clouzot, Dario Moreno, Antonio Centa, and many others co-star in this film.  This movie is as suspenseful as it comes where we are with these truckers all the way through as they take the job.  This did get some controversy from us Americans where they were accused of anti-Americanism making the censors cut some scenes.  I venture to say that the version on the Criterion Collection is the full version and is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.

Our Hospitality (1923):  This was another film series Dennis put on for movies that was put out in the year of this film and have become public domain because of the year.  Jack Blystone and Buster Keaton co-directed this comedy that stars silent comedy legend Buster Keaton.  Keaton stars as Willie McKay who is living in New York and learns that he has inherited his father's estate and must travel to the south to be able to get the property.  On a train, he meets a woman named Virginia, played by Natalie Talmadge, and they hit it off together but has no idea her last name is Canfield which has been a rival to the McKays for many years.  Her father and brothers are aware of who he is and Willie must resort to very comical means to avoid getting killed.  This is a very obvious parody of the real-life rival families the Hatfields and the McCoys.  There is also some pretty dangerously filmed scenes taking place in the water.  This is my favorite movie of Buster and is at least available to watch on Youtube.

Monsieur Lazhar (2011):  I end the week with this French Canadian film which was directed by Philippe Falardeau and based on a play by Evelyne de la Cheneliere.  Mohamed Fellag stars as a title character who is an Algerian immigrant and hired at a school to replace a teacher who has hung herself.  He does what he can to help the kids get through their tragedy while also dealing with a situation in his own country as well as the red tape within the school.  Sophie Nelisse, Emilien Neron, Seddik Benslimane, Gabriel Verdier, Danielle Proulx, and many others co-star in this film.  While this has some comedic moments, it also gets very deep in the ways the students handle the tragedy of their teacher.  The comedy is more from Fellag's personality and is a pretty moving film.  This is available to watch on Hoopla Digital.

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

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