The Big Heat (1953)

Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame star as an honest police detective who goes after the gangsters who killed his wife and the gangster’s girlfriend who switches her allegiance. Police corruption and a conspiracy drive the plot. I consider The Big Heat to be one of the best noir movies of the 1950s. If you like classic film noir, add this tense, dark, and gritty film to your must-see list.

Check out our list of other 1950s Noir films.

The Crown. Season 1 (2016) TV-MA

Golden Globe winner The Crown stars Claire Foy as a young Elizabeth Windsor from the time of her marriage to Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh (Matt Smith) to her ascension to the throne as Queen Elizabeth II. After King George VI’s death, Elizabeth enters a world run by ministers, counselors, and advisers who all believe they know best. As she starts to learn how to run a country and prove herself to Prime Minister Winston Churchill (John Lithgow) and his cabinet, Elizabeth also struggles with her family—especially her sister Margaret (Vanessa Kirby)—and her marriage with Phillip, who feels useless in the palace. Full of political intrigue, yet balanced by deeply personal moments, this is a show for fans of Downton Abbey, The Tudors, and The West Wing.

Check out our adult roku today for one week of free access to Netflix to watch this show!

Want more about the Windsors? Try Wallis & Edward about King Edward’s abdication; The King’s Speech, about King George VI’s overcoming a speech impediment and unexpectedly becoming king; and Victoria, a television show about another young queen: Queen Victoria.

America’s Sweethearts (2001) PG-13

americassweetheartsJohn Cusack and Catherine Zeta-Jones play America’s sweethearts (Eddie and Gwen): they’re actors who married, starred in several movies together, then split publicly and messily (sounds like real life, right?). The studio needs them to promote their final movie, and sends veteran publicist Lee (Billy Crystal) to control the chaos. Add Julia Roberts as Kiki, Gwen’s sister/assistant, and you’ve got America’s Sweethearts, a comedy about love and the ridiculousness of Hollywood.

In the mood to binge watch romantic comedies? We’ve got romantic comedies you’ll love – part 1 and part 2.

 

The Good Lie (2014) PG-13

goodlieInspired by the Sudanese civil war that began in the 1980s and the Lost Boys of Sudan, The Good Lie is a beautiful movie. The story begins in Africa, focusing on three noble children—the sons and daughter of the village chief. When Northern Sudanese soldiers kill most of the people in their village, only a small group of children survives. It is then up to their new chief, himself a child, to lead them hundreds of miles across Sub-Saharan Africa to the safety of a refugee camp in Kenya.

Thirteen years later, four young people from this group are happily sent to the U. S. as refugees. They soon discover though that this country is a totally alien place, with its strange customs and mystifying technology. The film then centers on their struggle to adjust, while still maintaining their sense of dignity and humor, their unity and faith. Reese Witherspoon is brilliant here as the put-upon job agency rep, who is assigned to find this odd and skill-less group gainful employment. A bittersweet treat.

The Ref (1994) R

refIt’s Christmas Eve and Gus (Dennis Leary) is a burglar whose partner abandons him when their latest heist goes south. He is forced to take hostage Lloyd and Caroline Chasseur (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis) – who are on their way home from marriage counseling – making them drive him to their home. Slowly, the rest of the family begins to arrive for their annual holiday celebration and Gus pretends to be Lloyd and Caroline’s marriage counselor. Little does he know that he will become the “counselor” for the entire dysfunctional family while he figures out a way to elude capture by the police.

The Ref is a dark comedy that takes the idea of a holiday movie and turns it on its head. The script is biting and sharp. Leary is best known for his sarcastic delivery and shines in the role of Gus. Spacey and Davis also are outstanding as the bickering couple who eventually realize they do love and care about each other. The rest of the cast is top notch and there are a number of well-known actors in cameo or supporting roles: B. D. Wong (Oz; Law & Order) as Dr. Wong, the Chasseur’s original marriage counselor; Christine Baranski (Cybill; The Good Wife) as demanding sister-in-law Connie; and J. K. Simmons (Law & Order; The Closer) as Siskel, the commander of the military school Lloyd and Caroline’s son Jesse is attending (little do they know that Jesse is blackmailing Siskel).

