Sunday, May 24, 2020

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 753rd Edition

Welcome to the 753rd Edition of my series.  I hope all is having a good Memorial Day weekend and for me it was a birthday weekend as my birthday was last Friday.  It was a bit disappointing that I could not sing karaoke but I know I will soon.  As you can see at the end, new dates have been announced for YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU in Elwood which are on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Yes, that is unusual for theater but our director wanted to retain the original cast put together at the beginning of the year and that was the only way.  There is not much else happening so I'll just bring my selections for the week.

Five (2011):  I start the week out with this ensemble drama that have five interconnected stories of breast cancer and the impact it has on their lives and the lives around them.  Jennifer Aniston, Patty Jenkins, Alicia Keys, Demi Moore, and Penelope Spheeris each direct a segment of this movie.  Each one has kind of a variety of ways of dealing with their issue.  Jeanne Tripplehorn is the closest to the star of this film where she plays the doctor who must give them the dreaded news and help however she can.  Patricia Clarkson, Rosario Dawson, Lyndsy Fonseca, Ginnifer Goodwin, Ava Acres, Carla Gallo, Aisha Hinds, Josh Holloway, Jennifer Morrison, Austin Nichols, Annie Potts, Xander Berkeley, Kathy Najimy, Romy Rosemont, Tony Shalhoub, Jenifer Lewis, Trecee Ellis Ross, Jeffrey Tambor, David Eigenberg, Taylor Kinney, Bob Newhart, Ravi Patel, Alan Ruck, Scott Wilson, Talyan Wright, Mark Daneri, and many others co-star in this Lifetime tv movie.  This is a pretty insightful film on a dreaded topic that is sad at times but also inspires and brings a few laughs like Clarkson's character staging her own funeral.

Captain America:  The First Avenger (2011):  I go from a Lifetime drama to the MCU superhero film.  Joe Johnston directed this origin story of Captain America.  After being in rather average superhero films as the Human Torch in THE FANTASTIC FOUR movies, Chris Evans finds his niche as the very patriotic Steve Rogers.  This starts out during WWII where at this time Steve is a very short person and has a lot of disease that get him rejected from military activity.  He feels that it is his duty to serve no matter how weak he might be.  Dr. Abraham Erskine, played by Stanley Tucci, recruits him to be a part of the secret Project Rebirth where Steve becomes a whole new person in terms of his body.  At first Rogers as used as the propaganda piece Captain America but feeling he is not being used right, he leads a rescue mission with the help of Peggy Carter, played by Hayley Atwell, and goes after the Nazi group HYDRA, lead by Red Skull, played by Hugo Weaving.  This also shows how Captain America gets to the modern era to join the Avengers.  Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Dominic Cooper, Richard Armitage, Toby Jones, Neal McDonough, Derek Luke, Kenneth Choi, JJ Feild, Bruno Ricci, Lex Shrapnel, Michael Brandon, Martin Sherman, Natalie Dormer, and many others co-star in this superhero film.  I feel his solo movies are the best of the MCU thought CAPTAIN AMERICA:  CIVIL WAR was more of an Avengers movie.  I really enjoyed this origin story that would lead to two more Captain America and a pretty good tv series in AGENT CARTER.  This is available on Amazon Prime and Disney Plus and is the last movie before the first Avengers film of the MCU series.

Once Upon a Mattress (2005):  This is technically an episode of THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY where they adapt the popular musical which is a version of the fairy tale THE PRINCESS AND THE PEA.  Kathleen Marshall directed this tv movie based on the musical by Mary Rodgers and Marshall Barer.  Carol Burnett stars as the tyrannical Queen Aggravain who has decreed that no one in the town can marry until her son Prince Dauntless, played by Denis O'Hare, but none of the potential princesses seem to be able to pass the Queen's tests and get rejected.  Things get difficult for the Queen when Princess Winnifred, played by Tracey Ullman, comes along and shows she is hard to get rid of and determined to marry Dauntless.  Zooey Deschanel, Matthew Morrison, Michael Boatman, Tom Smothers, Edward Hibbert, Michelle Harrison, and many others co-star in this musical.  This is a pretty fun adaptation of the musical with Ullman clearly enjoying her role and Burnett very enjoyable as the Queen.  This is available to watch on Disney Plus.

