Thursday, December 10, 2009

Movies to See Instead of Going to the Theater

The Guns of NavaroneI'm always a fan of a good movie and usually the summer and Christmas movie runs are eagerly anticipated around here but this year? Pretty disappointing. There isn't really anything I'm particularly interested in seeing--certainly not Robert Downey, Jr. butchering Sherlock Holmes as dramatically as Stephanie Meyer butchered vampires and werewolves. Apparently the pen is definitely more destructive than the wooden stake and poor Bram Stoker must be rolling in his grave.

But ah me, it's just as well--tickets are nearly $10 and there are only a handful of films that could possibly qualify as being worth that kind of money.

SO . . . we'll be watching movies at home this Christmas and enjoying a comfy sofa and popcorn that doesn't cost $17 per ounce of buttery goodness.

The hardest thing about watching movies at home, however, is that with six people in the room it's hard to find things that are appropriate for all. So today I'm listing some of the movies that we all enjoy for a family movie night together. Some of them are good for younger children but most are things I'm comfortable letting my 10, 13 and 15 year olds see. If you have any recommendations of your own please let me know because I'm always on the lookout.

1. The Guns of Navarone
Not for small children but if you happen to have a teen boy in the house this is a must-see. Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn form part of a World War II special-ops team assigned to destroy the gigantic guns guarding the Greek island of Navarone in time for the British to come to the rescue of the doomed prisoners.

It's one of my favorite macho war movies, right up there with The Dirty Dozen and The Great Escape (also great films) and while not everyone in the house is a war movie aficionado it's still a great movie. Suspenseful and well-acted as you'd expect with a cast like that. No rating on this one because it was made in 1961 though it is in color, don't worry. If I try to throw a black and white classic at them it's complete and total anarchy, I do know my limitations.

Castaway2. Castaway
I'm partial to Tom Hanks movies with the kids because so many are clean and well-made. We watched Joe v. The Volcano the week of Thanksgiving which is quirky and odd but strangely appealing. Probably because Meg Ryan has some lines to hoot over.

"I have no response to that."

But I digress. The subject is Castaway, the movie that takes Robinson Crusoe to the level of reality television and succeeds marvelously. My boys like it for the adventure angle and my girl likes it for the romance (plus adventure). It is rated PG-13, which you can't dismiss lightly, but it's for intense action sequences (like a ginormous plane going down in a scene that rivals the train wreck in The Fugitive for intensity--man I nearly went into labor with Grace right there in the theater when I saw that for the first time. Not a good movie to see while 9 months pregnant.) Otherwise it's clean.

Silverado3. Silverado
Another manly movie. I like westerns okay, it's not as if I'm haunting Clint Eastwood or anything, but this . . . THIS movie is a favorite. The cast is all-star: Danny Glover, Kevin Costner, Brian Denehy, Kevin Kline, Jeff Goldblum, John Cleese, Scott Glenn and others I can't quite recall right now. All westerns are essentially the same--guns, shooting, revenge, injustice followed by eventual justice, the savagery of nature and the savage nature of men--and this one follows the formula wonderfully.

Again, it's PG-13 so it's not good for small kids, but it's rated that for the shooting that goes on and the cowboys do occasionally have colorful cowboy mouths but it's not heavy stuff and my boys loved the movie.

The Man Who Knew Too Little4. The Man Who Knew Too Little
If you're a Hitchcock fan you'll recognize the pun in the title and it ought to give you an idea of the fun you're in for. Bill Murray can be sooooo funny and this is my favorite movie he's made. It's full of hysterically quotable lines and funny scenes that we'll still laugh about.

Murray plays a dingaling guy (which I know is a given) come to visit his brother (Peter Gallagher) in London as a surprise. The surprise comes at a bad time so the brother unloads Murray for the night by buying him tickets to an experimental theater show called "The Theater of Life" where people can pay to participate in a scripted spy caper--kind of a live-action version of choose your own adventure.

The only problem is (and there's always a problem, right?) Murray gets twisted around and gets himself involved in a real spy caper, thinking it's fake and he bungles through as only Bill Murray can. Rated PG.

Apollo 135. Apollo 13
See? Another Tom Hanks movie. Told you I liked him (but then who doesn't?).

You probably remember this film about the 1970 Apollo 13 moon voyage where the famous "Houston, we have a problem" line was uttered but if you haven't seen it you must. A great movie and historical films are always good for talking about afterward and inspiring further study. I'd also recommend Spartacus, A Man for All Seasons, Amadeus, Ghosts of Mississippi, Gandhi and Memphis Belle as good historical movies and I'm sure there are plenty more that I just can't recall right now.

