P.T. Anderson’s The Master

It’s been 5 years since we last heard from writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, with the film There Will Be Blood. Over the years, he’s written and directed six feature films: Hard Eight (1996), Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999), Punch-Drunk Love (2002), There Will Be Blood (2007), and the much anticipated The Master (2012), which opened September 14 in a limited release and opens everywhere Friday, September 21.

Critics are already stirring over The Master. Many are saying Anderson should be in line for Oscar nominations in both writing and directing. Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers recently gave this film four stars, a rating very rare coming from Travers. In his review, he also wrote something which really sums up P.T. Anderson’s films very well.

“I believe in the church of Paul Thomas Anderson. Hollywood films give you zilch to believe in, tying up their narratives with a tidy bow so you won’t leave confused and angry. Anderson refuses to do the thinking for you. His films mess with your head until you take them in and take them on. No wonder Anderson infuriates lazy audiences. What a roll call: Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood.”

This is exactly why I think Anderson should be considered one of the great film directors out there, and should be mentioned in the same breath as Scorsese, Spielberg and even Hitchcock. Anderson’s style of film making challenges us as an audiences to think. He creates movies that will last much longer than the two hours you invest at the cinema.

If you have yet to discover the world of P.T. Anderson, I highly recommend you visit your local Half Price Books and pick up a few of his older titles. Whether it is about a young man’s discovery and downfall in Boogie Nights or a less than admirable oil baron in There Will Be Blood, you will be taken on a thought-provoking journey.
Enjoy The Master. And remember, no talking or texting during the feature presentation.

Jim is Art Director at Half Price Books Corporate.

The Best of Alfred Hitchcock

English film director and producer Alfred Hitchcock was a pioneer of cinema, carving out a legacy for himself in the genres of suspense and psychological thrillers. His method of storytelling through withholding information from the audience makes his movies entertaining till the end. And these breakthrough techniques paved the way for generations of filmmakers to come.

His work ranges from the romantic comedy of Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941), to courtroom drama of The Paradine Case (1947), and dark film noir Shadow of a Doubt (1943).

Hitchcock directed more than 50 feature films in his career, and I’ve seen nearly all of them. So in honor of his birthday today, here’s my list of personal favorites — The Best of Alfred Hitchcock (and where to look to spot his trademark cameo appearance in each).

1. Rear Window (1954) – Starring James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter and Raymond Burr, Rear Window is an exceptional, suspenseful film. The story is confined almost entirely to the four walls of a studio apartment and the scenes observed across the courtyard from the window.

Cameo: Hitchcock is seen winding the clock in the songwriter’s apartment (00:26:10).


2. North by Northwest (1959) – Starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason, this mysterious story of mistaken identity features a memorable opening title sequence created by graphic designer Saul Bass. North by Northwest is often referred to as the first feature film to use kinectic typography. This film also features some of Hitchcock’s famous innuendos.

Cameo: Hitchcock can be seen missing a bus at the end of the opening credits (0:02:09).


3. Dial M for Murder (1954) – In this film – starring Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings, John Williams and Ray Milland – Hitchcock experimented with 3D for a depth effect in one scene. However, it’s reported that the public had grown weary of 3D when the film released, so it was only shown in a few screenings.

Cameo: Hitchcock can be seen on the left side in the class-reunion photo on the wall (00:13:13).


4. Notorious (1946)Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, Hitchcock regulars, are caught in the middle of a plot about Nazis, uranium and South America. Working undercover, they risk it all to reveal the truth.

Cameo: At the big party in Claude Rains’s mansion, Hitchcock can be seen drinking champagne and then quickly departing (01:04:44).


5. The Birds (1963) – Bodega Bay, California sets the stage for a sudden, unexplained series of attacks by birds. Jessica Tandy stars as “Tippi” in this horror film, loosely based on the 1952 story “The Birds” by Daphne du Maurier.