An American Girl (1958):  This is my short film for the week.  This centers around a teenage girl named Norma who decides to wear a Jewish charm bracelet that she received for her birthday.  When wearing this, she discovers anti-semitism  and prejudice attitudes from her friends.  This is a pretty early look at the prejudices of the world and starts by saying "This film is dedicated to America's teen-agers and to their unerring instinct for juvenile DECENCY.  This short film has no film credits and no one seems to know the actress playing the role of Norma.  A young Patty Duke plays her little sister and Frank Overton and Audra Lindley play her parents.  This is about a half hour long and can be found on Youtube as well as Amazon Prime in the "Prejudice Films" which has a handful of short films.

Young and Innocent (1937):  Alfred Hitchcock directed this film which has possibly his favorite story elements of the wrongly accused and based on the novel by Josephine Tey.  Derrick De Marney stars as writer Robert Tisdall who comes across an actress girlfriend who has died and when trying to report it is immediately suspected.  Nova Pilbeam co-stars as Erica who is the daughter of the police constable and goes with Robert upon his escape believing his innocence and they must set out to find the real person.  Percy Marmont, Edward Rigby, Mary Clare, John Longden, Basil Radford, George Merritt, J.H. Roberts, and many others co-star in this film.  As I said in the beginning, this was Hitchcock's favorite sort of element in dealing with the wrongly accused.  I thought this one one of Hitchcock's better movies from this era with Tisdall and Pilbeam working very well together.  I also thought this was the best Hitchcock cameo I have seen where is a photographer.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.

The Mechanic (1972):  Michael Winner directed this action film that centers around the world of hitmen where they are referred to by the title.  Charles Bronson stars as Arthur Bishop who has been a hit man for a long time and is looking to retire.  Jan-Michael Vincent co-stars as Steve McKenna, a young man wanting to learn the trade and is brought in by Arthur as an apprentice.  Keenan Wynn, Jill Ireland, Frank DeKova, James Davidson, Lindsay Crosby, and many others co-star in this action film.  It is hard to really explain this movie much further without giving it away.  I personally prefer the remake years later with Jason Statham but this still is watchable and kind of a star making role for Bronson who a couple years later would be in one of his most known movies DEATH WISH.

Escape at Dannemora (2018):  This is my mini-series for the week which was directed by Ben Stiller and created by Brett Johnson and Michael Tolkin.  Benicio Del Toro and Paul Dano star as prison inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat who are planning a prison escape with the help of prison employee Tilly Mitchell, played by Patricia Arquette, and both have been with Tilly romatically.  Bonnie Hunt, Eric Lange, David Morse, Jeremy Bobb, Michael Beasley, Calvin Dutton, Dominic Colon, Gregory Dann, Johanna Day, Carolyn Mignini, Michael Imperioli, Jim Parrack, and many others co-star in this mini-series.  This has seven episodes roughly around an hour with the last one more like an hour and a half.  This is based on the actual 2015 Clinton Correctional Facility escape.  Arquette is nearly unrecognizable as Tilly who the movie revolves around most in her job and her troubled marriage.  This was originally shown on Showtime and is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

Carnival Story (1954):  Kurt Neumann directed by this movie which obviously centers around a carnival.  This is a struggling American carnival group that relocates to Germany.  Anne Baxter stars as pickpocket Willi who gets a job through Joe the Barker, played by Steve Cochran, after he catches her trying to pickpocket him.  Lyle Bettger co-stars as high diver Frank who recruits Willi to be his assistant and falls in love with her which leads to a love triangle and tragedy.  George Nader, Jay C. Flippen, Helene Stanley, Ady Berber, and many others co-star in this carnival melodrama.  The movie is billed as "An American carnival in Germany sets the scene for sin, sex, and melodrama" but is a more simple story of a scheming young girl.  It also does a good job of conveying the carny life from that era.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

Salesman (1969):  This is my documentary for the week which was directed by Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin.  This takes a look at a few men who are door to door salesman at a company that sells expensive bibles.  Most of the people they talk to are rather low income people who cannot afford that fancy bible but they are still relentless in their sales.  This also shows the struggles of being homesick and burnout.  I once played a bible salesman in a play but cannot imagine that sort of job in real-life.  There is not much more I can say on this except it is a pretty compelling documentary from that time.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.

