Sleepy Hollow (1999) R
This Tim Burton film starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci borrows characters and the setting from Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but otherwise bears no resemblance to the story. Although I am usually unhappy when Hollywood drastically alters a classic, I was happily surprised with this film.
Depp plays Ichabod Crane, a New York City police detective rather than Irving’s schoolmaster. The time is 1799. Crane is despised by the New York authorities because he uses scientific methods to solve crimes as opposed to the old-fashioned methods of beatings and torture. To get him out of their hair, he is sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate three grisly murders. All of the victims have been decapitated.
The film is very atmospheric and you get the feeling of gloom that sets in during the late fall after all the leaves have fallen from the trees, the days are short and dark, and winter will soon arrive. The Oscar nomination for best cinematography is well earned.
Sleepy Hollow is not for young children or sensitive viewers as there is a lot of blood and gore, but everyone else should enjoy this film – especially if viewed in late October or early November and of course at night.
Ghost Town (2008) PG-13
This delightful romantic comedy stars Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear, and Tea Leoni. A dentist named Bertram Pincus (Gervais) has zero people skills and in fact despises people so much, it is surprising he didn’t choose a different career such as hermit or public executioner. And as though life isn’t tough enough for Pincus, he acquires the ability to see and speak with ghosts as a result of faulty anesthetic.
The ghosts are people who had unresolved issues at the time of their deaths and they all want Pincus to help him. For a man like Pincus, this is a disaster, as he has spent most of his life avoiding the living and now he’s being haunted almost nonstop. However, things get even more complicated when one of the ghosts, Frank Herlihy (Kinnear), pesters Pincus into helping him break up his widow’s engagement. This is a particularly difficult task since her fiancé is handsome, fit, wealthy, and a great humanitarian, whereas Pincus is plain, plump, and spectacularly obnoxious. In addition, Pincus has offended and antagonized Gwen several times in the past.
There are a lot of laughs in this movie and it is very definite feel good romance.
Check out other reviews from The New York Times, CNN, Roger Ebert, and The Seattle Times.
Speed Racer (2008) PG
Based on the animated TV series, Speed Racer may start out slow, but it soon becomes engrossing. Race car driver Speed Racer (Emilie Hirsch) loves driving – it’s in his blood (and it’s the family business). When he makes it to the big leagues, Speed learns about the dark side of the sport that took the life of his older brother.
Costarring Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, and Matthew Fox, Speed Racer is psychedelic fun for the whole family.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) PG
Another Ben Stiller winner. Everyone will enjoy watching the authentic Smithsonian Museums’ artifacts come alive! The story tells interesting historical facts about Amelia Earhart and General Custer.
I went to Washington, D.C., two years ago; therefore, the movie impressed me in that it was based on facts like the largest sea monster caught being at the Smithsonian and the use of the Air and Space Museum for action. Of course, you’ll love seeing Abe Lincoln come to life walking and talking…and having recently climbed all those stairs up the Lincoln Memorial, I was impressed that the movie used Abe to great advantage.
See this on DVD for lots of laughs. And don’t forget to check out the original Night at the Museum.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) PG-13
Loosely based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, the film tells the story of Benjamin, who lives his life in reverse. Born physically old but with the mind of a child, Benjamin continues to grow physically younger as he matures. Although not fast paced, this character driven story captured my attention and raised interesting questions about the importance of the people we meet in our life. Visually it is a beautiful film which begins in 1918 in New Orleans and moves forward to the fateful Hurricane Katrina. Brad Pitt (Benjamin) and Cate Blanchett (Daisy) bring star power to the story.
Ladyhawke (1985) PG-13
Visually a work of art, this film is based on a 13th century European legend about a beautiful maiden (Michelle Pfeiffer), a stalwart knight (Rutger Hauer) and a pickpocket (Matthew Broderick). The knight and the lady were once lovers, but a curse by the jealous Bishop of Aquila has left them “always together, eternally apart.” By day, she is a hawk; by night he is a wolf.
This one has a great storyline and interesting characters. Philipe’s (Broderick) conversations with God add a wonderful dimension to the film as does Leo McKern as the old monk. Check out the original trailer.
Xena, Warrior Princess: Season 3 (1997-1998)
Join Xena and Gabrielle (Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor) in this action-packed comedy adventure. Set in Ancient Greece, Xena decides to reform her outlaw ways by wandering the country to fight evil. Learn a bit about Greek mythology. Watch Xena come up with clever solutions by the end of each show.
During season 3, Gabrielle gives birth to a daughter, who ages quickly and soon becomes a source of contention. Follow the drama throughout the season. Also check out the musical episode in season 5 – it’s hilarious.
If you like this, you’d also like Buffy – same action packed comedy adventure, but with a vampire slant (and high school kids).
Stardust (2007) PG-13
Feuding princes, witches, pirates, flying ships, and falling stars – what more could you want?
To prove his love to Victoria (Sienna Miller), Tristan Thorne (Charlie Cox) crosses the forbidden wall to retrieve a fallen star. Instead of finding a celestial rock, he discovers an injured Yvaine (Claire Danes).
Yvaine reluctantly follows Tristan after he promises to get her back home. What should be a simple trek turns into a fast-paced adventure as Yvaine becomes the target of evil witches (including Michelle Pfeiffer) and feuding princes.
Fighting to stay alive, Tristan and Yvaine eventually find an ally in the cultured pirate Captain Shakespeare (Robert DeNiro). During their journey, Tristan and Yvaine begin to fall for each other, but will true love be enough?
Narrated by Ian McKellen. Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman.
The Secret of Roan Inish (1995) PG
The Secret of Roan Inish is an American independent film written and directed by John Sayles; Sayles is a wonderful storyteller. This is a good “family” movie.
It is magical story, beautifully filmed, of the legend of a small Irish fishing village in the 1940s and its neighboring island, Roan Inish. The island is a deserted place inhabited only by seals. The legend is of “Selkies,” in Irish mythology. Selkies are half-human/half-seal creatures.
The central character is a 10-year-old girl named Fiona who is sent to live with her grandparents. She learns the truth of her parents and Roan Inish. She discovers she has baby brother named Jamie who apparently was pulled out to sea in his cradle by Selkies and is determined to bring him home.
Check out what Roger Ebert has to say about the film that was part of his 7th film festival in 2005.
The Princess Bride (1987) PG
The Princess Bride has action, comedy and romance all wrapped up in the ultimate adventure fairy tale. Adults and children will enjoy this classic film that features sword fighting, revenge, an evil prince, a giant, mythical beasts, and, of course, true love. Actors include Cary Elwes, Robin Wright Penn, Mandy Patinkin and Andre the Giant.