Category: Family Movie Night


Gotcha!

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Now that Halloween is near, I am seeing some great Halloween decorations around town and the county.

Ghoulies and ghosts, bats and pumpkins are flying about about or sitting in cute arrangements. We have ghosties to put in our yard and I have started buying candy for that big event at the end of the month. Our church is planning a Trunk-or-Treat event as well.

The leaves are turning and the air smells different. It feels crisp and clear, perhaps this is our version of the Californian sweater weather that I have heard of but never experienced. I know I can go out in the morning with a sweat jacket when I have to walk the dog in the morning and at night. But if I work in the garden during the day, I have to take off a layer.

Trying to find movies I can watch during this time is a challenge. I don’t watch scary movie because they give me nightmares. These movies replay in my head once I shut my eyes which is not always fun. I have to do some serious meditation to keep these movies from sticking. I don’t know how other parents do it. I didn’t let my kids watch the really scary stuff for a long time. My fall back during the season was always Scooby Doo.

The Woman in Black IMDb com

Poster Image from IMDb.com

It’s movies such as The Woman in Black starring Daniel Radcliffe that really get to me. These flicks have plenty of “Gotcha” moments that make a person jump and scream a little or a lot. In this movie, Radcliffe is a lawyer sent to close the estate of a deceased client in a far-off English village on the coast. He has to be in her house and anytime the Woman in Black appears, children are going to die. Her unhinged anger at losing a child led to unhinged anger in the after life. Who knew?

What is funny is that I love watching ghost shows such as Dead Files and Ghost Adventures. These people are always going into allegedly haunted places and finding ghosts or evil entities. The things that they say or their actions can be quite frightening. However, when they replay the event you can see how scary or not scary the event might be. You can see if it is real or not. Or as real as it can look; my kids are always telling me how fake these shows are.

The difference between these is the build up to the action. In horror movies, you always know that something is about to happen for a variety of reasons. First, the character is doing something stupid, such as wandering around alone. Second, the music becomes eerie with discordant sounds that sets a person’s nerve on edge. That is when the moment happens. The evil entity jumps out, the mass murderer gets another person, someone disappears or falls through an open elevator shaft.

But in the ghost shows the action never has build up other than a voice over stating that the scene you’re about to see shows some conclusive evidence. There is little music run-up or if there is, it follows a statement before immediately going into commercial break.

Those are the scares I can handle.

slasher movie villiansFreddy, Jason, Michael, zombies, Leatherface, and the Woman in Black terrify me every time. Even when I know they are coming, even when I hear all of the warning signs.

Probably a good thing I am not like the majority of movie goers or horror films would not have stayed so successful.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

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It’s a Documentary!

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

I love watching a good documentary.

It is those true stories that have meaning and verve that make you feel wonder and awe about our life here. Some of them make us feel something more uneasy.

Standing in the Shadows of Motown

Image from IMDb.com

I have loved some documentaries in the past. I loved Standing in the Shadows of Motown, a documentary about the studio musicians of Motown when the studio was based in Detroit. Just the soundtrack alone is enough to make me smile. It is the stories of those musicians that make you cry or stand in wide wonder of these men.

Another that is the tops on my list is Man on a Wire about a French man’s tightrope expedition between the twin towers of New York City. To hear the story of how Philippe Petit planned and executed his famous but highly illegal performance is fascinating and a bit of a heist movie with plenty of dumb luck.

But there is one man who is the master of the documentary and that is Ken Burns. Whenever I watch his movies, I feel as if I have learn something I was not going to learn anywhere else. I feel ten times smarter although if I had just read or looked up some of the facts he portrays, I might have known them too.

His newest documentary is call The Vietnam War. It is a movie that does not shy away from a war that might be our nation’s biggest regret. The episode I watched featured a clip about Jane Fonda, aka Hanoi Jane. If you want to get a room of people upset, just mention her name. I find people still react strongly to her. I am certain I have not heard of positive word said about her for the last 20 or more years.

