Archive for April, 2018


The Day of the Fire

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Normally, I am happy to talk about the ridiculous or action packed movies that take us away from the normal daily routines.

In fact, I had planned to watch I, Tonya Saturday night so I could write about it. I was looking forward to the downtime after driving my sons to the various work or activity commitments, and helping my daughter get ready for prom.

Fire 180421But at some point on Saturday afternoon, something was not right. We could see smoke on the east end of town. Slowly it seemed fire trucks were coming, one by one sirens began screaming. The smoke smelled acrid like when plastic burns.

The apartment building next to the post office was aflame, even at the late point that I walked to the site. It was obvious that the building just to the south had been damaged by the fire although I could not tell just how much had been done. However, firemen were on the balcony of the south building sending a high-powered stream of water onto the last vestiges of flames on the very front of the north building. On the back of the building there were at least three other streams working to dampen the flames.

Fire 1804212As I looked into the building, I could see the roof was gone. It looked as if the second floor was giving way as well. I heard one firefighter say that the main fire was in the middle of the building and it would be several hours before it would all be out. The firemen’s effort would go on through the night as Momence Fire Department came with their light truck.

Looking at all of the trucks, you could see the names of the various communities that came to help our small town: Pembroke, Kankakee, Beecher, Sauk Village, Richton Park, Matteson. I assume there were others but I did not those trucks. Some were used to block off streets so that a snake of hoses could be used to bring more water to the scene. Eventually, water would be drawn from Cote Lake to combat the fire in the later stages.

Several families have lost their home and belongings. I heard that a fund is being started at the National Bank of St. Anne to help these families. Chris Sutherland sponsored a clothing and toiletries drive this past Monday.

What I didn’t take pictures of was the groups of people watching the fire, including a girl in her lovely peach-colored gown for prom. Her friends came in their party dresses to be their for their friend who is watching her home go up in flames. It was too intimate, too personal. It was enough that I was there seeing their pain; no one wants that broad-casted to the world. 

Fire 1804213All of us know that this could be us; a simple malfunction could take away everything. A friend of mine lost her mother when there was an unknown gas leak in their basement. The mother turned on her vacuum cleaner and the house blew up. It was accidental and not the fault of anyone. For my friend, the loss was great.

I know many people are feeling their loss. But I also believe it will get better. Help will come in all directions. That is best thing about a small town; when the unbelievable happens people rally around you.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

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The Greatest Showman

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

In this world of constant information, it can be hard to understand why showman P.T. Barnum was ever a success.

Greatest ShowmanHe relied on society’s fascination with anyone and everyone who was ‘different.’ He created exhibits and shows of what people wanted to see. He made money and lost money and made it again by taking phenomenal risks.

And that is only what is covered in the movie The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum. This movie covers the time that Barnum created his American Museum, his live performances, and the tour with Jenny Lind. We are thoroughly in the mid1800s without mention of the Civil War or Barmun’s abolitionist or temperance activities.

I hate to break it to you but this is not a documentary or bio pic looking to be accurate.

Instead, we get an action packed, musically driven story that hilights Barnum’s desire to make money anyway he can. The whys are the usual reasons that propel anyone to succeed. Barnum adds to this by being willing to risk everything all of the time – his home, his properties, his non-existent fleet of trains.

We also see that he is a brilliant promoter. He knows how to get people to his shows, how to publicize his shows, how to keep people coming into the door. All of this despite the protesters and the angry mob who do not want the freaks on display because freaks need to stay hidden at all times.

Greatest Showman - castThe music is not fitting with the times, instead it has a modern pop and hip-hop vibe. This is Me was nominated for an Oscar and is the big song of the movie as the Barnum show cast sings it with dignity when they become more open about who they are.

The dance sequences are incredible as well. Based on Broadway hip-hop spectacular and Busby Berkley views from the top, we see how Barnum is the center of the show. He wants to be the center, he wants to drive the show, he wants to be the one who says ‘look at this, you have never seen this before.’

