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Family Movie Night
By Karyn Bowman
Every now and again, you hear about a movie that makes you want to check it out.
Maybe it is because there is a favorite actor or it’s based on a book that you loved as a kid.
House with a clockAbout a week or so ago, my daughter told me about The House with a Clock in It’s Walls. This movie stars Jack Black as Jonathon Barnavelt and Cate Blanchett as Mrs. Zimmerman. I love Cate Blanchett and Jack Black can be good in small doses.
When surrounded by great actors, Black always becomes better. While still over the top in some ways, Black makes it work for his character by mixing in elements of low key behavior to create a more nuanced person. Blanchett, on the other hand, has the freedom to be more wacky and loose.
What is interesting is that the movie appears to be set in the early 50s. There are references to WWII as a somewhat recent event. Captain Midnight, a popular kid radio and TV show is a favorite of Lewis, Jonathan’s nephew.
Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman live next door to each other. They are two witches who are trying to solve a problem within Jonathan’s house. This is not an ordinary house, it has items that move constantly and creatures one would not expect. He inherited the house from another warlock that passed away a year or so before. And before he died, that warlock was creating something in the house that is evil.
To complicate matters, Jonathon’s young nephew Lewis has moved in. His parents recently died so the young boy is coming to stay with his uncle. Lewis is sad and gawky and he likes to wear goggles like his favorite TV hero. Starting school is not easy, especially as he is not athletic, he loves words, and he lives in a house with a bad reputation.
House with a clock 2But Lewis is also a lonely boy and wants to do whatever if takes to prove himself to his new friends. One night he breaks the one rule in his uncle’s house in order to impress another boy. And what that spell does unleashes something that cannot be easily stopped.
This is one of those movies that is only a little scary, Things jump out at you and there are moments of true creepiness (evil mechanical dolls). The computer generated animation was seamless and made various elements seem more real, more fun. It is the kind of movie you can watch with grade school aged children and the family can enjoy it. It is in that bridge area betweenScooby-Doo scary and PG-13 The Woman in Black scary.
As I watched the trailer a few times I began noticing little details I didn’t see before. That makes me want to watch the movie again. I also want to catch those moments of sadness and longing that might lead to deeper understanding of each character going through various stages of loss.
Fun, just a little scary, and a dash of emotional depth. Sounds like my favorite kind of scary movie,
Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.
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A Little Bit of a Scare

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Just because it is the Halloween season, doesn’t mean you have to watch a super scary movie.

Sometimes a hint of the supernatural is all it takes to be satisfied. I know I prefer my scary movies to have a bit of humor in them. Or maybe I prefer to have comedies or dramedies with a touch of horror.

practical-magic-collageOne of my favorite movies to watch this time of year is Practical Magic starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Who knew back in 1998 that we were watching two future Oscar winners. This movie could be described as a comedy because there are comedic elements. It could be a drama because there are moments of clarity and emotional introspection.

The supernatural element as both comedy and serious moments to the movie. The story is about two sisters who are dealing with the early deaths of their parents in different ways. Sally wanted nothing more than to be normal with love and a family. She had all of that until her husband died in a freak accident that some felt was because of the family curse.

Gillian is the party girl. She is searching for love far from home, looking for that one man who can withstand the curse. And she finds that man, strong enough to withstand the curse but evil in other ways.

While this might be a movie you can watch with girl friends or older teens, I would not watch this movie with younger kids. There is too much content that is adult oriented as we go from grief to dealing with an abusive situation to casual swearing for some but serious to others.

But for adults, it is a fun movie. It resolves into an ending we want with the hope of renewal,

BewitchedNow if you are looking for something with more comedy in the supernatural realm, try Bewitched starring Nicole Kidman as Samantha. Kidman portrays a witch trying to be mortal. But she finds herself being discovered by a Hollywood star trying to reclaim his shine with a new version of the old TV show.