Anyhoo, there is a section of Jane’s visit to the North side – the one where she allegedly took a note from one of our guys as prisoner and sent him to his death. Well, that didn’t happen in reality but the story persists. And while Burns gives us the reasoning from the vet’s point of view about her actions in visiting segment. I am not sure anyone will believe it just as I am sure no one ever really believed her apology.

Vietnam warRegardless of your view of Jane Fonda, what you can’t get around is the visceral feelings this will bring up, especially those who served in the war, protested the war, or grew up during the war era. Ken Burns stated that with every day and new fact that turned up, he felt embarrassed by the new details he learned during the production of this film.

One of my friends, who is a retired librarian, said this film reminded her why she protested this war. I can’t imagine all of the reactions people might have to this series. But I do know that because this was made by Ken Burns it will be a high quality movie.

Just be aware that if you go to buy this movie or check it out from the Library, there are several disks. It might take you time to get through all of them. But the movie is guaranteed to make you think about that war, the things we did, those other soldiers did, and guess at what you might have done.

And that is not an easy thing to think about.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Hear all about it

Family Movie Night

 

Last weekend our own Gladys, the newspaper lady, was the grand marshall of the Pumpkin Fest parade.

 

What an honor.

 

1959-1963-buick-invicta-1960I saw Gladys riding around in the back of a boat of a Buick. I remember when my grandmother had a large Chrysler like this. It was fantastic. Granted, I was too young to understand that the car took a lot of gas to run. But, boy, are those large cars wonderful to see.

 

Gladys was happy to have the ride and we are pretty lucky to have her in the town, helping various organizations and keeping the paper going into its 100+ years of existence. Her positive attitude has meant a great detail to me, personally. Over the years we have, of course, talked about favorite movies.

 

Most of the movies that Gladys and I talk about are various family movies that are funny and make us laugh. But the one movie that has remained a favorite over the years is Return to Me starring Minnie Driver.

 

It is a romantic comedy set in Chicago that is completely implausible. David Duchovney is a young architect whose wife dies in a freak car accident. Driver is a young woman with a serious heart condition. We meet her as she is awaiting a surgery to save her life.

 

Return to Me Poster 2 IMDb com

Image from IMDb.com

Six months later, Duchovney and Driver meet when he comes for a blind date at her grandfather’s restaurant. The date is a disaster, the woman is a gold digging nightmare. But the odd couple manage to connect emotionally.

 

Soon they are seeing each other on a regular basis. But Driver manages to hide her chest scars do that Duchovney will not treat her as a fragile doll. That is until she sees her thank you letter to the family of the donor of her heart.

 

It is one of those romantic comedies that make you laugh and cry and realize that you know all of the people in this movie from Jim Belushi’s regular guy to Carol O’Connor’s over protective grandfather. Robert Loggia is the fairy god-uncle we could ever want. It is Bonnie Hunt who holds it all together as writer, director, and loyal best/friend.

 

This is one of my favorite movies because it feels like and old fashioned love story. The people, despite being in a preposterous situation, act consistently with good natures. These are people you want to be around. For an hour and a half, I know I will have a good time.

 

You have to hang on to good movies like that.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

 

Family Movie Night

 

By Karyn Bowman

 

Lately, I am seeing news stories about the Hallmark Channel seeing an upswing in their ratings. Since mid 2015, the ratings for this channel have been going up in a time when media pundits are talking about the end of cable TV.

 

Timing is everything and some will say that the timing has everything to do with Trump. Early 2015 is when he declared his intention to run. And since then we have had a rollar coaster of revelations and tweets that might force St. Michael to charge.

 

Or he can turn on the Hallmark Channel for an hour or two to decompress.

 

hallmark-channel-logoI understand completely. It’s not hard to get sucked into one of those movies that show the complications of life and their solution in 120 minutes. The characters tend to be likable or a little grumpy.

 

But at some point there is a revelation, a solution is found, and the love we had seen starting to build comes to complete fruition. Sometimes the movie is set in pioneer times or modern times or in strange destinations such as Santa’s home in the North Pole. Christmas in July is a good way to mentally escape the heat of summer.

