Scrooged (1988) PG-13

scroogedScrooged loosely follows the storyline of the classic Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol. Bill Murray’s comic sarcasm and a romance between Frank Cross (the Scrooge character played by Murray) and old flame Claire (played by Karen Allen) expand on the original theme.

The four ghosts are not lost amongst the modern tale of a selfish, greedy TV executive who learns his lesson the hard way during the holiday season. It was interesting watching this movie from a twenty first century perspective, as Christmas 1988 is already Christmas Past for us.

The Merry Widow (1934)

merrywidowJeanette MacDonald, before being paired with Nelson Eddy, made several charming musicals with Maurice Chevalier. MacDonald, as the title character, owns 52% of her homeland of Marshovia. She throws off her widow's weeds to enjoy the excitement of Paris. But what if she decides to stay in Paris? What of her 52%? Sent, for the good of the country, to woo and wed the widow is Captain Donilo, the most accomplished lady's man the country has to offer. The Merry Widow is full of delightful songs and humor.

Philomena (2013) PG-13

philomenaIn the Oscar-nominated Philomena, the audience follows the true story of a teenage girl forced to give her child away, now searching for him after 50 years. Judi Dench gives a heartwarming performance as she teams with a recently unemployed journalist (Steve Coogan) to find her son. These two highly mismatched characters will make you laugh, cry, and truly care about this beautifully written human interest story.
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The Lego Movie (2014) PG

legomovieA fun, funny, and somewhat crazy movie! It was amazing to see the familiar Lego blocks transformed by 3D computer animation in The Lego Movie.

Young and Innocent (1937)

indexSuspense, adventure, humorous charm, and romance are blended in Young and Innocent, an early English Alfred Hitchcock directed gem. When an innocent man who is a suspected murderer escapes from the courthouse, he finds help from an unlikely quarter--the police chief's daughter! To escape the police and find the real murderer, they race along in her temperamental jalopy, hide out in a dilapidated barn, crash a children's party, and hunt for a switched raincoat. Great fun.

Captain Phillips (2013) PG-13

FFA_G3V8_Captain_Phillips_PosterBased on a true story, Captain Phillips is a great movie. It’s very well directed (by Paul Greengrass) and kept me on the edge of my seat until the end!

For the story behind the film, check out the memoir by Richard Phillips: A Captain’s Duty: Somali pirates, Navy SEALs, and dangerous days at sea.
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The Lone Ranger (2013) PG-13

lonerangerThis film is a lot of fun and can be thoroughly enjoyed with the right perspective. Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger give fine performances. In fact, The Lone Ranger has become one of my favorite Johnny Depp movies. There is a lot of humor in this film especially between Depp and Hammer. There are two main villains in this film, Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) and the other I won’t say because that would be giving too much away. And the two villains are thoroughly despicable.

The film was nominated for two Oscars including Best Achievement in Visual Effects. And that nomination is well deserved. While some of the action scenes are impossible, just sit back and enjoy them as they are spectacular. The Lone Ranger is a western and an adventure film, but it is also a fantasy film.

When I saw this film, I was prepared to be disappointed as I was a Lone Ranger fan when it was on television in the 1950s, and I have been very disappointed in many movies based on television shows. And a lot of the reviews were very critical. But unless you are a Lone Ranger purist and you do one simple thing, you will probably get a great deal of enjoyment out of this film. One of the criticisms of this film is that it is too long. When I saw it the first time, I took a break to have dinner after about an hour and ten minutes into the movie. When movies were very long in the 1950s and early 1960s, movie makers had the good sense to interrupt the film with an intermission. The film probably would have done a lot better at the box office if the producers had installed an intermission. But you as a viewer watching it on DVD, you can impose your own intermission.

Also Lone Ranger fans, the film includes the William Tell Overture but you have to wait for it.

One more word of warning: this film could be pretty intense for younger viewers. That said, the rest of you should saddle up as this movie is a great ride.

The Uninvited (1944)

uninvitedRoderick Fitzgerald (Ray Milland) and his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey) move to a house on the English coast. Young Stella (Gail Russell), who was born in the house, can't enter it without being terrorized by a malevolent ghostly presence. As Roderick and Pamela become more determined to uncover the secrets of Stella's past (as Roderick finds himself falling for her), the ghostly apparitions intensify, culminating in one terrifying night. Roderick, a composer, plays the movie's theme, the haunting "Stella by Starlight." The Uninvited is a good old-fashioned ghost story.

