In honor of Stephen Hawking: The Theory of Everything (2014)- Review

by Nevin Hooper

Unfortunately, on March 14th, the famous theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author, Stephen Hawking, passed away. I thought in order to remember his accomplishments, and me being a movie buff, I would review the biographical film, The Theory of Everything, starring the excellent Eddie Redmayne as Hawking.

The film follows Stephen (Eddie Redmayne, in a touching performance that earned him a worthy Best Actor Oscar), as he falls in love with a college friend, Jane (Felicity Jones, in a phenomenal performance that got her a nomination for Best Actress). All seems great until he gets diagnosed with his debilitating condition that will haunt him for the rest of his life, though he is still determined to figure out the answer to the universe, and struggles to keep his relationship with Jane.

First, let’s talk about the best part of this movie, Eddie Redmayne. Redmayne totally disappears into this character, and is unbelievably great as Hawking, portraying his physical appearance, and his little moments of intelligence and kindness perfectly. I never saw Redmayne throughout the entire movie, I only saw Stephen Hawking, and his performance must be seen to believe.

Felicity Jones never gets talked about for her performance in this movie. She is so overshadowed by Eddie Redmayne’s exceptional performance that Jones never seems to be mentioned for her equally phenomenal performance. While, yes, she didn’t have to do as much as Eddie Redmayne, her emotional strength is still extremely powerful, showing her emotional imbalance for Stephen perfectly, and very much earned that Best Actress nomination.

The music in this movie was stunning. I loved everything to do with music in this movie; it was quiet, yet at times it was grand and wondrous. It was sad, yet it was mesmerizing, and was just fantastic.

The direction was very calm, yet fast paced, which contributed to the mood of the film, also helped by the excellent.

I love this movie, it was emotional. It was powerful It resonated with me. Enough to give it an 11/10.

Review- William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet (1996)

by Nevin Hooper

So far in my series of old movie reviews I have always reviewed good movies. Usually ones I would give a 10/10 or my highest grade of an 11/10. But, since we just finished watching the 1996 Baz Luhrmann remake of the classic William Shakespeare play of Romeo and Juliet, I thought, why not review it? So, on to the review!

If you are not familiar with my reviews, I grade movies like this. I go from a scale of 0/10 (movies that are so bad that they should have never been made), to an 11/10 (movies that are so good, so fantastic, that you just can’t give the average 10/10 grade).

So, since this is a film that I did not especially like, I am going to tell you what I thought was good, what I thought was bad, and what my overall thoughts were of the movie along with my grade.


Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo: I have always been a big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio. He has starred in some of my all time favorite films such as The Departed (2006), Inception (2010), and Titanic (1997). I think he is an excellent actor, and no surprise, he is easily the best part in this film. But, unfortunately he probably gives his worst performance I have seen from him in this film, but on some of the more emotional parts, I thought he did an okay job. It just sounds so weird calling a Leonardo DiCaprio performance “okay”, but that’s how I felt about him.

The usage of color: Probably the only thing I found visually interesting in this movie was the usage of color in this movie. Name off all the most vibrant, and brightest colors you can think of and that color is in this movie. The color choices are so bright and eye-popping that I thought was at least handled well.

That’s where the good points about this movie end.


Claire Danes as Juliet: I did not like her character in this movie at all. I found her character extremely weak and felt like she was lacking something, I never felt her performance was that great and the way she played her character didn’t feel like a Juliet to me. I’m not sure why, but she just didn’t seem like she was playing Juliet in that movie, at least not well.

The screenplay: Look, I have nothing against Shakespeare when I say I hate the screenplay. The film uses Shakespearean language and some actual dialogue from the play. I love Shakespeare’s brilliant writing skills and believe that he is one of the greatest writers who has ever lived, but having his dialogue take place in present day just does not work whatsoever. It came off as weird, extremely unnecessary, and especially awkward.

The acting: Wow, I haven’t seen this much cringe worthy acting in a long time. It seemed like every single line that was delivered from these actors was so awkward and very, very, very cringe worthy, which is very upsetting since the film has a surprisingly good cast.

