A Movie for Christmas

November and December are typically wonderful months for movie-watching, because producers try very hard to get out as many family-friendly films and award contenders as possible before the end of the year. They know that kids are home from school, weary shoppers need a few hours of rest, and everyone is looking for a few hours of something to help them feel good.

Last month saw the release of The Christmas Candle, rated PG. This movie, based on a Max Lucado book, is about a small village with a legend of an angel who visits to touch a candle, granting the candle-lighter a Christmas miracle.

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Disney’s Frozen, PG, tells the story of an enchanted kingdom trapped in eternal winter.


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Black Nativity, PG, is cast with heavy-hitters Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Mary J. Blige, and newcomer Jacob Latimore. It’s about a youth dealing with difficult family dynamics in the holidays.

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December 13 will bring Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas as well as Saving Mr. Banks, both rated PG-13. While Madea is just what Tyler Perry fan’s expect, Mr. Banks is based on the true story of Walt Disney’s own quest to attain the film rights to P. L. Travers’ novel, Mary Poppins. It stars Tom Hanks as Disney and Emma Thompson as Travers. Though not specifically a holiday movie, it should be a good film for movie-lovers.

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Other films that will certainly make the family wish list are The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, PG-13, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, PG.

Smaug is the second installment of the Hobbit serial, and promises to set records with fan-girl fav Benedict Cumberbatch’s larger role as both Smaug and the Soothsayer.

Mitty is a remake of the 1947 film of the same name starring Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo. I suppose we shall see if Ben Stiller can live up to Kaye’s standard.

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Still haven’t found the Christmas flick for you? Don’t worry, there are hundreds of cable channels filled with seasonal adventures.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

The Films, They are A-Changin’

Going to the movie theatre isn’t what it used to be. Maybe I’m just old, but the whole experience has lost its magic these days.

I remember standing in long lines to see a movie. Sometimes I would practically be dancing in place as I waited—I was that excited. Once in the auditorium, finding exactly the right seat, seeing the trailers for upcoming features, getting the buttered popcorn just exactly right, sharing the electric buzz that the rest of the audience felt—that’s what movie going is all about.

A few weeks ago, some friends and I went to see The Hobbit. We weren’t late by any means, but the theatre was already packed. I don’t mind that too much; it adds to the thrill, right? When we found our seats, we also found that the kids sitting behind us had apparently never been to a theatre before.
B Movie Scream

They didn’t realize that kicking the chair in front of you is rude. They had never been taught that talking during a film is frowned upon. They also had never learned how to whisper. They spent the whole three hours anxiously awaiting the appearance of Benedict Cumberbatch. (I’m a fan, too, but I don’t swoon at the mere sighting of his name.) If you’ve seen the movie, you know what frame of mind they were in by the time the credits rolled.

This experience was not an isolated incident, and it didn’t take place at a run-down establishment, either. The floors weren’t sticky. The seats weren’t in disrepair. It is just the way things are now.

Netflix and other services like DirecTV are hearing these complaints and answering. I love watching movies at home, and I’m blessed to have a huge screen for better viewing experiences. I love that I don’t have to hear other people chatting about what’s happening in the movie, or worse—what’s happening in their social life.

Mostly, though, I’m sad that the magic of the theatre is fading into a memory. I like to share those memories with my kids, but it breaks my heart that they can’t share that kind of experience. Change happens. Life goes on.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

A Study in Sherlock

Since the fifth grade I’ve been a big fan of the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in just about every incarnation. I loved watching Basil Rathbone puff at his tubby pipe. I enjoyed the film, Young Sherlock Holmes for its introduction to the whimsically stoic detective. I appreciate Robert Downey Jr.’s personification, as well. I find that his interpretation explores the aspects of the character that most others ignore or minimize.

As of late I find myself addicted to the new BBC series, Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch portrays the sleuth as he might be in a contemporary setting. Still unhindered by emotion or societal propriety, the modern Holmes conducts his investigation through Wi-Fi transmissions and text messages. His stubbornness and disregard for others is still intact in this manifestation, but his addiction is confined to tobacco and nicotine patches.

I recently read something about one of the networks looking into creating an American version of Sherlock, and I became utterly baffled.

Hmmm. Let me see. We need a television program in which the main character is some kind of detective. He must be a genius, but at the same time be horribly hateful and abrasive. He should be a cynical atheist—agnostic, at least, who believes the worst about everybody. He should spend all of his time trying to solve interesting puzzles he faces daily. He also should probably save peoples’ lives occasionally.

He should be talented musically. He should be a drug addict. He should have a close friend that he often hates, who hates him back when the situation calls for it. He needs a superior with whom he also can share a love-hate relationship. And let’s give him a “thing”—a prop that can be his calling card. Not a hat—too British for an American character. Not a pipe—too archaic. How about a walking cane? It can be both his metaphoric and literal crutch.

Wait a minute… I think I know this man. But his name isn’t Holmes; it’s House. And his friend isn’t Watson; it’s Wilson. Wow! That is strangely similar isn’t it?

Why should my blog smack sarcastic when I obviously adore all things Sherlock? My point is simply that House already embodies the American Sherlock Holmes. Holmes is so inherently British that to transplant him on this side of the pond requires more than a little cosmetic surgery. It necessitates reconstruction.

If America demands Sherlock, I suggest give the BBC whatever it requests and purchase the series as-is. I understand that the format of three ninety-minute episodes per season doesn’t conform to the networks’ schedule. Make a deal. Compromise. Spend the money to make it happen—but do it the right way.

Don’t force a Holmes character to live in New York City as a private detective who sometimes consults with NYPD to stop ripper-type serial killers. Just don’t. Please.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.