Monday, September 29, 2008


Grant: Wait a minute! They can't shrink me.
General Carter: Our miniaturizer can shrink anything.
Grant: But I don't want to be miniaturized!
General Carter: It's just for an hour.
Grant: Not even for a minute!

This 1966 sci-fi adventure film is a blast. It holds up incredibly, unbelievably well forty-odd years later, from the very sophisticated opening credit sequence to the first, action-packed scenes, right up to the stunning sets and creative visual design. (A noisy airport scene unfolds with deafening jet sounds, brilliantly minus any dialog or music; it feels real and authentic, and builds tension immediately. This segues to men in black limos, departing the airport, and a sudden, intentional car crash and a shootout. .. still no incidental music and only barebones dialog. Very cool.). The film won two Oscars, actually, for Visual Effects and Art Direction).

There are many things about Fantastic Voyage to love and to rave about, but many of those details would spoil the fun. You need to know the plot, though, don’t you? A secret government project can shrink anything to microscopic size – anything, from buildings to army tanks to people – for 60 minutes or less. When the clock runs over that time, the item or person who has been “miniaturized” begins to grow. (What do you think they call this amazing machine? Why, the “Miniaturizer,” of course!)

One of the world’s top scientists, working originally for unnamed bad guys (I’d put my money on the Commie Rat Bastards), holds the key to extending the period of time that the items being shrunk can stay shrunk, and he wants to cross over to our side. Problem is, on the way to the secret, underground government laboratory, the scientist – yes, riding in one of those limos from the airport – comes under attack, hits his head, and soon has a life threatening blood clot in his brain.
The only way to save him? Send in a medical crew with a laser gun to dissolve the clot, using The Miniaturizer, of course!

So a crew of doctors gets shrunk, and are injected into the man’s bloodstream, where they must navigate the arteries and veins in a teeny, tiny nuclear-powered submarine (with virtually no training beforehand, which is hilarious).

The visuals are wonderful, the acting is solid, and threats at every turn deliver thrills and giggles. And to add to the suspense, one of the doctors on board may or may not be “bad guy.” (It couldn’t be Raquel Welch, who seems pretty mousy until they have to put on diving gear for the first time, and her boxy white jumpsuit comes off to reveal a much more form-fitting ensemble she wears for the rest of the film. Va va va voom. Too sexy to be a bad guy, no?)

There are scary, strangling anti-bodies, G-force currents, a sudden dangerous turn towards the heart, and an unexpected stop in the inner ear drum, where any sudden, loud sound in the operating room would send all our shrunken rescuers into a tailspin. Not a good time to drop the scissors, there, sister!

Parents like my friend Steve-The-Nurse(/winemaker) will love explaining various details about biology to the kids along the way. And if you don’t know the movie Osmosis Jones (2001), it has a similar theme, with a story taking place inside the body, focusing on Osmosis Jones, an anthropomorphic white blood cell. It features Bill Murray, Chris Rock and David Hyde Pierce, is part animated and part live action, and is rated PG for some “bodily humor,” but I recommend it.

Friday, September 26, 2008


This 1999 Academy Award contender (nominated for Best Foreign Film) is one of several charming films by Iranian director Majid Majidi. Obviously, watching films set in other countries and cultures offers a multitude of learning opportunities for kids, and Children of Heaven is full of such moments. K and I talked about class, poverty, wealth, Iranian culture (especially as it pertains to women) both during and after viewing, and midway through the film, K expressed concern that it was going to get difficult to watch. He thought the lighthearted touch of the director and the palpable charm of the two child stars were going to give way to bigger tragedy than a pair of lost shoes.

I had a moment of vklempt-ness, realizing my son’s capacity for empathy was not shrinking away as he got older (and sassier, and more jaded, and less open to things his friends wouldn’t like [this extends to food, clothing, etc. – you’ve all been warned]). But I was going on little more than a couple of reviews I’d read, which claimed the movie was “lovely,” “magical,” “delightful” and any number of other positive adjectives, so I was hoping and praying it was going to stay light, and get lighter.

The threat of tragedy hangs like a low flying insect trying to make a landing – the threat of being
caught in a web of lies, of being thrown out of school, of a “beating” from dad, of mom’s illness taking a turn for the worse – but, thankfully, none of those things ever happen. I (the reviews) was right, the movie is sheer delight, and those two kids, playing the brother and sister, are absolutely adorable, and their tears, fears and joy are tangible. You just want to hug them.