The direction: I’m just going to go out and say that I hate the director’s style in this movie. His direction was so energized to the point that it made it so everything was so uncomfortably in your face all the time, and many unnecessary shots didn’t make any sense in the story besides “metaphorical imagery.” I did not like Baz Luhrmann’s direction in this movie at all. I know what he was going for with having the film fell as energized as possible, but what was supposed to be exciting just came off as too fast, confusing, and making me want to throw up.


Overall, I did not like this movie whatsoever. Like, at all. I’m sorry for people who actually like this movie, but I did not. Sure, there was one semi-good performance from Leonardo DiCaprio, bright and interesting colors, and very, very, few pretty shots, but other than that, I hated the movie, and shall give it a 4/10.

Top ten films of 2017

by Brandon Matzke

Well, the year is wrapping up. It’s both a blessing and a curse; blessing because it means that we can see what 2018 holds in store or us, but also a curse because it means that we’re all another year closer to the apocalypse. Just kidding… I hope. But this year had some excellent films, so I’m going to celebrate those. Now, keep in mind I couldn’t include every film I saw on this list, so I’ll include a honorable mentions list: Split, Wonder Woman, Spiderman Homecoming, The Lego Batman Movie, John Wick: Chapter 2, and American Made. I know, there was a ton of superhero movies, but some were legitimately good films. And I also didn’t see everything that came out this year, I missed out on so many great films (Wind River, Lady Bird, Big Sick, etc). So, without further ado, here’s my top 10 favorite films of the year!

10. Thor: Ragnarok

This film is far from the best of the year, but it still is fun. I already covered this film, so I’ll make it quick: Chris Hemsworth plays Thor in a charismatic and fun performance, the dialogue is a ton of fun to hear, the film is probably Marvel’s most humorous film yet, and one I definitely recommend for fans of comics. The action is breathtakingly awesome, and the soundtrack is both epic and entertaining. Here’s to more great MCU films to come.

9. It (2017)

Finally! Another good Stephen King horror film! Based on the 1986 novel of the same name, this It is dark, brutal, scary, and even funny and heartwarming at times. Let’s start with the clown on everyone’s mind: Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise. This guy blew it out of the water. He’s easily one of the scariest monsters in cinema history, and truly unsettled me on several occasions. But he’s not the only good part; the cinematography and score are awesome, along with the young actors involved. The two everyone thinks of when someone mentions the Loser’s Club in this film are Sophia Lillis (Beverly) and Finn Wolfhard (as easily the intentionally funniest character in a Stephen King movie, Ritchie). This film isn’t perfect; some characters feel extremely overshadowed (particularly Stan and Mike), one scene feels extremely out of place, and sometimes it goes a little too far with the 80’s references. But other than those, it’s a great adaptation of Stephen King’s work, miles better than the famous 90’s miniseries, and 100% worth watching.

8. Coco

Hey, a Pixar film is on my top 10! This hasn’t happened since 2015 with Inside Out, but it feels good to acknowledge these people’s genius. Pixar, how do you do it? They made some stinkers (Cars 2 and The Good Dinosaur in particular), but made at least 5 masterpieces for every one of their bad films! And Coco is only a continuation of their greatness, bringing their signature charm and imagination into the world of the Mexican afterlife. This film managed to be fun and emotional exactly when needed, and had one of the most memorable characters of the year (in the form of Hector.) This skeleton ironically brought so much more life and heart into the film, and he’s a con man character. I have a weird obsession with con men in movies…..

7. Logan

In my opinion, this is the best comic book film of the year. Maybe even the best since The Avengers. But it’s also one of the bleakest. This film contains very little joy, is extremely brutal in both its depictions of violence and emotions, yet is the best way to end the legacy of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. Hugh Jackman gives a downright oscar-worthy performance as a broken down, beaten Wolverine. And Patrick Stewart as the elderly and sick Professor X is maybe the performance of his career, but we’re forgetting Dafne Keen as X-23 (aka Laura), who definitely deserves her own film. The script and directing give this film almost a sci-fi western feel, and it definitely benefits from it. This film made me care about a drunk X-man and his old man mentor saving a little girl. So, well done, Fox. Well done.

