Category: Family Movie Night

The Handmaid’s Tale

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

It used to be that if you wanted to binge on a specific TV show, all you had to do was wait for a cable station to have a marathon of an episode.

That is how I have watched the TV show Monk about a detective that has OCD but is able to solve the unsolvable murder cases.

But other shows can be found on DVD. You can watch all of the seasons of The Big Bang Theory or Seinfeld. It’s not just movies anymore but some of these award-winning short-term TV shows.

handmaids_tale_s1_dvd_cover_artRecently. I watched the entire first season of The Handmaid’s Tale starring Elizabeth Moss and Joseph Fiennes. It is based on the novel of the same name by Margaret Atwood about a futuristic society in which women are not allowed to read or hold a job or handle money.

The American government has been overthrown by a religious organization and the constitution has been suspended. One of the precipitating factors to all of this is a massive drop in the birth rate. Women are barren and some children are still-born. It is believed to be either a virus or God’s will upon America for not living by God’s laws.

In this new society, the women have clear rules. Wives of the commanders wear blue dresses and cloaks. They do not work and are expected to do what society women do – hand works, creative works for pleasure, and serve as their husband’s hostess and helpmate. Those rich enough are given a Martha dressed in gray to do the housework and cook meals from scratch. If the couple does not have any children, they are given a Handmaid.

Handmaids tale, walking partners

Walking Partners

This member of the household is to have sex with the husband at her most fertile period while the wife’s in the room. Should the handmaid become pregnant and have a successful birth, she will give the baby to the commander and his wife. Should she not get pregnant after a one year period, she will get sent to another commander. If the second assignment doesn’t result in pregnancy, she will be sent to the radioactive colonies to clean up the toxic mess. It is a certain death sentence.

The show gives us the present story and the handmaid’s past story in flashbacks at first. We find that she was married with a child and loved dearly. This situation is terrible for her. She misses her daughter and believes that her husband is dead. We see her point of view on how life changed. But as the series moves through the episodes, we get to see the viewpoint of other characters and how they are shaped by the change of government.

Handmaid_s_tale June_Luke

June with her husband Luke and daughter Hannah in happier times

The book is very interesting but it does not go into these details. It is fascinating and horrifying all at the same time. I found I could only do two episodes at a time because each scene is so intense. The intensity comes from the constant vigilance everyone is under, never knowing who is a spy and who is not. In a society with few words, it is subtle facial expressions that tell the story even more than the words spoken. You have to watch it, there is no dragging your eyes away.

I must warn you that there is swearing and violence. We will see dead bodies and people killed for no reason. People will scream at their situation and wonder how they can get out. It is brutal and engrossing and makes one wonder if this can ever happen in our world.

I cannot tell you one way or the other.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.


Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

With the weather being so hot, I have not had the energy to get out and work in my garden or do much else beyond school work.

Scott Pilgrim Vs the worldI am taking a library class this summer that has a major project due every week. This week is the final exam and in a weird way I am looking forward to it. Soon, it will be over. On one hand I know how to work more programs then I did before. On the other, I will have some time to enjoy the last of summer.

But last Thursday, I broke down and sat with my son to just watch a movie. All I did was watch a movie with him and wondered what I was watching. The movie turned out to be Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

This was a weird little movie about Scott Pilgrim who falls in love with Ramona who has seven evil exes that he will need to battle in order to win her. And it is all treated like a video game. As Scott fights each ex-love and wins, coins fall to the ground and he appears to have a running point count going on.

The exes include a now-famous actor, a few musicians, a goth girl, and a music promoter. But there is another problem as Scott has an ex-girlfriend of his own; Knives wants him back and is willing to date his friend to make Scott jealous and want her back.

Maybe it was my mood and my inability to get up but I loved this movie. It was a lot of fun and a great jab at gamers playing an unusual live action version of their favorite games. There was an epic battle scene just about every five minutes during the second half.

Scott Pilgrim Evil Exes

The Evil Exes in Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

The battles were epic but so were the actors who were given a chance to break us up with some good laughter. Brandon Routh has been shutting it down as the Atom on the DC comic television network. There he gets to be the good guy. But in this movie he plays a dark character fueled by a need for revenge and super powers courtesy of his vegan lifestyle.

Chris Evans wasn’t Captain America yet when this movie was made. However, he has a great time being an action hero actor who has to beat Scott and has no doubt he will. The testosterone coming off of this guy is off the charts.

