Category: Family Movie Night


Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

When trying to decide what to write about this week, I have to admit I was flummoxed.

I planned to write about movie musicals, one of my favorite genres, when the news came that Carrie Fisher died. Princess/General Leia was gone.

carrie-and-debbieBefore I could even think of recovering, I found out Debbie Reynolds, Fisher’s mother, passed away the next day. Suddenly, my Christmas of grief as I thought about my father all month seemed different. For Todd Fisher, Christmas will forever be about the loss of his sister and his mother. What a kick in the pants.

Now, my husband would tell you that it is ridiculous to be upset about a celebrity dying and he is partially right. I don’t personally know these people. But in another way, these people are a part of my life. I was 14 when Carrie Fisher first wore the side buns, portraying an incredibly strong woman. I was around the same age when I saw Singin’ In The Rain for the first time. It was a transformative moment for me as my love of movie magic was cemented.

These feelings would be reinforced over the years with actors such as Alan Rickman, Patty Duke Astin, and William Shallert. They were great performers. David Bowie, Prince, and George Michael were right there in the soundtrack. My life soundtrack.

I can’t imagine what the world will do when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan ever pass through the veil to the great beyond. Or when one of the Rolling Stones finally gives it up.

At supper tonight we tried to guess who might be next – Keith Richards? Stevie Winwood? Eric Clapton? Johnny Depp and Grace Slick are still kicking but for how long?

Just as we are attached to some celebrity because we feel some sort of connection, it also hurts when they die. Suddenly I am reminded that I am mortal, my family and friends are mortal. We, and I mean any of us, could go at any time. Some of you might be saying “You’ve had too much birthday cake and holiday regrets. Put down the fork, take a walk, and clear your head.”

You’re right, you’re right. I know you’re right.

rosalind-russell-as-auntie-mameIt’s their deaths that remind me to not take any of this for granted. It reminds me to remember the immortal words of Auntie Mame as portrayed by Rosalind Russell.

“Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

So what if most of us will never break into a parade in downtown Chicago or dance over cars in the middle of a Los Angeles’ traffic jam. Heck, most of us will never dance in the rain because of the sheer joy of being in love.

box-of-chocolatesThat doesn’t mean we have to quit. Each day is like that big box of chocolates. Maybe you pick out a cordial cherry or creamy truffle, maybe it is a chewy caramel or heath bar. But having the opportunity to pick one out of a rippled paper cup is better than not being able to choose at all.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Ending the Season

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

The Christmas Season is almost over. Some of you might be celebrating later because of work schedules or travel schedules or various events.

Been there, done that.

christalkindl-marketThis past weekend we finally squeezed in a visit to the Christkindl Market in Daley Plaza. The traditional German Christmas market is one I have longed to go to and not just because parts of my family are German.

I love the smells of roasting nuts and mulled wine. There were sausages, potato pancakes, and hot apple cider. There were beautiful knits from Germany, Ireland, and Guatemala. I saw incredible wooden works of arts including a Santa nut cracker. One booth offered up embroidered table scarves that were quite stunning.

The entire village was lighted in beautiful yellow glowing twinkle lights. The effect was magical under the watchful eye of the Picasso statue. We had a long walk back to the car but the market was totally worth it and I can’t wait to go back again next year.

while-you-were-sleepingBut now that the season is almost over, if you haven’t watched certain movies, this is your last chance before it feels a little weird and out of place. You might want to get While You Were Sleeping out of the way. This Sandra Bullock movie is about a lonely CTA worker who saves her favorite customer from being run over by train.

In order to see him at the hospital, she lies about being his fiancee so that she can visit with him. Unfortunately, Peter Gallagher is unconscious and unaware he has a fiancee. Then his family show up and embrace Lucy as family. The woman, who had no one but her cat and a wannabe boyfriend, suddenly is surrounded by family and has a stocking on the mantle with her name on it. It is a heady experience which gets complicated when she meets his brother, Bill Pullman.

