Sunday, May 3, 2020

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 750th Edition

Welcome to the 750th Edition of my series.  I sit in the Fortress of Solitude again to bring this out.  Right now, I am not going to comment on what is going on except to just say let's try to support one another and just think rationally.  With that, I am just going to get on with my selections for this week.

Airplane (1980):  I start the week out with this classic spoof which was directed and written by Jim Abramans, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker.  As one might guess, this takes place on an airplane where the pilots get sick from food poisoning.  Robert Hays stars as Ted Striker who is hoping to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend Elaine, played by Julie Hagerty, and follows her onto the plane where she is a flight attendant.  Striker also happens to be an ex-fighter pilot and has not flown in a long time.  His services are needed and must overcome his fears to land the plane safely.  Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Leslie Nielson, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lorna Patterson, Frank Ashmore, Jonathan Banks, Barbara Billingsley, Lee Bryant, Joyce Bulifant, Marcy Goldman, Rossie Harris, James Hong, Ethel Merman, Kenneth Tobey, Jill Whelan, and many others co-star or have cameos.  Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves and Leslie Nielson all had the reputation for playing no-nonsense characters and were purposely cast in these straight roles to make the satire even more funny.  Nielson would be more the king of spoof movies after this and Bridges even continued these types of movies to an extent.  Lots of great gags going on in this comedy that has remained a timeless classic and a very defined spoof movie.

Griffin and Phoenix (2006):  Ed Hill directed this love story which stars Dermot Mulroney and Amanda Peet as the title characters.  Griffin, played by Mulroney, gets some bad news from his oncologist about cancerous legions spreading through his chest and only getting a year or two estimate to live.  He starts attending psychology classes on dealing with death and meets Phoenix, played by Peet, who happens to be an assistant Dean at the University.  He takes an immediate liking to her and she slowly warms up to his charm but does not tell her of his situation.  Sarah Paulson, Blair Brown, Alison Elliott, Lois Smith, Jonah Meyerson, Max Morris, Simon Jones, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a rather sad but still beautiful story about someone trying to make the most of his last days.  This was a remake to a 1976 movie of the same name which features Peter Falk and Jill Clayburgh in these roles so the personalities are sure to be a bit different.  I have not seen the original but just watching this was done very well through the performances of Mulroney and Peet.  This is a bit of a tearjerker but also delivers some laughs.

Heart:  Alive in Seattle (2003):  This is my concert movie for the week which features the band Heart in concert at the Paramount in Seattle which is the hometown of Ann and Nancy Wilson.  This features some of their classics like BARRACUDA and THESE DREAMS, it features some of their newer songs from this time, and a couple well-done Led Zeppelin covers.  They clearly put on a good concert so if you like Heart in any way, this will probably be enjoyed.  I never really have much to describe these types of movies since it will probably depend on how one feels about the band or singer.

Alphabet Antics (1951):  This is my short film for the week which was on the MST3K episode of the movie DADDY-O that was featured last week.  This essentially goes through the alphabet and having a word for each letter which were usually animals.  This might be entertaining for a little kid learning the alphabet but is more for the laughs these days.  This episode of MST3K is available to watch on Hoopla.

The Symbol of the Unconquered (1920):  This is my silent film for the week which was written and directed by Oscar Micheaux.  Iris Hall stars as Eve Mason who is a light-skinned black woman inherits land from her grandfather.  When arriving, she meets her neighbor Van Allen, played by Walker Thompson, who is living in an oil field and gets threats to sell which were notes by "The Knights of the Black Cross" which were really the KKK.  Micheaux was one of the pioneers in black cinema and as soon as I came across this I thought this must be the follow-up and counter to D.W. Griffith's A BIRTH OF A NATION which painted the blacks to be savages and the KKK to be the heroes even though the movie was very groundbreaking in terms of camera work and movie length.  This is about 54 minutes long and is not complete but I think most of it survives.  This is a decent early look at racism and there will be some terms that are politically incorrect by today's standards but were mostly okay at the time.  This is available on the Criterion Channel.

Red Sun (1971):  I decided to continue with Toshiro Mifune and make this a trilogy when coming across this American movie.  Charles Bronson stars as Link Stuart who is an outlaw in a gang that robs a train which has the Japanese ambassador.  They rob the gold shipment as well as an ancient Japanese sword they were going to give the president.  Link is betrayed by the gang and reluctantly teams with the ambassador's samurai bodyguard Kuroda, played by Mifune, to retrieve the sword and for Link to get payback.  Former Bond girl Ursula Andress teams up with the duo.  Alain Delon, Capucine, Barta Barri, Anthony Dawson, Luc Merenda, and many others co-star in the western.  One of the first thoughts I had with this duo was how this was kind of the original SHANGHAI NOON with Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan with the similarities on how the partnership comes about.  Yes, Mifune had a lot better work in Japan but this was a pretty fun western that brought combined the western and samurai world.

