Sunday, December 15, 2019
Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 730th Edition
Welcome to the 730th Edition of my series. I hope everyone is doing okay so far in the holiday season however celebrated. I'm just glad to see my 49ers doing well and hope to see it continue into later today. I don't really have anything else going right now so I'll just get on with my selections for the week.
Going Postal (2010): I start the week out with this fantasy mini-series which was directed by Jon Jones and based on the novel by Terry Pratchett who also has a role as the postman. Richard Coyle stars as con artist Moist Von Lipwig, a name I'm sure many readers will cringe upon reading the first name, who gets conned himself when being put into Ankh-Morpork Postmaster General which is a position that has not been filled in years. At first he ties to escape but finds it is not possible with golem Mr. Pump. He starts to see the error of his ways but also learns of the corruption around him that resulted in the previous postmasters to die. Claire Foy, Charles Dance, Steve Pemberton, Tamsin Greig, Jimmy Yull, Nicholas Farrell, Marnix Van Den Broeke, Adrian Schiller, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Andrew Sachs, Timothy West, David Suchet, and many others co-star in this mini-series. I know nothing of the novels so I cannot judge the similarities one way or the other. It was a pretty fun series with a really good cinematography look and amusing characters. This has two episodes that are about 90 minutes and is available to watch on Amazon Prime.
Windows (1975): This is my short film for the week which I came across when my friend Dennis the Librarian Menace posted. Peter Greenaway directed this documentary short where he narrates statistics on deaths of falling out of windows and puts on other statistics within it. This is an early film of Greenaway who would go onto direct movies like THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE, AND HER LOVER. This is a rather interesting, while rather morbid short film on deaths from falling from Windows. This is only about four minutes long and is available to watch on Youtube.
The Crawling Eye (1958): This is my b-movie for the week. This takes place in a remote Switzerland mountain resort where people are being decapitated which lead into some really strange looking alien creatures that are pretty much what the title indicates. This was shown at my local library as part of a B-movie series they like to show at that place. While being a B-movie, it does have some significance in pop culture. For fans of John Carpenter, he has cited this movie to be the inspiration for his movie THE FOG. For Stephen King fans, the crawling eye creature has a cameo in his novel IT where the children run into the creature during a 1958 segment of the novel. For fans of the Misfits, they wrote a song with the same title inspired by this movie which is on their album FAMOUS MONSTERS. For B-movie fans, this is worth a look and to maybe get a few friends, order pizza and maybe do your own riffing.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992): Last week I featured part one so I decided it was time to revisit this one. Like the first one, Chris Columbus directed this sequel which was written by John Hughes. Macauley Culkin reprises his iconic role of Kevin McCallister. A year after being left home alone by himself, he is able to make it out with the family but with everyone in a hurry and rather incompetent airport employees, and lets be real here parents at least in times of family holiday vacations, he ends up boarding the wrong plane that takes him to New York instead of the Miami destination his family went. Also in New York, escaped criminals Harry and Marv, reprised by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, end up in New York only to encounter their nemesis Kevin who had put them away before. John Heard, Catherine O'Hara, Devin Ratray, Hillary Wolf, Michael C. Maronna, Gerry Bamman, Terrie Snell, Senta Moses Mikan, Diana Rein, Kieran Culkin, Tim Curry, Dana Ivey, Rob Schneider, Brenda Fricker Ally Sheedy, and many others co-star or even have cameos including our current president Donald Trump. This is a rehash sequel to the core, just different situations that lead up to the rather violent climax between Kevin and the bandits that had me starting to wonder if Jigsaw is Kevin McCallister all grown up. While being a rehash sequel, it still has that great nostalgiac feeling and an entertaining holiday watch. This is available to watch on the Disney Plus network.
Jezebel (1938): William Wyler directed this film which is based on a play by Owen Davis Sr. which takes place in 1850s Louisiana. Bette Davis stars as spoiled southern belle Julie Marsden who is engaged to successful banker Preston Dillard, played by Henry Fonda, but drives him away with her arrogant behavior. When trying to win Preston back, Julie finds it may no longer be possible. George Brent, Margaret Lindsey, Donald Crisp, Fay Bainter, Richard Cromwell, Henry O'Neill, Spring Byington, John Litel, Gordon Oliver, Janet Shaw, Theresa Harris, Margaret Early, Irving Pichel, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, and many others co-star in this film. Some might be thinking "this sounds like GONE WITH THE WIND" which was actually in pre-production by the time this came out. You could say there are some similarities between the relationship in this movie to the one between Scarlett and Rhett in GONE WITH THE WIND. Either way, these do stand on their own and could make for a good double feature. The title also puts into my head Jim Ross's voice when he would sometimes refer to evil women in wrestling as "that jezebel". This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.
