Archive for September, 2012


Come See The Avengers!

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

Finally, finally, this week the movie that we have been waiting for hits the home theater market.

The Avengers arrives on DVD and Blu-ray. To say we are excited would be an understatement.

This is the one movie my husband did not see this summer although the kids and I went with friends to the drive-in to see it on opening weekend.

And what a powerhouse of performances.

I love Chris Evans as Captain America which is a completely different character from his Johnny Storm in The Fantastic Four.  He pulls together the serious earnest young man who wanted to fight Nazis and became a leader in the process. Robert Downey Jr. continues as the stunningly self-confident Tony Stark . Perhaps my favorite player is Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk in which he is humanized even more than when Bill Bixby played the character on the old TV show.

Poster Image from IMBd.com

The story follows Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) trying to come up with a solution when Loki (Tom Hiddleston) decides he wants to take over Earth with a group of otherworldly warriors. He starts with New York City. But the problem is Fury’s group is there as well. And they are ready to fight back, especially Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who wants to bring his adopted brother back home to Asgard.

But Loki is a fierce opponent. He has more than one weapon to use and his favorite one is discord, creating disturbances within the team. That scene in the flying headquarters is wonderfully tense as the darker parts of each person comes into play. It shows what propels each character and what they control within their soul.

This time I am looking for all of those little things I missed as I was paying attention to the big action scenes. The little details of pictures on the wall and references to other characters or real-life items. My neighbor saw a reference to the ship her son had served during his stint in the Navy. I have read articles about pictures and references  to other Marvel comic characters.

But I also want to see nuances. Such as the scene in which Steve Rogers gives Nick Fury some money for a bet. I could not remember what the bet is about. I want to observe the Hulk’s and Thor’s relationship to understand why the Hulk slams Thor at one point.  I want to watch for the scene all the way at the end of the movie when the whole group is at a diner, simply sharing a meal together.

Perhaps the greatest strength of this movie is the dialogue. There are seven characters that we need to know intimately as well as any secondary characters associated with each. With each interaction, whether in battle or in downtime, we learn a little more that defines these characters. We learn about who they are and who they love and why they act in the manner that they do.

There are precious few perfect movies. But in my book, The Avengers just might be one.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

What is That? Exploding Photo Boxes

I haven’t written about a product for some time. But it has not been for a lack of seeing something.

About a month ago, I found this great new way of scrap-booking for the scrap-booking impaired.

Which would be me. I have photos in boxes all over the place which I always mean to get in a book but never do. My grandmother was able to do this and she had far less conveniences than I do. Makes me feel almost ashamed of myself.

Exploding Photo Album

While at the State Fair, I stumbled upon a booth that had these lovely gift boxes. It was in the entrance way to the Exposition Hall that also had these wooden toys that make the sounds of crickets and frogs.

Wait, I am getting off track. Back to the boxes.

They were in a variety of colors, depending on your theme of choice. We saw ones for pets, Illini, princess, weddings and such.

My daughter might have used the word ‘adorable,’ which she uses a lot, to describe this box. But in this case, she is right, they really are adorable.

Are you still wondering how it is a photo album? It just looks like a very pretty box with a bright bow on top.

The secret is revealed when you lift the lid.

Because, all of a sudden, pages fly out and lie flat. And when you start messing with the pages you begin to realize that the pages flip around so you can have a bunch of different pictures.

You can put it on paper that matched the theme of the album, a person’s favorite color, the color of a room or a specific event.

The other great thing about this is They are willing to do the work for you. That’s right, Amazing pages will take your photos and words to personalize the box for you.

The cost for one of these boxes is $30. That is right, $30 plus shipping. You send in the pictures and any information you want in the photo album.

You get back this great looking photo album that takes up only a little bit of space but is a great conversation starter. This could be a great tool if you have a family member with memory issues or someone who is not well and needs a quick pick-me-up.

When you are done looking at the pictures all you have to do is lift the pages, put the box top back, and put the box wherever you store it.

I love stuff like this.

To find out more information about the Exploding Photo Album and other products, visit the website at www.amazing-pages.com or visit the Facebook page at Amazing Pages.

Reading Challenge – The Paris Wife

Once again I picked up the challenge to read a chick lit book for the reading challenge set by Samantha at Chicklitplus. This month’s book was a bit more work as I went for historical fiction that focused on the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley. It is the second novel by Paula McLain called The Paris Wife.

