Latest Entries »

Last week I wrote about how The Iron Giant would make my top ten list of best animated movies.

As much as I love that movie, it made me think of what other movies I would put in that list. People who know me, know there are a few that are naturals. I have raved about them in the past and there is no way I could do a list without them.

On the other hand, I have done this list and later wondered why I didn’t put a movie down only to realize I forgot about it amidst all of my other steller choices. That is when one must do an honorable mention to make up for something that should be on the list but never made it.

So what do I look for in an animated feature. Beautiful animation for starters. Because animation can be otherworldly in depicting our world, I want something that is both dreamy and realistic. Like any other movie I watch, I want there to be good storytelling and characters with whom I can feel a connection. And because this list is family friendly, I want something most of the family can watch together.

  1. Toy Story FriendsToy Story – This computer animated flick tells the story of a toy who is the known favorite and must make an adjustment when his human gets a new toy. It is a story of jealousy, action and adventure, and a lesson on learning to accept your situation as it changes. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen were perfect as Woody and Buzz.

  2. Shrek – I loved this movie for making fun of the various fairy tales and legends of Europe while giving it’s lead monster a sincere heart and wicked sense of humor. Its sound track was pretty great, too. Parents could watch this movie with their kids and not poke their eyes out after repeat viewings.

  3. Spirited Away – Director Hiyao Miyazaki is one of the best anime masters in the world. Based on Japanese folklore, the story is about a young girl who goes to work for a spa for the spirits in order to save her parents. Along with the incredible storytelling is animation that makes you think you are looking at a black and white photo in one scene and drawings on incredible depth in others.

  4. The Incredibles – Pixar hit the trifecta with this movie. The animation is fantastic with the variety of super heroes. Then there is the story telling, taking on the issues of what does a superhero do when he can no longer be a superhero and what it means when we reward everyone with or without merit. Finally the voice-over work of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, and Jason Lee are simply wonderful, giving life to the characters as we get to know them.

  5. Kung Fu PandaKung Fu Panda – Jack Black plays into type here as the lovable loser who manages to succeed without the initial willing help of his teacher. Then there is the animation. One scene in particular that stands out is when the flowers on the peach tree fall and blow into the sky. While I consider this a family movie in the action/adventure vein, it is one my father would not watch. He firmly said he was not watching a movie with Pandas.

  6. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves – I mention this movie because it gave us the formula for all animated movies. As the Disney company’s first foray into a feature length movie, it proved animation could be interesting for 70 minutes or more. Take a classic fairy tale, create a great villain, and make the surroundings beautifully detailed. While the singing is classic to its time period, we still sing those songs today. Do you ‘whistle while you work?’

  7. The Jungle Book – This movie gave us jazz on a mainstream level while telling the story of a lost Asian Indian boy trying to find his way back to the man village. The animated background on four movable panels within one scene gave us the depth of the jungle. It is hard not to tap your fingers and your toes to this movie or be impressed by the animation.

  8. The Lion King IMDb com

    Movie poster for The Lion King, picture from IMDb.com

    The Lion King – This is one of those once in a lifetime movies where everything comes together. The music is inspiring, hitting on emotional points without pulling you too far into despair. The story telling is excellent as a young prince is driven from his kingdom by a beloved uncle. Finally, the animation is filled with splendor whether is it the opening scene or the trip to the elephant graveyard.

  9. The Iron Giant – I went in detail why I like this movie last week. But in a nutshell I love the storyline about a boy in the 1950s who discovers a giant robot. The animation, the story telling, the characterizations, and the way everything incorporates pop culture of the period is breathtaking while being relatable.

  10. Beauty and the Beast – There has been some chatter lately as to Frozen having great female characters who do no wait to be saved by the male characters. True but Elsa and Anna are not the first of these role breaking women in the Disney world. That honor goes to Belle from Beauty and the Beast who does all she can to save the Beast. Her story is wrapped around with fantastic music, the conversation of if a small town for your entire life better, and a villain who is very handsome despite his cold heart.

Until Next week, see you in the rental aisle.

