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Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Now that Christmas is over and we have eaten ourselves into holiday stupors, there is only one thing left to do.

Make New Year’s resolutions.

Or pretend that we are going to make them.

Sometimes what it takes is inspiration.

I was thinking about this when I saw the box for the movie, Stronger starring Jake Gyllenhaal. It is the story of a man who’s legs were amputated after being caught in the wave of the bomb at the Boston Marathon in 2013.

It is hard to believe that was 4 years ago when that big explosion occurred at one of the largest marathon events in the country. For Jeff Bauman, it lead to an extraordinary injury and a tough comeback. But what was even tougher was finding out people thought he was a hero.

One of the themes explored here is what makes a person a hero.

Stronger posterBauman was an ordinary guy trying to be at the end of the marathon when his on-again/off-again girlfriend crossed the finish line. Boston proud, this red sox fan needs to make sure his girlfriend is supported after her big run.

While getting into place, he passes a young man with a backpack. The young man disappears and Bauman focuses back on the race until a white flash goes off. And just like that, life changes. Bauman’s image is caught in the iconic photo of being taken away in wheel chair by first responders.

When he wakes up in the hospital, he discovers that his legs above the knees are gone. Most people have amputations below the knees which allows for more flexibility. His journey towards recovery is tough as he deals with family dysfunction, depression, and a sense of incredulous wonder.

People think he is a hero because he survived the attack at the marathon. People fete him and lift him up while attending the therapy sessions are more than Jeff can bear at times. But at some point, he begins to get it. And that leads to something more.

What makes this movie great are the choices by actors Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, and Miranda Richardson. They make the characters more human than heroic, more real than artfully earnest and triumphant.

Stronger pic 2Which is not to say there are not moments of triumph. Bauman has since gone on to school to become a prosthesis engineer. He created a solar energy capture device for his prosthesis legs. And he has a daughter that he loves to pieces.

What he has come to understand is that people don’t admire him for being ht by a terrible awful bomb. They admire him for going on, for making the effort to recover when he wanted to quit. For showing up when he didn’t want to.

Because as we all know, showing up is the hardest part of any endeavor. If Bauman can show up for this, what could we show up for in our own lives?

Happy New Year and good luck with those resolutions.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.


Love Came Down at Christmas

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Are you ready for Christmas?

I heard that question everyday last week. I will hear it everyday this week until the man in red makes his big arrival.

I am not ready; I am half way there. There are cookies to make and presents to wrap. Then there are those last minute present thingies.

So the best thing to do is procrastinate. Maybe buy some pre-made cookie dough and pretend I made it from scratch. Maybe grab some cute gift bags from the dollar store (I hear Dollar Tree has upped their game) and some tissue paper to create pretty gifts without a lot of corners.

And then there are the movies.

There is no cheating there. I prefer getting movies without annoying commercials – ‘buy the house,’ ‘get the whizbang toy,” ‘get her a car for Christmas?” . Yes, there are previews at the beginning. That is the time I use to get my popcorn ready.

Then I plop down for a watch and at this point in time I have a few movies I must watch. I find myself drawn to the old classics with one exception.

I find that I must watch Love Actually starring the brightest stars of British cinema – Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Love ActuallyAlan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Kierra Knightly, Liam Neesom, and Martin Freeman. It has various tales of love at various stage of life.


If  you choose to watch this movie, you must know that it is for adults. This is a late night treat so little ones do not hear the swearing or deal with some of the heavy situations such as death of a beloved wife, a cheating spouse, or a loud honestly abrasive former star making a comeback. I find myself rooting for most of the cast as some learn that love, actually, exists all around us.

Christmas carol, alastair simsBut I also want to see the 1951 Alistair Sims classic rendition of A Christmas Carol. Hear we see the classic tale in one of the best versions of the tale of a bitter old man who is visited by three Christmas ghosts who’s goal is the change the miser’s fate. It is filled with sweet memories and ones filled with tears. We see a man unrepentant about a life held back until he is filled joy.

