Welcome to the 785th Edition of my series. As we start the new year, I just hope that everyone is adjusting. I don't have much to say so I'll just get on with my selections.
Prick Up Your Ears (1987): This is part four of my five-part Gary Oldman series. Stephen Frears directed this film which is based on the book by John Lahr, played by Wallace Shawn, which is based on playwright Joe Orton, played by Oldman, and his lover Kenneth Halliwell, played by Alfred Molina. These people meet in drama school and both looking to become writers with Orton being the most successful leading to jealousy from Halliwell in a time with homosexuality was very taboo. Orton's success leads to his downfall in a very literal way. Vanessa Redgrave, Lindsey Duncan, Julie Walters, Frances Barber, and many others co-star in this film. I had never heard of Orton until I watched this movie. I cannot recall anyone putting on his plays in my area but could be some good ones to do. Oldman and Molina work very well together as lovers with different levels of success. This is a very well done biopic that really deserves a look.
Sleepers (1996): This is part four of my four-part Brad Pitt series and am branching off a series for Billy Crudup, Kevin Bacon, and Robert De Niro. Barry Levinson directed this film based on the novel by Lorenzo Carcaterra, played by Jason Patrick in the adult years with the nickname of "Shakes". This revolves around four childhood friends from Hell's Kitchen in Shakes, played by Joe Perrino, Michael, played by Brad Renfro, Tommy, played by Jonathan Tucker, and John, played by Geoffrey Wigdor. They play a prank that goes awry ending them up in a boys reformatory. When there, they were abused physically and sexually by a group of guards lead by Sean Nokes, played by Kevin Bacon. All grown up, John and Tommy, played by Ron Eldard and Billy Crudup, lead a life of crime in Hell's Kitchen and take advantage of an opportunity for vengeance. Michael, played by Pitt, is now a prosecuting attorney and takes their case in a scheme to get them acquitted with the help of Shakes, played by Patric. Robert De Niro, Minnie Driver, Vittorio Gassman, Dustin Hoffman, Terry Kinney, Bruno Kirby, Frank Medrano, Eugene Byrd, Jeffrey Donovan Paul Herman, Dash Mihok, James Pickens Jr., Wendell Pierce, John Slattery, Aida Turturro, and many others co-star in this film. Crudup makes his film debut in this movie. This is supposedly based on a true story claimed by Carcaterra but others have denied these events to have happened so it is left for debate. Either way, this is a very compelling story of how one thing can change the lives of everyone and everything coming full circle in many years. De Niro gets to play a lighter role in Father Bobby who does what he can to look out for the kids and understands them from his own troubled childhood. This is a very intense film at times and may not be for everyone.
Instructions Not Included (2013): Eugene Derbez directed and co-wrote this film in which he also stars as a playboy in Acapulco. Things change in his life when his old flame Julie, played by Jessica Lindsey, shows up at his door with a baby girl claiming to be his and then leaves her win him. Not having fatherhood in his plans, Valentin manages to get to Los Angeles in search of the child's mother but while trying to get there he forms an attachment with her. When getting there, Julie is gone but Valentin manages to get a job in Hollywood as a stunt man while raising Maggie, played by Loreto Peralto, through the years. As the years go on, Valentin creates a fantasy world for Maggie with her mother so that she does not hate her for abandoning her. Years later, Julie comes back into the picture looking to get custody of Maggie after getting her life together. Hugo Stilitz, Agustin Bernal, Arcelia Ramirez, Daniel Raymont, Roger Cudney, Karla Souza, and many others co-star in this film. This was a very pleasant surprise for me. I just thought it would be a simple comedy about a father/daughter relationship but it was so much more and has a very deep meaning that one might not expect. This was a very beautiful film that I think just about anyone can enjoy that has gone rather overlooked through the years.
