Tag Archive: Family Movie Night


Colin Goes Gangster!!!!

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

Last week when I was doing my research for one of the movies I planned to write about, I kept seeing people refer to this Colin Farrell movie call London Boulevard, a decidedly adult movie.

I had never heard of it let alone even seen a trailer for it. After a little digging, I found out that this movie may have never made it to the big screens in America despite it’s American director, William Monahan. If Monahan sounds familiar it is because he wrote The Departed and Kingdom of Heaven.

The story is gritty and rough as we follow an ex-con trying to make sure he does not go back to prison. His first night back sees Mitchell getting his druggy sister out of one rough situation while he also makes it possible for another girl to get to an ATM without trouble. That encounter leads to a possible job as a handyman/protection for a fragile and reclusive actress played by Kiera Knightly.

London BoulevardMeanwhile, one of his hoodlum friends has him come along for a few ‘collection’ calls which brings him to the attention of a gangster boss. Gant, played by Ray Winstone, is evil and mean. He is willing to kill the innocent for showing up at the wrong place and time. And let’s not talk about what he will do to people who say ‘no’ to him.

As Gant and Mitchell spar, it becomes clear a battle is brewing and in the end it is not going to be pretty.

Monahan wanted to make his first film as a Boston gangster drama. But at some point he decided he had done that and choose to make the setting in London instead. The film has plenty of violence and swearing so that anyone who doesn’t like that in a movie would probably not like this. But it is a movie filled with wonderful small performances from Farrell, Knightly, Winstone, Anna Friel, and David Thewlis complete with spare but revealing dialogue.

They add depth to these roles, making us like or hate these people. I was most impressed with David Thewlis’ character, trying hard to remember where I know him from. It took a minute before I got to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Thewlis was Professor Lupin, the werewolf Dark Arts professor who was friends with Harry’s parents. It is during this adventure that Harry learns about his godfather and his parents’ group of friends along with their betrayal.

Harry Potter and Prof LupinI loved his performance in this third movie of the series because Thewlis appeared to take on some of the traits of Claude Rains in his characterization of Lupin. Claude Rains played the father of Lon Chaney Jr., the original wolf man in the 1941 movie, giving himself quiet dignity as he dealt with the changes in his son he could not prevent. Thewlis continues this tradition and is quite believable as a man haunted by a condition he cannot change. His performance, along with Gary Oldman’s, makes Prisoner of Azkaban worthwhile family viewing.

These days of changeable weather might demand we stay in but stay in with a good movie on hand.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

By the time you read this, St. Patrick’s Day will be over. The corn beef and cabbage with exist in dribs and drabs. The potatos are crumbs.

But don’t let that stop you from watching some Irish movies. What I like are the ones that mix myth/fairy tales into real life. In the middle of land lacked farm land, we do not get seals that might be able to transform into humans.

But that is the subject of the movie Ondine starring Colin Ferrell and Alicja Bachleda. Ferrell is a down-on-his-luck fisherman in Ireland who shares his daughter with his ex. One day his nets pick up a beautiful young woman. She doesn’t want to be seen by anyone else, so Ferrell hides her in his mother’s old house.

OndineHis daughter eventually finds her and decides that the woman is a selkie. That is a seal which can take human form. A selkie cannot go back to the sea if her human husband finds and hides her seal coat. While Ferrell and Bachleda fall in love, you begin to think that maybe, just maybe, she really is a selkie.

The setting is beautiful and the dialogue feels both real and poetic. I listened to an interview with Ferrell and his conversation was never as lyrical although he is an intelligent man. Director Neil Jordan has made some movies focused on Irish ghosts (High Spirits) that were a waste of time. But this one carried me through even when the fear aspect took over the fairytale.

This movie has an adult context that would not be suitable for younger children. Older tweens and teens might enjoy it a bit more.

One movie that I like for younger children is Into The West. Gabriel Byrne stars as the father of two boys who are given a horse by their grandfather. This is not just any horse, this is Tír na nÓg who comes from the land under the sea that holds eternal youth. The problem is the motherless family lives in an apartment building in the slums of Dublin. Hiding a horse is quite difficult.

Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

Worse yet, a greedy business man wants the fine horse no matter what. So he works with the police to steal the horse from the boys. But not every thing goes according to the plan. The boys steal the horse and begin riding him into the West Country of Ireland. The cops are chasing the boys down but the boys are getting help along the way. Meanwhile, other Travellers, Irish gypsies, help Dad track his boys before something dire can happen.

