Tag Archive: Family Movie Night


Dying Young

Family Movie Night

 

by Karyn Bowman

 

Hollywood actors come and go.

 

Paul Walker F&FThey lose popularity, make some bad film choices that make people want to forget them, or die young.

 

When I heard the news about Paul Walker over the weekend, I knew that fans of the Fast and Furious franchise would be sad to see the passing of this man. He was the rock of the series, the one character who didn’t seem crazy. He held it all together even during the worst of times.

 

Walker also had a reputation of being a good guy off of the movie set as well. I read one story in which he paid for the wedding ring of a soldier’s bride-to-be when he noticed the couple were having difficulties paying for one while in a jewelry store. The toy drive and charitiable event he was at on Saturday was to help survivors of the typhoon that ripped through the Philippines.

Paul Walker Eight below

One movie critic friend, Peter Sobczynski, wrote on RogerEbert.com/Balder and Dash about how Walker gave a good interview for a so-so movie while sick with a viral illness. Sobczynski stated that Walker was more gracious than he had to be while talking about some of his goals for the future. Could have Walker matured into an A-list actor? The possibility was there.

 

At my house, it seems that should a Fast and Furious movie be on any TV network it will appear on my TV. My husband, who is not mechanical whatsoever and not much of a car guy period, will stop and watch this series no matter what. It was this series that propelled Walker to fame but he was no over-night-success.

 

Walker started acting as a child, slowly making he was through TV shows and made-for-TV movies. The Young and the Restless fans might remember him as Brandon Collins. Appearances in Pleasantville, She’s All That, and Varsity Blues built as career as a solid actor.

 

The movie I remember him for, other than the big franchise, was Eight Below. It is a story about a guide in Antarctica who is forced to leave his sled dogs during the bitterest part of winter due to a major storm. Walker spend the rest of the movie trying to find a way back to rescue his animals. It is a movie based on a true story that was sad and sweet in many ways.

 

Paul Walker HoursWalker has one movie scheduled for release this month called Hours in which he plays a man trying to save his newborn child during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Another movie, Brick Mansions, is scheduled for release in 2014. At the time of his death, the seventh Fast and Furious movie was in production. Vin Diesel has expressed his grief at the loss of a close cast mate but it will be in his hands as how the franchise moves forward.

 

In the meantime, expect a Fast and Furious marathon. Or better yet, rent some of Walker’s other movies to remember another talent gone too soon.

 

 

Until next week, see you in the Rental Aisle.

 

Family Movie Night

 

by Karyn Bowman

When the date for the opening night of Catching Fire, the second movie in the Hunger Games series was published, my daughter wrote it on the calendar.

 

Image from Hunger Games Catching Fire Wikia

Image from Hunger Games Catching Fire Wikia

We were going to the midnight screening and that was all there was to that.

 

That is until we found out we could go see the movie at 9 pm instead of midnight. I was happy for that since I worked the next day.

 

I have read the books and know what to expect. The story continues from the last movie in which Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) must now live as victors and go on tour. They must continue pretending to be in love or risk the lives of their loved ones.

 

But all around them, rebellion is on the rise. They can only watch as people are killed for believing in the hope of rising against the capitol. What can the government do but propose another Hunger Games for the 75th Anniversary in which past tributes are reaped for the games.

 

The acting is tremendous. Jena Malone made me forget she was ever in Pride and Prejudice. Donald Sutherland continues his great performance as the wicked and devious President Snow. Jeffrey Wright shines as Beetee. Philip Seymour Hoffman is simply perfect. I was enthralled most of the time despite having read the books and knowing what to expect.

 

For those people who have not seen the first movie or ever bothered to read the books, you may be wondering if this is a stand-alone movie. Let me be honest, it is not. It is the second movie in a four-film series. If you are new to the series, I strongly suggest renting Hunger Games before you go see Catching Fire. Relationships between the various characters will make sense to you once you do as will the reason for the games in the first place.

 

That said, I can only tell you that with an increased budget, you will notice better sets, cinematography, and costuming. The world portrayed in this story is still bleak but interesting as hope filters down to the oppressed districts. The movie does what it sets out to do – propel the story while giving us the battle scenes from the games. 

