Howl's_Moving_Castle_Bluray_snapshotBy Erin Caine

Lifestyle Editor

Though for some it may feel like the semester began only a short while ago, we’re now on the final stretch and heading toward winter break.

Of course, before break can begin in earnest, you probably have finals and essays and projects to worry about. Understandably, stress levels are up and schedules are packed.

When you can find time for a break, however, here are some feel-good films to ease the angst:

1. “The Princess Bride” (1987). Few films are as enduring, or as quotable, as the romping romantic comedy “The Princess Bride,” directed by Rob Reiner.

The story of the characters’ many escapades is actually a fairy tale narrated by an old man to his sick (and at first unenthusiastic) grandson.

The dialogue between the characters is full of wit and charm, and there’s never a dull moment in a movie that jumps between pirates, duels, romance, revenge, and daring rescues.

The story, itself, is full of many perils and oddities, but beneath all that is a genuinely heartfelt film about love and camaraderie. By the end of it, the grandfather has managed to connect to his grandson, and the grandson is eager to hear the whole story over again.

2. “Howl’s Moving Castle” (2004). Directed by the masterful Hayao Miyazaki, “Howl’s Moving Castle” is a vivid and whimsical adaptation of a 1986 fantasy novel by Dianna Wynne Jones.

It follows the unassuming but strong-willed Sophie Hatter, a young woman turned into an old crone by a witch. She sets out on a journey to break her curse, and eventually meets the vain wizard Howl and his fantastical moving castle.

Though the story is set against a backdrop of war and political turmoil, Sophie’s discovery of her own self-worth and inner strength take center stage.

The film, itself, is as visually gorgeous and mesmerizing as any work by Studio Ghibli, taking us from idyllic seaside towns to bustling cities to breathtaking flower fields in an instant.

The warmth of the film shines through in its message of compassion over violence—everyone in the film is capable of positive change, even the villains.

3. “The Way, Way Back” (2013). This comedy-drama film centers on 14-year-old Duncan as he reluctantly spends the summer in the beach house of his mother’s new boyfriend.

Feeling like an outcast, Duncan rides his bike over to the local waterpark and discovers, along with a few new and eccentric friends, a place where he feels like he belongs.

Perhaps the most heartwarming part about the movie is the relationship between Duncan and an employee of the waterpark, Owen, who takes Duncan under his wing and becomes like a big brother or father figure to the socially awkward and isolated Duncan.

It’s uplifting to see Duncan come out of his shell with the help of his new friends, and he even works up the nerve to ask out the girl he has a crush on, Susanna.

Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times called the film “witty, heartwarming, hopeful, sentimental, searing, and relatable.”

4. “Dreamgirls” (2006). Few musical films have the same vigor and emotional impact as “Dreamgirls,” adapted from a 1981 Broadway musical of the same name.

Any film, though, that boasts both Beyoncé Knowles and Jennifer Hudson in its cast list is one almost certain to blow audiences away.

The story follows three soul singers in a girl group—Effie (Hudson), Deena (Knowles), and Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose)—trying to make it big in the industry, and fighting every step of the way to preserve that dream.

The musical numbers are sometimes hard-hitting and flashy, other times tender and poignant. And the underlying story, which rests on the powerful bond between three women chasing a shared dream, is compelling on its own.

Though the film often delves into the corrupt underbelly of the music industry, you never doubt that The Dreams will, in the end, persevere and stand together in the spotlight.

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