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America's Sweethearts (2001) PG-13

americassweetheartsJohn Cusack and Catherine Zeta-Jones play America's sweethearts (Eddie and Gwen): they're actors who married, starred in several movies together, then split publicly and messily (sounds like real life, right?). The studio needs them to promote their final movie, and sends veteran publicist Lee (Billy Crystal) to control the chaos. Add Julia Roberts as Kiki, Gwen's sister/assistant, and you've got America's Sweethearts, a comedy about love and the ridiculousness of Hollywood.

In the mood to binge watch romantic comedies? We’ve got romantic comedies you’ll love – part 1 and part 2.

 

The Ref (1994) R

refIt’s Christmas Eve and Gus (Dennis Leary) is a burglar whose partner abandons him when their latest heist goes south. He is forced to take hostage Lloyd and Caroline Chasseur (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis) – who are on their way home from marriage counseling – making them drive him to their home. Slowly, the rest of the family begins to arrive for their annual holiday celebration and Gus pretends to be Lloyd and Caroline’s marriage counselor. Little does he know that he will become the “counselor” for the entire dysfunctional family while he figures out a way to elude capture by the police.

The Ref is a dark comedy that takes the idea of a holiday movie and turns it on its head. The script is biting and sharp. Leary is best known for his sarcastic delivery and shines in the role of Gus. Spacey and Davis also are outstanding as the bickering couple who eventually realize they do love and care about each other. The rest of the cast is top notch and there are a number of well-known actors in cameo or supporting roles: B. D. Wong (Oz; Law & Order) as Dr. Wong, the Chasseur’s original marriage counselor; Christine Baranski (Cybill; The Good Wife) as demanding sister-in-law Connie; and J. K. Simmons (Law & Order; The Closer) as Siskel, the commander of the military school Lloyd and Caroline’s son Jesse is attending (little do they know that Jesse is blackmailing Siskel).

Granted, I know this movie isn’t for everyone. But, if you like dark comedies, a sharply written and delivered script, and something a little different to supplement all the maudlin and saccharin holiday fare that comes on this time of year, give this one a chance. It may just win you over.
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Love Actually (2003) R

loveactuallyAlthough this is a movie you can watch any time of year, I always seem to revisit Love Actually in December. Set in London, the film follows eight loosely related couples in the month leading up to Christmas. It’s not all happy endings in this romantic dramedy, but I’d still call this one a feel good movie. One of my favorite moments is Hugh Grant’s dance scene through 10 Downing Street (he plays the prime minister). You’ll see lots of other familiar faces including Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, and Martin Freeman.

In the mood for a Christmas movie? We’ve got a whole list.

Saving Mr. Banks (2013) PG-13

savingmrbanksSaving Mr. Banks is an engaging drama about Walt Disney's quest to win the movie rights to the classic children's fantasy Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers. Inspired by his daughters' love of the series and motivated by his determined personality, Disney will not relent. Travers (portrayed by Emma Thompson), just as stubborn as Disney, refuses to let her masterpiece succumb to the big screen and most of all, transform into a musical with animated figures. She ignores her grim financial outlook and the encouragement of her agent and remains in seclusion for years.

Finally, she agrees to a short trip to the Disney studio offices in California. Once there, Walt Disney tries everything in his business arsenal to win her over, including a trip to Disneyland. It is finally a very personal insight into both characters that seals the deal. Tom Hanks does an excellent job portraying the many sides of American icon Walt Disney.

Honeymoon in Vegas (1992) PG-13

honeymoonvegasI thoroughly enjoyed this madcap comedy starring award-winning actors Nicholas Cage, Jessica Parker, and James Caan. Jack (Nicholas Cage) promises his mother on her deathbed that he won’t get married. After his longtime girlfriend Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker) gives him an ultimatum, he decides to elope in Las Vegas. Jack loses a high stakes poker game to gambler Tommy (James Caan) and agrees to let Betsy spend the weekend with Tommy to wipe out the debt. He whisks her off to Kauai. There happens to be a convention of Elvis impersonators at the hotel that adds to the wackiness of the film. The Elvis songs played throughout Honeymoon in Vegas add to the enjoyment.

If you like watching Nicholas Cage, you might like Moonstruck.
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The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) PG-13

manfromuncleWith a lot of action, funny parts, and some serious scenes, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was really an enjoyable movie. Starring Henry Cavill as CIA agent Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as KGB operative Illya Kuryakin, the film is set in the early 1960s at the height of the Cold War.

Curious about the original TV show of the same name? Check it out – we own the complete series (seasons 1-4), which ran from 1964-1968.

Penelope (2006) PG

penelopeA darling contemporary fantasy, Penelope is the story of a girl affected by a family curse. Due to a great-grandfather's perfidy, Penelope (Christina Ricci) is born with a pig snout. Legend says only love from one of her own kind can break the curse, and so her mother (Catherine O'Hara) arranges introductions to a string of blue bloods as potential husbands.