Let's Stick Together (1952): This is my animated short for the week which is from Disney. This centers around an elderly bee named Spike who sees an aging Donald Duck out picking up trash and brings back memories of their partnership from years before. This is a different sort of story for Donald and is a good story about reuniting after many years. When I first saw the picture of this, I could have sworn it was Scrooge McDuck but is an older Donald with a beard while looking like himself in the flashbacks. This is available to watch on Disney Plus.
Bulldog Drummond Escapes (1937): James P. Hogan directed this film based on the character and play written by Sapper McNeile and Gerard Fairlie. Ray Milland stars as the title character who has just returned to England and a young woman jumps out in front of her car. While he didn't hit her, she appears to be knocked out and gets distracted when hearing gunshots and then the woman drives away in his car. This leads him to a place in Greystone Manor and suspects she is in danger. Guy Standing, Heather Angel, Reginald Denny, Porter Hall, Fay Holden, E.E. Clive, Walter Kingsford co-star in this film. Before James Bond, we had this character which was brother to book, screen, and stage on many occasions in the this era and have heard that there was some inspiration to Ian Fleming's famous character. This is Milland's only appearance as this character and has been played by many actors, mostly John Howard. This is available to watch on Amazon Prime, Hoopla Digital, and the Criterion Channel
The Servant (1963): Joseph Losey directed this film based on the novel by Robin Maugham. James Fox stars as the aristocratic Tony who moves to london and hires Hugo Barrett, played by Dirk Bogarde, as his servant. While Hugo at first seems to be very loyal, Tony slowly sees a darker side and the ulterior motives that go along with him. Sara Miles, Wendy Craig, Catherine Lacey, Richard Vernon, and many others co-star in this film. This plot is a little too convoluted for me to really explain. It really just has to be seen. This is a psychological drama of the relationship of the master and servant and the games played between the two. This is available on the Criterion Channel.
Racket Girls (1951): Robert Dertano directed this b-movie. Timothy Ferrell stars as gangster Scalli who uses women's wrestling as a front for his rackets which gets him in trouble from the police and other gangsters. I came upon this when I was watching last week's feature ED WOOD when Wood was talking to producer George Weiss who had this poster in his office that features women's wrestling from this era. This does feature real-life wrestlers Peaches Page, Clara Mortensen, and Rita Martinez. This is good mostly for historical purposes in wrestling and even that was not very good. As the poster indications, this is also known as PIN-DOWN GIRL. This is available to watch on Amazon Prime as an episode of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000.
Mojin: The Lost Legend (2015): This is my Asian movie for the week which was directed by Wuershan and based on the novels by Muye Zhang. Kun Chen, Qi Shu, and Bo Huang star as retired graverobbers Hu Bayi, Shirley Yang, and Wang Kaixuan who after being unsuccessful on the streets of New York, they get called back into action for one more heist in Inner Mongolia, China. Angelababy also co-stars in this movie. This is a fun action fantasy with a lot of action and slapstick humor.
Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971): Roy Ward Baker directed this Hammer Films variation on the classic novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. Ralph Bates stars as Dr. Henry Jekyll who in this situation is concerned with aging and uses a serum with female hormones women live longer than men. At first he uses it on insects but eventually uses it on himself where he becomes a woman and takes the name Mrs. Hyde, played by Martine Beswick. Murders continue to happen through Jekyll's obsession of aging. Gerald Sim, Lewis Fiander, Dorothy Alison, Neil Wilson, Ivor Dean, and many others co-star in this film. Usually, Dr. Jekyll is more about separating good from evil and essentially becomes a totally different person in Mr. Hyde. In this one, they are more of the same person though Hyde does slowly start taking over when he realizes how in over his head he has gotten. This is available to watch on Hoopla Digital.
American Factory (2019): I end the movie with this documentary which was directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. This takes part in post-industrial Ohio where a Chinese billionaire opens a factory in an abandoned General Motors factory hiring two-thousand Americans. This takes a look at the ups and downs of running a factory where some of the hope gave way to the clash of cultures in running the factory. This is a very compelling documentary that is available to watch on Netflix.