Category: Family Movie Night


Feel the Binge

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

One aspect of this new way of looking at movies and TV shows through streaming that I find fascinating is the ability to binge-watch anything.

And I do mean anything.

flashMy older son still at home is currently watching The Flash, a newer TV show on the CW network about the DC comic speedy superhero. Before that, he watched all of the latest episodes of Arrow, about the crime fighting archer., another DC comic book superhero.

And he does this through Netflix.

My daughter does the same but with an Australian show about a group of students studying at a prestigious dance academy in Sidney. I started watching the show with her and found myself intrigued.

So how does one start in a binge session.?

I think there are two theories on this.

The first requires planning and thought. First start with buying a DVD or checking out your steaming system for a complete season of your favorite show. Before you can plan the watching time, there is another factor you must take into account: The snacks.

big-bang-theoryMy personal preference is for Cheetos but since that is off the diet now I go for buttered popcorn sprinkled with cinnamon. Perhaps you prefer nachos or pizza. The point is you want to make sure you’re completely stocked for a season’s worth of The Big Bang Theory or Ninja Warriors. That includes beverages and TP. There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a binge watching session and running out of TP.

That requires you to leave the house after hours of binging wearing pajama pants and a tee shirt with greasy food stains on it. Ain’t nobody got time or the desire to see that.

finding-bigfootBut once you’re set, go for that binge session of Downton Abbey or Finding Bigfoot or SpongeBob. Keep at it all day and all night until you have seen each and every episode whether it is on a DVD or streaming.

Theory one requites planning and organization, which some of us like to do.

Then there is my second theory.

It’s the one in which you find yourself with free time, like an entire day of free time. So you turn on the TV, search through available programming and start watching something, something you have vaguely heard about, such as Supernatural or Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Dog with a Blog. The first episode or two are great or at least passable but you want to see more.

buffy-the-vampire-slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The next thing you know fourteen hours have passed, you made it through a season, and the dog is dancing around with his legs crossed. Your clothes are rumpled, stained with any food you found in the meantime, and you begin to dance around the room with your legs crossed.

There is no planning, no stored snacks or TP, and the dog is ready to bite you.

But what a great run of your favorite TV show in a matter of hours.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

The Craft of a Good Actor

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

It wasn’t that he was goofy looking or had funny eyes that made Gene Wilder funny. It was that he was willing to take every character and every scene to the nth degree. He wasn’t the romantic lead or the true action hero. But what Wilder gave us was perfect comic timing and ideas that seemed outlandish until he performed them.

VARIOUS - 1979

Mandatory Credit: Photo by STEVE WOOD/REX/Shutterstock (74497b) GENE WILDER VARIOUS – 1979

Interestingly enough, Wilder stated that comedy was even funnier when you played scenes straight. You don’t need to make funny faces or sounds, playing the scene as most people might live it can be funny.

As soon as the word came out that Wilder passed away last week, my husband instantly stated we needed to get Blazing Saddles. It is this movie, Willy Wonka, Young Frankenstein, and Silver Streak that may be what Wilder is known for doing. It is these movies that he seems to be the straight man while creating total havoc.

It is a different formula from what the Marx Brothers were doing but his work makes us laugh just as hard. It could be the timid accountant in The Producers or the mad creator doing the soft shoe with his monster in Young Frankenstein. His performances always seem like he is completely present in that character no matter what the character is doing, whether it is a mean character or someone kind of sweet and lost.

Wilder had not performed in movies for the last twenty years. He stated that he did not like the modern films with so much swearing and explosions that seem to make no sense to the actual story. Then in the last three years, Wilder dealt with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. He left public life after that. It was comforting to hear that in the end he was surrounded by family and listening to Ella Fitzgerald.

tom-cavenaughAnother actor in that mold of playing it straight no matter what is Tom Cavenagh. My son watches the CW network show, The Flash in which Cavenagh plays a bad guy masquerading as a good guy. Each side of his character is believable. I find his character especially compelling because Cavenagh has played a number of good guys.