This is one that can easily be watched by all family members although maybe not so much by the younger members. Truth be told, they are going to want to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. I remember how we had to plan to watch that TV special but thanks to DVD or streaming serviCharlie Brown Christmasces, we can watch it anytime.

We can see Charlie Brown try to direct a play filled with players concerned about their own parts. It takes a small little tree and the retelling of the Nativity for the cast to remember why they are here and what they are about to portray. Plus there is that great jazzy soundtrack. All of these movies show the hope of Christmas in one way or another. All of them display some sort of wonder.

Merry Christmas, everyone. And to all a good night.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Getting to The Nativity

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Last week I shared the story of my friend and her son. About the horrific car accident that took the lives of his two very young children.

Sad WomanMy friend has had to struggle with the worst a parent can deal with. They are not sure if her son will live or join his children in heaven. While I pray for the young man who is only 26, I also pray for my friend to have the strength she will need to get through every day.

It is a difficult thing and I want my friend to know I am here. I also know she has many other people around, she is not alone. But anyone who has gone through this knows that the lonesomeness of the situation feels very real.

In the meantime I try to focus on the season. Our grade school and high school jazz bands just performed at the mall and did a great job. We finally got our tree at Cupola House Tree Farm and it is displayed on our front porch.

Our church had its monthly movie night and we watched The Nativity starring Keisha Castle-Hughes and Oscar Issac. The movie is from 2006 and was put together quite quickly. But I love it because it tells the story of the Christmas birth beautifully.

The Nativity Story poster IMDb com

Poster image from

It starts at the time that Mary is about to be betrothed to Joseph. She does not love him or want the marriage. Then she is visited by an angel who tells her she will bear the child of the Lord.

We go through the familiar story until the young family leave for Egypt. It is filled with dangers from Roman tax collectors and the wild elements of the terrain. We see the beauty of faith played out along with fear of the real dangers of everyday life.

While I am not a big fan of Christian cinema because the focus is on the message, here the focus is on learning about these two character who will raise a child like none other. We see that Joseph honestly cares for Mary. And we see how she begins to trust him, even before they leave for the census in Bethlehem.

The quality of the photography of this movie is breathtaking as well. Each scene displays the tone and the feelings of the moment from Zachariah’s moment of doubt to the fear that soldiers on horseback can bring to the joy of a special new born.

I might not show this movie to younger children because of the context but I would certainly allow pre-teens to watch it and be prepared to talk about the story and its themes afterwards.

There will be many points to ponder and wonder about when it is over.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Suicidal Blonde, NOT!

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

This has been one of those weeks where the good and bad of life seems tipped towards the bad.

The Bradley Christmas parade was fun with the weather being optimal for a night time parade. It was cold but not too cold. It was not windy, raining, or snowing. We had fun, the kids in the band looked like they were having fun.

Parade, christmasMy friends and I were standing near the Mexican bakery and had great hot chocolate to drink. We laughed at the princesses who didn’t stay in their car but made a point of taking pictures and shaking hands with the crowds. That was Friday night.

Saturday afternoon I found out a friend who lives in Indiana has had the bottom drop out of her world. Her son and his children were in a car accident that took the lives of the children and put her son with life threatening injuries in the burn unit. His girlfriend had lesser injuries. But still, they lost their children, ages 2 and 7 months.

Crashed car terrenceThe only good news is that my friend’s son is still alive but in a coma. It’s unknown if he is going to make it. However, the police were able to catch the person who caused the accident.

When the world gets crazy, I need a movie like Atomic Blonde starring Charlize Theron. I need a movie with a strong character who is good at solving problems or getting herself out of sticky problems.

In this movie, Theron plays an MI6 spy who is sent to Berlin just as the wall is about to come down. She is sent to retrieve something or someone. But just as it appears it is going as plan it goes all wrong. And our spy has to do whatever it takes to keep her mission on track.

There are several elements that makes this movie fantastic.

First are the fight scenes which are choreographed well. They are tough to watch, long drawn out events, and feature fighters who might be a bit tired near what could be the end.