Jason Schwartzman makes a great appearance as the crooked record deal man and the final evil ex-love willing to fight to the death.

This movie is meant for teens and adults who love to game. While the fights are tightly choreographed and filled with wire-fu, this film is also splattered with f-bombs and language not everyone is going to appreciate.

Still, as a flick for a night when I needed to relax, this movie works. I may never watch it again but it was fun this time around.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

It doesn’t happen very often but the husband and I got away for a quick break to harbor Country in Michigan.

So what did we do?

We walked on the beach as the waves pounded in one day. We stood at the edge waiting for the water to touch our feet after walking down the shore and looking at the various pieces of driftwood settled into the sand. There were dog and deer tracks in the sand.

Lemon creek wineryWe ate scrumptious meals at breweries/restaurants, including a piece of chocolate stout cake that was better than anything I have ever eaten before. And the slice was ‘uge. There was brisket with mac and cheese as well as a jive turkey sandwich with a lemon mayo and argula.

I might need a diet from all of the food I ate over vacation.

What was interesting to me was all of the hops fields and vineyards we saw. There were rows and rows of grapevines for what seemed liked miles and miles. My husband explained that the land east of Lake Michigan benefited from the cool air that comes off off Lake Michigan, making for perfect growing conditions for grapes.

We stopped at one winery for a wine tasting and enjoyed a variety of white wine, making sure to buy a bottle for our hosts that will be perfect for sipping with a cheese and fruit plate.

It made me think of the movie Sideways with Paul Giamatti and Thomas Hayden Church. The 2005 Oscar winner for Best Screenplay is one of those adult movies that explores the core of our souls. In this case, it is two men on a trip in the Napa Valley the week before Church gets married.

SidewaysWe see these two men who are at crossroads vacation and meet incredible women. We see the ties beginning to develop as the lies grow bigger. There is a real connection going on and, sadly, we have a sense that the winner will not be the one we hope it will be.

I love this movie for reasons that are hard to explain. It is a true character study of people who fib a little or a lot. It is the look of failure and the chance for redemption or at least hope. They all have faults and failings. The person you root for is the most likable character and perhaps most balanced.

All of it swirling around like a fine wine in a glass, shimmering as it catches the light. And like a good wine, it has subtle flavors that come out as you taste and explore the wine.

This very adult movie is not for the squeamish and the easily offended. It has an R rating for a reason. There are situations I do not want to watch with my child nearby or maybe a parent. It’s one of those movies I prefer to watch with a spouse or maybe a girlfriend.

And when I do, it will be with my favorite pino grigio and a cheese plate. I was never much of a red wine fan.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Do You Believe?

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

When I watch a Christian movie, I try not to give it a ‘free pass’ just because I am a Christian.

If you took the time to make a movie that you think should be worth my cold hard cash, it had better be worth my cold, hard cash.

I want good writing, believable characters, and plausible action. I want to enjoy the proceedings and not have to say “come on” to myself.

I do not want to question the shaky philosophy, I do not want to deal with over the top evil characters, and the Christians better not be complete saints.

Just as I believe film makers shouldn’t cut corners on family movies, Christian movies should be well done. Fart jokes and characters who are stereotypes need to be put away.

Do-you-believe-So when my church decided to show Do You Believe? I was filled with dread. The title alone signaled that it was a Christian movie with a big ‘C.’ My fear is that the movie would be pompous and unbearable.

I hate those kind of movies.

But I wanted to be fair.

The movie works into the stories of the homeless mom, a gangsta wannabee, the couple dealing with the loss of their only child, a pastor and his wife facing infertility, a vet going through PTSD, a pregnant teen, and a woman who tries to commit suicide. The toughest story is of a paramedic who is trying to comfort a dying man with his faith. But the problem is the dying man is a humanist who does not believe in God.

This puts the paramedic on shaky ground with his work and his wife, a nurse at the hospital. They worry about his job although he wants to be true to his faith. They go to the church lead by our preacher who has an experience with a street preacher carrying a cross. Our preacher is asked if he believes in the cross, how is he living it?

And that leads to a sermon which inspires a number of people in our story to live their faith, to develop faith, to live once more.

Do You Believe still ted Mcginley

Ted McGinley

The performances of this movie are well done whether it is big name people such as Lee Majors, Cybil Shepard, and Mira Sorvino or other people I have never heard of. They are balanced and sincere. The stories played out well. Even the big event that causes a chain reaction of disasters feels organic.