6. The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi taught me two things: one, Star Wars is still good. And two, it’s gonna be around for a long, long time. I don’t want to get into too much, since I have to write the review for it (which is coming soon). I promise not to spoil it, but it does have some moments that I think will be iconic in Star Wars history.

5. Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan; I adore this guy. I love his films, from Memento to The Dark Knight trilogy and Inception, this man 110% knows his craft. And Dunkirk is no exception. True, we never really get to know these characters too well, but what it lacks in character it makes up for in suspense. This is easily the most suspenseful film of 2017, and for good reason too. I was on the edge of my seat for a majority of the film, from the opening battle to the end. The scope of this film is incredible; you feel like you’re on this island with these soldiers, and at times I forgot I was even watching a movie. Dunkirk isn’t just a film; it’s an experience. And one I highly recommend.

4. Blade Runner 2049

I love the final cut of Blade Runner. I consider it to be a science fiction masterpiece, and I think it’s one of the best films ever made. And this sequel, rather than hindering it (like most sequels) expands on it. This film is a modern masterpiece; it makes you really think about the world it’s in, along with several of the questions it raises. Is he even human? Is she the right person? Things like that are something modern Hollywood desperately needs. The performances are phenomenal across the board; Ryan Gosling gives a surprisingly human show as K, a replicant struggling to find his place in this world. And Harrison Ford definitely deserves an oscar for his role; he’s not your “life’s a party” Harrison Ford; he’s the “I’ve seen the worst this world has to offer” Harrison Ford. This man has been through so much pain and suffering that you can almost smell it, and just nails one of his most iconic roles. While this film was marketed as an action film, it’s much more of a philosophical sci-fi film, and one not to miss. Please, if you missed out on this in theaters, watch it ASAP (legally of course). It’s a film that deserves support.

3. Baby Driver

I am convinced that Edgar Wright has some sort of magic. He has never made a legitimately bad movie, and even his “weakest” film (The World’s End) was in my top 2 of 2013! How does he do it?! Well, his awesome train is continuing with this year’s Baby Driver. Wow did this film blow me away: the action, the script, the comedy, the drama, the acting, the music, the directing, even the editing, EVERYTHING! Edgar Wright just keeps making great movies. Please continue!

2. War For The Planet Of The Apes

Hey! I already reviewed this one! Well, I’ll talk about it some more. Again, Andy Serkis as Caesar was one of the best performances of the year, both heartbreaking and inspirational. For a film about talking apes, this was a surprisingly bleak and even brutal film. There were scenes where I seriously wondered how this got a PG-13 rating. The visual effects definitely deserve an oscar; bringing these apes to life in such detail that you can see the snow in their fur, or the irises of their eyes (even from a far distance), this is an excellent conclusion to one of the finest trilogies in modern cinema. Don’t look at this as a “dumb nerd film”. Look at it as a film Hollywood desperately needs: one that can make you excited. One that can make you cry. And especially, one that will make you cheer at the end.

1. Get Out

If you had told 2016 me that a horror film (one that came out in February, nonetheless) would top my favorite films of 2017, I would’ve cracked up. Yet, this managed to be my favorite film of the year. This film is both smart and terrifying, and one never outweighs the other. The smartness adds to the horror, and the horror only makes it smarter. This film is the closest to Hitchcockian that any film of this decade has been (in my opinion); the thrills are so tense I felt myself being as unsettled as the main lead. And sometimes, even the quieter moments are terrifying: a look can be as scary as a knife, thanks to the excellent directing by Jordan Peele. And the writing is amazing, definitely oscar-worthy. If you pay close attention, seemingly ordinary quotes can be as horrifying as the scares in the latter half of the film. The acting, too, is extraordinary, especially from Allison Williams (who is downright Oscar-worthy) and Daniel Kaluuya. This is a film that I plan to be watching for decades, and I won’t complain whenever I see it’s on.

