I recommend the black and white film 1945. Set in a small village in Hungary in 1945 just as World War II finished, it opens on a summer day as the town prepares for a wedding. Two Jewish men get off the train with two large crates and go through town. The town's residents are wondering who these two men are and why they have returned. Some of the town's people were part of a coverup in getting a prominent Jewish family deported and taking over their possessions. Many of these people have such profound guilt, leading to irrational decisions while they think these two strangers are there to take back what was taken from this family. What happens in the town all takes place in a few hours.
Shows 'N Tunes: Movie, Music, and Game Reviews
This gem has a script that is so well written, you could almost close your eyes and just listen to the movie and come away entertained by the romantic comedy. Dexter (Cary Grant) shows up a few days before his rich ex-wife Tracy's (Katharine Hepburn) wedding to George Kittredge (John Howard) with two tabloid reporters, Mike (James Stewart) and Liz (Ruth Hussey), in tow. Dexter, a recovering alcoholic, confronts Tracy about her role in their divorce, while she belittles him for his addiction. The movie exhibits a series of sharp-witted confrontations between Dexter and Tracy, but beneath the seeming malice is a deep-seated love they still feel for one another. Will she go through with wedding another man?
The Philadelphia Story (1940) is a must-see for the star-studded cast alone. You can find it in the "Weddings—Classic Films" binge box along with The Bride Came C.O.D., The Father of the Bride, and Princess O'Rourke. And for more classic romantic comedies, check out our lists that cover the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.
Gloomhaven is a cooperative board game set in a fantasy world. Players take on the role of adventurers as they set off on quests defending the land or searching out treasure. Gloomhaven's story format makes each time you play unique while building on the last time you played. You will have the opportunity during play to equip new items and buy special resources to make your character unique to your style of play.
Gloomhaven is good for players who enjoy Dungeons and Dragons or those who have interest in roleplaying games, but are still not sure about where to begin. The game will guide your path with story and flavor text, and give you a feel for how to get started with other roleplaying games.
Inspirational sports movies are one of my favorite feel-good comfort watches. And there's a new movie that fits this theme perfectly: Safety (2020, PG). Set in 2008 and inspired by a true story, it follows a Clemson freshman who juggles school, football, and family. After his mother enters a drug rehabilitation facility, Ray takes in his younger brother Fay. He hides him on campus, refusing help, trying to do it all on his own.
His Clemson family teaches him that accepting help is not the same as taking charity. Throw in a fight with the NCAA about legalities and you'll enjoy a film that will have you rooting for Ray, Fay, and the rest of his teammates aka brothers.
Check out one of our Rokus with Disney Plus to watch the film.
This feel good story is based on the singing phenomena that were ten small town lobster fishermen and close friends from Cornwall, UK. They would meet at the local pub and sing traditional sea shanties. After they were discovered by a London music management company, their music cd was the biggest selling traditional folk album of all time.
Fisherman's Friends (2019, PG-13), a slightly fictionalized version, is great entertainment. There are lots of laughs, great songs, and some heartwarming performances from familiar British actors. It is a charming, funny story that will have your toes-a-tapping.Listen to the music from the film on Hoopla.
John McClane (Bruce Willis), currently separated from his wife, is an NYPD cop invited to her company Christmas party in a Los Angeles skyscraper. When terrorists seize the building and a group of hostages, McClane is their only chance of escape. Die Hard (1988, R) sets the standard for action/hostage movies and catapulted Willis into becoming an action hero movie megastar. Also starring Alan Rickman as his nemesis. Get the "Die Hard Collection" binge box to watch the entire series. It is also featured in the "Christmas Gone Wrong" binge box.
Key & Peele is a sketch comedy show starring—you guessed it—Key and Peele (aka Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), two comedic geniuses who combined their talents to create a memorable show. Their sketches range from relationships, to wacky characters, and they even sometime tackle systematic racism from everyday life. The episodes usually contain several sketches. If a comparison could be made, it is similar to the Chapelle Show in style. Both comedians featured are very funny. Key & Peele (2012, TV-14) is worth a look if you want to look at society from an exaggerated point of view.
Watch Season 1 of Key & Peele on Hoopla today.
In true LEGO fashion, the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special (2020, TV-G) combines adventure, humor, and fun for kids and adults alike. Star Wars fans will appreciate the time hops between all of the franchise's major moments. We go on this "Life Day" journey with Rey and BB-8 to learn from some of the best and most powerful Jedi masters and meet lots of other favorite characters along the way. With nods to the live-action Star Wars Holiday Special (1978), life-long followers will have some extra Easter Eggs to look forward to.
Check out the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special on one of our Rokus with Disney+.
This beautiful PS4 game takes place in 13th century Japan during the first Mongol Invasion. The graphics do justice to the open countryside and forests that the Last of the Samurai must travel as they seek to rescue their lord and repel the Mongols.
The plot centers around Jin Sakai and his trials trying to stick to the Samurai code of honor while also knowing that to save Japan he must succeed at any cost. Tradition and need to win at any cost fight in his soul as he travels the island protecting the citizens of Tsushima.