Cameo: A man walking dogs out of the pet store at the beginning of the film. They were two of Hitchcock’s own Sealyham terriers, Geoffrey and Stanley (00:00:02).


6. Strangers on a Train (1951) – Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, Hitchcock directed this suspenseful tale starring Farley Granger and Robert Walker. The premise: Two men meet casually on a train, and one speculates on a foolproof murder plot.

Cameo: Look for Hitchcock boarding a train with a double bass instrament case, just as Farley Granger’s character gets off in his hometown (00:10:34).


7. Vertigo (1958)Kim Novak plays the blonde lead opposite James Stewart in this entertaining thriller. Hitchcock used the camera technique dubbed as the “Vertigo Effect” where the camera moves in the opposite direction as the zoom to create a sense of the image stretching.

Cameo: Hitchcock can be spotted in a grey suit walking in the street with a trumpet case (00:11:40).


8. Psycho (1960) – This horror film is based on a novel of the same name by author Robert Bloch. There are many icons of the genre within Psycho, including the infamous shower scene. However, the depiction of violence and sexuality brought controversy to this film during its release.

Cameo: Through the window as Janet Leigh’s character returns to her office, you can see Hitchcock wearing a cowboy hat (00:06:35).


9. Suspicion (1941) – This film was the first time actor Cary Grant worked with Hitchcock. Joan Fontaine won Best Actress Oscar for her outstanding, anxiety-ridden performance in Suspicion.

Cameo: Spot Hitchcock from a distance, mailing a letter at the village post office (00:46:54) and walking a horse across the screen at the hunt meet (00:00:04).


10. To Catch a Thief (1955)Grace Kelly‘s third and final appearance in a Hitchcock film, alongside co-star Cary Grant, To Catch a Thief is set in the French Riveria. It’s more lighthearted and witty than many of Hitchcock’s other films, but loaded with double-entendres.

Cameo: The not-so-subtle appearance of Hitchcock… sitting to the left of Cary Grant’s character on the bus (00:00:10), as shown in the picture at the beginning of this post.


11. Spellbound (1945) – Exploring the realms of pscyhoanalysis, Spellbound features a dream sequence (pictured above) which was designed by surrealist painter Salvador Dali. This film, starring Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman, also entangles romance with suspense in the way that Hitchcock does so well.

Cameo: Look for Hitchcock exiting an elevator at the Empire Hotel, carrying a violin case and smoking a cigarette (00:43:15).


12. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) – This remake of Hitchcock’s own 1934 film of the same name, starred Doris Day and James Stewart. It won an Academy Award for Best Song for “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” performed by Doris Day

Cameo: Hitchcock is watching acrobats in the opening scene at the Moroccan marketplace. His back is facing the camera (00:00:33).


If you’re a fan like me, stay tuned for the upcoming (Sept. 25) release of the “Masterpiece Collection” of Hitchcock on Blu-Ray, 15 movies of digitally remastered suspense — I can hardly wait! Which is your favorite Hitchcock film? If you’ve seen them all, let me know which one you think I should watch next.

Enjoy the plot-twisting thrill – Meredith

Meredith is Associate Creative Director at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow her on Twitter at @msquare21.

Bourne Legacy: Book vs. Movie Showdown

Editor’s Note: Read on as Jim, movie buff, and Julie, fiction fanatic, duke it out over which Bourne experience is better: Book, or Movie? WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

JIM: I am going to get tickets to The Bourne Legacy on my lunch hour. I can grab one for you if you are interested in going?

JULIE: I don’t know.  I’m in the middle of reading The Bourne Legacy, and I already know the movie is going to be nothing like the book.  So I’m not sure I want to watch it. Not that any of the other Bourne movies were anything like the books.