Rated PG

Operation Condor6. Operation Condor
James Bond is always fun but Jackie Chan is even more fun (unless we're talking Casino Royale, then forget it, James Bond is definitely better).

The problem is, Bond isn't exactly the greatest role model for children and you know what I mean. Try Jackie instead--and while there's plenty of punching and dodging and kicking and bullets flying it's not gory and you won't see him with a martini or a babe in bed. Other martial arts movies tend to take themselves way too seriously but this one is played for the comedy (I still do not get Crouching Dragon Hidden Tiger--what was up with that flaky ending???)

Operation Condor is his best movie, while some of the others are fun they tend to fall into this tumble mess of Hong Kong city scenes and dubbed second-rate actors. It's PG-13 for the action.

Sky High7. Sky High
Okay NOW we've got movies for smaller kids though the great thing about this one is it's enjoyable enough that adults can watch it too. The premise is that this kid is the child of two superheroes and just like Harry Potter gets called into Hogwarts at age 11 this young super guy gets to go to the high school for super heroes: Sky High.

Honestly? It's Kurt Russell's funniest role and the lines actually get you chuckling. There are sappy kid movies that are a drain to sit through and then there are those that take pity on us as parents and give us something we can enjoy too.

As with all Hollywood successes the film inspired a knockoff called Zoom which stunk. Don't bother with it, stick with this one and enjoy. Rated PG.

The Kid8. The Kid
The movie where Bruce Willis made his transition from hardened NYC cop fighting super bad guys to sensitive leading man not afraid to show his vulnerability though the real star of the movie is the kid himself. The boy who plays Bruce's younger self with all his lisping, chubby cuteness.

Bruce goes back in time to meet up with his younger 10 year-old self to determine why his life hasn't turned out quite the way he'd originally intended and of course goes through all that self-discovery, repentance and resolution that you'd expect from the screen writers guild.

Again, a movie that's good for adults and kids alike, rated PG.

Secondhand Lions9. Secondhand Lions
Don't be fooled and think that because this is possibly the sweetest most endearing movie ever made that it's just for kids or that it's all cheese and sugar. With Michael Caine and Robert Duvall you can expect that it's a first-class production and it is a fabulous movie for the whole family.

A boy on his way to being a man is foisted on his elderly uncles living in the middle of the Heartland. The men are eccentric but wise and full of stories and advice that is just what the boy needs and just what we need to keep us watching and chuckling and enjoying ourselves when we watch it.

I don't know why movies like this are considered "family" movies, they ought to just be considered "excellent" and leave it at that. I see no reason why they should be shoved off into a separate category merely because they're devoid of offensive material. End of tirade.

Definitely an A movie, rated PG.

Willow10. Willow
Another Ron Howard film and a favorite from the 80s. Not at good as Lord of the Rings but then what is? And while it's not as good it's funnier, which I do appreciate--thanks Ron.

I've tried to hit all sorts of genres with this list and here's my nod to fantasy, this mini epic (is that an oxymoron?) follows our heroes (including Val Kilmer) as they try to save the world from the evil queen while rescuing the child of which it has been prophesied that salvation would come. Got it?

Watch the brownies, they're a crack-up. And while the costumes, set and cinematography aren't exactly Peter Jackson it's a fun movie that gives you plenty to enjoy--rather like The Princess Bride. Rated PG.

Without a Clue11. Without a Clue
If you're going to mess with Sherlock Holmes then THIS is how you do it. Take notice Robert Downey, Jr--Michael Caine takes on the role with Ben Kingsley as the ever-present Dr. Watson but the twist is that Holmes is a complete idiot and Watson is the brains of the operation. Holmes, an out-of-work actor, is hired by Watson to increase his street cred with the guys at Scotland Yard and things go off from there.

Great comedy, AND it includes the bonus of having Ed Rooney (remember Ferris Beuller?) playing Inspector Lastrade, the only man possibly as stupid as Holmes himself.

Rated PG. And if you like this you might try Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Caine and Steve Martin, another classic comedy that I love love love which is also PG.

The Rookie12. The Rookie
Sports movie? Check. This one's good though there is also Rudy, Remember the Titans, Rookie of the Year, Cool Runnings and Little Big League as well, depending on the age you're trying to entertain. Oh, and Invincible is pretty good too--though that's for older kids.

I like sports movies well enough, they're all pretty much the same, and this one follows the tracks with reliability.

Rated G though and I have to at least give it a mention--when was the last time they made a G movie at all, let alone one that adults could sit through as well? You kind of have to go back to the Disney princess era for that.

Ever After13. Ever After
Speaking of Disney princesses, here's the girliest movie on the list and it's a great one. Ever After is the live-action Cinderella story, told with plausibility as if you were trying to explain how it could have really happened.

