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Angels in the Outfield (1951)

angelsIn this baseball comedy, Guffy McGovern (Paul Douglas), the manager of a very awful Pittsburgh Pirates team, is foul mouthed, hated by his players, ridiculed by the fans, and regularly badmouthed by the Pirates radio announcer (Keenan Wynn). Newspaper reporter Jennifer Paige (Janet Leigh) is assigned to cover the Pirates and give a woman’s perspective on the team. When she initially tries to interview McGovern, he gives her a very impolite brushoff.

A short time later, an angel contacts McGovern, and tells him that someone has been praying for him and the Pirates. If McGovern can control his temper, the angel and some of his friends will help the Pirates win a few games. McGovern agrees and suddenly this heretofore awful Pirates team are playing great baseball.

Bridget White (Donna Corcoran), an orphan who is hoping to be adopted, has been praying for the Pirates. One day, the girls at the orphanage are brought to the ballpark by two nuns (played by longtime character actors Spring Byington and Ellen Corby). During the game, Bridget witnesses the angels helping the Pirates. Nobody else can see the angels. Paige writes a story about Bridget, which causes a lot of complications for all involved. But it also leads to lot of good things including an unlikely romance between McGovern and Paige.

Angels in the Outfield has a lot of laughs and a lot of heart, plus a few cameo appearances by Bing Crosby, baseball greats Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio, and famous songwriter Harry Ruby. It also has some stock footage showing old Comiskey Park.

This is my favorite baseball movie and I hope you enjoy it too. You can also peruse our list of other baseball films.

Cake (2014) R

cakeI think the most interesting part of Cake is the amazing performance of Jennifer Aniston as Claire Simmons. She is a well-off L.A. divorcee who is a chronic pain sufferer due to the fact she was in a car accident that killed her son and left her with physical and emotional scars.

Claire is cranky, bitter, lies, steals to get what she wants, usually Percocet and the like. Even the people who are paid to be nice to her can’t stand her. She gets kicked out of her support group for expressing her admiration for a member who had leaped off the freeway overpass to her death.

Thank goodness the relationship between Claire and her Mexican housekeeper provide her saving grace. Claire still is rude to Silvana but comes to her rescue in one scene which gives the viewer a hint that there is some kindness under that horrible behavior.

As the movie progresses you wonder: will she ever clean up her act or have the ultimate meltdown?
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Spotlight: Silent Comedy

Never was comic timing and sight gags at such a high point as in the silent movies of these comic geniuses.

Buster Keaton in The Navigator (1924). Spoiled rich boy Rollo Treadwell and his equally spoiled neighbor Betsy O’Brien find themselves adrift in the ship The Navigator. The two hapless drifters are at first completely at a loss when they have to try to feed themselves by opening cans of food or boiling water, but as the time goes by, they devise clever management skills and learn to work together to fight off swordfish and cannibals.

Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush (1925). The little tramp, Chaplin’s signature character, goes to the Klondike in search of gold. There he survives the bitter winter, makes his fortune, and wins the girl. Along the way he enjoys the famous boiled leather dinner and performs the dance of the dinner rolls.

Harry Langdon in The Strong Man (1926). At the end of WWI, a little, mild-mannered Belgian immigrant comes to America looking for his beloved pen pal, Mary Brown. All he knows is that she lives in America. He joins in the stage act of fellow immigrant Zandow the Great, the Strong Man, going on in his stead when Zandow is incapacitated. Langdon also performs his famous backwards climb up the stairs. Directed by Frank Capra.

Harold Lloyd in The Kid Brother (1927). Harold Hickory is the youngest and scrawniest of the Hickory boys whose father is the town sheriff. When his father is accused of theft, Harold sets out to prove to his family, his girl, and his town that he is the equal of any Hickory in Hickoryville.

What We Do in the Shadows (2014) R

whatwedoA "mockumentary" about (very) old-fashioned vampires living in a modern world. Fans of HBO's Flight of the Conchords (which also stars Jemaine Clement) will love the similarly understated, dry humor of the film. Equally satirical of pop culture's current love affair with the undead and our obsession with reality television at the expense of our privacy, What We Do in the Shadows has the making of a cult classic.

Beginners (2010) R

beginnersThis romantic comedy/drama tells the story of Oliver, reflecting on the life and death of his father Hal, and his new romantic relationship with Anna who is dealing with her own father issues.