 

If you really need to have some nostalgia thrown in you can watch hour after hour of the Golden Girls. and Fraisier. But what I am watching these days is not any of these but an original TV show called Good Witch starring Catherine Bell and James Denton.

 

It is based on the Hallmark movie series, The Good Witch about a beautiful woman who moves to a small town into a house that may or may not be haunted. Strange things happen around this woman even though a number of people like her. It’s not long before people wonder if she is a witch.

 

Good WitchAfter this movie was a big hit for the cable channel, they started making the movies a yearly event. Now it is a regular TV show airing on Sunday nights. Not that I have watched it there. I actually stream the shows on our Netflix service.

 

I find myself watching two or three episodes at time while I clean the living room or work on a project or eat popcorn.

 

It’s relaxing to watch Cassie always making cookies, working in her little greenhouse off of the kitchen, or re-arranging displays in her cute little shop filled with essential oils, jewelry, accessories, and knick knacks.

 

She is always busy but calm. She runs two business but has time for friends. She is a grieving widow who seems to take everything in stride. And her next door neighbor is always popping in for advice and a game of poker. The neighbor is played by James Denton, formerly Mike the plumber on Desperate Housewives. Here he is a doctor relocated from New York with his son.

 

That the new family slowly fit in feels natural. That the doc and Cassie develop feelings for each other is natural too. It is a relationship that progresses slowly and that feels right.

 

There are times that I wonder if the way the characters talk is not a bit trite, that some of the trouble stirred up is a bit coincidental. But some of the story lines I can really relate to, such as when the town mayor had to put her foot down with her grown son despite her desire to be lenient.

 

It is not a perfect show, it is not great all of the time. But it is like being around that one friend who always puts you at ease. And some days, that is exactly what is needed.


Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

The Smell of Fear. . .

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

This past weekend saw the release of It starring Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise the deadly clown.

It is a horror movie focusing on a creature that kills children. Then a group of kids, those who are bullied the most, gang together to destroy this thing that they call It.

When I asked my boys if this is a movie I could see, knowing that I have a hard time with horror movies, they said emphatically that I should not see this movie. Both told me that there were a lot of jump scares, in which the movie scene is meant to make you jump out of your seat.

ITThen the older son stated it was a bit gory, that there was some bloody parts and that wouldn’t be good for me at all. Then he reported that the movie has a bit of a psychological element because the creature lives off of fear of the people and that is how he gets his real power although he eats people, too. He also reported that Bill Skarsgard was a great Pennywise, he was creepy and evil in all the right ways.

His description reminded me of how a friend’s daughter once described a frightening roller coaster “It was horrible . . . and great.”

Well, a lot of people must have agreed because the movie broke box office records with an $117+ million opening weekend. Considering the movie was made for $35 million, that is quite the payday. But for horror film wimps and smaller children, I would suggest seeing something else that is lighter and easier to deal with. Even my 20-year-old reported dreaming of clowns and he really wanted to see this movie.

I remember watching the TV Miniseries version of this movie. It made me realize how Tim Curry is such a great actor. Truth is, even in his bad movies Tim Curry makes it better than it should be just be showing up and being snarky.

But when I remember the movie, I remember the scenes in which kids are being bullied or beaten and the adults who witness it do nothing. Yes, there was the terror of something taking kids. But that was a special kind of fear. The worst fear was the everyday sort in which people are picked on or bullied or socially snubbed.

It - KidsThat trend continues in the new movie. One of the story lines in the current movie is how one of the kids in the group lives with an abusive father and, therefore, is not scared by the evil clown. Another is mercilessly bullied for being a fat kid.

The boys said they would watch this movie again and a part of me believes they would. Maybe they would look for all of the little details or maybe it would be so they could be scared just one more time. While I am not a fan of horror movies, I believe their value is in allowing people to deal with their fears in a ‘safe’ setting.

After all, movie scares are nothing like real life scares and there are enough of those to go around.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

The other night I decided to watch Rogue One because I hadn’t seen it yet.

