Tag Archive: movie reviews

Remembering Roger Ebert

Family Movie Night


by Karyn Bowman


What is a sure sign of spring at my house?


When the weather is warm enough that I feel okay removing last year’s perennial stems. Usually I leave the stalks from the peonies and mums up over the winter. It gives the snow someplace to land that is not flat – and therefore – a little interesting.


Image of Roger Ebert  from IMDb.com

Image of Roger Ebert from IMDb.com

This year as I cut away last year’s peonies stems, I thought about Roger Ebert who passed away last week. I grew up on Ebert’s and Siskel’s review show. I read his columns to find out how to write a proper review and to learn how to be better. But I also read his work because I enjoyed his writing style.


I had the pleasure of meeting Ebert and he was always gracious to me, especially when I was hugely pregnant with our last child and wanted an easy exit to the bathroom – just in case.  That spot was right in front of him which most people never do.


More than that, Roger was always interested in what other people thought and asked questions to the room at large in between screenings.  He believed everyone read as much as he did and was interested in what the rest of the room was thinking. For a man at his level of brilliance, it was humbling to know he wanted our thoughts.


If there was one thing that Ebert hope to inspire in people, it was to try a movie that may not have seemed like your cup of tea. He encouraged his readers to get out of their comfort zone, not only with his columns but with his Overlooked Film Festival, now known as Ebertfest,  in Champaign, Illinois every April. While the festival started as one thing, it became a chance to Ebert and friends to pick out movies that were not seen for a variety of reasons.


My Neighbor Totoro IMDb com 4 2013

Poster Image from IMDb.com

One movie that was out of my comfort zone was the family friendly My Neighbor Totoro. This Japanese Anime movie tells the story of a family who moves out to a house in the Japanese countryside. It is filled with soot sprites that need to be scared away.


But more than that, it is near the home of a giant Totoro – king of the forest. However, the young girls are also dealing with an ill mother who cannot leave the hospital no matter how much they miss her. Hayao Miyazaki directs what I  call a near perfect movie that explores Japanese folk tales and the emotions of two girls dealing with fear and grief.


I was blown away by the detail of the hand-drawn animation and the joyousness of the story despite the heavy shadow of the sick mother.  It sent our family on a journey to find more anime movies by this director and we have never been disappointed.


While I may not have Ebert to thank for discovering this movie, I do thank him for the wonderful writing he produced that was always, always, thought-provoking and moving.


Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Comic Book Summer

Family Movie Night


Movies based on comic books has become the popular summer movie format.


Movies Poster image from IMDb.com

This year we have seen Thor and X-Men: First Class make it to the movie theaters across the land. Green Lantern starring Ryan Reynolds comes out this week.


What makes most of these comic book movies perfect for family views is the fact that many kids have seen these characters in cartoon TV shows or on the comic page of the newspaper. I used to watch The Justice League as well as Batman when I was a kid. Kids and some parents already know these characters.


Secondly, the violence in these action/adventure movies tends to be blood-free. We know when someone gets hit bad enough to make them die without copious amounts of blood and gore. Remember when The Goblin is killed by his own weapon in Spiderman? It makes some of these scenes easier to take when watching these movies with your child who is in grade school.


Lastly, our heroes are fighting certain evil. The Joker is a bad guy, there is no grey coloring in his soul. The lines are black and white as to who is good and who is not in these movies. They might be facing personal demons – Spiderman does on a regular basis – but when it comes to protecting others there is no conflict.


In the last few years we have seen the X-men series, Spiderman series and Batman series. Iron man is working to combine with the Avenger series.


I am intrigued with the two versions of The Hulk and recently heard there is going to be another version of Superman.


What you should not confuse these movies with are the one being adapted from graphic novels. Movies such as Sin City and Hell Boy. These movies are geared for their readers who tend to be older teenager on up. And that means the gore factor and the language is more suitable for that age group.


These are not PG-13 movies pretending they can run with the big boys of “R” ratings as most comic book movies do. Graphic novel adaptations are meant for an older audience and they embrace that factor. That means salty language, great car chases, and bullets that actually hit and cause bleeding. 


The only exception to this is the latest Batman series being directed by Christopher Nolan. This is being based on a graphic novel series but Nolan has made it friendlier for younger views. We never see what happened to the Joker to turn him so evil, we never see Rachel in the explosion that kills her although we see Bruce’s anguish at her death.


If you are trying to decide what movie to go to, here are a few tips to make sure you see the movie you want to see.


1. Look for the rating of the movie. Most of the time, the rating gives parents a good idea if this is suitable for a specific age group.


2. Read reviews of the movies you are thinking about seeing. The tone of the review will tell you if this or that movie is appropriate for family viewing or not. The more reviews you read, the more you will know about the storyline and anything that might be objectionable. I like going to Rottentomatoes.com to see a myriad of reviews for one movie.


3. Ask friends if they have seen a specific movie you are interested in seeing. If they have a similar taste to yours or a very different taste, this is a great judge on a movie.


The bottom line is always investigate a movie a little before you see it if you want to make sure it is a good movie to see with your family – be it with kids, teens, parents and/or grandparents.


Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.