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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
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.
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.
Gattaca, starring the talented combination of Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, and Uma Thurman, is in my top 5 list of best sci-fi movies.
A world where all babies are genetically engineered. No diseases. No imperfections. But some were born off the grid, In-Valids. Ethan Hawke’s character is one of these imperfects and is seen as weak by society.
The plot revolves around Ethan Hawke trying to assume the identity of someone who was genetically engineered. There are plenty of close-calls and suspense. Some parts are cringe-worthy as becoming someone else includes leg lengthening to match their height.
The take on genetic engineering is interesting and everyone plays their parts, perfectly.
Bonus: This is Jude Law’s first major movie role.
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law
Runtime: 106 min
Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: The lengths people go to for perfection.
Taking a good concept and keeping it going, Men in Black II, is really more of the same. This isn’t bad but don’t expect a whole different story or anything. Will Smith’s character is still strong. And the aliens are still silly.
Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones
Runtime: 88 min
Leslie Rating: 3/5
Summary: Strong follow-up with more silly alien antics and Will Smith.
Watching Taxi Driver for the first time in a New York City theater was strange experience. The movie’s atmosphere was perfectly gritty and creepy. De Niro’s character is perfectly delusional.
The movie is very New York. I would say it is one of the most quintessential New York movies. Everything about the feelings it portrays is accurate including characters, neighborhoods, and caricatures.
There are many memorable lines from the movie (you looking at me?) and a killer ending. For a movie from the 1970’s this definitely holds up and I can’t recommend it enough. .
Starring: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster
Runtime: 114 min
Leslie Rating: 4/5
Summary: An intense look at someone becoming psychotic.
One of the better 1980’s teen Cusack films about a guy, Lloyd Dobbler, who loves a girl, Diane Court. It’s that simple. He loves her more than anything. It’s not romantic as much as it’s a fact. This is what he does. He loves Diane. What is he going to do with his life? Love Diane.
“Say Anything” is a bit of a departure from the Molly Ringwald John Hughes teen movies from the 1980’s. It’s a little simpler and a little less hokey.
Starring: John Cusack
Runtime: 100 min
Leslie Rating: 3/5
Summary: “What I really want to do with my life – what I want to do for a living – is I want to be with your daughter. I’m good at it.”
1) Marry a rich man
2) Send in daughter to seduce new husband
3) Catch him in an affair with “another woman”
4) Divorce him and take all his $$
Sigourney Weaver and daughter Jennifer Love Hewitt have this plan down to a science. But what will happen when one of them actually falls for someone? Who knows! But I bet Jason Lee is going to find out.
Look, the plot is corny as hell but the movie knows what it is. Plus, the chemistry between the actor’s really helps to save things. All in all, Heartbreakers is better than it sounds, I promise.
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jason Lee, Gene Hackman
Runtime: 122 min
Leslie Rating: 3/5
Summary: Cheesy gold-digger plot but Hewitt and Lee’s interactions save the film
Here’s a small tip of the hat to Philip Seymour Hoffman in a lesser role.
For those of you who want to learn the art of manipulation, you only need to do two things: 1) Read “How to Win Friends & Influence People” and 2) Watch “Leap of Faith”
Steve Martin plays Jonas Nightingale, an evangelist preacher who puts on a big show and will happily take all your donations. The plot revolves around them getting stuck in downtrodden Rustwater, Kansas so they make the best of it and put on a big show. There’s some cheesy subplots where one of his crew falls in love with Liam Neeson in 3 days. Neeson, by the way, is the sherriff of this small town though there is no explanation of his background. Okay.
Meat Loaf and Philip Seymour Hoffman play as two members of the Nightingale crew. There’s a cute scene where Steve Martin is rocking out to “Paradise By The Dashboard Light”. Otherwise, Meat Loaf plays organ the whole time while Hoffman flirts with teen moms.
This is a Steve Martin film in the sense it’s not quite the feel-good story it could be. And it works just fine that way.
Starring: Steve Martin, Liam Neeson, Meat Loaf, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Runtime: 107 min
Leslie Rating: 3/5
Summary: A satirical look at con-men evangelists and small town hopes.