The idea is great. It is the missing link between Episode III and Episode IV. It tells some important details and moves us to know the whys and hows of that all important fourth movie. For those of you over the age of 45 that would be Star Wars. Not A New Hope, not Episode IV but Star Wars, the movie that allowed people who are science fiction fantasy geeks to get their geek on out loud and in public.

Star WarsThat movie was amazing in its day. Star Wars was/is a Messiah story, the desire for the mythical hero who comes from no where special to save the day. It is a story told and re-told over the years. It is the battle of right over might and good versus evil.

Along with the heavy drama, we also had moments of laughter as Hans Solo and Chewbacca try to navigate getting Luke where he needs to be despite their reluctance. Through them we find something to laugh about and not get bogged down in the constant terror driven by the evil empire and the presence of Darth Vader.

Some might see that as a metaphor for modern times, some might see Vader as the power-crazed villain we need for any war movie to work. But as I watched Rogue One, I have to admit I was under-whelmed.

It is a movie I feel I have seen too many times in this genre. Our heroine is a girl who has lost her family to the evil empire. She has been cast out and lives in jail, her crime unknown to us although we think we know what it is. And then she gets a chance at freedom as long as she is willing to do something for the opposition, as long as she helps them her chance for freedom will come to fruition.

Now, I know there will be Star Wars fans who will be upset but I fell asleep during this movie. With all of the noise and the banging and the explosions and fights, I fell asleep. Not even the cool blind Jedi fighter was enough to keep me awake. And he was really cool.

When I woke up in time for the last 30 minutes, I tried to stay into it. I wanted to see the end. And when I did, I was highly disappointed. “You didn’t tell me about that!?!” I told my son.

 

I didn’t want to ruin it for Rogue One

you,” he said.

Which is a good thing if I was a crazy attending conventions sort of Star Wars fanatic. No one wants the secret of the movie revealed. Even when a movie has been out for several years, there are still people who get upset when the secret is revealed.

So I won’t reveal it.

But I will say if you are a Star Wars fanatic, you are going to love this movie and have probably already watched it a gazillon times to get all the little references and easter eggs. For those of you who enjoy the series without going overboard I will say that this movie is good, has some compelling characters and some wish-they-weren’t-here characters. You can watch it with the kids, find a few laughs here and there, and find some great explosions.

However, if you fall asleep at any given part, I am certainly the last person who would kick you to the curb as a friend.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Still a Wonder

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Sometimes after you have have seen a movie, there is a bit of a high feeling like this is the best movie you have ever seen and nothing can ever compare to it.

But then hours or days go by, you think about the movie some more and realize maybe it wasn’t so great.

I have had that once the fantastic visual effect or great music placement has worn off. What seemed great is long gone till all I see are the deficits.

Wonder woman - pictureI have not felt that way about Wonder Woman and at this point I don’t expect to do so. Every time I see a commercial or a clip from the movie, still get excited. Knowing that it comes out on DVD on the 19th makes me want to buy a copy for myself.

Director Patty Jenkins gave us a tour de force about a superhero whose motivation is not about revenge or cleaning up after a bad mistake. Diana’s motivation is always about fighting evil and promoting the best parts of humanity.

That doesn’t mean to say she is a wimpy or wishy-washy character. When meeting Steve Trevor’s secretary, Etta, and hearing her job duties, Diana’s response is forthright as she says in her country that is called slavery.

Each fight scene shows Diana running into the forefront of battle, never shying away from the danger or the action.

That fearlessness shows on Gal Gadot’s face in every scene. There are times that she appears to relish the battle, to know she is actively fighting all that is wrong in the world. It also shows up in the quiet moments when Diana leave her home island when she tells her mother that she would be a worse kind of person to stay knowing there is evil outside of their world, killing thousands and doing nothing.

Brave words met with action.

Wonder woman - homeWhile one character can make a movie good, it takes a group to make it great. Gadot has solid support in Chris Pine as Steve Trevor who is always quick on his feet no matter what the situation. He is a man of his time and treats Diana as a precious object to be protected, not realizing till later, she doesn’t need to be protected.