Granted, I know this movie isn’t for everyone. But, if you like dark comedies, a sharply written and delivered script, and something a little different to supplement all the maudlin and saccharin holiday fare that comes on this time of year, give this one a chance. It may just win you over.

Hyrule Warriors (2014) Nintendo 3DS & (2016) Wii U

hyruleDo you love the video games Dynasty Warriors and The Legend of Zelda? If so, then Hyrule Warriors may be the game for you! Even if you haven’t played all the Zelda games under the sun, the game does a great enough job of explaining things without huge spoilers for the games themselves. Never played Dynasty Warriors? No worries! The game does an excellent job of teaching beginners as well!

We have the game available in two formats: Wii U [note: title is hyrule warrior legends] and 3DS. It’s the perfect blend between the two game styles to take you on new adventures in Hyrule.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

anatomymurderSet in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, this classic courtroom drama features a winning cast of small town characters. Jimmy Stewart plays Paul, the ex-District Attorney who would much rather be fishing or playing jazz piano than practicing law. He is perfectly content with getting by on the odd legal job, but his perpetually tipsy (yet surprisingly astute) sidekick, Parnell, has other ideas. At Parnell’s urging, Paul takes on a local murder case that brings them both out of their semi-retirement.

Other engaging characters abound, including a visiting judge, Paul’s secretary, and of course, the defendant and his wife. These characters along with a well-placed plot, the almost light-and-breezy tone—despite its dark subject matter—and the hip music of Duke Ellington make Anatomy of a Murder just plain fun.

Check out our list of Lawyers in the Movies for other films.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) R

popstar2The Lonely Island, perhaps known best for their SNL music videos and digital shorts, hit a home run with this musical mockumentary. Parodying documentary style films of popstars like Justin Bieber, this film focuses on star Connor4real (Andy Samberg), a former boy band member turned international sensation, whose sophomore album has just dramatically flopped. Connor struggles to figure out who he is when he isn’t being adored by millions of fans and is forced to confront the fallout with his former best friend when he quit the boy band of which they were once part.

Popstar is full of laughs, inside jokes, and pop culture references, and is positively littered with comedy and musical stars, including Usher, Adam Levine, Sarah Silverman, Joan Cusack, Jimmy Fallon, and Chelsea Peretti, just to name a few.

Joanne by Lady Gaga (2016)

joanneI have not been able to stop listening to Lady Gaga’s newest album Joanne. The album is named in tribute to her long-deceased Aunt Joanne, who passed away at the age of 19 and Gaga never had a chance to meet.

Gaga’s previous albums are much more glam/dance/pop and Joanne is a refreshingly stripped-down showcase of Gaga’s incredible vocal and musical talents.  There is a lot of variety on Joanne – it’s a little bit country, a whole lot of rock, and at times has Latin and Motown influences.

A few of my favorite tracks include: “A-YO” (a party tune that’s just plain fun);  “Joanne” (a heartbreaking acoustic ballad written to her late aunt);  “Hey Girl” (a funky duet with Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine); “John Wayne” (a crowd-pleasing guitar-heavy anthem); “Just Another Day” (perhaps a tribute to the late David Bowie or the Beatles); and “Million Reasons” (a beautiful catchy ballad that you won’t want to stop playing on repeat).  All the songs on this album truly showcase Lady Gaga’s absolutely stunning vocals and her incredible range as an artist.

If you don’t want to wait for the CD, stream it instantly via Hoopla!

Joyeux Noel = Merry Christmas (2005) PG-13

noelBased on the true series of unofficial ceasefires that occurred along the western front during World War I, Joyeux Noel portrays a truce by Scottish, French, and German troops on Christmas Eve 1914 in the midst of a bloody battle. This is a poignant human interest tale of men at war with each other coming out of the trenches to exchange greetings, sing Christmas songs, and play soccer.

Depending on the nationality of the soldiers, they are speaking in French, German, or English. English subtitles are available.

For other World War I movies see our list of recommended titles.  If you like Christmas movies, see our lists of Christmas Movies and Family Christmas Movies.