Music and Lyrics (2007) PG-13

musicandlyricsHugh Grant plays a has-been pop star from the 80s doing backwoods promotional appearances when he is approached by a teen sensation to write a song for her. His strength has always been music, not lyrics. He unexpectedly finds a struggling young writer (Drew Barrymore) who insists she is not a lyricist. In the tradition of romantic comedies, we can figure out what happens but it is an entertaining journey complete with good old fashioned 80ish songs and music videos.

Despite the gap in their ages, Barrymore and Grant make a believable couple with chemistry bouncing off the screen in Music and Lyrics.

Agnes Browne (1999) R

220px-Agnes_Browne_FilmPosterAfter the sudden death of her husband, Agnes Browne’s life is set in turmoil and she tries to survive with her seven children in 1960s central Dublin. With an Irish gleam in her eye, perseverance, and support from her children and a few good friends, Agnes sets her sights on attending a Tom Jones concert and going out with a handsome French baker. Anjelica Huston shines as strong willed Agnes and also directs this warm, funny story, beautifully set in the streets of Dublin’s close knit neighborhoods.
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The Guilt Trip (2012) PG-13

guilttripJoyce and Andrew Brewster embark on a cross-country trip that tests the limits of their mother/son relationship. Underneath all the overbearing mothering and the know-it-all son attitude, they discover some basic truths about life and each other. Barbra Streisand's comedic timing makes The Guilt Trip a fun pick. All it's missing is a good sing-along on the road!
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Gallipoli (1981) PG

melgibson_gallipoliDuring WWI, one of the most notorious battles of the war was fought on the Gallipoli Peninsula in the crumbling Ottoman Empire. French, British, Australian, and New Zealand troops suffered a great defeat against the Turks. Gallipoli is the story of two young Australians who join the army for adventure and soon find themselves in a strange land facing overwhelming odds.

The first Australian set half of the movie is full of humor and boyish adventure building to the tense and poignant end. Mel Gibson plays one of the two young soldiers in one of his very early roles.

You can also watch a documentary about the battle in Gallipoli.

Did you know? 100 years ago, on June 28, 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the catalyst that started World War I.
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Good Will Hunting (1997) R

good-will-hunting-movie-dvdplanetstorepkWill Hunting (Matt Damon) is a rough around the edges South Boston youth who is a mathematical genius, but he is dealing with a lot of internal issues and he seems destined for a life spent in and out of prison. When his talents are discovered by a local MIT professor, Will is required to meet with a psychologist (Robin Williams) who finally starts to get through to him. Will’s transformation is subtle but inspiring.

Williams won Best Supporting Actor for his role, and Damon and Ben Affleck, who also stars in Good Will Hunting, won for Best Original Screenplay.
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The Dead Zone (1983) R

This 1983 film is described as a horror film and in some ways it is, but it is very difficult to slap a label on this film. To be truthful, many hardcore horror film fans probably wouldn’t like it. If asked, I could not give a one or two word description of this film. The Dead Zone is sort of a time travel movie, it’s a love story, and a tragedy, but it also a story of redemption and a story of hope.

Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) is a young teacher very much in love with fellow teacher Sarah Bracknell (Brooke Adams), who is very much in love with Johnny. While coming home from a date, Johnny gets into a horrific car accident. He goes into a coma and when he awakes, he finds he has lost five years. He is physically disabled in that he has very limited walking abilities, and he finds that Sarah has married and has a son. As crushing to his spirit as this is, he soon finds that he has undergone another dramatic change. He finds that when he holds a person’s hand, he can see a part of either that person’s past or their future.

Walken gives a great performance. There is a haunting melody that plays off and on through the movie and for its time, there are some great special effects. The film is an adaption of Stephen King’s novel The Dead Zone. Many people have described this movie as the best adaption of a King novel and I agree. If you have never seen the film or read the book, I suggest you do both.

Short Term 12 (2013) R

Actress Brie Larson was robbed when she wasn't nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Short Term 12.

Larson is Grace, one of the supervisors at a foster care facility for troubled teens. The film explores the day to day life of the teens at the facility and Grace's own background and home life--which includes her boyfriend and co-worker Mason. As expected, the movie is at times raw and intense, but it's also compassionate and has some humorous moments. If you like movies that explore characters and their emotional lives, this is not to be missed.

Check out a review on RogerEbert.com from contributor Christy Lemire; panelists recently discussed the film after a showing at Ebertfest.
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