Hugh Jackman is great in this movie because he encompasses the hope of a man who has failed before, he is a risk taker, and he is a pure raconteur constantly re-inventing himself with each new venture. Gone is the weariness that we saw in his role as Wolverine; instead we get a man hungry for success who never losses his lust for life. Michelle Williams plays his wife with her own ethereal style. It is something she can do in her sleep and yet I never get tired of watching her as her husband takes them from poverty to riches and down again.

Greatest Showman - Zac and ZendayaBut credit must go the rest of the cast including Keala Settle who plays the Bearded Woman, Lettie Lutz. Rebecca Ferguson is impressive as the legendary Jenny Lind. Zac Efron and Zendaya bring life to their roles as star crossed lovers in a time that did not allow racially-mixed couples. Their performances, singing, and dancing added spark to many scenes.

Not everyone is going to like this movie. But for those who love the musical genre, this makes a great spectacular to add to your collection.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Make’ em laugh

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

When life gets hectic, all I really want to do is laugh.

I want to laugh until my sides hurt.

Lately, I have found myself angry and tired of seeing people with guns going into schools and shoot up whoever they can find. I am tired of there being no answers, no solutions, and nonsensical arguments being bandied about.

So I look for comedies to distract and make fun of the world.

Arsenic and Old Lace posterI grabbed a few comedies the other week with Arsenic and Old Lace (1941) being at the top of the pile. This classic stars Cary Grant as a theater critic who loudly stated in the past he has no intention of marrying – ever. That is until he falls in love with the girl next door, Priscilla Lane. They wed at city hall but before going on their honeymoon, Grant wants to tell his two aunts. They are the sweetest ladies who do much charitable work in Brooklyn.

And he will, right after they discuss the dead man in the window seat AND his homicidal brother’s return to town AND the bodies in the basement AND elderberry wine. All of this happens on Halloween night.

It is silly and goofy and completely over the top. Cary Grant thought this was one of his worst performances. Pearl Harbor occurred during the shooting of the movie, and Director Frank Capra meant to make more edits before he left to join the armed services. But he never did tone it down.

They story is fun, the action is quick, and the fight scene between the brother and the police is enough to make one laugh a few belly laughs.

But in case you want something a bit more modern, there is always Date Night starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey. These two crazy kids are a couple who fear they have fallen into a rut, especially after close friends tell them the friends are getting divorced.

Date Night posterSo on their usual date night, Tina and Steve push their boundaries. They dress up a little more, go into NYC to a hot new restaurant for a meal, and take someone else’s reservation. But of course there is a problem, these things always lead to problems. It appears that the couple who did not show for the reservation is holding on to something belonging to a criminal figure.

And as the night goes on this couple has to figure out how to stay one step ahead of bad police guys, find the couple, get the flash drive, get help from super security guy Mark Wahlberg, and get home in time to pay the babysitter. Oh, and stay alive.

This is not a movie for those people who do not like swearing. It can get raunchy at times and definitely not for kids. That’s ok because sometimes couples need a break from the routine and watch something meant for adults. I always liked this movie for being both preposterous in the action and deeply honest in the interaction between this couple.

It might be one of the few romantic comedies that features car chases and shoot outs before the ending resolves into happy-ever-after.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

The Right to What?

Since the Parkland shooting, I have been nonsensical with grief, worry, and anger.

All I seem to hear is the usual NRA rhetoric of good guy with a gun, we need more guns , and how dare those kids talk about gun control.

The mother’s anguished screams to President Trump to ‘do something’ has not left my brain.

But what really set me off was someone I know stating that we can’t control crazy or evil people, they are going to do what they do. Therefore the only course of action is nothing. Because I had been unreasonable towards them, I felt the need to apologize. They accepted it and then felt the need to lecture me once more so I might understand their  point of view.

That is where they lost me. Accept the apology and move on. Explain your side so that I can know how wrong I am and I know you are a pompous ass who only cares about your point of view.

I also know that they were wrong because I know that determined people can change a society.

Look what happened when the federal government instituted speed limits. While states have been setting speed limits since 1901, the federal government set highway driving speed limits at 55 mph in 1972. This lead to a drop in driving fatalities by nearly 50%. That was huge.

