The holidays are a time for family, friends, love, and of course, plenty of cheesy Christmas movies. I’m not talking about the big-budget Christmas films that hit the theaters with stars like Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell, I mean the annual parade of holiday movies touted on channels like Hallmark, Lifetime, and ABC Family.
Let’s be honest here, there are a lot of bad films out there under the Christmas banner, and sadly, I’ve probably seen them. But let’s talk for a minute about which movies are actually worth watching if you can stomach all sappiness and cheesiness (warning: there is a lot). And yes, I have actually seen all of these films.
Amidst the highs and lows of what some have called the Last Year of Existence are the losses of a lot of beloved entertainers. Here then, is a list of some of those we’ve lost, and their work that influenced us so much.
Alex Karras, right, in the original cast photo of the 80s TV sitcom, “Webster.” Courtesy ABC Television
July 15, 1935 – Oct. 10, 2012
A beast on the football field (with the awesome nickname, “The Mad Duck”) for the Detroit Lions, Karras was also the world’s most beloved teddy bear of a man on the ’80s sitcom, Webster. But our favorite role was his portrayal of Mongo in Blazing Saddles. No one could knock a horse out with one punch like Karras.
Andy Williams, courtesy NBC Television
Dec. 3, 1927 – Sept. 25, 2012
Best known for his smooth crooner pipes,Williams also held us captive with that gleaming smile and TV variety show. But we feel a special recognition is due for his signature song, Moon River, (written by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini for Audrey Hepburn to sing in Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and the way it made all the ladies swoon for a few decades.
Michael Clarke Duncan, courtesy http://www.blackurbanite.net
July 10, 1934 – Aug. 23, 2012
The beloved Muppet puppeteer was best known for breathing life into Count von Count on Sesame Street, but his contribution as the voice of the Skeksis High Priest in The Dark Crystal helped create an unforgettable cult classic. Oh, and he also handled several characters in The Muppet Movie, including Floyd the Electric Mayhem bassist.
Phyllis Diller, courtesy Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
July 17, 1917 – Aug. 20 2012
Though her contributions as a groundbreaking female presence in a male-dominated, mid-20th century comedy world can’t be overstated, Diller’s ability transcended petty things like gender. She was a force on TV and the big screen alike, and influenced a legion of successors. Perhaps one of her best roles was a voice over performance for Pixar’s sophomore hit, A Bug’s Life, where she played The Queen.
Sept. 21, 1931 – Nov. 23, 2012 Best known as J.R. Ewing on two separate runs of primetime soap opera Dallas, Hagman also played the ever-patient and eternally kind Major Tony Nelson on I Dream of Jeannie.
Sept. 15, 1925 – Aug. 10, 2012
The Italian special effects master’s hand touched some of the most iconic movies of the pre-CGI age, garnering a hat trick of Academy Awards (two Oscars and a “Special Achievement” award) in the process. Some of his more famous works included King Kong (the 1976 version), Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Dune and Alien. But the capstone was everyone’s favorite alien from the 1980s, E.T.
June 2, 1944 – Aug. 6, 2012
One of the most sought-after composers in Hollywood history, Hamlisch might still best be known for writing the music and lyrics to the longest-running play in Broadway history, A Chorus Line, if not The Way We Were, for which he won one of his first Oscars (he nabbed three on the same night). But nothing has the pure signature sound of the Robert Redford/Paul Newman 1973 smash hit, The Sting.
The Men in Black franchise endures in no small part thanks to the chemistry Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones brought to the alien-themed twist on the tried and trope buddy cop action flick genre. In Men in Black 3, Josh Brolin picks up exactly where Jones leaves off… or rather, where he should start, as he plays a younger version of the same character. Regardless, for some reason, we love buddy cop movies, and have continued to do so for decades… even with big time busts like these on the books.
Starring: Jay Leno and Pat Morita
Released: 1989 Plot points: It’s kind of like the Rush Hour series, except with even worse dialogue and even more racist undertones… And without the “star power” of Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan. And it takes place in late-’80s Detroit, when the city still rooted for Barry Sanders. But really, all you need to know is: It’s a movie where Jay Leno plays a cop. That’s almost as believable as Tracy Morgan playing a cop. No one’s ever gonna buy that… oh, wait. Right. Big bust: Chris Sarandon unleashes more shoulder-padded ’80s villain glory than you can shake your mullet at.
Tagline: “Not so much a Lethal Weapon, more of a liability!”
