Sunday, March 22, 2020

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 744th Edition

Welcome to the 744th edition of my series.  Last week when I posted, Indiana's restaurants and bars were able to stay open of as of last Tuesday, our governor shut down dine in services.  I am fortunate that I work at my house but it is still not easy with my mostly extroverted lifestyle.  Usually when I write these things, I am at a coffee place, sometimes a bar, sometimes the library, or at other homes of friends.  This is the first one in years I wrote in my home.  I feel for those who are sick and wish them a full recovery.  I really feel for those that are unable to work because of the closings out there.  Just about all of us have had our way of life disrupted in some way.  I feel for those high school seniors that will not be able to experience the normal things that are typical for them.  This is something I would never even wish on my worst enemy.  At least I can still do this and don't think I'll run out of anything to watch on television so there's that as well.  The play I am in is being postponed indefinitely but they are determined to put it on at some point so there is something to hope for.  In all this, I will just continue to hold out for hope and wash my hands.  Now for my selections.

Shaft (2000):  John Singleton directed this updated version of the novel by Ernest Tidyman.  Samuel L. Jackson brings to life New York police detective John Shaft who is the nephew of the John Shaft from the '70s movies and Richard Roundtree reprises the role in this movie.  Shaft goes after murder suspect Walter Wade Jr., played by Christian Bale, who is very privileged and manages to always get away.  Shaft tires of the injustice and throws down his badge going after him on his terms.  Vanessa Williams, Jeffrey Wright, Busta Rhymes, Dan Hedaya, Toni Collette, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Josef Sommer, Lynne Thigpen, Philip Bosco, Pat Hingle, Lee Terguson, Daniel Von Bargen, Sonja Sohn, Peter McRobbie, Zach Grenier, Mekhi Phifer, Lawrence Taylor, and many others co-star in this film.  This does a good job of capturing the tone of the '70s movies and working it into the modern times.  Jackson is perfectly cast as Shaft.  This is very violent and vulgar but also quite fun if you can get past those two things.

Booked for Safekeeping (1960):  This is my short film for the week and is essentially a police training video from this era.  This shows how to deal with the mentally ill and being able to deal with this cases without injury or violence.  A lot of these videos are just comedic by today's standards but this actually holds up pretty well.  This is available on Amazon Prime and is part of the series "Vintage Police Films" so more could be featured in the coming weeks.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939):  Frank Capra directed this political film.  James Stewart stars as Jefferson Smith who is appointed to fill a vacancy is the senate.  Smith is a very idealistic and naive person who is the leader of a group called the Boy Rangers.  While being very excited at first to be a part of the political system, he slowly learns of the corruption that is going on.  With the help of his secretary Saunders, played by Jean Arthur, Jefferson does what he can to stand up to the corruption and get his bill passed.  Claude Rains, Edward Arnold, Guy Kibbee, Thomas Mitchell, Eugene Pallette, Beulah Bondi, H.B. Warner, Harry Carey, Astrid Allwyn, Ruth Donnelly, Grant Mitchell, Porter Hall, and many others co-star in this film.  This is one that still remains relevant today and is for all the everyday people in our world.  I also think politicians should be required to watch this movie every year.

Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert (2018):  This is my tv movie for the week and was a live presentation of the classic Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical.  John Legend takes the helm as Jesus and Brandon Victor Dixon co-stars as Judas whose view this musical is really from.  Sara Bareilles co-stars as Mary Magdalene and rock legend Alice Cooper plays King Herod.  Ben Daniels, Erik Gronwall, Jin Ha, Norm Lewis, Jason Tam, and many others co-star in this tv movie.  I did not see this when it aired and the biggest criticism I am seeing is that there were way too many commercials which I can see how hard it can be to go into a commercial break.  Most people I know were fine with Legend as our savior.  I watched it on a dvd I got from the library where there are no commercials and was very well done in my opinion with the set and performances.

How to Marry a Millionaire (1953):  Jean Negulesco directed this comedy that feature the trio of Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall.  They are three model friends who set out to marry men with a lot of money but gets complicated in very comical ways.  Each one have their own unique story and is quite the trio.  David Wayne, Rory Calhoun, Cameron Mitchell, Alexander D'Arcy, Fred Clark, William Powell, and many others co-star in this comedy.  These three women worked very well together.  There are a lot of very interesting inside references in this movie to the world of Hollywood.  I don't know if you'll learn much in the way of marrying millionaires but I do think you'll get some laughs.

