Forrest Gump (1994) PG-13

forrestgumpForrest Gump is told from the point of view of Forrest, played by Tom Hanks, and has a tall tale feel to it that will keep a satisfied smirk on your face throughout the movie. Forrest is born in Alabama, and he is not very bright, but despite this, or maybe even because of it, he throws himself into everything he does.

With extraordinary luck, he manages to appear at the scene of many pivotal moments in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and the movie superimposes him into actual footage of these events—it’s a lot of fun. His one desire is to woo the girl he grew up with, the love of his life, Jenny. Though the movie is funny, it also deals with a lot of heavy topics, and the ending is bittersweet. Forrest has so much heart that you will cheer for him until the end.
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Better Off Dead (1985) PG

betteroffdeadStarring John Cusack, Better Off Dead is a cult, coming-of-age classic from the 80s which has catch phrases a plenty, quirky characters, and ONE LANE MEYER. Lane, a high school student, is having a bad year what with his girlfriend dumping him among other family crises. So, he decides to kill himself. But don’t worry, he isn’t very good at it, and in the end, he learns the language of love and has a renewed interest in living. This is a great movie and very funny, which you will want to watch again and again.
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The Straight Story (1999) G

straightstoryBased on the true story of Alvin Straight, The Straight Story is a beautiful homage to America’s heartland—its landscape and its people. Alvin, a World War II vet, has a childlike spirit and nerves of steel. To visit his brother who just had a stroke, he bravely embarks on a journey across Iowa and Wisconsin despite the fact that he can’t drive and that he has to use two canes to walk. His mode of transportation? An old John Deere lawn mower. Sleeping arrangements? In the makeshift trailer he’s hauling. Meals? Taken in the cornfields he pulls into--and cooked in the campfires he builds!

Despite experiencing setbacks throughout his journey, Alvin’s faith and resolve are unshakable. After all, he has a great purpose: to see the brother he hasn’t spoken to in ten years. He is also lucky to find people along the way who are willing to lend a helping hand. But this story’s real charm is that Alvin gives as much as he receives, leaving all the strangers he encounters better off for having met him.
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The Judge (2014) R

judgeOne of the best movies of 2014!

Great acting from all, especially Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall, in a very compelling story from beginning to end about the messiness of life and the complexity of family relations. Downey, a young, cocky, but successful Chicago lawyer goes home to small town Indiana to attend his mother's funeral. Reconnecting with his estranged father (Duvall), the town's judge, proves a challenge.

The aging judge is accused of murder in a hit-and-run of a biker on a dark, rainy night and Downey ends up representing his cantankerous father. One surprise after another unfolds and we are drawn into the drama hook, line, and sinker. Well written, excellent acting, The Judge is a winner you should see.
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A Beautiful Mind (2001) PG-13

beautifulmindThis Oscar-winning film directed by Ron Howard is based on the life of the brilliant mathematician John Nash (Russell Crowe). It follows Nash’s career, starting with his years at Princeton in the late 1940s and ends in the early 90s when he wins the Nobel Prize in Economics. There is a little bit of everything in this drama: mystery, romance, and—surprisingly—humor. There are even aspects of a thriller is this film, with Cold War intrigue intruding upon the math professor’s quiet life. Are Russian spies out to get him?

Ultimately though, what makes A Beautiful Mind special is that despite all the competing elements in it, there is a tender and inspiring love story at its core. Nash is a flawed hero who, like all geniuses, loses himself in his work. But then along comes Alicia (Jennifer Connelly). She is a grounding force for him, his saving grace.
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Spotlight: Olivia de Havilland, Comedic Actress

oliviadehavillandWhat, Olivia de Havilland, Melanie of Gone with the Wind, Maid Marion of The Adventures of Robin Hood in a comedy? Several, actually. Try these.

It's Love I'm After (1937)

Leslie Howard plays Basil, an egotistic Broadway star in a drama filled relationship with Joyce, his leading lady, played by Bette Davis. Enter Marcia, a star struck society girl played by de Havilland, and the fireworks begin.

Hard to Get (1938)

Maggie Richards, played by de Havilland, is a spoiled rich girl who storms out of her house in a rage, borrowing a car in her escape. When she runs out of gas, she finds she doesn't have the means to pay up and spends the rest of the day cleaning the motor court cabins. Vowing revenge against Bill, the motor court attendant, she plots an elaborate plan to build him up and then bring him down to size.

The Male Animal (1942)

Henry Fonda plays Tommy, a literature professor at Midwest University, and Ellen, played by de Havilland, is his lovely young wife. When her old beau Joe, the former star of the football team, played by Jack Carson, visits for homecoming weekend, Tommy gets jealous. What do women want from the male animal, brains or brawn?

Heaven is for Real (2014) PG

heavenisforrealGreg Kinnear is excellent in this lovely and thought-provoking movie based on a true story. He plays a minister in Nebraska whose young son has a near-death experience during emergency surgery. When his son starts talking about the people and the things he saw, at first no one believes him, not even his own family.

