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Opening Day

As spring is here, warmer weather is following. With that warmer weather comes opening day for the drive-in movie theaters.

Harvest Moon Drive InEvery time I mention drive-in, people get excited and want to know where I go to find one. The closest one to our home is in Gibson City called the Harvest Moon Twin Drive-In. This place is great because it has two screens, one that shows a more ‘family’ oriented movie and the other that shows something a bit more adult. Check out their Harvest Moon Twin Drive-In.

This past weekend, the choices were Zootopia and the new Batman vs. Superman movie. We went for Zootopia for no other reason than it was getting great reviews from a bevy of critics. And one of the kids expressed interest. And the husband really wanted to go to the drive in.

Well, why not. The drive is only about an hour away. We sit outside of the car with jackets and blankets on to keep warm. We can bring in our own food for a $5 fee that gets us a free large popcorn. And how can I turn down deep fried cheese curds or the funnel cake sundae?

funnel cake sundae

funnel cake sundae with chocolate sauce

 

Which explains why I am willing to pack up on a Friday night with blankets, chairs, snacks, and five kids to see a movie about which I know nothing.

I do know the basic premise. In a world where animals are like people and there are different zones for different geographical areas, there is one big town and that is Zootopia. Somewhere in a small farming town, a bunny wants to become a police officer in the big city. Her chances are slim because she is a small and tiny bunny. How is she to take down big bad criminals?

Except that the bunny, Judy Hopps, works hard and becomes the valedictorian of her class at the police academy. Her reward is to be assigned as a meter maid. While Judy wants to solve crimes, she decides to be the best at her job. That is until one day she stops a thief, saving a tiny creature in the process. That leads to Judy being assigned to solve a case regarding missing predators by the big chief but she has only 48 hours to do so. If she does not solve the case, Judy must resign from the force.

But to solve this case requires help. Judy gets Nick Wilde, a fox, to help her. She might have to use a few tricks to force him to help but this is no dumb bunny. Can they figure out why predators are going missing and who is behind the whole scheme? Probably but let me just say that this was a fun movie. I had low expectations but was pleasantly surprised.

I thought the movie was going to be lame and trite. Well, it was in spots. Some of the scenes were exactly what you would think they were going to turn out. But I also found myself liking different parts, such as parents being relieved their daughter was not in a dangerous position on the force. Or how Judy has such a difficult time dealing with the sloth at the DMV. This movie is a fun buddy movie, a police procedural for kids.

But let me give a word of warning. One of my friends took his 5-year-old who became scared of the predators and had to leave the theater. If you know your child scares easy, this might not be the film you want to go see. My 14-year-old thought it was a bit dark for a kids movie and I am not sure I disagree with her.  Otherwise, it is a bit of fun and perfect if you happen to be going to a drive-in theater in which it is ok if young kids move around and talk during the movie.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Watch the Try Anything video featuring Shakira as GazelleShakira Gazelle

Like a Good Neighbor

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

If you happen to see me walking my dog and she gets a little excited and tries to climb a tree, she is only being neighborly.

SquirrelLady is protecting me, you, and everyone else from squirrels. She has not figured out how to climb a tree but I am sure that will happen one of these days. Lady is doing her part to make sure that the evil squirrels will do no harm to the rest of the world and her neighbors.

She extends this service to cats as well. Sorry if she chased your darling up a tree. In her defense, she is just being neighborly, as Dan Moore can attest when Lady chased a stray cat off of his porch this past week. She also likes to go after rabbits. Near the parsonage, she has noticed a number of rabbits and would be delighted if Father gave her permission to eat one or two. As the owner, I do not allow this. I merely hold on to the retractable leash for dear life and pray that she does not pull out my arms from the sockets.

The other night the husband and I watched a fairly new movie with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte called A Walk in the Woods. Based on the book by Bill Bryson, the story is about a travel writer, Redford, who decides to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. However, his wife does not want him to do this alone, so she insists he find someone to go with him. The only person that willing is boyhood friend and old traveling buddy, Nick Nolte. He is doing his neighborly duty.

