Friday, November 21, 2008

Great Family Movies to Watch during the Holidays ...

I subscribe to Netflix, and have watched a lot of movies in the past year, some of which were box office successes and some of which I had never heard of but sounded interesting. Surprisingly, I discovered that the unknown (to me) movies were usually the best ones.

With the holidays right around the corner, our movie-watching time is going to be limited, but I thought I'd share some of my favorites with you for the weeks ahead when you have a chance to just sit down and unwind (probably after Christmas?).

All of these movies are rated PG or PG-13, and are movies you can watch with your family without squirming every five minutes. You've probably seen some of them, but hopefully, you will find one or two you haven't seen.


"Facing the Giants"
(by Alex Kendrick who produced
"Fireproof," starring Kirk Cameron)

This inspirational drama from award-winning producers Alex and Stephen Kendrick combines faith and football in the tale of high school coach Grant Taylor (Alex Kendrick), who rises above failure to create a winning spirit on the field. Taylor faces a losing team, a failing marriage and the possibility of being fired. At the end of his rope, he puts his life in God's hands and, in doing so, finds a stronger purpose and, ultimately, salvation. [PG]

Also by Alex Kendrick ... "Flywheel"

Dishonest used-car salesman Jay Austin (Alex Kendrick) reaches an important turning point in his life when he finally realizes the errors of his ways in this inspiring family drama. Disgusted with his lies and manipulations, Jay sets out to win back the love and trust of his wife (Janet Lee Dapper), his son (Richie Hunnewell) and the community. Once he makes the choice to live an honest life of love and faith, Jay never looks back. [PG]

During a visit to her sister in Appalachia, gifted musicologist Dr. Lily Penleric (Janet McTeer) stumbles upon a musical treasure trove -- dozens of Scots-Irish ballads that have been preserved for generations by the local populace and are unknown to the outside world. Intent on collecting the beautiful songs, Dr. Penleric comes to admire the locals, who live a tough, hardscrabble existence without complaint. [PG-13]
Sometimes, heroism finds its ambassador in the simplest of struggles: a father's fight to raise his children. Based on real-life events, Evelyn follows the story of Desmond Doyle (Pierce Brosnan), whose wife has left him and whose three kids -- Evelyn, Maurice and Dermot -- are taken away from him and placed in orphanages. Although Desmond vows to reunite his family, he faces the formidable Irish Supreme Court as his foe. [PG]
"Trip to Bountiful"

Geraldine Page won an Academy Award for this bittersweet tale set in 1947 about an elderly Houston woman in search of happier times. Forced to live with her rotten son Ludie (John Heard) and his wife (Carlin Glynn), Carrie Watts (Geraldine Page) decides she's had enough. She boards a bus headed to her hometown, Bountiful, and befriends passenger Thelma (Rebecca DeMornay). But the sheriff catches up to Carrie's bus just 12 miles from Bountiful. ______________________________

"Welcome to Paradise"

When big-city preacher Debbie Laramie (Crystal Bernard) moves to the small town of Paradise with her son Hayden (Bobby Edner), she finds the local community unreceptive to her message of love and forgiveness. Determined to get through to her stubborn congregation, Debbie uses unique methods to shake the churchgoers out of their indifference, such as inviting a homeless man to sing during one of the services. Brian Dennehy co-stars. [PG]


"Secondhand Lions"

In 1960s Texas, timid teenager Walter (Haley Joel Osment) is forced to spend the summer with his rich and eccentric great-uncles (Michael Caine and Robert Duvall) on their farm. Over time, he learns about their mysterious and dangerous pasts. [PG]


"The Legend of Bagger Vance"
(I'm not a golf fan, but I loved this movie ... it's not just about golf)

World War I has left golfer Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) a poker-playing alcoholic, his perfect swing gone. Now, however, he needs to get it back to play in a tournament to save the financially ravaged golf course of a long-ago sweetheart (Charlize Theron). Help arrives in the form of mysterious caddy Bagger Vance (Will Smith). Director Robert Redford's adaptation of Steven Pressfield's novel includes Jack Lemmon's unbilled final performance. [PG-13]


"The Greatest Game Ever Played"
(Another wonderful movie, not just about golf)

With a pint-sized caddie (Joshua Flitter) at his side, amateur golfer Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf) shocked the world at the 1913 U.S. Open when he outplayed defending British champ Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane). But Ouimet's rise to the top wasn't easy, with a hard-nosed father (Elias Koteas) and a hard-knock life to overcome. Actor Bill Paxton (in his third time out as a director) helms this inspiring true-life story based on actual events. [PG]



Academy Award winner Dame Judi Dench leads a stellar cast in this Emmy-nominated BBC miniseries adaptation of the classic novels of celebrated Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell. Stage and screen veterans Imelda Staunton and Eileen Atkins also star this complicated portrait of a group of women inhabiting a town wrestling with modernity and the inevitability of change. (Two discs) [NR]