The two items that make this game stand out are first the gameplay, which forces the player to take deliberate action during fights. Button mashing will not get the player very far to their goal. The second is the use of the Bushido code to drive elements of the game. There are places throughout the countryside where you can stop and compose Haiku based on the natural world's beauty.
.Relive a simpler time by watching Drive-In Movie Memories (2001). This informative and fascinating film covers the history of drive-in movies from the start in the 1920s through the boomtime, decline, and comeback, along with personal memories.
The boom started at the end of World War II when families could pile into their car, watch a movie, and enjoy refreshments without hiring a babysitter or spending a lot of money. In the 1960s, the introduction of television reduced business, and17-to-23-year-olds became prime customers (and cars became passion pits). Drive-ins started fading in the 1970s for a number of reasons.
The comebacks are largely limited to small towns. Chicagoland has one drive-in theater, in McHenry. I remember going to the 66 Drive-In in Countryside with my family wearing pajamas to watch The Three Lives of Thomasina (1963, rated PG) and then as an adult to Cascade Drive-In in West Chicago.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, drive-in theaters have reported an unexpected surge in attendance because of social distancing. Also, temporary theaters have been set up in parking lots. The Cascade Drive-In hopes to reopen.
This is the quintessential Christmas movie that everyone has seen or should see. George Bailey (James Stewart) has seen his life's dreams dashed one after another, and in a moment of despair, contemplates taking his own life. An angel is sent to show George just how different the world would be if he were never born. Check out this timeless classic directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart and Donna Reed.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946, PG) is available as a part of the binge box called "A Classic Christmas Collection" which also includes Christmas in Connecticut, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol, and White Christmas.
Also, take a look at our list of Family Christmas Movies.
I highly recommend the movie, The Great Alaskan Race (2019, rated PG). It is the heroic true story of a race against time during an arctic blizzard. In 1925, there was a diphtheria epidemic that made all the children of Nome, Alaska, deathly ill. The town desperately needed the anti-toxin serum to stop this epidemic. This is the story of the Serum Run.
Twenty brave mushers and 150 courageous dogs traveled 700 miles through -80 temperatures to bring the serum back to Nome to save the children. What should have taken 25 days to travel by dogsled was done in a record of 5.5 days by these heroic mushers and dogs. This proved that anything was possible with hope and courage. The Iditarod Race is done in remembrance of the 1925 Serum Run.
Imagination and reality come together in the beautifully arranged musical, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020, PG). Featuring Forest Whitaker as the once famous toy maker, Jernonicus Jangle, we see how one man with the help of his enthusiastic and intelligent granddaughter, Journey, overcomes what seems to be the impossible: reigniting his creativity and reuniting his family. The film begins in the present with Grandmother Journey (Phylicia Rashad) introducing her grandchildren to the story of the Jangle family and their friend-turned-foe, Gustafson (Keegan-Michael Key). In a year filled with what seems like one hardship after another, join this diverse and accomplished cast to inspire your sense of wonder and joy this winter.
Experience the magic of Jingle Jangle on Netflix with one of our Rokus.
The Ken Burns production, The Civil War, is without a doubt the strongest of all his PBS documentaries (at least for me)--and he has had numerous outstanding efforts.The photography of the utter poverty and horrible treatment of slaves combined with battlefields filled with soldiers' bodies was unbelievable.The historian interviews were as insightful as any I ever listened to in any documentary ever. I could easily get carried away writing about the subject matter here, but great documentaries will do that, and Ken Burns and PBS are the best at it. I can only hope we as a human race can watch this and come away a different people.
The board game collection is expanding with games designed to help beginning readers with skills like sight words, multiple meanings, spelling, and more. These games are great for parents to play with kids to encourage reading skills and vocabulary. Each game has a unique way of making learning fun.
- Word on the Street Jr.: A game of tug a war with letters that encourage kids to think creatively and spell bigger and bigger words to earn more points toward winning.
- Multiple Meanings Around the World: Encourages kids to learn homonyms for common words they will run across while reading and writing.
- Tower of Sight Words lv 1-2-3: A series of games that operates like Jenga but encourages the reading of sight words before pieces can be pulled.
- My First Bananagrams: Teaches lower case letters to children and spelling. Also encourages reading and spelling growth with premade letter blends.
- Spelligator: Word building game that teaches phonemic awareness, letter patterns, and positioning. It covers different letter combinations, including consonants, vowels, digraphs, and blends.
- After Words: A creative thinking and vocabulary building game for kids who have most of the basics down. The game creates limits to inspire kids to use a larger vocabulary.
- Classwords the vocabulary game grade 3: Based on common core vocabulary standards for 3rd grade, the game motivates kids to practice and learn the key words needed read and write at the 3rd grade level.
Games are a great way to teach kids new skills while keeping their interest by making the learning fun. They also provide a break from regular memorization and worksheets. Check out a few.