And then there is David Thewlis as Sir Patrick, Trevor’s patron. He states he wants the war to be over and he is willing to back whatever plans Steve makes. His character is charming and gentlemanly, what we expect from an English aristocrat. Thewlis makes the role effortlessly his, no more Professor Lupin hesitancy here.

Lastly, I have to mention Robin Wright as Antiope, Diana’s aunt and trainer, General of the Amazons. We have seen her be fierce in House of Cards but in this role she has to step it up 500 times and she does so. With every scene of training and fighting, Wright never stops to consider, never backs down. Even her scene when she is gravely injured is still a performance of toughness. It allows us to see where Diana gets her inner strength.

There are few movies I choose to watch over and over again. This is absolutely one of the one I will watch again.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

To me there is nothing like a bad movie.

I don’t mean good enough but not a great movie. I mean bad, I mean super bad. I mean something so preposterous and unrealistic that there is no way you can buy into the story line. There may not be one character, including the lead, that you can find likable, sympathetic, or even heroic enough to root for in the proceedings.

But it has to be a movie that is so bad that you want to watch it again and laugh at it.

My go-to-movie in this situation is always Barb Wire (1996) starring Pamela Anderson Lee in a bad futuristic dystopian drama in which Pamela Anderson does her best Humphrey Bogart. She is the owner of the hippest night club in town that is only mildly harassed by the police. Things get done through he club that don’t happen anywhere else.

Barb Wire IMDb com

Poster Image from IMDb.com

However, Barb wants nothing to do with it. He goal is to keep herself and her blind brother alive. Her sideline job is being a bounty hunter and she is the best. Once upon a time she worked in the resistance but no more. Barb doesn’t take sides and she doesn’t like being called “babe.”

This is not a movie for small children as there is plenty of violence, swearing, and nudity on the part of Miss Lee. It has a lot of energy with some fantastic scenes of action, destruction, and explosions. Sure, it is a reboot of Casablanca and it is interesting to see how the director imagined 2017 back in the 90s. But this is not high art. Fun to watch, yes. Great cinema, no.

The same could be said about a movie that was released over the winter called Monster Trucks. The story is about an oil company that is fracking in North Dakota. But one night something comes out and it is something that likes to eat oil.

Meanwhile, Tripp – a young man who works at the local junk yard – notices weird noises and happenings. Soon he discovers the reason for all of the weird noises and creates a bond with this strange monster. In doing so, he requires the help of pretty Meredith and must keep the secret away from his step father and the oilmen.

Monster TrucksThis is not a great movie. In fact it was held back for release until January 2017. More over, Angus Till went on to star in the re-boot of the McGiver TV show. But what this movie has is fun, Who doesn’t want to see trucks destroyed or able to climb walls and practically fly over roof tops. Not only that, we get the heart-warming story of a boy developing a bond with his step-father.

Lastly, we get a buddy movie as the monster and Tripp develop a relationship while fighting evil oil guys. Can it get any better? Probably not but this movie is family friendly and filled with fun action.

And in the days before school, sometimes a relaxing night with a bad movie is just what the family needs.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Scare Tactics

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

What was one of the first movies of the modern era that scared you to death.

For me it was Night of the Living Dead directed by George Romano who died in his sleep sometime early last Sunday morning surrounded by his second wife and daughter.

I remember watching it on TV as the brother tells his sister that ‘they’ are coming to get her while they are in a cemetery to visit the grave of their father. Soon we learn that the strange people are not living and they like to eat human flesh. Barbara makes it to a farm house where other living people, including a black man named Ben, have taken shelter.

night of the_Living Dead_Each tries to come up with a plan to escape and find a safe place although that may not be possible according to news reports.

As the film goes on, we discover what is happening although not why it is happening. And no one in that house is going to make it out alive.

This was George Romero’s first feature-length film and it remade all of the rules known at that time for the horror genre.

There would be no survivors, the monsters were zombies who ate human flesh. There was no reasoning as to how the dead became re-animated. The lead actor was a black man at a time in our country when there was tremendous upheaval for blacks to have equal civil rights. There was no battle for good and evil, these creature just were.

It was terrifying because a scratch or a bite could mean that you were about to become a zombie. The only way to kill them was a shot in the head and cremation. And our friends in the house did not always act in a valiant manner.