Secondly the soundtrack is allout euro-techno pop. It reminded me so much of the 80s with music by Nina, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, and so many others. I was having flashbacks just by the soundtrack.

atomic-blonde-posterLastly, while it was a standard spy double-crossed movie I was sucked into the story line. I need to find out who was supposed to be who. Of course there is a double agent and I wanted to know exactly who it was, even if I was completely wrong in the end.

Some of you may have seen the end and knows what happens. I’m not telling about that. For me, it was thrilling and electric. But I need to warn those who do not like swearing, violence in a movie, or more graphic love scenes. There is plenty of that stuff in this movie and if it makes you queasy or upset, perhaps it is best to not watch.

For me the most terrifying things were her constant baths in ice cold water. There is a purpose to it and I get it that it is a spy thing. Still gave me chills up and down the spine. I had a feeling I knew exactly where it was leading. And I was right.

In the end, the problems were solved with biting violence that made everything irrevocable, Problems erased with a great deal of finality.

Maybe that is not how we do it in real life. But sometimes when life throws bricks at us, I want a way to throw them right back with twice as much force. That is the feeling Atomic Blonde leaves me. Violence with the hope of redemption.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Ever since the election in 2016, I have been angry.

Some people might say I have always been an angry soul but now I am on the edge of going off at all times.

I want to scream and yell all of the time. I want to eat birthday cake and all the bad things I shouldn’t eat all of the time. I completely understood Tina Fey’s rant a few months ago after Charlottesville.

Everyday our President or our majority party congress does or says or tweets something that makes me want to scream, loudly.

angry-womanTaxes, sexual harassment, North Korea, Russia, healthcare, racial agitation, nazi sympathies, anti-woman sentiments, anti-middle class sentiments are just a few topics that push me over the edge.

Our president and his supporters creep me out. All they seem to do is hate, hate, HATE!

They hate Mexicans, Muslims, women, blacks, immigrants, gays. Transgenders, journalists, anyone different.

They can’t stand the fact that they might not be in power and they turn their sights on anyone who can take that power away from them. Intelligentsia, the press, the scientists are all evil.

They think their guns are going to be taken away, that a wall will protect us, that the earth is not warming and climate change is a big fat lie. That women are more evil than cats. that stories or videos on what they have said or done is all fake news.

Worse yet, all of the things that 45 decided were not true have become true in his head again.

Arrogant businessmanThis is what happens when a business man becomes a governmental leader who does not understand how government works. Businessmen expect to snap their fingers and the changes they want will happen. But it doesn’t work that way as my own governor is finding out. You actually have to work with people, write things out, make sure they are legal, sit through committee meetings.

So these guys are trying to force the world back to something that is great for them and they don’t care if it doesn’t work for the remaining 95% of the country. They turn off their phones and refuse to meet with constituents, the people who voted for them. Who cares about small businesses and the middle class – you know them as the people who buy your products. But after this bill passes and taxes lose all of the deductions for the middle class, life won’t be the same. You can take off your expenses for that jet but not your healthcare costs, state taxes, and real estate and student loan interest.

Who cares about seniors? Or veterans or the disabled? Meals on Wheels simply is “just not showing results” according to Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s budget chief.

While I call my representatives in Washington, it is like singing to the choir. I do it now for the tallies so they can go back and say “see, my constituents hate this!” On the other hand, my state rep still thinks bump stocks are not worthy to fight about. Shooting up a grade school and music concert and a church is simply not enough reason to make consistent gun laws across the country

I understand why people are going off. I won’t be surprised if senators find themselves in front of angry constituents during the next round of town hall visits. I wouldn’t be surprised if their local offices are egged, tp’ed, or blown up. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they all have armed guards paid for by tax money.

People are angry, fighting mad. They know that around the corner or at the next family gathering is a Trump supporter gloating at all of the winning that is not happening. And on days that another indictment or guilty plea comes out, I feel like we can throw it all right back in their faces even though we shouldn’t.

