Sunday, May 19, 2019

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 705th Edition

Welcome to the 705th edition of my series.  Wednesday is my birthday so what better way to celebrate that at the Mark in Muncie for karaoke.  It is great seeing the weather getting nice again.  There is not much else happening at this time so I will just get on with my selections for the week.

West of Memphis (2012):  I start the week out with this documentary which was directed by Amy Berg and produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh.  This is a documentary that is based on the infamous West Memphis Three which were Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley.  As most know, these were three 17 year olds accused of the horrific murders of some children in Arkansas and convicted under very questionable evidence.  They have all since been released and are now moving forward in their lives.  Some might say that the last thing we need is another documentary on these guys after there have been three documentaries that have been done on HBO all called PARADISE LOST.  This is a really good companion piece that takes a closer look at the evidence and shows all the people that came together including a group of celebrities that included Peter Jackson, Johnny Depp, Henry Rollins, Eddie Vedder, the Dixie Chicks, and many others.  It also looks at some things that have been found since the third PARADISE LOST film as well as interviews from the loved ones involved.  There is also a really good music score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis that I just had to mention as a Nick Cave fan.  I do recommend watching the mentioned documentaries that were on HBO before watching this one but this goes along with them very well.

The Octopus (1928):  This is my short film for the week which was directed by Jean Painleve.  This takes a look at some underwater footage of an octopus and some of the things an octopus does in their lives.  Painleve did a lot of early documentaries mostly on sea life and I suppose was kind of a pioneer in this regard for the animal documentaries we love today.  This could have had a little music to it but that is okay, it was still interesting footage and is available on the Criterion Channel.

Roots (1977):  This is my mini-series for the week which is a dramatization based upon author Alex Haley's book about his family line.  This starts with Kunta Kinte, played by STAR TREK alum Lavar Burton in his younger days and by John Amos in his older days, who was born a free man in an African village then captured to be taken to America and enslaved.  Once enslaved, he is renamed Toby and was determined to become free.  The other characters mainly focused upon are Kunta's daughter Kizzy, played by Leslie Uggams, and his grandson Chicken George, played by Ben Vereen.  BRADY BUNCH alum Robert Reed, Louis Gossett Jr., Lynda Day George, Olivia Cole, Madge Sinclair, Lloyd Bridges, Georg Stanford Brown, Chuck Connors, Lorne Green, Sandy Duncan, Ralph Waite, Brad Davis, Edward Asner, Ji-Tu Cumbuka, Hilly Hicks, Vic Morrow, Lynne Moody, Lillian Randolph, Thayer David, Austin Stoker, O.J. Simpson, Scatman Crothers, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, George Hamilton, Burl Ives, John Schuck, Ian McShane, Richard Roundtree, Brion James, Cicely Tyson, Yvonne De Carlo, Yaphet Kotto, and many others co-star in this mini-series.  This spans over 100 years so no one is really the "star" of the movie and there is no one that was in all six episodes.  This was a very landmark showing.  I don't think it is the first mini-series but I know they were really on the rise yet.  This was a really good look towards these years and the kinds of lives they lead as well as their efforts to become free.  This has six episodes that were about a hour and a half each and is really worth a look.

A Goofy Movie (1995):  This is my Disney feature for the week which was directed by Kevin Lima.  After many years of making us laugh in shorts, supporting roles, and tv shows, Goofy, voiced by Bill Farmer, gets his first feature film.  His high school son Max, voiced by Jason Marsden, has a crush on Roxanne, voiced by Kellie Martin, and tries to impress her but getting trouble at school in the process.  When Goofy gets word of this, he is made to believe Max is a troubled kid and that he needs to take him on a fishing trip much to the dismay of Max who finally gets the date he is looking for with Roxanne.  Jim Cummings, Rob Paulsen, Wallace Shawn, Jenna von Oy, Frank Welker, Kevin Lima, Jo Anne Worley, Julie Brown, Joey Lawrence, and many others provide their voices to this very fun and maybe underrated Disney film that seems overlooked in my favorite period of Disney which is the '90s.  This takes road trips to a new level and is a really good look at the bonding of a father and a son with Goofy as funny as ever.

The Man with the Golden Arm (1955):  I had the family selection and now I get far more serious.  Otto Preminger directed this film which is based on the novel by Nelson Algren.  Rat Pack member Frank Sinatra stars as Frankie Machine who is a skilled card dealer and drug addict and just getting out of prison.  He tries to go clean but returning to his location does not help.  Eleanor Parker co-stars as his wheelchair bound girlfriend Zosh who is a big part of his problem.  Kim Novak, Arnold Stang, Darren McGavin, Robert Strauss, and many others co-star in this film.  Sinatra rises to the occasion in this much different role for him as the addict trying to go clean.  This is a great early look at addiction and the effects that it has on everyone around them.