His first big role was in the TV show Ed in which he played a former New York lawyer who comes home to his small town, buys the local bowling alley, and sets up a new law practice. He sweetly romances the girl he had a crush on during high school with some success and some failure. But you instantly like this guy. It feels that what you see is what you get. I have noticed this in other movies as well.

But in The Flash, there is something different driving the character. He has a desire to create what he needs to happen in the future and so he must be a mentor to the one person he will destroy in the future. While I would say that The Flash is better for teens and young adults, Cavenagh’s other movies – Yogi Bear and How to Eat Fried Worms are better movies for younger children.

As for Wilder’s movies, Willy Wonka is better for the younger generation but his other movies are more suited for teens.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Hathahate

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

For whatever reasons I am seeing a lot of hate for Anne Hathaway.

Why would any one hate Anne, right? I know what you are thinking, she was so cute in those Princess Diary movies. And she was great in Les Mis, she sang so beautifully in that movie. I honestly thought she was an angel in Jean’s death scene.

But there are plenty of people who hate the 33-year-old actress.

Anne HathawayThey say she grew up in the theater and therefore she has picked up a lot of ‘theater kid’ bad habits. She is always willing to give it one more try, willing to suck up to the director. She has little ticks that give away what she is thinking about as she is acting.

In fact, there are times that I wonder why she didn’t go harder in various scenes in movies such as The Intern (2015) where she could have been a more Miranda Priestly type. I always felt that character, with as much as she had to say about modern feminism, needed to be tougher in the workplace. Yes, she is cool and hip but her assistant has a meltdown worthy for a boss who is meaner.

Perhaps the problem is more that Anne Hathaway is incredibly beautiful and talented. It is true that she became known because of a Disney movie. She performed in a few other fairy tale-based movies. But Hathaway has also taken risks, such as when she was Jake Gyllenhall’s wife in Brokeback Mountain (2005). She is playing a woman who may or may not know that her husband is gay. But she went after him and their marriage is not entirely unhappy.

Anne Hathaway CatwomanAnother risk taking role for Hathaway is in The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Here she is playing Cat Woman, not as a sexy siren but as a woman willing to do what it takes to survive. Perhaps not as seductive as Michelle Pfeifer’s turn, Hathaway brings a toughness we haven’t seen in her before. Yes, she is a criminal and she is willing to do what it takes to get the job done. In this version, Selina Kyle does not have any regret over her actions. She has her reasons and sticks to a code of her own making.

Her toughness really comes through in Rachel Getting Married (2009) as she plays a young woman released from rehab in order to attend her older sister’s wedding. While filled with one liners and heart breaking truths, it gets down to the nitty gritty about guilt and how one comes back from the worst thing they ever did in life. Hathaway does not play it safe in this movie, seldom letting her own sunny personality come through.

Les Mis Fantine IMDb com

Anne Hathaway as Fantine in Les Miserable, image from IMDb.com

Perhaps my favorite movie with Hathaway is Les Miserables (2012). It is a long, heart breaking opera-style movie about the poor in post-revolution France. Here, Hathaway must be hopeless, downtrodden, filled with despair as she loses her job and must find other degrading ways to earn the money needed to support her daughter. And yet she is the moral center of the story, she is the one who gives us hope in the end.

Is the Hathahate true hate or is it jealousy?

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

We all need a bogeyman, something or someone to blame when life doesn’t go the way we want. But we also crave for a way to make life feel safe.

That is when certain movies are good for nothing more than setting up a villain and working to destroy him or her.

We all have some sort of action movie that is great for stress relief, that helps us see sometimes problems can be solved.

Bruce Willis Die Hard IMDb com

Bruce Willis as John McClane in Die Hard, picture from IMDb.com

I always felt that was the appeal of the Die Hard series. John McClane as the rogue cop always managed to take down the terrorists, the villain, the bad guy with smart aleck one liners and a profane cry to let his opponents know there was nothing he wouldn’t do to save his family.

We love it of course, as John McClane does it all by fighting the bad guys be it opportunistic journalists or foreign terrorists seeking to kill while getting away with the cash.

