Sunday, March 7, 2021

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 794th Edition


Welcome to the 794th Edition of my series.  Through all the uproar of potato heads and Dr. Seuss, I'm still here to bring you my weekly selections.  I don't have much else to say right now so I'll just get right down to it.

The Loudest Voice (2019):  I start the week out with this Showtime mini-series.  Russell Crowe stars as Fox News founder Roger Ailes who rose to fame with his conservative network.  He was also known to mistreat many people in his life and when his reporter Gretchen Carlson, played by Naomi Watts, tires of his sexual harassment, she begins to record his conversations having many others come forward.  Sienna Miller co-stars as Roger's loyal wife Beth.  Seth MacFarlane, Annabelle Wallis, Simon McBurney, Aleksa Palladino, Josh Stamberg, Rod McLachlan, Mackenzie Astin, Susan Pourfar, Lucy Owen, Jenna Leigh Green, John Harrington Bland, Barry Watson, Patch Darragh, David Whalen, Josh Charles, Dennis Staroselsky, Emory Cohen, Jessica Hecht, Timothy Busfield, and many others co-star in this mini-series.  This has seven episodes that are about an hour long.  Crowe was great as Ailes.  In 2019, there was also a movie BOMBSHELL which was also about Ailes.  That movie was okay but focused most on the sexual harassment element but this mini-series goes a lot deeper showing his mistreatment of his employees in general.  This was a very compelling show and quite disturbing at times.

Jersey Boys (2014):  I follow up with another biopic.  Clint Eastwood directed this film which was written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice that is based on the Broadway musical of the same name.  This is the story of the legendary band the Four Seasons consisting of Frankie Valli, played by John Lloyd Young, Tommy DeVito, played by Vincent Piazza, Bob Gaudio, played by Erich Bergen, and Nick Massi, played by Michael Lomenda.  Steve Schirripa, Christopher Walken, Lou Volpe, Johnny Cannizzaro, Michael Patrick McGill, Lacey Hannan, Mike Doyle, Sean Whalen, and many others co-star in this music biopic.  I saw this years ago in Chicago when it was on stage.  Young reprises his role from Broadway and does great as Valli.  I was never a huge fan of the band but it is a very compelling story.  

The Toe Tactic (2008):  Emily Hubley wrote and directed this surrealistic film that combines live action with animation.  Lily Rabe stars as Mona Peek who is dealing with the grief and depression of her father's death.  She is watched over by animated beings that are trying to help her get it back together.  Mary Kay Place co-stars as Mona's mom who is very worried about her daughter.  H. Jon Benjamin, Kevin Corrigan, David Cross, Xander Berkeley, Richard Cox, Ann Dowd, Jon Glaser, Sakina Jaffrey, Daniel London, Jane Lynch, Sean Mana, Andrea Martin, Eugene Mirman, Novella Nelson, John Sayles, Marian Seldes, Eli Wallach, and many others co-star in this film.  It is hard to really describe this from what I already have except it is about a woman searching her soul I suppose.  This is an experimental film that works really well and deserves more exposure.

Lucas, the Ear of Corn (1977):  This is my animated short for the week which was directed by Bill Plympton in his debut.  Lucas is just what is described in the title, a stalk of corn that lives on the stalk of corn with his mother.  He has all kinds of life questions that unfortunately get addressed by a farmer as Lucas gets sold.  I guess this might make some feel guilty after eating corn on the cob.  Plympton had a little more planned for this short but never finished.  Either way, this is a very interesting piece of animation which was the start of the unusual cartoonist.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime which is part of the "Plymptoons" collection.

