It’s hard to not like a holiday classic. It’s a universal tradition that brings us back to the child-like wonders we had growing up, and movies can certainly leave us with lasting impressions when viewed. Whether you’re glued to your TV’s for ABC’s 25 Days of Christmas, popping in your favorite holiday disc at home or seeing a brand new holiday film in theaters (Robin Williams has a new comedy titled “A Merry Friggin’ Christmas”), take a little time to enjoy some of my favorites as well as yours. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays :-)
REINDEER GAMES - Ben Affleck has gone from background player obscurity to Academy Award winning writer to A-list Hollywood status and leading man, only to drift into tabloid gossip frenzy and box office poison. A perfect example of a star rebranding his image and star status, he stepped away from the spotlights for a good number of years, explored a new venture behind the scenes in the directors chair and ended up creating three amazing films, one of which winning best picture of the year. With another Academy Award win under his belt and “Gone Girl,” one of the biggest adult blockbusters in recent memory, love him or hate him, he’s staked his claim in Hollywood forever. That makes him cool and relevant again, right? Regardless, “Reindeer Games” is one of his more obscure films of his career that didn’t leave a lasting impression with audiences, but I truly believe is one of the best underrated thrillers of the last decade. It’s dark, violent and edgy, not something you would expect to enjoy during Santa season, but I beg to differ. Affleck plays Rudy Duncan, an inmate who has been sharing a cell with Nick. They have become friends over time and Rudy enjoys hearing about Nick’s new pin-pal girl he’s been looking forward to seeing once released. However, two days before their release from prison, Nick is killed in a random fight. On his release day, Rudy notices the girl waiting for Nick’s face to appear, only to have a slight mixture of sincerity and jealousy, so he claims to be Nick, his dead cellmate to get with the beautiful stranger. First mistakes lead to many mistakes when he quickly learns that Nick isn’t the nice guy he thought he knew in prison, and now Rudy must try and stay one step ahead of the “reindeer games” he has fallen prey to. Directed by the masterful and late John Frankenheimer, whose career spans from 1957 to 2002 with classics like “The Manchurian Candidate” and “Grand Prix,” this is a great swan song to his filmography that mastered the dark and twisted heroes and anti-heroes alike in his long career of action and suspenseful films. With a cast of Santa-dressed killers and thieves that include Affleck, Gary Sinise, Charlize Theron and Dennis Farina, you’ll have one dark ride with characters that deserve coal in their stockings this Xmas.
MICKEY’S ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS - To be the icon of the Walt Disney brand, it’s kind of mind-blowing that Mickey Mouse does not have his own theatrical film series. He’s been in short films released throughout his existence, but never a movie centered around an icon that is possibly more known than Santa Claus. So although he’s not the main star of the show, Mickey Mouse presents a series of three short animated films centered around the most magical time of the year in “Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas.” I grew up on the classic shorts with Mickey and the gang and it was clear that this was a throwback to those classic films of yesteryear. Our first story revolves around Huey, Dewey and Louie waking up on Christmas morning and spoiling all the traditions for the rest of the family. The boys want the day to last forever and evidently get way more than they bargain for when Christmas repeats every day. Turning that one special day into a never-ending nightmare quickly helps the boys learn that Christmas is more than gifts, food and fun. They realize it's about family, feelings and memories that last a lifetime. A special message we can all live by. Our next tale is centered around Goofy and Max and the lengths a father will go for his son's happiness. Max becomes upset after seeing his father play Santa and sadly thinks he doesn’t exist anymore. Father of the year Goofy must now stop at nothing to prove to Max that Santa exists, even if it means finding out that he may not. Now Max must show his dad that regardless of Santa Claus’s existence, there is nothing more sacred than a father and son’s bond and ultimately learning a whole new meaning to Christmas. Lastly is our iconic Mickey Mouse’s chance to shine with a play on "The Gift of the Magi.” It’s Christmas time and Mickey wants to get something special for Minnie, as does Minnie for Mickey. They both put in overtime at their jobs to save up for a gift they know will mean something extra. However, Mickey is suddenly fired from his job and Minnie didn’t receive the bonus she expected. As “The Gift of the Magi” goes, they both sacrifice something to buy one another this gift, even though this new gift was for what they sacrificed. An excellent message for kids and adults alike, it’s in the thought that truly counts when gifting. Narrated by Kelsey Grammer and featuring all of your favorite classic Disney characters, this is one film you will want to add to your collection. Check out the 15th Anniversary Blu-ray coming to stores this holiday season.