Top 4 worst films of 2017

by Brandon Matzke

I decided that I’d cover this topic earlier than I would my top 10 best films of the year, as I want this year to end on a high note. However, that means I have to discuss the worst films I saw from this year. Oh joy. Well, I might as well say that I haven’t watched every bad movie from this year, and I honestly don’t want to. So, there’s no Emoji Movie or Wish Upon, because quite frankly I don’t want to torture myself that badly. But don’t worry: there’s still plenty of material! ….(sobs)

4. The Dark Tower

When I walked out of this film, I was stunned. Not in the way I was after watching other Stephen King adaptations like The Shining or Shawshank, but in the way you’d be stunned after watching a violent train crash. This film is trying to be way too many things at once: is it a deep philosophical film? Is it a dumb action flick? Is it a fantasy movie? Is it a horror movie? The film has literally no clue what it is, and just focuses on one thing: money. First of all, I had no idea if this was supposed to be an adaptation, or a sequel, or what it was. If you need to read an entire Stephen King book series to understand what you’re watching, chances are it’s not worth your time. Matthew McConaughey gives a performance so terrible that it makes the cast of Maximum Overdrive look Oscar-worthy, the script is extremely cluttered and confused, and this film just reeks of Stephen King cliches. What should’ve been the most epic film based on King’s work ended up being one of the most forgettable of his adaptations.

3. The Mummy

Based on the classic 1930s horror flick (and I do mean 1930s, since the ‘99 version was a remake), this retelling of The Mummy stars Tom Cruise (or should I say his ego) as the most cliched and desperate attempt at being an action movie star. This movie (like Dark Tower) has no idea what it’s trying to be, and ends up completely imploding on itself. The script is absolutely awful, from the 52 year old Russell Crowe calling the 55 year old Tom Cruise a “young man” (gee I wonder who wrote that line), to the cluttered and overly confusing motivation of the title character, this film is the definition of rushed. It’s so rushed, the first trailer wasn’t even finished when it was released! I put a link here because holy cow it’s hysterical. This film is lazily directed, poorly written, and just feels like a cliche. The universal monsters deserve a comeback, but not like this!

2. Transformers: The Last Knight

Michael Bay, just stop. I seriously consider Bay to be the worst director working today, and this film only proves my point. According to Bay, “girl power,” as those terrible trailers showed off, is only having 5 minutes of screen time and not even doing anything important to the so-called plot. Like any Bay movie, the acting is terrible! Mark Wahlberg basically sleep walks throughout the film, never showing any emotions, or charisma, or even reacting to anything. I could probably punch him in the face, and he wouldn’t even flinch! The plot makes literally no sense, but it’s probably the result of trapping 12 writers in a room decorated with Transformers memorabilia as Bay proclaimed. Here’s the thing about writing movies: when you have twelve people writing a script at the same time, there’s always going to be a major loss in communication. One idea can be misinterpreted by another, or arguments break out, or plot points are ignored or dropped. It’s a miracle if even three can make a decent film! And this film only proves that. At least this awful line of Transformers films is over. Wait, I take it back. They’re making 14 more movies

1. The Bye Bye Man

This is seriously one of the worst horror films I have ever seen. I thought horror films couldn’t get any worse after The Wicker Man (2006), but The Bye Bye Man couldn’t wait to prove me wrong. This film is laughably bad from the opening tracking shot with atrocious acting, to the so-called “cliffhanger” (which is really just a desperate attempt to make this a franchise). The characters in this film are absolutely terrible, from the so-called teens trying to make the film watchable (and failing), to the laughably bad “adults”, it’s an epic failure all around. And I haven’t even gotten into the script (one that’s only use should’ve been toilet paper), the stupid attempts at directing, and that stock violin sound they play about 10 TIMES to achieve “tension.” This is one of the worst films of the decade, one of the worst horror films of recent memory, and easily one of the worst films I’ve seen in my early career. My advice: don’t say it, don’t think it, don’t watch it.

45th Anniversary Review of The Godfather (1972)

by Nevin Hooper

TV- version

Hello, once again fans of classic films, and I am so, so happy to finally talk about this film. It is considered one of the best films of all time and is a perfect film about the struggles of family life, the Italian mob, and just a perfect film in general! So, here we go into one of the most celebrated films of all time, The Godfather!