London_Has_Fallen_posterTo me, that is the appeal of London Has Fallen starring Gerard Butler. This movie is a sequel to Olympus Has Fallen in which disgraced Secret Service officer Mike Banning saves the life of the president and his son when terrorists attack the White House.

It’s two years later in London Has Fallen; Butler is now the personal guard of the president played by Aaron Eckhart. He goes along for every trip, including a funeral service for the Prime Minister of England. It looks to be a security nightmare that various agencies are working to prevent.

Until that is the worst does happen. Bombs explode on bridges, monuments, boats. Leaders from a variety of countries are killed. Many of the cops are not real cops but terrorists waiting to cause complete destruction.

I can’t tell you the number of things I could not believe Gerard can do. He hung out of a speeding car and shot at the other vehicles driven by the villains. He took over the driving when the other guy was shot while driving. He took on various enemy combatants and beat them at their own game. All the while, the personal guard of the President is doing everything he can to keep his charge alive. The nursery awaiting his child had six security cameras in it.

London has fallen 2Is this movie any good? Well, there are some great explosions as various buildings are destroyed. The unending supply of minions is humorous when you take the time to think about it. The movie is watchable with funny little moments thrown in, such as the president finding himself behind the wheel of an SUV after seven years of not driving and wondering if he can still do it.

I think there is an audience for this movie with some cheesy lines and an easy villain with whom we can relate. There is swearing and some bloody violence. It is not for the younger kids. My son wants to watch it and at 19, he is the perfect age for it. I have to admit, I will probably not look for this movie but if it shows up on cable, I will probably watch it.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

The Political Yarn

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

In these weeks of political focus, two conventions deciding our presidential candidates, I have been thinking about those movies that dip into that realm.

Perhaps it is me but I see politics and societal commentary everywhere from the recent kid movie Zooptopia to blatant political satire of Our Brand is Crisis.

Our Brand is CrisisThis latest movie starring Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock is about a broken political consultant who prefers to work on pottery in a backwoods home. But she is pulled back into the game to help a South American politician win the presidency of his country.

She is not only battling the personality of a politician she doesn’t like but also a competitor helping the other (and perhaps) better candidate. This is the story of a woman battling depression, addiction issues, and altitude sickness to help a candidate she is being paid to help. What she does for her employer is not always pretty and in the end, she has to decide if she can live with her actions.

It is a good solid movie that is not meant for young children with its swearing and violence. Then again, children might be bored with the adult context of the movie.

wag the dogAnother movie that might bore them to pieces is Wag The Dog starring Robert DeNiro as a political operative who needs to create a distraction for his boss, the POTUS, who may or may not have been inappropriate with a girl scout-like group. So he brings in movie producer Dustin Hoffman to create that distraction involving a potential war in Albania.

It is a big boondoggle of a set up that could give a movie producer bragging rights for years or at least a really great story if only he could tell the story. Which he can’t because it is all top secret. Is this scenario possible? I don’t know but sometimes when I watch the latest scandal, in the back of my mind I am always wondering if this is the tail of the story or the real meat of it all.

Again, not a great movie for kids with it’s low key action and some bad words. Even adults who prefer a lot of action will probably be bored by this movie. But I love it for every actor, including musician Willie Nelson, who moved out of their comfort zone to give great performances making fun of a process that needs to be ridiculed.

mr smith does to washingtonFinally, if you have not seen Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with Jimmy Stewart, perhaps you should. This 1939 Frank Capra is a classic about a politically naive man who is appointed to the Senate and wages a war against corruption. He even runs a filibuster to make sure right is the law of the land and not big money.

For me it is how politicians go to Washington, how they leave depends on the evil they do to others. With great speeches and tremendous acting Stewart and Claude Rains put together a movie that searches for the true meaning of political action that is meant to help the rest of the citizens, not harm them.,

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

What a week.

I am so glad it is over despite this week coming being almost as hectic.

Our church help Vacation Bible School, which is time consuming no matter how well everything is planned out. And despite having good plans, we had some set backs and found our way to solutions.