What doesn’t feel organic is the performance of the humanist characters. The husband and wife team feel angry and resentful about God, and it feels over the top. We don’t get a reason or a true explanation as we do for other characters who have reason to doubt God. It paints them in a corner that feels unfair.

This was my only true problem with the movie. Otherwise, this is one of those movies that’s good but not great.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Ocean’s Eight

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

I love a good caper movie.

I love it when everything works, bringing surprises in the end to a happy conclusion.

And when I first saw the trailer for Ocean’s Eight last year I knew I wanted to see it.

Sandra Bullock has gone from that slightly insecure but highly competent girl to someone in total control of her life. She is cooler than cool, even while walking down a New York city street with a simple ponytail on her head.

Her partner in crime is Cate Blanchette, a multi-award winning actress who is a night club owner that likes to water down her vodka.

After serving five years for a crime she alone did not commit, Debbie Ocean is looking for some money, something that will keep her happy for years to come.

Ocean needs help and soon that team is assembled from the most competent female masters of crime in NYC. And if they get a little more out of the deal than they bargained for, well, that’s all right.

This is a movie that is stylish and keen on the job they are about to complete. The women look great no matter what style of dress they employ.

As much as I liked this movie – and I really wanted to like it – there was something missing. These women were so good at what they do but there seemed to be missing some key chemistry. I didn’t buy all of the friendships. I didn’t feel enough camaraderie amongst the women. But nor did I see how some would not get along or their lives picked to death by their co-horts.

What worked was the pieces of the crime and how they all fell into place. That part was quite enjoyable as different characters began to shine, especially when faced with an arranged marriage. But it would have been great to see some of them, if not all, to have a more human touch.

In any case, my daughter and I really enjoyed this movie. At no point did either of us feel embarrassed by anything going on the screen. We have come across movies or TV show that we thought we would enjoy and it turned out we were both hugely embarrassed.

That wasn’t this movie. We really enjoyed it and I got a kick out of the soundtrack. There were jazz pieces, and classical bits that sounded fresh and revived. It is definitely a girl friend movie. But it also makes you think what would one plan for if they had five years to do it.

I hate using the word ‘revelation’ because it is a sloppy and lazy word. But that is what Sandra Bulock, in this role of a very thoughtful and confident woman. Sarah Paulsen also standouts as the woman who can organize anything. If she was real, I would pay her to organize my life.

Would I go see this movie again? Absolutely, because no woman or man can resist the charm of our characters as they pull of more that we expected while being exceedingly cool.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

One of my most favorite movies of all time in The Incredibles.

The Incredibles IMDb com

Image from

I don’t mean favorite animated movie or favorite family movie.

I meant what I said that this is one of my favorite movies of all time.

It is almost a perfect movie. You could ask me next week and I might say it is a perfect movie.

The story is about a family who are secretly supers. They each have special powers and abilities. Super strength, super stretchiness, super speed, and super energy control. They have to hide their super powers after various lawsuits against supers go badly.

Bob works in an insurance company as a claims adjuster who tries to hard to make claims go through. The problem is his boss wants them to not go through and save money for the shareholders.

It doesn’t help that life, after being a super, is kinda boring. Go to work, have supper, clean up, go to bed, do it all over again. You can wait for something exciting to happen or make it happen. Bob makes a decision that will cause excitement in his life. But it is a decision that will fully impact his family.

What makes this movie one of the greats is that nearly every scene is capable of being a stand alone moment. These are perfectly captured moments of human emotion. The feeling of being left behind, of not being able to use your skills to their full abilities, of loving life in the moment, of being afraid or happy or joyful.

It doesn’t hurt that the action scenes are well choreographed and interesting. How a super can move, depending on their abilities, is fascinating. From the Fro-zone to the baby’s developing skills, we see just one these suits can do to protect the wear. What is more interesting is seeing the children discover their power and abilities.

It is also the comic touches that make this movie great. The heaviness of the movie is lightened time and again which keeps an audience engaged. The scene in which Bob visits the superhero costume designer is classic for the character’s persona. Her subsequent visit from Helen is another exercise of comic explanation of super suits.

I find myself laughing and crying and smiling within each scene. There are many times that I marvel at the ease and beauty of the animation and the music that accompanies each scene to set the emotion. I like that we know each character really well, that we understand their motivations.

We don’t always get that in a movie like this. We barely learn a person’s reasoning for doing their actions or hiding rational reasons. Some characters remain a mystery. But not in this movie.