While I try to keep my cool, I find myself not listening to the news. I have a steady stream of audio books to get me through when the classical station refuses to come in. I’m working on scarves to put on our church’s mitten tree. I am eating more (dark) chocolate and bread. (love white bread but avoiding it like the plague). I am also trying to work out more and drink a little extra alcohol to take the edge off.

Ice cream gallonNow that the tax bill nightmare has come true, Congress is moving on to net neutrality and social security.

I might need to move on to a gallon of ice cream to get through those issues.

What are you doing to relieve the stress of the Trump administration?

Christmas Hope and Faith

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Every year on Thanksgiving day or soon after, there is one movie I must watch. It is a movie full of sentimental feelings, of earnestness and faith.

It is not a favorite with most of my family but slowly they are all around watching the movie right down to the bitter end.

Miracle Parade SantaOf course I am talking about Miracle on 34th Street. And as far as I am concerned the best version is from 1947 in the original black and white.

Edmund Gwenn won an Oscar for his performance as a man named Kris Kringle. He looks like a real-life Santa who knows more about the North Pole elf than even the most dedicated Santa-geek.

In the movie, we meet Kris as he discovers a drunken Santa on the float of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. He becomes the Macy store Santa who brings his own costume and charm along with a customer service attitude that surprises both customers and store leadership.

Miracle on 34th StreetHis grace and actual interest in others makes friends with many of his co-workers including Mr. Macy. Mrs. Walker who organizes the parade each year works to find a home for Kris. Meanwhile, Kris sees this as an opportunity to teach Mrs. Walker and her daughter, Susan, how to trust and have faith.

But when an incompetent psychologist is offended by Kris and works to have him committed, it takes Mrs. Walker’s lawyer neighbor, Fred Gaily, to keep Kris from being sent away forever.

This is a movie I have known by heart since I was in my teens. I know every scene, maybe not word by wordt, but certainly by how it all feels. Every time I watch it I notice something different. Maybe it is the way Kris and Albert talk to each other or how the rooms are decorated.

What never fails to catch my attention is how hope and faith are the focus of the story although we are never told if the Walker family are Christians or non-religious. These two parts of the story, the bedrock, depends on how we interact with others. They depend on how we treat others, what we expect, and what we expect to get back. In this case, we come to realize that Kris is motivated by the joy he sees in others when he gives them presents that have real meaning.

Edmund Gween Miracle IMDb com

Image from

This movie reveals the true meaning of the holiday, even for non-believers. It was a sentiment needed after a long war that was hard on many families. Hope, faith, joy. It’s all there.

The movie was an instant hit when it was released in June of 1947 and stayed in theater till the holiday season of that year. People needed, wanted the emotions displayed in this movie. And I think we are looking for all of that today. The question is how do we make this happen in our lives?

After all, not all of us can find a Kris Kringle for a Christmas intervention. Sometimes we have to create the intervention for ourselves.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Waiting and Watching

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

There are so many great movies out right now, I am not sure which one I want to see first.

Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express

There is a new Justice League movie and the adaptation of Wonder starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. Kenneth Branaugh plays Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express. There’s the movie about the three billboards and another about the special relationship between mother and daughter.

But the holiday movie I am really excited about won’t hit theaters till the middle of December.

That’s right, it is The Last Jedi which is Episode 8 on the Star Wars trilogy trilogy.

I will be honest when I say that I really don’t like episodes 2 or 3. These are bland movies that never allowed whatever chemistry that Natalie Portman and Hayden Christopher might have had shine through to the screen. The battle scenes are tremendous but there should have been something more to make us love Pademe even more.

The Last Jedi CFWhat I am excited about is the chance to see Carrie Fisher one more time. The actress passed away last year during the Christmas season which was made worse by her own mother passing away a few days later.

But now we get to see her final bit of work, her final time as General Leia. I know it will be heart-breaking and sad, that I will cry when I see her on that screen. I feel as if Carrie Fisher has always been in my life in some form and her brilliance not being available anymore is sad.