HOME ALONE - Home Alone is now a holiday classic that families continue to enjoy yearly to this day, but what surprises me most is how this little film became the highest grossing comedy of all time. On paper it seems really simple and formulaic. A boy gets left home alone during the holidays and has the time of his life in a big house to do whatever he wants, with the only twist being two bumbling thieves trying to break into his house while the family is away on holiday vacation. That is until you throw in a master comedic director (Chris Columbus) and a handful of masterful comedic actors (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O’Hara, John Candy) and you can turn simple and formulaic into comedy gold. Oh and one up-and-coming little kid who can carry an entire movie, Mr. Macauley Culkin. When your film is centered around a kid that must physically, emotionally and creatively make you feel for him through his experiences, and your choice is spot on, that stakes your claim in film history forever. Not only did it open #1 at the box office, but it stayed #1 for 12 consecutive weeks. It also remained in the top ten charts until after Easter holiday. I have to admit, I thought it was the most amazing movie ever made in it’s day. And although I was only 7 years old at the time of it’s release, apparently I wasn’t the only one. Overnight, Macauley Culkin became a leading actor and although was type-cast in the same round-about roles (Richie Rich, Getting Even With Dad and Home Alone’s very own sequel, Lost In New York), he still remains America’s lovable kid that we have laughed with for so many years. This Christmas, share this with your kids or yourself again, (even if it’s for the 1,000th time), because it is a true classic.
WHITE CHRISTMAS - I’m a huge lover of film. I have a small list of films that I will make time for whenever I see them on, but otherwise I feel like once I’ve seen something already, there is so much more out there that I haven’t seen. I’m such a weirdo that if I ever feel like watching a particular movie again I will instead seek out something that was released around the same time or in the same genre even for that particular title. But come Christmas, the majority of that handful of films consists of holiday movies. One in particular being “White Christmas.” A film that like “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street,” always finds itself relevant to today’s audiences. War buddies turned Broadway musical acts, Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye have just met stage performers/singer sisters Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen at a nightclub in Miami. The two couples hit it off in a comical way and through random mishaps end up boarding a train to Vermont where Clooney and Ellen have a show booked for the holidays. Unfortunately for the sisters, there isn’t a single flake of snow and the tourism is down. Looking to impress the sisters and their long-time friend and commander Major Waverly (played by Dean Jagger), who also owns the Inn where the girls are booked, Crosby and Kaye decide to team up with the girls and bring some much needed guests to the show to help all involved. Comedic mishaps, child-like romantic adventures and dramatic turns of events make this one, some 60 years later, an American classic. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and check this one out this Christmas season.
Movie Reviews by Andy Petty
Andy a scenic photographer, also loves the Movies and glamorous Hollywood.
Follow Andy's reviews and unique photos as a regular contributor to Southern Holiday Life magazine.
Back to School Time will be here before we know it! Is your family ready? With a little more than 4-6 weeks to go, I wanted to share a few tips with you in hopes to make the transition an easier one for you and for your family.
As an early childhood educator, it has been my experience that being proactive is always better than being reactive in this case, especially if you have one going to school for the first time. If this is you, start now planning days away from your child. Great ways to do this are to schedule play dates over at a friend’s house, enroll them in a summer camp/program, register them for a Vacation Bible School, sign them up for art classes, tee ball, soccer, dance, etc, or anything that will give them the opportunity to interact with other children and adults without your presence. These activities will help to build their self-confidence and self-assurance in knowing that the world still goes around without mom or dad close by.