Now you know what happens next. It is pretty clear. For me, this time the journey is totally worth the ride. Our heroine is sweet but a little goofy. Her main love interest is gruff and wanting out of the family business. And the supporting cast is phenomenal, especially the old family friend who has to tell the patient he is a putz.

But I love it. It makes me laugh and cry. There are sweet moments and funny one. There are times that I swear I know which neighborhood each scene was filmed in and others that make me wish for the dreamland of LaGrange.

In case this movie is too happy, too sappy, too girly there is always the Die Hard series.

Yippe-ki-yay, indeed.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

This past weekend we went to get our tree. It is a family tradition.

We pile in the car and head out to Cupola House Tree Farm on 3000 West Road. This year we took the dog who loved every moment of jumping around in the snow. The rest of us wandered around until we found the perfect tree, a blue spruce.

After getting the tree, we stopped at my mother’s to shovel off her drive from all of this snow. And then we came home before more snow began to fall. While my daughter made cookies, I put on the lights and the multitude of ornaments collected over the years.

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Image from Christmasgeek.com

I have various soldiers, and musical instruments and angels. There are lots of angels and snow men. But as I looked around it seemed as if I am missing a large box of decorations. This means an extensive search in the basement must be done and I am not looking forward to doing that.

In the mean time, I am looking at our tree and feeling happy with it. That is until I realize that a certain ornament would hang better if it was in a different spot. And one I do that, five other ornaments will have to be moved to make everything fit together again. This will happen every day until we take down the Christmas tree. Am I the only one who does this?

Perhaps I should by some tinsel so that I stop the foolishness. But I don’t think they sell tinsel anymore, I never see it in the stores when I go looking for it.

Listening to the radio, I heard a segment about the top ten Christmas movies. White Christmas was not on the list. A classic movie but somehow that didn’t surprise me. The people who know and love Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are decreasing every year.

christmas-carolThe other missing movie which surprised me the most was A Christmas Carol. Maybe I am old fashioned but I love this old tale by Charles Dickens. There are several versions and every few years someone feels the need to recreate it. Bill Murray did a comedic version. George C. Scott made one in the 90s. My personal favorite is the Alastair Sims 1951 edition.

In case you do not know the story, a very rich but miserly man is visited by the ghost of his former partner. He is told to expect three ghosts that might to help his examine his life. After that he will have a choice to make: to continue life as it is and suffer through the after life or change his ways to be better. Can this man, after a lifetime of coldness, learn to warm his heart?

Well, you might know the answer if you have seen this movie. You might know the answer if you have had to question your own actions. Is it better to be a miser or to give with a willing heart?

As Christmas comes nearer, I know what I wish to be and to do.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

The Best of Christmas

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Do you have your must-watch movies during the holiday season?

I know I do.

Just like those must have treats, the holiday season doesn’t feel right without certain movies.

christmas-cookiesOne holiday treat I miss are the mini pecan pies one of my mom’s friends used to make. She used a cream cheese dough that was perfect with the custard and nut filling. But Chris has been gone for too many years and I never could re-create them.

However, I can make kolachi cookies and plan to do so this year. I think one Saturday will be spent in the kitchen rolling out dough and filling them with apricot or cream cheese filling. I wouldn’t mind making white chocolate cranberry oatmeal cookies as well. And I think the kids want those peanut butter cookies with a chocolate kiss in the middle. Somehow it doesn’t seem like Christmas without them.

One thing I have never been able to do is make a decent pie crust until I found a recipe that called for half butter and half shortening. Forget the Martha Stewart food processor version. This recipe never falls apart on me or make me wish I hadn’t attempted a homemade crust. Now I just need to learn how to make those pies with the beautiful leaves and vines.

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Ralphie talks to Santa in “A Christmas Story”; Picture from IMDb.com

As for movies, it is never really Christmas without watching A Christmas Story. Will Ralphie get his rifle? Will his dad win the battle against the furnace? Will his little brother ever get to go outside without looking like the Michelin Man? I know all the answers to these questions and I don’t care if I have seen this movie a thousand times. I love spending time with this family. So much so that we have taken on a family tradition of going to the Chinese buffet for our Christmas meal – without the duck.

