Tag Archive: magic

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

I hate it when I am looking forward to a movie and it doesn’t live up to what I had hoped it would be.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has been advertised for months. I was super excited to see Jude Law as a younger Dumbledore. Johnny Depp appearing as Grindelwald seems inspired.

crimes of grindelwald.jpgI knew that we would see Grindelwald’s beginnings as a leader of wanting only wizards to rule the world. I knew that there would be new and old characters developing the story further.

I didn’t expect the darkness but I should have because the timing of Grindelwald’s reign of terror coincides with WWII. And his message of a master race is eerily similar to Hitler’s messages from the early 1930s.

The movie starts with Grindelwald’s escape from New York, a scene in which enemies and partners are discarded like wet towels that are no longer needed. Soon enough we are finding out about his true intentions and desires. We see him slowly trying and winning more followers.

Meanwhile, Newt Scamander has continued to take care of his menagerie of creatures. Because of the events in New York City a few months back, he is no longer allowed to travel across international lines. But the ministry is willing to allow him to travel again if Newt is willing to ‘take care’ of the Credence problem.

Crimes of Grindelwald fullcastThere are other problems. When Queenie and Jacob show up in London, Newt knows immediately that Queenie has put Jacob, an American Muggle, under a spell. They want to marry but Jacob won’t until the law allows them to be married.

Soon enough all three find their way to Paris to find Tina, Quennie’s sister. Not to mention the situation with Dumbledore.

The animation of this movie is incredible. Magical creatures abound and seamlessly works on the screen. I feel as if we are in the London and Paris of the 1920s moving towards the 1930s with more fitted clothing but Marcel waves still abounding.

The problem is there are almost too many back stories that we need to make sense of everything. Some of our characters do not act in a way that seems true to the characters we have known. While Jude Law is good as Dumbledore and Eddie Redmayne continues to shine as Newt, there is something missing. The wonder of magic is simply not present enough despite Jacob’s efforts.

That compounds the fact that this movie is too dark in the story line, in the story telling, and in the characterization of Grindelwald. This is not a movie for children, as much as I wish it to be. It is better for teens and adults who might feel a kinship with Credence in his hunt for his real family.

The first movie had many magical elements and was fun. This second installment has moved to a darker place quite quickly and I feel the rest of the movies in this series will not go back to a lighter feeling. But how can it when we are talking about a holocaust?

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night
By Karyn Bowman
Every now and again, you hear about a movie that makes you want to check it out.
Maybe it is because there is a favorite actor or it’s based on a book that you loved as a kid.
House with a clockAbout a week or so ago, my daughter told me about The House with a Clock in It’s Walls. This movie stars Jack Black as Jonathon Barnavelt and Cate Blanchett as Mrs. Zimmerman. I love Cate Blanchett and Jack Black can be good in small doses.
When surrounded by great actors, Black always becomes better. While still over the top in some ways, Black makes it work for his character by mixing in elements of low key behavior to create a more nuanced person. Blanchett, on the other hand, has the freedom to be more wacky and loose.
What is interesting is that the movie appears to be set in the early 50s. There are references to WWII as a somewhat recent event. Captain Midnight, a popular kid radio and TV show is a favorite of Lewis, Jonathan’s nephew.
Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman live next door to each other. They are two witches who are trying to solve a problem within Jonathan’s house. This is not an ordinary house, it has items that move constantly and creatures one would not expect. He inherited the house from another warlock that passed away a year or so before. And before he died, that warlock was creating something in the house that is evil.
To complicate matters, Jonathon’s young nephew Lewis has moved in. His parents recently died so the young boy is coming to stay with his uncle. Lewis is sad and gawky and he likes to wear goggles like his favorite TV hero. Starting school is not easy, especially as he is not athletic, he loves words, and he lives in a house with a bad reputation.
House with a clock 2But Lewis is also a lonely boy and wants to do whatever if takes to prove himself to his new friends. One night he breaks the one rule in his uncle’s house in order to impress another boy. And what that spell does unleashes something that cannot be easily stopped.
This is one of those movies that is only a little scary, Things jump out at you and there are moments of true creepiness (evil mechanical dolls). The computer generated animation was seamless and made various elements seem more real, more fun. It is the kind of movie you can watch with grade school aged children and the family can enjoy it. It is in that bridge area betweenScooby-Doo scary and PG-13 The Woman in Black scary.
As I watched the trailer a few times I began noticing little details I didn’t see before. That makes me want to watch the movie again. I also want to catch those moments of sadness and longing that might lead to deeper understanding of each character going through various stages of loss.
Fun, just a little scary, and a dash of emotional depth. Sounds like my favorite kind of scary movie,
Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night


By Karyn Bowman


I have been moaning that I wanted to see Snow White and the Huntsman so I could compare and contrast it with Mirror, Mirror both of which are the two ‘Snow White’ movies that came out this year.