If you are not familiar with my grading system it goes like this: I grade films on a scale from 0/10 (movies that are so horrible that they should have never been made) to an 11/10 (movies that are so good, so amazing, that you just can’t give the average 10/10 grade).

This magnificent film tells the story of the struggling Corleone Crime Family after its leader, Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando, in one of his best roles), survives an assassination attempt from another family. Because of this, the new patriarch of the Family, the youngest son of Vito, Michael (Al Pacino, who gives by far his best performance), is determined to avenge his father. The rest of the film follows the near fall and hysteria of the Corleone Crime Family.

I will just go out and say that in my opinion, this is the best American film ever made. I have never seen a single movie throughout my entire movie-watching journey that I have found better than this one. Some may back down and not watch this film and it’s equally amazing sequel because of it’s length, but because of that, these people are missing a phenomenal film. Francis Ford Coppola’s direction is stunning, along with the brilliant Oscar-winning screenplay that so believably brings to life these characters. The cinematography is also excellent with interesting metaphorical imagery to express the difference between these people’s “normal” life and the crime business life in which they are forever entrapped. And I do believe that almost every single shot in this movie could be a perfect framed photograph. The performances in this movie by everyone are also perfect. Marlon Brando does an amazing job portraying the heartbroken Don, which garnered him a very worthy Best Actor Oscar. But, by far the best performance in this film, that I also think is still to this day the most Oscar-snubbed performance ever, is from Al Pacino. Sure, he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for this film, but why in the world did he not win it?! He deserved that Oscar so badly, but of course, he did not win it, and I have to deal with that. I mean, even in the second movie he gives a performance that some may argue is a better performance than what he does in the first one, and he still didn’t win Best Actor for that film either! Anyway, I just can’t talk about this film enough to tell you how great this movie is. It is a timeless masterpiece, and will forever be a cinematic masterpiece, and definitely deserves my highest grade of an 11/10.

Coco: Pixar’s newest masterpiece

by Brandon Matzke

I finally saw it. After two weeks of scheduling and planning, I saw it for you guys. This film follows Miguel, a young boy whose entire family hates music. And I do mean they HATE music. So much that they’ve basically forced everyone in their gene pool to become shoemakers. But poor Miguel simply wants to be a musician and unintentionally gets sent into the land of the dead, where he discovers the secrets behind his family’s history with music. And let me tell you, Pixar is far from losing their touch.


One thing that I’ve always admired from Pixar was their imagination. They truly brought this film to life with every ounce of imagination possible squeezing from every frame. The world of this film is so creative and colorful that it should be studied by writers and world-makers alike. And the characters are so much fun, and, from the con-man esque Hector (who I consider to be the best character in the film) to Miguel, to even the mutated dog freak known as Dante, were a blast to watch. The film has one thing a film about music should definitely have: MUSIC! This soundtrack brimnes with culture and wonder, and just adds so much to this film. The animation flows to perfection, with every single detail staying relevant.


I had no major problems with the film itself. What I didn’t like were some of the cliches in the first half of the film (minor flaws). And there’s one more thing I didn’t like. One major, singing snowman shaped flaw. Perhaps 21 minutes of it…. Well, it wasn’t part of the film (it was a so-called “short” that played before it), but wow did it ruin my experience. Thankfully, the theater was merciful to us viewers and gave us free snacks for enduring that crap! Yay!


Pixar films are hard films for me to review. Not because they’re bad, but because 80% of the time they make complete masterpieces! I don’t know what’s left to say! Pixar, stop making good movies! I’m running out of ways to praise you! In all seriousness, this is a good film to watch with the family, and definitely earns a 10/10. Definitely check it out, it is most likely going in my top 10 of the year, and please subscribe to this awesome blog. They have so much talent that I can’t even find a flaw with it (and my whole job is being a critic!), and I think my film reviews are only a tenth of what makes this paper great.

