Family favorites

We’re in the middle of August and I hope everyone is enjoying these dog days of summer. I’m sure that anxious ache has made its self known in many kids’ stomachs, and perhaps teachers’ too, as school looms on the horizon.

Apart from marking the start of the new school year, August holds many birthdays in my family. My wife, sister, sister-in-law, mother-in-law, and both my grandmothers were born in this month, as well as other family members and friends.

So if you’re looking to escape the sound of the school bell ringing in your mind, why not tune in and check out these favorites from the birthday girls.

The Prestige (2006, PG-13)

This is one that captured my wife’s attention with its artful storytelling. It’s a very intriguing work, but unfortunately vanished between director Christopher Nolan’s Batman installments. In a simple description, it’s the story of two enthusiastic magicians, in the 19th century, who become rivals. Each one studies and seeks out new tricks to amaze their audiences and become the better performer. The rivalry sinks to dark depths and the complexities of each new illusion reaches extreme heights (as well as the sacrifices required to pull them off).

Like all of Nolan’s films (with an exception to his Insomnia remake), it is evident that he and his brother, Jonathan, meticulously thought out the structure when writing the screenplay. Containing multiple layers with twists and turns, in many ways the movie itself is a magic act. You’ll want a second look to see what sleight of hand tricks slipped past you.

It’ll be on the SyFy channel at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 18, with the second viewing at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 19.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for David Bowie.

The Office (2001-03)

My wife is also very fond of this UK show which spawned the widely successful American version starring Steve Carell.

Ricky Gervais wrote and starred in this fictitious documentary, or mockumentary, that provides an up-close and personal look inside a sales office. The result is a dozen episodes capturing the awkward exchanges of a self-absorbed boss, David, and his depressed employees. Viewing himself as a comedian, David often believes he is doing the office a service by performing for the camera and endlessly cracking “jokes,” i.e. pretending to fire employees. Naturally his humor always backfires and his true egocentric self is revealed.

Steering away from the conventions of most television comedies, The Office, is presented without a laugh track and thrives on drawing out uneasy feelings. In fact, most of the laughing that is done by the viewer will be out of discomfort for the characters.

The entire series is available to watch on Netflix.

Zoolander (2001, PG-13)

This is one my sister would pick. Available on Netflix, it’s a satirical comedy that explores the world of male modeling. Ben Stiller plays the title role of fashion star, Derek Zoolander. It is quickly revealed that he has very little apart from his looks. The fact that he is not far from moronic makes him a worthy candidate to be brainwashed into caring out an assassination plot by a mad fashion designer.

If you’ve seen any of Stiller’s movies, then you’ll recognize the usual suspects that are his co-stars. Owen Wilson, a friend and frequent collaborator of Stiller’s, plays Hansel, the rising model whose face is quickly replacing Zoolander’s on posters and magazine covers. You’ll also see Vince Vaughn as Zoolander’s brother, Will Ferrell as the antagonist, David Duchovny portraying a famed hand model, and Stiller’s real life father, Jerry, as Zoolander’s agent.

Most of the movie’s laughs hinge on how absent-minded most of these characters are. One popular scene features a jovial gasoline-fight at the pumps, which of course results in a fiery inferno.

Relax and watch it on Netflix.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for David Bowie.

(Reece Kelly, a native of East Liverpool, studied film at Regent University. Let him know what you thought of this week’s featured films by sending an email to