 

Here is the description from Better World Books:

In Chicago in 1920, Hadley Richardson, a quiet 28-year-old, meets Ernest Hemingway. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris and become the golden couple in a lively group of expats, including Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and Gerald and Sara Murphy. But the hard-drinking and fast-living cafe life doesn’t celebrate traditional notions of family and monogamy. As Hadley struggles with self-doubt and jealousy and Ernest wrestles with his burgeoning writing career, they must confront a deception that could prove the undoing of one of the greatest romances in history.

Image from Better World Books.com

So we get to see inside the life of Hemingway and his first wife who had a few inheritances that provided for their life overseas. This allowed Hemingway to work without having to earn a living most of the time. He did work for a few publications but his temperament was not made for working in an office and playing politics.

What we see is Hadley’s viewpoint as a woman who believed that her love had real talent that needed to be worked at and tempered. As they move to Paris and begin to meet other writers, Ernest shares some of his conversation with Hadley about literature. That part is fascinating for me to see how Gertrude Stein influenced him.

What is heart-breaking is to see how Hemingway did not value Hadley as the story moves on. I could not tell if he actually felt guilt for the affairs, the crushes, the heartbreak he would cause Hadley. Then again, I am not sure he thought about much else than his own needs and wants.

Hadley describes how the man changes over the years that they are in Paris, how he goes from being neat and clean-shaven to a man proud to be in his shabby jacket and long hair. Perhaps by this time he felt like a real ex-patriot and therefore had to dress/look the part.  she is not comfortable with these changes but realizes that he is exploring a new persona as he develops his talent and grows in success.

Photo by Bob Perkoski, Image from Freshwatercleveland.com

This book is supposed to be about Hadley, her thoughts and feelings during her time as ‘the Paris wife.’ But what I found it to be was more about what Hadley thought about Ernest, how he did everything, how he saw things, how he was the center of her world. And that includes life after Bumbly was born.

But I have to keep reminding myself in what era this book was written. Women were not expected to have a ‘life’ outside of marriage. Considering the years Hadley spent being depressed after the death of a favorite sister and the suicide of her father followed by taking care of a sick mother, I am surprised she had any will left at all.

Strangely enough, once she meets Ernest and they fall in love, Hadley has the will the drive to live differently than what would have been expected of her by her family.

Paula McLain has written a book that captures the time period, the players, the emotions of the time. We can hear the music, taste the alcohol, and see the running of the bulls. In the beginning, we see how these two crazy kids fall for each other as they have both come from families with difficult histories.

While slow at times, I found the book to be very interesting as I entered a world I had studied but never quite understood while I was in school. The wildness of the era, the constant drinking, the need to be ‘bohemian,’ the talent that constantly flowed like a springtime mountain stream.

To be honest, I would read this book again. That is the highest compliment I can give it.

Some books I don’t care if I ever see again after the initial reading. This one makes me want to explore it again while listening to music from that era. Afterwards, I will find Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris just so I can look for the references I missed the first time.

Who wants to join me for a trip back to 1920s Paris?

Editor’s Note: While researching more about Hemingway and Hadley, I also read boards on “Hemingway and Gellhorn” which is a movie about his third marriage to the legendary war correspondent.  One poster stated that all of Hemingway’s wives latched onto to him for his fame and money. However, in the case of Hadley, it was Hemingway who latched on to her. She had some money and an emotional stability to help settle him while he was beginning his craft. She believed in his talent before he was published as a novelist or knew Stein, Ezra Pound or even Sherwood Anderson. 

I realize that Hemingway is a hero to many but he was a pill to live with – as we see in this novel and other biographical anecdotes. Maybe the later wives ‘latched on’ to him but it did not take much persuading either. 

Revisiting 1950s Movies

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

As Pumpkin Fest gets closer and it is time to create a costume for the scarecrow, I have to admit I am a bit stymied.

I keep thinking about 1950 fashions with those great wide skirts and soft cashmere sweaters. But I am not putting that sweater on a scarecrow that is going to be outside in all sorts of weather.

While I am trying to go through clothing options what I have, I have to admit there are some movies that rolled through my head almost iummediately.

One of the most popular teen movies from the 1950s is Rebel Without A Cause in which there is a new boy in town who has a tendancy to find trouble. But of course, right away he find a girl who understands him and wants to be by his side. This is one of the three movies that made James Dean into a Hollywood legend before his tragic early death. Natalie Wood stars as the girl who loves him.