 

 

Image from Hunger Games Catching Fire Wikia

Haymitch’s house, Image from Hunger Games Catching Fire Wikia

What intrigues me is the mix of eras in this movie. Design of the homes is Victorian while societal norms appear to be Depression era. The computer technology is farther along than we are now but they still use coal for heat and fueling factories. Costuming also appears to be a mix of eras although anything from the Capital seems to go for the most outlandish things possible.

 

I have to admit I would love to see this movie one more time on the big screen in order to catch details of what I might have missed as well as to enjoy the spectacle. And if I do, I would take no one younger than ten because I believe the context of this movie is meant for those who are an older pre-teen and up. It deals with issues of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, government corruption on a large scale, and how people deal with stress in times of oppression.

Catching Fire Hunger games poster 4

It was a near perfect movie that slows in the middle till it picks up again and we are back on that roller coaster ride of thrills.

 

Until next week, see you in the Rental Aisle.

 

Fighting the Ban

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

While preparing for this week’s column, I remembered that it is Banned Books Week.

There are many freedoms we think about on a regular basis, but the freedom to pick and choose what reading material or other mediums of expression we want to consume is something dear to my heart.

Movie Poster Image from IMDb.com

Movie Poster Image from IMDb.com

Every year the American Library Association puts out a list of books that have been challenged and it never ceases to amaze me what is being challenged. Books such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Huck Finn, The Hunger Games, and Where’s Waldo.

The problem with with the first two is that they use language appropriate to the time period in which they are set that is no longer deemed appropriate in polite or mixed-race company. The Hunger Games is brutally violent in places. But what these three books and the Harry Potter series points out is the wrongs of bullying, racism, and tyrannical governments. They name the wrongs in our societies, display them for all to see and understand.

Sometimes it is hard for us to look at those ugly aspects. But if we are to become better as a society, we must view them and change accordingly.

Knowing what I was going to write about reminded me of stories my mother used to tell from her growing up years in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. The Catholic kids would pay the protestant kids to see the biblical movies of the time because the Catholic Church had forbidden their parishioners from attending. The thought was these movies glamorized the bible stories, sexed them up a bit, and that was not appropriate viewing for anyone.

She talked about seeing Samson and Delilah along with The Ten Commandments. Other flicks from this time include David and Bathsheba, The Robe, Ben Hur, and Solomon & Sheba. In recent times, I have seen protests against The Passion of the Christ and The Last Temptation of Christ.

Poster Image from IMDb.com

Poster Image from IMDb.com

While I understand that some of these movies may not portray the picture of the bible as some people may want, I also understand that much – not all- of what is portrayed is fairly accurate for the time period. I, personally, can never watch The Passion ever again because of the level of violence in it but nor can I deny its ability to tell the story well.

When it comes to reading material or movies that kids in your family want to consume but makes you feel uncertain, I suggest reading or watching the movie/TV show first without them around. Knowing what is in that medium helps you direct the conversation as to why or why not you will allow your child to have that material.

In the end, I do not recommend banning books because you make the undesirable into something irresistible. Especially for people like me who want to know what made a book targeted for banning. When I found out Where’s Waldo was on the list because there was ‘reportedly’ a topless woman in a beach scene, I searched through that first book in the series.

I have yet to find her.

Until next week, see you in the Rental Aisle.

Looking for a Good Mystery

Family Movie Night

 

by Karyn Bowman

 

Do you have a favorite type of book or movie?

 

Book Denise SwansonFor me, it is mysteries. Love them, can’t get enough of them. I am happy to read a number of book series including Denise Swanson’s Scumble River series featuring school psychologist Skye Dennison.

 

So how did I develop my love of mysteries? It started with Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes in the movie series of the 1930s and 1940s. Perhaps it was because Sherlock was always certain, always sure. He was always a gentleman with the ladies, always stand up with the men. And Dr. Watson as portrayed by Nigel Bruce seemed to be a bit of a lovable bumbler. It made me wonder why such a sharp man would want to have Watson around unless it was because Sherlock never had to work hard to understand him.

