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a girl lives in brooklyn
Every year I re-watch some of my favorite Christmas & holiday-themed movies in the month of December. Thankfully, many of these are available on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime so everyone can enjoy them!
I added a winter movie on this list, The Cutting Edge, currently streaming on Hulu. It is not specifically Christmas themed, although there is a Christmas scene. But it is about ice skating (and hockey!) and I watch it every winter. I’ve shared this favorite movie of mine with lots of friends over the years and everyone has enjoyed it. I’m happy to see it finally streaming.
Also included in the lists are both versions of Miracle on 34th Street. I don’t mind the remake, honestly, so I recommend giving them both a watch.
There are many more Christmas-themed movies available streaming but I’ve narrowed down the list below to ones I regularly enjoy year over year. Also, some of them are really really bad. I promise only good ones below.
I hope everyone can get into the holiday spirit this month and enjoy watching some Christmas movie favorites!
Updated 12/25/2016 to add The Santa Clause (Netflix).
as of 12/25/2016
Any movie that has explosions or robots or both is my favorite movie. I love “dumb action movies” and I am not even apologizing for that. I prefer when they’re smart, of course. But I just want to see things blown up, chase scenes, and general bad ass behavior. A plot is a bonus.
The big blockbuster for the start of the summer is currently Mad Max: Fury Road. Another big-name blockbuster is Tomorrowland since it is Disney + George Clooney. One has fire on top of fire and the other has a message Al Gore spouted a decade ago. Which one is which!
I will lead with that. However, there was actually a lot more downtime than I had expected in Mad Max: Fury Road. Mainly because everyone has been so amped up about it. And you should be. The whole movie is an adrenaline rush about people who are on an adrenaline rush. But there is a real plot. And there is actual down time to address it. So, not explosions every single second. The car chase does stop at some point.
However, just as I was like “boooooring why are these people standing around talking” then the plot went BOOM and everything lit up again!
Atlas Shrugged is a book by objectivist Ayn Rand about this weird perfect society created by the best of the best because they don’t have time for “regular” people.
Tomorrowland is a movie by Disney about this weird perfect society created by the best of the best because they don’t have time for “regular” people.
An Inconvnient Truth is a 2006 documentary from Al Gore about how humans are destroying the planet.
Tomorrowland is a 2015 film from Disney about how humans are destroying the planet.
Zombies movies are overdone. Even sarcastic ones. But Fido is still worth watching. It’s set in a world that has a handle on its zombie problem. Zombies can be tamed and essentially controlled with a hi-tech collar. Zombies are kept as pets, servants, and for manual labor. Killing zombies and keeping them around trained is perfectly normal. So this isn’t so much about an unexpected zombie attack. It’s simply about life with zombies.
The main character is a young boy named Timmy who has a pet zombie named Fido. There you go. The 1950’s-esqe world grows a little tiresome but it also adds to the humor. The film is a good mix of old and original zombie concepts. Plus it’s fun to think about a functioning world with zombies. Rather than the usual dystopian tales.
For Halloween season, this is a good pick. The humor keeps it from being too scary. Yet there is enough gore to satisfy a horror fan.
Continuing the theme is a movie whose entire premise is based on satire. Team America does little other than parody action movies and the state of politics at that time. And that’s what makes it great.
Nothing about the film is politically correct. And little is subtle. One of the more memorable scenes for me was the montage. Some of the lyrics, “If you want to go from beginner to a pro, you need a montage”. Classy.
This in-your-face humor isn’t typically my style but I actually quite enjoyed Team America.
Galaxy Quest works off the premise of real aliens mistaking sci-fi tv actors for actual heroes in space. Sure, it’s predictable. But the great cast work well off each other. And it’s enjoyable straight through.
There’s quite a few big names here with Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, and Sigourney Weaver. But thankfully the movie doesn’t get muddled. In the movie, they all play washed-up actors on an old sci-fi tv show (think: Star Trek). They are all tired of playing these characters but still make an appearance at a sci-fi convention. It is there they are approached by a real space team in trouble! Oh now!