VBS Surf ShackIt makes for hectic nights because life doesn’t stop. We still had work and 4H judging days. And then we found out the husband’s sister succumbed to cancer. She is gone and the family – her siblings and children – will feel that loss for a long time.

On Facebook, family and friends shared how she gave her heart and caring and tomato plants to them. Friends of her children told how she opened the doors of her home and her heart to support them in difficult times. The husband talked about how she took charge of the home when their mother was ill and made things better during those rocky times.

We had originally planned to go to the double feature at the Harvest-Moon Twin Drive-In. Those plans were scrapped by a need to drive in to Pennsylvania and another child’s friend’s birthday party. Suddenly it was just two of us, so I suggested going to a screening at one of the local theaters. The daughter suggested we go to a play instead.

We drove to the Kankakee Library to see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The performance space on the fourth floor was utilized for this event. I have been there before when Rick Kogan came to town and for a work-event. It made me think once more how wonderful it would be to have our own library in town. I realize it would take a referendum and a lot of work. But the benefits would be greater. Greater access to books and other materials, an opportunity for kids with no internet access at home to get their work done.

Well, enough dreaming.

The play was a fun and25th annual spelling bee fast-paced musical about a spelling bee in New Jersey for sixth graders. Each child had a different story and reason for wanting to win – or not – as the case may be. First produced in 2005, the play has a modern feel to it while the kids seem straight forward. One child is raised by two fathers, one has a mother missing from her life. One of the kids is home schooled and a little cooky while another is a boy scout. Finally, we had the over achieving boy and girl.

I enjoyed seeing local talent showcased with some great singing and fun acting. There were many laughs as audience members were asked to join the group onstage. These people may have been given easier words to which the other participants reacted in a not-so-happy manner.There are a few moments to the play that are serious and heart-wrenching. It makes a person cry after so many times when we laughed.

To be honest, I enjoyed the play from the live combo, with one member who felt the need to blow bubbles, to the surprise appearance of Jesus. It made me laugh during a week when I didn’t feel like laughing at all. And that is the best praise I can give any performance.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.`

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

This past weekend, the husband and I did something new and different.

We took a trip without the kids.

It was necessary to do this as our niece was getting married but had to have a small wedding.

There is a lot more to the story than I can say at this time. Suffice it to say this wedding was the definition of bittersweet.

Because the wedding was not till later in the afternoon, the husband asked what I wanted to do while in the Washington D.C. Area. I had only one answer for this trip – I wanted to see Mount Vernon.

Yes, that Mount Vernon that served as the home of President George Washington.

Mount VernonSo we went, paid our money so we could walk a part of the estate and through the mansion. Because there were so many people, I felt as if we were on an assembly line. There was a cordoned path for us and the docents stayed in their rooms, talking about the rooms as we walked through. No time for questions. There were rooms we walked past too quickly to really see, it wasn’t till I was at home and on the computer that I learned one room belonged to Martha’s daughter-in-law.

What really impressed us were the grounds. The gardens to the east of Mount Vernon were incredibly beautiful as well as utilitarian. Flowers planted in a natural style formed the outer edge of a square while the inside were filled with neat rows of various vegetables. Bees happily gathered nectar and most probably took care of the vegetables as well. These edges were not simply flowers but fruit and nut trees scattered so as to not cause shadows throughout the day.

As we walked about we noticed specialty tours going on. I accidentally joined one that was about all of the gardens, not just the one we saw. That was an hour long tour. There was another special tour at 4:00 P.M. in which you could have tea with Martha Washington. And then there was the Nation Treasure: Book of Secrets tour.

National Treasure II Mt VernonThe 2007 movie has a crucial scene at Mount Vernon in which Ben Gates takes the President to some secret passages underneath Mount Vernon. His goal is to find out another piece to a secret treasure that will somehow prove his great grandfather was not a member of the plot to kill Abraham Lincoln. First he has to get there and does so by the Potomac, so we get to see the sandy beach by the wharf. Then there is the party which takes place on the grounds of the mansion.

