Crowd pleasers on demand
If you have to fight with family over the holidays, it shouldn't be over a movie.
Let’s be honest: Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s movies usually aren’t comforting. His impossible camera tracks down drainpipes and his often frantic joking and his cobbled-together worlds that look like Rube Goldberg fever dreams tend toward the darker side (Delicatessen, A Very Long Engagement, Micmacs). Amélie is his most joyous creation, a celebration of how an optimist can make the world conform to her beliefs by little acts of kindness. Jeunet’s distinctive visual trickery and little sly jokes add the perfect tart note that keeps this movie from becoming saccharine. Available through Dec 16 on Encore On Demand.
Eat Pray Love
Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, Billy Crudup and a lot of delicious meals in gorgeous locations from Rome to Delhi to Bali. What’s not to love? Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir of travel, food and self-discovery practically begged for a film adaptation, and Roberts’s adventures in exotic, sunny locales are a perfect antidote to the long, dark nights of winter. Available now on demand.
Hayao Miyazaki has made a career of expressing a childlike sense of wonder and possibility in glorious, gorgeous animated films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. Ponyo continues that lineage with a fairy tale indebted to, but in many ways far richer than, The Little Mermaid. A goldfish princess makes herself human and falls in love with a boy who lives by the seaside, but her use of magic disrupts the natural world. Where Disney made a similar transformation story into an excuse for a fun musical, Miyazaki takes it as an opportunity for more of his trademark wildly imaginative imagery. It’s the kind of stuff you can revel in. Available through Jan 13 on Starz On Demand HD.
The Shawshank Redemption
It’s not entirely clear how a novella by Stephen King (taking a rare break from horror) about a guy in prison has become one of the most revered films around, but why fight it? Morgan Freeman’s voiceover narration is this movie’s secret weapon; that guy could make a Jacqueline Susann novel sound profound. And the story has genuine uplift with a message about the perseverance of the human spirit. But writer/director Frank Darabont knows that the reason the King story worked is subtlety with which the plot develops; we know prisoner Andy Dufresne is up to something, even if we don’t know exactly what. That makes it more satisfying when his plan is finally revealed. It’s the kind of movie you can revisit for its simple elegance. Available through Dec 23 on Encore On Demand.
3 things to watch in…
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION
1 Although closely associated with Maine—the setting of a good chunk of Stephen King’s fiction, including the novella on which the film is based—Shawshank was actually shot in Ohio. This is visible in the distinctly non–New England backdrop of scenes both early and late in the movie. Mansfield Reformatory, the prison used in the film, is now a tourist destination and hosts ghost hunts on Halloween.
2 Watch Andy Dufresne’s hands when he loads the gun at the beginning and later as he chips away at his cell wall: director Frank Darabont has said that they are his hands, not Tim Robbins’s; it made filming easier.
3 Imagine if the film had ended with Morgan Freeman’s bus simply driving off. That’s reportedly what Darabont wanted, but the studio insisted on the beach scene (shot in the Virgin Islands, not Mexico).
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