 

 

Poster Image from IMDb.com

Poster Image from IMDb.com

Since the movies with Robert Downey Jr. that was directed by Guy Ritchie, it seems that we are in the middle of a Sherlock revival. The BBC has a new Sherlock series starring Benedict Cumberbatch who lives in modern day London. Martin Freeman plays Watson as a wounded war veteran who pretends he wants a boring life but is energized with every case Sherlock drags him on.

 

In America, we have Elementary starring Johnny Lee Miller as the consulting detective who recently came out of rehab. His Dr. Watson is played by Lucy Liu starting off as his ‘sober companion’ but has now become his colleague. She, too, is excited about the cases Sherlock follows, but more importantly she cares about Sherlock as a friend.

 

In the movie starring Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Dr. Watson, the time frame is in late Victorian England but we see the rougher and dirtier parts where Sherlock solves his crimes and finds relaxation through boxing. Law plays Watson as a smart man with a gambling problem who is frustrated by Sherlock and yet needs to protect the detective.

 

 

Poster Image from IMDb.com

Poster Image from IMDb.com

What all three have in common is that some of the layers of truly gentleman-like behavior have been stripped away from Sherlock. He is capable of having manners but he is so focused on the task at hand that using those manners fall by the wayside. This might strike some as completely rude behavior or perhaps a hint of Asperger’s Syndrome on the Autism spectrum. Some might call it being book smart and street dumb. I doubt that last remark because all three versions of Sherlock could take care of themselves if left on the streets alone.

 

In the kitchen is another matter entirely.

 

One thing I have been told is once you have seen Cumberbatch play Holmes, it will be hard to go back to watching Miller play Holmes on the CBS TV show. Well, I believe that one should not necessarily judge one version against another. You must judge how each version operates, you must judge the show by the rules it lives by, and if that version does what it sets out to do.

 

The goal of each of these new versions is to bring Sherlock Holmes to life with a modern sensibility of how people emotionally work. Two of these series makes it clear that Holmes uses hard drugs to find peace. All three show a man who is rude and abrasive but not totally devoid of human feelings. All three show a man who loves a challenging puzzle and works hard to solve it. All three show a man who has managed to attach one friend who is willing to go the distance for him.

 

To see that character fully formed is why I watch whichever version of the enigmatic Sherlock Holmes I can find.

 

 

Until next week, see you in the Rental Aisle.

 

Did That Really Happen?

Family Movie Night
By Karyn Bowman
When one of your favorite critics says something that goes against your basic judgment in a movie, it makes you wonder why you like this critic in the first place.
I assume that people have that feeling about me when I give a thumbs up for a raunchy comedy. I love those things because they make me laugh and laugh hard.
The problem might be that critics are people, too. When we go into a movie we might try to not have any preconceptions but it is difficult. Especially if the movie is a remake, a continuation of a series or based off of the writings of Nicholas Sparks.
Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

When I went to the screening room on a regular basis, I can tell you the room was filled with men. When it came to romantic comedies or romantic dramas, well, their eyes would roll to the back of their heads.

Why do we have to watch this piece of crap?”
Which is my sentiment exactly on most – but not all – Adam Sandler movies.
I bring this all up because the husband and I recently watched the date-night flick, Safe Haven starring Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel. The movie started its life as a Nicholas Sparks book in which a woman leaves her old life and runs away to North Carolina where she meets a great guy and falls in love. She has a secret and he is a widower with two kids.
When I read Richard Roeper’s review several months back, he made the comment that the last ten minutes tells you a lead character is either crazy or stupid. While the rest of the movie would have received two and a half stars from him, this last portion sent his rating down, down, down. It made me curious, but because I am not a Nicholas Sparks fan I was not willing to pick up the movie for the last ten minutes.
This past weekend, I told the husband to rent something while I recovered from working a rummage sale. So he picks up this movie thinking it might be a romantic comedy. I tried to be fair, waiting for the not-so-happily-ever-after moment that seem to accompany all Nicholas Sparks movies.
When that does not happen, I am surprised. This turns out to be a nice little crime/romantic drama in the same manner of Sleeping With The Enemy without the annoying dress-up scene. But then the last ten minutes happen and I have to judge if this makes the one character a crazy person. Does it change the whole tone of the movie?
Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

The answer is yes because there are some questions that were not answered for me. There were some issues that needed clarification that I did not get. It doesn’t ruin the whole movie for me nor do I understand Roeper’s completely overboard reaction. Perhaps it depends on how you accept the supernatural in your life, perhaps it depends how you think this event adjusts the rules of the movie.

