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.

Traditional Christmas Movies?

It’s officially December. Christmas trees are up and decorated. Holiday tunes stream from every speaker. Tis the season for joy and family and festivities.

Growing up, Christmas time always meant special movie and television traditions. Of course It’s a Wonderful Life is a big part of Christmas. I recall several holidays at my grandmother’s house when all the cousins would gather around the TV to watch A Christmas Carol starring George C. Scott. And I still have a tough time getting in the Christmas spirit without A Charlie Brown Christmas. My favorite book from childhood was Little Women, and I have grown to love most of the movie adaptations of this book as well.

My first date with my husband was to see A Christmas Story, which has become a contemporary classic, along with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Elf. I have my own traditions, too, like decorating our tree while watching While You Were Sleeping. This year it took longer than usual, so I enjoyed Penny Serenade, too. Neither of these films are specifically Christmas movies, but they feature a holiday setting.

But what about holiday traditions that have nothing to do with Christmas at all?

I have friends that love to watch Jurassic Park at Christmastime. For them it’s about getting their family together and enjoying a quiet (though dino-filled) evening. What’s more Christmas-y than that? Another friend makes a weekend date with her family to stay in and have a Lord of the Rings marathon. This year is especially exciting for her with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey arriving next week in theatres.

Do you have a Christmas movie tradition to share? I’d love to hear what films you love best for the holidays!

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

What’s a Fen?

I’m currently attending my first Sci-Fi convention—FenCon IX in Dallas, Texas. When I first heard about it last June, I got pretty excited. I had to go. I’ve loved science fiction my whole life. But what’s a Fen?

As the plural of man is men, the plural of fan is… wait for it… fen. And when you have a hotel filled with fen, the result is sheer fun.

I find myself surrounded by writers, artists, musicians, editors, publishers, astronauts (Dr. Stanley Love), and men in kilts. Kilts? Yep. One gentleman’s kilt is even sewn of green camouflage. Nearly everybody has a tee shirt with their favorite space hero, video game, or movie splashed across the front. Others wear top-hat fascinators or Jayne Cobb knit caps.

For my first day I learned about writing conflict, remembered Ray Bradbury, listened to panels about cover art, the future of comics, and the magic of Firefly, and saw a sneak preview of the new trailer of The Hobbit. There was even a musical number called “Red Shirt Riot.”

Today I will be listening to Dr. Love speak about the future of space exploration, as well as attending a panel about Sherlock Holmes, and one about The Hobbit.

Sunday holds a Phineas and Ferb panel as well as a Monty Python’s Flying Circus discussion. It’s a wide variety of programs that fall into the science fiction genre.

Every little piece creates this beautiful mosaic that forms a little piece of American (and human) history. The stories fit together, overlap, and overlay to construct a cool fan base—a fen pool, if you will.

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