Sunday, December 29, 2019

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 732nd Edition

Welcome to the 732nd Edition of my series and to the last one of the year and of the decade for that matter.  I have continued a few holiday selections for those still in celebration mode.  I'd say it's been a good year, like any year it has ups and downs but the ups have outweighed the downs.  I hope everybody has had a good holiday however celebrated and it continues into New Year's.  I am ready for what 2020 brings to me but for now I'll just get to my selections for the week.

More than a Game (2008):  I start the week out with this sports documentary which was directed by Kristopher Belman.  This takes a look at five players on a high school basketball team in Ohio which includes Lebron James and his rise to fame.  In addition to James, this also takes a look at players Romeo Travis, Dru Joyce III, Sian Cotton, and Willie McGee and they bond they had with one another as well as their coach Dru Joyce.  This is a really good look at this young team with all the ups and downs among them and the early hype that came to James.

Comet (2014):  Now I bring an interesting love story which was directed by Sam Esmail.  Justin Long and Emmy Rossum star as Dell and Kimberly who are very different people but fit together very well.  This goes back and forth within alternate universes and goes into the ups and downs of their relationship through the years.  I don't really know how else to describe this movie.  Long and Rossum work very well together and this is Esmail's feature film debut which was a good one.  I think this is one that a group of friends could watch together and then afterwards could spark a very good discussion.

A Christmas Visitor (2002):  This is my Hallmark movie for the week and likely the last one for awhile as I have managed a Hallmark movie every week in December this year.  Christopher Leitch directed this movie which stars William Devane as George Boyajian who is still grieving over the death of his son in the Persian Gulf War.  Himself, his wife Carol, and daughter Jean have not celebrated Christmas in 11 years but George decides it is time to celebrate Christmas again.  He meets a stranger named Matthew, played by Dean McDermott, who appears to have nowhere to go and is brought into the Boyajian for Christmas and changes their lives forever.  Aaron Ashmore, Jonathan Whittaker, and many others co-star in this Hallmark film.  This one actually goes deeper than most Hallmark movies in my opinion.  This does not have the usual Hallmark formula that so many have these days and has a lot more emotional depth.

Pluto's Christmas Tree (1952):  This is my Disney animated short for the week.  Mickey and his pet dog Pluto set out to get a Christmas tree.  The tree that Mickey gets is the one that chipmunk duo Chip and Dale take refuge in giving Pluto a hard time which stars a battle of wills.  This is a pretty funny holiday short which also have cameos from Donald, Goofy, and Minnie Mouse.  This did kind of make me wonder though about why Pluto did not get to talk and has to bark like a normal dog.  This is available on the Disney Plus network.

Kind Lady (1935):  This may not be considered a holiday film but it does take place on Christmas Eve.  Aline MacMahon stars as the wealthy Mary Herries who likes to help people less fortunate than her.  She soon meets struggling artist Henry Abbott, played by Basil Rathbone, who she takes pity upon and helps him out while also becoming friends.  She soon learns Henry has a more sinister plot.  Mary Carlisle, Frank Albertson, Dudley Digges, Doris Lloyd, Donald Meek, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a pretty interesting film that has a rather slow unfolding which really works well to pull us into the story.  Rathbone does very well in his role and deserves a watch among old movie lovers.

Alice in the Cities (1974):  This is my German film for the week which was directed by Wim Wenders.  Rudiger Vogler stars in this film as journalist Phil Winter who is struggling to write a good story and decides to return to Germany.  At the airport he meets a woman named Lisa, played by Lisa Kreuzer, and her nine year old daughter Alice, played by Yella Rottlander.  Lisa has things to do and asks Phil to watch her which turns out to be a lot longer than expected.  While together, Phil and Alice form a friendship while searching for her grandmother on a road trip.  This is a good entry from Wenders into the road trip genre.  Look for Chuck Berry in an appearance which is something Wenders seems to like to do seeing as Wenders put Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in WINGS OF DESIRE.  This is available to watch on Criterion Channel.

