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If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium

A charming tour guide (Ian McShane) takes a busload of American tourists on a nine countries in eighteen days European tour.  The bus is full of comical personalities, including Samantha Perkins (Suzanne Pleshette) who is seriously trying to find herself on this vacation.  The tour guide tries to romance her and change her mind about a number of things.  Mix-ups ensue, including one person who gets on the wrong bus.

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium is a throwback to how films were made. Joan Collins, John Cassavetes, Elsa Martinelli, Ben Gazzara, and Norman Fell also appear in the film. It's really a delightfully funny movie.

Long Shot

Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogan) is a goofy yet gifted journalist devoted to exposing the truth.  After losing his job when his company is bought out, he finds himself down on his luck with no plan.  By chance, he runs into his former babysitter and crush, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), who is now Secretary of State with her sights set on the presidency.  She's elegant, smart, and professional…everything Fred is not.  After learning of his predicament, she hires him to be her speechwriter, despite the objections of everyone on her staff.  Although a determinate to her campaign, Fred is helping Charlotte take a step back and enjoy life again.

Long Shot is a twist on the classic rom-com, switching up gender roles and ignoring the classic tropes.  While it resembles a classic Seth Rogan film, awkward moments and drugs included, he managed to go beyond his regular cult comedy.  Hilarious and heartwarming, Long Shot it a great movie to add to the rom-com rotation.

Released as a motion picture in 2019, rated R

Pitch Perfect Trilogy

For lighthearted movies featuring a charming mix of comedy, music, and girl power, try Pitch Perfect (2012) and its sequels Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) and Pitch Perfect 3 (2017).  In the first film, freshman Beca (Anna Kendrick) reluctantly joins a collegiate acapella group.  Heartwarming hilarity ensues. The performances feature catchy music, a range of voices, and a variety of styles.

Each sequel gets more ridiculous, but it is worth going along for the ride.  Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson star in all three with Hailee Steinfeld added in the second film.  The first two films also feature a pre-Dear Evan Hansen Ben Platt.

If you enjoy the music featured in the films, check out the soundtracks on Hoopla.


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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) PG

Miles Morales, a New York teen just starting out at a new school finds himself bitten by (yes) a radioactive spider...but this isn't your typical Spider-Man origin story.  From there the Spider-verses collide and an eclectic cast of characters comes together from multiple realities.  Readers of the comics will definitely appreciate this merge, but all can enjoy the superhero action and sparks of humor we are used to throughout most of the Marvel Universe.  So join Miles as he learns to have confidence in himself and figures out his Spidey senses to save not only his dimension but also everyone else's!

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film.  Did you miss Jez's review of this Oscar winner? Check it out!

The Wife (2017) R

The Wife is the bittersweet tale of the life of Joan Castleman and her husband, Joe, a beloved, acclaimed novelist.  The movie begins with what seems to be a relatively ordinary marriage, but a quiet tension builds in the days leading up to Joe's receipt of the Nobel Prize in literature.  Joan, played by Academy Award nominee Glenn Close, looks back on their forty-year marriage with a mixture of love and regret.  As she examines the consequences of the compromises she has made, the film takes on a palpable urgency which is driven not just by the storyline, but by Close's amazing performance as well.

The Wife expertly presents the husband-wife dynamic in all its complex glory.  From the mundanity of daily life to the once-in-a-lifetime joys to the oh-so-often-overlooked betrayals, this is a movie chock full of drama not to be missed!

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Colette (2018) R

Young Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightley) marries an older writer, nom de plume Willy (Dominic West), who takes her from the countryside to cultural, sophisticated Paris.  They lead an extravagant lifestyle, always having bills to pay.  He convinces her to ghostwrite stories for him, and she does turning out a semiautobiographical novel of a bold, young girl that becomes the new sensation in Paris.  She continues to write as she explores her sensual side and Willy takes all the credit for the rage of Paris. Colette is visually a beautiful movie and definitely an adult story because of her sexual appetite.


A Wrinkle in Time (2018) PG

This 2018 movie adaptation of Madeline L'Engle's 1963 Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time was highly anticipated by many book fans.  I was not one of those book fans. I distinctly remember reading the first chapter of the book during a thunderstorm and getting too frightened to read any further.  I was probably in third grade.

When the movie was announced, I was excited to finally go back to the story that I had paused on so long ago.  The movie met every one of my expectations: a little bit strange, a lot of CGI, and a huge heart -- driven mostly by actress Storm Reid.  I would recommend this to families who want a gentler fantasy adaptation for younger children.  As for fans of the books, I have heard that the movie was less than perfect, but isn't that always the case with movie adaptations? (Don't get me started on Remus never telling Harry who the Marauders were in Prisoner of Azkaban...)  Check out A Wrinkle in Time and decide for yourself.

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) PG-13

Set in the future, Edge of Tomorrow is an action-packed movie about humankind fighting off an invasion of seemingly invincible aliens.  After upsetting his superior officers, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is sent on a suicide mission.  Having no combat experience whatsoever, Cage dies within minutes of stepping foot on the battlefield.  His death triggers a time-loop, and he is sent back to the previous morning to relive his last day and his death over and over again.  Each day and death teaches him new skills, and he eventually becomes a skilled warrior who realizes that to stop the time loops, he must defeat the invincible enemy.