Rambo:  Last Blood (2019):  Adrian Grunberg directed this fifth installment of the franchise.  Sylvester Stallone, who also co-wrote the screenplay, reprises his role as John Rambo who is living a more peaceful life now with his old friend Maria, played by Adriana Barraza, and her granddaughter Gabriela, played by Yvette Monreal.  Gabriela refers to him as Uncle John but is more like a daughter to him and when she disappears, Rambo learns that she was kidnapped by a Mexican cartel.  He must resort to his violent ways when trying to go after her leading to possibly the most violent climax in the franchise.  Paz Vega co-stars as Carmen who is a reporter and helps Rambo find his daughter.  Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Joaquin Cosio, Oscar Jaenada, Jessica Madsen, Louis Mandylor, Fenessa Pineda, Marco de la O, and many others co-star in this installment.  I will say that the fourth one is my favorite and this one did not quite top it but still enjoyed this.  I will say for the five movies that they all have their own image and feel they do a good job of not rehashing while paying homage.  This will not be for everyone and is very disturbing, even more on the scenes with the kidnapped girls in my opinion than the violence that Rambo enacts.  There is also a very good use of the Doors song FIVE TO ONE in this movie.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

The Southerner (1945):  Jean Renoir directed this film based on the novel by George Sessions Perry.  Zachary Scott stars as Sam Tucker who has been a cotton picker and decides to grow his own cotton crop.  He moves his family, which includes his wife, children, and mother, to a new place and find that it will not be easy battling the elements of sickness and flooding.  He also has a jealous neighbor in Devers, played by J. Carrol Naish, who does not seem to want to see his fellow neighbor succeed.  Betty Field, Beulah Bondi, Percy Kilbride, Charles Kemper, Blanche Yurka, Norman Lloyd, Estelle Taylor, Paul Harvey, Noreen Nash, and many others co-star in this film.  This is more of a character study than anything, a man trying to make a better life for his family and refusing to give up.  This has good performances and a good script and really deserves a look.  This movie is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

A Boy and His Dog (1975):  When people see this title and have not heard of it I'm sure many will think something like a LASSIE or OLD YELLER type of story and I must say it is far from either one of those.  This in fact is a post-Apocalypse film which was directed by L.Q. Jones and based on the novel by Harlan Ellison.  A young Don Johnson stars as Vic who wanders the post-Apocalypse wasteland with his telepathic dog Blood, voiced by Tim McIntire, looking for food and sex.  Blood is a dog he is able to verbally communicate with but no one else seems to have that ability.  He is lured to an underground society where the old society has been preserved.  While it seems like a better place, he learns there is something far more sinister going on down there.  Susanne Benton, Jason Robards, Alvy Moore, Helene Winston, Charles McGraw, Hal Baylor, Ron Feinberg, Michael Rupert, and many others co-star in this film.  This was a very popular genre of film in this era and this one has gone onto be a bit overlooked in my opinion.  This movie stands on its own among the others of this genre and is great seeing Johnson before he became his iconic character of Sonny Crockett in MIAMI VICE.  No other way to really describe this except that it is really strange and has a lot of dark humor.  This is available on Hoopla Digital.

A Better Tomorrow (1986):  I end the week with this Hong Kong film where the title reflects what we are all wanting, especially in these times.  John Woo directed this action gangster classic film.  Ti Lung and Leslie Cheung star as brothers Ho and Kit.  They are on opposite sides of the law where Kit is on the police force and Ho has always lived a gangster life.  Ho has just been released from prison and is trying to go straight as well as reconcile his relationship with Kit who is very bitter towards his older brother.  He also finds that leaving the gangster life is nearly impossible.  Chow Yun-Fat stars as Mark Gor who is a longtime friend of Ho and has had his own issues having also feeling betrayed by those he worked for.  Emily Chu, Waise Lee, Feng Tien, John Woo, Kenneth Tsang, and many others co-star in this film.  This was really a breakthrough film for Chow who I learned was only not supposed to have that big of role but Woo saw his talent and reworked the script to give his a bigger role.  He has top billing but I am not sure he did when this first came out or if it was something they did when releasing it and having him as the big name actor.  This is an extremely violent film but at the same time it is also a very moving story of friendship and betrayal.  This spawned two sequels, a remake and many trying to match what they did.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Keanu Reeves, Samuel L. Jackson, Roman Polanski, Bette Davis, and many others.

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