Drew Barrymore is fun, the clothes are beautiful, the movie is romantic without being saccharine and I give it two thumbs up. It's rated PG-13 for "brief intense language" but honestly? I can't remember ever hearing anything at all like that--I must have missed it because it seemed squeaky-clean to me.

It even has it's fun lines and chuckles too.

Galaxy Quest14. Galaxy Quest
Can you tell I'm more inclined to a movie if it's funny? This one is great, it's really a spoof on Star Trek and it cracks me up.

Tim Allen, that guy from Monk, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Richman--great cast, funny lines, clever scenario, it's all there and if you haven't seen it you're missing out.

Oh, and it also has that guy from the Mac commercials (I don't know his name) that makes Macs look cooler than PCs. He's in it.

Though I warn you, you'll never look at Gilligan's Island the same way again (inside joke--watch the movie). Never. Rated PG.

15. Nicholas Nickleby
And my nod to period movies. This one is touching, sweet, well-made, and thoroughly a thrill. And while it has those typical moments of Dickensian squalor and abject human suffering it's not a bad movie to watch together because you can then talk a bit about what you saw. My kids got pretty choked up over the plight of poor Smike.

I'm talking about the 2003 version with Anne Hathaway and Allen Cummings and the rest of the fabulous cast. And if you like period movies then there's always of course Pride and Prejudice and the whole Jane Austen collection but this one is probably the best for younger kids. Just an opinion.

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Stephanie said...

Thank you for all the great reviews and idea's.
P.S. I can't remember is I told you I loved the dress you made. Gorgeous!

Diane said...

Love The Guns of Navaronne - you may also want to see Force Ten from Navaronne (young Harrison Ford) and Where Eagles Dare (Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton) - same author, same type of movie. Both worth the renting.

Lucy said...

Thanks. I've seen almost all of these but it's a good reminder of how great they are. I hadn't been to the theatre till about a month ago when a friend of mine wanted to see Amelia so we went to the mid-morning show 'cuz we're CHEAP. I was shocked....eight bucks to get in and I bought a SMALL coke and got charged 4.50. Live and learn. Never again. Well, unless I meet some guy that's very rich, that is. :) Any of those in Alaska?

Patricia L said...

I have such strong memories connected to Willow & Ever After-- love them both.

Lori said...

Ok, Without a Clue is now on our Netflix queue. Galaxy Quest was great! I haven't seen it since it was in theaters, but that Kevein McDonald is hilarious. Ever After is wonderful, too. I can't wait until my daughter is old enough to watch it with me.

And I think you talked about it before, but I just watched Howl's Moving Castle and it was amazing. I think it might have surpassed Kiki in my favorite Miyazaki film.

Andrea said...

What a great list! My kids are 13,9 and 6- two boys and a girl and finding a movie we can ALL enjoy is a task! I've made a list- know what we will be doing over Christmas break!

Kathy G said...

There's The Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; although they're more for the older kids, there's nothing offensive for the younger ones.

One of my favorite "unknown" movies is The World's Fastest Indian. Anthony Hopkins plays a crusty old motorcycle rider who goes to Utah to race on the Bonneville Flats. It's PG13 for a bit of language, though.

Jeana said...

We have a big stack of Christmas movies we always watch this time of year, but I'll have to revisit this list in January. Some of these are already favorites with us--Secondhand Lions and Ever After.

The Man Who Knew Too Little was funny, but if I'm not mistaken there was this weird scene with an old couple and whips that I would most definitely want to skip if my kids were watching.

Janelle said...

I love Secondhand Lions. I also enjoy Ever After. You're right though -- Secondhand Lions is just an excellent movie all around.

One of my husband's an my favorites is The Family Stone. I think it would probably be okay for kids, but you might want to preview it first, just in case. There are one or two brief (and joking) references to pot.

We also have a little one, so we're all about animated movies these days. Pixar is really good at making its movies appeal across the board. If you haven't seen Cars, you should. It's got a great soundtrack that everyone will love, a good storyline, and great puns that adults will appreciate. Another animated favorite here (though not Pixar) is Chicken Little -- it's a great twist on "the sky is falling."

Then of course, there are musicals. Classic ones, that is. My favorite is Oklahoma!, but if your family isn't into musicals at all, the it's probably not a good recommendation. If you do like musicals, I would also recommend Newsies and Into the Woods.

Clue and Murder By Death are also hilarious.

Kathy G is right -- The World's Fastest Indian is pretty good, if a little odd. Another indie films we like: Dear Frankie.

Suzi Dow said...