It wasn’t just her work in Star Wars, I admired that she was the person movie makers called when they knew their script wasn’t quite right. She became a script doctor, making a variety of movies better because of the dialogue she wrote.

She appeared in some movies uncredited and made them better by showing up. She made When Harry Met Sally better by being the misguided friend who didn’t get that the married men she dated were never leaving their wives which was a supporting role.

In getting ready for this next movie in the Star Wars series, I am very tempted to watch every movie, starting with Episode IV:A New Hope. It will always be Star Wars in my head because this is where we start, this is where we meet Luke, Hans, Chewy and Leia. This is where we learn to fear Darth Vader and revere ObiWan.

The Last JediAnd when we get to The Force Awakens I know I will be crying for a variety of reasons. But I want to see them again in this new movie as I have never wanted to see them before. Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley may be the new generation but Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill are the touch points of the older one.

I want to see how they will pass on the torch.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

In the Service

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Making movies about war situations to me is a difficult thing.

There is the intense planning and choreography of people and debris and bullets or bombs.

It is why I appreciate war movies even if they are not my favorite genre. To give a compelling performance while hearing the sounds of warfare, to perform as things blow up around you must be quite difficult. At some point, despite knowing it is all pretend, this must feel real. The bombings and the dust and the potential to lose limb or life.

I remember an interview with Charleston Heston who stated that in one movie he had to walk through a crowd as they cheered him on and how it was easy to walk along feeling proud. All of these people were cheering for him and it was great!

Megan LeaveyOne of the newer movies to come to the home video market has me intrigued but my attempts to see it without buying it have been unsuccessful. Megan Leavey is about a young woman who becomes a marine in order to escape the troubles of her life.

Disciplinary problems follow and one of her jobs is to take care of the cages of the military dogs. One of the most incorrigible dogs is Rex, a huge German Shepard bomb sniffing dog. Somehow, they bond and become a team. Woman and dog work well together till one day a bomb goes off too close and both are injured.

Another movie that came out last year set during an active theater is Hacksaw Ridge starring Andrew Garfield. Directed by Mel Gibson who has always had a knack for war scenes, this movie tells the story of a conscientious objector who managed to save 75 men during the battle of Okinawa.

Hacksaw RidgeThe man is a soldier who doesn’t want to shoot anyone so he is the group medic. When does his fellow soldiers begin to like him? Right about the time that Desmond proves his worth and saves this large group of men during a nasty, nasty battle.

It is these aspects that non-veterans may not understand but we try. We see these movies and grow to understand how bonds are built through the work of war. You don’t have to agree with war to be a great co-hort with the rest of your troop members. You don’t have to get along with people to discover a useful role within your platoon.

While us civilians may not understand everything it takes to be a soldier, to be a good soldier, we do try. And in that trying, we hope that we give the respect deserved to the men and women who make the sacrifice to serve our country and serve it well.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Revisiting Salem

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

As what seems to be fitting for the season, I have been listening to an audio book called How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather.

How to hang a witch

It is a young adult novel about a 16 year-old girl who moves to Salem after her father’s health issues require less expensive care in Boston as opposed to New York. The problem is she is a direct descendant of Cotton Mather, the guy who wrote the book on how to discern witches just before the Salem witch trials. Nor did he ever try to stop these witch trials other than to say spectral evidence is not true evidence and should not be used.

For Samantha, everything becomes worse when a group of girls called the Descendants hate her almost on first sight. These girls are direct descendants of the original victims of the Salem Witch Trials. Lizzie, Mary, Alice, and Suzannah blame the trials on Cotton Mather, making Samantha guilty by association.

But of course things happen that make Sam realize she needs to work with the Descendants. Conversely she is on the constant edge of thinking everyone is betraying her in some way, including her somewhat new boyfriend, Jaxon.

I love the idea of this book but the heroine could get so tedious at times with her lack of trust. That is until you get to the final chapters with the big fight and you just need to see how it all ends.

