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Signs (2002) PG-13

220px-the_signs_movieGraham—formerly Reverend Hess—is a grieving husband, who has lost not only his wife but his faith too. He hasn’t by any means fallen apart, though, or stopped caring about the people around him. Graham is a good dad to his two young kids, and the people in his small town can’t help still calling him “Father.” When crop circles appear on his farm and then around the world, Graham reasons that there must be a logical explanation, and he struggles to hold on to this—even as his kids and his younger brother, who lives with them, jump on the alien-theory bandwagon.

Signs is one of those quiet films that rings true to life, often feeling more like a family drama than a supernatural thriller. And yet true to form, writer and director M. Night Shyamalan injects just enough oddity and suspense into the film to make you feel that things are not quite right—and that there’s something creepy lurking just around the corner.

My Man Godfrey (1936)

225px-my_man_godfreyIn this farce masterpiece, William Powell plays Godfrey, the enigmatic butler whose sophistication and commanding presence hint at his true identity. Godfrey is discovered living in the city dump, and recruited to work for the Bullocks—a family described by one of their longtime staffers as being more “nutty” than “exacting.” The cast of characters includes the shrill-voiced Mrs. Bullock, usually hung over and in a pixie-seeing haze in the morning; Cornelia, Godfrey’s nemesis; and her sister Irene, hopelessly in love with Godfrey from the start. Then there’s poor Mr. Bullock, the sole voice of reason in the family. Oh and Carlo, Mrs. Bullock’s “protégé,” really a freeloading artist who becomes melodramatically upset as soon as Mr. Bullock starts talking belt-tightening.

It is hard to believe that in the midst of all this chaos and frivolity, My Man Godfrey has a deeper aim than to make the audience laugh. But at the heart of the story is Godfrey—the butler who’s really a high-minded aristocrat—and who really makes the audience think.

Suits. Seasons 1-6 (2011-2017) TV-14

If you enjoy a legal series with a unique premise and great cast, watch Suits. Top attorney Harvey Specter hires Mike Ross, a college dropout with a photographic memory who is on the run from a drug dealer, as his associate knowing he never attended law school nor passed the bar. Delight in the winning combination of the seemingly cutthroat attorney and the compassionate associate.

Suits is a balance between relationships within the Manhattan corporate law firm, negotiating cases, and a little romance. Enjoy the infighting and firm politics, especially with the annoying attorney, Louis Litt.
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Big Eyes (2014) PG-13

Amy Adams portrays Margaret Keane, creator of the Big Eyed Waifs, whose talent was unrecognized for years, while her husband Walter (played by Christoph Waltz) took all the credit. Big Eyes follows their romance and the eventual deterioration of their marriage as Walter's drinking, mental health, and the lie they lived became more than Margaret could bear. After reading The Muse by Jessie Burton about a fictitious couple who hide behind the same type of artistic ruse, one wonders how often this has occurred throughout art history. How many great women artists have had to hide their talent with a man's signature?
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The Edge of Seventeen (2016) R

Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) finds growing up in today's modern world challenging, especially in the shadow of her next-to-perfect older brother Darian (Blake Jenner). This coming of age tale in the vein of The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles is candid and honest with humorous moments of what it's like to be a teenager who just wants to have a real conversation with another human being in person and not through social media and their phone.

Her mother (Kyra Sedgwick) is busy with her own problems and oblivious to her daughter's obvious struggles with school, friends, and social life. To make matters worse, her brother and her best friend find a romantic connection—which sends Nadine over the edge. Her one and only confidant, her history teacher (Woody Harrelson), seems to be the only constant in her life who actually pays her any real attention until one day the unexpected friendship of a thoughtful boy gives her a glimmer of hope.

If you enjoyed Juno, watch The Edge of Seventeen.

The Rookie (2002) G

Dennis Quaid portrays Jimmy Morris, The Rookie’s title character, who is a middle-aged high school coach, married with kids, and living in a small Texas town. His pro baseball aspirations have long been forgotten, and yet, he has this amazing pitch. Jimmy’s players take notice and challenge him to try out for the major leagues. Based on a true story, this is one of those movies that reminds us that strange and wonderful things happen in real life.

We’ve also got other baseball movies and sports documentaries.

 

A Hologram for the King (2016) R

hologramA funny and quirky story about a man and the experiences that change his life while on a business trip in the Middle East. There, he ultimately finds peace and harmony where he least expects it!

A Hologram for the King stars Tom Hanks and is based on a Dave Eggers novel of the same name.
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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.
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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.

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.

Lucifer. Season 1 (2016)

luciferThe Devil has gotten tired of being the big bad in charge of Hell, so what does he do? Go to L.A, of course! Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis) and his number one demon, Maze, are living it up in their own nightclub, Lux, when the unthinkable happens. Lucifer’s friend gets caught up in a murder and he is determined that the killer be punished. On his journey for justice, he crosses paths with detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German), and realizes he likes helping criminals get locked up on Earth. Season 1 of Lucifer looks to be the start of a beautiful cop-devil partnership.
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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."

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.

Saving Mr. Banks (2013) PG-13

savingmrbanksSaving Mr. Banks is an engaging drama about Walt Disney's quest to win the movie rights to the classic children's fantasy Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers. Inspired by his daughters' love of the series and motivated by his determined personality, Disney will not relent. Travers (portrayed by Emma Thompson), just as stubborn as Disney, refuses to let her masterpiece succumb to the big screen and most of all, transform into a musical with animated figures. She ignores her grim financial outlook and the encouragement of her agent and remains in seclusion for years.

Finally, she agrees to a short trip to the Disney studio offices in California. Once there, Walt Disney tries everything in his business arsenal to win her over, including a trip to Disneyland. It is finally a very personal insight into both characters that seals the deal. Tom Hanks does an excellent job portraying the many sides of American icon Walt Disney.

Story of G. I. Joe (1945)

storygijoeBased on the columns of popular war correspondent Ernie Pyle (Burgess Meredith), Story of G. I. Joe was released in 1945 at the very end of WWII. The movie follows “C” Company of the 18th Infantry as it fights across North Africa and up through Italy, focusing on a handful of ordinary soldiers and the well-liked Lieutenant Walker (Robert Mitchum). Actual veterans of the Italian campaign, waiting on the west coast for deployment to the Pacific, played extras in the movie.

Check out our spotlight of director William Wellman for reviews of his other war movies. You’ll notice his war films avoid unrealistic heroics in favor of poignant stories of ordinary men under hellish circumstances.

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