JIM: OK, I am going to be honest with you, I have never read the books. But how can you not want to see it after the three blockbusters, Identity (2002), Supremacy (2004) and Ultimatum (2007)? I know you’ll miss looking at Matt Damon this time since the new storyline stars Jeremy Renner, but Renner is a top notch performer who is really hitting his stride in his acting career. Plus it features A-list Academy Award nominee co-stars Ed Norton, Rachel Weisz, David Stratharin and Albert Finney. This film is going to be pure summer excitement! You have to go.

JULIE: Well, you hit the nail on the head with the Matt Damon comment, and not just because he is sooooooo cute.  The book The Bourne Legacy is about Jason Bourne.  How can you have a movie called The Bourne Legacy without Jason Bourne?

As for the other movies… Jim, the books are so much better.  

I mean in The Bourne Identity, the story does follow a man who has lost his memory and is fished out of the sea, his body riddled with bullets just like in the movie, But the book is all about Jason staying one step ahead of the infamous terrorist Carlos the Jackal and the CIA; as he races through France, Switzerland and New York with the Canadian Dr. Marie St. Jacques (whom he kidnapped from an Economics Conference in Zurich), he tries to discover who he is, and why he has had plastic surgery, including some microfilm implanted beneath the skin of his hip. Now, that’s exciting! Why would the movie need to change any of that?

JIM: Carlos who? Ok, obviously his character was omitted from the movie. I will admit you have me a little curious about the book now. But as far as excitement goes, I don’t see how a book could compare to the movie’s ability to make you jump out of your seat or hold your breath as Jason Bourne is hanging off the side of the U.S. Embassy. Not to mention the top notch car chases through the narrow streets in France. The scenes make you gasp in anticipation and cringe at every turn. The Bourne movies to me are like the Bond films on speed!

JULIE: Okay, I’ll admit those car chases are better than anything I could have imagined — they are so good. And there are a lot of car chases throughout all three of the previous Bourne movies, like the first car chase in The Bourne Supremacy where Marie dies, which is very disappointing, if you ask me –because in the book The Bourne Supremacy, Marie doesn’t die at all.  In fact, she is a main character throughout the book, and the one who brings Jason back from the edge after he attacks the house on Victoria Peak, where unbeknownst to him Marie (who he has been told is dead) is being held in order to bring Jason back in.  The book The Bourne Supremacy (my favorite of the Bourne books, by the way) is about Jason chasing a man who is claiming to be him, and it comes down to the question: Who is the better Bourne? 

JIM: I guess this “Who is the better Bourne” question works as well for this upcoming movie, with Matt Damon stepping away from the series. If Damon had starred in it, it would have been as Jason Bourne. So in a way you can ask, “Does Renner or Damon make a better Bourne?” You do have my curiosity peaked about the books though. You might have inspired me to actually read them. Especially hearing that Marie lives. To me, I know the movies will be tops. To watch a story play out on the big screen with such intrigue and excitement- nothing gets the adrenaline going faster!

JULIE: Okay, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll go see The Bourne Legacy movie in theaters and give Jeremy Renner a chance, if you read one of the books.  I have them all which you may borrow, or you can find them in the Suspense/Thriller section at any Half Price Books.

So which do you think is the better Bourne experience — book or movie?

— Jim (and Julie)