The story is familiar to most of us – a beautiful princess loses her mother. When the father decides to re-marry, the new queen is a woman jealous of anyone more beautiful than she. When her step-daughter becomes more beautiful than she, the evil queen plots her death. But the girl eludes her by hiding out in the woods with the help of seven dwarves while the prince searches for the girl.


Poster Image from IMDb.com

Now you might be wondering how two movies on the same subject get made in the same year. What often happens is that movies take a long time to be made, a 2-4 year process on average. Once a movie gets a the green light go ahead, if there is another movie similar to it happening at another studio, suddenly both movies appear to be racing to see who will be first.


Funny enough, the prince in Snow White had also auditioned for Mirror, Mirror as did Lily Collins for Snow White in both.


But while both movies work off the Snow White fairy tale, do not go in thinking these movies are identical. It is the tone that marks the difference between these movies.


What is similar is the theme of aging and how a queen is only valued as long as she is beautiful. Both Julia Roberts and Charlize Theron play women who work to keep their youthful appearance. While Roberts employs various spa treatments, Theron steals her youthful looks from others.


While both women dispose of their king, one does so in a manner that continues his life and her use of him. This queen keeps him under her control while the other kills her husband outright because of her disdain for all men. We do learn the second woman’s back story and understand how she became this way but in no way does it excuse her treachery.


Poster Image from IMDb.com

The other theme that is present in both movies is the price of magic. Both women have used magic to gain their positions that resulted in deaths and maintenance of magical creatures. They have used magic to maintain their positions which for one woman requires a constant supply of energy. And both know there is a cost to its use.


The difference in these movies is the tone. Mirror, Mirror plays as a late 18th comedy with serious undertones that take over as the movie advances. It has bright colors, smart dialogue and sets that defy imagination at times.  What I love is that the mirror is more that a reflection or tells only what the queen wants to hear. She has her secrets and will share if only the Queen would listen.


Snow White and the Huntsman is more of a medieval fantasy action-adventure film. The costumes and battle techniques suggest a King Arthur period which has it’s own sort of romance. We want to believe all will end well but first we must run through mud and muck. Something that surprised me was actual dirt on Kristen Stewart’s hands.


This is a darker movie than the first. The Queen derives joy from the deaths she causes. She does not mind the evils her brother acts out. Nor is she unwilling to create an atmosphere of fear within her kingdom.


Neither movie is appropriate for young audiences. I found them to be disturbing enough that I would not want anyone younger than age 9 to see these because of the dark tones in The Hunstman and some of the sexiness in Mirror, Mirror.


But both are interesting interpretations of the fairy tale. Mirror, Mirror is currently on the DVD shelf while Snow White and the Huntsman is currently at Movies 10.


Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Do You Believe?

Family Movie Night


What is it with stories about fairies and goblins and dwarves that make people want to believe?


We want to believe these things are real, just like we want to believe in ghosts. I have heard people talk about seeing a woman and son walking down Guertin Street, dressed in Victorian clothing. I have heard tales of ghosts hanging around the town pond. Just about every church I have ever visited – in this state and others – has a story of mysterious foot steps or strange noises.


We want to believe.


Image from IMDb.com

I was thinking about this as the kids and I watched The Spiderwick Chronicles the other night. The story is about a boy who finds a special book and reads it, not knowing he is unleashing a world of destructive ogres and captivating wood sylphs. Until he proves what he knows, no human chooses to believe him.


Ah, belief. That special ingredient. In this movie it took a special glass or the spit of a weird creature for the human characters to see the goblins and fairies and other creatures that were all around. No one, even the mom, wanted to believe.