Every movie is based on a set of rules, the ones that determine how the world works in the story. Vampires burn up in the sun, one person rules the town with an iron fist, two people hang out in different crowds and should not mix with each other. A movie goes wrong when the rules no longer matter and no longer direct the story.
Safe Haven changes one rule at the very end of the movie. But it was a rule that was somewhat consistently followed throughout the movie, we just did not know it. Does it ruin the movie? Not in my eyes but then again I live with a ghost dog in my house. I am used to life not always being what it seems.
Until next week, see you in the rental aisle. 

A few weeks ago, I got into a dust-up on IMDb.com with someone who stated he could name 30 better animated movies that Despicable Me 2.

Normally, this would not bother me until the idiot put up a list. A list that was very incomplete and did not even include anything from Studio Ghibli.

So I am starting my own list of animated movies that are some of the best in regards to being a complete package type of movie coupled with animation style/techniques.  This list is subjective and based on what I have actually watched. I wish I could say they are in order of what I think is the best But I know some of the ones at the bottom should be closer to the top. But the next dilemma is who goes lower and that is not a question I want to answer today.

I am not explaining or defending any choice until the comment section, should anyone want to have that discussion.

Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

1. The Incredibles

2. Spirited Away

3. Toy Story Series

4. The Iron Giant

5. My Neighbor Totoro

6. Snow White

7. Cinderella

8. Beauty and the Beast

9. The Jungle Book

10. Shrek

11. The Adventures of Tin-Tin

12. Howl’s Moving Castle

13. The Lion King

14.  Fantasia

15. Tarzan

16. Up

17. Sleeping Beauty

18. Kung Fu Panda

19.  Ponyo

20. Aladdin

Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

21. Dumbo

22. Wallace and Gromit

23. Monsters, Inc.

24. The Nightmare Before Christmas

25. Coraline

26. James and the Giant Peach

27. Lilo and Stitch

28. The Rescuers

29. Monsters Vs. Aliens

30. Finding Nemo

What movies do you rank as some of the best in animation?

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

When Hollywood people die, it is always heard that they passed too young.

In the case of Cory Monteith, one of the stars of Glee that is true. The 31-year-old actor had been a star for the last four years because of the Fox TV show that featured musical song-and-dance numbers. His character, Finn, may have been a bit dim in the brain but quite the sweetheart.

Cory Monteith with Kevin McHale, Image from IMDb.com

Cory Monteith with Kevin McHale, Image from IMDb.com

The Canadian actor had started branching out into movies recently. His last role was that of a young man dealing with the aftermath of trauma and Monteith felt he could bring something dark to the role considering his past drug use. The movie is called All The Wrong Reasons and word is the film is heading to the Toronto Film Festival in September.

Monteith struggled with drug addictions for the last 15 or so years. Families who deal with that know how hard it is to watch a love one fight and not be able to help that person. There is no word yet how Monteith’s death will be dealt with on the show but I hope they give him a huge sendoff.

On Monday afternoon as I was trying to get something done, my husband announced that Dennis Farina passed away at the age of 69. Maybe you recognize Farina from his days on Law and Order, maybe you recognize him from his days on Crime Story. Farina played mob guys or cops and he did it well. The former Chicago police officer was a tough talker who was ready to throw a punch when he had to do it. But playing one sort of character can lead to typecasting for an actor and soon enough, Farina was more of a side character than the featured role.

Perhaps his most well-known part was that of Ray ‘Bones” Barboni in Get Shorty, a movie based on an Elmore Leonard novel of the same name. It was a tough role in which Farina plays a South Florida mobster looking for the Shylock he does not like who now lives in California.

Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

But this was not his reportedly best movie. That came nearly 20 years later when he starred in The Last Rites of Joe May. The story follows a down-on-his-luck low-level gangster who has always believed that good fortune is around the corner. When the man is diagnosed with a terminal illness, one would think he would finally feel down. That is until he believes that good fortune may once more be waiting for him.

If anything, the legacy of Dennis Farina is that you can be an ordinary guy and find your dream. He was good-looking enough and talented enough to get into a movie here and there until he wound up on a poplar TV show. Then came more movies, more TV shows, and special projects. It took a lot of work, a lot of perseverance. But if that is your dream, isn’t that what you will do to make it happen?

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Makeover at the Movies

Family Movie Night

 

by Karyn Bowman

 

How do you feel when an old favorite movie gets a makeover?

 

 

Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

I was thinking about this as my husband made plans to see The Lone Ranger at the drive-in. He is planning to take us to a double feature that also includes Man of Steel, the latest vision of Superman.

 

Both movies represent something from my childhood. Both movies present former heroes in a new light. And to be honest, I am not sure I want to see these movies.

 

I grew up with Clayton Moore playing the former Texas Ranger out to find justice. By his side was Jay Silverheels as Tonto. My brother and I watched the old serial episodes on Channel 9. It didn’t matter that we had seen many of the episodes time and time again. We loved them and played out the episodes in the yard.

 

So imagine my surprise when I saw the first renderings of Johnny Depp as Tonto. The white face and dark eyes along with the strange crow hat made me wonder just what Depp was doing? Would this be the ruin of the new movie or something interesting? It makes me wonder how far into the metaphysical world would director Gore Verbinski dip into in order to bring a different story to the big screen.

 

 

Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

And then there is Man of Steel. The story of Superman’s escape from a dying planet is the same but like never before Clark is aware that he has to hide his powers. Like never before he is aware of what makes him different and that fact is not going to be lightly glossed over. He cannot reveal his difference because people will not take the time to understand him.

 

Should we have pondered this before? I mean, why else does someone choose to leave their family on the farm to go to New York? Perhaps, it is why most people leave the farm and head to the big city – they hate the farm. A lot of people have done this in the past and no one gave it a second thought. Who wants to stay on a farm when they can be the big cheese elsewhere?

 

But what we love about Superman are his small town values. We love that he wants to help people, right wrongs and help America remain free. He fights for Truth, Justice and the American Way. He helps the little guy and children while protecting the Earth from outside force.

 

Recently, my 16-year-old watched Superman 4 in which Superman is working for World Peace and Lex Luthor is trying to destroy him. I forgot about some of the awful fashions but I also forgot the wistfulness of Superman and Luthor’s out-and-out greed.

 

Can I bear to see Superman/Clark Kent portrayed by someone other than Christopher Reeves and believe that person is Superman? Will I be able to watch Johnny Depp’s version of Tonto and not snicker – too much? I am not sure. But after Wednesday night, I might have an answer for you.

 

Until Next Week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night
by Karyn Bowman
This past weekend the husband and I got out to see a band over at the bowling alley. We are friends with one of the members of the band and our son plays in a band with the son of another member.
While their mix of covers run the gamut of rock-and-roll and country music from the 60s through the 90s, my growing up years, they also throw in newer songs. This was my first time hearing “The Boys ‘Round Here” by Blake Sheldon and it was a crowd pleaser as was “Wipeout” by the Safaris.
Hearing so many great tunes by a band who knows that their job is to please the audience and play a tight set really made our night.
But it also led to me thinking about my favorite movies about country singers. These movies are one that can be watched with the teens in the family, many of them talk about the harsh aspects of life that can drag a person down no matter how much success they have attained.
While it seems as if Country music leads to sad stories and addiction in many forms, sadly that is the life for musicians of a variety of genres. Look at the great jazz singer Billie Holiday. Her story is depicted in the movie Lady Sings the Blues and stars Diana Ross.
Her childhood is certainly not idyllic and her adult life was filled drama and chaos fueled by her drug addiction. But the woman could sing with disarming emotion.
Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

A few years ago Jeff Bridges starred as a broken down country star in Crazy Heart. The movie follows his romance with a younger woman who is an aspiring music journalist. The man has to decide how to find sobriety while living a life on the road and having young bucks such as Colin Ferrell taking away his spotlight.