Romero shot this movie on a tight budget in a house that was about to be demolished near the city of Pittsburgh. Back then the cemetery was quite deserted but since has become a popular tourist stop for fans of the movie.

Secondly, in casting Duane Jones for the leading role, Romero changed how the movie might be perceived in context to the discrimination of the time. It didn’t matter because audiences loved this and his other movies in the dead series.

George Romero-Romero didn’t make money off of this movie because of his poor business acumen but he kept making movies, kept getting better, and inspired future film-makers. He eventually did make money off of his movies. The producers of the Walking Dead set their rules of Zombies after his movies.

Romero created that without digging deep into the sociological explanations of the movies. Some claim that the first movie released in 1968 was about the civil unrest facing America in those days. Some could claim it was about the toxins we poisoned our soil and water as they were carelessly dumped.

But George Romero made no such claims. What he did was put out good horror films that scared and scarred some of us for life. He created a body of work that dared people to think differently. That is an accomplishment.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Series Enders

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

When you watch a movie that is the end of a series, there are a few things you can count on.

The action will be intense. This is the end and what action we see needs to be more than anything else we have seen. More blood, more gore, more creepy characters than ever before.

The emotions will be intense. This characters are dealing with issues of life and death. They know whatever is happening could be the end and they feel the need to sum up their life and their actions to conclude if they have lead a good life. What is their legacy?

While watching Logan, I knew the movie would be more intense as the husband and two boys went to see it in theaters. I did not and now I am glad because I needed to be able to walk out of the room at the worst bloody messes.

LoganThe year is 2029, mutants are nearly extinct. Logan and Dr. X live near the Mexican border in a fairly deserted outpost. Dr. X is suffering from seizure disorder and needs heavy medicines to keep the (deadly for others) seizures from happening. Then Logan is found by people on both sides of a mutant factory.

He agrees to take a girl to a destination in South Dakota, slowly discovering her mutant powers are just like his. But people are following her. They don’t care whom they harm. It gets bloody and nasty on a regular basis.

Along the way, Logan confronts the effects of his comic book heroism that have left a mark on the world. Once again, he pretends not to care about others but in the end we know where his heart lies.

It is a movie that is gritty, heartbreaking, and confrontational. There are not many happy moments, not that are ever many in an X-Men movie. But for those squeamish-at-heart, this will be a difficult movie. There are lots of bloody action scenes and heart breaking emotional scenes in which innocents are killed for no good reason.

Mockingjay part 2I felt this way as I watched The Hunger Games: Mockingjay 2. Thrown back into the dystopian society of Panem, Katniss is determined to assassinate President Snow for the torture suffered by Peeta. She chooses to be the Mockingjay, symbol of the rebellion to a society that takes joy in keeping down the masses.

But it is during this time that Katniss also becomes distrustful of President Coin of the 13th district. Is this a person Katniss can trust? Is Coin’s desire for a free Panem an honest wish or is it hiding the desire for absolute power?

Katniss chooses to sneak into the capitol and is immediately recognized by the crowds and Gale. Soon, there is a troop of the best fighters, ready to help Katniss. And she needs it as they face a city booby trapped with awful killing devices and mutants.

While this movie has slicker production values than the previous movies in the Hunger Games series, it must also deal with thornier ethical issues. What is proper behavior during war? Is it right to bring good people into your fight, knowing they could die? How do you deal with a leader you are not sure of being a completely good person?

Perhaps because I am older and watching friends’ parents die along with their siblings, I feel the emotion of death being closer than ever before. I have those questions about my legacy and if I was good enough or worthy that Logan and Katniss ask themselves in these two movies.

It is one thing to ask these questions when death is a far off idea and another when it feels as if it could happen any time. Logan and Katnis both know death is a certainty in the near future for them which is why these two movies are intense emotionally.

Both had scenes which made me leave the room and feel frightened. Both made me wince at the emotional pain of each character. But there is no doubt in my mind I would watch each one again so that maybe my mind could wrap itself around the idea of finality.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.