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Tony

The Miracle Season (2018) PG

miracleseasonBased on true story, The Miracle Season covers the 2011 Iowa City West High School women’s volleyball team and how they battled back from adversity after losing their team captain, vivacious and effervescent Caroline “Line” Found (Danika Yarosh) in an unfortunate accident.

Coach Kathy Bresnahan (Helen Hunt) tags senior Kelly Flieher (Erin Moriarty), who was Line’s best friend since childhood, with leading the team after the loss of Line. Flieher battles her own doubts about her abilities to step into Line’s shoes as a setter, and lead the team to a consecutive state title, which they had won the previous year.

William Hurt turns in a strong performance (one of the best of the movie), as Line’s father, Dr. Ernie Found. Kelly is like a daughter to him, and he and she turn to each other and draw strength from each other, he grieving the loss of his daughter and wife and she looking for support because she is taking Line’s place on the volleyball court.

Overall, this was a good, not great, sports movie. I can’t think of any movies that have been made with volleyball as the featured sport, so this film helps to fill that hole. Like most inspirational sports movies, this one tugs at the heartstrings, so if you get emotional do have a box of tissues ready. You are going to need them.
IPPL Staff

Midsomer Murders (1997-2018) TV-14

midsomermurdersAh, the idyllic English countryside. There’s nothing more peaceful—or is there? Lurking beneath the surface, there may be a murderer among us. Sweet and kindly grandmothers, cherubic children, your next-door neighbor Bob—no one is safe from suspicion. It’s up to Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby and his faithful Detective Sergeant to put the pieces together before someone else meets their untimely demise in the long-running British TV series Midsomer Murders.
Mary P.

Phantom Thread (2017) R

phantom_threadIn 1950s London, Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) creates dresses for high society women. He is talented, self-centered, controlling, and oftentimes abusive. His sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) runs his empire and does his dirty work (dismissing his latest muse).

After Reynolds meets waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps), she becomes his assistant, muse, and lover. What he doesn’t count on is that she has an iron will, and will do anything to get her own way. Alma makes a plan to gain the upper hand in their relationship. To make him more vulnerable and needy, Alma laces his tea with poisonous mushrooms. She makes him reliant on her, nursing him back to health.

Phantom Thread won an Academy Award for costume design. The film was nominated in five other categories, including best picture.
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Jimmy

The Florida Project (2017) R

Featuring a cast of mostly amateur actors, and a powerful performance from Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project tells an affectingly real and heartbreaking story.

Taking its title from the original name for Walt Disney World, the film focuses on a six-year-old girl named Moonee and her mother Halley, who live just outside the confines of the amusement park. Willem Dafoe plays Bobby, the manager of the run-down motel that Moonee and her mother call home (a role that earned him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards).

While there are moments of levity and humor throughout The Florida Project, the film is, at times, an uncomfortable watch. Not because of any poor directing, acting, or writing; in fact, it is uncomfortable for the exact opposite reasons. The Florida Project presents an unfiltered and amazingly true-to-life look into the effect poverty and dysfunctional family situations can have on young children. Audiences looking for realism, heart, and drama need look no further than The Florida Project, one of the best films of 2017.
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Heather

The Magicians. Season 1 (2015-2016) TV-14

magicianss1Imagine an extremely dark, adult world where Harry Potter meets Narnia, and you'll pretty much have The Magicians. Based on Lev Grossman's book series of the same name, follow a handful of young adults at a magical graduate school of sorts hidden in upstate New York. Their story is not for the faint of heart! In between classes, homework, and bizarre magical field trips, Quentin and his friends learn the fantasy world of a childhood book series is real, along with a bloodthirsty beast who has it in for not only them, but also the rest of humanity.

Watch Season 1 of The Magicians on DVD or borrow a Roku to stream it via Netflix.
Mary

Mudbound (2017) R

mudbound-poster-4When Jamie McAllan, a WWII fighter pilot, returns home to his family’s Mississippi Delta farm, he cannot leave the horrors of war behind. Ronsel Jackson also returns to the Mississippi delta to resume sharecropping with his family on the McAllan farm. A decorated war hero, Ronsel struggles as he must readjust to life in the Jim Crow South. Ronsel and Jamie become friends, and it is this friendship that lends an uneasy tension to the film. Jamie drinks too much, and Ronsel chafes at the rules that make him a second-class citizen. Superb acting and cinematography make Mudbound a challenging and enriching film to view.

Based on novel Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. Watch on Netflix by checking out one of our rokus.
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IPPL Staff

Whale Rider (2002) PG-13

whaleriderShot on location in New Zealand, Whale Rider is a beautiful film about a young girl and the deep love and commitment she has for her family, heritage, and community. Paikea, as it turns out, is prophetically named after the mythical whale rider in one of the legends of her people, the Maori.

In her small village, Pai is being raised by her grandparents, and she has an especially strong bond with her grandad, her beloved Paka. She admires him greatly, and wants to make him proud. Sadly, her Paka, who is also the village chief, desperately wanted a grandson he could train to become chief—someone who will carry on tradition. In the absence of a grandson, he settles for a boy from the village, setting out to find one he can groom. Paka is very reluctant to see that the next chief can be his own granddaughter—until she becomes a whale rider.
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Mary S.

Spotlight: Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper

jennifer-lawrence-bradley-cooperAward winning actors Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper have costarred in four movies: Silver Linings Playbook, Serena, American Hustle, and Joy. The interaction between these talented stars is amazing.

In Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper plays Pat Solitano, a man suffering from bipolar disorder and has an obsession with his ex-wife, Nikki, who has a restraining order against him. Through a friend, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), an unbalanced widow. He latches onto her when he learns that she knows Nikki. This poignant and sometimes comedic film has a colorful cast of characters, including Robert De Niro as Pat’s father, who is fanatical about the Philadelphia Eagles.

Browse Best On-Screen Couples for other couples you might enjoy watching.
Jez

Baby Driver (2017) R

babydriverBaby Driver is a heist movie, but shown from a different perspective than usual: a reluctant getaway driver. Baby (Ansel Elgort) is the eponymous driver of this adventure drama, tasked with helping criminals escape their crimes as fast as possible. He’s paying off a debt to their ringleader and has plans of getting out as soon, but things aren’t as easy as he thinks.

The most interesting thing about Baby is that his tragic past has given him tinnitus and a need to score his life with a constant background of noise, giving the audience one of the best soundtracks in the process.

Baby Driver is a film for fans of high-speed chases, bank heists, double-crosses, Bonnie & Clyde romance, and great music. Check out our list of films featuring Criminals We Love.
IPPL Staff

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) PG-13

murder_on_the_orient_express_teaser_poster5 out of 5 stars for me. Not knowing the story kept me engaged and absorbed. The ending took me by surprise--a very good surprise--and totally unexpected. The actors were top notch, intense and mysterious, but still believable. The scenery was spectacular. The photography, especially the close-ups of the characters' faces, helped the mystery develop.

Check out the most recent adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic Murder on the Orient Express. Looking for a review of the book? Check out Jennifer’s take on Current Picks from December.
IPPL Staff

Signs (2002) PG-13

220px-the_signs_movieGraham—formerly Reverend Hess—is a grieving husband, who has lost not only his wife but his faith too. He hasn’t by any means fallen apart, though, or stopped caring about the people around him. Graham is a good dad to his two young kids, and the people in his small town can’t help still calling him “Father.” When crop circles appear on his farm and then around the world, Graham reasons that there must be a logical explanation, and he struggles to hold on to this—even as his kids and his younger brother, who lives with them, jump on the alien-theory bandwagon.

Signs is one of those quiet films that rings true to life, often feeling more like a family drama than a supernatural thriller. And yet true to form, writer and director M. Night Shyamalan injects just enough oddity and suspense into the film to make you feel that things are not quite right—and that there’s something creepy lurking just around the corner.
Jez

The Crown. Season 2 (2017) TV-MA

the-crown-season-2-poster-1As England moves into the 1960s, Elizabeth comes into her own as queen. We saw this beginning to take form at the end of season 1 (read my review here or Katie’s take here), but after almost a decade and three prime ministers, she’s grown up quite a bit. Royal life is not without its troubles, though, and season two continues with the rocky marriage of Elizabeth and Philip, the scandals of Princess Margaret, and balancing her role as queen and her role as a woman. New conflicts arise with the threat of war in Egypt, public backlash against Elizabeth’s reign, plus the war between progress and tradition.

Tune in to season two of The Crown on Netflix by checking out one of our rokus to see the Kennedys, a bad haircut, Matt Smith’s brilliant beard, and a whole lot of period drama.
Katie

The Crown. Season 1 (2016) TV-MA

the-crown-2016For anyone obsessed with Britain's royal family (like me!), The Crown is a perfect blend of drama and actual history, creating a highly enjoyable television series.

The first season of The Crown covers the years 1947-1955, which includes famous events such as Princess Elizabeth's marriage to Philip, King George VI's passing, and Queen Elizabeth's coronation. But there are also a fair amount of things I had no idea happened in England, like the Great Smog of 1952.

I spent a lot of time after episodes doing research and now you don't have to; a companion book was released that documents the differences between series and true history.

If you're waiting on the third royal baby to be born in April or Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's marriage in May, this is a fabulous way to pass the time!

Watch season 1 of The Crown on DVD or borrow a Roku to stream it via Netflix. Stay tuned—next week, Jez reviews season 2.

 
IPPL Staff

My Man Godfrey (1936)

225px-my_man_godfreyIn this farce masterpiece, William Powell plays Godfrey, the enigmatic butler whose sophistication and commanding presence hint at his true identity. Godfrey is discovered living in the city dump, and recruited to work for the Bullocks—a family described by one of their longtime staffers as being more “nutty” than “exacting.” The cast of characters includes the shrill-voiced Mrs. Bullock, usually hung over and in a pixie-seeing haze in the morning; Cornelia, Godfrey’s nemesis; and her sister Irene, hopelessly in love with Godfrey from the start. Then there’s poor Mr. Bullock, the sole voice of reason in the family. Oh and Carlo, Mrs. Bullock’s “protégé,” really a freeloading artist who becomes melodramatically upset as soon as Mr. Bullock starts talking belt-tightening.

It is hard to believe that in the midst of all this chaos and frivolity, My Man Godfrey has a deeper aim than to make the audience laugh. But at the heart of the story is Godfrey—the butler who’s really a high-minded aristocrat—and who really makes the audience think.
Ben

A Ghost Story (2017) R

ghoststoryA recently deceased husband (Casey Affleck) returns as a ghost in a white sheet to haunt his suburban home and be close to his widowed wife (Rooney Mara). When she decides to move, the ghost loses all track of time and spirals into history where he is able to see all previous and future owners of his home.

Despite its title, A Ghost Story isn’t a movie that invokes fear or horror. A very slow, quiet, and artistic movie, it takes its time to deliver its message and make the audience feel the sense of loss and longing of the characters. This movie is as beautiful as it is solemn, with well thought out camera shots and very haunting imagery. A Ghost Story may be the very first cosmic ghost story—not only does it explore themes of love and loss, it tackles the very idea of existence and time itself.