If I had to think about all of the great animated features I have seen over the years, I know I could make a top ten list without too much thought.
It would include movies from Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, and Ghibli Studios from Japan.
They are the easiest studios to think of because they have put out some of the best animated movies such as Toy Story, Shrek , My Neighbor Totoro, and The Lion King. And that is to name only a few.
I noticed that a movie I have considered a little known gem for many years just came out with a Signature Edition. The Iron Giant first came out in 1999 but very few people saw or seemed to even know about it. I would argue that this movie is really worth your time despite the fact that Warner Brothers did not know what kind of movie they had at the time.
Iron Giant 1999

1999 Movie Poster

It is a rich story about a boy who lives in Maine during the 1950s. It is a time of fear as the country is trying to hunt down communists while in a cold war with the Soviet Union. Worse yet, it appeared we were losing the race to space as Sputnik launches and succeeds in its flight around the earth.

For Hovarth, it is a great time as he watches the monster movies of his era on TV while his mother works the dinner shift at the town diner. But one night, as he is watching another science experiment gone awry, the TV signal goes out. Hovarth has to climb to the top of his roof to fix the antenna and notices big foot prints leading away from his house and into woods.
That starts our adventure with the big robot who eats metal and sometimes mistakes art works as tasty metal snacks. Things get hairy when the government comes in to investigate and right away Agent Mansley focuses on Hovarth. He knows the kid knows something but won’t tell the agent. When the situation grows into something awful, the Iron Giant proves what love can do to change a soul.
Iron Giant Signature

Signature Edition

When I think about this movie, I get teary-eyed because there are moments that catch you in the heart. There are moments that make you happy and laugh in all the right ways. It is a movie I would show to kids in third grade and up because some of it may not make such sense to kindergartners and younger children. Keep in mind that there is a scene or two that has a medium swear in which a general gets mad about how far a situation has gone and there is no turning back. But there are so many other great parts to this movie that you might want to make sure to watch it on a regular basis to catch all of the little details that you have missed before.

Voice over performances by Jennifer Anniston, Harry Connick Jr., and John Mahoney are pitch perfect. Eli Marienthal and Christopher McDonald find the right balance of kid and adversary adult as Hovarth and Agent Mansley, respectively.
So why get this Signature Edition? To be honest, the film has been worked over so the colors are deeper and brighter. There are a ton of special features, including a reel of deleted scenes, to look at as well as Easter Eggs to find. Plus, movie geeks can turn on the commentary to hear those details they love so much. But then there is the story itself. Director Brad Bird has restored scenes and changed a few things to make the movie he originally wanted.
Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

She’s a Spy?

I have to admit, I enjoy a good spy movie.

There is something about the cloak and dagger stuff that is exciting because I will never live it. Honestly, I was never meant to carry out any of those missions. I can’t lie my way out of a paper bag, there is no way I could bluff through an entire night.

Perhaps that is why I enjoyed the latest Melissa McCarthy flick “Spy” that came out on DVD recently.

McCarty, quite frankly, looks like one of us. As the CIA analyst who works from the basement control room in Langely, she acts like one of us wimpy types which makes her appealing to me. I feel as if I know her. She is that smart funny friend who is just a bit gun-shy and thinks of the great retort a few days later. McCarthy is great in the basement watching a screen to control the action but she knows she could not be a field agent.

Spy

Enter a caption

That is until she decides to go out in the field when her field-agent partner is compromised. Suddenly the shy woman who cannot fire the gardener is dressing up in Italian fashions and chasing potential enemies. And she has help in the form of rogue agent Jason Stratham and fellow basement dweller Miranda Hart. Then there is Aldo. I could explain Aldo by that would take too long.

All of this is so that she can track and report on the actions of Rose Byrne who happens to be the daughter of a recently deceased arms dealer.

I realize it is getting convoluted but really that may be one of the reasons to watch this movie. It is wonderfully ridiculous. And it is not afraid to go into the R rating territory. I won’t lie and say there is no swearing in this movie. There is plenty along with a healthy use of hand gestures and a few gruesome dead bodies. Too many movies play it safe and stay in the PG-13 zone for the maximum amount of possible audience members. That’s good for families although at times it makes for weaker movies, especially in the horror genre.

Then there are times when adults want something more spicy, filled with words they might hear all of the time at work when things go wrong. I appreciated the earthiness of this movie. And I really appreciated Stratham for playing against his usual type of always being in control. He screws up and somehow it works out. His character is a mess and I love him for that. Jude Law, normally incredible, seems a bit tamped down. Maybe like his character, he didn’t think he had to work that hard.