This is not a perfect movie but it is a lot of fun. Kidman and the witchy crew have real rapport amongst them. It is when we have Will Ferrell taking first place that we feel the film slow down and be less funny or interesting. However, when he is with Kidman his timing is better. The character becomes more believable. The movie really shines whenever Kidman and Michael Caine share the screen. Their chemistry as father and daughter really sparkles, I could have watched them all day long.

This movie can be watched by middle school and older children. Some of the situations or language will not be appropriate or perhaps content-wise at their level. This is another movie to watch with the girlfriends while you guys nosh and talk and laugh.

Harry, Ron and Hermione HP&SS IMDb com

Hermione, Harry and Ron in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Picture from IMDb.com

If you are looking for something lighthearted to watch with kids, there is always the first Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It is this movie that introduces us to the wizarding world, asking us to see and hear all of the wonders. Yes, there are scary moments such as when the kids fight the troll and battle the various challenges at the end. But there are many times when it feels as if we are being asked to join in the fun. And who can resist that?

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

In this day and age one of the things that fascinates me is how you can watch movie streaming. I am amazed by the movies that produced by companies such as Amazon and Netflix and Hulu.

I have talked about other programs that I have watched but I was able to find DVD formats for those movies.

Guernsey Literary and Potato peel pie society largeposterThis time around, I watched a movie through Netflix because I wanted to see this movie while it was still freshly out.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was published in 2008 and became a book club darling immediately.

The story is told through letters as a British writer that is trying to find her way at the end of WWII and a return to whatever is normal.

It is what some might call a gentle read even as it deals with the occupation of the island of Guernsey during WWII.

When I saw there was a movie version, I was quite excited. I really enjoyed the book despite my vow to stop reading stories about WWII. It was quick moving tale while telling a compelling story about survival during the pain of war.

I was not disappointed.

The movie opens with four people coming home after a night of eating and drinking. They are walking home and know they are beyond the curfew hour. German soldiers are out, demanding papers. They want to know why the group is out and, suddenly, they come up with a name.

In creating a literary society, the group realizes they need reading material and so need reading material are found. That is how they get started and connect with Juliet, our London-based writer.

Guernsey mtg with SidneyJuliet is in the middle of a book tour regarding her light-hearted columns printed during the war. And she is still in shock from losing her apartment during the blitzkrieg. But she also must write another book for her publisher and is intrigued by the island’s story of survival during the occupation. So she decides to go there and learn more.

I enjoyed the movie for both its simplicities and intricateness. The movie is beautifully shot and Lily James as Juliet is always lovely from simple sweaters and dresses to her gorgeous evening wear. But we are also telling a tale of the occupation and what happens to those people. How lines are crossed for love or collaboration or the birthing of calves.

This movie does not include car chases or gunfire. There isn’t any swearing or sexuality. Instead, there is the terror of always having to act in a certain way or face dire consequences. That to me is more insidious, more frightening.

guernsey-dance-scene.jpgGood movies don’t happen because of one person. James is supported wonderfully by Michael Huisman as Dulsey, Tom Courtney as Eben, Katherine Parkinson as Isola, Penolope Wilton as Amelia, Glen Powell as rich American Mark Reynolds, and Jessica Brown Findlay as the mysterious Elizabeth. Each takes on his or hers various quirks to make the story interesting and the characters familiar to us.

We know these people. We learn of their struggles and slowly come to understand them in the way that Juliet does. It is a movie you can watch with girlfriends or the husband. If the kids happen to walk in, you won’t have to shield their eye. That’s always a plus.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Banned Book Week

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Working in a library finds the staff always talking about books.

We talk about the ones we like, dislike, wouldn’t mind burning, and why we never will.

Banned Books picture

Banned and Challenged Books Image from a friend’s Facebook page

We talk with our patrons about the same thing as well as observations about various books. I remember one conversation in which the patron stated he read Mein Kampft. He read it to see what it was all about. And what he noted was if you could get past all of the hatred in the book, there was a solid economic plan for Germany in those days of incredible inflation.