Sure it’s a predictable plot but it’s a good-natured one and you will smile.
When I was younger, I thought this was just a movie about dancing. The actual plot of class differences went right over my head. Although it seemed to be a common theme in the 1980’s. Movies like Some Kind of Wonderful and Pretty in Pink both dealt with teenagers, hormones, and the class system in the United States. But Dirty Dancing has a twist. Literally. It has become the quintessential dance movie.
For the teen dance genre, this movie has it all. Forbidden love, social issues, an abortion, family relationships, dance montages, and a coming of age story at the center of it all.
The cast is perfect. It’s unfortunate Jennifer Grey didn’t make it farther than she did. But this was certainly Patrick Swayze’s break-through film. Although the plot gets a bit convoluted it pulls through. And that’s why this movie is a classic.
The television series Twin Peaks didn’t grab my attention until college. And even then it was just a show I had vaguely heard about. Curious, I rented the first season from my local video store and marathoned it over a weekend. At the time, Season 2 wasn’t available. Thankfully it is now.
It’s not a surprise that a David Lynch created tv series would become a cult classic. This show is everything you’d expect it to be. Creepy, mysterious, witty, and confusing. All in good ways of course.
Twin Peaks has definitely become something bigger than the show. There are numerous related events in NYC. From bingo to live performances of bands playing the soundtrack. But now the show that started everything is can be easily streamed. Even if it doesn’t exactly meet your interests, I recommend watching a few episodes just to experience what is definitely a cult classic.
It should be noted that I am a big fan of Edward Norton. So I am definitely biased when it comes to his movies.
In Rounders, good ole Matt Damon pairs up with gambling-addict Norton. The basic plot is these two need to come up with $15K in less than a week. That may sound overdone. But the two actors work well off of each other. And no scene is unnecessarily dramatic. Norton plays the troublemaker while Damon is a law student with a soft spot.
It can be predictable in parts but I do recommend riding it out. If you’re into gambling movies that don’t take place in Vegas, this is the one for you.
This documentary follows pastor Becky Fisher, the founder of Kids on Fire Bible camp in North Dakota. The film does not have an in-your-face agenda. But doesn’t portray the experience very positively either. It stands out that these children are being indoctrinated to follow the religion. They are being told how to think about the world; instead of learning for themselves.
The film looked a lot at the political leanings of this Christian group. It was filmmed during a time when George Bush was in office. And most of the film is surrounded by the news of picking a new Supreme Court judge. The children are told that Bush is saving this country. And that they, too, can save this country if they convert enough people. Not that they should attend college and go into politics. But simply by praying.
However, with the film not having a blatant agenda, it also felt pretty dry & boring. I learned that, according to the film, 75% of home schooled children are Evangelical Christians. And also, according to the film, there are Christian tourists that visit mega-churches in places like Colorado City. Interesting but not life-changing.
This Disney classic features the wacky inventor dad who accidentally shrinks his kids. The plot is right there in the title. But as a kid, the idea of being shrunk seemed so… neat. Using a Cheerio as a life preserver. Sliding down blades of grass. This family adventure movie is a whole lot of fun. Sure, you know what is going to happen when, but as far as Disney live-action goes, this really is a classic one that holds up well.
Director Terry Gilliam puts this film together like no one else could. The surreal and beautiful world includes adventures in a hot air balloon to the moon and being swallowed by a giant sea monster. Are these stories true? Of course they are. Baron Munchausen swears by it.
Every character is witty & charming. All the sets are quirky. This is a bit of an “out there” movie as any good fantasy adventure should be. Like most of Gilliam’s works, you either really like it, or you don’t.
