Tag Archive: Family Movie Night

Game, Set, Match

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

When I was in high school I played tennis on the team. I loved the game of getting the ball in the right place at the right time.

My racket was a Chrissy Evert racket. I still have it along with another racket I used in high school. For years I followed the Grand Slams. I remember when Venus Williams came on the scene, I remember when Martina Navratilova retired. But I also remember when Billy Jean King was playing.

She was great, a tough player. It was magic.

Billy Jean had that something that made you watch her.

battle of the sexesFor that reason I was very excited to see the movie Battle of the Sexes. The movie is about more than her historic tennis match against Bobby Riggs. But it is also a snapshot of that time period when Women’s tennis started to get recognized as a force all its own.

Now that all seems to be so far away, that women were payed paltry sums compared to the male players despite the fact that they sold just as many tickets. Serena Williams makes the money she does thanks to Billy Jean who stuck her neck out for other women players.

In this movie, we see the start of the Virginia Slims tournaments. Laugh all you want at the athletes smoking cigarettes but that is how those players got paid.

As I watched this movie and heard Billy Jean/Emma Stone talk about what drives her to be the best, what drives her to want to make changes, I couldn’t help but remember how hard my teammates played. There were good players who made jokes about washing the uniform every night because it would get dusty. I saw my former teammates in these women.

The movie is about how the Battle of the Sexes came to happen. That Riggs, a compulsive gambler, tried to get King to play him but she refused. He eventually got Australian champ Margaret Court to play him. Court’s loss to Riggs spurred King to agreed to play. They set a time, a place, and even bickered about who would do the announcing.

King began to focus her training on how to beat Riggs while Riggs seemed to focus on being the biggest show on earth. He took her for granted because he beat Court and Court beat King.

Battles of the sexes 2Those who remember history, know who will win in the end. What I liked about the movie was the way it tried to humanize both characters, showing Riggs as a goofy dad and King as a woman exploring her sexuality. There are risks and dangers in this action, and we see that King considers all sides. Steve Carell and Emma Stone bring a lot of heart to each of their characters.

They never shy away from the circus created by Riggs or why that part of his personality was both his charm and failing. Nor does the movie shy away from King’s relationship with her hair dresser or why its discovery could lead to her downfall. Or how tennis is everything to her.

This is not a movie for everyone, especially in the parts that deal with grown-up relationships of both players. I suspect the younger crowd will find it boring. Others might be scandalized by part of this story. The thing about a DVD or streaming service is you can skip over the parts you don’t agree with or don’t like and get to the best part – the tennis.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.


The Big Sick

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Some movies make it through the festival rounds, find a distributor, and hit it big.

They are called sleeper hits or big surprises or revelations. They make us think while finding a common denominator that everyone can relate to.

I picked up one of these types of movies, not knowing if I would like it or not.

The Big Sick starring Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazen is described as a romantic comedies of sorts.

big-sickThe story line is about a Pakistani stand-up comic and Uber driver who meets an American grad student one night at one of his shows. They sort of hit it off, decide not to date, and then begin to do exactly that. Meanwhile his mother is constantly trying to fix him up with Pakistani women so that he can marry and have a traditional family.

The problem is he has fallen in love with Emily, who is definitely not Pakistani. He puts off having her meet his family until she breaks up with him. Once faced with the end of their relationship, it gets worse. Much worse. Suddenly Kumail must figure life out also getting to know her parents as Emily is in a coma.

In case you have not figured it out, this not a movie for little kids. We have sexual situations, swearing, and scenes dealing with huge illness and family dynamics that are not always happy. Even contextually, this is not a movie little kids are going to want to watch. I would guess since there are no car chases or explosions a few big kids will not be interested either.

But don’t let that stop you. People in my house were surprised that they actually liked it because this seemed to be more of a chick flick. You have an unlikely couple falling in love, facing family differences, and being challenged. What keeps this from being a soupy mess is the heart and challenges faced beyond the big illness displayed by actors Holly Hunter and Ray Romano.

Big sick 2One scene that I especially loved was Kumail getting challenged by a Pakistani woman, who could be a good match for him, for not being honest with her. Both characters are leading lives that are outside of the definitions of their family and culture, both are searching for meaning within and beyond those constraints. But she is demanding something even more elusive. It is both painful honest and stunningly accurate.

What I love is that we are never hit with the frying pan of knowledge. This movie allows us to figure things out. It doesn’t move in the direction of most romantic comedies with obvious montages and giddy simplicity. Like most great romantic comedies, it explores a different issue beyond the love plot line. In this case, why one moves to a different country and then expects to have all of the old customs.

This movie has seen some awards come its way and I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes some nominations and awards at Oscar time.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Total Teen Drama

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

The other day I came home to find the boys watching a teen movie. These are not meant for the younger members of the family because the context of it is in that not quite adult while being in an adult range.

Bring it onThey were watching Bring It On from 2000 in which the new captain of a cheer leading squad learns that the former captain stole all of their routines from a poorer but more talented high school.

This is one of those movies that is fun to watch, with the exception of one or two scenes that are downright embarrassing. I love the rivalry and later understanding between the two captains. And I have fun with the love story in which Kirsten Dunst lays it out for Jesse Bradford.

But can it compare to the other more serious teen movies?

My first thought always goes to Rebel Without a Cause (1955) starring James Dean as the misunderstood middle class teen who wears a leather jacket and rides a motorcycle. He is the epitome of bad-boy cool, the lost soul that you want to save. And maybe that is the point of all of the characters – each one has a trait you want to change. Part delinquent movie, part romance with incompatible partners.

