The Shining (1980)
The Shining is a sweet and sentimental look at how family relationships are tested when a son, mother, and father become snowbound together in an empty mountain lodge. Each one initially finds their own solitary way of passing the time: Little Danny goes cycling and fosters an imaginary friendship, Wendy experiments with cooking and ham radio operation, and Jack works on his writing. In the end it becomes the father’s job to realize the importance of family cohesion. How Jack breaks down doors and navigates the maze that is the family unit is inspirational, and the end of his character arc is truly chilling.
When three skiers are abandoned on a ski resort chairlift overnight, they’re forced to make dire decisions or face certain doom. (I thought this was an odd movie request from my five-year-old niece, but being the “cool” uncle that I am, I decided to let her watch it. We don’t talk anymore.) Great CGI effects on the ravenous, circling pack of wolves!
Happy Feet (2006)
In Happy Feet there are all these penguins, but get this: They can talk. As strange as that sounds, the movie never once addresses its absurd premise. I vaguely recall some other message about love or diving for fish or something, but I was too hung up on all the crazy talking birds to pay much attention to it. And get this: The penguins are birds, right? But they can’t even fly! I’m giving this movie a 2/10, too nonsensical to enjoy as anything other than a cinematic curio, but marginally redeemed by the voice acting of the guy who played Frodo in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. At least those movies make sense.
Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)
Noteworthy only as Ernest P. Worrell’s first appearance on the big screen, Varney’s sophomoric portrayal of the rubbery-faced goofball is at once pedantic and pedestrian. One would be better advised to review other Ernest classics such as Ernest in the Army (1998), an oblique, postmodern condemnation of the military-industrial complex, Ernest Goes to Jail (1990), a gritty and claustrophobic saga about one wrongly accused man’s quest for redemption, or Ernest Goes to Camp (1987), where Ernest goes to camp.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
The story of a man whose soul is so deadened by mundane distractions such as work, travel, and family that he can’t even appreciate how blessed he is to go on an adventure with John Candy.
Runaway Train (1985)
When two escaped convicts and a railway worker find themselves trapped on a train with no brakes or driver, they can’t even appreciate how blessed they are to go on an adventure with John Candy.
I always thought that “Fargo” was a funny choice of title for this movie, seeing as how the majority of it takes place in Minnesota. I guess a title like “Chaska,” “Mounds View,” or “Chanhassen” wouldn’t have played to a wider audience. This deadpan depiction of high crime in the Midwest is the ultimate example of black humor, a study in how the bubbliest people can commit the lowest acts. Steve Buscemi gives a decidedly wooden performance toward the end, though.
Iron Will (1994)
The story of a weak-willed, lazy young man who, rather than run the Iditarod on his own, forces hapless Huskies to drag him on a sled over its course instead. 10/10 because the Huskies are all good boys.
By David Scheller