Star Wars:  Episode IX- The Rise of Skywalker (2019):  I bring the conclusion of this particular trilogy that follows THE FORCE AWAKENS AND THE LAST JEDI.  As always, I approach these knowing as little as possible besides the movies that I have seen.  I have even walked out of the theaters during previews and then come back when it is done.  J.J. Abrams directed this film and I will be rather vague about this one except that our friends Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, Finn, played by John Boyega, Poe, played by Oscar Isaac, Chewbacca, played by Joonas Suotamo, C-3PO, played Anthony Daniels, BB-8, and R2-D2 must go after the First Order and Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver.  There are also many other characters brought and and introduced but I find it best when it is vague.  This is one of those where I have seen both sides of love and hatred for what is possibly the most subjective franchise in film.  I must say that I really enjoyed this and the conclusion that happened.

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959):  Ed Wood directed this b-movie that may be a very bad movie but it's the best bad movie.  The plot here is that aliens resurrect the dead into essentially zombies to stop the humans from making what is called a Solbonite which I guess is a sun-driven bomb.  In Wood's defense to some extent is that he did have a very low budget to work with on his very ambitious project.  Bela Lugosi is in his last role here and dies during the filming.  To replace Mr. Lugosi, Wood cast his dentist Tom Mason and being much taller than Bela, they had the bright idea for him to cover his face with his cape so sometimes you see Lugosi and sometimes you see some guy covering his face with his cape.  Other legends include Vampira, Tor Johnson, and Criswell.   This has to be appreciated for what it is which is a b-movie classic which have cardboard tombs, really bad looking flying saucers, not great acting, among other things that make it what it is today.  This is available on Amazon Prime with or without Rifftrax commentary.

The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976):  Charles B. Pierce directed this very low budget horror film which is based on the Texarkana Moonlight Murders that happened in the '40s.  Ben Johnson stars as Captain Morales who comes to town to investigate the murders of "the Phantom Killer".  This was a hooded killer that would terrorize the town during the evening.  Andrew Prine, Dawn Wells, Jimmy Clem, Charles B. Pierce, Cindy Butler, Earl E. Smith, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a pretty well done slasher and one of the more underrated ones from this era.  I had never heard of this particular serial killer until I came across this movie.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

I Am Santa Claus (2014):  I end the week with this documentary which was inspired by my Mick Foley reading binge that is featured in "The Bookwork Corner" segment.  Tommy Avallone directed this documentary where he goes around interviewing five different people who play Santa Claus during the holidays.  One of them is Hardcore Legend Mick Foley who had put on the costume during WWE shows but decided to go all the way and really become the character.  For the others it goes into their lives when it is not the holidays and their preparation for when the time comes around.  Foley would go onto do appearances as Santa after all this which he documents in his fifth autobiography.  This is a pretty moving documentary about the everyday people who give it their all to be Santa.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

Well, that is it for this week but I do have a special feature of "The Bookworm Corner" where I pay homage to Mick Foley and I have returned with "Movie Time in the Town of Pottersville" where I watched couple movies with my friend Stephanie.  Tell me what like and dislike and stay tuned for next week.


This is from a binge read I started back in October where I decided to take a look at all five autobiographies from WWE Hall of Fame wrestler Mick Foley which took me just a little less than three months to accomplish.  Some question why someone would need five different autobiographies.  To be fair, each of these books take place during different eras of his life and his writing is very entertaining where he is reflecting on a wrestling match, his family life, or his times of being Santa Claus.

Have A Nice Day:  A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks by (2000):  This is the first of Foley's five autobiographies.  This covers a lot of his youth, more in his high school days where his wrestling inspiration comes about.  It also goes into the start of his wrestling training that was under Dominic Denucci.  It then goes into his wrestling career that consists of the independent promotions, Japan, his days in WCW, and up to the time in the WWE when he won his first championship.  This has a lot of funny stories and we get a more inside look into the mind of Foley who was known to do a lot to sacrifice his body like the King of the Death Match tournament in Japan.  While this is not the first wrestler autobiography, it is the one that started the trend.  Foley wrote this on the road with pen and paper, maybe pencil, I don't quite recall that one.  He is also a man that really paid his dues to get where he got and has some great road stories.

Foley is Good and the Real World is Faker than Wrestling (2002):  This is his second book which pretty picks up from where the first one left off.  This starts with I Quit match at ROYAL RUMBLE '99 with the Rock who many know got really carried away with his chair shots on Foley.  It goes up until his retirement match at the time at WRESTLEMANIA 2000.  This reflects a lot on his times in and out of wrestling.  He even talks about the development of his first book featured and his children's book MICK FOLEY'S CHRISTMAS CHAOS.  In this one, he also goes into some views on violence and the media, especially the extremist group the Parents Television Council aka the PTC.  This one is a lot shorter than the first one but still have over 400 pages but is still an informative and fun read on the wrestling industry.

