Sunday, February 2, 2020

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 737th Edition

Welcome to the 737th Edition of my series.  I am very excited about tonight where I get to see my favorite team the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl where they take on the Kansas City Chiefs.  I'm hoping the Niners continue their dominant ways but I know the reality of anything can happen so I will be glued to that television tonight.  Usually, I want to see a close game but with my own team in it, I just want a 49ers win even if it is a blowout.  I don't even care about the commercials and I'm okay with the halftime show of Jennifer Lopez and Shakira.  I do feel people make too big of deal of a 15-20 minute concert sometimes.  I have also been working on a Russian accent this week in preparation to my upcoming play YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU which happens in April.  I think I've talked long enough so on with my selections for the week.

Glory (1989):  This is part four of my four-part Denzel Washington series and start the week out with this Civil War film which was directed by Edward Zwick and based on a book by Lincoln Kirstein.  Matthew Broderick stars as Union Colonel Robert Gould Shaw who leads the first black regiment in the Civil War and must deal with with the prejudices of the enemy as well as from within his unit.  Cary Elwes co-stars as his Shaw's best friend Major Cabot Forbes who volunteers to work alongside Shaw with their friendship being tested in the way Shaw runs the army.  Morgan Freeman plays one of his usual inspirational characters in motivating his unit while keeping his friend Private Shaw, played by Washington, in line.  Andre Braugher, John Finn, Donovan Leitch Jr., JD Callum, Alan North, Bob Gunton, Cliff De Young, Richard Riehle, Mark Margolis, and many others co-star in this film.  This is more of an ensemble Civil War film which centers around the characters played by Broderick, Elwes, Freeman, Washington and even Braugher.  This is based on a real unit and is a pretty compelling story.  I didn't really know much about the actors at this time but appears Broderick kind of branched out from his usual comedic roles really showing his acting range as the inexperienced colonel.  This is really worth a look and maybe a good double feature could be Zwick's other Civil War era film THE LAST SAMURAI.

Ragtime (1981):  This is part three of my James Cagney trilogy which is his last feature film besides the 1984 tv movie TERRIBLE JOE MORAN.  This was also his first movie in 20 years.  Milos Forman directed this film which is based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow.  This features multiple stories in 1910s New York with the main one at focus is of Colehouse Walker Jr., played by Howard E. Rollins Jr., who is a black jazz pianist which does not sit will with some white people including a group of prejudice firemen that assault him and vandalize his car.  Through principle, he looks to get justice but to no avail and resorts to criminal activity.  Cagney gets top billing but is more of a supporting character as Commissioner Waldo.  It is more of an ensemble movie though where Brad Dourif, Moses Gunn, Elizabeth McGovern, Kenneth McMillan, Pat O'Brien, Donald O'Connor, James Olson, Mandy Patinkin, Mary Steenburgen, Debbie Allen, Jeffrey DeMunn, Robert Joy, Bruce Boa, Jeff Daniels, Fran Drescher, Frankie Faison, Richard Griffiths, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Jeter, John Ratzenberger, and many others co-star in this film.  This is really a slice of life sort of movie from that era that deals with the prejudice that happened and even their own pop culture.  This is known to be a stage musical but this version is not a musical.  This is still a very compelling film with a great cast.

Katy Perry:  Part of Me (2012):  Leave it to me to go from the Civil War and the 1910s era to a documentary of a pop singer but that is what I do.  Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz directed this documentary which follows Katy Perry during her California Dreams World Tour.  This takes a look at the preparation that must happen and even the ups and downs of her own personal life.  There are also some biographical elements of her where her parents are both preachers and went from singing Gospel to what she does now.  I try not to dismiss other singers just because they are in the pop music genre and have found myself liking a lot of Perry's songs.  I do feel she sticks out from the other singers out there and does write much of her music.  This documentary does show the hard work that her and her team put on in order to put on the best show possible.  Those that absolutely do not like Perry likely will not like this movie but people at least tolerant of her should be able to enjoy this movie.

The Organ Grinder (1933):  This is my animated short for the week which features and organ grinder and his very talented monkey who can dance and do impressions like of Harpo Marx.  They go around the New York area performing for people in the streets.  This is a pretty fun few minutes and is available on the dvd of last week's feature of THE MAYOR OF HELL.

Treasure Island (1950):  Having been in a radio version of this story, I decided to take a look at this live action Disney movie.  Byron Haskin directed this film which is based on the story by Robert Louis Stevenson.  Bobby Driscoll stars as Jim Hawkins who is on board a ship to locate a buried treasure but the group must deal with a group of pirates lead by Long John Silver, played by Robert Newton.  Basil Sydney, Walter Fitzgerald, Denis O'Dea, Finley Currie, Geoffrey Keen, John Laurie, John Gregson, and many others co-star in this Disney film.  This is actually the first live-action movie from Disney which is obviously more known for their animation.  Newton was great as the famed pirate who started the fast food chain later in life and would go onto play Silver in a couple other movies.  I will look to keep everyone informed when the radio version that I was a part of is broadcast.  This is available to watch on Disney Plus along with other versions.

