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Apollo 13

"Houston, we have a problem." In April 1970, three astronauts were headed for the moon when an oxygen tank exploded, affecting life support and propulsion. With an all-star cast, Apollo 13 (1995, PG) puts you right there in the lunar module as well as in the room at Houston flight control as the engineers work frantically to bring these men home alive. Apollo 13 was directed by Ron Howard and stars Tom Hanks, Ed Harris, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, and Gary Sinise.

Fans of Apollo 13 may also enjoy The Martian with Matt Damon. Apollo 13 is available as a DVD as a part of the Binge Box called "Never Travel with Tom Hanks," which includes three other movies: Cast Away, Captain Phillips, and Sully.


Military Wives

The wives on the Flitcroft military base are facing six months on their own after their spouses were called up to active duty. It is not easy when your spouse gets deployed. They get letters and maybe a video chat, but must find their way to cope. Some turn to TV shopping, others send care packages, many drink.

The Sergeant Major's wife, Lisa (Sharon Horgan), is responsible for the mental well-being of all the wives in the regiment. This ranges from brainstorming entertaining group activities to providing a shoulder to cry on. She is a little overwhelmed and has to cope with the Colonel's wife, Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas), who has very different ideas for activities. They finally meet in the middle and decide a choir would be an activity all could enjoy. The pair clash, but after some words realize they are stronger together. The choir becomes the activity that pulls them together and provides comfort.

Military Wives (2019, PG-13) was inspired by the true stories of women who started the first military wives' choir. The story is touching, heartfelt, funny, and sad at times, but very entertaining. For more about the true story and an interview with the actors, check out this NPR article.


All Good Things

I recommend the movie All Good Things (2010, rated R), based on a true story from the early 80s about New York real estate heir David Marks (Ryan Gosling) and the disappearance of his wife Katie (Kirsten Dunst). Gosling does an amazing job with the transformation of his character in how he changes over the years of his marriage. He tries to outrun his past, but his family and wealth bring him back into the family business.

Watch All Good Things on Hoopla today or check out the DVD. The inspiration for the movie may be stranger than fiction: read about the strange case of Robert Durst.

The Magicians. Seasons 1-5

A fantasy series full of magic, horror, wit, and fabulous costumes, The Magicians (2015-2020) is like Harry Potter for grown-ups. Based on the books by Lev Grossman, who borrows from other popular fantasy stories (most notably the Narnia series), this TV show revolves around a group of young people who are tested for their magical ability and offered places in Brakebills, an academy for magicians.

Adventure abounds as they discover and hone their magical skills, missteps and disasters just adding to their education. Add to this the possibility of travel to other worlds and a mysterious beast targeting the school, and you have an exciting, action filled show.

Please note that this is for adult audiences (rated TV-14)


Finding Neverland

When I heard Finding Neverland (2004, rated PG) was nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture, I hoped it would win--but it did not. Nevertheless, it is a terrific movie. Johnny Depp who portrays James M. Barrie and Kate Winslet are equally great together. All of the fantasy is typical Johnny Depp and had me wondering if there was any truth to this story about how James Barrie created Peter Pan.

As the movie progresses, a more serious tone emerges with a climactic ending befitting Academy Award worthiness. Heaven is a real place don't you know, and I for one can only imagine just how beautiful it will be.

Watch Finding Neverland on Hoopla today or on DVD. While it didn't win Best Picture, the film did nab an Oscar for Best Original Score. Listen to it on Hoopla. For more of the true story behind the film, read this New York Times article.


A Patch of Blue

In A Patch of Blue (1965) Selena D'Arcy (Elizabeth Hartman) is poor, uneducated, and blind. She spends her days in a park stringing and selling beaded jewelry. One day she meets a young office worker (Sidney Poitier) who befriends her and opens up her world by showing her the outside world. Selena doesn't know he is black. Unfortunately, her racist mother (Shelley Winters) sees them together and forbids Selena to ever see him again. Selena defies her mother and continues the friendship despite the violence she endures.

This black and white drama is a story of friendship and compassion and love. Shelley Winters won a supporting actress Academy Award for her portrayal of a hateful ignorant mother. Sidney Poitier's understated performance is what makes A Patch of Blue a classic.


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Mrs. Doubtfire

This fantastic movie masterpiece has great comedy that will make you fall down laughing and heartfelt drama that will pull on your heartstrings. All those things are guaranteed since the mix of comedy and drama is portrayed by the wonderful actress, Sally Field, and the late great funnyman legend, Robin Williams. I highly recommend Mrs. Doubtfire (1993, rated PG-13) for teens and adults of all ages if you want a good laugh or a good tug on the heartstrings.