Jessica Lange, Joan Allen and Kathy Bates star in this road trip yarn, which follows three friends on a journey across the West after one of them is widowed. Along the way, they learn a thing or two about themselves, one another, and life. Powerful performances drive home the themes of friendship and female solidarity, while the awe-inspiring landscapes of the American Southwest convey a true sense of carpe diem. [PG]

"The World's Fastest Indian"

Based on a true story, this drama follows 67-year-old grandfather and New Zealander Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins) as he flies across Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats and blazes into the record books at 183.586 mph on his customized Indian Scout motorcycle. Set in 1967. [PG-13]


"My Sister's Keeper"
Kathy Bates, Elizabeth Perkins and Lynn Redgrave deliver compelling performances in this "Hallmark Hall of Fame" family drama based on a true story. Two sisters (Bates and Perkins) have a special yet complicated relationship. They lead completely different lives (Bates has a severe form of bipolar disorder) and must overcome ideological and societal barriers and familial baggage to strengthen and seal their sibling bond. [NR]

"Master and Commander"

Based on the novels by Patrick O'Brian, this dramatic thriller pits "Lucky" Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe), captain of the HMS Surprise, and his crew against a privateer equipped with better weapons. This Oscar-winning adventure co-stars Paul Bettany (as ship doctor Stephen Maturin), Billy Boyd and James D'Arcy, and as the two vessels command the high seas during the Napoleonic Wars, the maritime chase continues to claim victims. [PG-13]

If you like Russell Crowe's movies,
I promise you'll love this one, too ...

"A Good Year"

Oscar winner Ridley Scott directs this adaptation of Peter Mayle's best-selling novel, following the romantic misadventures of an Englishman in Provence, France. After inheriting a vineyard from his uncle (Albert Finney), failed banker Max Skinner (Russell Crowe) moves abroad, where he meets a beautiful French woman (Marion Cotillard), as well as a feisty American (Abbie Cornish), who claims to be his long-lost cousin -- and his uncle's true heir. [PG-13]


"The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio"

With 10 children to feed, postwar Ohio housewife Evelyn Ryan (Julianne Moore) has gotten used to being resourceful, stretching her husband's meager salary to the limit. But when clipping coupons won't cut it, she's forced to rely on her creativity and enters a jingle-writing contest for extra income. Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern co-star in this uncommon comedy-drama based on a heartwarming memoir by Ryan's daughter, Terry. [PG-13]


"The Ultimate Gift"

When his wealthy grandfather (James Garner) finally dies, Jason Stevens (Drew Fuller) fully expects to benefit when it comes to the reading of the will. But instead of a sizable inheritance, Jason receives a test, a series of tasks he must complete before he can get any money. Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin and former beauty queen Lee Meriwether also star in this coming-of-age drama based on the novel by Jim Stovall. [PG]


"Walk the Line"

Among the pantheon of great country singers, Johnny Cash (played here by Joaquin Phoenix) may just be the most enigmatic. James Mangold's film distills Cash's transformation from man to icon -- from his hardscrabble days on an Arkansas farm to Sun Records in Memphis, where Cash finally found a way for his talent to come into its own. Reese Witherspoon plays his beloved June, alongside co-stars Robert Patrick and Shelby Lynne. [PG-13]


"Ballet Shoes"

An unusual explorer named Gum (Richard Griffiths) and his kindly niece (Emilia Fox) adopt three orphans -- Pauline (Emma Watson), Petrova (Yasmin Paige) and Posy (Lucy Boynton) -- and raise them as sisters in 1930s London. But when Gum doesn't return from one of his adventures, the girls must fend for themselves. Together they nurture their respective acting, aviation and ballet dreams in this charming adaptation of the Noel Streatfeild novel. [PG]


"Ambulance Girl"

Kathy Bates stars in this inspirational made-for-TV movie based on Jane Stern's autobiographical novel. In the midst of a serious depression, a food writer (Bates) changes her career path by training to become an emergency medical technician, hoping that in the process of saving others, she may just save herself. [NR]


"Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee"

A dark chapter of U.S. history comes to light in this epic saga (Emmy winner for Best Made-for-TV Movie) of the U.S. government's extermination of the American Indians. Beginning after the Sioux victory at Little Big Horn, the film traces the stories of three men: a Sioux doctor (Adam Beach), a lobbying senator (Aidan Quinn) and the Lakota hero Sitting Bull (August Schellenberg). The acclaimed cast also features Anna Paquin and Fred Dalton Thompson as Ulysses S. Grant. [NR]


"Ladies in Lavender"

It's 1936, and two sisters, Janet and Ursula Widdington (Maggie Smith and Judi Dench), are at their beach house in Cornwall for some rest and relaxation. But their idyll is interrupted when they chance upon a mystery man awash on the beach and decide to nurse him back to health. Turns out he's Andrea (Daniel Bruhl), a violinist who was bound for America when his ship encountered trouble. Before long, he takes the quiet fishing village by storm. [PG-13]


"Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont"

Joan Plowright takes the title role in this heartwarming drama, based on the best-selling novel by the same name. After traveling to London to be closer to her 26-year-old grandson, the recently widowed Mrs. Palfrey moves into a local hotel while she waits -- and waits -- for him to return her calls. But when fate introduces her to a kindly young writer (Rupert Friend), she finds the family she's always wanted. [NR]


"Love Comes Softly"

Set on the Western frontier, this tale follows a newly widowed pioneer woman as she tries to survive life on the open range. After her husband dies, Marty (Katherine Heigl) heeds the advice of friends (Corbin Bernsen and Theresa Russell) by marrying a man (Dale Midkiff) she doesn't love and caring for his child (Skye McCole Bartusiak). Marty plans to stay until spring -- but when it comes time to move on, things don't turn out as she expected. [NR] ... There are three sequels to this movie which are good, too -- Love's Abiding Joy, Love's Unending Legacy, and Love's Enduring Promise.


