comedies

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Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

The story begins in a grand hotel somewhere in Europe as World War II approaches. Concierge extraordinaire M. Gustave, a romancer of older ladies and mentor to recently hired lobby boy, Zero, becomes a suspect in the murder of one of his special guests. What ensues is a chase around a visually stunning landscape, featuring lots of bad guys (particularly the ultra creepy Willem Dafoe), hairy situations, and cameos from actors well known to fans of Wes Anderson's movies. If, like me, you never thought of Ralph Fiennes as funny, think again. He gives an absolutely amazing performance.

The Skeleton Twins (2014)

Products of a dysfunctional marriage and orphaned at the age of 14 (Dad: suicide; Mom: disinterest), damaged but endearing twins Maggie and Milo are both unhappy, each facing a life crisis of their own making. Close as children but estranged as adults, they meet again in their New York state hometown after 10 years apart and proceed to support and undermine each other in the ways only siblings can.

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

Spanning two years and three Thanksgivings, this Woody Allen classic hits all his favorite subjects: sex, death and Manhattan. The movie unfolds as a series of vignettes featuring sisters Hannah (Mia Farrow), Lee (Barbara Hershey) and Holly (Dianne Wiest) along with their former, current, and future husbands and lovers. Love, betrayal, aging parents, career angst, hypochondria, and some good religion jokes—what more could you ask for?

Five Christmas Movies to Look For

Looking for something a little different for a Christmas movie this year? Try one of these five you may not have seen before.

Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (2005)

A car accident and a chance meeting leads a widowed baker to a ballroom dancing class to find another man's childhood crush. All we know at first is that Frank Keane is a baker who is accompanying a man named Steve in an ambulance. Steve tells the story of how he fell for Lisa at the charm school they both attended. Steve asks Frank to go in his place and meet Lisa. Frank goes, of course, and we meet the rest of the cast at both the school and at a grief support group Frank attends.

Bad Words (2014)

Doesn't everyone miss Michael Bluth - Jason Bateman's character in Arrested Development? I was certainly won over and will watch whatever he stars in, just to see what he's doing next. In this, Jason's directorial debut, we follow a 40-year-old man (Bateman) who never graduated eighth grade and decides to compete in The Golden Quill national spelling bee - against middle school kids. It is no surprise when this outrages parents and judges, and there is a sketchy journalist documenting his mis-deeds. These deplorable characters are wonderfully offset by a 10-year old who is completely unfazed.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Practically every character in this movie is a money grubbing, morally bankrupt, substance abuser and, sadly, they are based on real people. Their leader is Jordan Belfort, played beautifully by Leonardo DiCaprio, a seemingly regular guy from humble beginnings, who takes easily to what he considers the good life after figuring out how to profit wildly by getting people to invest in the stock market. Belfort comes off as an oily salesman but somehow has legions of devotees who worship the dollar as much as he does.

In a World (2013)

If you’re like me, you’ve never thought much about the people behind movie voice-overs. This quirky comedy lifts the veil on the voice-over industry and introduces you to vocal coach Carol and her egotistical, bullying voice-over star father, Sam. A strong ensemble cast includes a nerdy but charming sound engineer with a crush on Carol, Sam’s very young girlfriend, plus Carol’s intense sister and her husband. A funny and charming story about a woman trying to break into a male-dominated business and finding love along the way.

Rango (2011)

A family's pet chameleon suddenly finds himself thrown out of his safe aquarium and left to fend for himself in the Western desert. He goes from living in his own private fantasy world (as a movie star and director) to playing a starring role as a swashbuckling hero who rescues the drought-ridden town of Dirt from evil bandits.

Death at a Funeral (2008)

If you need some laughs, you'll definitely find them in this dark comedy about a funeral held at an English country manor. Family members and friends gather and the proceedings get more and more out of control as hallucinogenic drugs, family secrets, sibling rivalry, and a blackmailing dwarf cross paths. It's not a spoiler to reveal that there definitely is a death by the end of this funeral, but it isn't the guy in the casket. It could even be you, dying of laughter.

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