Sunday, January 12, 2020

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 734th Edition

Welcome to the 734th Edition of my series.  I'm getting pretty excited about the NFL this year with the 49ers winning their playoff game last night and tonight I will find out if they play the Packers or the Seahawks.  I may have some announcements next week but I do not know yet so I'll just get on with my selections.

Cry Freedom (1987):  This is part one of a possible four-part Denzel Washington series where I start with some early work from Denzel.  Richard Attenborough directed this biopic based on the books BIKO and ASKING FOR TROUBLE:  THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A BANNED JOURNALIST by journalist Donald Woods, played by Kevin Kline.  Kline stars as Donald Woods who works for a South African newspaper and becomes friends with activist Steve Biko, played by Washington.  When Biko dies in police custody, Woods looks to get a book published but must put his life and his family's life on the line to flee the country.  Josette Simon, Kevin McNally, John Matshikiza, Penelope Wilton, Kate Hardie, Jim Findley, Julian Glover, Alec McCowen, and many others co-star in this biopic.  I was a little aware of Steve Biko before this movie on account of the Peter Gabriel song BIKO which was not part of this movie.  This is the only movie as of now that focuses on Biko but is more on Donald Woods who got the story out about him.  This is some really good early Denzel Washington and was very well done being worth a look.

Night Shift (1982):  This is part two of a two-part Henry Winkler series.  Ron Howard directed this comedy where he casts his HAPPY DAYS buddy Winkler as morgue worker Chuck Lumley whose life changes when he gets put on the night shift and his simpler life gets more complicated when obnoxious Billy Blazejowski, played by Michael Keaton in his feature film debut.  Chuck takes a liking to his prostitute neighbor Belinda, played by CHEERS alum Shelley Long in a role far from her role in the mentioned sitcom, and sees the abuse she is taking so when Billy hears about this, he suggests they turn the morgue into a brothel which Chuck reluctantly accepts.  Gina Hecht, Pat Corley, Bobby Di Cicco, Nita Talbot, Basil Hoffman, Clint Howard, Tim Rossovich, Joe Spinell, Ildkio Jaid, Richard Belzer, Vincent Schiavelli, Shannen Doherty, Kevin Costner, and many others co-star in this comedy.  The actress billed as Ildiko Jaid is actually Jaid Barrymore who is the mother of Drew.  Costner has more of a bit role as one of the frat boys and youth Shannen Doherty who is a "Blue Bell" which is essentially a girl scout.  Keaton and Winkler make a great duo in this '80s comedy which is one of those that could have really only worked in the '80s.  This is the start of what would be a great career for Keaton and this movie will give a lot of laughs.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013):  This is my Studio Ghibli anime selection for the week which was directed and co-written by Isao Takahata.  An old bamboo cutter, voiced by James Caan, finds a tiny girl in a bamboo stalk and along with his wife, voiced by Mary Steenburgen, takes her in but would rapidly grow and turns out to be Princess Kaguya, voiced by Chloe Grace Moretz and by Caitlyn Leone in the younger years.  She learns the ways of royalty but finds they are more restrictive that the more free childhood she had and must decide what she wants.  Beau Bridges, Dean Cain, John Cho, Emily Bridges, Darren Criss, Elisa Gabrielli, Daniel Dae Kim, Lucy Liu, James Marsden, Liam O'Brien, Oliver Platt, George Segal, and many others provide their voices in the American version of this film.  This is a lot different than other anime film especially in the presentation and drawings.  Hayao Miyazaki is usually the name that people associate with Studio Ghibli but Takahata has made his mark and this is one of them.  This is really one for the whole family.

Punch and Judy (1966):  This is my stop-motion animation short for the week which was written and directed by Jan Svankmajer.  This has a couple of puppets fighting over custody of a guinea pig.  This is some very early work from Svankmajer whose movie ALICE I featured a few weeks ago.  Svankmajer has a very strange mind and words cannot really describe this.  The plot description seems rather absurd but this short film shows some very clever animation used by about everything at hand.  This is available to watch on Youtube as well as quite a bit of his short works.

American Madness (1932):  Frank Capra directed this film which centers around a bank.  Walter Huston stars as Thomas Dickson who is the bank manager where everything is spinning out of control starting with the board wanting him to resign.  The more significant one is his protege Matt, played by Pat O'Brien, is being accused of robbing the bank but Thomas does not believe it but Matt does not make it easier when refusing to name sources.  Kay Johnson, Constance Cummings, Gavin Gordon, Arthur Hoyt, Robert Emmett O'Connor, and many others co-star in this film.  This is more early and unknown Capra but is kind of the first of his socially conscious films that he would be known for in the later years and really deserves a look.