Annie Hall (1977):  Woody Allen directed and co-wrote this comedy in which he also stars as comedian Alvy Singer who is reflecting on his relationship with the title character, played by Diane Keaton.  With it, he reflects on his childhood that lead to his neurotic personality.  Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Paul Simon, Shelley Duvall, Janet Margolin, Colleen Dewhurst, Christopher Walken, John Glover, Jeff Goldblum, Shelley Hack, Beverley D'Angelo, Tracey Walter, Sigourney Weaver, and many others co-star in this comedy.  It it really hard to describe this movie in a simple way besides what I said.  This is an early film of breaking the fourth wall and thought of the much later tv series THE OFFICE in the way they sometimes talk into the camera.  There are a lot of other clever comedic elements worked into the comedy.  If you just cannot stand Woody, this probably is not one to watch but for others it will have some laughs.

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961):  Roger Corman directed this adaptation of the classic story from what you might call the grandfather of horror in Edgar Allen Poe.  I'm open to disagreement on that statement.  This takes place in the 16th Century where Francis Bernard, played by John Kerr, travels to a castle in Spain when learning of his sister's death.  Vincent Price stars as the sister's husband Nicholas Medina who tells Francis she died of a blood disease but he has a hard time believing that was what happened.  Barbara Steele, Luana Anders, Antony Carbone, Patrick Westwood, and many others co-star in this classic.  This is the second of Corman's Poe stories and would go onto do six more.  Price is cast perfectly as Medina.  Some might point to this as Corman's best work which could be justified.  This is a nice and creepy feel to it and is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

Goodbye, My Lady (1956):  William A. Wellman directed this film which is based on the novel by James Street.  Walter Brennan and Brandon De Wilde star as Jesse and Skeeter Jackson who are uncle and nephew living together in the Mississippi swamps.  They work everyday for survival and Skeeter encounters an unusual looking dog that no one knows the breed and Skeeter takes an immediate liking to it and is able to talk his uncle into keeping the dog.  They train the dog to be a bird dog and form a strong bond but soon learn the dog is missing and must decide what is best.  Phil Harris, Sidney Poitier, William Hopper, Louise Beavers, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a pretty touch movie and any dog lover is going to take a liking to this.  Most would know De Wilde as the boy in SHANE and appears to have gone onto be a rather underrated child actor.  Brennan and De Wilde work very well together as what appears to be a great-uncle and nephew.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.

Parasite (2019):  This is my Korean film for the week and one that has won a lot of awards so I thought I'd give this a look.  Bong Joon Ho directed and co-wrote this film of an unemployed family and when one of them learns of a scheme to pose as a English tutor of a wealthy family, they all make their way into the family some way or another getting entangled in an unexpected incident.  Kang-Ho Song, Sun-Kyun Lee, Yeo- Jeong Jo, Woo-Sik Choi, So-Dam Park, Jeong-Eun Lee, Hye-Jin Jang, and many others co-star in this film.  I went in not really knowing a lot about this movie and did not expect to be so bizarre.  I was looking for a movie to see at my local movie theater where they have $5 off Tuesday and usually don't get the opportunity to see a foreign language film in the theaters so I jumped onto this one.  This could be described as a dark comedy in some ways.  There were many times I thought "wtf" but yet could not take my eyes off it.  There were also a lot of moments where I would laugh and feel kind of bad about it.  This is probably not one to take the kids to see but if you can tolerate subtitles and dark comedy this is worth a trip to the movie theaters.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007):  I end the week with this Romanian film which was presented to us at my local library as part of the monthly Cinemuncie film series brought to us by Dennis the Librarian Menace.  Cristian Mungiu wrote and directed this film that takes place in 1987 Romania.  Laura Vasiliu stars as Gabita who is in an unwanted pregnancy and is looking to get an abortion which is very illegal in that country.  Anamaria Marinca co-stars as Gabita's friend and roommate Otilia who looks to help her friend get the illegal abortion and finds an abortionist named Bebe, played by Vlad Ivanov.  Bebe agrees to do the job but at a price both financially and figuratively.  What is being described is likely not for everyone and is not the easiest movie to watch.  The camerawork is very interesting where it the camera work is done by a person following them and as someone referenced after the movie that we are a bit voyeuristic in a world we should not be in.  Before the movie Dennis talked to us about the Romanian New Wave of film that this movie is part of that focus on a realist and minimalist approach.  I am grateful that Dennis has the guts to put on movies like these in the library and this can be seen on the Criterion Channel.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week.

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