15 Movies We’ve Recently Watched {But Not a Top 10 List}


Movie Review, Random / Sunday, December 28th, 2014

We’ve watched a lot of movies since the last time I did a watching/reading update so I thought it was about time to share what we’ve seen and a few thoughts on each. Note: This is not a “top ten” list nor is it listed in any particular order, just the order in which I remembered what we’ve watched. We’ve watched a lot of great movies but it takes too much effort to put them into a top ten list so this is what you get for now. However, some of the following would be on a Top Ten Movie List for this year if I were to make one. (Which I still might if I can’t find anything better to do between now and December 31.)

1. Interstellar

My husband and I both went into this movie with high expectations based on all the previews and other Christopher Nolan movies. Since my husband is a little bit of a space nerd, he was especially excited to watch it. After watching it, we enjoyed the whole cinematic experience and the mind-bending fun that is common with Nolan movies. Yet, while the movie mostly met our expectations, at the same time there was something missing that left us feeling a little disappointed. That said, it was a highly thrilling and deep-thinking movie that has given us much to talk about since so we’d still recommend it. If you’ve watched and left feeling incredibly confused, you might like this article ‘Interstellar’ Ending & Space Travel Explained (Obviously has Spoilers) and there’s also this This Extremely Detailed Graphic Will Explain Everything You Need To Know About ‘Interstellar’. You might even like to glance over that before heading into the crazy mind labyrinth that is Interstellar.

To elaborate a little more, there wasn’t necessarily anything bad about it, just something missing. We had a hard time putting our finger on it until we read the following articles that I would highly suggest you read no matter if you liked the movie or not. First, Brett McCracken’s quick review for Christianity Today points out Interstellar’s “…cinematic search for new homes in the heavens, with a secular, yet curiously devout vision of the cosmos.” and you might like his additional review and reflection here. Basically, McCracken points out the major thing missing from the story: God. It’s a movie about the survival of humanity and how humanity is its own salvation, humans look to themselves, once again, to overcome the struggle. Mystery is once again explained only by the natural. That said, I wouldn’t have really expected the movie to mention God or make it into any type of religious movie. It’s just interesting to us how hard movie makers will go to explain away God or show that we don’t need Him to save us. Either way, the movie made us think and so, on that note, it met it’s goal.

2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

If this was a top 10 movie list from this year, this one would definitely be on it. A few years ago, I first read the book by Betty Smith and completely fell in love. It’s now on my top list of best books EVER. I saw a movie had been made but it wasn’t available. So I left it in our Netflix queue in case it ever became available again and was very happily surprised when it arrived in our mailbox earlier this week! The book is wonderful and I would still recommend everyone to read the book. But if you’ve read the book or never have or will, the movie is great as well. I’d even go so far as to call it a classic. The movie reminded me a lot of Life Is Beautiful, especially the parallels between the two father figures who use humor to overshadow the bleakness of the situation’s bleakness. It is also slightly similar to The Bicycle Thief in that it shares the same setting of an impoverished Depression-era like time. I liked A Tree Grows in Brooklyn better though.

My husband asked what I like about the story and these words come to mind: Honor, Respect, Loyalty, Hard Work and Dignity. It’s a movie about all those things and more. Like when I read the book, I was amazed at the hard work the family not only had to do but was willing to do not just for their own survival but as a family. Like in any book-based movie, a lot had to be left out, but the main themes were very much present. This is a movie I highly recommend watching and a book I highly recommend reading.

3. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

This was a fun movie, nothing too grand but all in all an enjoyable movie. I found it especially interesting that someone could capture so well how my mind works – with the constant absurd fantasies playing out in my mind like a movie reel. It also really made me want to go to Greenland and Iceland…just not when a volcano is about to erupt. If you are looking for some easy entertainment with a surprising touch of sentimentalism give this one a go.

4. 1998 Les Miserables movie

After watching the 2012 Les Miserables musical and then trying to re-read the book by Victor Hugo, I knew I needed to re-watch the 1998 film that I’d loved so much when I watched it back then. Like I said on Facebook, I loved it just as much as I did then and even more. The recent 2012 musical one was o.k. but the ’98 one will always be my favorite cinematic version of the classic story.

To me, this ’98 version captures the essence of Victor Hugo’s work better since it remains focused on the themes of forgiveness, mercy, and repentance instead of making it all about suffering, poverty, and revolting against the rich (as the 2012 musical focused more on).

5. Noah

If this were a top 10 movie post of the year, this movie would not be on it. Ug, horribly disappointing, though I shouldn’t have expected so much I wasn’t expecting it to be that bad. Ok, ok, maybe I’ve been a little too harsh with it. If it wasn’t for the fallen rock angel creatures and the glowing snake skin then maybe…maybe it would have been ok. That said, one thing about this movie I did like was the review it brought about from by Fr. Robert Barron. This made me think more about it and I appreciate what Fr. said about it…I just liked his review of it better than the movie itself.

