Sunday, March 21, 2021

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 796th Edition


Welcome to the 796th edition of my series.  I just want to start by thanking all the medical workers out there and everyone else trying to help out nation.  I now await for them to announce 35 and above to get the vaccination and I will be looking to get it as soon as I can.  On another note, tickets for ARSENIC AND OLD LACE are on sale at the Commons Theater.  Tickets can be ordered at 765-639-3282 or be reserved at .  Prices and times are at the bottom.  That's enough talk, now to this week's selections.

October Sky (1999):  I start the week out with this inspiration true story which was directed by Joe Johnston and based on the book ROCKET BOYS by Homer Hickam Jr., played by Jake Gyllenhaal.  Hickam is a high school kid living in a small mining town where most people when they get out of school end up working at the coal mine, including his father, played by Chris Cooper.  He did not want this and when the launch of the first artificial satellite Sputnik goes into orbit, he becomes inspired to build his own rocket.  Along with his friends, he puts every effort in through trial and error, much to the dismay of his father who believes they are just wasting their time.  Laura Dern co-stars as the one teacher who understands their vision.  Chris Owen, Natalie Canerday, Chad Lindberg, William Lee Scott, Scott Thomas, Chris Ellis, Elya Baskin, Courtney Cole-Fendley, David Dwyer, Terry Loughlin, Kaili Hollister, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a really good film about not giving up and sometimes just needing to defy parents for your vision.  The real-life Hickam has lead a rather successful and adventurous life as a Vietnam Veteran, working for NASA and being an author.  Check him out at

Lawless (2012):  This is my western for the week which was directed by John Hillcoat, based on the book THE WETTEST COUNTY IN THE WORLD by Matt Bondurant, and the screenplay is written by musician Nick Cave who also wrote the music score.  This is another movie based on a true story about a trio of brothers named Jack, Forrest, and Howard Bondurant, played by Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, and Jason Clarke.  This takes place in the Prohibition era where the brothers must bootleg to make ends meet in their small town.  Things get difficult when the corrupt Special Deputy Charley Rakes, played by Guy Pearce, comes into town demanding a cut from their work.  Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan, Chris McGarry, Lew Temple, Marcus Hester, Bill Camp, Alex Van, Noah Taylor, and many others co-star in this western.  This is a much darker selection compared to my first one.  The author Matt Bondurant is the grandson of Jack Bondurant, played by LaBeouf.  

Nomadland (2020):  Chloe Zhao directed this film based on the novel by Jessica Bruder.  Frances McDormand stars as Fern who loses everything during the recession when a business closes in a small Nevada town.  She sets out in her van mostly living in it and explores the more unconventional society as a modern-day nomad.  David Strathairn co-stars as a fellow nomad.  Besides them, most of the cast are actual people living the lifestyle in this movie.  The author Bruder is a journalist who lived the Nomad lifestyle to research her book that this is the basis for.  This is mostly driven by the cast and works very well with an unknown cast since most are not actors.  This is available to watch on Hulu.

Falling Hare (1943):  This is my animated short for the week which features Bugs Bunny.  This is one of those WWII propaganda shorts where Bugs is reading a book on war and reads about gremlins that wreak havoc on planes.  He dismisses this until he meets an actual gremlin, also voiced by Mel Blanc who voices Bugs, and gave Bugs more of a run for his money than his other rivals do.  This is one of my favorites from Looney Tunes and this is available to watch on Amazon Prime as part of "Cartoon Classics Volume One".

