Tag Archive: Family Movie Night


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?

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.

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.

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