Walk in the Woods

A Walk in The Woods with Nick Nolte and Robert Redford

They are a typical odd couple but both men are seeking one last adventure. While neither are truly prepared for it, Nolte looks as if this could be the last adventure he ever takes on, physically. Redford, on the other hand, looks like a man fit enough to hike over 2000 miles in a six-month period. But during their time of the trail they deepen their relationship and come to understandings.

This is not a movie with loud explosions or chase scenes. There are no bank robberies or broken bones.

Nor does it stay exactly true to the book. Bryson and Katz were in their 40s when they did the hike. Redford has owned the rights for a long time, hoping to do one last movie with Paul Newman. It is a movie that is reflective with humorous bits as older men come to terms with their life choices. Perhaps not as deep as Wild starring Reese Witherspoon but certainly bawdy and down to earth. The language is just salty enough that I would not allow younger children to watch it.

But if you are looking for a movie that is family-friendly, you might want to try Chicken Little. This movie came out in 2005 and featured the voice of Zack Braff as the little chicken who swears something hit him on the head. He sounded the town alarm in order to save his neighbors. Well, it caused a panic in the town and the little guy has not been able to live it down.

Chicken LittleHe becomes the town hero for one day when he helps win the big game for the summer baseball league. But that night, once more, something hits him on the head. Worse yet, there is a someone along with that something. Should Chicken Little set off the alarm once more, knowing that if he is wrong he will face the ridicule of the town once more? Or should he say nothing to save face but see his town destroyed.

What we get is a fun little movie fill with 90s and 70s music that also shows bravery in the face of absolute embarrassment and shame. The young ones through 5th grade can watch it and have fun. Sometimes that is the best fun, cuddled up together and laughing.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

So this is the week in which everyone is Irish. We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with relish, with glee, with Guinness or a Jameson’s shot.

I have a friend who celebrates every year with a potato party. The guests bring toppings and green side dishes or desserts. Because I had a brain cramp our side dish wash stuffed mushrooms wrapped in bacon. The hubby made them and I am glad that he did. They were tasty.

But so were the potatoes, the green frosted brownies, broccoli salad, and the pistachio salad. It was a fun night as different tables played different games including Dutch Blitz and euchre.

OndineAs always, I am on the lookout for an Irish movie I have not seen yet to add to my collection. I have loved suggestions I have received from fellow bloggers. My favorite one so far is Ondine starring Colin Farrell as an Irish fisherman named Syracuse who pulls a young woman out of the sea one day. Alicja Bachleda states she can’t remember who she is or how she got in the net. Syracuse lets the young woman live in his mother’s abandoned cottage and Ondine develops a relationship with his young daughter who has various health issues.

Soon, with the help of his young daughter, Farrell is speculating if Ondine is a selkie. Selkies are mythical creatures that can change from being a seal into a human once they take off their seal coat. But the selkie can be trapped on land if a human finds their coat and hides it from the selkie.

This story is not as simple as it seems. These things are never that simple. But it is wonderful to watch as Ondine and Syracuse begin to fall in love and eventually resolve her past.

Waking Ned Devine

Waking Ned Devine

Another movie that was suggested to me was Waking Ned Devine. I had never watched this movie but I thought I would give it a spin. The story is about a winning lottery ticket in the weekly Irish lottery that happens to be located in a small Irish village. Just as we know where a winning Lotto ticket is sold here, the big lottery winning location is announced there. The villagers slowly work out who is the winner after quizzing everyone.

The problem is the man who has one is not able to claim the prize anymore. No way, no how.

So now it is a matter of getting everyone on board for the biggest deception that could mean an end to a life of struggle for the 50-member village.

I could tell you more but I don’t want you to miss out on the naked motorbike ride or the hop and skip chase around the creek or the questions of just who fathered a fair maiden’s child.

There are some memorable scenes in this movie with beautiful music and lovely landscapes. If high action is your thing, this may not be your movie. But if you are willing to wait for the story to play out and to have a resolution you can live with, well then, this Irish film is worth your time.

Now, neither of these movies are exactly family friendly. Sometimes the language gets a little salty. If a family friendly movie is what you are looking for than search no farther than Into the West. This movie is about two boys who are given a horse to care for despite the fact they live in a housing complex in the slums of Dublin.