Thanksgiving films can be a little tricky to find. Just like department stores skip over Thanksgiving every year in a rush to get to Christmas, the movie industry by and large ignores Turkey Day in favor of films centered around Santa Claus and December 25. Don’t worry though, Blockbuster has your back this long weekend. Below are four Thanksgiving-themed movies sure to be fan favorites this Thursday.
4. Hannah and Her Sisters
A Woody Allen Manhattan mosaic, Hannah and Her Sisters concerns the lives, loves and infidelities among a tightly-knit artistic clan. Hannah (Mia Farrow) regularly meets with her sisters Holly (Dianne Wiest) and Lee (Barbara Hershey) to discuss the week’s events. It’s what they don’t always tell each other that forms the film’s various subplots. Hannah is married to accountant and financial planner Elliot (Michael Caine), who carries a torch for Lee, who in turn lives with pompous Soho artist Frederick (Max Von Sydow). Meanwhile, Holly, a neurotic actress and eternal loser in love, dates TV producer Mickey (Allen), who used to be married to Hannah and spends most of the film convinced that he’s about to die. This film begins and ends with the traditional November holiday.
3. Pieces of April
Somewhat of a cult holiday classic from the Independent Film Channel, Pieces of April features a young Katie Holmes as April, a New York Lower East Side bohemian who tries to entertain her conservative family for Thanksgiving. But no one holds back their opinions and everything seems to go wrong as they so often do in when family and holidays mix. See how the holiday divides and brings together again family and neighbors despite all their many differences in this late ’90s film.
It’s been said that while most people love their families, they don’t always like them very much. Well, that emotional dividing line is at the heart of this star-studded movie featuring Holly Hunter, Robert Downey, Jr., Claire Danes, Dylan McDermott, and Steve Guttenberg. Claudia has been having a hard time as she heads to her parents’ home for Thanksgiving; she just lost her job, she’s not feeling well and her teenage daughter (Danes) just told her that she plans on losing her virginity to her boyfriend during the weekend. Combine all that with drunken family secrets and fighting siblings and it’s going to be one long holiday weekend.
This John Hughes classic is the reigning champ of Thanksgiving films and for good reason. Both Steve Martin and the late John Candy are brilliant throughout the film as newly acquainted odd-couple Neal Page (Martin) and Del Griffith (Candy) trying to get home from New York to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving. As the two team up to try to overcome all kinds of transportation misfortunes on their journey home, there’s only one problem: Neal can’t stand Del and would do just about anything to leave him behind. Aside from one expletive-laden scene at an airport counter (that many people can relate to), this one is relatively family-friendly. Also, keep an eye out for a Kevin Bacon cameo.
The aging action stars in Expendables 2 have more than there share of box office clout.
Sly Stallone. Jet Li. Jean-Claude Van Damme. Chuck Norris. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bruce Willis. Dolph Lundgren. Jason Statham.
Not only would this list of names fill the action section of any movie collection, but they all share one screen in the sequel to the over-the-top exploitaction summer hit, The Expendables 2, which lands on Blockbuster store shelves this week.
And that’s a good enough reason for a walk down nostalgic lane as we look back at some of our favorite forgotten action flicks these box office powerhouses have given us over the years…
Sylvester Stallone is Barney Ross in The Expendables 2
Why we love him: Sly’s had a renaissance in the last few years, with sequels to his Rocky and Rambo franchises that actually told great stories. His drunken Italian drawl is as trademark as his Rocky statue (still standing in Philadelphia), and he’s proven he has some decent range (remember Cop Land, anyone?).
First Film: Although he had a starring role previous to this one, Lords of Flatbush (1974) was his first wide-release starring spot, alongside a very Fonzie-esque Henry Winkler.
Favorite forgotten flick: There’s a few that leap to mind, but we’re gonna stick with Cobra(1986). It’s got a high body count, a cadre of toss-off one-liners, a pre-Flava-Flav Brigitte Nielsen and a bitchin’ gloss gray, custom 1950 Mercury.
Quotable: “You’re the disease… and I’m the cure.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Trench in The Expendables 2
Why we love him: The only thing filled with more car wrecks and explosions than his film canon is his personal and political life. He’s pure spectacle, whether on or off the screen.
First Film: Like Stallone, there were others before this one. But Conan The Barbarian (1982) is what catapulted the Governator into our national consciousness.
Favorite forgotten flick: Last Action Hero (1993) was a remarkably clever self-parody that lampooned the action flick genre with slick humor, big-budget production and a great supporting cast that included Anthony Quinn, Art Carney and even Sir Ian McKellen.