Just watched "Freedom Writers" last night. Suggest you add it to your "to be viewed" list. It's an old story but still current whether you live South LA, California, Miami, FL, or little Bisbee, AZ. Recommend such a movie be watched as a family with discussion following.

Heart2Heart said...


Another great list of movies to pick up and since most of them have been out for a while, you can rent them for a whole week at Blockbuster. Thanks for some that I haven't seen before.

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Jennifer said...

thanks for the reviews. With kids ranging from 5-11 it is hard to find something that will interest everyone, let alone appropriate for everyone. Your list helps

Susan said...

I love Castaway and Apollo 13. Tom Hanks is one of my favorites.

Do you like Little Woman with Winona Ryder? It makes for nice Christmas-time viewing.

Anonymous said...

May I suggest The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency? It was not in theaters but I think on HBO. Excellent pilot, which is like a movie itself. It gives a wonderful perspective of Botswana (where the book was set and where it was filmned), and the main character is just a treat. A little bit of spooky danger, lots of interesting people, some humor. My current favorite, watched by my 10yo son with interest.

The Source said...

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Second Hand Lions! I would go live in the middle of nowhere with those two old uncles. They were cool!

Stephanie Frieze said...

Many of these are favorites in our house. Fortunately my daughter and I do not mind watching movies we love over and over. As if movie tickets weren't bad enough--especially the 3D ones, it's the concession stand that will kill you.

We also like to play games such as Scrabble and to do puzzles. Our number one companion and entertainment device is the radio. We have them strategically located all over the house and they are especially useful if the lights go out. Nice to know what's happening then!

mumple said...

Ever After is my all-time fav romantic movie!

For westerns, though, I liked Tombstone--you can even spend your time saying, "I think that's ..." and then waiting for the end credits to find out that you're right!

We're trying to find good movies to watch as a family that are not animated, so this is a good place to start. Thanks!

Peruby said...

Galaxy Quest is one of my all-time favorites. I also love Silverado and Second Hand Lions.

I agree with Kathy G and Janelle on 'World's Fastest Indian' - the Indian is a motorcycle.

Okay, here goes. Most are PG-13 I believe.

The Boy Who Could Fly
The Apple Dumpling Gang
Harry and the Hendersons
The Milagro Beanfield War
Mrs. Doubtfire
Murphy's Romance
Short Circuit
Uncle Buck
Batteries Not Included
Big Trouble in Little China
Christmas With the Kranks
Honey I Shrunk the Kids
The Never Ending Story
The Snow Walker
War Games
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

dining set said...

Nice list! Most of the movies here are in my collection and I don't mind watching them over and over again. There is something in movies that I really like about when they are not shown in the theaters. I rather wait them in DVD.

Carmen said...

Great list except for, in my opinion, Castaway. I just didn't get it and after two hours of trying to get it I left the theater so ticked that I didn't get to see what was in that package!

CWDkids said...

Great suggestions! Just time in time for the long holiday break:)

Thank you!

Ashley, with CWDkids

Janet said...

You've listed several of my favorites (Ever After, Without a Clue, Silverado). I've been wanting to see Sky High, and I saw enough of Galaxy Quest to want to get it sometime.

Daisy said...

Ah, Castaway - and how about The Terminal?

2xmom10xgma said...

Good choices, especially Second Hand Lions. Before you see The Man Who Knew To Little, watch The Man Who Knew Too Much....then you will really crack up at the spoofs. But, Michelle, how could you leave out Oh Brother, Where Art Thou. That is one of only about a dozen DVD's I own.

Cheri said...

Thanks for the movie ideas! I love Secondhand Lions, one of my fav's as well as Apollo 13.

A couple other good ones:

"October Sky" base on a true story too! You probably already heard of this one?

One less known (I think) is "The Dish" again based on a true story about how a small town in Australia with a radio telescope observatory played a roll in the Apollo program. Not violent, funny parts and very interesting. A tiny romance too. One of those movies I don't mind watching more than once.

Jenny Rudd said...

cool film suggestions by all!

Organizing Mommy said...

Thanks for the reviews! I just never watch movies enough to sort them out like that. I may have to watch a few over the holidays.

K T Cat said...

I had not seen the Bill Murray movie. Thanks for the tip!

Stephanie said...

Another friend of mine just recommended "Secondhand Lions" to me. I think we may have to rent that one sometime.

And I agree about Nicholas Nickleby! It's a little-known film, but it is fantastic. I enjoyed it immensely.

Alice Wills Gold said...

Love Willow.

Have a nervous breakdown just thinking about Ever After. Never got officially proposed to..cried all not as a newlywed after seeing it.

My poor poor hubby.