This next selection might be harder to find but it used to be a classic on late night TV as the star of the movie became a huge TV star on Bonanza, Ponderosa, Little House on the Prairie and Higway to Heaven. I was a Teenage Werewolf starred Michael Landon as a new kid in town with a hot temper. When a fight leads to an appointment with a psychologist, the teen discovers too later that the doctor is really a mad scientist. Things go from bad to worse after that but this movie is great campy fun.

The 50s were a strange time in which we feared nuclear destruction which lead some film makers to create all sorts of monster movies. Godzilla always comes to mind for me as Tokeyo is once again destroyed by various creatures that have grown to ginourmous size about being hit with radiation. Another monster movie from the era was The Blob in which a gelatinous mass tries to absorb the community after coming from outer space. Perhaps one of the best horror/thriller movies from this era might be Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Once again we are being invaded by aliens. But this time they are able to replicate humans and take our lives away.

The fear and suspicion of the era wasn’t just about what could come from outside of our planet. Alfred Hitchcock played on the suspicion we felt about the people around us with Rear Window as Jimmy Stewart’s housebound photographer who starts to wonder if his neighbor has killed his wife. Hitchcock’s 1951 movie, Strangers on a Train, focused on the fears of a mad man that Farly Granger meets on a train as he is trying to figure out how to get his wife to divorce him so Granger can marry the woman who is his true love. The merry-go-round scene still gives me a thrill.

Thankfully, not all movies focused on our fears. Some went out of their way to be crazy fun. This was the era of the musical. One of my favorites is Guys and Dolls which stars Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando as two gamblers who are trying to find a way to get a place for a big game that is hosting a gambler not known for his kindness and generosity. It involves a Slavation Army-type girl in Jean Simmons and show girl Vivian Blaine. But for me the show-stopping number is “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat.”

However, that is not the best musical of the ear. That honor goes to Singin’ In The Rain starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Conner. The story is about the movie industry as it changes over from silent movies to sound. But really the film is built around a collection of songs. One of my favorites is the “Make ‘em Laugh” dance routine with Donald O’Conner and a variety of props.

Do you have a favorite movie from the 1950s?

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

As summer winds down, I am happy for cooler nights.

I am so happy to be able to sleep at night. Even the heat does not seem as oppressive. And it seems like there are all sorts of reminders of movies that we should watch.

The other day I was in the grocery store when the overhead radio began to play the title song from the musical “Grease” with Frankie Valli singing lead. I began singing along under my breath and remembered how much we loved this movie back in the late 70s.

The story is about a new girl at Rydell High School who had a summer romance with a boy who turns out to be the biggest ‘bad’ boy at the school. They meet again and realize they still have feelings. But, of course, there are obstacles and the wonderful Stockard Channing keeps everything from being too sweet.

Olivia Newton John stars as the naïve Sandy while John Travolta stunned us as Danny. You can see a lot of people having fun and singing songs with a 1950s groove, except for the title song. That was written by Barry Gibbs of the BeeGees and is just plain fun.

As I walked the dog last night, my neighbor pointed out the beautiful moon to me. It was full and bright. I was trying to find the lady of the moon and had a hard time at it. But it reminded me of Moonstruck starring Cher as a widow with a tragic past who is recently engaged. She does not love Danny Aiello but thinks she can make a good life with him.

However, her fiancée has to go back to Italy to visit his dying mother. Before leaving, he asks Cher to contact his brother and invite him to the wedding. Nicholas Cage is the brother with a tragic past who owns a bakery and loves opera. Meanwhile, her parents are facing hurdles as Dad is in the throws of a new affair and Mom tries to be stoic about it until she is not.

The movie is set in the middle of a cold New York City winter when the moon seems to shimmer just a little bit more. I love this movie because every scene is a gem, perfection really. I find myself laughing and crying with these characters that are down-to-earth and larger-than-life all at the same time.  It might help that I enjoy a good opera every now and again.

Teens can watch both movies, kids can take in Grease. But if you are looking for something that is a little more ‘kid friendly’ there are two choices.

The first is The Pirates: Band of Misfits voiced by Hugh Grant and Salma Hayak as this band of no-gooders try for the ‘Pirate of the Year’ award. The other movie that shows potential is Chimpanzee which is a documentary narrated by Tim Allen that follows Oscar, a baby chimp who lives with his mother and other group members in Africa.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Let me make this statement right here, right now.

Until the end of this election season, I am not speaking to another person about politics if the conversation is going to be laced with name calling and blatant untruths.

