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The Book Thief (2013) PG-13

bookthiefA wonderful story of a young girl living in Germany during World War II. The Book Thief is a story of how her adoptive family teaches her to read and also teaches her the meaning of what is truly important in life.

Also check out the Markus Zusak novel of the same name, which provided the basis for the movie.

And if you enjoy movies set during WWII, we’ve got you covered: find foreign films, the home front, spy movies, and more.

 
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Whiplash (2014) R

whiplashIn Whiplash, an intense drama, promising young drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), newly accepted into the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory in New York City, is determined to rise to the top of the jazz world. He soon finds himself working under the Conservatory's notoriously tough instructor, Mr. Fletcher. Fletcher (J. K. Simmons) is a dedicated teacher and musician, but is openly abusive towards his students. Andrew must decide the price he is willing to pay to succeed at Shaffer Conservatory and break into the music industry.
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Being John Malkovich (1999) R

MV5BMTUyMjI4OTE3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzMxMTUxMQ@@._V1_SX640_SY720_Being John Malkovich is one of those quirky, funny movies that you just can’t miss. Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a puppeteer who discovers…well, let’s just come out and say it…he discovers a portal directly into the brain of John Malkovich. Anyone who walks through the door will actually see what John Malkovich sees for about 15 minutes.

Look back at what Roger Ebert had to say.

The Scarlet and the Black (1983)

scarletblackGregory Peck plays an Irish Monsignor, who, during WWII, rallies an unlikely group of people to shelter Allied soldiers and Jews in Nazi-occupied Rome. The events in The Scarlet and the Black are inspired by true events, and the character of Monsignor O’Flaherty, inspired by a real Vatican priest. Gregory Peck is brilliant here as the lively and cunning O’Flaherty who goes up against Coronel Herbert Kappler, the head of Nazi operatives in Rome. Kappler, in turn, is deftly played by Christopher Plummer. While cold and ambitious, the colonel is also a dedicated family man—certainly not a one-dimensional character.

Plummer and Peck don’t share too much time on-screen, but when they do it’s a delight. Shot on location in Rome, this beautiful film features great acting and a well-placed plot. A must-see in my book.
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The Sixth Sense (1999) PG-13

sixthsenseThis film has an eerie feel to it from start to finish, and when you finally figure out what’s happening, you will be blown away. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense follows child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) as he tries to redeem himself after his last patient committed suicide. He is now trying to help young Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), who has an ominous secret. Cole’s mom is beside herself with worry over Cole, whose numerous phobias make life frightening and unbearable. Can Dr. Crowe figure out the secret?

Gotham. Season 1 (2014-2015)

gothamIn Gotham City, everyone is used to Batman being the absolute main character. However, in the show Gotham, Batman doesn’t exist yet. There is only Bruce Wayne: a young boy overwhelmed by the trauma of witnessing the cold-blooded murder of his parents.

Instead, the show revolves around the adventures of Jim Gordon, a young detective that recently joined the Gotham City PD, who struggles to catch bad guys while dealing with the rampant corruption in the city. His first case? Solve the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne.

Wind at My Back. The Complete Series (1996-2001)

This Canadian series ran for five seasons from 1996-2001. Set during the Great Depression in small town Ontario, Wind at My Back could be described as the Canadian version of The Waltons.

The Bailey family owns and controls the local mine in New Bedford, Ontario, and May Bailey, the family matriarch, controls the Bailey family. When her estranged son moves back home with his wife and children, May does all she can to control them, too. As the years pass, May can never quite lose her controlling ways, but daughter Grace and grandsons Hub and Fat each manages to find their own way. This is a delightful family story, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, and full of wonderful characters.

Forrest Gump (1994) PG-13

forrestgumpForrest Gump is told from the point of view of Forrest, played by Tom Hanks, and has a tall tale feel to it that will keep a satisfied smirk on your face throughout the movie. Forrest is born in Alabama, and he is not very bright, but despite this, or maybe even because of it, he throws himself into everything he does.

With extraordinary luck, he manages to appear at the scene of many pivotal moments in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and the movie superimposes him into actual footage of these events—it’s a lot of fun. His one desire is to woo the girl he grew up with, the love of his life, Jenny. Though the movie is funny, it also deals with a lot of heavy topics, and the ending is bittersweet. Forrest has so much heart that you will cheer for him until the end.
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The Straight Story (1999) G

straightstoryBased on the true story of Alvin Straight, The Straight Story is a beautiful homage to America’s heartland—its landscape and its people. Alvin, a World War II vet, has a childlike spirit and nerves of steel. To visit his brother who just had a stroke, he bravely embarks on a journey across Iowa and Wisconsin despite the fact that he can’t drive and that he has to use two canes to walk. His mode of transportation? An old John Deere lawn mower. Sleeping arrangements? In the makeshift trailer he’s hauling. Meals? Taken in the cornfields he pulls into--and cooked in the campfires he builds!