College (1927):  This is my silent comedy for the week which was directed by James W. Horne.  Silent comedy legend Buster Keaton stars as a college student whose girlfriend, played by Anne Cornwall, breaks up with him for focusing more on the books and not athletics.  He wants her enough to try his luck in sports in hopes of impressing his girlfriend but finds he does not fare very well in comical ways.  This comes fresh off the success of Keaton's 1926 comedy THE GENERAL which has a similar premise on winning over a girl.  Silent enthusiasts could do a double feature of this and Harold Lloyd's 1925 film THE FRESHMAN.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

Elevator to the Gallows (1958):  This is my French film for the week which was directed by Louis Malle and based on the novel by Noel Calef.  Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet stars as Florence and Julien who are lovers and decide to murder Florence's husband and Julien's boss Simon, played by Jean Wall, and make it look like a suicide.  Things happen which force them to cover their tracks and leads to other unforeseen tragedy.  Georges Poujouly, Yori Bertin, Elga Andersen, and many others co-star in this French film.  This is very well done film with a lot of style and suspense.  This is a must for fans of French films from this era.  Also Miles Davis fans will love his soundtrack to this film.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.

A Serious Man (2009):  Now I bring a dark comedy which was written and directed by the Coen Brothers.  Michael Stuhlbarg stars as physics professor Michael Stuhlbarg who has all kinds of things going on in his life including his wife Judy, played by Sari Lennick, wanting a divorce and leaving him for his friend Sy, played by Fred Melamed.  Richard Kind co-stars as Michael's lazy brother Arthur who lends to his brother's  many struggles.  Aaron Wolff, Peter Breitmayer, Ari Hoptman, Amy Landecker, George Wyner, Steve Park, Fyvush Finkel, Simon Helberg, Adam Arkin, Michael Lerner, and many others co-star in this film.  This is more of a character study than anything and has that classic Coen Brother comedy feel to it.  This is also a really good look at the '60s.  This has a relatively unknown cast which still really works.

The Driver's Seat (1974):  This is part three of my Elizabeth Taylor trilogy.  Giuseppe Patroni Griffi directed this film which is based on the novel by Muriel Spark.  Taylor stars as mentally disturbed spinster Lise who encounters a lot of interesting characters when she goes to Rome in her journey to be murdered but everyone seems to want to seduce her instead.  Ian Bannen, Mona Washbourne, Guido Mannari, Maxence Malifort, Andy Warhol, and many others co-star in this film.  Yes, this is as weird as I just described and yes Andy Warhol has a cameo in this movie.  This is an interesting psychological drama that is worth a look, especially to see some obscure Elizabeth Taylor.  This is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946):  William Wyler directed this film that is based on the novel by MacKinlay Kantor.  This movie centers around three small-town WWII veterans that are played by Fredric March, Dana Andrews, and Harold Russell.  March stars as Al Stephenson who has returns to a family that he really has to get to know again including his grown kids that did not he has not seen grow up being overseas so long.  Andrews stars as Fred Derry who returns home to a loveless marriage with his wife Marie, played by Virginia Mayo, and starts falling in love with Al's daughter Peggy, played by Teresa Wright.  Russell stars as Homer Parrish who lost his hands and must use hooks.  He is dealing with depression and not wanting pity or help for his situation.  Myrna Loy, Cathy O'Donnell, Hoagy Carmichael, Gladys George, Roman Bohnen, Ray Collins, Minna Gombell, Walter Baldwin, and many others co-star in this film.  Russell was more like his character, having actually losing his hands and using hooks, and was not an actor though producer Samuel Goodwin sent him to acting school much to the dismay of Wyler who wanted his natural acting ability.  This has always been a favorite of mine from this era.  This is possibly the first movie, at least first mainstream one, to take a look at the after effects of war and trying to deal with real-life again when getting out.  This is a great ensemble piece and really deserves a look.

Life, Animated (2016):  I end the week with this documentary which was directed by Roger Ross Williams.  This centers around a man named Owen Suskind who has autism.  This goes into him trying to move independently and through his childhood where he did not speak for a long time.  His parents found that he loves watching animated Disney movies and figured out that those movies channel his communication and the way he relates to the world.  This shows interviews mostly with Owen, his parents, and his older brother reflecting on these times.  There is an appearance from actors Jonathan Freeman and Gilbert Gottfried where they attended Owen's Disney night at the library.  This is a very touching story showing all the ups and downs with Owen.  This is available to watch on Hulu.