Again, I am lost in the mix of magic and real life. I sympathize with the depressed father who has lost his wife and wakes up only when he realizes he could lose his boys as well. I find myself cheering on the boys every time the slip out of reach of the authorities. It is movies like this that make me appreciate how magic and real life can intermingle.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Before All That

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

With Valentine’s Day close at hand, I always fret about what to write.

I have my favorite movies that I have recommended for years. Some of them are becoming dated Before Sunrisedespite how good they are to watch. I encourage you to watch great romantic comedies such as Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, Tin Cup, When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and Forget Paris. But lets not rehash them one more time for the sake of Valentine’s Day.

For this week, I decided to review a movie series I have never watched before that has been hailed as one of the greatest romantic series of movies. As I watched Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight I knew it was directed by Richard Linklater who has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Director category this year for his movie Boyhood.

Before SunsetWhat has brought this series so much acclaim is the way these two people interact with each other. In the first movie of the series, Before Sunrise, Jesse meets Celine on a train. He is getting off in Vienna, she is going to Paris. They begin talking and realize they do not want to stop. Jesse suggests she spends the night with him in Vienna so that they can talk some more before he takes off on a plane to go back to the U.S.

Their conversation is filled with questions about each other, their dreams, their past, their theories about life. As I watched this movie, I realized that their conversation was something that happens with people in their early twenties. It felt real, it felt like conversations I had with people at that time in my life.

It is in Before Sunset that we find out Jesse has written a book about that magical night and he is on an international book tour. It is in Paris that he meets Celine again. They catch up on each other’s lives and share what that night has meant to them over the years. Again the dialogue is honest and brutal but this time they are reflecting on the shoulda’s and coulda’s of their relationship. What if they had kept better contact or made better decisions about this or that relationship.

Before MidnightIt is in the final installment of Before Midnight that we see Jesse and Celine in a true relationship, not in the starting blocks or the wishful ‘what if’ state. They are married with two adorable girls. His son from a previous marriage is flying back to the States. Each has their regrets and happiness with the relationship. He wishes to be closer, geographically, with his son. She wishes to be able to do more as an environmental activist. They love each other and yet neither wants to lose out on these goals and dreams. There were times in this movie that I realized these people talk to each other like my husband and I speak to each other.

What makes these three movies potent is their romanticism, even in the midst of everyday routine things. It is how they speak and how they listen to each other that matters, that makes or breaks the relationship. There are times in the final movie in which parenting and those chores take away from the romance but it doesn’t mean they are less in love. It’s simply that chores get more precidence than having sex and being googly eyed with each other.

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy has tangible chemistry. We see why they are truly interested in each other. Those feelings from one day spent together never went away, even 18 years later they are still fascinated with each other but they can attend to the other parts of their lives. But let me have this one bit of snark. At some point in the third movie, Hawke is wearing his shirt with one end tucked in and one end pulled out. Bad fashion move and I am not sure Jesse would have cared enough to make that move. Then again, Celine appears to be wearing the same jumper she work 18 years ago, so what do I know.

Now for the word of warning. I do not believe younger children should watch this movie series as it is too adult in context. Secondly, this is not a high action movie. There are no car chases, no cutesy togetherness scenes, no big misunderstanding that requires a temporary separation. What we get is a lot of talking and walking. The first two movies are about the couple while the third movie incorporates other people before there is a more intimate setting. Throughout we see how this couple interact with each other and the people around them. It is sweet and disarming and unforgettably real.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Just Another Week

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

This has been a few weeks of big ups and low downs in the Bowman household.

It started with a call from my mother stating that my father died in the early morning hours. He wasn’t sick, it wasn’t expected. He was there and then he was gone, just like that. Since then there has been his cremation, trips to Missouri and back, and a memorial gathering in my home town. Family and friends came to remember my father, some that I haven’t seen in years. A few I knew off the bat, others were different in my memory. They all had something to share about my dad that made me smile and cry all at the same time.

I received a lovely phone call from some regular readers who enjoyed a recent column that touched on a favorite movie of their mother’s. It is a reminder that while I sit alone in my office surrounded by disorder and the chaos of family life, the words I write do have meaning for others. I am glad that what I write can bring back such happy memories for a family who have lost a loved one.

Things were beginning to settle down when my 17-year-old received word that he had gotten into his first choice of colleges. The one he wanted is the one he got! There was much celebration.

