Gotta Dance (2008)

gottadanceFollow the joys and struggles of twelve senior women and one man as they try out, train, and perform as a dance team for the New Jersey Nets basketball team. It is exhilarating and inspiring to watch this determined diverse group of people deal with the pressures of learning new routines in order to fulfill a dream. The crowd goes wild when the team comes out during halftime seemingly to perform a Gene Kelly number and instead breaks into hip-hop. A media frenzy ensued, and they were featured in US News and World Reports and on The Early Show, Saturday Night Live, and the Today Show. This documentary film shows age is a state of mind, not a date of birth.

Gotta Dance has inspired a Broadway musical. See if it inspires you.

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.

The Lady Eve (1941)

ladyeveThis screwball comedy from the golden age of movies is the story of a backward scientist who falls in love twice with the same woman. Picked up by an ocean liner on his way home from a scientific expedition in South America, Charles Pike (Henry Fonda), heir of the Pike’s Ale Pikes, falls under the charms of shipboard card sharps, one of them the beautiful Jean (Barbara Stanwyck). Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered by the beautiful Jean, he proposes, only to find out Jean’s true background and break off the engagement.

Bent on revenge, Jean shows up in Connecticut, now sporting an English accent and presenting herself as the Lady Eve. Smitten all over again, young Charles does exactly what Jean had planned—falls in love with her all over again. Unluckily for Jean and her plans, though, she kind of loves the backward boy.

The sparkling classic The Lady Eve was directed by the brilliant Preston Sturges.

iZombie. Season 1 (2015)

izombieMedical resident Liv Moore (Rose McIver) has just had her life turned upside down when what starts out as a boat party turns into a zombie outbreak. Liv escapes with just a scratch, but that scratch makes her one of the undead, forcing her to break off her engagement, leave her residency program, and take a job in the city morgue. So long as she eats the brains of the bodies that come in, she’s able to maintain her own cognitive functions and pass as living, but the brains come with an unfortunate side effect: the memories of the deceased. Armed with these memories, Liv pretends to be a psychic and teams up with police officer Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin) to help find justice for the murdered victims that get sent to her morgue. Meanwhile, her new boss and friend Ravi (Rahul Kohli) works to find a cure, one that could help Liv, but would interfere with the plans zombie Blaine (David Anders) has for infecting and exploiting Seattle’s wealthy community.

Despite its grisly premise, this unique crime procedural has a lot of humorous moments, loving relationships, and witty dialogue. This is a must-see for fans of Pushing Daisies and Veronica Mars. The first season of iZombie is available on DVD and is streaming on Netflix, which can be accessed by checking out one of our roku devices. To experience this story in a different medium, check out volume one of the iZombie comic series, the show’s source material.

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.

Rare Bird Alert by Steve Martin (2011)

rarebirdAlthough this isn’t a new album, it’s possible that many people haven’t heart of it. And since it’s one of my favorites, I felt an obligation to shine a light on it. Rare Bird Alert is a modern bluegrass album by Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. What’s that you ask, “Steve Martin of SNL and Pink Panther fame?” Why yes. For fans of Martin, this is good news, since his comedic chops do shine through here, but true bluegrass enthusiasts shouldn’t overlook this album.

Rare Bird Alert includes purely instrumental songs like “The Great Remember,” soothing and meandering, and “Northern Island,” featuring banjo-picking at lightning speed. On some tracks Martin takes the lead on vocals, and on others the Rangers get the honor. Paul McCartney and the Dixie Chicks make guest appearances.

I love the range of this album, its humor, and the contrasts created. The hilarious break-up song “Jubilation Day” is lively, and although funny, is also a bona fide bluegrass song, a musical treat. Mellow songs like “More Bad Weather On the Way,” always makes me feel like I’m rowing along a river on a sunny day, and “Women Like To Slow Dance” is actually a fast-paced song fit for dancing a jig! While most of the songs are not comedy-album material, the nonsensical “King Tut” is the most likely to make you laugh out loud. “Born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia…”

The Italian Straw Hat (1928)

italianstrawThe beauty of a silent movie is its universality; no language barrier comes between you and the delight of the film. The Italian Straw Hat is a French movie whose alternate title pretty much tells the story: The Horse Ate the Hat. Fadinard, a young man on his way to his wedding, has a confrontation along the way when his horse eats the straw hat of a young married lady having a dalliance in the woods with an army officer not her husband. Feeling she can’t go home without the prized hat, the lady and her lover blackmail the young groom into finding a replacement hat.

In the midst of trying to get married, trying to find a hat, trying to keep his relatives from finding the officer and his lady hiding in his apartment, Fadinard has quite a day. The comic timing and antics keep you laughing from beginning to end.

Jane the Virgin. Season 1 (2014-2015)

janevirginJane Villanueva is in for an unfortunate surprise when her gynecologist mixes up the room numbers and accidentally inseminates Jane instead of giving her a pap smear. Soon enough, Jane is caught in a web of crisscrossing plot lines and interrelated characters, all told by a hilarious omniscient narrator.

Here’s what you need to know: Jane is accidentally inseminated by Luisa, whose brother, Rafael Solano, is the ultra-handsome, ultra-rich father of the baby. Rafael is married to Petra, whose mother, Magda, spells big trouble for Jane’s family, the Villanuevas. During Jane’s pregnancy, her mother, Xiomara reconnects with Jane’s father, the telenovela star, Rogelio de la Vega. To add yet another level of drama, Jane’s fiancée, Michael, is investigating the crime lord Sin Rostro, who has links to the Solanos, Jane’s new in-laws.

The plot may sound complicated—and it is—but the narrator makes it easy to follow along and keep track of the large cast of characters in this ridiculous dramatic comedy which plays on and pokes fun at many traditional telenovela tropes. Gina Rodriguez, who plays Jane, won the Golden Globe for best actress in 2015 and was nominated again in 2016. The first season of Jane the Virgin is available on DVD or on Netflix with our roku devices.

The Avengers (2012) PG-13

avengersIf you only saw one superhero movie in your life, this would be the one to see. Earth’s greatest heroes are thrown together to fight against an alien invasion led by the powerful villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Can they work together, though, to stop this overwhelming threat?

The Avengers has many characters, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), not to mention S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives like Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Despite such a large cast, the movie provides enough backstory to fully develop each character without detracting from the almost constant action and stunning visual effects. The Avengers is not simply a superhero movie, it is THE superhero movie.