I would watch it whenever it showed up on TV, because it is just that good. And with the new sequels about to show up, it is always good to have back up information about the new movie.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Sometimes I like watching older movies because I want to see what was different from then. I also like to see what is the same. Some old movies I watch because I have fond memories of them and want to have those good feelings again.

Lady and the Tramp SignatureI recently saw the Disney Signature Collection of Lady and the Tramp, the 1955 animated movie from the Disney company that saw its biggest hit since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. This collection was release just this month.

I know I read this book to my kids when they were little but I never remember watching more than bits and pieces of this movie.

Of course the spaghetti dinner scene is the most iconic, the most remembered scene. And it almost didn’t go in because Walt Disney didn’t like the scene.

Perhaps you know the story, perhaps not. Lady comes to the Dear family as a Christmas gift to Darling from her husband, Jim. They love the adorable cocker spaniel who becomes a valued member of the family. Lady has her routines and friends in the neighborhood.

When Darling becomes pregnant, Lady worries that her role in the house will change. But it doesn’t and soon she adores the little human as much as she adores his parents.

However, the couple need to take a trip away from home and Aunt Sarah comes to watch the baby. This is when the trouble begins. Aunt Sarah hates dogs and brings her evil cats with her. Now my husband would say “but of course they’re evil, they are cats after all.”


This is when Lady runs away in fear and she finds herself being protected by Tramp, a lovable mongrel who manages to evade the dog catcher time and again. As Lady works to escape all that frightens her, Tramp guides her through the free and easy life.

This remains a beautiful movie to watch, the animation is layered and smooth. Storytelling is key. We find ourselves rooting for Lady because she is such a winning personality. Tramp, too, wins our heart because he is the classic bad boy who is just waiting for a good woman to change him. He is genuinely upset when bad things happen to Lady.

However, the opening has not aged well, feeling corny and old-fashioned in a bad way. My daughter wanted me to fast-forward through it to get to the movie. It is the same with the ending, It is the old heavy handed music with the choral singing with many voices but little harmony.

The other disappointing part of this DVD is that there are no extra featurettes about the making of the movie or how they worked to create the different scenes. In the loop that plays while you are deciding what to to, there are wonderful pencil drawings of various characters that slowly move into full color animation. I wish that there was more on this history of this movie.

This signature edition was good for one night of watching. But if you are looking for more, you need to spend time on the internet to find it.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Breaking In

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

This past Mother’s Day, one of my gifts was a movie date with my son.

Now this was going to interesting because he prefers horror or deadly action/adventure movies while I am more of a romantic comedy or straight comedy fan. I hate the nightmares I get with his favorite genres while he likes comedies that are a bit more racy or drug infused.

Breaking inFor whatever reasons, we settled on Breaking In starring Gabrielle Union and Billy Burke. I like Gabrielle Union, she has always played tough women who seemed smarter than most. She has had a 20-year career in Hollywood playing strong women.

And in this movie she must be strong when she and her kids go to her deceased father’s house for the weekend in order to get it ready to put on the market.

As you may have guessed, her father had a few secrets. Such as what his business entailed and just how much security fills the house. And this is a beautiful spread. Lots of square footage, lots of rolling greens, and wooded areas. The house has a security gate and a long winding driveway.

Problems start when our grieving mom, Shaun, and her children find out that there are intruders in the house. Unfortunately for Mom, the kids are inside while she is outside. These men want something within the house and they are willing to kill to get it.

The leader, Eddie, played by Billy Burke of Twilight fame, pretends to be a nicer guy. He pretends he doesn’t want to kill an entire family to get what he wants. He leaves that role to henchman Duncan, played by Richard Cabral, who likes waving a knife around.

Soon we are in a struggle as the men try to find something in the house and keep the mother bear at bay. After all she just a woman, she can’t fight back. Or can she?

Breaking in 2You know the answer to this question because we have seen this movie before. I like that Union makes Shaun into a caring person and not some fighting robot. She never loses her compassion for her kids or others caught in the web of these intruders. But it doesn’t feel fresh or new, nothing seems to be added to this film that moves it beyond what it is. Its one of those movies that you will watch later on when it appearsom a day when you need to veg. For that it is perfect.

My biggest gripe has to do with the location of the movie early on. We are shown a street sign and for those who know the city, it is obviously the Old Town neighborhood in Chicago. As the man jogs, it appears that he is running along the lakefront near Belmont harbor. Next, he is running in a residential area that features big houses and wide streets. While there are mansions in Chicago, this looks more like some North Shore neighborhoods. For a character who creates a super stronghold, it seems inconsistent that he does an unprotected daily run that takes him on a twenty plus mile run.