While I am tremendously sad about losing my father, and I will write about that at a later time, I can see all around me that life goes on. My world stopped for a bit but all around things kept moving on. One of the grown-up girls from my youth group just had a baby. Another girl is about to have her first child. I saw in the paper that one of my former neighbors recently passed; some friends from church are dealing with the sudden loss of their son.

In this time, I guess it would be expected that the movies I would choose to watch are the old favorites. They can be comforting because you know what to expect. We did that this week with Monsters Inc. and the first Harry Potter movie.Chef - cover

But a movie I really wanted to watch was Chef starring Jon Favreau and Sofia Vergara. In this movie, Favreau plays a chef who’s restaurant is about to be visited by a big time blogger food critic. His owner wants him to play it safe and to make the man happy, the chef does just that. But when the two star review comes out and a twitter war brews between the chef and the reviewer, the chef loses his job and self respect.

Not that he didn’t have issues before. He allowed his job to get in the way of being with his son. He allowed past hurts and a divorce to build up a wall. That is until his ex wife throws out a lifeline, a chance to do something different, which the chef grabs onto and follows.

I love movies like this one, the slice of life that is willing to be honest and raw at times. It’s not enough that the Chef and his son have honest conversations, they seem to follow through on them. The Chef admits to being a bad dad and loves when his kid shows him how to be better. The relationships with Vergara and the other people feel true with their bits of honesty and dysfunction.

But here is the warning. If you do not like swearing, if foul language sets you off, this is not your movie. I loved how the cooks in the kitchen interacted with Favreau because it spoke of deep friendships. I knew/know these guys. But the way they spoke to each other is harsh, especially to a stranger. Funny enough, as the movie went on the swearing decreased.

Chef - food truckWhile Chef may not get nominated for any awards, movies like this just don’t because they are not flashy enough, it is worth your time. If the last scene of the movie had been cut, the movie might have been better. But we love to know the whole story, don’t we?

I allowed my high schooler to watch it but not my eighth grader. I am not ready to share a movie with this much swearing in it with her just yet even though the rest of the story would have been Okay for her to watch. All I know is that I felt great after watching this movie and how a movie makes you feel is perhaps the most important indicator.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

All About Bette

Family Movie Night
by Karyn Bowman
Last week I talked about Bette Davis and her role in Dark Victory.
It was an incredible movie and her performance keeps it from being melodramatic crap. You see, Bette Davis wasn’t willing to ever give it a part of her effort. She wasn’t willing to simply show up on the set.
Who rocks the sweater and belt ensemble? Bette does!

Who rocks the sweater and belt ensemble? Bette does!

She was one of those actresses who showed up knowing her lines, knowing her character, and being ready to perform. She is now seen as an iconic actress. But I described her to my son as the Meryl Strep of her time. Not because she changed her appearence or accent with each role. But because she came to each role ready to play that person honestly. That is why she was the first actress to receive ten nominations for best actress.

So what made her so great? It might have been her theater training, it might have been her dedication to her craft. It might have been her abborhance for those actors who didn’t take their craft seriously. That is a part of her reasons for hating Joan Crawford and Errol Flynn.
The other part is that Bette Davis was a tough broad. Her life was not always easy with four marriages and three divorces. Her second husband died suddenly and, despite her grief, was forced to work on a movie by Jack Warner. She was reportedly difficult to work with on this particular set, not her usual behavior. Her only excuse was that in being unhappy, she lashed out rather than whine about her situation.
But let me also suggest that you see All About Eve, one of her finer movies towards the end of her Hollywood Glamour days. Once again she is playing a character not easy to like, one who shows her varying emotions of jealousy and insecurity. Here, she stars as a mature actress who has been followed by a young fan. But in one eventful night, that young fan tries to take over her life. It is from this movie that we get the famous line “fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”  This movie would earn her an eighth nomination for Best Actress.
Bette Davis All About Eve
However, the movie that gave her the tenth nomination might be the best known one. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? starred David and her hated rival, Joan Crawford, as two sisters living in an old Hollywood mansion. Davis portrays a character who was popular as a child. She still dresses like a ten year old girl with the heavy curls of the silent era. But Crawford’s character career was starting to take off when a horrible car accident paralyzed the beatiful young woman. Was it caused by Baby Jane who may have been jealous of her sister’s growing fame while her career went away?
This movie in 1962 reminded people of Davis’ power to project the emotions that some of us would rather not delve into. She continued working until the end of her life, putting together screen performances and lecture tours while still hitting the talk shows. Davis knew it wasn’t her looks that got her to Hollywood. She knew she wasn’t the most beautiful of actresses despite being attractive in her own way. It was her can-do spirit, her willingness to take on roles of unlikable characters that made us love her. And while she made acting look effortless, she also wanted to alway make it ‘bigger than life.’
How can you not love a broad like that?
 
Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Watching a Christmas Movie?

by Karyn Bowman

So what makes a good Christmas movie?

This time of year we all talk about what we like or don’t like in a Christmas movie. But it comes down to a few factors, two actually.

Redemption and Reconciliation.

After much thought and deliberation, it seems true that the best movies in this genre are all about the redemption of a lost soul or the reconciliation of a relationship whether it is between lovers or among family members.

Do I need to bring in a case in point?

Bruce Willis going through a window in "Die Hard." Image from IMDb.com

Bruce Willis going through a window in “Die Hard.” Image from IMDb.com

How about Die Hard? In this movie the good guy, that’s Bruce Willis, is visiting his wife and children in California. He is a New York City police office unwilling to move to California but he still loves his wife. So he comes to visit at her Christmas office party.

To say things go horrible wrong as terrorists invade the party would be an understatement. But with a few smart moves and a partnership with a Los Angeles police officer, McClain is able to save his wife and most of her co-workers. In the end, there is a satisfying reconciliation between the couple.

If you need more, there is always A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer find redemption from being a miser who cares about no one to a man who keeps the spirit of Christmas in his heart all year-long. Granted, he needs the help of four different ghosts and to see what lies ahead in the future if he does nothing. We stick around for the journey because we love the destination of Redemption.

What other movies can we label this way?

Poster image from IMDb.com

Poster image from IMDb.com

Elf   – Reconciliation and Redemption

It’s a Wonderful Life   –   Redemption

A Charlie Brown Christmas  – Redemption

A Christmas Story   –   Redemption

The Holiday  –  Redemption

Love Actually  –  Redemption and Reconciliation

The Cheaters  –  Redemption

Bad Santa  –   Redemption

The Santa Clause   –  Redemption

Miracle on 34th Street   – Redemption and Reconciliation

Any Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie  –  Redemption and Reconciliation

We could go on and on like this. The truth is if movie makers could figure out the perfect Christmas movie we would have more of them that are great. But perhaps we must remember Bette Davis who once shamed a reporter who tried to say there were many great movies in the vaults. She responded by saying that about 5 – 10 great movies were made on any given year but the rest were crap.

Christmas movies get us in the heart whether it is about a reindeer, a journey to the north pole, or an old man who says he is Santa when logic tells you there is no way that man could be Santa. I love watching them and know I will be doing a lot of that this weekend.

So what about your favorite Christmas movie? Is it about reconciliation or redemption?

To

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

With all of the food that we ate this past week, I find it amazing that any of us are still able to stand. We had our usual Thanksgiving meal, Pizza Friday night, dinner at a friend’s house on Saturday, and a potluck on Sunday night.

There was lots of good eating including a somewhat spicy chili and turkey enchiladas. But it was also about getting together with friends and family that made the meals special.

Another thing we did this past weekend is watch lots of movies. I can only say that we went through movies like water. The Lion King, Ella Enchanted, Gnomeo and Juliet, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, and The Wizard of Oz.

The last one was my pick. For some reason I had a vague memory that we always watched this 1939 during every Thanksgiving. Not that I have anything specific to that point. I don’t remember watching it at my grandmother’s or my parent’s houses. It is just there in my memory.

Wizard of Oz 2What I discovered is that for some years, The Wizard of Oz was shown on Thanksgiving for a while. Then it was shown between Thanksgiving and Christmas until later deals placed it in the month of January. One Ted Turner bought the rights and technology brought us VCRs, well the movie lost some of it’s big draw luster on TV. But not in the hearts of the fans.

People still buy the various editions which includes featurettes and documentaries about anything regarding the production. We looked at a few included in our DVD but that might have been to avoid bedtime.

Watching the movie again for the first time in a long time made me realize how much I did not know about it. Such as Dorothy trying to run away. I thought she and Toto hid in her room until the tornado came. Nor did I ever remember the scene in which she visits Professor Marval’s camp.