I know that leaving your little one for the first time can be a heart-wrenching event, but NEVER let them see or feel discomfort or fear come from you. Your positive reactions will set the stage. Nevertheless, realize it will be hard for them, and no matter how hard it may be, my best advice is to hug them, kiss them, tell them you love them, and that you will be back for them. Then WALK AWAY and do NOT look back. Having taught kindergarten many years, I have had plenty of experience with pulling children from parent’s arms, and it is the hardest thing in the world. Most of the time, in my experiences, after five minutes they have forgotten their tears and have begun to play and learn with new friends with a smile on their face. Believe me, if they do not settle soon, you will be hearing from someone. I assure you.
One more piece of advice that I have in this instance, is the first day may be picture perfect; but the second, third, or maybe even the fourth day may not causing all kinds of chaos and confusion. In this case, revert back to my previous advice; and, please know that they are going to be a more independent and learning-loving child having experienced it.
Academically, the best thing you can do for your child entering school for the first time is to teach them to write their first (at least) and last name (first letter capitalized and the others lower cased) and to recognize their written name. These skills are so important!
Secondly, if you aren’t already READ, READ, READ to them or with them. Reading with your children is so fundamental to their learning to read independently, Not only does the sound of the written word help develop basic reading skills, but it also builds concentration and longer attention spans.
Thirdly, it is always a great idea if they are able to recognize all 52 letters (upper and lower case) of the alphabet, numbers (1-20), shapes, and colors.
Lastly, please allow them opportunities to practice using scissors to cut paper safely, coloring with crayons, writing with a pencil, and gluing with a glue stick or with liquid white glue, and properly operate a computer or tablet because classrooms use such technologically now.
If you have older children, it is important to encourage reading for a set amount of time daily. A great way to incorporate this is to schedule library days where they are allowed to choose books that interest them. Be sure to read with them; because it is always a good idea to let them see you reading. However, don’t limit children to just books. Magazines, newspapers, recipes, or even instructional manuals for building rockets will help them flourish as fluent readers.
With other academic subjects such as math, science, writing and history is to give your children opportunities to cook using a recipe, count money, set weekly grocery budgets and shop with you to compare prices. Encourage them to write creative stories, book reports or letters to Grandma make volcanoes, build with blocks or create models with other materials. Visit local museums, banks, courthouses, historical sites, etc. The Internet has a plethora of ideas for you to select from that will assist in building their skills in these academic areas.
Lastly, activities such as boy or girl scouts, martial arts, sports, music or art lessons, church camps, and play-dates are all exceptional ideas to instill good social and life.
Finally, remember we all need down-time. Too much is just that; and the effectiveness of these activities can be lost altogether. The best advice I can leave you with is just to have fun! Every interaction you have with them presents an opportunity for them to learn something whether it be a social skill, a life skill, a problem-solving skill, or an academic skill. Just knowing that you have given them the best gift you have to offer them, your time, is the most important thing you could ever do. Good luck and best wishes for a wonderful school year!
If you were to Google a list of southern films, you would find some of the best films ever made and others you didn’t know existed. The South is full of wonders and stories, making for truly unforgettable movies that hit close to home. I think it's fitting to continue my films of the South review, so here are four titles perfect for the hot Summer months:
Forrest Gump - It's hard to believe it's the 20th anniversary already, but director Robert Zemeckis's “Forrest Gump” has been in our hearts and home entertainment libraries ever since. While Forrest is a world traveler, his roots are as southern as southern gets. From his early days of running around his home town of Greenbow, Alabama, Forrest grew up in a time when America's minds and landscape were changing. Vietnam was beginning, the hippie revolution was the majority and the civil rights movement was marching through small towns everywhere. It was an exciting time, and Forrest managed to find himself in the middle of almost everything. The brilliance of writing a character that winds up participating in the biggest events spanning decades, falls on Alabama native Winston Groom. A swan song for the South, “Forrest Gump” is essential viewing for any and everyone. In celebration of its 20th Anniversary, Paramount Pictures will be re-releasing it in theaters this Fall.
