• Bird Box (2018)

    In this thriller from Netflix, Sandra Bullock plays Malorie, a survivor of an apocalyptic event must protect her two children on a trip down a river while blindfolded.

    The movie sets the stage with rules that govern the universe it creates. Anyone who “sees” the invisible creatures will become suicidal and immediately try to kill themselves. Also, there are crazies who have essentially become advocates for the end of the world and go around trying to force people to look at the creatures.

    The story shows the “present” timeline, but also shows much of the background when the shit hit the fan and everyone was trying to figure out what was happening.

    There is so much to love about the movie and so little to find fault in. The cast is great: Sandra Bullock and Trevante Rhodes are particularly wonderful. John Malkovich is also superb as always as the character you really despise despite his bitter honesty.

    There are a lot of comparisons to A Quiet Place due to its post-apocalyptic setting and the sensory plot element (visual and auditory). I think Bird Box ends up winning the trophy for all around better movie. It’s much more satisfying and intelligent. The characters in Bird Box did logical things and it felt much more realistic. The monsters in A Quiet Place were a little too visible, making them less menacing.

    If you like post-apocalyptic and moody thrillers with intelligent characters, you should check this one out.

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  • A Christmas Story (1983)

    This is arguably the best Christmas movie. It’s heart-warming, hilarious, and is just as relevant today, even though the movie is set in the early 1940s and came out in the early 80s.

    Join Ralphie Parker on his misadventures at Christmas time. All he wants for Christmas is a BB gun, but everyone thinks it’s too dangerous for him.

    Among the many enjoyable moments, you have Ralphie’s dad receiving a “major award” – the lady leg lamp, Ralphie dropping the F-bomb, Ralphie decoding a secret message on a radio program, and Ralphie going apeshit on a bully.

    I think the best part of it is Peter Billingsley as Ralphie. This kid played the shit out of the role and nailed every nuance of the character. He was serious and straight for the important bits and then broke out the cheeseball stuff for his various daydream sequences.

    When the credits finally roll, you are left with blissful satisfaction. And then you watch it again on the TBS marathon. “Fa ra ra ra ra ra ra ra ra”

    Rating:

    Available to rent/buy from these locations


  • Die Hard (1988)

    Bruce Willis plays action hero John McClane. He’s just a regular guy at his estranged wife’s business party in Los Angeles when a group of terrorists (spoiler: thieves) take over the Nakatomi building where the party is being held on the 30th floor.

    Some people say this isn’t a Christmas movie, but they are wrong. This is the Christmas movie for after the kids go to bed. “Now I have a machine gun. HO HO Ho”

    This movie is so good, it spawned hundreds of movies riffing on the concept: Die Hard on a bus, Die Hard on a plane, Die Hard at a daycare.

    As the terrorists break into a vault in the Nakatomi building, McClane must stay alive and do everything possible to save the hostages, which includes his wife. Along the way, the cops and FBI outside the building are more of a hindrance than a help.

    It’s got great action, suspense, twists, comedy, one-liners, lovable and despicable characters, and a pace that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

    As the edited for TV version says: “Yippee Kay-Yay, Mr. Falcon!”

    Rating:

    Available to rent/buy from these locations


  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

    When I was growing up, How the Grinch Stole Christmas came on TV every year. It was a magical 30 minutes of story, song, and heart.

    Based on the Dr. Suess book, the Grinch is a hateful curmudgeon who lives on a mountain above Whoville and can’t stand the Whos and their Christmas celebrations.

    The Grinch decides to steal Christmas from the Whos, but doesn’t realize that it’s not about the stuff for them and they continue to sing and celebrate. When it sinks in, the Grinch has a literal change of heart and returns the Christmas items to the Whos, who forgive him.

    The message is powerful and the whole experience is so memorable. The poetry and songs are the perfect bow that keeps the whole package together. The animation holds up even though it is quite old now. This one is required at Christmas time and usually gets more than one viewing.

    Rating:

    Available to rent/buy from these locations


  • A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

    Chuck and his merry group of misfits sure know how to party. Except that the Christmas season has arrived and Charlie is depressed. Nothing is going the way he would like.

    After visiting Lucy’s doctor office/stand, she tells him to direct a Christmas play. Things do not work out so great at rehearsals, so Charlie decides to get a Christmas tree for the play.

    Charlie picks a sapling and everyone ridicules him for his choice. He’s even more depressed until his friends come through and decorate the little tree.