The OutsidersOne of those inspired teen movies could be The Outsiders (1983). Based on the S.E. Hinton novel of the same name, it is the story of love not bringing two groups together when Diane Lane of the socs and C.J. Howell of the greasers meet at a drive-in. They fall in heavy-duty like but their friends try to kill each other.

Every relationship has its obstacles.

Funny thing is years later when I read Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography I saw the same groups fighting each other in the streets and beaches of New Jersey, each knowing where they could and could not go.

But when you talk about teen movies, can you avoid the John Hughes movies of the 80s? The Brat Pack would come together in several of these movies, showing teen angst from the upper middle class bastions John Hughes Collageof the North Shore suburban communities. From rich kids taking a final day off in high school (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) to rich boy trying to date poor girl (Pretty in Pink) to middle class girl pining for a senior hunk while her family forgets her sixteenth birthday (Sixteen Candles) to a stereotypical group of kids being forced to attend all day detention (The Breakfast Club), Hughes explored it all.

The awful and funny things that happen in high school that no one believed could happen and we know did. The snobs, the jocks, the social layers that seemed impossible to fathom or pass through are all there. The practical jokes, the poor judgment, the unbelievable good things that can happen. Somehow, they survived and so did we. Looking back at those movies, I feel those feelings again.

Its great, its horrible. And I wonder when can we watch it all again?

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

The One about the Race

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Recently I heard someone talking about the movie Hildalgo. These people had the wrong impression of the movie, thinking it was an action movie.

It is an action adventure movie but in an old-fashioned way. You are not going to get car chases, or shoot outs.

hidalgo-movie-poster-2004Instead you get a sort-of based on a true story movie about a horse race in the Middle-East. It is such a great story that you might forget it is not-exactly true and have a good time.

To me, those are the best stories. You know in the back of your mind they may not be true or that there is something too incredible to be real. And yet you sit there enthralled. I am the best audience for a good storyteller because I want to hear how the story ends and I want to believe that it could be true.

That is probably why I am such a sucker for a story such as Hildalgo which features real people in real places.

We start in New York City as Frank Hopkins and his mustang pony, Hildalgo, are appearing in the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. He is friends with Bill and Annie Oakley, the female sharp shooter star. One night a sheikh comes to the show. He is impressed with Hopkins and invites him to participate in a race in Arabia, the Ocean of Fire.

Hopkins wonders if he should. His horse is a Mustang pony that has won endurance races in America. But his alcoholism has gotten out of control. He cannot run away from his past mistakes or heritage fast enough.

You know he is going to take the ship over. Once he gets there, he faces the scorn of the other racers as they prepare their Arabian stallions. Beautiful horses that could surely beat the Mustang pony. Along the way, Frank develops a few allies, including the sheikh’s daughter.

This is a perfect movie for a lazy Sunday afternoon when you don’t want to leave the house. It goes through the current story and Frank’s past, helping us to understand his motivations. But it is also beautiful, depicting an era that is long gone in an area that is exotic and different from our current snowy terrain.

hidalgo1Viggo Mortensen gives a stoic and wry performance as the cowboy who has things he wants to forget. It is not a passionate performance but one of control and a desire to survive. There is something touching and vulnerable about the man that endears him to the audience.

While little children do not have the ability to sit it out for two hours, I do think this movie is better suited for tweens and teens. They are old enough to understand the struggle this man is going through.

For the adults, it might remind you of the family classic movies that used to be shown on local TV many years ago. It is nostalgic of how movies used to be made, with a story slowly drawn out. The ending resolves things as they should be with some happiness.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.


Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Over the weekend, I gathered a bunch of friends to see the movie Wonder.

WonderI was certain that hardly anyone would be there because this movie has been out in theaters for the last six weeks. But the theater was filled to capacity at 44 people.

Starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as the parents, it is one of those movies that makes you like a kid who had a genetic deformity that has required several surgeries just to do those things we think of as normal occurrences. You know, like breathing, hearing, and seeing.

Auggie, played by Jacob Trembley, is both scared and excited about going to school for the first time in fifth grade. He is afraid of being picked on for being different because he is different. His mom tries to give him the usual “leave them alone” speech while dad whispers to him fight when the situation arises.

Slowly but surely Auggie makes one friend. He hits a roadblock, loses a friend, gains a friend. He also has to deal with a bully that is unrelenting month after month.

Wonder Auggie and jackNow this movie could have been a saccharine sugar fest, all about anti-bullying and making the victim too good to be true while the villains are pure evil.

Except its not. It is done factually and in language that sounds like 5th grade kids.

We even get to see some of the family dynamics with Via feeling left out in some ways because she appears to be able to handle all of the complications that Auggie’s condition brings to the family.

One of the blessings is that we begin to see the story from others’ point of view. Auggie’s sister Via, his friend Jack, Via’s former best friend, and back to Auggie. By seeing these different points of view, we see how different characters think and feel, even when they blow it and make mistakes.

Which is another thing I love about this movie. Everyone messes up or tries to fix things that seem right to them although wrong to others. There are ways to make a family movie that really appeals to families and this movie does it. I kept waiting for the worst to happen that never did and I was so glad of that.

Perks of being a wallflowerI have always been impressed with Walden production company, their movies tend to be good with less treacly sweetness. They understand that any old crap is not OK just because this is a family movie. It also helps that Stephen Chbowsky directed. He made the fine The Perks of Being a Wallflower which was perfectly fitted for a late teenage audience.

When it comes to family movies, I want something that all family members can watch, quality writing, and characters that are people you would actually know.

What makes Wonder a wonder is not the story but how it is told. Easy criers will get teary, you will laugh, and get mad at injustice. And, chances are, you will really like this movie.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

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 IMDb.com

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.

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 IMDb.com

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.