Tag Archive: monsters

Three Billboards

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Lately the boys have been watching horror movies. They keep watching horror movies from the 70s and 80s.

I am not a big fan of horror movies.

Monster movies don’t thrill me either. I know that there are real monsters in this world that are frightening more than any movie. When I saw the video of the father who went after the doctor who sexually abused so many female gymnasts, I can’t say that I found him completely wrong. I understood his emotions.

Three BillboardsIt is those same emotions that are on display in the Oscar TM nominated Three Billboards outside Ebbings, Missouri. The story is about a woman who rents three billboards outside of her small town. The bright red billboards question why the sheriff has not found a killer.

The killer that Mildred (Frances McDormand) wants brought to justice raped and killed her teenage daughter. And she feels that Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is not doing his job. The Chief wants to find the killer. But he is dealing with many other issues, including a deputy (Sam Rockwell) who is accused of police brutality.

There’s more, as there is always more with a story like this. There are many blind alleys and unexpected happening.

I am not going to tell you about them.

To do so at this time would ruin the movie for you as it is still so new in the theaters. But I will say that this movie took me to places I did not expect. Just when I thought I understood what was happening, a curve would be thrown, a mystical element appeared, bitterness could not be denied.

Director Martin McDonagh also wrote the original screenplay. He stated that during a bus ride across America he saw three billboards asking questions about a crime. He wanted to explore how a person could come to a point that they needed to do this and that is how he came up with the character of Mildred.

Three Billboards 2


From the commercials, I thought the movie would be more of a black comedy. But as it went on, I felt is was more of a slice of life movie through the eyes of a person living through deep grief. I believe that this is one of those movies for adults dealing with the adult topic of grief on various levels. The swearing alone would put off some people, especially the scene in which Mildred tells off the priest.

It’s a role that only a fearless actress could portray and McDormand is certainly that. She allows Mildred’s grief and anger and fear to take over, showing the extremes a mother might go to to find the killer of her daughter despite their rocky relationship.

Other cast members put in solid performances that don’t let you down during an onslaught of tension and continuous storytelling. The nominations for various awards are all deserved.

There are no easy answers, no simple solutions to this movie. That is why it will reap many Oscars come March 4th.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.


Just Who Can Hang With Harry?

Family Movie Night

Harry, Ron and Hermione in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, picture from IMDb.com

In case you have not been pay attention, next week is the opening of the latest Harry Potter movie as we move towards the end of the wizarding world saga.

Next Friday, or late Thursday night I assume, people who have followed this series will be standing in line waiting for the second to last movie. Finally we will be able to watch on the screen what we have tried to imagine in our feeble minds.

So the only thing left to do is have a Harry Potter


But wait — what about appropriate viewing ages? Good point and thanks for asking because not all Harry Potter movies are for all ages of the family members.  So let’s explore each movie for best viewing ages.


Hermione, Harry and Ron in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Picture from IMDb.com

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

In this movie we meet Harry and his friends, Hermione and Ron. We also see the beginnings of a great rivalry. Then there is Professor Snape whose dislike of Harry has everything to do with his father.

This introduction into the series is good for all members of the family. There are scary moments and scary creatures but those scenes are handled in a friendly manner that  makes them less scary.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Here Harry will learn one of his talents that is not popular with his school fellows. With the Chamber of Secrets opened, it is a race to save Hogwarts from a threat that could destroy the student population.

What is scary is a series of events leading to discover who opened the door to the chamber. This movie is still appropriate for early grade school students with some fun scenes dealing with magical creatures.

Gary Oldman as Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, IMDb com

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

A highly dangerous prisoner from the wizard’s prison has escaped and he may be coming for Harry. While third year students can go to Hogsmeade, the only completely wizarding village in Great Britain, Harry could not get permission from Uncle Vernon.

This movie shows the series starting on a path of darkness, with fear becoming a part of the norm. It is a film that is best suited for pre-teen kids and up as there are themes that need greater maturity to understand, such as long-held hatred and a need for revenge.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire


I believe this chapter of the story is the last one that is suitable for anyone under the age of 13. There is a constant mood of fear as Harry competes in a contest to find the ultimate magical champion. We meet students from other schools as well as some very scary creatures. What Harry and Cedric face at the end of the movie can be terrifying to younger viewers under the age of ten.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Lord Voldemort, Picture from IMDb.com

These last two movies are best for the teens, especially those who have been reading the series all along. The fear level is intense in both movies as Lord Voldomort is back and ready to rule the world. The action scenes are potent and lives will be lost, people we have grown very attached. I do not recommend these two movies or the one coming out to younger viewers because I do not believe their maturity level can handle the fear, the sadness, the manic need to do something against the tide of evil.

Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, picture from IMDb.com

If I am wrong, please let me know and I will include your opinion in next week’s column.

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Family Friendly Scares

Family Movie Night

Because of deadlines, the time I write this column is always about a half a week from the time you will read it. So what is foremost in my head is the wonderful concert I went to that featured the high school and grade school bands, performing three numbers separately and together for two numbers.

Picture by Puddleduck

Those of us with children or grandchildren in the grade school band know the excellent program Mr. Smith has created. This was my first concert at the high school and I was very impressed with Mr. Mayden’s work. The second number, Lux Aurumque by Eric Whitacre, was a difficult tune. It seemed to me there would be times that your instrument would sound slightly off when you were doing the correct notes. The students rallied and kept going even when it seemed impossible. It had an eerie yet beautiful quality to it.

So perfect for the season.

One thing that is always troubling about this season is what movies should one watch with the little ones. I mean, I am not showing my kindergartener or 4th grader Halloween or Saw or any number of scary movies that feature blood and gore. But they do make the request for scary movies.

One friend told me her younger daughter stated she was excited to see the scary movies, the ones featured on Disney Channel. That is really the route to go. Plus, there are a few movies that were in theaters only a few years ago that are truly scary and appropriate for the younger crowd. These are what I call the “family friendly scary movies.”

Scooby Doo and the Gang from the live action movie series. Picture from IMDb.com

One of my go-to-scary-movies for kids is anything “Scooby Doo.” I find these movies can be a little scary with Shaggy and Scoob leading the way to shaking in your boots. Thelma, Fred and Daphne show us how the monsters and ghosts are fake. In the few instances when they are not, the gang also displays how to think fast to save the day. Their cunning always wins out over greed.

One spooky movie for the youngest of age groups is The Little Vampire starring Jonathon Lipnicki back when he was a cute little boy. He discovers a family of vampires has moved into his neighborhood when he meets the boy who is his age. The trick becomes figuring out how to save the family. Well, we know kids can do miraculous things if given a chance and this is a cute movie with only small scares to it.

Monster House poster, Picture from IMDb.com

Another movie I would go with is Monster House. The story is about three pre-teens who discover the haunted house on the block does more than just sit there, especially if it thinks someone might try to damage the house. This PG rated flick is perhaps best for 8 years and up. It has some beautiful animation and I enjoy the characters, even more so once I discovered that Mitchel Musso from Hannah Montana plays the best friend.

Have a safe and happy Halloween this weekend!

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Let the world know about your latest pick for Family Movie Night and drop a note below.

I was going to add one more picture to yesterday’s post until I ended up taking more than one picture. My favorite ghost came out better than I thought.

Hanging ghost with morning sun behind it

We might have a big head here

Side view

Nothing says Halloween like multiple skulls

The friendly vampire

And now for the shot of autumn flora…

Our Dogwood tree in its Autumn colors.

Family Movie Night

“Yanda lies the castle of ma fatha.”

Tony Curtis in "The Sweet Smell of Success," picture from IMDb.com

 This quote is perhaps the most famous for who reportedly said it although no one has ever actually heard it. Allegededly uttered by Tony Curtis during his early days in Hollywood in the movie The Black Shield of Falworth, it is the reminder he was born in the Bronx.

Last week we said goodby forever to Curtis who was a fine actor in a variety of roles from a knight to a cross dressing musician to the Boston Strangler. Granted, his personal life was a mess but apparently he was forgiven by at least one of his children.

Also going up to the big movie house is Arthur Penn, who crafted the masterful Bonnie and Clyde which starred Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. I know there are talks to re-make this movie but it will never live up to the original unless it is far, far better.

 Finally, I want to remember Sally Menke, a film editor who died  during a hike in the mountains of California. She worked on all of Quentin Tarratino’s films, helping him achieve his signature look and style. Plus, she is credited with making the opening of Inglorious Basterds the imcomperable thing of beauty it is.

