More great holiday movies to stream and give thanks for

You’ll encounter some odd dishes on our list, plus a couple of turkeys that are still fun to watch.

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Brokeback Mountain

(Amazon Prime, Vudu, etc., from $2.99)

Brokeback Mountain Focus

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal form a forbidden relationship in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain.

★★★☆☆

Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning “gay Western” Brokeback Mountain (2005) quickly stole the hearts of critics and viewers during its time, and it seems to have endured. Lee’s simple, beautiful direction subtly illustrates the passionate beginnings, and tragic downfall, of a forbidden love affair. Heath Ledger’s remarkable, tightly guarded performance rather overshadows Jake Gyllenhaal’s more traditional one, and several subplots seem unnecessary and drag the movie on far too long, but the emotional impact is undeniable.

At Thanksgiving, Ennis (Ledger) awkwardly tells a rodeo story while an electric knife saws through the turkey meat, and Jack (Gyllenhaal) fights with his father-in-law over whether the television should be on during the meal. Both scenes nicely illustrate a feeling of both men feeling out-of-place and alone among their legitimate families.

Four Brothers

(Netflix)

Four Brothers Paramount

(l to r) Garrett Hedlund, André Benjamin, Mark Wahlberg, and Tyrese Gibson avenge the death of their foster mom in Four Brothers.

★★★☆☆

John Singleton’s Thanksgiving-set crime drama Four Brothers (2005) wobbles between realism and movie-ism, but ultimately the chemistry and performances win the day. Foster brothers Bobby (Mark Wahlberg), Angel (Tyrese Gibson), Jeremiah (Andre Benjamin) and Jack (Garrett Hedlund) return home to attend the funeral of their mother (Fionnula Flanagan), who was shot during a convenience store robbery. After eating turkey dinner, they figure out that her death was no accident and begin investigating.

Singleton’s icy, snowy Detroit locations and soulful Motown soundtrack make this feel like a cool throwback to the 1970s. Show-stealer Chiwetel Ejiofor co-stars as a flashy gangster, with Sofia Vergara as Angel’s feisty girlfriend, and Terrence Howard and Josh Charles as a pair of cops.

The New World

(Amazon Prime, Vudu, etc., from $2.99)

The New World New Line

Colin Farrell and Q'orianka Kilcher play doomed lovers in the early days of America in The New World. (New Line)

★★★★★

Terrence Malick’s meandering, poetic telling of the first white settlers in America is probably the best version of the story ever committed to film, although some may prefer Disney’s animated Pocahontas. Set not long after English settlers arrive in Virginia in 1607, The New World (2005) uses its natural surroundings in a profound way, as John Smith (Colin Farrell) meets Pocahontas (Q’orianka Kilcher) and she saves his life. They form a bond and share wondrous little moments, wandering among the trees and grass, lost in each other, shyly touching and teaching each other things.

Then, as it must, civilization encroaches, and even nature seems to become more formed, less wild. Viewers may become impatient with the movie’s murmured, free-verse narration, and certainly the movie was widely misunderstood upon its first release, but those with a little patience or courage will find something special here. Christian Bale and Christopher Plummer co-star.

Art School Confidential

(FilmStruck, Vudu free w/ ads, TubiTV)

Art School Confidential Sony

John Malkovich tries to teach Max Minghella a thing or two in Terry Zwigoff's Art School Confidential.

★★★★☆

Terry Zwigoff followed his critically-acclaimed films Crumb, Ghost World, and Bad Santa with this widely under-appreciated dark comedy. Written by Ghost World’s Daniel Clowes, Zwigoff’s Art School Confidential (2006) tells the cynical story of Jerome (Max Minghella), an artist who longs for acceptance (and women) as much as he wants to be the next Picasso. He arrives at the Strathmore Institute, and falls for model Audrey (Sophia Myles), but finds his thunder being stolen by a handsome outsider (Matt Keeslar).

He tries to learn life lessons from teachers (John Malkovich) and ex-students (Jim Broadbent, who is astounding), while his film student roommate (Ethan Suplee) becomes increasingly obsessed with a local serial killer, the “Strathmore Strangler.” In one brilliant, brief sequence, Jerome returns home for an uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinner. There’s no question this is dark stuff, but it’s quite bracing, and—reading between the lines—it’s hilarious. Joel David Moore, Nick Swardson, Anjelica Huston, Steve Buscemi, Adam Scott, and Scoot McNairy also appear.

Funny People

(Amazon Prime, Vudu, etc., from $2.99)

Funny People Universal

George Simmons (Adam Sandler) leads a humorous/heartwarming Thanksgiving toast in Funny People.

★★★☆☆

Judd Apatow wrote and directed this, one of Adam Sandler’s rare, welcome attempts at acting and playing a real character. In Funny People (2009), he plays George Simmons, a 40-something comic and movie star who has lost his way. When he is diagnosed with terminal leukemia he decides to return to the comedy circuit, and hires up-and-coming comic Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) to be his assistant and gag writer. The two form a meaningful relationship--or at least it might have been more meaningful if Apatow weren’t so obsessed with overstuffing his movie with other characters and star cameos (Jason Schwartzman and Jonah Hill play Ira’s best friends, each with their own storyline).

George also becomes obsessed with his lost love (Leslie Mann) who is now married (to Eric Bana). Regardless of the movie’s extreme length, padding, and endless subplots, it does contain several genuinely touching moments, not least of which is its Thanksgiving scene, packed with talented people (Aubrey Plaza is among the guests).