Quotable: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and Hamlet is taking out the trash.”
Jean-Claude Van Damme plays the creatively named “Jean Vilain” in The Expendables 2
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Why we love him: The “Muscles from Brussels” is a far cry from his childhood as a Belgium-bred ballet dancer. He’s anchored a slew of B-action martial arts flicks, a few of which were actually pretty decent. Plus, he had a turn on Friends, playing himself. So, that’s kinda cool.
First Film: After a few bit parts (including a role as a dancer in Breakin’ in 1984)and a medium-grade villain role in No Retreat, No Surrender, Van Damme’s big break came in Bloodsport (1987).
Favorite forgotten flick: Lionheart, hands down. JC plays a French Foreign Legionnaire who goes AWOL to avenge his brother’s murder and take of his brother’s family. Which he accomplishes by – of course – fighting in an underground ring.
Quotable: “Sometimes life is… is… ugly. And stupid. And mean.”
Jason Statham is Lee Christmas in The Expendables 2
Why we love him: Between The Transporter and Crankfranchises, Jason Statham’s steely, square jawed, eye-of-the-hurricane approach to action has lifted multiple would-be B movies to A list box office hits. Plus, he was awesome as Handsome Rob in The Italian Job (2003).
First Film: Despite the fact that we could only understand every fourth word ofLock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), we still loved it.
Favorite forgotten flick: Yes, The One was a Jet Li vehicle, but Statham’s role as cheeky sidekick to Delroy Lindo’s bitter, aging veteran dimension-hopping cop was a show-stealing turn.
Quotable: “In this, you exist. In another you don’t exist. In another, you’re married to the same woman. In another, you’re married to a different woman. In another, you’re married to a man.”
Jet Li returns as Yin Yang in The Expendables 2
Why we love him: Not since Bruce Lee has there been someone with such a combination of incredible martial arts awesomeness and big screen charisma. Jet Li was a Wushu champion in Beijing before retiring to cinema and eventually migrating to the States to beat up pretty much everyone.
First Film: Already a star overseas, Jet Li’s big break came as a riveting arch-villain in Lethal Weapon 4. Without Li, the franchise would have died a gasping irrelevant death in this installment instead of galloping off into a bright, $285 million box office sunset.
Favorite forgotten flick: We love Romeo Must Die, not just because it also starred the dearly departed Aaliyah, but because it was about a 30-times better take on Romeo and Juliet than that weird version with Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes.
Quotable: “Here’s the deal, Meatball. You let me go, I let you live.”
With Pixar’s latest hit Brave landing in stores this week, we thought it was a great chance to revisit some of our favorite characters in the Pixar canon. Here are our top five faves, in no particular order.
Rex the green plastic dinosaur
Seen in: the Toy Story franchise
Voiced by: Wallace Shawn (he was the “That’s inconceivable!” guy from Princess Bride)
Why we love him: Rex is the big, scary looking kid on the playground who just wants to be loved, and is afraid of his own shadow. The paradox of his fearsome façade and friendly demeanor make for some great gags throughout all the Toy Story installments. He’s got a giant head and tiny little arms. He hates confrontation. What’s not to love?
Favorite Quote: “And I’m from Mattel. Well, I’m not really from Mattel, I’m actually from a smaller company that was purchased by Mattel in a leveraged buyout.”
Seen in:Monsters Inc.
Voiced by: Billy Crystal
Why we love him: Every great comedy duo needs a good comic, especially when the straight man is a 7-foot tall, furry blue monster. Enter Mike, the little green Cyclops. He’s pretty much non-stop funny and has around 95 percent of the money lines in the flick.
Favorite Quote: “That’s it, I’m out of ideas. We’re closed. Hot air balloon? Too expensive. Giant slingshot? Too conspicuous. Enormous wooden horse? Too Greek.”
Seen in:The Incredibles
Voiced by: Samuel Jackson
Why we love him: First off, Fro-Zone has wicked awesome ice-powers. So, he’s cool. Then, there’s the fact that he’s voiced by Samuel L. Jackson. Which means every line sounds like someone is about to be completely annihilated. Seriously, if you absolutely, positively have to make every line sound like someone’s about to get killed, accept no substitutes.