Coming off the success of Home Alone, Macaulay Culkin is just one of the stars in this coming of age story about two 11-year olds over the course of a summer. Of course it’s Anna Chlumsky who steals the show. Chlumsky, as Vada Sultenfuss, grows up in a funeral home run by her father (Aykroyd). Her senile grandmother also lives with them. Her mother passed away during Vada’s birth. And her father has just starting to kinda-date a new woman (Curtis). That’s the set-up for what turns into a very well-done emotional tale. I really wish more movies took the risk this one did.
Vada and Thomas J (Culkin) are best friends and outcasts. Both are teased by some of the other kids. But they have a sweet & strong friendship. There are hijinks and some predictability. But not a ton. There are some scenes for a writing class Vada takes. Later on this serves to help show her emotional growth. It works really well.
The ending… well, I can’t spoil it. I distinctly remember thinking “that can’t be it? that can’t be happening?” Which is exactly what Vada was thinking. And really helped you feel connected. This was also pretty traumatizing for me as a child watching this movie. And for that reason I think all children should watch this movie. And adults. Pretty much everyone.
Pumping this out in a record three years after the original, this sequel definitely doesn’t hold up to the first one. But it doesn’t completely fall flat either. Unfortunately, it just follows the traditional plot of a coming of age story. Your emotions aren’t jerked around. You might smirk a few times at something feel-good. But you never feel quite as connected to the main character as before.
This time around, Vada takes a trip to California to stay with a relative. At the same time, she turns into a Nancy Drew to try to track down information about her mother (who died at Vada’s birth). Of course she has another boy-friend to pal around with. The story is fine. But it’s predictable and loses the ‘magic’ the first one had. Not the worst follow-up, but not a must-see by any means.
Generally, I don’t enjoy romcoms. So for me to think one was okay, is a pretty high regard. Hitch was a standable romcom as they go. Will Smith plays a dating coach who is very good at what he does. So good, a journalist starts investigating him under the assumption it’s a scam. You’ll never guess what happens between the dating coach and the journalist…
Sure, it’s predictable. But a fun predictable. The story is still interesting and good natured. Nothing is over the top. Smith performs well for the role.
Wayne’s World! Party time! Excellent!
Oh Mike Meyers. Pre-Austin Powers Mike Meyers. SNL Mike Meyers. This movie has it everything you could want a SNL spin-off movie. The iconic Bohemian Rhapsody scene. Lots of buzzwords (schwing!). A goofy plot. Breaking the fourth wall. So much stuff and it all works.
No one in this movie takes themselves seriously, which is why it works so darn well.
This 90’s movie pairs Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss as a perfect team. Dreyfuss plays the stuffy psychotherapist, Murray (Bob) the obsessive-compulsive patient. Bob does not take it very well when he learns his therapist will be gone on vacation with his family for a month. He shows up at his doctor’s vacation home… and hilarity ensues.
In predictable nature, Dreyfuss warms up to Murray by the end of the movie. But it still plays out well and has solid good banter.
There are few classic 80’s movies + sequels better than the Short Circuit series. Thankfully they only made two of them but both are definitely worth watching. Enjoy being uncomfortable while Fisher Stevens plays a stereotypically exaggerated Indian immigrant… The 80’s, right?
In the first movie, we learn that Johnny 5 was a trained killing machine for the military. After some plot device happened, he becomes alive! And is just a nice friendly robot that everyone is trying to steal or destroy. The second movie is basically the same plot.
I’m not quite sure how well the movie holds up as actual entertainment. I’d say it’s more of a good/bad movie. But a classic nonetheless.
Over the weekend, I watched the second Captain America movie in theaters. Having never seen the first one, I surprisingly enjoyed it. I’m pretty new to the marvel universe. While I like graphic novels and comics, I’m still not really into DC or Marvel’s superhero universe.
When watching any of these movies, I have nothing to compare to them to, which means I typically enjoy them for the fun action adventure movies they are. Since I really enjoyed the Captain America story, I thought it would be make sense to follow that up with The Avengers.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the best idea. Scarlett Johnasson is amazing as Black Widow. She’s truly the only character I liked. I still can’t get over Robin (as in How I Met Your Mother character) being cast in a movie like this. I know she has little screen time but I just really can’t take her seriously.