Another tradition I like to include is A Charlie Brown Christmas. Sometimes I feel as if the music is too much of a minor key while other times it leaves me breathless and happy. But the story is the thing here as Charlie fights against the commercialization of the season. It is symbolized by his friends and family desire to be the biggest, brightest of the season and his rebellion of picking a Christmas tree that is the saddest one on the lot. Joy is the end result as we remember the Christmas story.

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Poster image from IMDb.com

With so many biblical movies in the past few years, the one I lean towards in The Nativity Story (2006) starring Keisha Castle-Hughes and Oscar Issac as Mary and Joseph. It shows the time in which Mary is betrothed – unwillingly- to Joseph. A message from an angel changes her life, puts her in great danger, and challenges Joseph to act with faith. While the movie was made quickly, I find it beautiful to watch and deeply compelling. Each character grows more precious in my eyes as I come to understand their bravery, knowledge, and wisdom.

All of these are watchable by many member of the family. But the one I love most of all is Love Actually. I watch it with the husband or girlfriends because it has enough swear words and sexual situations to be uncomfortable with my adult children or mother.

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Poster image from IMDb.com.

That is despite it being a movie that is best for late-teen to adult viewing. And yet, what I love about this movie is its message of hope in most cases. That we can find love with the right person. It’s just that there are many definitions of love in this movie and not all of them are happy. Couples are challenged, find that while love exists it cannot work for them, or that the person they love the most is never who they expected. And all of this takes place during the Christmas season.

Without any of these my Christmas is a little more lackluster, a little less teary, a little less hopeful.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Tales of Christmas Emotion

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Some times a new book can shed light on an old subject.

jimmy-stewartThis week a friend shared an article about how Jimmy Stewart was affected by his service during WWII and how that brought something new and raw to his post-war movie career. That and many similar articles were based on the new book, Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe.

Having read the article from the Chicago Tribune, I was curious to look at the movie again and see what hidden depths I could glean. After all, this book asserts that Stewart suffered from PSTD from his desire to keep his men safe, not a possibility for men bombing Europe in planes.

After two years of service in the Army Air Corps, Stewart came home for some R&R at his parents’ home in Pennsylvania and back to Hollywood. After being gone for many years, Stewart was no longer leading man material, his spot had been taken by Gregory Peck. Finally, Frank Capra offered him the role despite Stewart really wanting a comedy. But this was the only offer he had at the time.

its-a-wonderful-life-bridgeStewart imbued his portrayal of George Bailey with desperation. He is a man who wants to travel the world, become an engineer who builds things, and get out of Bedford Falls forever. He sees his friends and neighbors and even his little brother get opportunities that George knows will never fall his way. And yet he has a great life with his wife, Mary, and their four kids.

Well, it takes time for him to recognize that, which is the basis for the movie. With the help of Clarence, George’s guardian angel, we find out that George helped more people than he ever realized. From saving his brother from drowning to providing loans to people to have nice homes and businesses, George has helped many people in his town.

Watching it this time around, I saw the fear in Stewart’s eyes. I saw the desire of a young man to not be stuck as he believes his father was. I also saw a man who passionately loved a woman and how their relationship would be the end of his hopes and dreams of leaving.

The word that came to me during various scenes was desperation. In the lowest moments, George seems desperate to solve his company’s money problems through the years, he is desperate to leave town and go on adventures, he does every last-minute trick to save the business after his father’s death. But the word that comes to mind whenever Mary is in the scene is hope. Mary is the beacon of light that guides George back to clearer thinking.

She saves him more than once in this movie, she saves him when all seems lost. Even coming home from the office on a terrible day, Mary knows something is amiss. She is his touch point, the center point, the sanity is a world gone mad.