Other times I have heard patrons talk about how they don’t like the language in some of their favorite authors changing to something a bit harsher, more vulgar. And the sexier novels are not always appreciated either.

Maybe they don’t like the sexuality that is dealing with something abusive or the violence of crime committed by serial killers.

There are a lot of reasons why people hate various books. But there are more reasons why we shouldn’t ban them.

Like it or not, we need these various ideas floating around so we can inspect them and see what works and what doesn’t. As much as I dislike the ideas floating around in the original black Sambo book, I believe we need to see it to remember what we don’t want to be. I have seen other versions of Sambo that are not so racially charged. In those books, Sambo is telling the same folktales and is not some caricature.

We celebrate Banned Book Week in libraries this week because we want to remind people that books shouldn’t be banned, ideas shouldn’t be hidden, people shouldn’t be silenced. And that includes the repugnant ones. Once you start banning books, ideas, people it never ends. There is never a line that stops it.

Did we not learn that from WWII and the Nazis? It started with Jews and worked it way to socialists, intelligentsia, journalists, unions, gypsies, religious groups, etc. There were at least 37 badges in various colors and dots or bars to designate your status in Nazi Germany..

The perks of being a wallflowerSo this week, take the time to watch a banned book turned into a movie. Maybe it is To Kill a Mockingbird starring Gregory Peck. Maybe it is The Perks of Being a Wallflower starring Emma Watson and Ezra Miller about two teens who bring a shy boy into their circle. Maybe it is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone starring Daniel Radcliffe about a wizarding boy who survives an attack that brings him notoriety and danger.

There are many choices because there is no limit to what people seek to ban. That is if you’re so inclined for a banned book turned into a movie.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Surprise Island

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Finding a good family movie can prove to be difficult.

Boxcar Children Surprise IslandSometimes you find one that has great characters but a story line that makes no sense. Or the dialogue feels right until we get into poop and fart jokes that run continuously.

Sometimes a good family movie works and sometimes they just don’t.

I say all this because I recently watch a Boxcar Children movie, hoping that it would be good.

For those unfamiliar with the back story, the Boxcar Children are a family of four children who were orphaned but have been taking care of themselves thanks to the efforts of the oldest brother, Henry. Older sister, Jesse, is a good cook and can organize just about anything. Younger sister, Violet, has an artistic spirit but is a bit shy. Benny is a rambunctious six year old boy that everyone adores.

At some point they are found by their grandfather, a very rich man who wants to care for his grandchildren. They and their dog, Watch, eventually move in to the older man’s mansion and make a new life.

Boxcar ChildrenIn the newest movie featuring these characters called The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island, summer vacation has finally come. The children are ready for an adventure and their grandfather plans to give them one.

He owns an island, one where he used to spend the summer, exploring the entire island and creating memories. It is his intention to let his grandchildren spend their summer here so they can do the same. He will visit as he can but for the most part they will be on their own along with Captain Daniel who lives in the dock house. And there is Joe who is the captain’s assistant.

There is a mystery to solve and adventures to have and a museum to create.

I enjoyed the way this movie played out. It is what some might call a slice of life movie in which the kids just live using what they find on the island and what ever provisions Joe or Captain Daniel can get from the mainland.

But what kept distracting me from enjoying this movie was the animation. Or maybe I should say the lack of depth in the animation. The characters moved very stiffly as did almost any wild creature, the sky, and the sea.

My Neighbor Totoro IMDb com 4 2013Perhaps I have been spoiled by Disney, Pixar, and Studio Ghibli animation. These three studios put out films that are beautiful to watch and complete with great story lines and dialogue. The Jungle Book by Disney features a four-panel background that moves as Mowgli walks, giving the jungle a lush look. The toys in Toy Story look nearly real with their myriad of expressions. The grass in My Neighbor Totoro blows in waves as the wind streaks along.