For whatever reason, this combination of characters just didn’t work for me. I turned the movie off about an hour into it. There is a huge fight between Iron Man and Thor (even though they’re on the same side) that totally killed all interest for me. I also didn’t like Loki being the villain.
My personal preferences aside, if you want a superhero action movie this is definitely a good pick. You’ll get Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, and Black Widow.
Want to watch a totally dumb action explosion shooting movie? Here it is! This movie has it all. A by-the-book invincible police officer (called judges in this world). A rookie officer being trained. The projects. A futuristic world. Mass murder. Machine guns. And a happy ending. There’s not even a love story to interfere with the explosions.
This movie remake knows exactly what it is and it does it well. There is little plot. Lots of violence. And it ends right when it should.
Watching Goon is a perfect way to celebrate the NHL play-offs. Sean William Scott plays his role as a bruiser hockey player perfectly. He wasn’t picked by the team for his game skills, he was picked specifically to fight.
There is enough of a plot to keep the story going along. He is paired up with a roommate who needs some inspiration to get back into the swing of the game. There is also a bit of a love interest. Plus just the right amount of comedy without it becoming too ‘low hanging fruit’ humor. (Even though there are plenty of 69 jokes, the number of his jersey).
Warning: The end scene involves a broken ankle and can be a bit cringe-worthy. So be prepared if you get grossed out by things like that. Try to watch the scene if you can though, it’s a solid ending.
Fun sports movie that knows what it is and doesn’t try too hard doing it. Even if you don’t like hockey or sports, you’ll enjoy this.
We should all pay for things to support those who made them so they continue to make them. And yes downloading media you didn’t pay for and don’t already own is illegal. Even if this doesn’t morally bother you, it may be a waste of your time regardless. Sometimes sifting through tons of free files just isn’t worth it when you could have spent $10 (or $10/mo) and found exactly what you wanted. I’ve previously written about how free is rarely worth it. Here are just some more examples.
It’s been a long time since you could just download single songs from Napster. Now, you generally pay a dollar or so for a song from Amazon or iTunes.
Music can still be obtained from torrent sites of course, but it’s usually found there as entire discographies. That can be useful sometimes. But sometimes you just want to hear one song. And sometimes things are mislabeled. You can also use various online storage sites and search engines to find random music files. But this can be tedious and difficult to find more obscure things. At the end of the day, you get what you pay for.
While I have never bought individual tracks or albums digitally, I am currently paying monthly for Spotify. I love that it’s easy. When I want to hear a new band, I can instantly find their entire album history and pick & choose the songs I want to hear. I can see which of their songs are most popular. Find out more information by them. See related artists. And since I pay for it, I can also listen to Spotify music offline. This is perfect for my iPod Touch when I’m not on a wifi connection. And means I don’t have to use the horrendous piece of bloated software that is iTunes.
This isn’t a shill for Spotify, but for any music service. It took me a bit to be open to paying for digital music, when I could acquire it for free. I’ve found it to be more than worth it as far as selection and time-management goes.
It’s the Internet! Of course there’s free porn! There’s tons of pictures and videos available online all over.
Unfortunately, many of the free videos on websites are edited. While there are sites that have a whole library of free videos, most are usually bad. Bad quality in terms of video and actors. Although, if you prefer amateur stuff, this probably works for you. Many of these free videos don’t cover specific niches. And most are edited down to 10 minutes, or have commercial interruptions, enticing you to subscribe to see more.
The other free alternative is, again, torrenting. While you will get the full version here, mislabeling is a big issue. Or even if isn’t mislabeled, you just don’t know if you will like it. Downloading takes some time/energy, so if you don’t like any of them, it can be a waste.
