Sunday, January 19, 2020

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 735th Edition

Welcome to the 735th Edition of my series.  It's been a rather busy week.  I got myself cast in the radio play TREASURE ISLAND at the Richmond Civic Theater as part of their Richmond Radioworks.  We rehearsed the show for a week and yesterday we did the recording for the show.  I played the roles of Black Dog, Captain Smollett, and, Tom Morgan.  They still have some sound effects and editing to do in order to make the final product.  This will air on some station in Richmond and they do have a website.  I will keep posted on when that gets aired.  Tonight, I will be glued to the football game when the 49ers take on the Packers and I'm hoping the Niners will advance to the Super Bowl.  Not much else happening so I'll just get on with my selections.

He Got Game (1998):  This is part two of a possible four-part Denzel Washington series.  Spike Lee wrote and directed this basketball film.  NBA legend Ray Allen stars as Jesus Shuttlesworth who is a high school basketball star and the most sought after player.  Denzel co-stars as Jesus's estranged father Jake who has been in prison and is released to convince his son to sign with the governor's alma mater university.  Milla Jovovich, Rosario Dawson, Hill Harris, Zelda Harris, Ned Beatty, Jim Brown, Joseph Lyle Taylor, Bill Nunn, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Roger Guinveur Smith, John Turturro, Lonette McKee, Arthur J. Nascarella, Rick Fox, and many others co-star in this film.  Also look for porn star Chasey Lain who would probably become more known in 2000 when the Bloodhound Gang wrote a song about her.  There are also some cameos from a few people in the basketball world.  This is a pretty good look into the world of urban basketball.  Washington was also really good as Jake who was trying to reconnect with his family.  Spike Lee originally had Kobe Bryant in mind to play Jesus Shuttlesworth but he declined and Allen held his own with the cast.  This also has a pretty good rap soundtrack, a lot of which from Public Enemy.

Mr. Duck Steps Out (1940):  This is my Disney short for the week which centers around Donald Duck.  Donald is heading to meet up with Daisy but his nephews Huey, Dewie, and Louie follow their uncle with Donald trying to ditch them but to no success.  We eventually get to see Donald do the Jitterbug.  Clarence Nash voices all five characters very well and each one being very distinct  A question I thought of though was do Huey, Dewie, and Louie know who their parents are?  This is available to watch on Disney Plus.

One, Two, Three (1961):  This is part of a possible James Cagney series.  Billy Wilder directed this comedy that takes place in West Berlin during the Cold War.  Cagney stars as C.R. MacNamara who is an executive with Coca-Cola in West Berlin.  His life spins out of control when he is charged with watching the boss's daughter Scarlett, played by Pamela Tiffin.  She ends up marrying Otto, Horst Buchholz, who is a staunch communist and everyone else looks to make him presentable to his new father in law.  Pamea Tiffin, Arlene Francis, Howard St. John, Leon Askin, Hubert Von Meyerinck, and many others co-star in this comedy.  This is one of those that is hard to really put into words.  It is essentially satire on the Cold War.  This was Cagney's last movie until his actual last movie in 1981 where he was in RAGTIME.  A good double feature would be to watch this along with this one would be the 1964 film DR. STRANGELOVE which also has an interesting reference to Coke and has a rather similar message, just darker than the one featured.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008):  Peter Sollett directed this comedy which is based on the novel by Rachel Cohn.  Michael Cera and Kat Dennings star as the title characters.  Nick is going through a breakup and Norah's concerns seem to lie on the local music scene.  They have a chance encounter where they become friends and are looking for the same band.  Along the way among their friends, they go on a series of misadventures while slowly forming a relationship as long as Nick can let go of Tris, played by Alexis Dziena.  Aaron Yoo, Rafi Gavron, Ari Graynor, Jonathan B. Wright, Zackary Booth, Jay Baruchel, Seth Meyers, Lorene Scafaria, Andy Samberg, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Frankie Faison, John Cho, Kevin Corrigan, John Cantwell, and many others co-star in this comedy or have cameos.  This is a pretty funny movie with the leads working very well together.  It is also a nice homage to the local music scene.

