The Merry Widow (1934)

merrywidowJeanette MacDonald, before being paired with Nelson Eddy, made several charming musicals with Maurice Chevalier. MacDonald, as the title character, owns 52% of her homeland of Marshovia. She throws off her widow’s weeds to enjoy the excitement of Paris. But what if she decides to stay in Paris? What of her 52%? Sent, for the good of the country, to woo and wed the widow is Captain Donilo, the most accomplished lady’s man the country has to offer. The Merry Widow is full of delightful songs and humor.

Philomena (2013) PG-13

philomenaIn the Oscar-nominated Philomena, the audience follows the true story of a teenage girl forced to give her child away, now searching for him after 50 years. Judi Dench gives a heartwarming performance as she teams with a recently unemployed journalist (Steve Coogan) to find her son. These two highly mismatched characters will make you laugh, cry, and truly care about this beautifully written human interest story.

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) R

goodmorningvietnamI’ve seen the clip of Robin Williams saying, “Gooooood morning, Vietnam!” loads of times and always wanted to watch the film; I finally viewed Good Morning, Vietnam for the first time after his death.

As an irreverent airman and a DJ in 1965 Saigon, Adrian Cronauer is in Vietnam to provide a bit of comedic relief to the troops (and as a bonus, irritate his superiors). Williams’ comedic talents are on full display. His monologues, voices, and impersonations, as well as his physicality, keep your eyes glued to the screen. And while he excels as a comedian, he handles the dramatic turns admirably as well.

The music is amazing, highlighting many hits of the 1960s. Check out the soundtrack that nabbed Williams a Grammy (it features a mix of Williams’ comic routines and music).

Check out Roger Ebert’s take on Williams’ performance and the film.

A Christmas Carol (2009) PG

christmascaroldI love the classic story of A Christmas Carol and never tire of reading and viewing variations on Dickens’ theme. Disney’s A Christmas Carol, a 2009 version starring Jim Carrey as the voice of Ebenezer Scrooge, is good holiday entertainment. Scrooge is older and frailer than I have ever seen him, yet he flies through the skies at breakneck speeds, tumbles down snow covered hills, and seems none the worse for the wear.

Robert Zemeckis once again proves his skill at transforming classic Christmas stories into computer animated classics in their own right. As with The Polar Express, this film is not just for the kids. In fact, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come sequence is among the creepiest renditions. Disney’s 1983 version, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, might be more suited to younger viewers…although there is no completely kid friendly way to lay the message on the line. Scrooge must repent now or else!

Check back next month for another movie based on Dickens’ classic story.

Young and Innocent (1937)

indexSuspense, adventure, humorous charm, and romance are blended in Young and Innocent, an early English Alfred Hitchcock directed gem. When an innocent man who is a suspected murderer escapes from the courthouse, he finds help from an unlikely quarter–the police chief’s daughter! To escape the police and find the real murderer, they race along in her temperamental jalopy, hide out in a dilapidated barn, crash a children’s party, and hunt for a switched raincoat. Great fun.

Two Weeks (2006) R

220px-Two_weeksA beautifully given performance by Sally Field as the dying mother of four young adults who return home to be at her bedside to witness her death that stretches out to a two week agony. Two Weeks is not an easy film to watch, but the message of family coming together at one of the most difficult times in their lives is powerful. I enjoyed the treatment of things like hospice care, calls to the funeral home, sorting of possessions, final goodbyes – all those acts that need to be completed at such an emotional time. Part of life, part of death, something we all as humans will deal with.

The Lone Ranger (2013) PG-13

lonerangerThis film is a lot of fun and can be thoroughly enjoyed with the right perspective. Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger give fine performances. In fact, The Lone Ranger has become one of my favorite Johnny Depp movies. There is a lot of humor in this film especially between Depp and Hammer. There are two main villains in this film, Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner) and the other I won’t say because that would be giving too much away. And the two villains are thoroughly despicable.

The film was nominated for two Oscars including Best Achievement in Visual Effects. And that nomination is well deserved. While some of the action scenes are impossible, just sit back and enjoy them as they are spectacular. The Lone Ranger is a western and an adventure film, but it is also a fantasy film.

When I saw this film, I was prepared to be disappointed as I was a Lone Ranger fan when it was on television in the 1950s, and I have been very disappointed in many movies based on television shows. And a lot of the reviews were very critical. But unless you are a Lone Ranger purist and you do one simple thing, you will probably get a great deal of enjoyment out of this film. One of the criticisms of this film is that it is too long. When I saw it the first time, I took a break to have dinner after about an hour and ten minutes into the movie. When movies were very long in the 1950s and early 1960s, movie makers had the good sense to interrupt the film with an intermission. The film probably would have done a lot better at the box office if the producers had installed an intermission. But you as a viewer watching it on DVD, you can impose your own intermission.

Also Lone Ranger fans, the film includes the William Tell Overture but you have to wait for it.

One more word of warning: this film could be pretty intense for younger viewers. That said, the rest of you should saddle up as this movie is a great ride.