Best in Show (2000):  I end the week with this great mockumentary after hearing that Fred Willard unfortunately left us and I can't think of a better movie to pay homage to Willard in my favorite role of his as the rather inappropriate color commentator of a dog show.  Christopher Guest directed and co-stars in this comedy that centers around the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show.  This takes a look at a very diverse group of people entering their dog into the dog show.  Willard, Parker Posey, Michael Hitchcock, Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Bob Balaban, Michael McKean, John Michael Higgins, Patrick Cranshaw, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Lynch, Larry Miller, Ed Begley Jr., Jim Piddick, Jay Brazeau, Lewis Arquette, Will Sasso, and many others co-star in this classic comedy.  As indicated in the beginning, this is shot like a documentary and the cast work great together in a movie that is mostly improv from the actors.  I always thought Posey was the most entertaining along with Willard's color commentator character.  The whole movie though is hilarious remaining one of my favorites.

Well, that is it for this week but continue on for "The Bookworm Corner" segment.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week.


I decided to do a binge on the novels of Elmore Leonard and to those that feature the character Raylan Givens that was made famous on the FX series JUSTIFIED.  People know right away about authors like Stephen King, John Grisham, and Tom Clancy but I feel Elmore Leonard is a bit underrated even though many of his books have been adapted for television and film which include GET SHORTY, OUT OF SIGHT, and JACKIE BROWN.  When I was in high school, for English class, we had to read 300 pages of a book and then have a verbal report of it with the teacher at the end of the grading period.  I was not much of a reader but I set out to find me a book at the book store that might interest me so I came across his book MAXIMUM BOB, which was also a tv series that was unfortunately short lived, and when I started reading that book I was hooked and used quite a bit of his books to get me through Outside Reading.  I credit Elmore for getting me through high school in some ways.

Pronto (1993):  This is the first of the four novels by Leonard that feature United States Marshall Raylan Givens.  This centers around Miami bookie Harry Arno who has been operating for twenty years and has been skimming profits for the twenty years.  He is looking to retire in Italy along with his girlfriend Joyce but local mobster Jimmy Cap looks to put a hit on him.  U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens is trying to get Arno to testify (in front of a grand jury but is able to flee Givens and go to Italy in hopes of hanging out.  Givens has an idea of where he is going and goes out there to catch as well as protect Arno but there are also some of Jimmy Cap's men also looking for Arno to kill.  Like just about all of Leonard's books, it is a very complex story yet also very easy to follow and enjoy.

Riding the Rap (1995):  This is a sequel to the 1993 book.  This continues with bookie Harry Arno who is kidnapped by an unlikely trio that involves a Palm Beach pothead, a Bahamian ex-con, and a Puerto Rican gardener turned mob enforcer in hopes to be able to get the ransom from one of Harry's offshore accounts.  They figure no one will care when Harry goes missing but Raylan Givens learns of it and takes it upon himself to find Harry.  The last person to see Harry was a psychic named Dawn who Raylan tries to determine if she is legit or in on the kidnapping.  I actually liked this one better than the first.  This has a very clever story and is a great two-part novel which is easier to understand having read the first but is not a requirement.

Fire in the Hole and Other Stories (2012):  This is a collection of short stories by Leonard, the title story is the one that includes Raylan and the basis for the FX series JUSTIFIED.  There is another story that features his female marshall Karen Sisco who was feature in his book OUT OF SIGHT and in this which was made into a movie with Jennifer Lopez as the character and a short lived tv series called KAREN SISCO which stars Carla Gugino as the title character.  I remember being disappointed at the cancellation of that show.  The story in this book is KAREN MAKES OUT where there is more to her man than meets the eye.  There are seven other stories in this book and is very diverse including the Civil War, unhappy marriages, insurance fraud, to name a few.  Some are shorter, some are longer but they are all compelling stories.

Raylan:  a Novel (2012):  This book is based on JUSTIFIED and was written after the writers encouraged him Leonard to write this book which was used in parts of the series and would unfortunately be his last book before his death in 2013 with a career that is hard to match with all the books and the movies and tv shows his books would inspire.  In this one, Raylan returns to his town of Harlan County, Kentucky to investigate Dickie and Coover Crowe who are known for drug dealing but appear to be involved in an body organ theft ring.  As he investigates, he finds it is gets far deeper than he thought.  This book as quite an array of interesting characters and twists.  I have not seen this series yet but I intend to get started very soon.

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