Enter Max (James McAvoy). He and Penelope connect, yet something's not quite right. Penelope flees home, embarking on her first adventure at the age of 25. This charming modern fairy tale isn't always what it seems.

Married to the Mob (1988) R

marriedtomobIn this gangster comedy, Angela de Marco (Michelle Pfeiffer) is unhappily married to mobster Frank de Marco (Alec Baldwin). When she finds herself unexpectedly widowed, Angela grabs her young son and runs away to lose herself in the big city. Somewhat bumbling FBI agent Mike Downey (Matthew Modine) goes undercover as he tries to bring big mob boss Tony Russo (Dean Stockwell) to justice. He becomes involved with the lovely young widow. Funny and sweet, you’ll be rooting for Angela all the way in Married to the Mob.

Angels in the Outfield (1951)

angelsAngels in the Outfield is a lighthearted baseball movie about Guffy, the belligerent coach of a losing team who “meets” an angel. The angel, who is by no means tender or sweet, challenges Guffy to shape up. With a take-it-or-leave-it attitude, the angel offers to help Guffy win some ball games if he can stop fighting and using foul language. Guffy, who is convinced of the angel’s existence and power, sets out be a better man—at first if only for the sake of winning more games.

Guffy is played by Paul Douglas, with great turns by: Janet Leigh, as the reporter obsessed with covering Guffy’s every move; Spring Byington, as the pragmatic nun—and baseball enthusiast—who runs the orphanage; and Donna Corcoran as the adorable orphan whose prayers for her losing team prompt a band of angels to come to the rescue.

For another look at this movie, check out Bill's review.

Being John Malkovich (1999) R

MV5BMTUyMjI4OTE3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzMxMTUxMQ@@._V1_SX640_SY720_Being John Malkovich is one of those quirky, funny movies that you just can’t miss. Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a puppeteer who discovers…well, let’s just come out and say it…he discovers a portal directly into the brain of John Malkovich. Anyone who walks through the door will actually see what John Malkovich sees for about 15 minutes.

Look back at what Roger Ebert had to say.

The Lady Eve (1941)

ladyeveThis screwball comedy from the golden age of movies is the story of a backward scientist who falls in love twice with the same woman. Picked up by an ocean liner on his way home from a scientific expedition in South America, Charles Pike (Henry Fonda), heir of the Pike’s Ale Pikes, falls under the charms of shipboard card sharps, one of them the beautiful Jean (Barbara Stanwyck). Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered by the beautiful Jean, he proposes, only to find out Jean’s true background and break off the engagement.

Bent on revenge, Jean shows up in Connecticut, now sporting an English accent and presenting herself as the Lady Eve. Smitten all over again, young Charles does exactly what Jean had planned—falls in love with her all over again. Unluckily for Jean and her plans, though, she kind of loves the backward boy.

The sparkling classic The Lady Eve was directed by the brilliant Preston Sturges.

The Italian Straw Hat (1928)

italianstrawThe beauty of a silent movie is its universality; no language barrier comes between you and the delight of the film. The Italian Straw Hat is a French movie whose alternate title pretty much tells the story: The Horse Ate the Hat. Fadinard, a young man on his way to his wedding, has a confrontation along the way when his horse eats the straw hat of a young married lady having a dalliance in the woods with an army officer not her husband. Feeling she can’t go home without the prized hat, the lady and her lover blackmail the young groom into finding a replacement hat.

In the midst of trying to get married, trying to find a hat, trying to keep his relatives from finding the officer and his lady hiding in his apartment, Fadinard has quite a day. The comic timing and antics keep you laughing from beginning to end.

Summer Stock (1950)

summerstockSummer Stock is a feel-good, corny (pun intended), let’s-put-on-a-show-in-the-barn musical starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. His unforgettable dance with a newspaper and creaky floorboards, and Garland’s show stopping “Get Happy” highlight this cheerful, old-fashioned film.

Check out Turner Classic Movies’ article on Summer Stock, then watch the film.

Pride (2014) R

prideThis British LGBT historical comedy drama is based on a true story. Lesbian and gay activists raised money to help the striking British miners in 1984. The National Union of Mine Workers was reluctant to accept the group’s support because of publicity worries of being associated with a gay group. So the activists took their hefty donations directly to the small mining village of Onllwyn, Wales. What results is a wonderful story of the unlikely alliance between the two communities. It is told with love, dignity, and comedy.

I found that Pride kept its political correctness while providing good entertainment with a cast of wonderful actors like Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, and more.

For another take on Pride, read Jez's review here.

Back to the Future (1985) PG

backfutureMarty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, is accidentally sent back in time 30 years to 1955 by his friend Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd). While Marty works desperately to find a way back to the future, he inadvertently interferes with the relationship of his high school age parents. If he does not get them to unite, he may cease to exist. Christopher Lloyd is brilliant as nutty Doc Brown, and Michael J. Fox has just the right combination of awkward and cool to make you laugh and cheer at the same time. Back to the Future is a fun adventure comedy that the whole family will love.