I have seen Facebook posts with warning of “heil Obama” days to come. I have seen pictures with Obama’s head in a noose. I have read disparaging comments about he and his wife in regards to their privileged upbringings. Considering that Michelle Obama did not grow up in the rich black neighborhood of Pill Hill, that is a real laugh (sarcasm).

I have had enough of the negativity, the name calling and the flat-out untruths. I am tired of every conversation with a person on the other side of the aisle becoming a shouting match as they call the president a Muslim, anti-American, anti-colonist/capitalism, everything but the n-word. There are the words, spitted out in disgust, that we do not need a Harvard-schooled lawyer (like Mitt Romney).

I do not talk about how the Republican candidate believes in a sham religion that has drippings of Christianity but it all about the “tablets” Joseph Smith said he dug up and translated. I do not bring up the fact that Mitt’s dad was born in Mexico (but considered an American because his parents had dual citizenship) and that might not make Mitt a viable citizen. Does this mean that Mitt was an anchor baby for his parents?

Explain to me why I want to go back to the policies of the party that did their best to bankrupt our country during their last tenure, that did not do any work to make things better. Their goal for the last four years have appeared to be to block the president at every turn so that at this juncture they can say look at what Obama didn’t get done. 

See how easy it was to got ‘there?’ I felt a little power just then throwing out untruths or half-truths. No wonder Karl Rove loved/loves doing it so much.

If you have to call names and lie about your point in order to ‘win,’ do you really think that is a good reflection on your own character? You have just made yourself unnecessary in my eyes. When Fox News comes out and points out all of the inaccuracies in a Republican speech, there might be some issues with that party. When news agencies scour over Bill Clinton’s speech and cannot find any inaccuracies  there might be a reason why.

I don’t understand the over-top hatred for Obama unless you trace it back to racism or jealousy. Why jealousy you ask? Because Barack Obama did not come from a family of means. His family on his mother’s side can be traced back to Plymouth although not the Mayflower but it is not as if they are rolling in the dough. Like Bill Clinton, he was a nobody who through hard work became a somebody.

So if you are looking to have a reasonable discussion about presidential politics that will not degenerate into name calling, you can talk to me. If you are looking to goad me into an argument, well, I will try not to rise up to the bait. (Yes, I am talking about you, insert name)

And if you think thing are really worse now then they were four years ago, take a look at this story.

Meanwhile, I am going back to my la-la land of progressive thought where the shouting is in the form of  ‘hurrahs’ and there are not crazy conspiracy theories that involve every county clerk in the nation keeping the right to vote from military personal with absentee ballots. That way, I will not get riled up, I will sleep better at night and have a peaceful frame of mind during the day.

How are you spending the rest of the election season?

 

 

 

What is your favorite time-wasting addiction?

Mine is Words With Friends.

I play it early and often. Like many people who play, I have the usual suspects of ether people who play a round-robin starting from the time I get up until I play my last words before bed.

What I love is that most of these people play just as hard as I do. My favorite opponent, zgrandmom, beats me by at least 100 points all of the time. Except for the few times I have beaten her.

Image by Rode To Hell

Once I got her by one point, another found me thirty points ahead. Some of it was luck and some was good wordplay at the right time.  Our next game after those wins features a setting back as you would not believe.

There are other opponents who are at my level. We go back and forth over the victory but the battle is worthwhile. That is what makes it fun.

The frustrating part is when I come across people who don’t seem to play as hard. You know, the ones who swap tiles 3 or 4 time a game. Or they pass a lot. Or they quit the game when you finally can pull off a terrific but terrifying word.

I lost one opponent when I played “tantric.” I reveled as I placed it on a double double word score line. The points were unbelievable!

That is till I checked and saw the other player has given up. She simply did not play anymore until the game faded.

Another opponent kept swapping tile. I have had bad tiles before but when you change them three times in the space of six moves either you are an idiot who does not know how to play or your eye for pattern really sucks. I told one person to stop swapping because I was going to take advantage of them and get a really high score. This was after I was 100 points ahead. They resigned the game shortly thereafter.

Cowards.

To be honest, when I have lost once again to zgrandmom or Etay at least I know I have been challenged. I know these ladies (I assume) are going to battle it out to the last letter. Chances are I am going to learn a few new words or combinations that will win a game later on down the road. They will not give up, change tiles or get scared off by a slightly naughty and difficult word.

If it were poker, these women would show me how they were going to up the kitty with complete aplomb.

So bring it on because chances are I have a whole bunch of constants without an available vowel on the board. And I am bucking for that triple word score!!!

Are you ready to go against me?

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