Lightning Bug - Chances are you've never heard of this film, but I'm here to tell you how brilliant it is. A semi-autobiographical film of director Robert Green Hall's life growing up in rural Alabama, it's a story that speaks to everyone who has ever dreamed big. Much like the films "October Sky" or "Rudy," our underdog Green lives in a broken home with little opportunities in life. His love of horror movies and special effects make-up takes his mind off the real life horrors he has to live each day. With every coming-of-age story, there are times that test the person you are and the person you want to become. Proving his monster movie effects are a true passion that could one day lead to Hollywood won't be easy, but Green is determined to prove to his small town that it's more than just a hobby. Just because you or your passion is different doesn't mean you give up.
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood - Maybe it's the ensemble cast of kooky characters, the toe-tapping soundtrack, the perfect blending of comedy and drama or maybe all of that combined, but the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is something of pure fun. Sandra Bullock plays Siddalee, a famous New York City playwright from Louisiana. After a published interview quotes her saying something negative about her mother and childhood, her mom, played by the amazing Ellen Burstyn, begins a feud that only her lifelong girlfriends can fix. The girlfriends, known as The Ya-Ya's, kidnap Siddalee and takes her back to Lousiana where we learn why her childhood wasn't so perfect. Truly one of the best films of the past decade that speaks about family and friends and the life-long bond that can never be taken away when you fight for who you love.
Deliverance - This is either the best southern film ever, or the worst in your opinion. I could imagine the rivers of the South were void of any wayward travelers for a while after it was released, much like beaches after "Jaws" hit theatres. Growing up in the South and having family from the North Georgia Mountains, I'm not sure if this offended anyone back in the early 70's, but it has now become a bonafide American classic. A horror film can have many faces; there could be a masked killer, a zombie from the grave, a creature from another world, or even deranged backwoods moon shiners. For four guys from the city, taking a canoe trip down a country river turns in to a nightmare survival of the fittest. While many have tried to recreate their own version of "Deliverance" since, nothing will ever compare.
Have a safe and fun summer! Oh, and happy viewing everyone.
Story by Michelle Klima, Summer 2014
Oh, the hunt! The thrill can be a downright high for me on any given day. Little treasures are always out there just waiting to be found, and the savviest of junkers just needs to know how to find them.
After 20 years searching for all things rusty, crusty and old, I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade. These tidbits should help you navigate your own junking adventures.
First, be an early bird! You’ll have first dibs on the entire sale, so this could be your deal of the day. However, don't bargain with sellers too much. If you want rock-bottom prices, shop later towards the end of any particular sale.
Next, be sure to always look both high and low in antique stores and shows. Vendors are paying for space, and we want to make the most of every dollar. So, that little treasure you’re looking for might be stacked just out of plain sight.
Further, when vendors are unloading at an antique sale, always check out what hasn't yet made it off the truck. Sometimes your best find is still waiting to be unloaded. You can also do this at yard sales by asking if there are any old barns/sheds on the property.
Moving on, I love to stop in small towns while travelling, especially the old mill towns that dot our part of the country. Oftentimes you’ll find a little junk store with some of the best finds at very low prices.
Finally, the most important tidbit I can offer is probably the simplest – if you love it, buy it. I’ve seen it a million times, as people think too long and come back to get the one thing that they loved only to find out that it has already been sold.
However, this leads me to what I call my “junking laws.” Every business or industry has ethical standards, and junking is no different.
Above all else, you must know how to talk to dealers about merchandise and negotiate a better price. Don’t degrade or pick apart someone's stuff no matter its condition. Moreover, never just flatly tell someone what you will pay for their merchandise. Rather, simply ask the person for their best price.
As the old saying goes, you get more with "sugar" than you do "salt,” and successful junkers know how to play that game.