The Hardcore Diaries (2008):  This is the third of his autobiographies but as the title indicates is more of a book of journal entries.  These are entries that lead up to his match at 2006 ONE NIGHT STAND where he envisions a tag team match where he teams up with Edge to take on ECW guys Terry Funk and Tommy Dreamer, or as Edge would say Tommay.  This talks a lot about him trying to get this together they way he wants and the disagreements from both creative and Vince McMahon that would continue to leave him derailed and questioning if it would be any good.  It also goes into some of his feud with Randy Orton and some of his outside projects.  He even talks some about his consideration to join the rival promotion Total Nonstop Action which most people know as TNA which would later happen.  This is far different from the first two where he would talk more about his personal and professional life.  This one as the title indicates is just him writing for a few weeks documenting his time leading to the mentioned pay per view.  This is still a very entertaining read and has some really funny as well as heartwarming stories.

Countdown to Lockdown (2010):  This is similar to the book before this one but this one is written during that stint he had with Total Nonstop Action which mostly people know as TNA.  In THE HARDCORE DIARIES, Foley talks about an offer he got to go there but turned it down when the WWE gave him a better deal.  As this book indicates, he did not stay in the WWE in this era.  This book reflects some of what makes him depart from WWE and writes weeks before leading into a match he had with Sting at their pay-per-view LOCKDOWN.  This also goes into detail about going to his work in Sierra Leone in West Africa where he did some really good things.  He talks a lot in high praise of Tori Amos and how her song WINTER is strangely motivational for him.  It is good to hear about the TNA guys in this one.  Foley continues his very entertaining and informative writing on his personal and professional life and we were blessed to have a fourth book from him.

Saint Mick (2017):  This is the last of his autobiographical novels at least for now.  This one focuses the least on his wrestling career and is more about his year-long obsession with Christmas.  The main focus is on his journey of becoming Santa Claus each year where it is far more than just putting on a Santa suit but is about making children believe he is Santa Claus.  There are also some funny stories of him trying to maintain the realness of being Santa with his two younger children.  There is also a lot of mention of Holiday World which is in my own state of Indiana and visited there on a few occasions in my childhood so maybe consider a trip to Santa Claus, Indiana with your children.  I enjoyed reading about his love for Christmas and putting smiles on the faces of children just as much as his wrestling career.  One thing that is for sure is whatever Mick does in life, he gives it everything he has.  This is the first I read digitally as I checked it out from the Hoopla Digital website.


Rocketman (2019):  When I went over to Stephanie's house, I had the idea she might want to see this movie and I was right.  Dexter Fletcher directed this rock biopic which features the rise of Reginald Dwight who would go onto be the iconic Elton John, played by Taron Egerton.  This shows Elton a little bit in his childhood when discovering his love and potential in music up to his rise.  Jamie Bell co-stars as Elton John's longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin who has been a very significant part to Elton's career.  This is told about his personal and professional life and is done in a fantasy way where his songs are turned into musical numbers which advance the story a lot of times.  Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, Gemma Jones, Steven Mackintosh, Tom Bennett, Matthew Illesley, Kit Connor, Charlie Rowe, Tate Donovan, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a very fun biopic on the legendary singer and is a great musical for those that are Elton John fans.  Stephanie and I laughed many times and really enjoyed this film.

Krampus (2015):  This night turned into a double feature when seeing Stephanie turn to her own dvds and so I just let her put the dvd in and watch whatever selection she made which turned out to be this horror comedy for the holidays.  Michael Dougherty directed and co-wrote this horror comedy about the festive demon.  Emjay Anthony co-stars as Max who has always been a big believer in Christmas but becomes disillusioned over his dysfunctional family which unleashes the wrath of Krampus where the family must band together to stop the demonic force including a great take on the Gingerbread Man, voiced by Seth Green.  David Koechner co-stars as Max's Uncle Howard who is practically today's Cousin Eddie from NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION so could be a good double feature for the holidays.  Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Stefania LaVie Owen, Krista Stadler, Conchata Ferrell, Allison Tolman, and many others co-star in this horror comedy.  This was both fun and creepy at the same time and enjoyable if not taken too seriously.  This is perfect for those that hate the Hallmark movies.  This was a great double feature for Steph and me to end the year out.

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