Sprectre Daniel Craig In any case, it is McCarthy’s film and she holds up her end. My husband thought it was too over-the-top, he didn’t think it was all that good of a movie. Perhaps he has a point but I know that this was something fun to watch after a long day at work and the kids were safely in bed. Besides the real spy movie, Spectre, is out on DVD. If I want a more serious take of the spy profession, I can watch that.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Valentine’s Aftermath

Living the Fantasy

We all need a fantasy sometimes, right?

Finding a Prayer Life

Most of the time, I have to admit I try to avoid the Christian Film industry.
Why?
Because most Christian film makers are more interested in the message they have to share that they mess up on the story. If characters are not bent on pointing out how this or that reflects the way that Christ did something, then they get lengthy speeches or monologues pointing out Christ’s teachings.
I don’t know about you but I do not go to the movies to be hit with a sledge hammer.
A few years ago we watched the movie about the girl who lost an arm to a shark bite. There is one scene in which the youth group teacher, played by Carrie Underwood, is presenting her lesson to attentive teenagers. She was able to pontificate without interruption. I reflected on this out loud at one of my rowdy youth group meetings and was told by the kids “you know that is a movie and not real life.”
Another issue I have are the movies that are focused on End Days. The special effects are terrible and sloppy. But that does not even compare to the dialogue which is normally clunky and serves only to move the story into the next predictable movement. Only one scene from the “Left Behind” series has stuck in my brain and that is when the pastor makes his confession to God about the true status of his faith.It was a raw, honest declaration of a man who thought he was fooling everyone, even himself, about the amount of faith he carried.
But I recently watched a Christian movie that came in theaters a few months ago and was happily surprised that the couple and their life situation felt real. Whil;e younger children can watch this movie, I doubt that they would want to as it is contexually made for adults.
The movie I watched was War Room, starring a bunch of people I had never heard of before. In some cases that is a good thing and it worked out for this movie. I came to it with no pre-conceived notions of how these actors were going to play their roles.
War Room Women
The story involves a successful couple by all appearances. Tony and Elizabeth have a large house, a beautiful daughter, and very busy lives. He is a pharmaceutical rep and she is a real estate agent. But they bicker daily. They do not talk to each other well, each conversation is a battle filled with sarcasm and meanness. Meals with their daughter is just another part of the battle field.
But when Elizabeth takes on a new client, Miss Clara, she is taught something that changes her life. She is taught how to use prayer as a way of regaining joy in her life, of regaining her marriage, of regaining her family.
War Room father and daughterI realize this is hard for some to believe. But one of the things I liked about this movie was the doubt that Elizabeth felt in trying this new way of praying. I liked that when the changes inside of her began to reflect how she treated her husband, that Tony was suspicious and wondering. I liked that their new life took time and did not immediately start off all shiny and new.
Another thing I liked about Miss Clara is that she was real. Her victory dance in the kitchen was quirky but probable for her character. Most of us know that you can’t stop a mugger in his tracks by invoking the name of the Lord. But how many of us know someone who would do it anyway. Her character was not over used but put in for the right amount of spice.
It may not be a great movie but the Kendrick Brothers and the various production companies involved have also put out Fireproof, Courageous, and Mom’s Night Out. They are showing how to make a Christian movie that is more story that shows faith instead of telling us. It forces us to ask some serious questions about our prayer life and if we want to change how we are living without the aforementioned sledgehammer. And that is a big step up for the industry.
Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Remembering Alan

Oh, the Dance.

Loving Stanley

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

Transformers Age of ExtinctionSo this past weekend, our youngest made a point of watching Transformers: Age of Extinction. Baseball is finished and the boy had a friend over spending the night.

All that was left to do was make popcorn and salt it down.

In this version, Optimus Prime has become an outlaw in the minds of the American people and the government. In the opening scenes, we see Rachet hunted and killed by soldiers and different creature, Lockdown, willing to tear apart the metallic creatures for scrap.

It is sad and disheartening.

That is till we find out Optimus Prime is alive and hiding out. Once he is ‘found’ by a poor mechanic/inventor played by Mark Wahlberg, it is only a matter of time before havoc is wreaked upon the lives of all humans who try to help him.