The Skin Game (1931):  This is some early work from Alfred Hitchcock and based on a play by John Galsworthy.  This centers around a family feud between the Hillcrests and Hornblowers.  The Hillcrest family are upset with Mr. Hornblower, played by Edmund Gwenn long before his iconic role of Kris Kringle in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, who buying land and evicting tenant farmers.  Helen Haye, Jill Esmond, John Longden, Phyllis Konstam, Frank Lawton, and many others co-star in this film.  I usually favor Hitchcock's much later work in the '50s and '60s but this is still a pretty compelling watch about feuding families.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel but is leaving at the end of the month as well as some other Hitch selections.

Beast (2017):  Michael Pearce wrote and directed this independent film.  Jessie Buckley stars as Moll who lives in a tiny island community and is pretty much the black sheep of her family.  She meets the charming and intriguing Pascal, played by Johnny Flynn, who she forms a relationship with but he is a suspect in a series of murders.  Geraldine James, Charley Palmer Rothwell, Shannon Tarbet, Trystan Gravelle, Emily Taaffe, Hattie Gotobed, co-star in this film.  This is loosely based on a real-life person dubbed the Beast of Jersey.  This was really driven most by the chemistry of Buckley and Flynn.  Pearce makes his feature film debut with this one and is quite a start so hopefully things will just continue to improve.

The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975):  This is my tv movie for the week which was directed by Paul Wendkos.  Our favorite tv witch Elizabeth Montgomery takes a darker turn when playing Lizzie Borden who was the main suspect in the ax murders of her father and stepmother which happened in 1882 Massachusetts.  This movie mostly centers around Borden's trial which was quite a spectacle.  Fionnula Flanagan, Ed Flanders, Katherine Helmond, Don Porter, Fritz Weaver, Bonnie Bartlett, John Beal, Gloria Stuart, and many others co-star in this tv movie.  This was broadcast on ABC and was pretty daring for its time.  This is a legend that has lived on through many generations and strangely inspiring a nursery rhyme.  Montgomery was a real-life cousin of Borden and portrayed her cousin very well.  This is available to watch on Youtube.

Free Solo (2018):  This is my documentary for the week which was directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.  I know some might look at this title and think it is about people banding together to get Han Solo free from the frozen carbonate but this movie has nothing to do with STAR WARS.  This centers around Alex Honnald who attempts to become the first person to ever free solo climb El Capitan.  For those who do not know, free solo is climbing without any kind of wires.  The documentary centers around all the preparation it took for this to happen and some of the footage of the climb.  Honnold himself is already a fascinating person and his climbing exploits make this a must watch documentary.  There is not much more to say on this one except that this is available to watch on Disney Plus.

A Cantebury Tale (1944):  Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger wrote and directed this film.  Eric Portman, Sheila Sim, and Dennis Price all play different characters who arrive in a British town and unexpectedly come together to investigate some strange crimes going on in the town.  John Sweet, Esmond Knight, Charles Hawtry, Hay Petrie, George Merritt, Edward Rigby, Freda Jackson, and many others co-star in this film.  This is one that is really hard to describe.  It takes place during WWII and involves a couple soldiers but it is not a war film.  Something I found when looking into this is that GONE WITH THE WIND author Margaret Mitchell was on her way to see this movie and was hit by a speeding car in which she would die days later.  The movie has a fair amount of comedy in it and is driven well by the main characters.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Collection.

About Elly (2009):  I end the week with this Iranian film which was directed by Asghar Farhadi.  Golshifteh Farahani stars as Sepideh who invites her friend Elly, played by Taraneh Alidoosti, to join her and the family for a weekend at seaside.  Elly is also the Kindergarten teacher for Sepideh's daughter.  Elly eventually disappears and Sepideh and the family must figure out what happened which lead to a lot of secrets.  This is a pretty good story of how something like a disappearance affects each person in a different way.  This is another one that words don't really describe very well except it is a good story with good performances and deserves a look.

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

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