But none of this happens in Surpise Island. The grandfather’s mustache barely moves as he speaks. It doesn’t matter that the great Martin Sheen gives voice to this character if it doesn’t look like his mouth is moving right. And that can ruin the rest of the movie along with the story it wants to tell.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

The Incredibles 2

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

This past week we made what might be our last trip to the drive-in for the summer.

You never know, we could make another trip because one must watch scary movies at the drive-in. In reality, I am guessing we are done.

The_Incredibles_2 posterBut it was a great one to finish off the summer season – a double feature with The Incredibles 2 and Christopher Robin. I will talk about the latter sometime in the future. But right now I want to talk about the long-awaited sequel to what I think is one of the best movies of all time.

Why did Brad Bird wait so long to make this sequel? I am sure he has some good reasons. Timing was not right, didn’t want a fake storyline to drive the plot, couldn’t figure out how to make Edna a crucial part of the storyline.

I am sure the reasons were endless.

Luckily what we get is a great storyline.

The supers remain in hiding. And when a bad guy shows up, the family tries to stop him. However, their attempts are futile; the bad guy gets away despite our favorite super heroes managing to save the capitol building.

That is when Lucius meets this rich guy named Winston Deavor. He is super rich and super crazy about supers. Winston is the salesman of the company while his sister, Evelyn, is the creative genius who invents items for the future of right now.

They want the supers to be supers again.

And their choice for this job is Elastigirl – Helen.

The reason why becomes clear. Elastigirl is smoother, more about finesse than bombast power. That means less damages, and more feel-good moments.

But for Helen, it is also about guilt. The guilt of not being there for the kids while breaking the law to help supers be legal once more.

the-incredibles-2 meeting

Frozone, Elastigirl, and Mr. Incredible meeting with Winston Deavor

What I loved about the first Incredibles movie is that it explored the idea of giving participation trophies and making everyone feel they’re special.

This movie is exploring the guilt of life. Helen deals with working mother guilt even though she is smart and good at her job. Bob is guilty over not being out doing superhero stuff while wondering if he is doing a good enough job as a dad. Two other characters deals with the guilt of the should-of’s and could-of’s we all face in life when something tragic happens. Their individual response may be different to that guilt but how they deal with it is interesting.

Yes, these guilt issues are a part of the subtext, but we also get a ton of great action scenes. Elastigirl is the star, people love her, even fellow heroes. Jack-Jack is starting to display all of his powers which can be frightening and exciting. Edna is fascinating for all of her fashion personality quirks.

Can you have a movie that is fun and exciting while dealing with all of these emotions? Yes! Just because we are getting a lot of great action scenes with super-powered people doesn’t mean we can’t handle a few emotions along the way. Everyone knows that emotions are so much messier than the end results of a great battle. But dealing with them and coming to a new understanding can be a great adventure.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

A Street Cat Named Bob

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

It seems as if I am writing a lot about redemption stories. The movies I am watching lately are about people who work to create a better life for themselves or others.

This past week I discovered a book that was very popular in England and apparently around the world. It is called A Street Cat named Bob. The story is about how a young man in London changed his life around after adopting a stray cat.

A Street Cat named Bob posterThe story is incredible, powerful because this man was fighting a heroin addiction.

In 2016, a movie was made based on the book written by James Bowen, the street musician who adopted Bob. In the movie, James is played by Luke Treadaway, a British actor who gives a truthful portrayal.

Nothing is sugarcoated in this movie. We start with James trying to make a living singing on the streets with his busted up guitar. As the rain pours, a friend gives him shelter and a chance to get high. With no prospect for food or proper shelter, James takes advantage.

But a near over-dose makes James decide to live. And he is lucky to get a social worker who is tough but believes in him. Val gets him on a methadone program with strict rules. She also acquires a flat for him in a neighborhood that is not the best but it is safer than the streets.

Two things that happen give James hope. First, he meets Betty, a dog walker and volunteer. Then his new home is broken into by Bob, a marmalade tabby. At first James is only going to give the cat a home for the night and send him on his way. But Bob has other plans. He follows James on to the bus and begins to accompany James where ever he performs.