May’s New Releases on DVD & Blu-Ray

If there isn’t much to excite you in the theaters right now, maybe it’s a good time to catch up on some movies at home. There are some good titles coming out in the month of May that are worth watching.
W.E. (May 1 release) – Most movie fans by this point have seen the Best Picture winner, The King’s Speech. If you ever wanted to know more about the story of Bertie’s brother, Edward, this is one to catch for sure. This film, written and directed by Madonna, may surprise a lot of people. Don’t expect a straightforward historical film here, but a well thought out love story.
The Grey (May 15 release) – This film starring Liam Neeson hit the theatres earlier this year to mixed reviews. It’s about a plane crash in the wilderness and the struggle to survive afterwards. The scenes with wolves are a bit beyond reality, so don’t take this film too literally.   
The Woman in Black (May 22 release) – Harry Potter returns! Sort of. And as a lawyer no less. Daniel Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a man having trouble dealing with his wife’s death, who is sent to settle the estate of one Mrs. Drablow. Kipps discovers the house is haunted by the ghost of a woman in black, and the townspeople want him gone before he discovers their deadly secret. A great ghost story!
Red Tails (May 22 release) – A film by Lucasfilm, Red Tails is about the Tuskegee airmen in WW2. Although the special effects were good, there is much more that could have been done with the story. A moving subject, but I really can’t put this one in the “great” category. I guess this is the sort of film I have come to expect from George Lucas lately.
Well, those are some of the new releases coming out and my two cents on their merits. Also be sure to look for some movies being re-released in Blu-Ray format this month. For starters, grab a copy of the entertaining Men In Black II (2002) and the incredible Being John Malkovich (1999).
Enjoy the movies! — Jim

Movies Based on Comic Books: Underrated Favorites

This Friday one of the most anticipated movies of the season will be released – Marvel comic book heroes unite in the new movie, The Avengers. This will be a big money maker regardless of critics’ reviews. If you are a fan of action-packed comic book movies, here are my recommendations among the best lesser-acclaimed films based on comic books.
Blade (1998) – Blade, played by Wesley Snipes, was born a half-breed vampire and has the ability to move around by day, something other vampires cannot do. Blade, being left for dead as a child, is determined to rid the world of the evil vampires, so now the battle is on. This is an energetic movie with plenty of fun vampire culture to satisfy the horror fans, including the great opening scenes at a vampire nightclub. Just guess what is pumping through the sprinkler systems!

300 (2007) – Critics were not kind to this film. Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel, the film is what you would expect– very dark in all aspects. However, every frame of this film is treated as if you are looking at an illustration and is beautifully shot the entire way through. This is an action-packed romp of swords and sandals. Be sure to check this one out if you haven’t already.

Ghost World (2001) – Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) and Enid (Thora Birch) have just graduated high school and both are debating what to do with their lives. This is a fantastic film about coming of age, through the eyes of Enid, a counterculture rebel and her record-collecting friend played brilliantly by Steve Buscemi.

There are some other obvious choices for films based on comic books such as Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), Superman (1978) and Spiderman (2002), but I thought I would go beyond the classics and look a little deeper through my collection to offer up some films you might not have seen.

What are your favorite comic book films? Drop me a note and lets talk film! Also, comic book fans: Don’t miss the Comic Book Giveaway tomorrow at your local HPB.
And as always, no talking or texting during the feature presentation.
— Jim

April’s New Releases on DVD & Blu-Ray

War Horse  (April 3 release)

The Narracott family is short on money and has to pay rent or be evicted. To make matters worse, Ted Narracott has just bought a thoroughbred horse instead of a sturdy plow horse for the farming season. Ted’s son Albert develops a bond with the horse and names him Joey. Desperately needing money, the family is forced to sell Joey to the British Calvary as WWI is about to break out. Once Albert is of age, he enlists and joins the forces to help fight the war, always thinking and keeping an eye out for Joey, wanting nothing more than to see him again. Does Albert get his wish?

Still unsure about watching it? Just consider its director Steven Spielberg and its nomination for Best Picture of the Year. War Horse does not offer brilliant performances by its cast and has a few “family movie clichés” in it, but it has beautiful cinematography, direction, and overall offers a wonderful story. You can’t go wrong sitting down to watch this one.
Iron Lady
  (April 10 release)

Denis Thatcher passed away, leaving Margaret all alone. As she packs away her late husband’s things, she reflects back on her life. Remembering back to the days when she first met Denis, how he supported her clear up through becoming the first female Prime Minister in Great Britain.
Meryl Streep won her third Academy Award this year for her performance in Iron Lady (although I personally thought Viola Davis or Michelle Williams deserved it more.) Iron Lady also won an Oscar for Best Make-Up – most definitely deserved. Meryl Streep appeared to be a mirror image of Margaret Thatcher. The film as a whole was a bit disappointing, but it is worth watching just for the performances.
A Trip to The Moon  (April 10 release)