Favorite Quote: “Super ladies? They’re always trying to tell you their secret identity… they think it’ll strengthen the relationship or something like that. I say, ‘Girl, I don’t wanna know about your mild-mannered alter ego or anything like that. I mean, you tell me you’re, uh… S-Super, Mega, Ultra Lightning Babe, that’s alright with me. I’m good… I’m good.“
Bruce the Great White Shark
Seen in:Finding Nemo
Voiced by: Barry Humphries
Why we love him: There’s a Bruce in all of us; a fallible being who’s trying to be a better person, but temptations can get the better of him. It’s like, you know you don’t want that slice of pizza. You stuck to the salad bar. Don’t wreck it now. Oh crap. I did it. Man, that’s tasty. Only, in this case, you’re a great white shark, and instead of pizza, you’re trying to eat the protagonist.
Favorite Quote: “I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends, not food.”
Voiced by: Ben Burtt (kind of)
Why we love him: WALL-E had next to no lines in his feature film, but he managed to provide more heartbreakingly beautiful emotion than most humans you’d find on prime time TV these days. Sure, he looked suspiciously similar to Johnny 5, but we’re comfortable just calling that an homage, rather than purloining. Either way, WALL-E is our favorite character made out of metal (next to their Luxo lamp mascot).
Favorite Quote: “Eeee-VA?”
A crooked investor (Eugene Levy) is forced to go into the Witness Protection Program and ends up having to live with the brazen Madea in this comedy that marks Tyler Perry‘s return to the beloved character.
Take a trip to the North Pole and discover exactly how Santa Claus makes Christmas magic happen every year in this imaginative comedy for the entire family. Produced by Aardman Features in association with Sony Pictures Animation, this fun-filled holiday film introduces viewers to Santa’s mischievous son Arthur, who races to complete an important mission in time to ensure that this year’s Christmas celebrations will go off without a hitch.
Two powerful CEOs pit a blundering congressman against an unlikely political newcomer in order to seize control of a crucial North Carolina district in this satirical political comedy starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. On the eve of an upcoming election, incumbent congressman Cam Brady (Ferrell) makes a misstep that threatens to end his career in politics. Recognizing the opportunity to gain influence in the aftermath of the public gaffe, a pair of scheming CEOs handpick credulous tourism-center director Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) as Brady’s political rival, quickly shaping him into a viable candidate with the help of a seasoned campaign manager. As Election Day draws near, Brady and Huggins cast ethics aside to engage in the brand of hysterical mud-slinging that’s sent contemporary politics straight down the toilet.
In this rebooted version of the popular 20o2 film, typical teenager Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) embraces his incredible destiny after uncovering one of his father’s most carefully guarded secrets. Now he must face-off against one of his mentors after he transforms into the Lizard and wreaks havoc across New York. Emma Stone, Sally Field, and Martin Sheen co-star in this retelling directed by Mark Webb.
Halloween can be a fun time of year and it often sees a large crop of scary and horror movies rolling out to “celebrate” the holiday. The down side to this is that many of these movies are not appropriate for younger children; however, there are still many great Halloween-themed movies available at Blockbuster that you can watch knowing that they are safe for young minds. I’ve listed four of my favorites below, but please feel free to share some more of your favorites in the comment section below.
Based on a tale by R. L. Stine, When Good Ghouls Go Bad is great Halloween fun for all ages. This funny, campy movie starring Christopher Lloyd originally aired on FOX Family channel in the early 2000s, but still holds a lot of spooky fun for kids with just enough Halloween scares and magic. Danny Walker (Joe Pichler) has just moved to a small Minnesota town with his family and when his freshly hung Halloween decorations begin to mysteriously disappear, Danny and his Uncle Fred join forces to rid the community of the bizarre curse which prevents the citizens from celebrating or even mentioning the spooky October holiday. The answer, involving a long-dead artist named Curtis Danko, is found in the town’s deserted chocolate factory.
A “scary” movie from Walt Disney Pictures in the 80s, it’s a PG rated film so it would be ok for younger children to watch. Something Wicked This Way Comes is adapted from Ray Bradbury’s story of the same name and it tells the story of the citizens of Green Town after a peculiar carnival comes to town. Many of the good citizens are compelled to follow their deepest desires, caught under the spell of the malevolent Dr. Dark who can grant those desires on one condition: that the grantees will forever join his freak show. Dr. Dark is after two young boys from the town in particular, and as he works his own brand of voodoo, the citizens and the two boys — as well as the whole carnival itself — approach a final reckoning.