Various factors work on James and we see that he wants something better. And that what kept me watching. I became enraptured with the story of this young man and his efforts to make a better life, to escape the drugs that plagues him. When Bob goes missing and we fear the worst, we see James work through his emotions and fear.

A street cat named bob still

Still of Bob and Luke Treadaway from A Street Cat Named Bob

Most of the time when I watch a British film, I prepare myself for lots of swearing and more violence than usual. But this movie can be watched by teens and those who are more sensitive because there is minimal swearing. Drug use is off screen although we are well aware of it. There is some fighting but again, it is at minimal amounts.

Luke Treadaway gives a nuanced performance as James. He is joined by Ruta Gedmintas, Joanne Frogget, and Anthony Head as James’s father. Each has something to add to the story be it supporting character in James’s story or a person who explains his back story a little more.

Perhaps most amazing is the actual cat, Bob, who stars as himself. There are other cats used to portray Bob at various times but he is on screen a good part of the time intereacting with James and others appropriately.

I have a hard time describing this movie because I really enjoyed it. It was such an accidental discovery but one I will be watching again.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

I Can Only Imagine

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Sometimes a good song falls in your lap. Sometimes a good song takes years to make. Sometimes it takes only minutes to write a song after a lifetime of experiences.

It is the story that drives I Can Only Imagine, a movie about the man who wrote the hit song on the Christian charts. It is both sad and sweet. It’s about redemption and taking chances.

The movie starts when Bart Millard is 10. He lives with his mother and father but the house is not happy. Alcoholic Dad takes his anger out on his family, causing Mom to up and leave. But not before she drops him off for a week at summer sleepover bible camp.

I can Only Imagine IMDbIt is here that Bart meets the love of his life, Shannon. They bond over camp activities and sneaking out to watch fireworks. But when Bart comes home, his mother has left and the only one at home is Bart’s father. A man who takes his anger out on his child.

So Bart spends the next few years trying to please his dad. But plans don’t always go the way you hope. Suddenly, Bart find himself in a different school club and a new door opens for him.

If you follow the band MercyMe, you might know the rest of the story. Of how a promoter saw the band, of how the band worked to be better, how they got an opportunity of a lifetime.

You might know the story on how Bart learned to forgive and open his heart. How his father made the biggest transformation of all.

It is a movie that surprised me because I enjoyed every bit of it. This is one of the few Christian movies where I feel like the writers and directors finally figured out that if you lean heavy on a good story, the message you want to share will come through.

I can only imagine BartIt helps that first time film-actor, J. Michael Finley, does an excellent job as the adult Bart. He makes the high school student and the adult vulnerable and closed off in the right parts. And yet, he cannot deny his own talent or his eagerness to use that talent.

Dennis Quaid gives us a character that is gruff and mean and unforgivable at the beginning. But in the end, we find ourselves rooting for the older man. Granted, he is only about five years older from the last time we see him but he is greatly changed. Quaid expresses all sides of this complicated man without going too far in one direction or another.

Trace Atkins also brings a special something to his role as the manager/promoter who gets the band noticed. His reluctance and belief in their potential makes the role feel real.

Sometimes sincere emotions can make up for lacks in this genre. Many of the people in this production came through with heart-felt portrayals that never let us down. Because of its uplifting story, because of the real transformation of the characters, I enjoyed watching this movie and would happily watch it again.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Cooties

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

What makes a good movie? What makes a bad movie?

How is it that some movies hit all the right notes with a thinner than fresh ice plot line while others with an interesting plot line fail to connect?

Personally, I think it is all about knowing who your audience is and who they could be.

Recently I picked up a movie that looked interesting. It was about how tainted chicken nuggets turned a summer school group of kids into zombies.

Cooties_poster (1)In my head this should be a slam dunk in the horror/comedy genre. There is so much you should be able to mine in this territory to be funny.

