Green Book

This Oscar-winning film is based on the true story of musician Dr. Donald Shirley's tour of the south in 1962.  He hired New York bouncer, Tony Vallelonga as a chauffeur/bodyguard.   The relationship started out as an awkward business arrangement between the two men.  No men could be more different in demeanor, background, and speech, yet they set off on a two-month trip together.  Through the trials and tribulations of the journey, they see each other at their best and at their worst.  They quickly develop mutual respect for the other's talents.  The mutual respect evolves into a lifelong friendship.

The title of the movie refers to The Negro Motorist Green Book which was an indispensable companion for African Americans on road trips through southern states during the 1950s and 60s.  Green Book won Best Picture, Original Screenplay, and Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali) at the 2019 Academy Awards. The film is not without controversy.  Read the Time article to learn more.


Released as a motion picture in 2018, rated PG-13


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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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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.

 

The Matrix (1999) R

51vpnbwfhrl-_sy445_Neo (Keanu Reeves) is a computer hacker with a somewhat ordinary life…but all is not as it seems.  When government agents suddenly show up at his work looking for him, Neo is forced to enlist the aid of a mysterious man named Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who promises to reveal the true nature of reality—the Matrix.  Should Neo join Morpheus’s secret group?  The Matrix is full of amazing visual effects with a mind-blowing plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat right ‘til the end.

The Stranger (1946)

indexIt’s 1946 and the infamous ex-Nazi Franz Kinzler is living under an assumed name while teaching at an elite private school in small-town Connecticut.  He’s charmed the townspeople, including the headmaster’s daughter played by Loretta Young.  They marry, then Kinzler’s true identity is revealed to her, but is she too blinded by love to see the truth about her husband?

This post-WWII noir classic was directed by and stars Orson Welles.  Fabulous shadow effects, long camera shots, and dramatic angles are hallmarks of Welles’ style and make this movie a visual delight.  The Stranger was nominated for an Academy Award and was the first Hollywood feature film to include documentary footage of the Holocaust.  It’s a must see for lovers of classic noir and fans of suspense. Check out our list of other 1940s Noir Classics too!

Roxanne (1987) PG

26290332_saThis modern day retelling of Edmond Rostand’s classic Cyrano de Bergerac, starring Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah, is satisfyingly funny. C. D. Bales (Martin) a fire chief in a small town, falls in love with the beautiful Roxanne (Hannah), a visiting astronomer.  Unfortunately, C. D. has an extraordinarily long nose, and Roxanne is smitten with Chris, one of C. D.’s new firemen.  C. D. agrees to help Chris woo Roxanne, even going so far as to feed Chris romantic lines through a one-way radio. But will Roxanne discover C. D.’s true feelings?  This romantic comedy will not disappoint.

Enjoy Roxanne?  We’ve created a list of rom coms (and more rom coms).

The Death of Stalin (2017) R

deathofstalinOne of the most unique films I’ve seen in a long time is Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin. Fans of the horribly absurd (or the absurdly horrible) will find themselves cringing while laughing through this warped historical comedy. Nikita Kruschev (Steve Buscemi) and Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale) jockey for the top Soviet position after the 1953 death of Joseph Stalin.

Jeffery Tambor sweats up a storm as Georgy Malenkov, Stalin’s nervous-wreck of a second-in-command. With each member of the Soviet politico watching over his shoulder for the other, this satire bites down hard on the realities of tyranny, cruelty, power, and fear. Given the truth underlying the farce, it sometimes felt wrong to laugh, but I found it impossible not to. This dark comedy will make you think and stays with you long after it ends.
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The Shape of Water (2017) R

shapeofwaterGuillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor’s masterpiece is as beautiful as it is heart-wrenching. The cinematography is matched only by Alexandre Desplat’s score that captures and enhances the emotions in each scene. Elisa (Sally Hawkins), who has been mute since she was a baby, works as a janitor at a top-secret government research facility; there, she encounters something that changes the course of her life. At its core, The Shape of Water is a story that questions just what is it that makes us human.

The Shape of Water won four Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Original Score, and Production Design) and was nominated in nine other categories.