Into the West IMDb com

Image from IMDb.com

That is when a rich man takes the horse through crooked methods so the boys do the only thing they can and steal the horse back. Soon they are are on the run, hiding from the police and other goons trying to get the horse, who is no ordinary horse. Their father joins in the chase with the help of his caravan friends to save the boys before something terrible happens.

It mixes modern day Ireland with folklore, combining an action adventure story with the redemption of a family. Makes me tear up every time.

Until Next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Last week I wrote about how The Iron Giant would make my top ten list of best animated movies.

As much as I love that movie, it made me think of what other movies I would put in that list. People who know me, know there are a few that are naturals. I have raved about them in the past and there is no way I could do a list without them.

On the other hand, I have done this list and later wondered why I didn’t put a movie down only to realize I forgot about it amidst all of my other steller choices. That is when one must do an honorable mention to make up for something that should be on the list but never made it.

So what do I look for in an animated feature. Beautiful animation for starters. Because animation can be otherworldly in depicting our world, I want something that is both dreamy and realistic. Like any other movie I watch, I want there to be good storytelling and characters with whom I can feel a connection. And because this list is family friendly, I want something most of the family can watch together.

  1. Toy Story FriendsToy Story – This computer animated flick tells the story of a toy who is the known favorite and must make an adjustment when his human gets a new toy. It is a story of jealousy, action and adventure, and a lesson on learning to accept your situation as it changes. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen were perfect as Woody and Buzz.

  2. Shrek – I loved this movie for making fun of the various fairy tales and legends of Europe while giving it’s lead monster a sincere heart and wicked sense of humor. Its sound track was pretty great, too. Parents could watch this movie with their kids and not poke their eyes out after repeat viewings.

  3. Spirited Away – Director Hiyao Miyazaki is one of the best anime masters in the world. Based on Japanese folklore, the story is about a young girl who goes to work for a spa for the spirits in order to save her parents. Along with the incredible storytelling is animation that makes you think you are looking at a black and white photo in one scene and drawings on incredible depth in others.

  4. The Incredibles – Pixar hit the trifecta with this movie. The animation is fantastic with the variety of super heroes. Then there is the story telling, taking on the issues of what does a superhero do when he can no longer be a superhero and what it means when we reward everyone with or without merit. Finally the voice-over work of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, and Jason Lee are simply wonderful, giving life to the characters as we get to know them.

  5. Kung Fu PandaKung Fu Panda – Jack Black plays into type here as the lovable loser who manages to succeed without the initial willing help of his teacher. Then there is the animation. One scene in particular that stands out is when the flowers on the peach tree fall and blow into the sky. While I consider this a family movie in the action/adventure vein, it is one my father would not watch. He firmly said he was not watching a movie with Pandas.

  6. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves – I mention this movie because it gave us the formula for all animated movies. As the Disney company’s first foray into a feature length movie, it proved animation could be interesting for 70 minutes or more. Take a classic fairy tale, create a great villain, and make the surroundings beautifully detailed. While the singing is classic to its time period, we still sing those songs today. Do you ‘whistle while you work?’

  7. The Jungle Book – This movie gave us jazz on a mainstream level while telling the story of a lost Asian Indian boy trying to find his way back to the man village. The animated background on four movable panels within one scene gave us the depth of the jungle. It is hard not to tap your fingers and your toes to this movie or be impressed by the animation.

  8. The Lion King IMDb com

    Movie poster for The Lion King, picture from IMDb.com

    The Lion King – This is one of those once in a lifetime movies where everything comes together. The music is inspiring, hitting on emotional points without pulling you too far into despair. The story telling is excellent as a young prince is driven from his kingdom by a beloved uncle. Finally, the animation is filled with splendor whether is it the opening scene or the trip to the elephant graveyard.

  9. The Iron Giant – I went in detail why I like this movie last week. But in a nutshell I love the storyline about a boy in the 1950s who discovers a giant robot. The animation, the story telling, the characterizations, and the way everything incorporates pop culture of the period is breathtaking while being relatable.