Wizard of Oz 3But the rest of it I did. The glorious flight into Oz, the terror of Margaret Hamilton’s witch, the wonders of the Poppy field. As I watched, I began to see the little pieces that made last year’s The Great and Powerful Oz starring James Franco and Michelle Williams so familiar. Those little touches, such as Professor Marval’s flim flam routine and the bubbles in which Glinda travels about, expanded the experience more for me.

After we watched the movie, my daughter stated she wanted to learn more about Judy Garland. I am not sure if I can break it to her that for the next ten years Garland was a tremendous performer but drug use would take over her life. Well, it probably won’t stop me from getting Meet Me in St. Louis and listening to the wonderful ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Night.’

As with so much of her work, it is Garland’s singing voice that carries the movie. The sadness in her voice is heavy with regret and worry which is amazing when you think about the fact that Garland is so young in this movie. She was only about 17-year-old at the time of filming.

But to me the most amazing part is that of the Scarecrow as played by Ray Bolger whose dance steps are so loose and floppy. It made me wonder if he hurt his feet during any of his dance scenes.

All in all, I would say it was worth the time to watch it again.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Yum!!!

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

As we prepare for the big feast, our house get stuffed to the brim with turkeys, ham, potatoes, stuffing ingredients, corn, green beans, and all manners of pie.

There are side dishes galore, one person told me they made 20 sides dishes one year. I plan to make about 5 when you include the cranberry sauce. My favorite side, besides the oyster stuffing, is the Memphis Corn Pudding recipe. So good, so creamy, so not healthy. Whenever I make it I get raves. And it is simple.

All I do is mix a can of cream corn and a can of regular corn with 1 egg, 1 stick of melted butter, 1 cup of sour cream, and one box of Jiffy corn bread mix. I put it in a 12” square casserole dish and bake until golden brown in a 350 degree oven. Like I said, simple.

Hector Elizondo as the Chef in Tortilla Soup

Hector Elizondo as the Chef in Tortilla Soup

To get ready for this week, I have been watching food movies. Tortilla Soup is one of my favorites starring Hector Elizondo as a chef who has lost his sense of smell. He has three daughters still living at home but who are making changes in their lives. As all of this is happening, they continue the family tradition of having a big meal on Sunday nights. These are incredible spreads with pumpkin made into a soup tureen and tortilla soup being something more than a way to use stale tortillas.

Sunday night meals are also a way to make big announcements. Announcements about new jobs, new boyfriends, new living arrangements. It is never boring in this house, especially when Rachel Welch shows up to make a play for the father.

Big Night long tableAnother food movie I love watching is Big Night starring Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub as two brothers who own a restaurant in a small town on the East Coast. Shalhoub is the chef who wants to make great traditional Italian food that is not always about spaghetti. Tucci is the manager who tries to find ways to keep their business afloat while maintaining relationships with Minnie Driver and Isabella Rossini. The latter is the mistress of their competitor, Ian Holm.

They want to get the word out about their place and Holm says he can get a big celebrity to come to their restaurant. So Tucci spends the last of their money to make this happen. The food is glorious. Lovingly cooked all day despite the worries and temptations and schemes. And the party? Well, not everything goes as expected. But what a spread of food including a roasted suckling pig.

Babette s FeastThe last movie I saw is Babette’s Feast. This movie comes from France but the setting is in Holland on a lonely seaside community. It is here that two sisters live who are of a pious religious community. It is not that these two women never had the chance to leave, one could have been a great singer. But they choose to stay to help their father serve his parish.

In their later years, a former love sends them a woman who needs to start over as her husband and son were recently killed. They can pay her no money but she stays and cooks for them. The older people who get soup from the sisters love Babette’s soups and breads. The women notice their church is doing better. Then one day Babette is sent a letter stating she has won the lottery. She asks the sisters to put on a feast in the French style.

The sisters are afraid but they agree to it. And what a feast it is. When a former suitor of the other sister comes with his elderly aunt it is fortunate for the diners. He alone recognizes the dishes and the wine. His appreciation allows the others to appreciate the meals as well. Turtle soup, pastries, quail, fruit and cheese. If you do get this movie, be aware that it does have subtitles. You can choose the English language option but I did not want the distraction of the words not matching the mouth movement.

Such movies inspire me for cooking which will be needed this week.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

But wait, there’s more…

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

The funny thing about movies is they are not always what you think they are about. The best movies have more than just the simple storyline we are told about in the beginning. There needs to be a thread that is outside of the love/action/horror/adventure tale we are watching.