In the 80s, the federal government also forced states to raise their drinking age to 21 by refusing to give them highway money. Maybe it didn’t matter to those of you surrounded by states with all the same drinking age but it really mattered where I grew up. Wisconsin was only 90 minutes away. Kid could drive up, drink, and come home.

But every year, there was always a fatality of a car load of kids coming home. Every year our year book had a dedication page to the dead. Every year someone did not come home. These were laws that made changes to behavior that were seen as unchangable.

It was during this time when mothers became and angry about their children being killed by drunk drivers. MADD was formed in 1980 and these women worked to change laws, make reforms, and stop the death toll.

Unlike the temperance unions that destroyed bars and banned the creation of alcohol products, these women went after the people who drank to excess and worked to get them off the roads. That is how drinking ages were raised, penalties for drunk driving increased, and various punishments put into effect. The efforts of MADD brought down the fatalities rates 50 percent.

I think people would have said that there was no way you could bring down the drunk driving fatality rates. You can’t control what drunken people might do.

But what if we took some of those same ideas towards gun laws. Say we made gun laws consistent across all states so that every one follows the same rules. What if age limits were set for gun owner ship? What if magazine sizes were limited? What if we changed gun rules to match what MADD did or the federal government did that actually saved lives?

Or we could sit around pretending there is nothing we can do so that we can continue to caress our guns and be satisfied that the right to own guns is safe.  Forget the inalienable rights declared in the declaration of Independence as the right to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. As long as guns are available no matter what, who cares if another group of school kids are shot to death.

 

 

Thor: Ragnarok

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Once I found out that Thor: Ragnarok was on video, I wanted to see it.

Thor RagnarokIt is no secret that I am a big fan of the Marvel comic series movies. I have seen most of them and love them. Each one fits into to the overall story line, with different issues being addressed specific to those characters.

But this one I knew was going to be different. It was reported that Chris Hemsworth wanted a different feel to this movie and I could understand why. Thor is a stoic character most of the time with a bit of fiery emotion that is hard to control. This can be hard to play all of the time.

In using new director Taiki Watiti, improvisation was the rule on set. Some of the lines came from suggestions from a fan who visited on set during a make-a-wish visit. Others came during the moment of filming. We have seen glimpses of humor throughout the past movies but here Hemsworth allows us to see a goofier and sometimes more honest version of Thor.

But there are other momentary glimpses of perfection. Such as when a Led Zepplin song is used for the final battle song. I giggled and screamed a little when I realized the legendary English band’s ode to Nordic myth set the scene for this important battle. I could have sworn Loki’s hair did a slow motion swoop during this scene, matching the musicality of the song.

The story is about Thor’s need to get home after being captured on a distant planet. He needs to beat the super opponent in order to be able to leave. And he must get back home to stop his older sister, that he never knew about, from destroying Asgard.

Thor and LokiWhile I love this series for developing characters and making us like them even more than before, never have I seen this group of actors mix the serious and the humorous so seamlessly. His description of the break-up with Jane is telling and funny and face-saving in one fell swoop.

But other characters, including Tom Hiddleston and Jeff Goldblum go for the humor as well, working in the subtleties of their characters as allowed. It is not a total wink at the camera but there is enough to let us know the actors are trying to have fun while dealing with the serious aspects of this movie.

There are plenty of sight gags and oops moments, physical humor and eye rolls that make us laugh. But there are also moments of emotional angst and personal introspection as characters decide who they really are as a soulful creature. There are always ethical issues to mull over in a Marvel comic book movie but here we get it mixed with humor.

Thor valkarie and helaCate Blanchette, Tessa Thompson and Rachel House are great as women warriors who fight with fury and their own sense of purpose or right and wrong. There are so many moments with these women that you just need to watch the whole movie to catch their wonderful moments that string along wonderful baubles into a beautiful necklace.

The essentials of the Marvel movie remains. But the differences make this movie worth the viewing. Who can resist The Immigrant Song by Led Zepplin during the major battle scene?

No one, I tell you, no one.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.