It is a heart rendering movie filled with good music and great performances. Maggie Gyllenhall is wonderful as the love interest but Robert Duvall steals every single scene.
Then again, Duvall knows this territory well since he starred in Tender Mercies in 1988 about an alcoholic country singer who loses everything in his life. When he agrees to work for a widow and live by her request that he not drink while doing it, life begins to change.
This movie, more than any, other reminds me of George Jones. Jones died this past spring and probably no one was more surprised than he was to have made it to the age of 81. Jones was a notorious addict to alcohol and cocaine. When people did not call him ‘Possum,’ they called him ‘No-Show-Jones.’
It is my understanding that there a movie in the works on the life of Jones but no one has been signed to play Jones. What a story it will be from his many marriages, his personal and professional relationship with Tammy Wynette, his comeback in the 80s, and his battle against addiction.
Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

One of my other favorite bio pics is Coal Miner’s Daughter starring Sissy Spacek. This movie follows the rise of Loretta Lynn who became a singing sensation in her early 20s. I am a sucker for a woman who can tell it like it is and sometimes make stupid mistakes. Sadly, they do not show anything from when she and Conway Twitty were singing together and that is a real shame.

Until Next Week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

It is that time of year again despite the rain and the cold.

I might mean summer time in general but in specific I am talking about the movies with loud sound tracks and great stunts.

Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

I was thinking about this as my 16-year-old reported what he liked about the latest Fast and the Furious movie. The story is about our favorite gang of car thieves living in a country that is not their own. That is when a government agent comes offering full pardons if they will help out with one more job. Oh, and there is a surprise guest as well.

My son did not talk about character development. He did not talk about great dialogue. What he talked about were fast moving cars, driven by men willing to do some crazy stunts.

While some of my family members described this movie as being about fast cars, macho-acting guys, and girls in bikinis, it is also a movie about one last desperate attempt for love and for freedom. There is one line that told me the depth of that love, the amount of risk a person was willing to go through to save that other person.

This aspect almost makes me want to go see this movie. My husband declared it might be one of the few movies as of late that is worthwhile seeing in 3D. I think the stunts I have seen in the trailer are 3D worthy but to be honest, I am not happy with 3D. The colors are murky at best, the 3D action never lives up to its hype. Plus, it give me motion-sickness almost every single time because the screen never stops moving.

Where I plan to see this movie in in the drive-in. Why do we love going there? Fidgeting kids do not draw the ire of other patrons because they have fidgety kids, too. Most allow you to bring in your own food and the best ones have a green area where a game of catch or frisbee can easily occur before the movie or during intermission. While it is an hour to the closest drive-in theater, we are lucky enough to be near three such theaters.

The first is the Lake Shore in Monticello near Indiana Beach. They have two screen which show a double feature. One screen has more adult type films while the other goes for more family friendly fare most of the time. The green space in Okay while the concession stand has some good choices.

funnel cake sundaeMy second choice, and the theater we go to the most, is the Harvest Moon Twin Drive-In. Most of the movies through out the year are family friendly. The concession stand has some great offerings and the green space is fantastic. I love this theater and do what I can to help keep it going. While we tend to bring our own food and drink (perfectly allowable), I always try to buy something at the concession stand. The Harvest Moon is home of the Funnel Cake Sundae. Tasty!

49'er logo facebook

Image from 49′er Drive-in Theater Facebook page

Finally, my favorite drive-in is the 49′er in Valpraiso, Indiana with a drive more like on hour and forty-five minutes. But the green space is incredibly large. The concession stand has a lot of tasty treats. Plus, off duty police officers are the security guys. Most of the time it is a family fare double-feature. Talk about smorgasbord of delights.

I am not sure I can think of a better way to spend a summer night.

Until Next Week, see you in the rental aisle.

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