10 Must Watch Christmas Movies for December

By Brandon Matzke and Nevin Hooper

It’s December! You know what that means… CHRISTMAS!!! I absolutely adore this holiday, and celebrate it proudly every year. Maybe too much. But I still love it. So, here’s a list of my (and Nevin’s) 10 favorite Christmas movies. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, that’s perfectly fine. And these aren’t all good movies; I just did a search for Christmas films, and these are the ones I got. And I’m counting legitimate Christmas films, not the ones that just take place around the holidays (like Batman Returns or Love Actually). And, I’m listing these from least best to best. And I needed some help, so I brought fellow film critic Nevin Hooper into this (like how I did with our Halloween special). Now, let’s get this party started!

10. Elf (2003)

Review by Brandon Matzke

I’m not much of a Will Ferrell fan. I’ve only seen two of his movies that I’ve enjoyed. One of them was Talledega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby (which is a guilty pleasure), and the other is 2003’s Elf. It’s so rare that a film this bizarre manages to become such a classic. Elf follows Buddy (Will Ferrell in an amusingly cheery role): a human who was raised by elves (as in, Santa’s elves). One day, he discovers he is not actually an elf and that he’s a human. He journeys across the magical land of New York City to meet his dad and his human family. Turns out his dad is on the dreaded naughty list, and it’s up to him to redeem his dad. It’s a very weird film, but one that manages to always make me smile around this time of year.

9. Arthur Christmas (2011)

Review by Brandon Matzke

A modern holiday classic, Arthur Christmas, follows Arthur, the youngest son of the master spy known as Santa Claus. As in, the “ho ho ho” Santa. During one fateful Christmas, Arthur discovers a toy Santa forgot to deliver, and it’s up to him, an elf who mastered the art of wrapping, and a retired former Santa (it’s a job title in this world) to find the rightful owner of this gift and unite toy and child. This film really surprised me; it seemed really cheesy, and at times, it was, but for every cheesy moment there was a heartwarming and/or fun moment. The visuals are very appealing, the humor is surprisingly good, and the film just makes me feel like a kid again. I just recommend it.

8. A Charlie Brown Christmas

Review by Brandon Matzke

I honestly didn’t know if I could include this one, considering it’s extremely small runtime of 30 minutes. But, it does have a touching message about the real meaning of Christmas along with the signature Peanuts charm. And Charles Schultz’s animation has this strange quality that just adds to this film, even beating the recent Peanuts Movie (which is still a good movie by the way). If you’re feeling a little down around the holidays, this was a film made just for you.

7. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Review by Brandon Matzke

Honestly, this is more of a Halloween film. But it has Christmas right in the title! I’ve already discussed this film, so I’ll just use some quotes from my original review: “For one, I find it to be beautifully unique. I mean, it’s not everyday you see a movie where individual holidays have their own worlds. But it also has great animation, some brilliant music by the talented Danny Elfman, and a sweet and simple plot based on a poem written by Tim Burton. So, before you rant about seeing Jack Skellington at every Hot Topic (I mean, what is it with this film and Hot Topic?!), give the film a shot. You might be humming “This is Halloween” before you know it. 11/10.”- Top 5 Halloween Movies article.

6. Gremlins (1984)

Review by Brandon Matzke

Gremlins is a horror fan’s Christmas film. This film managed to earn the 1984 Saturn award for Best Horror film, beating out darker, grittier films like A Nightmare on Elm Street. And for good reason, too! This film is the reason why PG-13 exists; it pushed the boundaries so much that it (and the second Indiana Jones film) made a new rating. That’s not the only reason why this film works; it’s a brilliant dark comedy, blending horror and comedy seamlessly. The screenplay by Chris Columbus is weird and original, and also hilarious and scary. But without a doubt, the best part of this film is… the gremlins. Holy cow, these buggers are so much fun, whether they’re watching Snow White and singing along with it, or violently destroying the small town of Kingston Falls, they’re a blast to watch. Is this for everyone? No. But for the right audience, it’s a blast.