The Wizard of Lies (2017):  This is part one of a possible six-part Robert De Niro series and part one of a two-part Hank Azaria series.  We have had the wizard of Oz who was not the most honest man in the world but did not compare to the real-life Bernie Madoff in his lies.  Barry Levinson directed this HBO movie that is based on the book by Diana Henriques and Laurie Sandell.  De Niro stars as Madoff who has run a seemingly successful business but in the end robbed $65 billion from unsuspecting victims in the biggest Ponzi scheme of all time.  Michelle Pfeiffer co-stars as Bernie's wife Ruth whose life as well as their children's lives change when learning of Bernie's theft.  Nathan Darrow, Alessandro Nivola, Michael Kostroff, Kathrine Narducci, Steve Coulter, David Lipman, Hank Azaria, and many others co-star in this HBO movie.  This was partly shot as a documentary with those involved in his life giving interviews about their times with Madoff.  Co-author Henriques plays herself when interviewing Madoff in prison.  This does a really good job of not only focusing on Bernie but also focusing on how other people in his life were effected by what he did.  This has some very good performances and digs very deep on Madoff's criminal activity.

The Widow Couderc (1971):  This is my French film for the week which was directed by Pierre Granier-Deferre and based on the novel by Georges Simenon.  Simone Signoret stars as the title character who as indicated and has a dark family history regarding her father and son and is running a farm.  Alain Delon co-stars as Jean Lavigne who is a drifter that arrives at the farm and gives the widow some help in turn getting work from her.  They form a relationship but jealousy ensues when Jean starts talking to her beautiful daughter-in-law Felicie, played by Ottavia Piccolo.  This is a bit of a love story but a very dark and complex one.  It is not real easy to explain beyond what I already have without giving spoilers.  It is not for everyone but foreign film buffs should really enjoy this one.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel

Crazy/Beautiful (2001):  I follow up with another love story which was directed by John Stockwell.  Jay Hernandez stars as Carlos who is a poor but very hard working high school senior trying to do well to get to a good college.  Kirsten Dunst stars as Nicole Oakley who is very self-destructive and a black sheep of her family lead by her congressman father Tom, played by Bruce Davison.  Nicole takes a liking to Carlos and form a relationship but it becomes very complicated with the different type of people they are in life.  Miguel Castro, Taryn Manning, Rolando Molina, Soledad St. Hilaire, Lucinda Jenney, Taryn Manning, Richard Steinmetz, and many others co-star in this film.  Like my last selection, this is a pretty complex love story and far from a romantic comedy.  I really thought Dunst did a really good job of portraying this troubled character and I know a few who can really relate to her.  This is a really good story on working through differences and how much love can help someone.

The Law and Jake Wade (1958):  This is my western for the week which was directed by John Sturges and based on the novel by Marvin H. Albert.  Robert Taylor stars as the title character who is a reformed criminal trying to start a new life as a marshal.  He helps his former partner Clint Hollister, played by Richard Widmark, escape as one last favor.  Jake's past comes to haunt him when Clint and his gang make him take him to a buried loot by abducting him and his fiance Peggy, played by Patricia Owens.  Robert Middleton, Henry Silva, Deforest Kelley, Eddie Firestone, and many others co-star in this film.  This was a pretty action packed western from this era.  Widmark has gone onto be a very underrated actor but was a really good villain.  When watching this, I came to the thought that actor Walton Goggins could portray him in a biopic.  The western is not on of my favorite genres but I really enjoyed this one and think it has gone a bit overlooked so looking to get on the radar.

Julieta (2016):  I end the week on this Spanish film which was directed by Pedro Almodovar and based on three story stories from the book RUNAWAY by Alice Munro.  Emma Suarez stars as the title character in the modern era and Adriana Ugarte stars the younger version of the title character in the flashbacks.  This is another rather complex story of Julieta trying to reconnect with her estranged daughter Antia, played by Priscilla Delgado, after twelve years.  Flashbacks show how we end up where we are in the modern era and the dots connect very well.  Daniel Grao, Imma Cuesta, Dario Grandinetti, Michelle Jenner, Pilar Castro, Nathalie Poza, Susi Sanchez, Joaquin Notario, and many others co-star in this foreign film.  This is one that requires full attention as it jumps around a lot but is one that can be very rewarding if given the chance and okay with subtitles.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Robert De Niro, John Wayne, Albert Brooks, and many others.

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