The Miracle Season (2018) PG

miracleseasonBased on true story, The Miracle Season covers the 2011 Iowa City West High School women’s volleyball team and how they battled back from adversity after losing their team captain, vivacious and effervescent Caroline “Line” Found (Danika Yarosh) in an unfortunate accident.

Coach Kathy Bresnahan (Helen Hunt) tags senior Kelly Flieher (Erin Moriarty), who was Line’s best friend since childhood, with leading the team after the loss of Line. Flieher battles her own doubts about her abilities to step into Line’s shoes as a setter, and lead the team to a consecutive state title, which they had won the previous year.

William Hurt turns in a strong performance (one of the best of the movie), as Line’s father, Dr. Ernie Found. Kelly is like a daughter to him, and he and she turn to each other and draw strength from each other, he grieving the loss of his daughter and wife and she looking for support because she is taking Line’s place on the volleyball court.

Overall, this was a good, not great, sports movie. I can’t think of any movies that have been made with volleyball as the featured sport, so this film helps to fill that hole. Like most inspirational sports movies, this one tugs at the heartstrings, so if you get emotional do have a box of tissues ready. You are going to need them.

Whale Rider (2002) PG-13

whaleriderShot on location in New Zealand, Whale Rider is a beautiful film about a young girl and the deep love and commitment she has for her family, heritage, and community. Paikea, as it turns out, is prophetically named after the mythical whale rider in one of the legends of her people, the Maori.

In her small village, Pai is being raised by her grandparents, and she has an especially strong bond with her grandad, her beloved Paka. She admires him greatly, and wants to make him proud. Sadly, her Paka, who is also the village chief, desperately wanted a grandson he could train to become chief—someone who will carry on tradition. In the absence of a grandson, he settles for a boy from the village, setting out to find one he can groom. Paka is very reluctant to see that the next chief can be his own granddaughter—until she becomes a whale rider.
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Murder on the Orient Express (2017) PG-13

murder_on_the_orient_express_teaser_poster5 out of 5 stars for me. Not knowing the story kept me engaged and absorbed. The ending took me by surprise--a very good surprise--and totally unexpected. The actors were top notch, intense and mysterious, but still believable. The scenery was spectacular. The photography, especially the close-ups of the characters' faces, helped the mystery develop.

Check out the most recent adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic Murder on the Orient Express. Looking for a review of the book? Check out Jennifer’s take on Current Picks from December.

Signs (2002) PG-13

220px-the_signs_movieGraham—formerly Reverend Hess—is a grieving husband, who has lost not only his wife but his faith too. He hasn’t by any means fallen apart, though, or stopped caring about the people around him. Graham is a good dad to his two young kids, and the people in his small town can’t help still calling him “Father.” When crop circles appear on his farm and then around the world, Graham reasons that there must be a logical explanation, and he struggles to hold on to this—even as his kids and his younger brother, who lives with them, jump on the alien-theory bandwagon.

Signs is one of those quiet films that rings true to life, often feeling more like a family drama than a supernatural thriller. And yet true to form, writer and director M. Night Shyamalan injects just enough oddity and suspense into the film to make you feel that things are not quite right—and that there’s something creepy lurking just around the corner.

My Man Godfrey (1936)

225px-my_man_godfreyIn this farce masterpiece, William Powell plays Godfrey, the enigmatic butler whose sophistication and commanding presence hint at his true identity. Godfrey is discovered living in the city dump, and recruited to work for the Bullocks—a family described by one of their longtime staffers as being more “nutty” than “exacting.” The cast of characters includes the shrill-voiced Mrs. Bullock, usually hung over and in a pixie-seeing haze in the morning; Cornelia, Godfrey’s nemesis; and her sister Irene, hopelessly in love with Godfrey from the start. Then there’s poor Mr. Bullock, the sole voice of reason in the family. Oh and Carlo, Mrs. Bullock’s “protégé,” really a freeloading artist who becomes melodramatically upset as soon as Mr. Bullock starts talking belt-tightening.

It is hard to believe that in the midst of all this chaos and frivolity, My Man Godfrey has a deeper aim than to make the audience laugh. But at the heart of the story is Godfrey—the butler who’s really a high-minded aristocrat—and who really makes the audience think.