Love Actually (2003) R

loveactuallyAlthough this is a movie you can watch any time of year, I always seem to revisit Love Actually in December. Set in London, the film follows eight loosely related couples in the month leading up to Christmas. It’s not all happy endings in this romantic dramedy, but I’d still call this one a feel good movie. One of my favorite moments is Hugh Grant’s dance scene through 10 Downing Street (he plays the prime minister). You’ll see lots of other familiar faces including Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, and Martin Freeman.

In the mood for a Christmas movie? We’ve got a whole list.

Emotion (2015) & Emotion: Side B (2016) by Carly Rae Jepsen

emotionYou might not know any of Carly Rae Jepsen’s songs other than “Call Me Maybe,” but this girl is anything but a one-hit wonder. Jepsen is the Canadian Pop Queen and her 2015 album, E-MO-TION will have you bobbing your head and dancing in your seat to a mix of modern pop and 80s synth sounds. Some of the best songs to check out on this album are “Run Away with Me,” “Boy Problems,” and “L.A. Hallucinations.”

sidebIn 2016, Jepsen released Side B, which is an 8-track of songs that didn’t make it onto the original E-MO-TION collection. What counts as a B Side for Jepsen would be a smash hit on an A Side for anyone else. Even for a small collection of cut songs, Side B is creating a lot of buzz, both critically and among fans. My favorite songs here are “Higher,” “The One,” and “Body Language.”

Want to lift your mood a little? Watch the music video below for Jepsen’s “I Really Like You,” featuring special guest, Tom Hanks! Afterwards, you can check out E-MO-TION on CD or check out both albums instantly through Hoopla.

Atonement (2007) R

atonementIn 1935 England, 13-year-old Briony witnesses her sister and a young man interact and misinterprets it. Later she tells a lie about a rape and Robbie, the son of a family servant, is sent to prison. Her older sister Cecelia loves Robbie, but the lie changes their lives forever and the consequences are devastating. Three years later, England is at war and the two lovers try to reunite.

Atonement has an excellent cast. Kiera Knightley (Cecelia) has never been better, and James McAvoy (Robbie) is perfect as the wronged lover and soldier. Saoirse Ronan plays Briony. The war scenes are realistic, and the story based on the novel by Ian McEwan is superb.

What We Live For by American Authors (2016)

5a7092e49e8fe81c0acce9e4525147bd-600x600x1As a huge fan of the 2014 single “Best Day of My Life,” I was excited to discover American Authors’ sophomore effort. What We Live For is an upbeat, feel good alternative pop/rock album. Especially catchy are the songs “Go Big or Go Home” and “Nothing Better.” Give it a listen to lift your mood. For fans of OneRepublic and Fun.

Good news: listen instantly on Hoopla (or check out the CD).

Whiplash (2014) R

whiplashAndrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is a young student at the Schaffer Conservatory in NYC, the nation’s premiere music academy, and is trying to be the best drummer he can be. He feels like he’s finally gotten his break when one of the top instructors, Mr. Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) recruits him to play in a concert jazz band, but things quickly take a dark turn. Fletcher is a teacher who pushes his students through means of physical, mental, and emotional abuse. While this movie is a drama, Whiplash feels like a horror movie where the tension is palpable and you won’t be able to break away from the screen until the final credits roll.

Want another take on this movie? Read Joan’s review here.

I’ll See You in My Dreams (2015) PG-13

seeyouinmydreamsBlythe Danner portrays widow Carol Petersen, who is grieving multiple losses. She survives her daily struggles with a little help from her friends (played by Martin Starr, Mary Kay Place, June Squibb, and Rhea Perlman). In I’ll See You in My Dreams, 70ish Danner creates a very warm and realistic character in this first leading role of her career. She proves “tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

There Will Be Blood (2007) R

therewillbebloodWritten and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood was inspired by Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil! Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis, who won an Oscar for his leading role) is a self-made oil baron in the booming California oil industry of the early 1900s. Daniel is a cold man with morals that only serve his best interest, success and money being the only two things he cares about.

When Daniel discovers a large oil deposit underground in the small town of Little Boston, conflicts arise, both with his family and the citizens of the town, including a very devout and self-serving preacher boy named Eli (Paul Dano).

There Will Be Blood is a very dark film, as Daniel Plainview’s road to the top of his industry is littered with immorality and dishonesty. Despite the darker tones of the movie, the film itself is gorgeous. It’s no surprise that it won the Oscar for Best Cinematography, as the beautiful shots and sequences in the barren desert landscapes help to tell the story just as much as the wonderful writing.

New Tricks. Seasons 1-12 (2003-2015)

newtricksIf you enjoy British mysteries with a bit of humor, try New Tricks. Follow the quirky team of retired policemen lead by a female superintendent as they help solve cold cases.

Each of the cast of characters is unique, and you will find yourself getting involved in their lives and rooting for them in their crime solving. I especially loved the actors who were in the first seven seasons.

If you enjoy this show, also check out the series Death in Paradise.

This Is What the Truth Feels Like by Gwen Stefani (2016)

gwenstefaniGwen Stefani has had quite the year. After a much publicized divorce from Gavin Rossdale of Bush, Stefani was on the edge of a breakdown. Much like the breakthrough album Tragic Kingdom (No Doubt – 1995), This Is What the Truth Feels Like takes a familiar tone and reflects what Stefani has been through.

The lead single “Used to Love You” gives listeners Stefani’s true emotion, showing her pain of the love she lost—but the album is not full of anger and disappointment. The album sheds light on Gwen’s newfound love with fellow The Voice coach Blake Shelton with other singles “Make Me Like You” and “Misery.” This album is a fresh breath of air from the insecurities she has displayed in previous albums about Rossdale. It is definitely worth the listen.

This Is The Truth Feels Like is Gwen’s first solo album to hit #1 on the Billboard top 200 charts. Get the CD in the library or download the album instantly on Hoopla.

Stranger Things (2016)

Stranger-Things-PosterSet in the 1980s in small town Indiana, this new Netflix series is everything you could want from a science fiction horror series. As the title suggests, strange things are happening in Hawkins, Indiana, a quiet town that rarely sees any kind of crime—that is, until 12-year-old Will Byers goes missing and a strange girl with special powers appears. The 8 episode season features multiple storylines with Will’s mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder), and the town sheriff (David Harbour) uncovering government conspiracies, teens going monster hunting, and a group of kids looking for their lost friend and trying to protect their new one.

Drawing on popular culture of the 80s and infusing elements from E.T., Star Wars, Dungeons & Dragons, Alien, and Stephen King, this show hits all the right notes when it comes to spooky nostalgia. Once you enter Hawkins, you’ll be glued to your screen and won’t be ready to leave at the end. Stranger Things is available as a full season through Netflix, which you can access for free by checking out one of our roku devices.

Already obsessed with Stranger Things? Check out Book Riot‘s list of recommended reading.