Connor Corum, who plays Colton, is absolutely adorable and you can’t help but fall in love with him. Heaven is for Real is beautiful and inspirational! Also check out the book.
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The Princess Bride (1987) PG

princessbrideThe Princess Bride was adapted by William Goldman from his novel, which he says was inspired by a book he read as a child, but its transformation by his wicked adult imagination has made the story witty and irreverent. And the film adaptation has remained popular since its original release in 1987.

It is story within a story with Peter Falk as a grandfather reading a fairy tale to his reluctant grandson. This clever romantic comedy-fantasy-adventure film can be enjoyed by every member of the family.

And if you can’t get enough of The Princess Bride, check out Cary Elwes’ (Westley) recent book, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride.

Way Out West (1937)

wayoutwestIn Way Out West, Laurel and Hardy are at their comedic best as would be gold miners on a mission to deliver the deed to a rich gold mine to the prospector's daughter, Mary Roberts. Perfectly timed slapstick ensues when the deed is stolen by Mary's unscrupulous guardian and our two hapless heroes must get it back. Particularly charming is Laurel and Hardy's saloon door soft shoe.

The Black Book (1949)

blackbookAlso titled Reign of Terror, The Black Book is a suspense film that is as film noir as you can possibly get.  Yet instead of being set in a large American city during the 1930s, 40s, or 50s, it is set in 1794 Paris during the reign of terror. Charles D’Aubigny (Robert Cummings), is a French patriot looking to overthrow Maximilian Robespierre (Richard Basehart).

Robespierre is planning to become dictator of France, so that he can more easily continue his reign of terror wherein he sends anyone opposed to him to the guillotine without trial or hearing. One of D’Aubigny’s coconspirators is Madelon (Arlene Dahl). D’Aubigny and Madelon have a past and D’Aubigny is bitter about it; neither is sure they can trust the other.

In fact, almost none of the characters in this film trust each other and with good reason.  And the man most in the middle the man who no one should trust and who trusts no one is Fouche (Arnold Moss), the chief of police. He would like to destroy Robespierre but he will happily kill a friend or foe of Robespierre if it will advance his career. Moss does a great job with this character.

I will borrow a sentence from a review on IMDB to describe this film: “The atmosphere is particularly effective, with the dark photography and claustrophobic settings helping to establish the rampant fear, uncertainty, and paranoia that characterized the era.”

This film is nonstop suspense.  About the only criticism I could make is this is a film badly in need of restoration. The current DVD was supposedly restored but it’s far from what I usually experience in a restored film; I have seen worse copies of this film so it is an improvement, but even in its not-so-restored state, it is wonderful film.

Claudia (1943) and Claudia and David (1946)

claudiaClaudia is a very young bride living in the country with David, her architect husband. She is very dependent on her mother and plots for a way to return to the city and live closer to her. However, when tragedy strikes, Claudia has to decide whether to allow herself to be treated like a child or a woman. Dorothy Maguire and Robert Young star in Claudia as well as the continuation Claudia and David.

Midnight in Paris (2011) PG-13

midnightinparisWhat a love story – between me and this movie! I have watched Midnight in Paris more than 10 times. The music! And the scenery of Paris is outstanding!

It is the story of a young author and his fiancée in Paris, and what happens to him while lost in Paris at midnight. It is so exciting as he travels back in time to meet the creative culture of the 1920s. How many can you recognize? The characters are played exactly according to their real personalities. Hemingway (Corey Stoll) – straightforward, tough drinker; Zelda (Alison Pill) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) – as crazy as they were in real life; and Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo)… Be sure to watch the bonus ending to learn how and why Woody Allen portrayed Paris.
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The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

bishopswifeChristmas miracles happen when Dudley the Angel (Cary Grant) appears on the scene. The Reverend Henry Brougham (David Niven) is so caught up in his fundraising/building project that he loses sight of the importance of his work and his family. Dudley knows just what to do to make things right with his wife (Loretta Young). Grant, Young, and Niven do an excellent job of convincing us that angels really are an instrumental part of life on earth in The Bishop’s Wife.

Nebraska (2013) R

nebraskaThis acclaimed black and white road trip dramedy will warm your heart. An aging father (Bruce Dern) thinks he’s won a magazine sweepstakes. His son (Will Forte from Saturday Night Live) agrees to drive him to Nebraska to claim his prize. Don’t let the “R” language rating scare you off from the Academy Award nominated Nebraska.
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The Lone Ranger (2013) PG-13

lonerangerI will watch any movie starring Johnny Depp, so although this one wasn’t well received, I watched it.

In The Lone Ranger, Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid (Armie Hammer), a man of the law, into the legendary Lone Ranger. In this telling, Tonto is no sidekick, but rather a full character equal to the Lone Ranger.

In a lot of ways I wasn’t disappointed. It is action-packed! And the special effects are spectacular! However, it does tend to be gruesome and violent. While this aspect is integral to the story, I doubt that it was necessary to have a villain who cut out human hearts and ate them.