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Holiday movies to watch while wrapping presents

Are you spending an evening (or two) after everyone is in bed  wrapping gifts?? You’ll need a few things to watch that are just enough of entertaining, mindless and heart warming .

So light a fire (or some candles), pour a glass of wine, get all your supplies out and don’t forget to clear a generous space on the coffee table or the floor for maximum wrapping leverage.

The Holiday (2006, dir & Writer: Nancy Meyers) — its funny because if you asked, I would normally say I don’t care for anyone in this film….except Eli Wallach (more on that later)……Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black and Kate Winslet in a typical no surprises, sweet film. The dialogue is good, the editing a smidge choppy ….but then enter Eli Wallach …a few moments of Shelley Berman, Rufus Sewell and a odd but interesting award ceremony with Wallach and you have a delightful film.

Home for the Holidays (1995, dir: Jodie Foster) —  Foster has a true talent for making people complex and likable in awkward situations. A strangely delightful cast includes Geraldine Chaplin, Steve Guttenberg, Clair Danes and Amy Yasbeck ….starring the always fun Holly Hunter, a quiet and tense Robert Downey Jr, and the beautifully thoughtful Anne Bancroft….. If you care, you really have to watch the film to follow the dialogue…but if you are wrapping presents and just have it on…its just as well…

The Bishop’s Wife (1947, dir: Henry Koster) — Such a sweet and adorable holiday romp — notice Elsa Lanchester and Monty Wolly…..starring the sauve and softly comical David Niven and Cary Grant with the lovely Loretta Young. Beautifully filmed, great chatty dialogue.


Michael Pena ……Ant Man, Comedy and CRASH

SPOILER of a sort ……..If you haven’t seen ANT MAN …come back to this column after you’ve seen it …..okay?

CRASH (2004, Writer / Director Paul Haggis) — 2004 as a busy year for me ..I was trying to wrap up my teaching / Bachelor degrees in combination with a double major….and being a single parent…and working ….whew…so going to the movie theater was not a top priority. However, my Aunt, who has good taste in films, insisted this was the film to watch. Had to be seen on the big screen and please go see it NOW so we can talk about it. So I saw it with her, then again by myself and then a third time with some friends. By then I felt like I had seen all the vignettes equally and was able to emotionally absorb all of the events. So much happens. So many messages. So much sadness. So much joy. So many many incredible actors doing some of their best most poignant work. Don Cheadle gets some of the best speeches of the film, as does Chris Bridges (Ludacris). Everyone shines, from the characters you hate to the ones you love – the acting in tiny moments gives every person in the cast that few seconds to change your life. Michael Pena’s moments stand out for me as the most heart wrenching and true. I felt his emotional levels jump off the screen, when he was terrified, joyful and relieved it came together in sweeping palpable moments. So worth watching. With tissues and some Ben & Jerry’s  chubby Hubby ice cream.

Cesar Chavez (2014, Director Diego Luna) — oohhh..feel so bad that I haven’t seen this yet …I promise to add a referendum to this, its on my list ….but I wanted to mention it because I’m hoping someone will comment ….I have so much going on and I promise this one is on the top of my list!

ANT MAN (2015, Director Peyton Reed) — so what happened was ….We try to have a date night every other week, no matter what. Usually that is dinner out and some great conversation etc…this week I saw that Ant-Man was at the dollar movie ..yes,I still say that even though its really 4 dollars now. I felt bad about it. We kept saying we would go, we would make time to have a day together, see a movie etc….and here it was about 3 months since the release. .and … …it was a great day! Mexican food for lunch at our favorite little place, a walk in Downtown Farmington and even though it was Tuesday the farmer’s market was open and a guy playing the guitar. Then a 4 o’clock movie for 4 dollars. ha!


its always delightful for me when I can interrupt everyone’s viewing by exclaiming isn’t that Evangeline Lilly? Isnt’ that Michael Douglas? oh…look its Bobby Cannavale! and Wood HARRIS! and Judy Greer, and MICHAEL PENA ! I can only say ..that Michael Pena is sweet and funny on screen. He has this look, like …oh yeah..we are gonna have fun now ….and it makes me laugh / smile / get right into the action……Ant Man reached the right levels of comedy, love story, action adventure and science fiction ….a really good blend …..even the CGI hit the right notes …..I didn’t’ get that, much silver/blue this is CGI annoyance … is starting to catch up with my expectations. None of the side kicks ( T.I., David Dastmalchian, Michael Pena) are over the top goofy or take themselves too seriously. I did feel as if a few of Michael’s scenes could have been longer, like they had moments that could have been used better….but over all …a fun movie. One of the best of the Marvel series.

BAD MOVIES ….you must love …..

Can I express the delight about BAD movies in mere words? How do I give you a turn of phrase to say this is emotionally, philosophically, musically, and culturally important and you should fall in love with it the way that I am? Then it becomes a question of tempering the excitement and expression so that you’ll be interested but not so set up for the idea of it that it can’t meet what is in your (our) heads ….

First, there is just bad so that its really funny …..Like ….

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) Dir; Ed Wood – really I love this and you should too …its funny and so sweet..and truly a good BAD movie that you watch with awkward questioning…is he serious? MOvie Poster

Then there is bad but it should be good and I don’t know why everyone doesn’t like it …….

Howard the Duck (1986) Dir: Willard Huyck – It’s just that the 1980’s were awful all around …with hair too big and those horrible shoulder pads? Everything from film to clothes to music seems to be a stoner’s elaboration of the 1940s…..

Howard duck

and of course…..the really good and why is this panned? I liked it ….

Jersey Girl (2004) dir: Kevin Smith – Its really not just that I adore Kevin Smith and he can do no wrong …don’t even think it…or say it …..I really loved this film.  Its true; Ben Affleck is stiff and completely lacking in charm in this role…but that works….he is supposed to be a really flawed human being in an uncomfortable place between what he should be, what he wanted to be and what he can be. and yet ……Raquel Castro as Gertie is beyond adorable, George Carlin is perfect as the grumpy grandpa and Liv Tyler is sweet, awkward and stoic. If the film had done the Hollywood angle and been focused on how he really gets back into being that rich guy and falls in love…it would be a better Hollywood / popular film but that wouldn’t in my opinion make it good. But let me just thank Kevin Smith for the amazing kids play sequences from Sweeney Todd …That is freaking brilliant. (We will talk about the cinematographer, Vilmos Zsigmond in a upcoming column) jersey

and lastly …there are really bad movies that I just don’t get it …Why is this considered good?

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) – Dir: David Fincher — I sat in the theater watching this film and being so excited about actors and moments; Jared Harris is always delightful to watch and his scenes were wonderful. Cate Blanchett had scenes that were visually stunning and Taraji P. Henson was heartwarming. Unfortunately, there were so many moments went I felt like , yah yah yah …get on with this ….and the people around me were tearful or laughing or sitting in rapt silence. My companions kept going over and over it as we walked out and still more at dinner…..and I was quiet, just thinking …mulling it over….what was it that I didn’t connect with? The premise is silly, but that has never stopped me from enjoying a movie. I respect David Fincher as a filmmaker so I still struggle with the elements for me that read no emotion in the film…I felt like I was watching people act. button

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