Finally, remember that the people in the antique business are some of the best you’ll ever meet. If you abide by these simple “junking laws,” you’ll be able to find the best treasures at the best prices and probably make a new friend or two along the way.
Story by Michelle Klima
Owner of Resurrect Antiques
As Father's Day approaches, we all have our personal stories to share about our fathers. Many have stories of them being best friends, others have tales of being extraordinary heroes. Further, some have journeys of discovering who their fathers were. I lost my dad from a car accident when I was just a freshman in high school. What would my dad's life on celluloid be like if I were to write a script about him? Maybe that story is made up piece by piece in films, weaving together the universal connection we all share to our fathers.
Here are some titles that I would love to share.
"Life As A House" - For architect George Monroe (played flawlessly by the great Kevin Kline), losing his job means it's time to make things right with everyone -- starting with his teenage son, Sam (Hayden Christensen). Unfortunately, Sam wants nothing to do with his father and has built a hatred for him so strong that he's turned to drugs, prostitution and bribery to fill his empty life. George's neighbors hate him as well because he lives in a dump shack beside their beautiful homes in one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in the area. So, he’s made his teenage son stay with him for the summer while they build a house that George can be proud to leave his son. However, picking up the pieces to a life he’s abandoned for his job of 20 years isn't an easy task. His ex-wife has moved on but still loves the man she once knew, and rekindling their son's relationship means more complications between the two of them. Throughout the summer they learn the importance of family and how precious time really is, especially after George is diagnosed with cancer. It's always hard losing a parent, but what if that parent hadn't been a part of your life until the moment they are in the last days of their life? Featuring an amazing cast with Mary Steenburgen, Jena Malone and Kristin Scott Thomas, and an original soundtrack from the band Guster, director Irwin Winkler’s drama of forgiveness and family bonds touches my heart every time I see it.
“Frequency” - What would a film be like if you combine a story like “Back To The Future” with a crime saga such as “Seven” and mix in a little “Field Of Dreams”? Well, “Frequency” does just that. For a film that feels like three well-loved films combined in to one, it comes off as the most original and daring piece of film making of the early 2000’s. What happens when a son in present day decides to use his deceased father’s Ham Radio for old time's sake? A communication 30 years in the past, or future (however you look at it), is what happens. What would it be like to hold a conversation with your father as an adult and knowing he’s been gone most of your life? If you knew your firefighting dad died too soon in a warehouse fire and you were speaking to him before his premature death, wouldn't you warn him of his impending doom? Most of us would and can relate to doing just that, but are we thinking of the ripple effect it could have on life as we know it? It’s a natural thing to think of, “what if” or “how about,” like your's truly has experienced. Although my dad died 3 years prior to this film's release date, it speaks volumes to me. Starring Dennis Quaid as Frank Sullivan and his son, John Sullivan, played by Jim Caviezel, this is an amazing film to seek out for the first time or even a second viewing. It’s hard to believe it’s been 14 years since its release, but I highly recommend this genre-bending masterpiece.
“The Road” - Although we've seen the world end by a disease (World War Z) or climate change (2012) or even war (How I Live Now), the truth is there are a million ways to end life as we know it. The intrigue here is that we’re not really sure why life has been interrupted in the film “The Road” by writer Cormac McCarthy. What we do know however, is that a father and son have been thrust into an ultimate quest for survival. How do you teach your son what it’s like to survive in a brutal, unflinching world where threats and predators seemingly abound? It's an adventure as father and son try to survive at all cost. Starring Viggo Mortensen (The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy) as the father and Kodi Smit-McPhee (the voice of "Para-Norman" & will be seen next in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) are our two leads that must endure the ravaged land. Shot in various locations across the country including scenes from the devastated remnants of Hurricane Katrina, "The Road" is a bleak glimpse at what could happen after society collapses. Most memorable quote from the father to the son: "If I were God, I would have made the world just so and no different. And, so I have you... I have you.”