ThanksKilling

(Amazon Prime, TubiTV)

ThanksKilling Gravitas Ventures

An evil, demonic turkey targets teenagers during their holiday break in the good-bad slasher movie ThanksKilling

★★★☆☆

Sometimes there are good-bad movies, and sometimes there are movies that are just fun to watch because they’re so bad, but Jordan Downey’s ThanksKilling (2009) is designed to look and feel like a bad movie. On purpose. But whether that makes it a good movie, and worth watching, is up to your own personal tastes, and perhaps your holiday alcohol consumption. (The movie’s tagline is “Gobble, Gobble, motherf——r!”)

Basically, there’s a killer turkey (an obvious puppet, never seen in its entirely) that speaks with lots of four-letter words and kills people if they come too close to sacred Indian grounds. Or something. Four teens on the way home for Thanksgiving break anger the creature and spend the rest of the movie being hacked up into bloody pieces. A porn star called Wanda Lust appears as a topless pilgrim in a prologue. It runs only 70 minutes and might be good for a giggle or two. Downey followed it up with ThanksKilling 3 (no, there is no “Part 2”).

Jack and Jill

(Amazon Prime, Vudu, etc., from $2.99)

Jack and Jill Universal

Katie Holmes, Adam Sandler (pictured, as Jill), and Rohan Chand dine on a tense, dismal holiday feast in Jack and Jill. (Sony)

★☆☆☆☆

Watching Adam Sandler in Funny People may provide some warm holiday fuzzies, but it’s unlikely that this horror show will do the same. Jack and Jill (2011) is one of Sandler’s most loathed comedies, sporting a whopping 3-percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Sandler turns in a fairly lazy performance in his role of Jack, a producer of commercials. But then he goes completely crazy (and borderline offensive), in drag, playing Jack’s twin sister Jill, who visits for the holidays.

Jack decides that he can get Jill off his back if he can set her up with a man. He needs Al Pacino to star in a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial, so he taps Al for the job. Curiously, Pacino agreed to play himself in this, and it’s a head-scratchingly unfunny, embarrassing bit of work. For some reason, Katie Holmes plays Jack’s wife. Sandler’s pals David Spade, Tim Meadows, Nick Swardson, Norm MacDonald, Dana Carvey, and Rob Schneider appear in small roles. At least it’s rated PG.

Tower Heist

(Amazon Prime, Vudu, etc., from $2.99)

Tower Heist Universal

Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick, Michael Peña, Casey Affleck, and Eddie Murphy prepare for Thanksgiving Day riches and revenge in Tower Heist.

★★★☆☆

Ben Stiller stars as the manager of a super-expensive New York tower, filled with the wealthiest people in the world. He loves his job, but he is unfortunately fired and decides to take revenge against an evil gazillionaire (Alan Alda), who has a pool with the image of a $100 bill at the bottom, by robbing him in an elaborate way. He teams up with two other recently sacked employees (Casey Affleck and Michael Peña), a fallen Wall Street player (Matthew Broderick), a career criminal (Eddie Murphy), a safe-cracker (Gabourey Sidibe), and a loyal old doorman (Stephen McKinley Henderson). Téa Leoni plays a pretty FBI agent who begins poking around.

It takes place, of course, on Thanksgiving Day with the Macy’s parade (complete with floats and Matt Lauer) going on in the background. Tower Heist (2011) steals from just about every other heist movie ever made, but does it in good cheer; Eddie Murphy in particular is at his fast-talking best, and this is one of his funniest roles. Many good people put in good work on this movie, but it was directed by the soulless Brett Ratner (it’s the only good movie of his career, to my eyes), who was recently accused of several cases of sexual harassment. This behavior is unacceptable, but it will be up to each viewer to decide whether to boycott his work.

Deadfall

(Netflix, Hulu, Hoopla Digital)

18 thanksgiving1 deadfall Universal

Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde play on-the-run siblings in chilly November in the thriller Deadfall.

★★★☆☆

Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky won an Oscar for his Holocaust drama The Counterfeiters, but Deadfall (2012) is nothing like it. It’s a refreshingly effective pulp drama that relies on powerful family relationships, and uses the chilly, snowy terrain to both separate characters and bring them closer together. On Thanksgiving, a brother and sister team, Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde), escape from a successful casino heist, but they accidentally crash their car in a brutal snowstorm.

After Addison is forced to kill a nosy cop, they separate and try to make a run for it through the freezing woods. Liza meets an ex-boxer, Jay (Charlie Hunnam), who has just served a prison sentence for killing a man in the ring, and tries to get herself invited to his parents’ home for Thanksgiving. But more violence is in store. Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson play Jay’s parents, and Kate Mara is a scrappy cop tracking the villains.

Free Birds

(Amazon Prime, Vudu, etc., from $2.99)

Free Birds Relativity Media

Owen Wilson voices "Reggie," a pardoned Thanksgiving turkey who travels through time to change the past in Free Birds.

★★★☆☆

Free Birds (2013) starts off with an interesting idea. Reggie (voiced by Owen Wilson) is a Thanksgiving turkey pardoned by the president who enjoys his newfound freedom, ordering pizzas and watching TV at Camp David. Suddenly, a “spy” turkey, Jake (voiced by Woody Harrelson), appears and coerces him into a crazy plan. They will steal a government time machine, go back in time to the days of the pilgrims, and prevent turkey from ever being on the Thanksgiving menu.

Directed by Jimmy Hayward (Horton Hears a Who!) the movie doesn’t go much further with its idea, and it’s really only about halfway there in terms of humor or excitement, but it could be a lot worse, and it is the only Thanksgiving-themed animated feature out there. Even if it’s not a holiday feast, it still provides a decent amount of festive fun. In a clever touch, George Takei provides the computer voice of the time machine.

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