So I am watching because I find the special effects in these movies just fascinating. We are watching metal beings have fights but in reality they are computer programs. But then I noticed something else. There are some good actors in this movie. People such as Kelsey Grammer and Stanley Tucci.

I can hear it now. Kelsey Grammer? That guy who played the snobby psychiatrist for nearly 20 years? Yes, I do mean him because he plays a great villain. Grammar uses his deep voice and hulking manner to make us fearful of him. We know that he is always in complete control and that control might mean the end of someone else’s life.

Mark Wahlberg and Stanley Tucci in Transformers: Age of Extinction

Mark Wahlberg and Stanley Tucci in Transformers: Age of Extinction

It was seeing Tucci that really made me stand up and notice. I mean this is a guy who repeatedly works in some of the best movies of our day. He works with Merle Streep because he can keep up with her. But every now and then I have seen him in cheesy action/adventure movies like the Transformers.

It makes me wonder why he does it. My personal theory is that after a very dramatic role that takes a high amount of energy, it is fun to perform in these movies that require much physical exertion and the chance to pop off fun one-liners. Stanley Tucci works in high profile movies such as The Hunger Games, The Lovely Bones, Julie and Julia. I have seen him in light-hearted fare such as Shall We Dance and Maid in Manhattan. I have also seen Tucci do action adventure in The Core.

Stanley Tucci in Burlesque

Stanley Tucci in Burlesque

You know what? It is worth it every time. He makes bad movie better just by showing up.

Tucci has perfected self centered characters. But he can be powerful and good-hearted. It doesn’t what type of character he is playing, I just want to watch him to see what his choices will be in whatever project he is working because it is always interesting and compelling. No matter what, I always believe him in whatever role he is playing.

That is the sign of a good actor.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

Do you ever watch an older movie and wonder whatever happened to the cast?

Last week, for whatever reasons, I decided to watch Godspell. You know, the religious movie for the Pepsi generation.

GodspellIt’s the one set in New York City with deserted streets and building tops where the cast dances and sings about the Gospel of Matthew. It is a little quirky with people dressed in tee shirts and jeans and suspenders. Jesus has a huge afro and clown paint around his eyes. John the Baptist wears a multi-colored morning coat.

People are happy and incredibly intune with each other. It’s a hippy version of the Messiah story that still ends with Jesus dying but being with us. It is a very 60s kind of thing.

When I watched it this time, I finally understood how one could have a personal relationship with Jesus. He was there holding hands with his disciples, singing and laughing. It was natural for these people to do that with the master. I remember people in college talking about having that kind of relationship and it made me wonder how such a thing could happen with an onipotent being like God or Jesus.

But there was Victor Garber, looking so young and beautiful. His eyes simply captured a person. Even now, 40 years later, Garber is still handsome. Maybe you know him from Sleepless in Seattle as Tom Hank’s brother-in-law or as Jack Bristow from Alias. But now I have this picture of baby-faced adult Jesus in my head thanks to Victor. I loved how credible he made the character. He was Jesus but still human at different points, sweet without being sickening. That is hard to do.

Godspell ParkAnother actor I recognized was Lynn Thigpen. She was great. I knew her from the old children’s program Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego​? She played the Chief who was always trying to find super thief, Carmen Sandiego, with the help of the pre-teen contestants. Lynn played that role a little crazy and over the top. But she had other roles where she played it serious such as in the TV show The District. Sadly. Thigpen died of an aneurism in 2003 but her memory lives on as the name of a huge grade school in Joliet.

To me, the biggest cast member is the city of New York. They were able to close off sections for short times of filming. One dance was done on the top of the World Trade Center just after construction had been completed. Another takes place in a deserted mansion filled with antique furniture. There is the fountain scene and the entire time in Central Park that amazes me for being so deserted. We get to see the beauty of New York without the distraction of people.

It is a simple movie about complex ideas. I planned to allow our youth group members to watch this movie. I also realized that I was going to have to stop it after each segment to explain what was being taught, such as during the scene discussing the beatitudes. It may not stand the test of time as Jesus Christ Superstar has done but it is still very interesting to watch.

Here is the best song I remember from this movie.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,101 other followers