The Christmas Train (2017): This is my Hallmark holiday movie for the week which was directed by Ron Oliver and based on the book by David Baldacci. Dermot Mulroney stars as writer Tom Langdon who is on a train in hopes of getting ideas for a book to write. His old love Eleanor, played by Kimberly Williams-Paisley, is also on this train for her own reasons. They bond with the others on the train and with each other. Danny Glover, Joan Cusack, Holly Elissa, Kirsten Zien, Anthony Konchny, Jill Teed, Karen Holness, Terence Kelly, John Innes, Nelson Wong, Jesse Stanley, Eric Gustafsson, and many others co-star in this Hallmark movie. I felt this one was a little different than other typical Hallmark movies. This was almost fully filmed on the train and did not have that usual small-town element that most seem to have. While the love story element was predictable, the twist to get there was rather interesting in my opinion.
Holiday Inn (1942): Mark Sandrich directed this holiday musical with the music being written by Irving Berlin. Bing Crosby stars as Jim Hardy who has a successful act with dancer Ted Hanover, played by Fred Astaire, but gets burned out being on the road all the time. He gets the idea to turn his country home into an Inn where he does performances only on the holidays having the rest of the days off. It becomes successful but Jim gets dismayed when Hollywood wants a piece of it making his friendship with Ted very difficult. Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale, Louise Beavers, Irving Bacon, and many others co-star in this film. This is a holiday movie in a sense which has its main focus of Christmas but looks at a few other holidays, even Lincoln and Washington's birthday. There is some political incorrectness by today's standards that include actors, most notably Bing, in Blackface and the portrayal of black servants. This also introduces the popular holiday song WHITE CHRISTMAS which I felt was the start of brainwashing people's minds into thinking that we need snow on Christmas. If you can get past those elements and understand that times were different, this can be pretty enjoyable. I like the idea of working only on the holidays and this is available on Amazon Prime.
Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound (2009): This is my music documentary for the week which is technically an episode of PBS series AMERICAN MASTERS. Mary Wharton directed this documentary which takes a look at her life and career. It shows how she rose into the folk music scene but also shows her times as an activist like working some with Martin Luther King. This has interviews from Bob Dylan, David Crosby, Steve Earle, and many others. I really knew nothing about Joan Baez until I watched this documentary. It was a very insightful documentary on someone who really did not feel that big.
Carol for Another Christmas (1964): Joseph L. Mankiewics directed holiday tv movie which was written by Rod Serling giving his TWILIGHT ZONE twist to the Dickens classic A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Sterling Hayden stars as Daniel Grudge who is a wealthy industrialist very bitter towards the loss of his son in WWII and has a disagreement with his nephew Fred, played by Ben Gazzara, on whether American involvement should happen in the war. Grudge is soon visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve in hopes he will change his mind. Percy Rodriguez, Steve Lawrence, Eva Marie Saint, James Shigeta, Pat Hingle, Robert Shaw, Peter Sellers, and Britt Ekland round out the all star cast in this tv movie. This is one I enjoy watching from time to time. I have found it on TCM in the past and in this situation it was on Youtube. This is a pretty underrated holiday movie from Serling and is really worth a watch, especially the anti-Hallmark crowd.
Follow that Bird (1985): I end the week with this unexpected selection. This is an homage to the late Carroll Spinney who recently left us and for many years brought us Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Ken Kwapis directed this SESEME STREET movie which features Big Bird in his own movie. A social worker named Miss Finch, voiced by Sally Kellerman, feels that Big Bird needs to stay with other birds so she arranges for him to live with a family of Dodo birds. Big Bird does not like it there and ends up running away in hopes to get back to his real home in Seseme Street while all his friends looked to find him before Miss Finch did. Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Richard Hunt, Kathryn Mullen, Jerry Nelson, Paul Bartel, Sandra Bernhard, John Candy, Chevy Chase, Joe Flaherty, Waylon Jennings, Dave Thomas, Laraine Newman, Eddie Deezen, and many others co-star in this film. Jennings has a rather amusing cameo and some work that most people don't know about in his career. This has some pretty good music numbers and a really fun story of friends banding together. R.I.P Carroll and thank you for many good years of entertaining us with your iconic characters. A good double feature would be to follow up with the documentary I AM BIG BIRD which is based on Spinney.
Well, that is it for this week but I did bring back my "Bookworm Corner" segment, tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week.
THE BOOKWORM CORNER
Slobberknocker: My Life in Wrestling by Jim Ross with Paul O'Brien (2017): When I saw this book, I thought it would be as interesting as any other autobiography of those in the wrestling industry and I think I was right. Just about any wrestling fan knows of "Good Ole JR". He was most known as arguably the best play by play commentator of all time but was far more than that as he worked backstage like as the Vice President of Talent Relations where he together a great roster in the WWF, now known as the WWE. This was a man who always loved wrestling but accepted he would not be a wrestler and found other places in the industry to be an asset. His story of how he broke into the business is just as compelling as just about anyone and even though he never wrestled, he paid his dues to get where he did in the industry batting through things like Bell's Palsy. He has some really good stories to tell and wrestling fans should really take a look at this book. I also think that non-wrestling fans could read this and get behind it for the man's hard work ethic. Also check out his podcast Grillin' JR which is co-hosted by Conrad Thompson and relive his days in the WCW and WWE. He also has a follow-up book called UNDER THE BLACK HAT that can be pre-ordered.
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