Christopher Plummer won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance of Hal, the father. Shortly after his wife’s death, Hal came out as a gay man. He becomes active in the gay community, becomes more honest with himself and thus grows closer to his son. Shortly after Hal dies, his son Oliver meets Anna at a party and decides to pursue a romance with her.

Beginners is a personal story, a touching story. Described as a quirky comedy, the viewer watches a man in late bloom and his the effect it had on his son’s life.

Olympus Has Fallen (2013) R

olympushasfallenWhen telling a friend about Olympus Has Fallen, I called it “Die Hard for the 21st century.” If you’re in the mood for an intense action adventure film (and don’t mind the implausibility), check this one out. Gerard Butler gives a strong performance as the disgraced Secret Service agent who penetrates the White House to save the president (Aaron Eckhart) after terrorists seize the building. Also starring Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, and Dylan McDermott.

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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Adventureland (2009) R

adventurelandThe year is 1987 and recent college graduate James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) is making big plans to tour Europe and attend graduate school in pursuit of his dream of a career in journalism. Big financial problems arise and he instead starts to look for a summer job. He finds one at a run-down amusement park in western Pennsylvania. He meets Emily (Kristen Stewart), a coworker and develops a relationship with her.

James falls in love with Emily but later finds out she is seeing another worker at the park. They break up while the whole entire amusement park knows all about them. Emily leaves for New York, humiliated and sad she broke James’s heart and lost the best chance at love. James shows up at Emily’s apartment in New York and tells her he sees her in a different way than she sees herself.

Adventureland is full of humor, nostalgia, a sweet coming-of-age story that adults and teens will enjoy.

Woman in Gold (2015) PG-13

womaningoldA gripping historical drama, Woman in Gold travels between 1930s Austria and 1990s America. Based on a true story, the film centers around Gustav Klimt’s painting, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. Austria looked at the portrait as a national treasure; Maria Altmann simply saw it as a picture of her aunt. Stolen from her family by the Nazis in 1938, the painting becomes the center of an international controversy in the late 90s when Altmann fights for the return of her family’s property.

The present day legal battle is complemented by flashbacks to Maria’s childhood, her relationship with her beloved aunt, and her daring escape from a no-longer-safe Austria.

You’ll get drawn into the story starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. And if you’re like me, you’ll wonder about the true events that inspired the movie: check out this book for what really happened.

Join us on Thursday, September 17 at 2:00 p.m. We’re showing Woman is Gold as part of our Thursday Afternoon Movie series. Register here.
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Spotlight: Johnny Depp

johnnydeppI have a theory that Johnny Depp does some of his best work in films with titles that include the names of people. This extraordinary actor has done wonderful work in such movies as Benny and Joon (goofy), Edward Scissorhands (heartbreaking), What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (sensitive), Don Juan DeMarco (playful), Ed Wood (endearing), Donnie Brasco (subtle and gritty).

Even if you don’t care for the movie, you can appreciate the performance. Whether funny, animated, chewing the scenery, or quietly effective, he rarely disappoints. Take a look at his full filmography.

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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Pirate Radio (2009) R

pirateradioThis insanely hilarious movie tells the story of the swinging 60s in London. The music was the rage for every kid who had a transistor radio to his ear or under his pillow at night. The BBC was only playing less than an hour a day. Pirate radio stations on ships anchored off the coast of England played 24/7. Of course, you need a “bad guy” to keep the story interesting, and he appears in the form of Kenneth Branagh as an uptight politician vowing to shut down pirate radio stations. Bill Nighy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and more star in Pirate Radio, which is an amusing tale – but the real treat is the music!

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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The Wind Rises (2013) PG-13

windrisesI thoroughly enjoyed The Wind Rises, an Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Feature Film of 2013 and another exceptional film by the talented director and animator, Hayao Miyazaki.

Jiro, a nearsighted Japanese boy, is fascinated by flying and in his dreams meets Gianni Caproni, an Italian aeronautical designer. The determined and perfectionist Jiro goes on to design military airplanes.

The film is visually stunning with vivid colors. Through hand-drawn scenes, Miyazaki is able to subtly express the emotions of wonder, anger, sadness, and love.

Well-known actors dubbed the English version of the film. The original Japanese version with English subtitles is also available. Miyazaki is one of the last hand-drawn animators and allows no more than 10% of footage to be computer generated.