Remember the movie Hugo last year? If you saw it, or saw a Smashing Pumpkins music video for “Tonight, Tonight,” then this movie may look familiar to you. A Trip to the Moon is a film by Georges Melies. The memorable shot of the rocket crash landing on the moon graces the cover of this re-mastered limited edition. At the time this film was considered to be one of the most technically innovative films out there. Of course, that was 1902, and we have come quite a ways in movie-making technology since then.

I am very interested to see what is done with the restoration with this film– both the black and white and hand colored versions. I’ll be getting a copy for sure, since I don’t yet own this film on DVD or Laserdisc.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol  (April 17 release)

In a botched attempt to stop a terrorist with nuclear launch codes, a bomb has accidentally gone off, leaving the Kremlin in ruins with the IMF being implicated. The President of the United States has evoked Ghost Protocol, the disavowing of knowledge of any member of the IMF. Ethan Hunt, played by Tom Cruise, is forced to track and catch the terrorist to prove their innocence. Their adventure takes them to Dubai, where there are some great action sequences, one on top of a skyscraper and the other in a sandstorm.

Simon Pegg is back as Benji, and new to the team is recent Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner. If you liked the previous Mission Impossible movies, this Tom Cruise action film falls right in line. It will not disappoint.

Pop some popcorn and enjoy the feature presentation! — Jim

New Releases on DVD & Blu-Ray

Greetings, fellow movie fans. Now that the Academy Awards are behind us and there are slim pickings for new releases at the theater, it is a good time for new DVD and Blu-Ray releases. Here are some of my top picks.

Hugo (February 28 release)
Winner of five of this year’s Academy Awards, this film surprised me. I went into it thinking it was a simple kids’ movie, but Hugo is an absolutely wonderful film about an orphan boy who fixes clocks at the local train station. His only connection left with his father is an automaton that needs a heart shaped key. The boy discovers that a shop owner at the station has a history with the automaton, a history that will help him rediscover his long lost love of film making. Highly recommended: a must see for sure!

Plan 9 From Outer Space (March 6 release)
One could argue this is the worst movie ever made, but this Ed Wood film has quite the cult following by being a so-bad-it’s-good guilty pleasure.  It is known for its crazy mistakes and complete lack of attention to detail– in one scene, night becomes day, and then back to night (with no explanation), and the graveyard is made of plywood and cardboard. This is one fun train wreck of a movie, and one you can now see with a crystal clear picture and digital sound via its Blu-Ray release.

The Adventures of Tintin (March 13 release)
You can’t really go wrong with the combination of Steven Spielberg as director and Peter Jackson as producer. Tintin has just bought a model ship at the local market and becomes quite curious when Mr. Sakharine seems so insistent on buying it from him. For Tintin, the adventure is on, with his faithful dog Snowy. A great cast voices this one, including Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot), Nick Frost and Edgar Wright (duo from Shaun of the Dead) and James Bond himself, Daniel Craig. A fun romp of a movie done with that Spielberg flare.

The Descendants (March 13 release)
OK, don’t let the trailers fool you, because I went into this film thinking it had some comedy to it — it is much more serious than that. However, it was a very well done and well acted film. It won the Oscar for Adapted Screen play a week ago, and of course it was up for Best Picture, with George Clooney up for Best Actor. This is one you have to be in the mood for, but I am looking forward to watching it again with a different mindset.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (March 20 release)
This is one of the best spy movies I have seen in a very long time. Gary Oldman gives a superb, understated performance, which earned him his first Best Actor nomination. This film takes place during the cold war and involves a plot in which one of their own is in fact a spy for the Russians as they discover and flush out the mole in their own organization. 