Remember when the Olsen twins were America’s little darlings? Well, this 90s classic starring the girls should bring back great memories of Halloween mischief. Laughter and chills are served up in equal measure in this made-for-TV movie for the whole family. Kelly and Lynn Farmer (Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen) are twin sisters, who, one Halloween, make a surprising discovery about their Aunt Agatha (Cloris Leachman) — she’s a witch! It seems Agatha isn’t an especially nice witch, either — she has a grudge against Kelly and Lynn’s father and wants to ruin him financially, and the twins have to step in to stop her. However, along the way they also have to help Agatha’s twin sister Sophia (also played by Leachman), who has been trapped by one of Agatha’s spells.
Apparently the 1990s were big on family-friendly Halloween movies and Hocus Pocus continues the trend. Just before they are executed as witches in 1693, three witches — Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary (Kathy Najimy) – vow to return to Salem 300 years hence on Halloween to exact their revenge. Three hundred years later, a young boy, Max (Omri Katz), explores the ruins of the legendary witches’ house and dares the witches to manifest themselves. Disregarding the warnings of his sister Dani (Thora Birch) and girlfriend Allison (Vinessa Shaw), Max lights the Candle of Black Flame. With that, the witches reappear to wreak havoc on the town. The kids take off with the witches’ spellbook and a musty tome of hexes and recipes. The sorceresses, who will die by the morning light if they don’t recite the incantation for immortality, have to get the books by whatever means they can. So, Winifred, Sarah, and Mary hop on their broomsticks for a chase through Halloween night.
An extreme vacation turns terrifying when a group of friends visit the Chernobyl disaster site, and learn that some nightmares never die. Conceived and produced by Paranormal Activity‘s Oren Peli, Chernobyl Diaries gets underway as six thrill-seeking tourists hire a fearless tour guide, and travel to the abandoned Ukrainian city of Pripyat. Back when the Chernobyl nuclear reactor was up and running, Pripyat was the place the workers called home. But 25 years after one of the worst power-plant accidents in history, the city serves as an eerily silent testament to the dangers of nuclear power. Later, after getting unexpectedly stranded in Pripyat, the tourists and their guide realize they are being hunted.
As five friends pile into an RV bound for a secluded cabin far from civilization, the operators of a mysterious, high-tech control room monitor their every move while preparing an arcane ritual that dates back to the beginning of time. Shortly after arriving at the rickety cottage, Dana (Kristen Connolly) and her friends Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Marty (Fran Kranz), and Holden (Jesse Willaims) venture into the basement and discover a little girl’s diary from the early 1900s — which recounts a series of horrifying events that unfolded precisely where the vacationing teens how stand. Before long, the nightmare comes knocking at the door — murder gleaming from its putrid eyes and a rusty saw clenched in rotting hands.
Steve Carell and Keira Knightley star in this apocalyptic comedy following two neighbors who set out for one last road trip after learning that a massive asteroid will wipe out all life on Earth in just three weeks. Dodge (Carell) and Penny (Knightly) are both having a very bad day. Shell-shocked after hearing that the last hope of destroying the massive asteroid on a collision course with Earth has failed, Dodge watches helplessly as his wife bounds out of their car and vanishes into the night. Later, as the now-reluctant loner ponders what to do with his remaining time on the doomed planet, sobbing waif Penny appears at his window lamenting her breakup with self-centered boyfriend Owen.
There’s one week left until Halloween is upon us and everyone knows that that is prime scary movie season. Now, there is a plethora of scary/horror movies out there, but considerably fewer scary movies that actually take place on or revolve around the actual Halloween holiday. Because of this, I have taken the liberty of listing a few quality Halloween films that I would recommend you check out this week.
In Boo, years of rumors about ghosts stalking the dark corridors of the abandoned Santa Mira Hospital have kept a frightened community at a safe distance. Determined to milk the legend for all its worth, a group of five mischievous college students sneak into the hospital on Halloween night only to discover that the rumors of a bloodthirsty entity who claims the life of all who dare enter the cursed hallways are true. These teens aren’t the only ones trapped by the murderous ghost though, and with each passing hour their hope of seeing another sunrise gives way to the screaming terror of a ghost whose hunger for death is only surpassed by his hunger for life.
It was a toss-up between this and Sleepy Hollow starring Johnny Depp, but I wanted to list this one since it is much less well-known. When the dreaded Headless Horseman returns to a modern-era Sleepy Hollow in hopes of collecting some craniums, it’s up to a teen who just happens to be a direct descendent of Ichabod Crane to put a stop to the headless happenings in this terrifying modern spin on the classic Legend of Sleepy Hollow starring Nick Carter and Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco. Read More