Ballerina (2006):  This is my documentary for the week which was directed by Bertrand Normand.  This features five different Russian ballerinas and their stories of how they got where they are and where they are going.  I guess this goes well for me playing a Russian ballet instructor in a play.  This also gives a good look into the world of ballet and the discipline they have for what they do.  There is not much more I can say except that it is a very compelling documentary.

The Wiz (1978):  This is my second of three musicals this week.  This would be the ghetto version of THE WIZARD OF OZ and has an all black cast.  Diana Ross stars as Dorothy who in this situation is a Kindergarten teacher in Harlem and finds herself in the world of Oz.  While there, she meets the Scarecrow, played by Michael Jackson, the Tin Man, played by Nipsey Russell, and the Cowardly Lion, played by Ted Ross.  Mabel King, Theresa Merritt, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor, and many others co-star in this musical.  One criticism I have is about the sparse use of the witches which were played by King and Horne.  This is referred to as "A Motown Production" and was quite a music fest with its cast.  This is not as good as the 1939 classic or the later musical WICKED but this still has some pretty fun music numbers and don't mind an occasional watch with this one.

Kicking and Screaming (2005):  Now I bring a sports comedy which centers around youth soccer and is directed by Jesse Dylan.  Will Ferrell stars as Phil Weston who did not quite get the competitive gene from his father Buck, played by Robert Duvall.  Phil's son Sam, played by Dylan McLaughlin, gets traded to another team by his own grandfather and takes over the coaching duties when the other one backs out.  As Phil tries to coach the team, he slowly becomes very overbearing like his dad.  Kate Walsh, Musetta Vander, Josh Hutcherson, Steven Anthony Lawrence, Elliott Cho, Dallas McKinney, Sammy Fine, Timmy Deters, David Herman, Rachael Harris, Laura Kightlinger, Jim Turner, Julia Campbell, Phil Lewis, David Bowe, Matt Winston, and many others co-star in this comedy.  This is in some ways satire on youth sports when sometimes they get too competitive and forget the element of fun.  Ditka is amusing playing himself and Ferrell plays Phil in the way only Will Ferrell can which works very well in this movie in his rivalry with his father.  If looking for some laughs, this will give a lot.

12 Angry Men (1957):  Now I bring this classic which was directed by Sidney Lumet.  Henry Fonda stars as juror # 8 in this film where he is on a murder trial and while the eleven others were ready to find the defendant guilty, he was not convinced it was beyond reasonable doubt.  He is able to slowly get others to agree but juror #3, played by Lee J. Cobb, proves to be the most difficult.  Martin Balsam, Jack Warden, Ed Begley, John Fiedler, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, Edward Binns, Joseph Sweeney, George Voskovec, and Robert Webber play the rest of the jury.  This is a very intense film that just about all of it takes place in the jury room.  This became a very popular theme in both film and television.  It is also very popular to do as a play which I would love to be in one day.  This is a classic film that will always rank in my favorites.

The Greatest Showman (2017):  I end the week with my third musical featured this week which was directed by Michael Gracey.  Hugh Jackman stars as the legendary P.T. Barnum whose vision came true starting with a museum but would become an oddities show or as we know it a freak show.  His obsession with success however complicates his marriage with his wife Charity, played by Michelle Williams.  Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Austyn Johnson, Cameron Seely, Keala Settle, Sam Humphrey, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eric Anderson, Ellis Rubin, Skylar Dunn, Paul Sparks, Will Swenson, Byron Jennings, Betsy Aidem, Damian Young, Tina Benko, and many others co-star in this musical.  This has a lot of very memorable musical numbers, two of which I have done on karaoke which include FROM NOW ON and REWRITE THE STARS but I have yet to find a guy comfortable enough to sing THE OTHER SIDE.  This was a dream project for Jackman while Efron and Zendaya really hold their own in this amazing musical.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Julia Roberts, Emma Stone, Cate Blanchett, and many others.

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