It stars Nicholas Cage as Ben Gates, Diane Kruger as he long suffering girlfriend as well as Justin Bartha as Riley. Jon Voight returns as Ben’s father and Helen Mirren joins the cast as Ben’s mother. I have only seen bits and pieces of this movie. I love the first one so much I am afraid to see the follow-up. What if it doesn’t live up to my expectations?

What I love about National Treasure is the history, the walks and/or runs through historically significant sites. And when Nicholas Cage waxes poetic about the Declaration of Independance, stating that people may not talk that way but they think it, I believe him. I believe him during every part of this movie.

Could I feel the same about National Treasure: Book of Secrets? I’m not sure. But I am going to watch it so I can re-visit the plantation I recently toured.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.`

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Cooling off sometimes means hitting a wonderfully cool movie theater.

Besides a library, one of my favorite places to hang is a nice cool and dark movie theater. Plus the kids wanted to see Finding Dory so it was one of those win-win situations.

Finding DoryAll of us liked the movie. It was fun, bright and colorful most of the time. Dory, as ever, is fearless despite or because of her memory problems.

In this movie, Dory has a memory come back to her while helping Mr. Ray lead class. In it, she remembers her parents. Suddenly, Dory realizes she has to go home to California. And like all of Dory’s ideas, they have to happen now.

Thankfully, Marlin knows a guy who can help them.

Soon, they have found their way to California, to a marine life rescue and release center. Dory pieces together bits of memories, figuring out how to find her family.

Like all good adventure movies, there are close calls and separations and reunions and companions who seem unreliable but are the best friends you’re going to ever have. We have chase scenes and close calls and the impossible solution to a problem.

Are you going to love this movie?

Probably, especially if you liked the first one. But things are different. First off, the annoying part of Dory’s memory problem is made clear. There is no rest for Marlin, he and other adults, are always on the watch out for Dory because she is easily distracted and forgets two seconds after you tell her something. Marlin can be snappy and irritable.

Secondly, there are some scary scenes, especially for those of us who might be claustrophobic. The pipe scene got to me, had me running for more popcorn when I didn’t need more popcorn. Thankfully by the time I go back to my seat, that scene was over. And I don’t feel like I missed much much or a big clue.

Lastly, this movie has a more California vibe to it, especially with the music. It is more laid back, less ethnic than the first movie.

Finding Dory HankWhat is the same as Finding Nemo are the great side characters. There are the ferocious sea lions defending their rock while helping Marlin and Nemo. We meet Becky, the slightly deranged bird. Then there is Hank the seven tentacled octopus. His only goal in life is to get to Cleveland and never return to the ocean, if he can help it. Ed O’Neil has fun with this character and makes him almost more important than Dory.

What I didn’t like was the slow opening, the heavy handedness of fair treatment to disabilities. And I think about the world as it was in the days of the first movie. Autism had not come to the great rates as it is today. ABA therapies and GFCF diets were being developed for a population that started growing like crazy. And the aging population was on the verge of a great Alzheimer’s epidemic. Life has changed in those 13 years. We look at our parents and our children, wondering how to cope with it all.

The adults may never be allowed to forget these issues. But the kids do, they just see Dory as Dory. She is strong and brave and funny and believable as she goes on an adventure of rediscovery. Pixar has done what they do best, put together a strong story with great animation. And this movie never lets us down in the process.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.`

Happy Anniversary

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Ah, summer time.

It is hot and muggy and appearing to be never ending. It is also the month of weddings.

The husband and I will celebrate 21 years of marriage this week. Our wedding took place at Starved Rock State Park. They had recently built the platforms looking out at the Illinois River. We took full advantage, forced family and friends to climb the stairs to our area.

It was a hot day, the temperature hit 95. We had a cooler of drinks along so people wouldn’t get dehydrated. But it was great to have so many family members there for our celebration. Even the Texas Bowmans came to see their brother finally get married.

Wolf Jack MichelleOne of our favorite activities together has always been watching movies. One of our first dates attending a screening of Wolf starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer. It’s a well done movie about a meek and mild publisher who becomes a new man after a bite by a wolf on a lonely Vermont road. Everything changes for the publisher. He regains his lust for life and jumps into a battle at work against James Spader.

