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Movies To Watch While Home For The Holidays


Back now with Day to Day. Christmas is over now, but perhaps you still have family to entertain and you're looking for ideas. Well, Slate's Mark Jordan Legan has some movie suggestions to help pass the time.

MARK JORDAN LEGAN: There's nothing worse than standing in front of the kids' movie section completely stumped on what to get. There's always the argument over whether to rent the "Sound of Music" again or the "Wizard of Oz" for the 30th time. Well, we would like to share with you a few kid-friendly films that you can definitely find at the video store, a few entertaining gems that have kind of slipped through the cracks, yet deserved to be seen and enjoyed. The first one we want to recommend is from 2005, "Nanny McPhee."

(Soundbite of movie "Nanny McPhee")

Mr. COLIN FIRTH: (As Mr. Brown) We must begin our story, sad to say, with an empty chair. If it were not empty, we would not have a story, but it is, and we do, and it is time to tell it.

(Soundbite of music)

LEGAN: Oscar-winning screenwriter Emma Thompson adapted the popular books, and she also plays the title role of the wise, mysterious and magical nanny who suddenly appears one day to help Mr. Brown, played by Colin Firth, the overwhelmed widower with seven rebellious children.

(Soundbite of movie "Nanny McPhee")

(Soundbite of child yelling)

Ms. EMMA THOMPSON: (As Nanny McPhee) What are your main concerns?

Mr. COLIN FIRTH: (As Mr. Brown) Concerns?

Ms. THOMPSON: (As Nanny McPhee) Do they go to bed when they're told?

Mr. FIRTH: (As Mr. Brown) Well, no, not - not - no.

Ms. THOMPSON: (As Nanny McPhee) Do they get up when they're told?

Mr. FIRTH: (As Mr. Brown) Ah, well, no, not exactly.

Ms. THOMPSON: (As Nanny McPhee) Do they get dressed when they're told?

Mr. FIRTH: (As Mr. Brown) Ah, well, now that's a good question.

Ms. THOMPSON: (As Nanny McPhee) Do they say please and thank you?

Mr. FIRTH: (As Mr. Brown) In what context?

LEGAN: The film is a bit like "Mary Poppins" with more of a wicked and fun streak running through it and with some wonderful life lessons.

(Soundbite of movie "Nanny McPhee")

Ms. THOMPSON: (As Nanny McPhee) There is something you should understand about the way I work. When you need me, but do not want me, then I will stay. When you want me, but no longer need me, then I have to go.

LEGAN: The film seems perfect for ages six and up, and it also does a wonderful job tenderly dealing with such issues as death.

(Soundbite of movie "Nanny McPhee")

Mr. TOMAS SANGSTER: (As Simon) Do you think Mama still thinks about us where she is?

Mr. FIRTH: (As Mr. Brown) I'm sure she does. I know she does.

LEGAN: The next film might be enjoyed by boys more than girls, but my two daughters loved this historical adventure "Hidalgo." Based on a true story, Viggo Mortensen stars as Frank T. Hopkins, an expert horseman who made a name for himself in the 1800s, riding from Texas to Vermont in only 30 days. He soon was invited to participate in the legendary Ocean of Fire, a 3,000-mile survival race across the Arabian dessert.

(Soundbite of movie "Hidalgo)

Mr. J.K. SIMMONS (As Buffalo Bill Cody) Hidalgo is a legend, my friends. He has never lost a long-distance race.

Mr. ADAM ALEXI-MALLE: (As Aziz) In America, perhaps, on deserts that women from my country could cross on foot.

LEGAN: Lots of exciting actions, like Hopkins on his horse trying to outrun a sandstorm, and it also deals with different cultures competing against each other.

(Soundbite of movie "Hidalgo")

Mr. ADONI MAROPIS: (As Sakr) My name is Sakr. Desert law compels me to speak truthfully. I find the entry of a Western infidel sacrilege, but I trust in Allah. If he roasts 10 of us like sheep on a spit before the sun sets today, you shall be among the first.

Mr. VIGGO MORTENSEN: (As Frank Hopkins) Well, Good luck to you, too.

LEGAN: Another terrific film, "The Water Horse" received very strong reviews when it was released last year. Unfortunately, it got lost in the shadows of other higher-profile kid movies, but I highly recommend it. Set amongst the gorgeous Scottish countryside, it tells the story of a boy who is waiting for his father to return from World War II.

(Soundbite of movie "The Water Horse")

Unidentified Narrator: You need to know about a young lad called Angus MacMorrow.