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Edmund Gween as Kris Kringle in “Miracle on 34th Street.” Picture from IMDb.com

Donna Reed would report that this was not a happy set. It was not a set filled with laughter and jolliness as was ‘Miracle on 34th Street was reported. But they are two different movies. The latter told of the joy of Christmas that can be found all around us, it’s underlying message is of faith. But the former is about a man who sees no way out of trouble but to jump in the river and freeze to death. This movie is about the glory of the unknown blessings we can be if we choose.

As much as we need the simplistic joy that is Miracle on 34th Street, we also need the heart-rendering, soul searching agony that is It’s a Wonderful Life to remember that we touch many people in a day and we might be the only good interaction they have.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

During this first week of the holiday season, I can understand if people are not in that ‘holiday spirit.’

Last year at this time, I was not up for it. It was the first Christmas after my dad passed away and I really didn’t want to do much. It was bare bones decorating, hardly any cookies made, and I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do our traditional Chinese buffet meal for Christmas.

But I did everything with the hope that if I did it maybe Christmas would feel like Christmas. We attended Christmas concerts, chili suppers, and family gatherings. We sang and ate and praised God.

Somehow I made it through even with the help of my favorite movies.

home-for-christmas-lindaIt gave me a greater appreciation for those Hallmark movies that run non-stop during the months of November and December. I even watched Home For Christmas on Lifetime starring Linda Hamilton as a divorced housewife who lived in her car after losing her assets in one calamity after another.

I watched part of that one and other movies featuring young women who are facing emotional crisis such as one woman whose parents are Santa and Mrs. Claus. Another had an event planner trying to re-create a party from her childhood when the client wants something different. A third one featured a woman who has not celebrated Christmas properly for years until she comes to a winter resort her father recently purchased and wants her to evaluate. The problem is Christmas is the big deal at this wonderful winter wonderland resort.

I know these movies are cheesy, that they feature actors who used to be big or are never going to be stars but are solid performers. I know that there will be preposterous factors and everything will work out in the end. There might be a magical aspect or a meet-cute between our two love birds who hate each other on sight. But in the end, they will figure it out and live happily ever after.

As one of my daughter’s friend stated, these are addicting movies. After watching a few, I had a hard time staying away. But you might find you have to watch them by yourself or without the husband. These are sap fests that can make the toughest of cookies cry right into your eggnog.

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Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan

Oh, I will be watching my favorites this season. The first is Christmas in Connecticut starring Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan about a magazine writer who must entertain her publisher and an heroic sailor on her non-existant farm during the holidays.

The second is Miracle on 34th Street with Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle who must prove he is the real Santa Claus in order to protect his sanity with the help of attorney John Payne. Meanwhile he is also trying to prove to a mother and child that Santa is real.

I might add a few of these Hallmark to the repertoire when I need to recover from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. It’s not hard to do, I just have to find the Hallmark and Lifetime stations on my satellite service.

Here’s hoping that your holiday season begins and ends smoothly.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

The Smells of Home

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

This is the week when we walk into the house and it smells good.

It is the smell of favorite holiday dishes cooking, simmering, and baking. As we walk through the door, even if it is the door to our own home, there is something wonderful and comforting about those smells.

It tells us that when life has handed you lemons, you have chosen to make lemon bars or lemon meringue pie or sangria with lemons, green apples, and grapes.

Movies over the years have provided us with so many images of food and drinking.

Eat drink man Woman IMDb comI think about Eat Drink Man Woman directed by Ang Lee about an Asian family who are about to go through many changes and all of these changes are announced over sumptuous dinners prepared by the father who used to work as a world class chef.

His three daughters live at home but all that changes as each one makes an announcement that forces changes. The movie is a wonderful tour-de-force of emotions that people want or don’t want known. But this movie comes with sub titles, not everyone wants to read at the movies. And it is really meant for adults, context wise.

But if you do get it, make sure to view in the letterbox formatting, it really is better that way.

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Image from IMDb.com

There is an American version of this movie called Tortilla Soup. It stars Hector Elizondo as the retired chef. And true to form there are announcements during the weekly suppers. But his three daughters prove to be up for the challenge of growing up, becoming wiser, and learning how to enjoy their father.