  10. Beauty and the Beast – There has been some chatter lately as to Frozen having great female characters who do no wait to be saved by the male characters. True but Elsa and Anna are not the first of these role breaking women in the Disney world. That honor goes to Belle from Beauty and the Beast who does all she can to save the Beast. Her story is wrapped around with fantastic music, the conversation of if a small town for your entire life better, and a villain who is very handsome despite his cold heart.

Until Next week, see you in the rental aisle.

If I had to think about all of the great animated features I have seen over the years, I know I could make a top ten list without too much thought.
It would include movies from Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, and Ghibli Studios from Japan.
They are the easiest studios to think of because they have put out some of the best animated movies such as Toy Story, Shrek , My Neighbor Totoro, and The Lion King. And that is to name only a few.
I noticed that a movie I have considered a little known gem for many years just came out with a Signature Edition. The Iron Giant first came out in 1999 but very few people saw or seemed to even know about it. I would argue that this movie is really worth your time despite the fact that Warner Brothers did not know what kind of movie they had at the time.
Iron Giant 1999

1999 Movie Poster

It is a rich story about a boy who lives in Maine during the 1950s. It is a time of fear as the country is trying to hunt down communists while in a cold war with the Soviet Union. Worse yet, it appeared we were losing the race to space as Sputnik launches and succeeds in its flight around the earth.

For Hovarth, it is a great time as he watches the monster movies of his era on TV while his mother works the dinner shift at the town diner. But one night, as he is watching another science experiment gone awry, the TV signal goes out. Hovarth has to climb to the top of his roof to fix the antenna and notices big foot prints leading away from his house and into woods.
That starts our adventure with the big robot who eats metal and sometimes mistakes art works as tasty metal snacks. Things get hairy when the government comes in to investigate and right away Agent Mansley focuses on Hovarth. He knows the kid knows something but won’t tell the agent. When the situation grows into something awful, the Iron Giant proves what love can do to change a soul.
Iron Giant Signature

Signature Edition

When I think about this movie, I get teary-eyed because there are moments that catch you in the heart. There are moments that make you happy and laugh in all the right ways. It is a movie I would show to kids in third grade and up because some of it may not make such sense to kindergartners and younger children. Keep in mind that there is a scene or two that has a medium swear in which a general gets mad about how far a situation has gone and there is no turning back. But there are so many other great parts to this movie that you might want to make sure to watch it on a regular basis to catch all of the little details that you have missed before.

Voice over performances by Jennifer Anniston, Harry Connick Jr., and John Mahoney are pitch perfect. Eli Marienthal and Christopher McDonald find the right balance of kid and adversary adult as Hovarth and Agent Mansley, respectively.
So why get this Signature Edition? To be honest, the film has been worked over so the colors are deeper and brighter. There are a ton of special features, including a reel of deleted scenes, to look at as well as Easter Eggs to find. Plus, movie geeks can turn on the commentary to hear those details they love so much. But then there is the story itself. Director Brad Bird has restored scenes and changed a few things to make the movie he originally wanted.
Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

She’s a Spy?

I have to admit, I enjoy a good spy movie.

There is something about the cloak and dagger stuff that is exciting because I will never live it. Honestly, I was never meant to carry out any of those missions. I can’t lie my way out of a paper bag, there is no way I could bluff through an entire night.

Perhaps that is why I enjoyed the latest Melissa McCarthy flick “Spy” that came out on DVD recently.

McCarty, quite frankly, looks like one of us. As the CIA analyst who works from the basement control room in Langely, she acts like one of us wimpy types which makes her appealing to me. I feel as if I know her. She is that smart funny friend who is just a bit gun-shy and thinks of the great retort a few days later. McCarthy is great in the basement watching a screen to control the action but she knows she could not be a field agent.

Spy

Enter a caption

That is until she decides to go out in the field when her field-agent partner is compromised. Suddenly the shy woman who cannot fire the gardener is dressing up in Italian fashions and chasing potential enemies. And she has help in the form of rogue agent Jason Stratham and fellow basement dweller Miranda Hart. Then there is Aldo. I could explain Aldo by that would take too long.

All of this is so that she can track and report on the actions of Rose Byrne who happens to be the daughter of a recently deceased arms dealer.