(Soundbite of children playing)

Unidentified Narrator: The wee lad was drawn to water, but deathly afraid of it at the same time.

LEGAN: One day walking along the shore, he finds a strange object that holds an amazing creature.

(Soundbite of movie "Water Horse")

Mr. ALEX ETEL: (As Angus MacMorrow) He's very friendly, aren't you, boy?

Ms. PRIYANKA XI: (As Kirstie MacMorrow) Angus, Mummy will have it fit.

Mr. ETEL: (As Angus MacMorrow): Don't you dare tell her. Kirstie, please, he needs me. I'm his only friend.

(Soundbite of water horse braying)

LEGAN: Filled with strong performances and special effects, it is a delightful take on legends and tall tales.

(Soundbite of movie "Water Horse")

Mr. BEN CHAPLIN: (As Lewis Mowbray) It looks like a bloody water horse.

(Soundbite of water horse braying)

Ms. XI: (As Kirstie MacMorrow) A what?

Mr. CHAPLIN: (As Lewis Mowbray) They're make-believe. They're legends from the Celtic past. They're said to be the rarest of all creatures, that there can be only one water horse in the world at a time.

LEGAN: A well-made and entertaining British family film, "Five Children and It" stars Freddie Highmore, the boy in "Finding Neverland" and "The Spiderwick Chronicles." Five kids are sent to live with their eccentric uncle, played by Kenneth Branagh, during the First World War.

(Soundbite of movie "Five Children and It")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. FREDDIE HIGHMORE: (As Robert) If I played my cards right, a summer in the country with no parents about could only mean one thing, adventure.

LEGAN: One day on the beach, they meet a fantastical creature voiced by Eddie Izzard.

(Soundbite of movie "Five Children and It")

(Soundbite of waves)

Mr. EDDIE IZZARD: (As It the Psammead) I am a sand fairy.

Ms. POPPY ROGERS: (As Jane) A sand fairy?

Mr. IZZARD: (As It the Psammead) Yeah.

Ms. ROGERS: (As Jane) I thought fairies had little ballet dresses and wings and wands.

Mr. IZZARD: (As It the Psammead) What on earth have you been reading?

Ms. ROGERS: (As Jane) I'll call you Sandy.

Mr. IZZARD: (As It the Psammead) Why?

Ms. ROGERS: (As Jane) Because we found you in sand.

Mr. IZZARD: (As It the Psammead) (Laughing) You're so funny. Have your parents tried boiling you?

Mr. JONATHAN BAILEY: (As Cyril) That's it, come on.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. IZZARD: (As It the Psammead) Ah, don't like that boiling line, do you?

Mr. BAILEY: (As Cyril) Robert, now.

(Soundbite of footsteps)

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. IZZARD: (As It the Psammead) No. Kids don't like that.

LEGAN: The next family film is based on a beloved book, "Tuck Everlasting." This is a magical movie set at the turn of the century about a repressed witch girl played by Alexis Bledel of "Gilmore Girls" and "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" fame.

(Soundbite of movie "Tuck Everlasting")

Ms. AMY IRVING: (As Mother Foster) (Calling) Winifred. Winifred?

Ms. ALEXIS BLEDEL: (As Winifred Foster) Yes, Mother.

(Soundbite of chirping)

Ms. BLEDEL: (As Winifred Foster) I need a new name, one that's not all worn out from being called so much.

LEGAN: After escaping the smothering clutches of her mother and running away into the woods, she meets a strange family named the Tucks who have a secret.

(Soundbite of movie "Tuck Everlasting")

Mr. WILLIAM HURT: (As Angus Tuck) (Whispering) Just like the flame of a candle, you'll make way for new life; that's a certainty; that's the natural way of things. And then, there's us. What we Tucks have you can't call it living. We just are. We're like rocks stuck at the side of the stream.

LEGAN: This all-star cast features William Hurt, Sissy Spacek and Ben Kingsley. And it is a powerful, sweet film about making each and every day count.

(Soundbite of movie "Tuck Everlasting")

Mr. SISSY SPACEK: (As Mae Tuck) Tuck said it to Winnie the summer she turned 15: Do not fear death but rather the unlived life. You don't have to live forever; you just have to live.

LEGAN: Well, that is a fantastic message for anyone to hear, no matter what the season is. We hope you get a chance to check out some of these films, while you wear that itchy, oversized sweater your Aunt Karen knitted for you. Happy Holidays.

(Soundbite of music)

COHEN: Mark Jordan Legan is a writer living in Los Angeles. Day to Day is a production of NPR News, with contributions from Slate.com. I'm Alex Cohen. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mark Jordan Legan