Well, that is it for this week but continue on for my new segment "The Shorter End of the Stick" and the return of "Movie Time in the Town of Pottersville".  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Jennifer Connelly, and many others.


This is a segment I'm debuting which takes a look at the short films out there.  I think I will start doing this more in the future so I hope you enjoy this debut segment.

The Wiseman (1991):  I decided to add another selection from Independent animation artist Bill Plympton who directed this animation short.  Chris Hoffman voices the incoherent rant of an old man and the surreal things going on in his head.  This was a pretty fascinating five minutes.  Plympton has done a lot of short films and also feature animation.  This and other shorts are shorts of his are available to watch on "Plymptoons" which features quite a few of his works.  If you enjoy this and my other short selection this week, you might consider going on the website to help get his feature film SLIDE off the ground.

Bim Bam Boom, las Luchas Morenas (2014):  This is my documentary short film which is directed by Marie Losier.  This takes a look at three female Mexican wrestlers in Rossy, Esther, and Cynthia who are all sisters and part of the Dynasty Moreno.  This takes a look at their careers and goes some into their personal lives.  This was a good look at the luchadore world.  This is available to watch on the Criterion Collection.

Words Like Knives (2013):  Travis Legge directed this psychological horror short which was written by my long-time social media friend Kelsey Zukowski.  Zukowski stars as Emma Price who has everything from a loving family, caring boyfriend, and loyal best friend.  Things change when a rumor gets started about her and Emma has a hard time distinguishing fantasy from reality.  Michael Wexler, Michael Dilacova, Melissa Revels, Myke Wilson, Valerie Meachum, and many others co-star in this short film.  This has some pretty deep subject matter and is pretty disturbing.  This is available to watch on and some of her other works that go into film, modeling, and movie reviews.  

Whiplash (2013):  Damien Chazelle wrote and and directed this short film which would be made into a great feature the next year.  J.K. Simmons stars as the bullying music instructor Fletcher and goes to very extreme measures in "teaching" a drummer in Andrew Neiman, played by Johnny Simmons.  Chazelle originally wanted this to be a feature but did not get the necessary funding so he did this and submitted it to the Sundance Film Festival where he would soon get what he needed to make the feature.  Simmons would go onto reprise his role in the feature while Miles Teller would go onto play Andrew.  This is available to watch on the Blu-Ray of the feature.

Spider-Ham:  Caught in a Ham (2019):  After the exposure of SPIDER-MAN:  INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, Miguel Jiron wrote and directed this animated short on Peter Porker aka Spider-Ham, voiced by John Mulaney.  Spider-Ham must go against the evil Doctor Crawdaddy, voiced by Aaron LaPlante.  This is a fun little Looney Tunes inspired animated short that is only about four minutes but they get quite a bit packed into that four minutes.  


Hamilton (2020):  I'm sure just about anyone can guess whose idea this was between myself and Stephanie to watch this popular musical which was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and based on the book by Ron Chernow.  After much delay, Stephanie and me finally got to watching this live musical.  Miranda also stars as our founding father Alexander Hamilton who would become the secretary of treasury and focuses on his friendship, later rivalry, with Aaron Burr, played by Leslie Odom Jr., and his marriage to Eliza Hamilton, played by Phillipa Soo.  This is about his life in general though.  Daveed Diggs, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Jonathan Groff, Okieriete Onaodowan, Chris Jackson, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Sydney James Harcourt, Jon Rua, Ephraim Sykes, and many others co-star in this live musical.  This has really taken the world by storm with this historical musical that uses diversity in its casting and uses rap and hip-hop to convey the history.  I knew it was time for Steph to watch this and she expressed really liking the music to this show.  Days before, I discussed this with her and played the opening number to see if she was interested enough.  There's a million things we haven't done but we have seem HAMILTON, at least on the tv screen in her room.  This is available to watch on Disney Plus.

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