This is one of those movies you could watch with your older teens. Just be aware that there is plenty of violence and some swearing as this has a PG-13 rating. It wasn’t the worst movie I‘ve seen this year but I was hoping it would be better.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

As some of you may know, I was diagnosed with Type Two Diabetes a few years ago.

Despite watching my diet and exercising, there have been no easy fixes. I did not have that lovely dramatic weight loss nor have my numbers chosen to stay in their proper range.

Recently I was told to get diabetic shoes and change a few more aspects of my daily routines. While I know I am lucky that I never had Type One, there are days when I wonder if I will ever get used to all of this. I think about the changes I have made and wonder what else is there for me to give up. But I also try to not look at is as giving up but prolonging my life with fewer health complications.

Secret Life of Walter Mitty posterIt is saddening and overwhelming, making me want to hide from it all some days.

Perhaps that is why I have been thinking about the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013). This remake of the classic MGM movie is about a man who spends much of his life day dreaming about the things he wishes he could be or do.

Walter, as played by Ben Stiller, has always been a very careful man, a guarded man, who have never traveled or done anything outside of the small parameter of his life. Recently, he has developed a crush on a co-worker but is not brave enough to talk to her. He works as an image manager for Life magazine that is about to print it’s final hard copy magazine. Soon, this version of Life will be online only and staff members will lose their jobs.

It is up to Walter to find the last picture from a renown photographer and the man jumps into the assignment. The man afraid to travel find himself flinging himself into one adventure after another, trying to find the reclusive photographer and the final image meant to be the final cover image of a dying magazine.

Secret life of Walter Mitty skateboardThrough his adventures, Walter discovers something about himself. I guess we expect that because this movie is all about change and growth. And we want it to be happy. And Walter changes through his travels. When ever someone goes on a journey of self discovery and growth, there are expectations that this person will be a better version of themselves.

Walter may have wished for more when he started on his journey. He expects more when he returns home. And he gets more. I love the travelogue aspect of this movie, the beautiful scenery. I enjoy some of the philosophy as well. Sean Penn can deliver the mystical magical performance when needed, sometimes that mystical aura is right there in front of us and we just can’t see it.

Sometimes it requires us to travel around the world to see what was always there but hiding in plain sight.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Infinity War

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

So Friday night, my daughter and I went to see Avengers: Infinity War. Even though I had bought tickets the night before, we still had to wait outside in a long line to get in to the theater before the show.

Avengers Infinity WarI have to admit I went into this movie with some fears and preconceived notions. I wasn’t sure if this was the last movie, that it would end the series. I wondered how bloody it would be or if it would be too much for me to watch.

I walked in with these fears because this movie was going to be heavy. Thanos, a super villain, is a character who is trying to find balance in the world and he tends to invade various worlds. He almost always instantly kill half of the population with no rhyme or reason as to who is killed.

But now he is trying to collect six infinity stones in order to put his plan of equal destruction throughout the universe without having to leave the comfort of his home. We watch as Thanos tromps his way through the universe working to get the remaining of the six stones.

That is all I can say without getting much more into the story line. It is too complicated.

I can tell you this. Do not go in blind.

There are a lot of characters from the Marvel universe, some from the first Captain America movie. Others come from the Thor and Iron Man movies. Newer characters who have had only one or two movie so far are here as well.

If you don’t go on a Marvel Universe binge before seeing this movie, you might want to create a score card. There will barely be any clues as to how various characters relate to each other. As they interact with each other you will only notice some friendliness between a few and animosity between others.

Honestly, it is easier to go on a Marvel Universe binge.

Avengers Infinity War 2Once you do, go see this movie because it is great. It asks the difficult questions of mortality and survival and why anyone would continue fighting when it appears nothing is left. This is not the usual light-hearted comic book fare. It is heavy with light moments thrown in. And there are moments when the crowd in the theater cheered because favorite characters showed up. There are other moments when the crowd voiced their disappointment over happenings in the movie.

This is one movie that will stick in my head for quite some time. I will think about different characters and what they were willing to do to fight evil. I will think about the Rapture and how this movie reminds me of those aspects.

I might even go see this movie again to catch all the little things I missed that might lead to clues about the next Avengers movie which is currently scheduled to be released a year from now.

I am looking forward to it.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.