When you consider how many hours of film the editor gets, the different shots and angles and points of view, it is amazing that we get good films, let alone great ones. Sally is going to be missed for her Oscar-nominated artistry.

 Now that we have remembered the dead lets get to the start of my October series on spooky/scary movies. I am not sure that these movies are appropriate for kids under the pre-teen years. Some of these choices are too close in some ways to real life and may be too scary for young ones.

Movie Poster, Picture from IMDb.com

 Perhaps the best vampire movie ever made was Nosferatu (1922) by director F.W. Murneau. It was during the hey-day of German film-making and no one has ever matched it for creepiness. Max Schreck was a genius in his role. I would like to see it again, especially on the big screen. Gary Oldman’s turn in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) is nothing but a huge homage to that movie.

 The one movie that people remember the most is Count Dracula (1931) starring Bela Lugosi. He would forever have that character

Bela Lugosi as Dracula, picture from IMDb.com.

etched on him but Lugosi really was a good actor. In this movie, Lugosi makes the count romantic and campy. He is a safe monster. Perhaps that is the biggest appeal of Edward Cullen from Twilight.

 Next, there is James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931). The

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein, picture from IMDb.com

first ‘monster’ movie for the talkies, it may be most memorable for not being like the book and for being as scary as Mary Shelley’s work. There are murders and fear and gentleness and tragedy rolled up in 70 minutes with little or no musical soundtrack.

 Last but not least is The Wolfman (1941) starring Lon Chaney Jr. as the ill-fated American. The sets are cheap, the dry ice is plentiful and yet, there is a

Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man, picture from IMDb.com

sadness to this movie like none other. Claude Rains plays the father and gives a performance that is simple, stark and powerful. I saw this reflected in David Thewlis’s performance as Lupin in the Harry Potter film series. It is a movie that is scary because of the emotion and not the actual scares because Larry Talbot is such a grounded ‘everyman.’

 What movies do you consider to be in the ‘classic’ definition of scary movies? And what do you think are the best ‘zombie’ or ‘slasher’ movies?

 Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

 Let the world know about your latest pick for Family Movie Night and drop a note in the comment scetion.  Become my friend on Facebook.


Monsters Inc., toy; picture by Llaboo

When you go to a fast food restaurant, do you really think your kid is more interested in the greasy burger than the toy?

I know what my kids are looking for and the food is just an added benefit. At some point I made the rule that food must be eaten before the toy would even be opened.

A few months back the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington D.C. consumer group, threatened to sue McDonald’s in order to make them stop putting toys in the Happy Meals. Now the city of San Francisco wants to get in the act by banning the toys in kids meals unless the meal meets more stringent nutritional and sodium levels.

I know that childhood obesity is a problem. And I know people are looking for solutions all over the place. But let me ask this. Was anyone paying attention to home economic classes when they were talking abut the food pyramid? All those years that Richard Simmons was telling us to exercise to the oldies, did anyone get up and do it?

When McDonald’s started offering apple dippers and different drinks other than soda, was I the only one paying attention? I have often made laundry list orders that had chicken nuggets, apple slices and apple juice as our choice. Chocolate milk as a choice? Great! My daughter, who is not a fan of soda, was very relieved that now her choices included milk or apple juice or lemonade.

Are we getting to the point that we have to regulate everything? There are people who eat nothing but fast food. But does that mean the rest of us have to be penalized? We are not able to outlaw stupidity so we need to force regulate good food choices instead?

All this because people have forgotten that if you want to eat meals that have the required caloric amount of a whole day at one setting you must get up and exercise. You must get away from the TV or game boy or computer and move.

Here is an idea. Let’s ban TVs and nintendo and gameboys. Add on home computers and blackberries. Regulate that people have to move at least one hour a day, every day. Lets put timers on these devices and when a person has spent an hour at one setting, the device will automatically shut-down – forcing that person to move on to something else. An alarm will sound until they go outside and move around a bit.

That’s right, force people to exercise. Force people to get off their butts and move. While we are at it, let’s make a law that parking at shopping malls must be at least a quarter of a mile from the closest doors. That way people will walk at least a half a mile whenever they go to the mall.

Picture by Cohdra

Then let’s remove escalators, moving sidewalks and elevators. Let’s do whatever it takes to get people healthier and those are some simple fixes. Just like when McDonald’s stopped using lard to fry those French fries because vegetable oil was supposed to be healthier for us.