6. The Book Thief

Another great one we both enjoyed! I haven’t yet been able to read the Book Thief by Markus Zusak but still enjoyed the movie. I’d still like to go back and read the book, although it might be difficult to get through certain parts now knowing how it all ends. I think we’ll re-watch this again with our 11 year-old daughter as I think she’s at a good age to appreciate it and understand it more and since she’s a book lover (like the main character) and, because of our family’s history in WWII, she’s especially curious about that era. I feel like this movie does a good job showing a little of what the war was about without getting too gory. I also thought the movie/story was interesting coming from the perspective of innocent German civilians who were just trying to get on with their lives and get through the war.

My husband was impressed with how the young girl actress who played Liesel, Sophie Nélisse, was really good at portraying the character trying her best to preserve her innocence amidst the atrocities of the war. The love that evolved between her and her adopted parents and between her and the stranger were very moving. The narration by”Death” throughout the movie also added an interesting touch.

7. United 93

We’d heard of this movie but didn’t really want to watch it until now and, though it was horribly sad and hard to watch, we both thought it was very well done. It was interesting to see how bureaucratic protocals played such a consequential role in the events that led to such a horrible tragedy.

We also noticed the stark contrast between the different prayers in the last scene. The passenger hostages were calling on God to save them from their own deaths and destruction while the terrorists were praying to “God” for courage to “complete their mission”. They considered themselves brave for giving their lives up “for Allah” while, in another sharp contrast, the remaining hostages of the last plane bravely gave their lives up in order to prevent more tragedy and death of innocent people. I can’t say that we “liked” this movie or “enjoyed” watching it but I guess I can say that I am glad we watched it…so we could remember and continue to pray.

8. Pride & Prejudice Mini Series

One night this past week, while my husband was working late and I was on full on Christmas break mode, I flipped through our Amazon Prime Instant Videos and came across this new-to-me BBC Mini-Series. Swoon! I think I watched all 6 episodes in 2 nights and would have watched the whole thing in one night save for the fact that I’d have to get up the next morning and feed people. 🙂 I’m only sad there was only one season. What a shame but thank goodness for Downton Abbey‘s return January 4!

9. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, part 3 of 3 of The Hobbit Movies.

The past two Christmases, we’ve gone to watch the Hobbit movies with my siblings so of course we had to finish what we started. I personally enjoyed the movie but apparently everyone else in the theatre thought it was a comedy, or at least the young cuddly couple next to me did. They snickered throughout the whole movie, even during more serious scenes were others might have cried. It has highly annoying. My husband says he liked it alright but it was a lot of the same action done over and over with a lot of overtired lines and dialogue. The movie could have easily been put into 2 movies but oh well, it was fun getting out of the house and getting to see a movie with my family.

10. Unbroken

My husband and I went to watch this for an Anniversary date this weekend. Again, if this were a Top 10 list, Unbroken would be close to or at the top for sure. My friend, Monica, recommended the book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, to me earlier this year (or last year?) and it was phenomenal. Another book I added to my Top Books of All Time Favorites. If this book is not required reading for high schoolers it should be. Amazing. Truly Amazing.

I was afraid the movie would not do the story justice or might even ruin it. But after watching it today I can say I am very happy with how they did it and I have much more respect for Hollywood and Angelina Jolie. Maybe they aren’t all evil. 😉

They captured many of the important scenes and pivot points from the book and really showed just what a terrible ordeal Louie suffered. Of course, the best part of the story is the about Redemption and Forgiveness. I was happily surprised to see these as the main themes for the movie as well. At first I was disapointed they didn’t include more of the story after Louie returns, I think they way they ended the movie was very powerful and left the the audience stunned in reverent and moved silence.

If you have read the book, go watch the movie.

If you haven’t read the book, go watch the movie. Either way, you’ll like it.

If you haven’t read the book, read the book, too. 🙂

Watched with the Kids

1. Little Red Wagon

I can’t remember who recommended this movie but we finally watched it with the kids a few months back. It was a very good movie talk about generosity and true charity with the kids and to show them that everyone, even young children like them, can do something big and out of the ordinary to help others.

We watched it as a family (ages 2, 5, 8, and 10) and it was mostly appropriate. The only things that weren’t were a few intense discussions between the mother and the teenage daughter, including one scene where the word “Damn” is used. We had to do a little explaining about those parts but it didn’t ruin the rest of the movie for us.

I’d like to say that, after watching the movie, all the kids got up and declared they would give away all their toys and walk from here to D.C to raise money for others but that would be a tad dishonest of me. However, I do think the movie made an impact on them and got their minds thinking about how to be grateful for what they have while keeping in mind that there are families and children out there who do not always have food, water, or even a place to live.