When you’re looking for movies on DVD or Blu-Ray, remember to check your local Half Price Books. And if you’re upgrading your DVDs to Blu-Ray, HPB will give you cash for your used movies. Or, if you’re a collector like me (or the HPB Adventure Ladies), check out the selection of Laser Discs and other treasures in the racks at HPB.

— Jim

2012 Oscar Nominations & Frontrunners

And it’s official, the nominations are out for the 84th Academy Awards. This time last year, it was already down to a two horse race between The Social Network and The King’s Speech for Best Picture, and the best actor and actress awards were all but locked up by Colin Firth and Natalie Portman. This year, we have a few strong frontrunners, but the competition to take home an Oscar seems more challenging.

Could this be the year for George Clooney to nail down the Best Actor award for his performance in The Descendants? He was nominated two years ago in the leading category for Up In The Air and won a Supporting Actor Oscar for Syriana— and he has won the Golden Globe for The Descendants already. Clooney seems to be one of the Academy favorites these days, so if you had to make an early prediction, this might be a safe bet. I predict it will come down to him or The Artist’s Jean Dujardin.
Speaking of Academy favorites, is there any bigger favorite than Meryl Streep? This is now her 17th nomination, having won only twice for Sophie’s Choice in 1983 and Kramer vs. Kramer in 1980. Streep’s performance was spot on as Margaret Thatcher in Iron Lady, but there are two more to look out for in this category.

The first is Michelle Williams, who played the perfect Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn. She too has a few previous nominations for Blue Valentine and Brokeback Mountain. So she may get a few voters in the Academy thinking it is her time.

Glenn Close is in the same situation, having 5 previous nominations for the likes of Dangerous Liaisons and Fatal Attraction. Close gave a very daring performance portraying a man in Albert Nobbs. Two other actresses, Hillary Swank and Linda Hunt, have won oscars for portraying men in Boys Don’t Cry and The Year Of Living Dangerously.

And lastly, when you figure in Viola Davis in The Help, we are left with one tough category to pick. Streep has to be the odds-on favorite, but as much as the Academy likes nominating her, they also liking voting for someone else in the final ballot.

That brings us to the coveted Best Picture award. With the new nomination requirements, we have a different number of films nominated this year. The Artist (with its 1920s Hollywood glamor) and The Descendants (with its modern-day family drama) are certainly the two frontrunners at the moment. Both have already won Golden Globes for Best Picture in their respective categories. But I won’t discount The Help from the race quite yet either. Based on a bestselling novel, its humble story made audiences everywhere laugh out loud and then leave the theater touched. That combination spells success.  

If you haven’t seen some of the nominated films, get out there and go see them before Oscar night (Sunday, February 26) so you can judge for yourself. Just remember: no talking or texting during the feature presentation.

— Jim

Meryl Streep as Iron Lady: Oscar-Worthy?

With the release of Iron Lady (limited release tomorrow and wide release January 13), there is already a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding this film. The major question looming is, “Will this movie get Meryl Streep her third Best Actress Oscar– and her first since 1983 for Sophie’s Choice?”

In Iron Lady, the 62-year-old Oscar winner stars as the former British prime minister, who in 1979 became the first female to hold the position.

There have been many Best Actor and Actress awards given to actors for their roles playing real life characters. Here are my top five favorites.

1. Daniel Day-Lewis as Cristy Brown in My Left Foot (1989) – If I were to take all Best Actor and Actress winners and pick one, this might win above all. Daniel Day-Lewis is just that good as Christy Brown, who is born with crippling cerebral palsy and cast aside, believed to be mentally disabled. Thanks to his mother and his own self determination, he becomes a poet and author, all with his only usable appendage, his left foot.

2. Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen (2006) – Helen gives a very touching performance, as the year is 1997 and Princess Diana has just been killed in a car crash. Mirren’s performance perfectly depicts the royal family’s struggle with their loss, all while still trying to lead a country.

3. Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich in Erin Brockovich (2000) – In this great legal drama, Julia Roberts is perfect as a single unemployed mother who plays a pivotal role in a huge corporate case as a small-firm legal secretary.

4. Colin Firth as King George VI in The King’s Speech (2010) – England is on the verge of entering WWII and the king has just passed away. With the current heir wanting to go his own way, King Edward VIII gives way to King George II. The major problem, of course, is that King George has a speech impediment. Doing his best to work and overcome his deficiency, he delivers his speech and leads England into the war against Nazi Germany.

5. Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland (2006) – Forest Whitaker is perfect as the leader of Uganda, who after an assassination attempt, becomes more chaotic and paranoid, leaving his country in bloody ruins. A truly scary performance!

 I guess one can debate whether or not portraying a historical character is easier or more difficult than a completely fictional character. Yes, they may have more to pull from for inspiration, whether it be historical films or an interview with the real person. But it also means an actor can take fewer liberties in his or her performance. So, in my opinion, when portraying an historical figure, actors have a lot to live up to.

What’s your take on it? Who’s excited to see Meryl Streep in Iron Lady?

Just remember, no talking or texting during the movie.

— Jim

5 Holiday Movies to Rev Up Your Holiday Cheer

Thanksgiving is only days away and that means the start of the holiday season– and with that, holiday movies! This is a great time for movies; some of the big Oscar contenders will be hitting the theaters and there are always a list of holiday favorites that just need to be watched. Without fail, each year, we break out a stack of holiday DVDs to get in the spirit. Here are my house’s Top 5 Holiday Movies:

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

How can this not be at the top of everyone’s list? Frank Capra has created a timeless holiday classic starring James Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore. This classic takes a look at a business man who, while contemplating suicide, is visited by an angel who shows him what a difference he has made for his family and those around him. A very heart warming holiday classic! And if you don’t own it on DVD, you can count on NBC to air it on TV after the Thanksgiving Day parade.

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

It’s good to have a little off-beat fun for the holidays. Bridget Jones’s Diary is very funny with a well written script that will have you laughing the entire time. Renee Zellwegger plays Bridget Jones, who has started keeping a diary and promised herself to always tell the complete truth. Things get interesting when she starts dating her disreputable boss, played by Hugh Grant. Enter Academy Award winner Colin Firth as the mild mannered, engaged-to-be-married Mark Darcy, who starts falling for one time neighbor Ms. Jones. If you have never seen this laugh-a-minute movie, I suggest you put it on your holiday movie list.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

Holiday movies include Thanksgiving, and this is THE Thanksgiving movie. Family man Neal Page, played by Steve Martin,  just wants to get home for Thanksgiving. After his flight is canceled, he meets Del Griffith, played by John Candy. Going the same direction, they decide to take the trek together to get home for Thanksgiving by what ever means necessary. Of course they are polar opposites, as Del is never short on conversation and bad jokes– so you can imagine the hilarity that ensues between these two great comedians! A must see classic for turkey day!

Home Alone (1990)

This is the film that made kid star Macauley Culkin. Kevin has been accidentally left at home while his family is off to spend the holidays in France. He milks having the house to himself for all it’s worth, ordering pizza, jumping on the bed . . . every kid’s dream. Discovering that there are two burglars trying to rob the supposedly empty home, he rigs the house with makeshift booby-traps to fend them off. This  fun holiday movie was directed by Chris Columbus (Mrs Doudtfire, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) and written by legend John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.) Note: This 90s classic is now available on Blu-Ray.

A Christmas Story (1983)

Ok, this one is worth watching, even if you are tired of the 24 hour Christmas Story marathons on Christmas Day. This is a fun story about Ralphie, who wants  only one thing for Christmas: an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle! There is something everyone can relate to in this film, whether it is awkward gifts, bullies at school, Christmas dinner or using profanity for the first time. This is a great holiday movie for the entire family!

What is your family’s holiday movie tradition? Your favorite holiday flick?

— Jim