The movie is atmospheric, filled with great lines, and a solid performance by Nicholson Pfeiffer, and James Spader. But this isn’t our favorite movie to watch as a couple.

That movie is Forget Paris starring Billy Crystal and Debra Winger. Most romantic comedies end once our two leads finally become a couple. But this movie gets going once the star-crossed lovers finally get uncrossed. Sure it is fun to fall in love but sustaining it is the hard part.FORGET-PARIS_1024

We enter the scene as one couple celebrates their upcoming wedding with friends at an Italian restaurant in New York City. The woman is certain they have the most unusual story as to how they met. But her-soon-to-be husband knows a more unusual story and proceeds to tell the first part. As more friends arrive, we hear more of the story of love gained, love lost, love regained with a happy ending until it’s not happy.

Not that this couple don’t try hard; they have to work things out while dealing with long work-related road trips, sick parents, and failed fertility treatments. We get front row seats for the fights, the make-up sessions, and reunions as Mickey and Ellen try to figure out love in the modern era.

Billy Crystal co-wrote, produced, directed, and co-starred in this gem of a movie. He has a great partner in Debra Winger who gamely takes what ever is thrown at her and runs with it, including a pigeon trapped on sticky paper. Their dialogue is real, the actions heartfelt. I never doubted for a moment the emotions I saw, never doubted the arguments that took place.

This is not a movie for kids with a few scenes of sexy behavior. Besides the content being very grown-up. I doubt if many kids would want to watch this movie. The teens might, if just to snicker about this or that scene. Otherwise, it is a fun movie that is a little racy at times about the trials and tribulations of marriage after the great build up of romance.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

I had been putting off seeing Maleficent because I knew it was a re-telling of a familiar fairy tale and I wasn’t sure I was up to it.

While the other updates on fairy tales are about girl power and taking control of your own destiny, this one goes a step further to a darker place. Something is taken from our lead character that can never be replaced and then she is treated as the villain for wanting revenge.

MaleficentHere Angelina Jolie plays a fairy who is the protector of her world which lies next to a human kingdom. The humans can see this wonderful magical area and want to take it over. But Maleficent won’t allow it, using trees for her army. The king is furious and wants her destroyed.

Only one man in his circle knows how to do this and Stephan uses knowledge from his shared childhood with Maleficent to make sure she cannot fight as strongly as she did that day. It is a great betrayal that leads to a curse on her part and maddening obsession his. And it ends with a battle royal on the day of his daughter’s 16th birthday.

If this retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story is anything, it is beautifully photographed with rich colors and well done CGI. The sets and costuming brings one into the time period as well. I enjoyed that aspect. What bothers me is the motivation for the curse, the reason behind everything which is upsetting and unsettling. I have seen and read re-told tales. Is that what Wicked is after all, tell the story from the Wicked Witch of the West’s point of view?

It is not just what was taken from Maleficent but by whom it was done, a most trusted friend. It reminds me of too many real cases of theft of this sort and how the victim is always made to be the villain in the story. It is not a movie for the younger crowd, better viewing and understanding will happen with the younger teens and older because of the context of the movie. I would be prepared to answer questions at the end.

On the lighter end of the spectrum, Zootopia comes out on DVD this week. When I first heard of this movie, I was not impressed. It took hearing a few friends’ reviews and watching it for myself to really fall in love.

ZootopiaThe story is about a bunny who lives in the country and dreams of being a police office. Not just any police force, she wants to land on the police department of the large capitol city, Zootopia. And when she does, Judy is not given the most exciting job. However, soon enough she is knee deep into an investigation that starts off being about a missing animal and leads into something much bigger.

Judy, it turns out, is quite resourceful especially when she blackmails fox Nick Wilde to help get into places she can’t otherwise. The action is fast paced, characters are well drawn and interesting, and Judy’s optimism is infectious. The other big plus is the theme song by Shakira who voices Gazelle in the movie. Every time that song comes on the radio, my minivan rocks.

While this is a great kids movie, be aware that if your pre-school child is scared by loud roars and some aggressive behavior, they may not enjoy this movie.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.