2. Heaven is for Real

This is the recently released movie based on the book, Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. We didn’t go watch it in the theater and I wasn’t really planning to watch it anytime soon but I saw the movie at the library one day and decided to give it a try and see if it was any good. I’d read the book a while back and found it interesting enough. I suffer the curse of skepticism, yes even “believers” can be skeptical, so I went into it with low expectations, assuming it might be overly “Christian” or too fantastical. We talked with the kids a little before hand, letting them know this was a movie based on a book about a true account from a boy who claimed he went to Heaven, however, this didn’t mean everything really happened exactly as what the movie might show.

Well the kids loved it and we had an amazing family conversation afterwards about God and heaven and life and everything. It was great. So it didn’t really matter if we liked the movie or not, the conversation it brought made it worth it. Also, I was impressed with how well done the movie was – and not just “for a Christian movie”.

Our 8 year-old especially liked it as he has been extremely curious about God and heaven so this was a good movie for him. The only thing is that he takes things very, very literally. After the movie he was so happy and said, “Finally, I know what Heaven looks like!”

So we’ve had to do more explaining and talking with him about movies and actors and how that all works – that what we saw in the movie of what Jesus and Heaven looked like is only what the movie-makers made it look like based on Colton’s descriptions, but in real life there’s no way anyone could describe or show Heaven exactly as it is. I can tell the wheels in his mind have been thinking hard about all that. We got him Heaven is for Real for Kids for Christmas and it’s been cool talking more about all that with him.

3. The Incredibles

We’d talked about watching this with the kids one day and decided now was a good time. This was another winner with the kids, even the oldest “loved it!” It’s a really great family movie and so refreshing to enjoy a kids movie about a family with both parents and more than 1 or 2 children. It’s also a good movie that defines the line well between good and evil and even shows how our “talents” (powers) can be used for either good or for evil, depending on our own choices.

I’d watched it a while back but felt like I related to the characters better now. The incognito mom character more so than Elastigirl obviously…though I really wish I could stretch myself that way. As I write that I realize the hidden undertone – moms always feel stretched thin by all the demands on them. In a way, you could say all the characters’ super powers are a caricature of their stereotypical role in the family.

4. Planes: Fire & Rescue

Kids got this for Christmas and we watched it together Friday. We usually pre-screen movies but we liked the first Planes and had heard good reviews for this second one (unlike the Cars 2!). It was a family-pleaser again and my husband and I enjoyed it as well and found nothing offensive or inappropriate about it…at least nothing younger kids would understand (hidden double meanings only adults would.) It has some good lessons about sacrifice, humility, obedience, and letting go of what your plans are in order to help others were it’s really needed. Good lessons for kids…and parents, too!

5. The Nativity Story

As I mentioned in my Christmas Quick Takes post, we needed a way to stall the kids Christmas Eve so we could make it to Midnight Mass so we decided to watch this. The whole family stayed awake and all the kids liked it. We had thought of watching a more secular movie, like The Grinch or even It’s A Wonderful Life, but I’m glad we chose this one. It helped us all focus on the real Christmas story and was especially nice to watch right before Mass. There are a few parts of this movie that we feel may not accurately depict Mary but we really like how the movie shows how life during that time was really like.

Unlike all the pretty pictures we see of Mary and the Holy Family or Jesus born in a palace-like stable, the harsh reality is drastically different. This movie makes the story more than a story and more like a retelling of something that really could have happened…and did! For the kids, this was a good way for them to think about the reality of the time surrounding Jesus’ birth and to offer a very different image of what the Holy Family’s life was like compared to the pretty gold-lined holy card images of the Holy Family they more often see.

[End]

Oh my goodness, that took long enough! I need to do a better job of reviewing movies soon after watching so this doesn’t happen again. Hope you enjoyed this little Movie tour and maybe even have some new ones to add to your watch list.

What movies have you and your family watched and enjoyed that you think we should try?

4 Replies to “15 Movies We’ve Recently Watched {But Not a Top 10 List}”

  1. Of course I’m the first one to comment. Very good reviews. Skipped over the Interstellar part, I’ll read after we watch next week. I especially enjoyed hearing about your discussion after Heaven is for Real. You’ve convinced me to add that to our movie line-up for next year. Unbroken, like Hugo from years ago, is a movie I just can’t imagine enjoying nearly as much as the book. The book was so harrowing, I can’t imagine viewing the torture. But maybe we’ll see it. We also enjoyed Walter Mitty, and United 93 made me cry when the people were calling their loved ones.
    Joel recently blogged…Get Well Soon, Aunt Mary!My Profile

  2. Of course you are the first commenter, as I hoped. 🙂
    Yes you’ll have to come back here after you watch Interstellar and read the articles I shared about it. I’m very curious what you’ll think about it.
    Let me know how the Heaven is for Real goes and I’ll be curious how the kids react to it as well.
    Unbroken, similar to United 93, was harrowing yes but the movie was not nearly as detailed as the book and the torture scenes were not overly done and even downplayed compared to the book.

    I really think you’d like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and will suggest it for your next year’s movie list.

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