This movie surprised me.  I went in thinking it would be just another action movie that I'd forget in two weeks.  I ended up discovering a movie that I have enjoyed watching again and again.  The witty humor and relationship between William Cage and Rita (Emily Blunt) fit perfectly against the background of intense battle scenes and horrifying aliens. After Groundhog Day, I hadn't found a movie that could pull off the time-loop cliché but this movie does a great job of executing it without making the story seem predictable or cheap.

Spotlight: Bill Murray Comedies

72216Versatile actor Bill Murray is primarily known for his comic roles.

  • Carl Spackler, the demonic assistant groundskeeper in Caddyshack (1980)
  • Peter Venkman, a paranormal investigator in Ghostbusters (1984)
  • Bob Wiley, a needy therapy patient in What about Bob? (1991)
  • Phil Connors, a TV weatherman in Groundhog Day (1993)
  • Vincent, a grumpy next door neighbor who drinks and gambles in St. Vincent (2014)

His comedic talent helped make these movies box office successes.  Bill Murray is from the Chicago area and performed in The Second City before starring on Saturday Night Live.

Check out The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray by Robert Schnakenberg to learn more about the actor.

 

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Wreck-It Ralph (2012) PG

51mtooacrwl-_sy445_Once Litwik's Family Fun Center and Arcade closes for the night, the characters of each game visit each other and meet in a power strip that connects them all.  Wreck-It Ralph, the antagonist of the game Fix-It Felix Jr., is tired of being the bad guy in his game.  When he's challenged to earn the game characters' respect by gaining a medal like Felix, Ralph enters various video games causing chaos and hilarity.

I can't believe that I missed Wreck-It Ralph when it first premiered in 2012.  I am so glad that the sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet came out to remind me to find the original. This is a fantastic comedic adventure that will engage the whole family.  Kids will root for Princess Vanellope, who they will likely relate to as she's constantly told "no" and left out of the race. Ralph will make them laugh and gain their support by the end of the movie -- a "bad" guy that everyone loves.  Adults will enjoy moments like the bad guy support group meetings and the Diet Coke/mentos mountain -- a chemical reaction that yields some fantastic YouTube videos.

Definitely give this a re-watch before the sequel comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray in February.

A Dog’s Purpose (2017) PG

81i2yytjxl-_sy445_When we are first introduced to Bailey, the lovable narrator in A Dog’s Purpose, he’s a spunky newborn pup full of wonder and curiosity.  He asks, “What is this place and why am I here?”  As his story unfolds, these questions are answered, and we come to understand all the wonderful reasons dogs exist in our lives.  This movie weaves together the separate stories of Bailey’s nine lives and explains how the humans he accompanies on each life’s journey have a unique reason for needing and loving a dog.

I loved this sweet movie for the message it shared, but be warned, it will leave you and your children in tears.  Keep a box of tissues nearby! If you love A Dog’s Purpose as much as I did, you’ll find more movies featuring our furry, four-legged friends here.

Big Hero 6 (2014) PG

844856_1_ftcBig Hero 6 is a superhero movie that adults would enjoy watching with the whole family.  The plot revolves around orphans Hiro and Tadashi, technological whiz kids living with their aunt.  College-age Tadashi created an inflatable robot named Baymax, whose purpose is to act as a portable paramedic/doctor. When someone steals younger brother Hiro’s invention to use for evil, Hiro gives Baymax a few superhero upgrades.  Also, check out our list, Great Movies: Kid Movies for Adults.

 
 

Tokyo Godfathers (2003) PG-13

51bscqabq0l-_sy445_The ultimate Christmas movie, Tokyo Godfathersfollows homeless denizens of Tokyo, Gin, Hana, and Miyuki.  They find a lost baby girl one fateful Christmas Eve, which launches a chain of hi jinks and frustration in order to find her lost mother.  Through it all, the trio teaches the audience about creating a family where you can find it and that the hope of a second chance can be just around the corner.  You will laugh, you will definitely cry, and you’ll find yourself hitting that play button every Christmas season to come.

 

Moana (2016) PG

moana_dvd_coverMoana is a spectacular adventure movie.  Charged with returning the heart of the goddess Te Fiti, Moana leaves her island nation and sails away on her mission.  I absolutely love the animation of this movie.  The ocean is a character in and of itself because of the creative team's work.  Some of my favorite moments though are those of Moana's introspection and self-realization.  Moana is a very different Disney "princess."  First of all, she rejects the word princess, and she has her own agenda, making the decision to follow her draw to the ocean. Also, she alone solves the mystery of Te Ka in order to save Te Fiti.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the wonderful music that sets Moana soaring.  While I love Auliʻi Cravalho's voice (the voice of Moana) and "How Far I'll Go," my favorite songs are the ones that are sung in Tokelauan.  Lastly, I would encourage you to seek out reviews from Pacific Islander reviewers to speak to the culture represented in the movie.  This Buzzfeed article is a great round-up of dialogue, and so is this review from Strange Horizons.

All in all, I think Moana is a genuine, worthwhile story and a great Disney film that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

East of Eden (1955) PG

71oqq2gqajl-_sy445_Elia Kazan directs the movie adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel.  In East of Eden, James Dean plays Cal, a Salinas Valley man trying to win his father’s affection.  His father (Raymond Massey) has no use for Cal as he prefers his brother.  To make matters worse, both brothers love the same woman (Julie Harris).

While this is not a faithful adaptation of Steinbeck’s novel, James Dean’s breakthrough role make this film worth watching.  His performance is mesmerizing.  Jo Van Fleet won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her portrayal of Cal’s mysterious mother.
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