I realize it is getting convoluted but really that may be one of the reasons to watch this movie. It is wonderfully ridiculous. And it is not afraid to go into the R rating territory. I won’t lie and say there is no swearing in this movie. There is plenty along with a healthy use of hand gestures and a few gruesome dead bodies. Too many movies play it safe and stay in the PG-13 zone for the maximum amount of possible audience members. That’s good for families although at times it makes for weaker movies, especially in the horror genre.

Then there are times when adults want something more spicy, filled with words they might hear all of the time at work when things go wrong. I appreciated the earthiness of this movie. And I really appreciated Stratham for playing against his usual type of always being in control. He screws up and somehow it works out. His character is a mess and I love him for that. Jude Law, normally incredible, seems a bit tamped down. Maybe like his character, he didn’t think he had to work that hard.

Sprectre Daniel Craig In any case, it is McCarthy’s film and she holds up her end. My husband thought it was too over-the-top, he didn’t think it was all that good of a movie. Perhaps he has a point but I know that this was something fun to watch after a long day at work and the kids were safely in bed. Besides the real spy movie, Spectre, is out on DVD. If I want a more serious take of the spy profession, I can watch that.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Valentine’s Aftermath

Living the Fantasy

We all need a fantasy sometimes, right?

Finding a Prayer Life

Most of the time, I have to admit I try to avoid the Christian Film industry.
Why?
Because most Christian film makers are more interested in the message they have to share that they mess up on the story. If characters are not bent on pointing out how this or that reflects the way that Christ did something, then they get lengthy speeches or monologues pointing out Christ’s teachings.
I don’t know about you but I do not go to the movies to be hit with a sledge hammer.
A few years ago we watched the movie about the girl who lost an arm to a shark bite. There is one scene in which the youth group teacher, played by Carrie Underwood, is presenting her lesson to attentive teenagers. She was able to pontificate without interruption. I reflected on this out loud at one of my rowdy youth group meetings and was told by the kids “you know that is a movie and not real life.”
Another issue I have are the movies that are focused on End Days. The special effects are terrible and sloppy. But that does not even compare to the dialogue which is normally clunky and serves only to move the story into the next predictable movement. Only one scene from the “Left Behind” series has stuck in my brain and that is when the pastor makes his confession to God about the true status of his faith.It was a raw, honest declaration of a man who thought he was fooling everyone, even himself, about the amount of faith he carried.
But I recently watched a Christian movie that came in theaters a few months ago and was happily surprised that the couple and their life situation felt real. Whil;e younger children can watch this movie, I doubt that they would want to as it is contexually made for adults.
The movie I watched was War Room, starring a bunch of people I had never heard of before. In some cases that is a good thing and it worked out for this movie. I came to it with no pre-conceived notions of how these actors were going to play their roles.
War Room Women
The story involves a successful couple by all appearances. Tony and Elizabeth have a large house, a beautiful daughter, and very busy lives. He is a pharmaceutical rep and she is a real estate agent. But they bicker daily. They do not talk to each other well, each conversation is a battle filled with sarcasm and meanness. Meals with their daughter is just another part of the battle field.
But when Elizabeth takes on a new client, Miss Clara, she is taught something that changes her life. She is taught how to use prayer as a way of regaining joy in her life, of regaining her marriage, of regaining her family.
War Room father and daughterI realize this is hard for some to believe. But one of the things I liked about this movie was the doubt that Elizabeth felt in trying this new way of praying. I liked that when the changes inside of her began to reflect how she treated her husband, that Tony was suspicious and wondering. I liked that their new life took time and did not immediately start off all shiny and new.
Another thing I liked about Miss Clara is that she was real. Her victory dance in the kitchen was quirky but probable for her character. Most of us know that you can’t stop a mugger in his tracks by invoking the name of the Lord. But how many of us know someone who would do it anyway. Her character was not over used but put in for the right amount of spice.
It may not be a great movie but the Kendrick Brothers and the various production companies involved have also put out Fireproof, Courageous, and Mom’s Night Out. They are showing how to make a Christian movie that is more story that shows faith instead of telling us. It forces us to ask some serious questions about our prayer life and if we want to change how we are living without the aforementioned sledgehammer. And that is a big step up for the industry.
Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Remembering Alan

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