Ashes in the Snow

Ruta Sepetys writes powerful stories based on hidden histories—pieces of our past that most don't know about. This adaptation of her first novel Between Shades of Gray shares the forgotten story of Lithuanians deported to Siberia by Joseph Stalin's Soviet army during World War II.

In Ashes in the Snow (2019), Bel Powley gives a strong performance as teenage aspiring artist Lina. When her professor father is arrested, the rest of her family is taken from their home and transported to a labor camp for so-called treasonous action against the Soviet Union. This moving film has beautiful cinematography and music.

Ashes in the Snow is achingly sad yet ultimately hopeful—a faithful adaptation of the novel inspired by true events. Watch this film on DVD or stream it instantly on Hoopla. Read a review from The Hollywood Reporter.



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The Rainmaker

I enjoyed watching The Rainmaker (1997, rated PG-13). John Grisham is definitely one of the better writers when it comes to courtroom drama or lawyer/drama kind of story, and this is an adaptation of his 1995 novel of the same name. Matt Damon and Danny DeVito work well together, and there is plenty of drama and suspense because of Rudy's (Damon) clients. The ending is somewhat bittersweet, but it's all part of why this is an excellent movie.

Check out The Rainmaker (directed by Francis Ford Coppola) on Hoopla today—and then browse our lists featuring lawyers in the movies (original and more).



Westworld

This series was so well done. Set in the future, Westworld (2016-) explores a theme park inhabited by artificial hosts and the wealthy humans who vacation there. Visitors are allowed to live out their fantasies, whether good or evil. The park indulges every wish, all with no consequences, with the motto being "Live without Limits." That is, of course, until the hosts start to deviate from their expected parameters. 

In my opinion, Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton steal the show from an all-star cast, including Anthony Hopkins. These two powerful actresses show such a deep scope of emotions as they slowly come to the realization of what they were created for.


The Song of Names

This stunning story stars Clive Owen and Tim Roth as boyhood friends. Dovidl, a Polish child violin prodigy, comes to live with Martin and his family as a refugee in London. After a time, they become like brothers and their relationship strengthens until an alarming event. When Dovidl is 21, a concert is arranged by Martin's father at great expense. Dovidl disappears without a trace, bringing shame and ruin to his adoptive family.

Years later, when Martin is 56 years old, he is interviewing a potential candidate and recognizes a style that only Dovidl could have taught. Thus begins the search for his long-lost friend.

Check out The Song of Names (2019, rated PG-13) today. If you enjoy this film, you might also try watching All My Loved Ones, The Boy in Striped Pajamas, and The Red Violin.

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Dark Waters

In this compelling movie based on a true story, a corporate lawyer (Mark Ruffalo), switches sides (and finds his calling) by spearheading an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company. Rob Bilott. He recently made partner at a high powered law firm when he is approached by neighbors of his grandmother. What follows is a years-long battle against DuPont, putting his career, marriage, and health in jeopardy.

Fans of Erin Brockovich will find much to enjoy in Dark Waters (2019, rated PG-13). They are both stories of underdogs fighting for the health and safety of the public. For more behind the characters and story of Dark Waters, check out articles from The Hollywood Reporter and Slate.



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No Country for Old Men

Start this film only if you're interested in the kind of drama that grabs your attention and refuses to let go for its entirety. (My only problem is the same one I have with all terrific movies that are rated R: in my opinion, these films would still be just as terrific if they were made PG).

Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin are at the top of their game in this intense story between good and evil (including the evil of greed and lust for money) with an ending not always what you're expecting.

I recommend watching No Country for Old Men (1997) for great acting and the suspense we all want to see on a Saturday night. Check it out on Hoopla today. The movie is based on the book, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy.


Never Look Away

Kurt, a young art student, falls in love with Ellie, a fellow student. Her father Professor Seeband, a famous doctor, is not happy with the match and is out to destroy it. What none of them know is that their lives are already connected through the terrible crime Seeband committed during the war. Never Look Away (2018, rated R) is a stunning story, matched with outstanding cinematography.

In German with English subtitles.

For fans of The Reader, Black Book, Frantz, Tulip Fever, and The Exception.


Molly’s Game

Molly's Game is high speed and high stakes, just like its source material: the true story of "poker princess" Molly Bloom, who ran an exclusive underground card game for the rich and famous—until the game's ties to the Russian mob entangle her in a federal indictment. Rapid-fire dialogue, interesting characters, and a standout performance from lead actress Jessica Chastain all come together to make a movie that feels just as energetic and dynamic as each game.

Check out Molly's Game written and directed by Aaron Sorkin on dvd or blu-ray. To learn more read Molly's Game: from Hollywood's elite to Wall Street's billionaire boys club, my high-stakes adventure in the world of underground poker by Molly Bloom or Billion Dollar Hollywood Heist: the A-list kingpin and the poker ring that brought down Tinseltown by Houston Curtis.


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