How’s that working out?

Looking over the blog for the last week or so, I realized I am falling back into fantasy life.

It is not that I do not enjoy my life with my family, I do enjoy those moments. And it is not as if I am avoiding the rest of my life. I spend time with my kids, we do fun things together and have serious discussions on who are some of the best guitarists ever.

 I believe my Jane Austen and other trivial pursuits fascination has everything to do with the fact I cannot always deal with the evils of the world.

 Last summer in Illinois, Brian Dugan was going through hearings to determine if he should be given the death penalty. In case you are not familiar with this monster, Dugan is the confessed rapist and killer of 7-year-old Melissa Ackerman and 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico. He also raped and killed 27-year-old Donna Schnor after hitting her car and forcing her off the road.

Dugan is the monster all parents worry about, stealing kids just like that, for no rhyme or reason before he kills them. Personally, I want to kill him for the grief and horror he given his victims and their family.

This weekend when I read the story of the seven-year-old girl who was gang raped by seven men, I felt the same kind of horror and disgust. We are talking about a second grader who has to endure the vilest of violations, in part thanks to her step-sister.

 I want to rip these people apart and I am not the parent. I can not imagine what these people feel. I remember an old story about a mother going to the police station and shooting the rapist of her daughter. I understand her feelings because that is what I would do. Thinking about these kind of cases make me angry and I cannot contain what I feel. My body shakes and standing still is impossible.

Because of my strong feelings, I know I could have never been a serious reporter, a lawyer or anyone who deals with these issues on a daily basis. I would be so angry all of the time I could not function as a normal human. I want to make the world a better place but I have come to realize it is by providing kids in my youth group a listening ear and a tray of snacks. It is by making a spot of beauty in my yard and allowing kids in the neighborhood to help.

I can teach my kids how to be in the world without tromping down on the rights of others. I can help them learn how to blow steam without being a jerk to someone else. I am trying to do those things that no one seemed capable of doing for Brian Dugan or those rapists in New Jersey, teaching them to be decent human beings before it was too late.

Am I keeping my head in the sand like an ostrich or am I dealing with the situation the best I know how? I just don’t know.

Karyn Bowman lives in Kankakee County with her outdoor writer husband and four children. Become friends with Karyn on Facebook.

Now that the weather has warmed up a bit, I am ready to go in the garden.

Last week I raked out the compost and started putting down some new mulch. I also started thinking about what I want in said garden, what plants to add despite not taking out anything else.

I am on the lookout for oblong wire baskets I can attach to the garage windows to give that part of the yards a more ‘cottage’ look to it. Because that is a shade area, I plan to fill the baskets with impatiens and verbena. I have hosta plants that I am willing to trade in case anyone has something other than the leaves with white on the outside and lavender colored flowers. It would be nice to have more than one variety to break things up a bit.

This week when it comes to movies, there are two kid movies our family has been on the lookout for which have hit the stores. I have heard rave reviews about both of these movies, calling them excellent movies for families that we wish we could find all of the time. The Bowman plan is to watch them both this weekend.

The first is Where The Wild Things Are, based on the classic book by Maurice Sendak. The story is about a boy who misbehaves one night and is sent to his room with no supper. Max likes to wear his wolf costume and pretend he is a wild thing. And on that night he gets to go to the magical island where they all live.

Director Spike Jonze has added a few plot points that were not in the book. Max runs away from home to find a boat that leads him to an island with huge monsters that might want to eat him. And these monsters can still be a bit scary for little ones. But Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune, whose opinion I trust, loved this movie when it first came out last summer.

The second movie is Ponyo which is written by the Japanese animation master Hayoa Miyazaki. It is the story of a goldfish princess who longs to be human. One day a five-year-old boy named Sosuke finds her and promises to take care of her after naming her Ponyo. Ponyo then magically become human and this upsets the balance of things. It is filled with wonderful animation and fully realized characters.

Both movies came out the beginning of March and these two were second and third in sales, respectively. Only the disaster movie 2012 beat them out. I would say that is a good sign families are looking for good solid movies to watch. With Ponyo and Where The Wild Things Are, I would say the odds are pretty high families got their wish.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Let the world know about your latest pick for Family Movie Night and drop a note to momgoestothemovies@sbcglobal.net or become my friend on Facebook.