"A Home of Our Own"

When a mother of six (Kathy Bates) finds herself widowed, poor and wanting to trade the dangers of 1960s Los Angeles for a more simple life in the country, she packs up the kids and all their belongings, and heads to rural Idaho. Here, she finds a place for her brood to live in exchange for work in this touching, bittersweet family drama about the importance of cooperation and overcoming hardship.[PG]



In this romantic comedy featuring Shirley MacLaine as a wacky grandma, Southern girl Carolina (Julia Stiles) envisions an entirely different existence for herself, far from the maddening mix that is her family. So, she leaves home for California, where she hopes she'll find some tranquility. But her efforts are soon wasted when she finds herself torn between two men. Who will win her heart? [PG-13]


I hope you will get a chance to watch some of these movies with your family during the holidays. I don't think you will be disappointed in any of them.



Stacey said...

Wow those all look so good. I've seen few of them. I'm going to have to write these down!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Hi, Janie!

This looks like a good list. I have seen a few of them -- The Trip To Bountiful, Walk the Line, Master and Commander. All good movies, and there look to be some more great ones on your list. Thank you for sharing this with us. :-)


Sheila... who finally after struggling and struggling got you added to my blog list! :-) It wouldn't let me put your blog name on for some reason. Still can't figure out why, but it works now. Yea!

nikkicrumpet said...

I don't get a chance to watch too many movies...but I can't believe I haven't seen a single one of those you mentioned....sheesh I need to get out more often! Thanks for sharing them. I'm gonna have to pick one and give it a try!

Anonymous said...

Woo hoo Janie I just hit the mother lode, but I have to say I am peeking around my house to see if you planted some kind of camera...we were just talking about getting a movie and ta dah I find all these, I have only seen one "Walk the Line" which I agree was excellent, (I think there were Academy Awards along with that?)

Boy am I going to sound like I did some research...and I have to say I am not going to mention you, I am GOING to TAKE all the

Thank you,
Kathy :)

KARIN said...

I printed this out. I have seen several, so I know we must have the same taste in movies. I can't wait to watch some of the titles! I also want to see The Duchess, which was recommended by Kappaprep at Monograms and Manicures. Have you seen it? It looks really good!

Anonymous said...

Hi Janie! Wow what a selection of movies and great reviews!!! I can't go wrong with Pierce so Evelyn is a must rent for me and several others you listed!!! Hope you have a great weekend. I think I'll pop some popcorn and relax!!lol Sincerely, Jeannette

Diane@A Picture is Worth.... said...

Hi Janie,
Thanks for posting the list and giving us a snapshot of what the movie is about!

I did see Walk the Line and really enjoyed it.

Kathy Bates is a favorite...I'll have to see about renting these.


StitchinByTheLake said...

What a great list. I have Facing the Giants now but haven't watched it yet. Thanks! blessings, marlene

salmagundi said...

So many great movies I have not seen. Thanks for the recommendations. Sally

Bo said...

Thank you dear lady for this list of GOOD movies...I'm so tired of watching movies hoping they'll get better & they don't! I did a post a while back about my favorite actress & guess who...yep, Kathy Bates! Love her & every movie she's ever been in..."Fried Green Tomatoes" my all time fav...seen it 6 maybe 7 times! ;-) Bo

Laurie - Decorating Fanatic said...

Oh what a terrific idea for a post! Do you know how often we have been lured in by big budget, big cast movies only to be disappointed? I want to see a movie thats inspiring or makes you think or feel good! Great choices. I have only seen a few of these but I am going to print these out for future reference! Thank you for taking the time to do this post! ~ Laurie

Heather said...

I haven't seen any of these movies except Walk The Line. There are so many that sound really good! I can't think of a better way to spend a cold winter night than to curl up on the couch with a fire in the fireplace and eat popcorn while watching a movie! Great list!!
I am having a giveaway- stop by and put your name in.

Belle (from Life of a...) said...

I think Netflix is THE best!

ShabbyInTheCity said...

Gosh thanks! I never know what to get and what is appropriate, etc.
Okay, I have my eyes on two...The Ultimate Gift and Ballet Shoes.

Susie Q said...

Wonderful choices...I have seen most but will run out to rect those others you suggested.
Brian Dennehy is my all time favorite and he is actually in 2 of your picks! Welcome to Paradise and The Ultimate Gift...both so life reaffirming and wonderful family viewing!

Happy new year to you!