    Sometimes the holidays get you down, but friends and family are what it’s all about. This TV production is still great today after 53 years. My favorite part is the music, which accentuates all of the fun of the kids.

    Rating:

    Available to rent/buy from these locations


  • Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

    As crazy as this sounds, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this movie before. It’s a shame, because it is quite good.

    The story follows an old man named Kris Kringle who accidentally lands a job as Santa Claus on a Macy’s Day Parade float then is asked by Doris (Macy’s event director) to be Santa in the Macy’s department story. Doris has a daughter Susan, who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, due to her mother telling her Santa doesn’t exist.

    Shoppers are surprised when this Santa tells them to buy presents from other stores and creates enough of a buzz that the Macy’s upper management take notice. It’s not long until some jerkweeds at Macy’s decide to have Kris’ mental health evaluated.

    Things escalate until Kris is going to be committed for insisting he is Santa Claus. He goes on trial and is defended by Doris’ man-friend Fred. Kris is finally let go after Fred shows that the Post Office has been giving him Santa Claus’ mail.

    It’s a really enjoyable movie with important themes. Most of the adults try hard to believe that this man is not Santa Claus, while the children are happy that they get to meet the real Santa. In the end, the adults cave so as not to ruin their kids’ Christmas.

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  • Home Alone (1990)

    This is the ultimate Christmas classic. In fact, it still so popular, Google just did a little throwback video advertisement called Home Alone Again.

    Written John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus, the story is a nice and simple concept: family accidentally leaves boy home at Christmas, boy must defend home from robbers.

    Starring Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, the 8-year-old who is left behind. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are the bumbling robbers.

    What makes the movie so great is there is never a dull moment and every scene is so memorable. The kid watches a black-and-white mafia movie and uses sound clips from the movie later to mess with a pizza driver and the robbers. “Keep the change, ya filthy animal.”

    The movie is packed with fun, comedy, and the ultimate goal of reuniting Kevin with his family before it is too late. The robbers are such idiots and it is delightful to watch them succumb to Kevin’s booby traps in cartoon comedy slapstick.

    Rating:

    Available to stream on Starz


  • Elf (2003)

    Will Ferrell stars as Buddy the elf. He was raised by elves at the north pole, but upon discovering that he’s a human, he embarks on a journey to New York to find his real father.

    James Caan plays his unsuspecting father and Zooey Deschanel is a retail worker/love interest.

    Will Ferrell is lovable and goofy as Buddy. His deer-in-the-headlights, dopey innocence adds extra punch to the jokes.

    In addition to the laughs, the movie also has a big heart and by the end you have a warm, fuzzy feeling. This is definitely required viewing for the Christmas season.

    Rating:

    Available to rent/buy from these locations


  • Jingle All The Way (1996)

    This is what they call the mother of all guilty pleasures. No matter how bad it should be, you just can’t help but love it.

    It’s got Arnie as Howard, a shitty father trying to buy his son’s love with the hottest toy action figure of the Christmas season. Only problem is that the toy is sold out everywhere as he tries to find the toy on Christmas Eve. Along the way, he encounters Sinbad as the mailman father looking for the same toy. An unhealthy competition develops between them as they race from toy store to toy store.

    Phil Hartman plays Ted, the divorced neighbor, goody two shoes who is always macking on the neighborhood housewives. Specifically, he detects that Arnie is the neglectful husband and tries to swoop in as the nurturing type who’s always there. Liz, played by Rita Wilson, doesn’t buy it.

    There are so many great Arnie one-liners and the pace is excellent. The only real problem I have with the movie is the kid. He’s the most annoying SOB, and he was Anakin in the Star Wars prequel. Any other kid would have been better.

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  • Scrooged (1988)

    Bill Murray stars as Frank Cross, a TV channel executive, in this “modern” retelling of A Christmas Carol.

    While the story is not unique, it adds enough 80s charm and moves at a fast pace to make it a very enjoyable Christmas movie. Murray is perfect as the self-absorbed yuppy asshole, who is visited by three ghosts to show him the error in his ways. 

    I like how the character progresses and how he really doesn’t want to be nice or feel the Christmas spirit. There is a darkness to the story that you don’t often see in Christmas movies.

    All in all, this is one of the best Scrooge tales, that both delivers the comedy and the drama of a conflicted character who needs redemption. 

    Rating:

    Available on Starz or to rent from these locations.