For a year, I split a subscription with a friend, costing us $50 each total to a well-known site. (I was going through a serious Asa Akira phase.) For the price of Netflix, there was a huge selection of top quality full-length videos available. You could also download videos to keep forever. New videos were added all the time. It didn’t have commercial interruptions or the best parts edited out. I could even be notified when new videos featuring my favorite actors were added to the site. I didn’t have to sift through tons of files. Or be emotionally disturbed when a video turned out to be something completely different.
After that one year, my friend and I let the subscription run out. Although it was much better than dealing with free sources, it’s still a difficult cost (albeit low) to justify.
(I know there are other free sources and invite-only places but I’m not familiar enough with them).
Once upon a time, I had a jailbroken iPhone (2008). It was very useful as at the time it was the only way to disable all notifications. But jailbroken devices also allow you the opportunity to install paid apps for free. Sure, you’ll save a few bucks here and there. But unless you really know what you’re doing, jailbreaking can be a bit scary. Even with as simple as it is today, when going through it at one point I was certain I bricked my phone. Scary moment!
After one of the upgrades, I reformatted everything and just kept the native installation on there. Then I sucked it up and started paying for my apps. At least it made me think twice before just downloading something willy nilly.
Like the other media, you can download movies online for free. Sometimes while they’re still in theaters. Screeners (when someone videotapes a movie in the theater) are notoriously bad quality and definitely not worth it. Sometimes there are Award releases that are high quality. Either way, it’s generally a crapshoot until the dvd is released.
Even on the best torrent site, some obscure movies are impossible to find. Sometimes it is worth ponying up the ten bucks to just buy it in good quality.
Plus, with options like Netflix and Hulu Plus, it’s become less necessary to use other means to watch movies.
Time is a huge factor when thinking about getting certain things for free. Aside from media, most free giveaways, especially for food, end up costing you more in time than what you’re getting. I understand the allure of the word free (as does marketing departments everywhere). But most of the time, it’s worth spending ten bucks to get yourself a decent meal.
Not only is this a fair adaptation of the book but after nine years it still holds up. Sure, the movie is predictable but it’s a family film at heart. The special affects also hold up when comparing to today’s visuals. They do a good job presenting the past and the future and making sure both are separate.
The story of Jumanji tells of a board game about the jungle that actually comes to life. You can actually be taken into the jungle. Lions can appear in your bedroom. You can turn into a monkey. The movie shows all these things very well without it coming off as too hokey. There are times things are forced and silly. Remember, family movie.
Besides, Kirsten Dunst is adorable.
Starring: Robin Williams, Kirsten Dunst
Runtime: 103 min
Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: A game about the jungle that becomes real life.
I remember watching this movie at the theater, in some mall in South Jersey. I was with some friends, two of whom might have been on a date. I don’t quite remember. The movie hadn’t sounded interesting to me but I went with the group anyway.
Turns out, when given the power to control your life with a remote, being able to pause and fast forward and rewind, not fun things happen. Click starts off with the basic use of the remote having Adam Sandler fast forward until he receives a promotion. He thinks he will get it within the next few months but it actually takes several years. Of course in that time he has missed part of his family’s lives.
Then it gets weird. And it’s not funny at any point. We’ve seen this story before… he sees how his selfish ways are ruining his family then he gets a chance at a do-over. Predictable and boring.
And that’s all I have to say on the topic of malls in south jersey.
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Walken
Runtime: 107 min
Leslie Rating: 2/5
Summary: Being able to control life as though it’s a movie isn’t as great as it seems.
It took me a while to warm up to foreign martial arts films but now I can’t get enough of them. This is definitely in my top three for the choreography alone. It’s not just people fighting each other.
These are beautifully choreographed fighting scenes. Dances almost. It’s about skills not just strength. Really beautiful to watch.
Among the eye-catching action scenes is a very strong story. The plot revolves around Chow Yun-Fat attempting to avenge his master’s death. With a tasteful side of romance thrown in. This film is beautiful and should be seen by everyone.
Starring: Yun-Fat Chow
Runtime: 120 min
Leslie Rating: 5/5
Summary: Beautifully choreographed martial arts movie to supplement a story of romance.