The Harvey Girls (1946):  George Sidney directed this musical with the songs written by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer.  Judy Garland stars as Susan Bradley who comes to the old west when being a male order bride but does not take as much interest in her older suitor, played by Chill Wills.  She soon joins a new Harvey House restaurant being opened and finds competition in the saloon across the street.  She catches they eye of saloon owner Ned Trent, played by John Hodiak.  Angela Lansbury co-stars as the lounge singer at the saloon and Ray Bolger is very amusing as town blacksmith who has a very comical dance number.  Preston Foster, Virginia O'Brien, Marjorie Main Kenny Baker, Selena Royle, Cyd Charisse, Jack Lambert, Edward Earle, Ben Carter, and many others round out this all-star cast.  Judy does great in a more comedic role and is one of her more underrated films.  This is a very fun song and dance musical with a decent story to go along with it.

All That Heaven Allows (1955):  Douglas Sirk directed this love story of rather forbidden love.  Jane Wyman stars as the wealthy and widowed Cary Scott and becomes friends with her gardener Ron Kirby, played by Rock Hudson.  They soon fall in love but her being wealthy and him being a more modest and younger person, she meets the disapproval among her circle of friends and children for being so different.  Agnes Moorehead, Conrad Nagel, Virginia Grey, Gloria Talbott, William Reynolds, Charles Drake, Jacqueline deWit, Leigh Snowden, Donald Curtis, and many others co-star in this film.  The first thing that works about this movie is Wyman and Hudson in a very complicated relationship.  What also makes it work is the use of colorization that are symbolic to the feelings at that time.  It is hard to really describe this any further without giving anything away except that it really conveys the small town life and social class in this era.  Good date night movie that is enjoyable for both genders.

And Justice For All (1979):  Norman Jewison directed this trial thriller.  Al Pacino stars as defense attorney Arthur Kirkland who has a lot of difficult trials coming up but his most known one is of judge Henry T. Fleming, played by John Forsythe.  Fleming is being accused of rape and Arthur must defend him in court even though they do not like each other with Arthur questioning if his client is guilty or not.  Jack Warden, Lee Strasburg, Christine Lahti, Jeffrey Tambor, Same Levene, Thomas G. Waites, Larry Bryggman, Craig T. Nelson, Dominic Chianese, Joe Morton, and many others co-star in this film.  Tambor makes his feature film debut.  This is a pretty intense film and really conveys the morel dilemma of a defense attorney and the effect it can have on them.  This has a great climax in the courtroom that was was not out of order in terms of movie scenes.

Richard Jewell (2019):  Clint Eastwood goes behind the camera once again for this biopic on a man who saved the lives of many from an exploding bomb during the 1996 Olympics only to be vilified by the media and FBI as a suspect.  Paul Walter Hauser stars as Jewell whose idealism of law and order is really challenged when being suspected of exploding a bomb.  Sam Rockwell co-stars as Jewell's attorney Watson Bryant who really had more of a job in the way of how Jewell talks to the media and law enforcement with his social ineptitude.  Kathy Bates co-stars as Jewell's mother whose life was also turned very difficult with the media circus in front of her home.  Olivia Wilde, Jon Hamm, Mike Pniewski, Ian Gomez, Nina Arianda, and many others co-star in this biopic.  I remember these events going on when this was happening and thinking even then how ridiculous this was.  Hauser plays the part very well with Rockwell also very good as his attorney doing what he can to help both clear his name.  This conveys the competition of media and doing what they can to get the story out while having a big effect on others.  This was worth a trip to the theaters.

Grumpy Old Men (1993):  I end the week on this comedy which was directed by Donald Petrie.  Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau star as long-time neighbors, friends and also rivals John Gustafson and Max Goldman who insult and play pranks one another at every turn.  Their rivalry goes further when their new neighbor Ariel moves across the street and they are both attracted to her.  Burgess Meredith is very amusing as John's rather horny father.  Daryl Hannah, Kevin Pollak, Ossie Davis, Buck Henry, Christopher McDonald, Joe Howard, John Carroll Lynch, and many others co-star in this comedy.  I've always had a place in my hard for this comedy and its sequel.  This is the sixth of ten pairings with Lemmon and Matthau who I realize were frenemies before frenemies became a thing.  This will deliver plenty of laughs without getting too raunchy.

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

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