Safety Last (1923):  This is my silent comedy for the week which was directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor.  Harold Lloyd stars as Harold who leaves his small country town to move to the big city to get a job.  He must make it big in that town and his sweetheart Mildred, played by Mildred Davis, will join him.  Even though he is struggling, he makes it look like he is doing great so she joins him while he continues his front.  Harold finally gets the opportunity to make a lot of money for a building climbing stunt his friend can do but his friend was unable to do it leaving Harold to have to do a huge building climb.  This has one of the most intense scenes in film history with Lloyd climbing the building.  I am starting to notice in silent comedy, at least with Lloyd and Keaton, they are so intent on being with someone they try to go way above and beyond in order to do so.  This is possibly the best silent comedy of all time that is available to watch on the Criterion Channel.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971):  This is my musical for the week which was directed by Mel Stuart and based on the book by Roald Dahl.  Peter Ostrum stars as poor but very respectful boy Charlie who seeks out one of the golden tickets to a tour for the shut down chocolate factory run by the reclusive Willy Wonka, played by Gene Wilder.  Charlie finally gets his golden ticket and takes the tour along with his Grandpa Joe, played by Jack Albertson.  Roy Kinnear, Julie Dawn Cole, Leonard Cole, Denise Nickerson, Nora Denney, Paris Themmen, Ursula Reit, Michael Bollner, Diana Sowle, and many others co-star in this classic musical.  I watched this with Stephanie whose son is in the school play and is playing Grandpa Joe in his very first play but did not know yet at the time.  He wanted to watch this and we had to remind him a couple times that this is the same version but that the name changed from Charlie to Willy Wonka.  This has some classic numbers and I never tire of this musical.

Cafe de Flore (2011):  This is my French film for the week which was written directed by Jean-Marc Vallee.  This centers around two different stories that even take place in different times but we learn of a connection.  One story has a dj named Antoine, played by Kevin Parent, who has a girlfriend in Rose, played by Evelyne Brochu, but still has a complicated relationship with his ex-wife Carole, played by Helene Florent.  The other story centers around single mother Jacqueline, played by Vanessa Paradis, and her relationship with her son Laurent, played by Marin Gerrier, who has Down Syndrome.  These are two really good stories, especially seeing the difficulty of being a single parent to a child with Down Syndrome.  This does require a lot of attention but was worth a look.

Edge of Doom (1950):  This is part three of my Dana Andrews trilogy.  Mark Robson directed this film based on the novel by Leo Brady.  Farley Granger stars as Martin Lynn whose mother dies and wants a really nice funeral for her leading him to go off the deep end and kill a priest when he is denied this funeral he felt his mother deserved.  Andrews co-stars as Father Thomas Roth who helps investigate the killing leading him to try finding repentance for the killer.  Joan Evans, Robert Keith, Paul Stewart, Mala Powers, Adele Jergens, Harold Vermilyea, and many others co-star in this film.  This is a pretty compelling story with really good performances from the two leads.  It is also hard to really describe this movie much further from what I did.  It is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

Straw Dogs (1971):  Sam Peckinpah directed this film that is based on the novel by Gordon Williams.  Dustin Hoffman and Susan George star as married couple David and Amy Sumner who move from the States to rural England town.  They are immediately subject to bullying from the locals.  David tries to take it at first but as it gets worse, he takes quite a stand.  Peter Vaughn, T.P. McKenna, Jim Norton, Ken Hutchison, Peter Arne, Colin Welland, and many others co-star in this film.  This is not an easy movie to watch, especially with the climax.  This is a very suspenseful watch that does well to lead into the climax and showing how much one person can take.

Solo:  A Star Wars Story (2018):  Ron Howard directed this prequel story to Han Solo of the STAR WARS universe.  Alden Ehrenreich stars as the younger Han Solo has an adventure into the criminal underworld where he meets his best friend in wookie Chewbacca, played by Joonas Suotamo, and meets his other friend Lando Calrissian, played by Donald Glover.  In the process, he joins a group of rebels lead by Beckett, played by Woody Harrelson, who becomes a mentor to Han.  Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, Erin Kellyman, Linda Hunt, Ian Kenny, John Tui, Warwick Davis, Clint Howard, Anthony Daniels, and many others co-star in this film.  Some die hard fans of STAR WARS did not like this but as a more of a casual fan myself, I thought this was a good backstory on the anti-hero before he joined the rebellion.  Ehrenreich captured the essence of Solo very well and Glover made a good younger Calrissian.  This is available to watch on Disney Plus.

Well, that is it for this week.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Lily Tomlin, Sissy Spacek, Keira Knightley, John Wayne, Boris Karloff, Sophia Loren, Hal Holbrook, and many others.

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