Carrie 2013My son watched Carrie (2013) this past weekend. It is a remake of the old Brian DePalma horror film he has wanted to see. But here was his interesting take on it.

He thought it was more of a chick flick.

The story is based on a Steven King novel in which a shy girl is bullied relentlessly by her classmates. Her mother is a religious zealot who teaches her daughter to think about anything that makes most people happy as a sin. She also avoids telling her daughter about the birds and the bees. This makes for a very painful experience when her body changes and Carrie has no idea what is going on.

What her classmates or mother are not aware of is that Carrie is developing powers of telekinesis, the ability to move objects around. They become aware on the night of Prom when a cruel joke is played on Carrie and she breaks. Anger over years of unfair treatment is released, causing death and mayhem throughout the town.

Director Kimberly Pierce worked modern elements into the movie such as youtube and smart phone bullying. But she also brings a distinct female voice that leaves the male characters as single-note caricatures. The gore and action is there but so is the feminine perspective. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. Still, the movie is not for the younger members of the house, keep it for the teens.

The next night, my daughter and I watched The Lost Boys (1987)starring Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Patric. This movie had everything 80s about it: the music, the hair, the clothes. There were reflections on hippie parents and references to the Brady Bunch. It was a very hip, pop culture centric movie of its day. My daughter asked if the title was a reference to Peter Pan.

Lost BoysThe story is about a mother and her two sons, Michael and Sam, moving back to Santa Clara after her divorce. The former resort town is now host to a boardwalk amusement park on the beach. But the town has loads of missing people with posters on every post and bulletin board.

The reason why is simple. And before you know it, Michael has been seduced by the group of bad boys. Who doesn’t want to hang with them and do what they do. They ride bikes, they have the prettiest girl around hanging with them. But his little brother Sam learns that the town is a haven for vampires. If he wants to help his brother, he is going to need help.

While this movie does break some of its own rules about vampires, it is a fun effective teen movie about fitting in and finding your way in strange territory. Its about regrets and moving on. And the Peter Pan figure is not the one you expect it to be. As for the violent scenes, they are not as bad as some horror movies but it is not something I am letting my ten year-old or any younger children watch either.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

This is a Kids Movie?

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

The other day my daughter and one of her girlfriends made a comment about some cute and cuddly creature they wanted to buy or own or simply possess.

When I asked “what happens if it gets wet?,” the girls looked at me as if they had no idea what I was talking about. Then I remembered that they had not grown up in the 80s and knew nothing about Gremlins.

Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

How is it that these girls who have watched The Breakfast Club knew nothing about one of the biggest movies of that decade? Gremlins sparked a wild toy craze and a not-so-great-sequel several years later.

To me if a sequel takes more than two years to get from script to screen, there is something wrong. But that is another story for another day. In watching Gremlins, I came to realize I never watched the movie. When it originally came out, I was in college and too cool for a kid’s movie. I mean, there are puppets in it. I was not interested. It wasn’t until the other night that I saw it for the first time.

What Gremlins portrays and what it appears to be about are two different things.

The story starts with with an inventor father giving his son an early Christmas gift of a mogwai that he bought in a store in Chinatown. There are three simple rules for taking care of one of these creatures. Do not get them wet, do not feed them after midnight, and do not take them out into direct sunlight or even shine a bright light on them.

Billy, as portrayed sweetly by Zack Galligan, breaks the first rule inadvertently. The second rule is broken when his clock is stopped at 11:30 p.m., making him think he still has time to feed the critters.

What starts off as a cute movie about small town life and the meaning of the season, becomes something different. The send up to It’s A Wonderful Life turns into a parody of sorts to monster movies from the 50s and 60s. But these are deadly monsters. The town drunk and a science teacher are the first victims and their mischief reaches out to the rest of this small city until they finally come together at the movie theater.

GremlinsThis is a movie that’s strangely conflicted. I have heard it described as a kid’s movie but I would not show it to kids under the age of ten. There are too many elements, such as Phoebe Cate’s story about her father’s disappearance and the death of various gremlins, that are too adult in context. Nor is it a classic horror or monster movie that would appeal to older teens or adults because the mayhem is light weight in comparison to the standards of even 80s horror and monster movies.

Can you have a cutesy monster movie? I guess this movie would be the proof. If I was to share it with anyone, I guess it would be with tween kids and those who do not really like the full-on gore of most monster movies. However, if I never see it again, I am pretty much okay with that, too.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

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