But from the start, Cooties hit wrong notes. We start with new substitute Elijah Wood asking his mom how she liked his book when she comes to get him up for his first day at a real job. After her positive affirmations, she pulls out every criticism. This was uncomfortable.

Then he gets to school, makes enemies of various teachers by talking abut this is only a way to make money while he works on his book. One of the teachers turns out to be a former classmate. Potential romance, right? NO! Her boyfriend is the very masculine gym teacher.

We also get very unpleasant sequences with Nasim Pedrad, who used to be great on Saturday Night Live. Here she is a tightly wound teacher constantly talking about what the State of Illinois will not let her do.

After that is when the zombie behavior in the kids starts popping out. Let me just say after a slow start, it goes right into gruesome as a sanctimonious character gets torn apart on the blacktop play ground. And that’s where I stopped watching. If you are going to have gruesome in a comedy/horror movie you need it make it funny. And there has to be at least one likable character that you root for to make it to the end.

I didn’t have that with this movie. But I will tell you one zombie movie that made me laugh and be disgusted at the same time. That was Shaun of the Dead. This movie starred Nick Frost and Simon Pegg as two guys somewhere in England fighting off a zombie horde while trying to save Pegg’s former girlfriend and her friends.

Shaun of the DeadWhy does this movie work? First, we actually like Shaun. He might be a bit of a loser but he actually wants to protect his loved ones. Two, the jokes feel realistic and not taken too far. They are not stiff or uncomfortable. Lastly, the gruesome parts are not that gruesome and they wait until far enough into the movie to be an expected thing.

I actually watched this movie all the way through and not just because I had to. I really enjoyed Shaun of the Dead. Cooties, on the other hand, can go back where it came from. My son later watched the movie all the way through and he stated it started to get good around the two third’s way mark into the movie. It’s doesn’t matter how good Rainn Wilson’s performance is by that point, that is when you hang it up.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Eighth Grade

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

While visiting Oak Park a few weeks back, the husband and I decided to take in one of those independent movies that doesn’t come down this way very often.

eighth grade posterWatching Eighth Grade was like seeing one of those movies that felt true to life. It’s a slice of life story that seems to be about nothing. It is rated R so the kids who would recognize everything depicted as true and everything depicted as false can’t get to see this movie on their own. Parents have to be willing to take their own eighth graders to this movie. But also be prepared to talk about it afterwards.

The story is about a girl during her final week of eighth grade. Kayla is a quiet shy girl who makes videos on how to be more confident or how to be yourself. That doesn’t mean she actually does these things but nor does she not try. Her stories come from the point of view to classmates she wants to be like.

But this girl is also looking forward to high school in the hopes that things will be different. She clicks with her mentor immediately, which gives Kayla hope. She also has a huge crush on the cutest boy in class and wonders how to make him more than an acquaintance. Meanwhile, Dad is trying to connect with his daughter. He is genuinely concerned about his daughter and tries to be supportive as he daughter makes the big transition to high school.

There were times I wondered where this movie was going. It moves slow and sometimes our lead character is contradictory in her actions. She pretends in her videos to be more outgoing than she really is.

But in the end, I saw this girl grow and change. We see her being awkward and afraid and reclusive till she decides not to be these things.

eighth grade kayla n dadThis is one of those movies that doesn’t have a lot of action. But Kayla needs to be brave and we watch her grow her emotional strength. It would not surprise me if this movie becomes an Oscar TM contender, considering the honest and raw performance given by Elsie Fisher as Kayla. Josh Hamilton also comes through with a strong performance as a dad trying to figure out his daughter, a beautiful kind girl trying to find her way.

Kid actors can overplay a role and not be consistent. But Elise Fisher completes all of the right moves in this role. She makes Kayla vulnerable and afraid and brave.

Now I do need to warn you that there is some swearing in this movie. There are moments that are uncomfortable because it features some sexuality that is unwanted,. How Kayla responds is what keeps you watching.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.