There are wonderful moments such as when a pumpkin becomes a soup turine and a suitor tells the father about his connections to Dodgers’ stadium over a bowl tortilla soup. It is the young man’s reaction to the soup that makes the father realize he is ok. Again, this movie is for grown-up. And that is OK, we need movies meant for us.

ratatouilleThe kid’s movie I should recommend that is all about food is Ratatoille. Maybe you’ve seen it. It’s the movie about a rat who wants to be a chef. Crazy, I know. If I were to be incredibly non-biased, I would have to say that the bones of this movie is very good although the idea is preposterous to say the least.

But I can’t.

I know this is a good movie but I hate rats. Can’t stand them. I get the willies watching this movie so why would I recommend it?

I can’t, just can’t.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Sweet Ringing of Hope

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

There is something a little sweeter in my neighborhood. The Presbyterian Church has a new bell tower.

For the last few years the belfrey was dismantled. It was kinda of sad to look at the church, wondering if the needed repairs to the original structure were ever going to be restored. I think I even said something to my husband about that.

A few weeks ago, Carol O’Connell shared on facebook the building of the new belfrey. Then I heard about a special dedication event for the bell. This past weekend as I searched the parkway for my dog’s choke chain collar (don’t ask), I heard the bell ringing and cheers from the crowd going up.

It was good to hear that ringing and not to hear any creaking as anything broke. (My head always goes to worse case scenarios so when everything works out it is like a double blessing.) To hear that ringing signals something more than a bell back where it belongs; it signals a rebirth of an organization that has struggled.

We all have that at some point in our lives. Situations get out of hand and we wonder if we can ever come back. Sometimes we fails and sometimes we make it in baby steps the whole way.

It makes me think about movies about the Great Depression when people wondered if it would ever get better.

cinderella-manI remembered watching Cinderella Man starring Russell Crowe as a boxer who has lost his beautiful home and taxi company during the Great Depression. He and his wife and three children live in a basement apartment as he works as a day laborer while she takes in sewing and ironing. Life is bleak until a chance fight shows he might still have what it takes. That is when his former manager arranges a bigger fight.

Oh, this movie is filled with sports cliches that we love. But Crowe, Renee Zellweger, and Paul Giamatti give gritty and classy performances of people on the edge who find their way back in the middles of the 1930s when nothing felt as it was going to come back.

That movie may be too adult in context for the younger children in the house. That’s when you pull out Kit Kittredge. Based on the American Girl Doll character of the same name, this girl has spunk.

kit_kittredgeSet during the Depression, ten-year-old Kit learns that while her family has been wealthy, or at least well off, they are slowly losing everything. Her father’s business has gone under, her older brother has not returned to college. Her mother is considering raising chickens.

Kit is overly emotional as ten-year-olds can be, especially when Dad leaves for a different city to find work. She learns to accept the chickens and sells eggs, she deals with their house being overrun with boarders, and brims with the hope that her father will come back soon.

Both movies are filled with grit and determination of characters who know life will get better, even if they don’t know how that will happen or what it looks like. Sometimes when we take on great projects, we don’t know what the outcome will be. But why let something as trivial as that stop us.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

The Stars Above Us

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

A few weeks ago, the husband and I did an Owl Walk at the forest preserve district on Heiland Road. We also had our 12-year-old son and a friend with us.

It was fun to walk through those woods after dark, the pine forest was as creepy as you would think it could be. We heard other critters moving about and then came the owls.

owl-eastern-screechThere were regulars and they call out once they heard our guide make the call. As we went further down the path, our guide made us listen to the cries of two hungry juveniles who were calling for food. But like parents of human teenagers, these owl parents were ignoring them.

Now that I can relate to.

One of the things I discovered on this walk was not only plenty of information on owls but how to find the Northern Cross constellation in the autumn sky. The Northern Cross is actually an asterism and is a part of the Cygnus the Swan constellation.

When you find it, you will also be in the Milky way. This time of year, the Norther Cross is near the center of the sky after dark. The problem is it is difficult to see, you need to be where there is almost no light pollution in order to see it clearly.

