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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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Father Brown. Season 1 (2013) TV-PG

If the show Father Brown can be summed up in one word, and one word only, it would be "delightful."  At first glance, it's hard to realize most episodes revolve around murder!  With the gorgeously quaint 1950s English countryside, the overall tone is upbeat with plenty of banter between characters.  Mark Williams plays Father Brown as a boyish scamp sticking his nose anywhere and everywhere to the police's chagrin.  He won't rest until the latest mystery is resolved. Wherever Father Brown is found, Mrs. McCarthy and Lady Felicia will not be far behind.  The series is based on the stories of G. K. Chesterton.  Won't you help them save some souls and check this out today? 

If you enjoy Father Brown, try our list of books featuring Murders in an English Village.

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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The Last Detective. The Complete Series (2003 - 2007)

Detective Constable 'Dangerous' Davies (Peter Davidson) is the lowest man on the totem pole in his London police station and is the last detective his boss would assign to a major case.  Davies is a bumbling underdog who is not respected by his colleagues and only given the cases no one else wants.  Despite this, he does his job with determination and intelligence and somehow manages to solve major cases.

The audience gets views of Davies' personal life, including his ex-wife (whom he is still in love with), his dog, and his quirky friend, Mod.  This British series (comprised of four seasons) is a gentler version of police procedurals, with some humor and no gratuitous violence.

If you like The Last Detective, you might also enjoy some of the selections on  British Detective Series…Now.



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.

Atypical. Seasons 1-2 (2017-2018) TV-MA

mv5bmtcynzk3mzm2of5bml5banbnxkftztgwodcwmzyxnjm-_v1_uy1200_cr9006301200_al_Atypical revolves around high school senior, Sam Gardner.  He loves penguins, art, and biology and just happens to be on the autism spectrum.  Follow the Gardner family as they navigate relationships at school and home, while Sam works to gain more independence and life experience in this witty, yet heart-tugging Netflix original series.  Seasons 1 and 2 are available to stream through Netflix on our Rokus.

 

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!

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.

Midsomer Murders (1997-2018) TV-14

midsomermurdersAh, the idyllic English countryside. There’s nothing more peaceful—or is there? Lurking beneath the surface, there may be a murderer among us. Sweet and kindly grandmothers, cherubic children, your next-door neighbor Bob—no one is safe from suspicion. It’s up to Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby and his faithful Detective Sergeant to put the pieces together before someone else meets their untimely demise in the long-running British TV series Midsomer Murders.

The Florida Project (2017) R

Featuring a cast of mostly amateur actors, and a powerful performance from Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project tells an affectingly real and heartbreaking story.

Taking its title from the original name for Walt Disney World, the film focuses on a six-year-old girl named Moonee and her mother Halley, who live just outside the confines of the amusement park. Willem Dafoe plays Bobby, the manager of the run-down motel that Moonee and her mother call home (a role that earned him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards).

While there are moments of levity and humor throughout The Florida Project, the film is, at times, an uncomfortable watch. Not because of any poor directing, acting, or writing; in fact, it is uncomfortable for the exact opposite reasons. The Florida Project presents an unfiltered and amazingly true-to-life look into the effect poverty and dysfunctional family situations can have on young children. Audiences looking for realism, heart, and drama need look no further than The Florida Project, one of the best films of 2017.
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The Magicians. Season 1 (2015-2016) TV-14

magicianss1Imagine an extremely dark, adult world where Harry Potter meets Narnia, and you'll pretty much have The Magicians. Based on Lev Grossman's book series of the same name, follow a handful of young adults at a magical graduate school of sorts hidden in upstate New York. Their story is not for the faint of heart! In between classes, homework, and bizarre magical field trips, Quentin and his friends learn the fantasy world of a childhood book series is real, along with a bloodthirsty beast who has it in for not only them, but also the rest of humanity.

Watch Season 1 of The Magicians on DVD or borrow a Roku to stream it via Netflix.

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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Spotlight: Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper

jennifer-lawrence-bradley-cooperAward winning actors Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper have costarred in four movies: Silver Linings Playbook, Serena, American Hustle, and Joy. The interaction between these talented stars is amazing.

In Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper plays Pat Solitano, a man suffering from bipolar disorder and has an obsession with his ex-wife, Nikki, who has a restraining order against him. Through a friend, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), an unbalanced widow. He latches onto her when he learns that she knows Nikki. This poignant and sometimes comedic film has a colorful cast of characters, including Robert De Niro as Pat’s father, who is fanatical about the Philadelphia Eagles.

Browse Best On-Screen Couples for other couples you might enjoy watching.

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.