Partially, because it was coming from the kid who caused the most trouble in the family. The other half is that these things seem too mystical, too impossible to exist. Brownies cannot be real until it allows you to see him.


It was a rousing good time with non-stop action. Towards the end, my youngest became a little scared but it was a scary part, I will give him that. I know we will watch this movie again.


Image from IMDb.com

Another movie that asks you to believe in the unbelievable is Narnia. Seriously, through a closet you can go to another world that is always winter but never Christmas? And in this world there are fauns and talking animals and a witch able to turn any creature into a statue?


Perhaps the most amazing part is that four siblings ranging in age from 10 to 16 years of age are the ones who must save this land. That is how C.S. Lewis wrote the story and it is triumphantly put to screen.


Lastly, a movie that we truly love in this house is Peter Pan.  I do not mean the animated version by Disney but the live-action film made in 2003 that stars Jason Isaacs as both Mr. Darling and Captain Hook. Apparently, that is how it is written for the stage play and to me it is a stroke of genius.


Image from IMDb.com

We know the story of the boy who never grows up, who lives in Neverland, spending his days fighting pirates and hanging with a little tiny fairy. Who would not want to believe in such a thing for none of us ever truly wants to grow up and become overly serious.


Well, maybe some people do as there is a need for someone to run things.


Most of us, however, are simply trying to get through each day of going to work and paying the bills and hanging with the kids if you have any at home. Some of it is fun and some of it is drudgery. Yet Peter holds out the hope that life will not stay that way, that a clapping of hands can save a dying fairy.


Remember that scene in E.T. when the mom is reading Peter Pan to a young Drew Barrymore? It was magical because we believed in it whole-heartily like a five-year-old.


That is what makes all of these family friendly movies so perfect. For the time of the movie, we believe in that which is normally hard to believe.


Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night


by Karyn Bowman


Would it be a surprise to anyone to find out that the topic of today’s column is the latest and last Harry Potter movie?


Image from IMDB.com

Considering I have spoken about my fondness for the series in the past, I would assume that is not the case.


My 14-year-old son and I did go to the midnight show at the Paramount theater in Kankakee. We arrived around 10:30 and went to the back of the line that wrapped around three sides of the block. The end of the line beyond us was almost at Chestnut Street.


There were people dressed in costume as various members of the cast including Draco, Mad-Eye, Hagrid, Bellatrix and Harry. I asked Mad-Eye if he had a flask and he pulled one out from an inside pocket of his coat. That was the perfect placement of a flask for Mad-Eye.


Once we were in and seated, we waited another 20 minutes before the movie started. But then we saw a placard for a trailer for Cowboys and Aliens. The cheers went up. Next was a trailer for The Dark Knight. Screams went out for that movie. The third and last trailer was for Sherlock Holmes which drove the crowd crazy. Who wouldn’t go crazy for Robert Downey Jr. in drag?


Then, and only then, did the movie start with hardly any prelude. We see Lord Voldemort grabbing the item he believes will help him win everything. We see Harry making the fateful decision of which group of magical items to pursue. And it begins hurtling towards the end.


Lord Voldemort from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," Image from IMDb.com.

For fans that have read all of the books and need closure on some of the most important storyline, you will get it. Some of the best lines from the book make it to the movie. Some of the plot moves are re-aligned and shaken up to make a smoother movie. 


If you have not read one book or seen any of the movies, you will be lost. Bellatrix’s maniacal evil personality won’t make sense. Snape’s end and confession will not have the impact without the loathing of Harry he displayed throughout the series. You will not understand the tears of the audience members such as me who are watching this last bit of Harry.


For me, it is watching a child who has been a part of my circle grow up and get ready to leave home. Harry has gone from being a cute moppet to a young man willing to face danger. He has taken on the hero’s mantle and who would have guessed this from the first time we saw him.


At the beginning of the series, image from IMDb.com.

There he was a boy being bullied by his unfeeling relatives and once he came to his new school, he became the boy who would stand up to bullies on a regular basis. He became a boy willing to stand up to members of authority, including the head of the government, all so that those who have no voice can be heard.


If you haven’t seen the movies, rent them all before you go. If you are a fan, plan to spend a day or two getting caught up by watching the movies.


And if you are a total weeper like I am, bring tissues with you. You might need them.  


Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.