On my nightly walks, I go to my special places to see consellations, and planets and asterisms. I look and look. Some nights I find it easily, other nights I am happy to find the crossbar.

Stargazing has become my new hobby and one that gives me joy in finding and identifying planets. Constellations are going to take a bit more work.

Now this past week saw the release of the latest Star Trek movie, Star Trek Beyond. Set two years after the last movie, this time we are presented with a space traveler’s worst nightmare – having your ship destroyed and unable to connect with your crew members.

Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, John Cho, Simon Pegg, and Zoe Saldana return to the bridge but face new diificulties when an enemy works to destroy the team in order to gain world domination.

star-trek-beyondPerhaps what makes this movie most interesting is that it is filled with a number of references to the TV show and other movies in the Star Trek series. Numbers and images all have a reference to the original series which ran for less than three years on CBS. The movie was released closer to the 50th Anniversary of the show that inspired generations of filmmakers.

I’ll be honest in saying I haven’t seen this movie; I was always a distant trekie. But it is on my list of must sees as I am interested to see how the character of James Kirk has grown and developed as a character. Sure, we want those familiar moments (‘I can’t do it, Captain’ or ‘That is highly illogical,’ or ‘I’m a doctor , Jim, not a …”) but we also want to see where these guys are going – physically and emotionally.

Will the familiar come out of the actor’s mouth, will there be references I will not get in a thousand years? Will I enjoy myself watching this movie?

The answers are yes, yes, and a resounding yes.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Down to the Wire Finish

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

By the time you read this, either the Cubs have won the World Series or they remain lovable losers who came this/close to ending the curse.

I don’t know at the moment if they have done one or the other. At this point in time they have won their second game and must win two more in order to break the curse.

chicago-cubs-2It was great, it was terrifying. I thought they were going to lose it all at various moments when I wasn’t thinking the team had finally gotten over their fears.

I was feeling jealous of my cousin who was in Wrigley field during this tremendous win.

I almost felt bad for all of the times I made fun of him for being a Cubs fan while I am a Sox’s fan.

Almost.

But here’s the thing. I am happy to see the Cubs get this opportunity. But if they lose, I will not let Cubs fans know just how great my team was during the time they were in the World Series. Why, even former president George H.W. Bush was in the audience and they made a point of rubbing Houston’s nose in the loss by doing it quickly.

Perhaps that is too mean, I’m not sure.

In the mean time I can send you in the direction of some great movies about baseball.

You know the ones because they all seem to star Kevin Costner. Ok, maybe not but my two favorites are Bull Durham which is about an older player trying to figure out his role in Baseball as his playing career ends. The other is Field of Dreams in which a man discovers a secret world of deceased players in his cornfield.

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Image from IMDb.com

Both movies, from different perspectives, tell a story that women can love and men can cry about without being total sissies. Maybe that is not politically correct to say but some guys still want to be macho stoics. Whatever.

You can still enjoy these stories of men finding ways to explore their feelings about lost chances and missed opportunities channeled into new opportunities such as a different career in your field or playing catch with your deceased father.

Or maybe you want to explore how the Cleveland Indians manage to stick it it their money-grubbing owner by not stinking and finding their way to the World series in Major League. It will involve a pitcher with wild throws and a voodoo spell to make a bat work. Meanwhile, Tom Berenger learns his game while in the last chance of his career to do something great.

Charlie Sheen appears in this movie as the pitcher with the strong but undisciplined arm. Dennis Haysbert is the Caribbean player who uses what ever he can to bring luck to his bat. None of these movies I have talked about are meant for kids.

rookie-of-the-yearBut there is one that might appeal to them. Rookie of the Year is about a kid who discovers a new talent. After the kid’s arm heals from a break, the kid discovers he can throw as fast as a major a. Of course he is discovered. And soon he is playing for the Cubs as a pitcher.

It is a cute and sweet movie that kids can love. While not always plausible, it is fun and appropriate for younger members of the family..

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.