Despite experiencing setbacks throughout his journey, Alvin’s faith and resolve are unshakable. After all, he has a great purpose: to see the brother he hasn’t spoken to in ten years. He is also lucky to find people along the way who are willing to lend a helping hand. But this story’s real charm is that Alvin gives as much as he receives, leaving all the strangers he encounters better off for having met him.
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The Judge (2014) R

judgeOne of the best movies of 2014!

Great acting from all, especially Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall, in a very compelling story from beginning to end about the messiness of life and the complexity of family relations. Downey, a young, cocky, but successful Chicago lawyer goes home to small town Indiana to attend his mother's funeral. Reconnecting with his estranged father (Duvall), the town's judge, proves a challenge.

The aging judge is accused of murder in a hit-and-run of a biker on a dark, rainy night and Downey ends up representing his cantankerous father. One surprise after another unfolds and we are drawn into the drama hook, line, and sinker. Well written, excellent acting, The Judge is a winner you should see.
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The Wind Rises (2013) PG-13

windrisesI thoroughly enjoyed The Wind Rises, an Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Feature Film of 2013 and another exceptional film by the talented director and animator, Hayao Miyazaki.

Jiro, a nearsighted Japanese boy, is fascinated by flying and in his dreams meets Gianni Caproni, an Italian aeronautical designer. The determined and perfectionist Jiro goes on to design military airplanes.

The film is visually stunning with vivid colors. Through hand-drawn scenes, Miyazaki is able to subtly express the emotions of wonder, anger, sadness, and love.

Well-known actors dubbed the English version of the film. The original Japanese version with English subtitles is also available. Miyazaki is one of the last hand-drawn animators and allows no more than 10% of footage to be computer generated.

A Beautiful Mind (2001) PG-13

beautifulmindThis Oscar-winning film directed by Ron Howard is based on the life of the brilliant mathematician John Nash (Russell Crowe). It follows Nash’s career, starting with his years at Princeton in the late 1940s and ends in the early 90s when he wins the Nobel Prize in Economics. There is a little bit of everything in this drama: mystery, romance, and—surprisingly—humor. There are even aspects of a thriller is this film, with Cold War intrigue intruding upon the math professor’s quiet life. Are Russian spies out to get him?

Ultimately though, what makes A Beautiful Mind special is that despite all the competing elements in it, there is a tender and inspiring love story at its core. Nash is a flawed hero who, like all geniuses, loses himself in his work. But then along comes Alicia (Jennifer Connelly). She is a grounding force for him, his saving grace.
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Nero Wolfe. Seasons 1 & 2 (2001-2002)

nerowolfeWith Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe (the brilliant detective) and Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin (his leg man), this A&E television series is one of the best.

The TV series is based on the original stories by Rex Stout written between 1934 and 1958. It is beautifully shot with set design and costuming that reflects the time period of each story.

All of the episodes of Nero Wolfe include a climactic meeting of the suspects in Wolfe's office at his luxurious brownstone as he discloses the identity of the murderer, a classic mystery story devise; however in this series, it becomes a scene full of color, wit, and charm.

An unusual aspect of these Nero Wolfe shows is its reuse of supporting actors and actresses for different roles in the tradition of a repertory theater.

Heaven is for Real (2014) PG

heavenisforrealGreg Kinnear is excellent in this lovely and thought-provoking movie based on a true story. He plays a minister in Nebraska whose young son has a near-death experience during emergency surgery. When his son starts talking about the people and the things he saw, at first no one believes him, not even his own family.

Connor Corum, who plays Colton, is absolutely adorable and you can’t help but fall in love with him. Heaven is for Real is beautiful and inspirational! Also check out the book.
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Crime Story (1986-1988)

crimestoryCrime Story ran two seasons in the mid-1980s, but was set in the early sixties in Chicago, where it was filmed. Dennis Farina played tough cop Mike Torello, head of the police's major crimes unit. Each episode had a specific crime to solve, but always there was Torello's ongoing pursuit of gangland punk Ray Luca (played by Tony Denison of The Closer). The early sixties setting is marvelous from the skinny ties, sharkskin suits, brylcreamed hair, and narrow brimmed fedoras to the pre-Beatles pop soundtrack and the snazzy two toned cars.

With its Joe Fridayish opening narration and its film noir stylings and sensibility, the show was a throwback to an earlier time, but the violence and the story arc that lasted across the entire season made Crime Story ahead of its time.

Look for appearances (before they made it big) by David Caruso, Gary Sinise, Kevin Spacey, Julia Roberts, Christian Slater, Stanley Tucci, and many others.