With the setting being at the most famous trial in the country, it is easy to imagine how quickly people can go down the rabbit hole of fear and suspicion. And you begin to feel awkward about what happened to those people so long ago.

Salem_tv_series-wide.jpgInterestingly enough, there used to be a show on WGN TV just last year called Salem that focused on the period of the witch trials. If you happen to watch it, what fascinates me is how that era was depicted. Wood buildings, dirty walk ways, forests that seem wild and dangerous and filled with evil.

The story is about a young man named John Aldin (played by Shane West) who returns to Salem after a nine year absence, What he finds is the start of the witch trials and people being put to death for crimes with little or no evidence. Worse yet, the woman he loves is now married to a man who forced his departure. That is not the worst,

The worst is seeing his hometown moving into a frenzy to find the head witch and killing innocent people along the way.

This show has been canceled but it is available on Netflix. A part of me could binge on this program, another part of me hears the creepy music and sees the setup with that dread feeling that things are not going as smoothly as I thought things would. And nor are all of the characters who or what you thought they would be.

It is one of those shows that moves from somewhat realistic to the fantastical. While I have watched this show without the kids around, it is one I might watch with my teens but not my younger son. There is just enough realism to stick in a kid’s or the easily affected mind to cause some nightmares.

Not everyone will agree with me, not everyone will feel this way. I like a spooky show every now and again just like anyone else. This one is crazy and ridiculous most of the time. But I would only suggest it to people who know what they’re getting into. Accusing people of using ‘magic’ to cause bad feelings or supernatural actions is too close to real life.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Delving into the Deep

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Maybe it was a dream, maybe it was someone hoping. But I could have sworn I heard or saw that this year’s World Series was going to be between the Dodgers and the Yankees.

Immediately my head started thinking about how somethings never change, even when teams switch coasts or get new ball parks or have long-time owners die.

I thought about players such as Lou Gerhig, the Yankee who died from ALS and became the namesake of the devastating illness. I thought of Yankee Joe DiMaggio with his 56 hit streak and later devotion to Marilyn Monroe.

I thought of the dodger’s phenomenal pitcher, Sandy Koufax and groundbreaking Jackie Robinson.

That is until I finally heard that it was going to be the Huston Astros vs, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball.”

Field of James, Kevin and JamesJames Earl Jones, in his deep-throated honey voice said these lines in Field of Dreams, a movie that never doubted the magic of baseball.

This is not a movie for little kids, not contextually. Sure they can watch it for the most part and they might understand some of it, especially that desire to play catch with your dad. But the grief one feels at lost opportunities or the crazy motivation to turn your field of corn into a baseball diamond is powered by something more adult. There is a longing that children or teens may not quite get but adults do.

That is why this movie makes men cry.

I find Dracula movies are complex like that as well. I’m not talking about Twilight but those movies that feature Dracula as a man who lives on the side of evil but remembers when he wasn’t that way. You see it in the Bela Lugosi 1931 version, the way he looks to Mina to become what he is and to have her by his side always.

There is something of love, of hope, of a determination to not be alone.

Dracula-untold-luke-evansYou see this theme in many of the Dracula movies, even the Gary Oldman version from 1992 fed on this theme. Winona Rider who played Mina, made her love for the count an obession worth dying for.

Over the years, we have not lost our fascination with the undead. Writers and film makers have explored what it means to be a vampire, The last movie I found was in 2014 starring Luke Evans as Vlad, a man who is trying to protect his village but takes extreme measures to do it. Dracula Untold may not be a good movie but it is filled with action. And it shows a man who understands the decisions he makes, accepting their consequences.

That is always one thing I respected about Dracula, no matter what his incarnation. He is who he is with no regrets, no looking back. Otherwise, wouldn’t he try to kill himself or have Van Helsing do it for him?

Maybe this weekend I could explore one of these incarnations. Even Gerard Butler has taken on the role with a New Orleans setting in Dracula 2000 before he became a super action hero saving the U.S president one more time.

Bring on the popcorn.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.