5. A Christmas Story (1983)

Review by Nevin Hooper

A cult classic. I am so surprised that Brandon has not seen this film yet, especially since it plays all day long every Christmas day. But, either way, I am reviewing it. All Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) wants for Christmas is a “Red Rider air rifle.” After the constant excuse from everyone around him “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid,” Ralphie is still determined to have that rifle for Christmas, while still suffering through the random misadventures of his family and friends. This film is gut-bustingly hilarious. There are so many memorable lines and scenes, with the parents (especially from the father) and famous scenes including the scene where a kid gets his tongue stuck on a telephone pole and the teacher has to pull him off. But, Ralphie’s exotic visions about his yearning of the rifle is hilarious and totally make some of the greatest scenes of the film. This is a necessary watch around Christmas, and I highly recommend it.

4. Home Alone (1990)

Review by Brandon Matzke

I have very pleasant memories of this film: it was the first film I really begged to own (and I got a VHS of it for Christmas one year, which I still own), it was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and I always thought that Marv looked like my first grade teacher. I honestly don’t know why. But there was something I always watched this movie for: not the message of the importance of family, or watching an immature kid turn into a young adult; it was the VIOLENCE. For a film with a PG rating, this is a very violent film. Yeah, it’s played for laughs, but having a nail go through a guy’s foot?! That’s something that the guy from Saw would consider inhumane! But it’s so fun to watch that I honestly stopped caring about how violent it was. But I have to go back to this film: the score by John Williams makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, the directing is actually pretty good for a “kid comedy”, and Macaulay Culkin as Kevin Mccallister has so much wit and charm that I honestly started rooting for this kid, even after watching his violent torture traps dismember the poor burglars who decided to rob his house. This is a family film with an edge, and earns my seal of approval. But seriously, those traps could kill someone!

3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Review by Brandon Matzke

I usually can’t stand Chevy Chase. I don’t think he’s that funny, I usually find him annoying, but this one little film is the sole objection. This is a very unconventional film for the holidays: it’s about family, sure, but it also has a truly evil squirrel hiding in a Christmas tree, Chevy Chase nearly blinding his stuck-up neighbors with his magical Christmas light magic, and everything a comedy needs to be a classic. It’s basically an examination of a christmas gone wrong; the tree is too big to even fit in the house, the family hates each other, etc., but it’s always played for laughs. And let me tell you; those laughs are well earned. And Chevy Chase, while having his absolutely hysterical moments, also manages to play a convincing everyman with a chaotic life. This is not only one of my favorite Christmas films, but also one of my favorite comedies. And it’s one that I highly recommend.

2. Die Hard (1988) (TV version)

Review by Brandon Matzke

Most of the films on this list are cheerful and happy. They make you feel warm inside, and get you in that perfect holiday mood. And then there’s Die Hard. Is this the most Christmas-y film ever made? No. This film and Christmas share as much in common as a paperclip and a beaver. But this is a great film to watch around this time of year. Taking place on Christmas Eve, Die Hard follows John McClane (Bruce Willis in an excellent role), a divorced man visiting his ex wife at a christmas party in the iconic Nakatomi tower. When things seem at their calmest, a break-in occurs, and it’s up to John McClane to stop a group of terrorists (lead by Hans Gruber, Alan Rickman in his most charismatic villain performance) from killing everyone in the building. This is a very well made action movie, and has some absolutely thrilling scenes. Bruce Willis gives a very likeable performance, and is so much fun to watch thanks to with his now-iconic one-liners and everyman charm. The characters are very memorable, and the film is a ton of fun to watch. I highly recommend it for action movie fans.

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Review by Nevin Hooper

On its first initial release this film was not praised at all. But, over the years, it has gained a reputation by being one of the most influential Christmas films of all time. Starring James Stewart in one of his best roles, he plays the suicidal George Bailey who wishes that he was never born. Then an angel by the name of Clarence (Henry Travers) comes to show him that the world needs him and what the world would be like if he was never born. Not only is this a great Christmas movie, but this is a great film in general. The film has amazing acting and a phenomenal screenplay that deals with themes about one’s place in life and the importance of family and friends. The direction is also very exceptional and is helped by the excellent black and white cinematography. The story of this movie is just so phenomenal, it is original, imaginative, hopeful, sad, humorous, and very deep in themes that are important to us and the people around us. It’s a Wonderful Life is a great watch around Christmas and I very much hope you can watch it and enjoy it as much as I did.