The story is told, more or less, from the eyes of these children, who love and respect their parents, have great responsibility at home (moreso than many American kids do, I’d venture
to say), and want to do the right thing, always. And yet they're like young kids everywhere, and when Ali is out running errands (picking up his sisters’ shoes at the cobbler, buying fresh flatbread, picking produce at the market – and he’s nine, people), he loses the shoes. He panics, and doesn’t tell anyone, except his sister, Zohre. They then work out a schedule to share the only pair of decent shoes Ali owns, trading shoes for slippers after Zohre finsishes her morning classes and Ali runs off to his in the afternoon.

Of course the kids’ solution is tenuous at best.

What follows are wonderfully told vignettes, of Ali’s father embarking on a new scheme to make extra money, of little Zohre discovering her beloved shoes on another’s little girl’s feet at school, and of Ali entering a long distance foot race, in order to win a brand new pair of sneakers.

You barely need to say things like, “See how good you have it?” to your kids when you watch films like this, as they can easily see for themselves how different life is elsewhere, and how difficult it can be. A film like this lifts them out of their everyday life, out of their comfort zone, and enables them to see the joy of very small things, and the beauty of the unknown. It can truly open their eyes to the gifts of the world.

Note: Your kids will have to read subtitles, and the PG rating is for a one or two very mild curses (one “what the hell” and one “damn,” if I recall correctly; nothing worse) by the father, who is capable of intense anger.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


The HBO miniseries John Adams, starring Paul Giamatti, just won a number of Emmys and has certainly caught my attention. I added it to our Netflix list, even though I noticed its “TV 14” rating (“This program contains some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age.”). After scanning a few pages of reviews (yes, mostly positively glowing), I’ve yet to see anything by a viewer explaining this rating. I had to stop reading after four or five pages, as my brain lost the power to process the actual words, since they were so redundant (“brilliant,” “superb,” “incredible”).

Have you seen John Adams? If so, can you articulate what might make it unsuitable for kids under 14 (or so)?

I appreciate the help!

Monday, September 22, 2008


Last in our trio of "snow dog" movies, we have White Fang (1991), another Jack London story put to film. Also set in Alaska during the Gold Rush, Jack (a young Ethan Hawke) sets off to find gold on his deceased father’s claim, but runs into some real bad guys and an intriguing dog (half wolf) along the way.

While it’s basically the well-worn story of the bond between man and dog, there is more to it (clear themes of friendship, trust, good and bad, etc.), and, again, for a Disney movie, it has a mature sophistication about it that sets it apart. That said, it’s also for older kids, definitely 10 and up. There is a bit of violence and some unseemly dead bodies and threatening situations that are surely not meant for the younger set.
Any of these would do well on a cold winter night, with a cuppa hot cocoa to wash down the popcorn.

(Or better yet, watch them on a hot summer night... they’ll help cool everyone down!)


A "snow dog" movie that’s difficult to negatively pick apart is Eight Below (2006). This is a superb telling of a story about a professional guide at a scientific research center in the Antarctic and his sled dogs, and the terrible ordeal they face on a particular expedition. (And, yes, it's a Disney film, but it doesn't feel like one!)

Actually, that’s about half the movie, with the other half concentrating on the fate of the dogs, which are left behind at the center when everyone evacuates due to a deadly storm. There’s no room on the plane for the hardworking canines, and their abandonment is difficult for everyone, including the viewer. We follow the guide as he goes through the painful process of finding his beloved dogs.

I remember getting choked up a few times watching this movie, but some reviewers have referred to it as too manufactured or formulaic.

They’re just heartless.


A while back, we embarked on seeing a trio of films that I refer to as “snow dog” movies. Kids seem to love this genre, with themes of adventure, bravery, and loyalty played out by good guys, bad guys, and beautiful dogs, unfolding amidst a gorgeous natural setting which threatens to turn hostile at any given moment. Parents shouldn’t mind these films, either; the cinematography is usually breathtaking, and there’s a teeny bit of an edge to keep you interested. Of course, the underlying moral message is always helpful, too.

One thing we do mind, however, is bad acting, and that will take us right into our first, and least favorite of the trilogy here.

The 2000 film adaptation of Jack London’s “Call of the Wild” is weak. Weak in all regards (except the cinematography) and especially the acting, which felt particularly amateur. Having read the book so long ago that I don’t remember details, I relied on K for feedback on this front; according to him, the film was very different from the book. (We have no problem with that, I’m just pointing it out.) IMO, it sagged a bit; the acting bugged me; the dialog was sub-par, although not totally awful; character development was lacking.

Its one redeeming feature is the storyline about a rather unlikable city slicker spectator and his sister, who put themselves and their guide, Miles (and beloved dog Buck), in critical danger, caught up in Gold Rush fever in Alaska. K glommed onto the man’s buffoonery pretty quickly, and was dutiful in noting every bad decision, made for selfish, greedy reasons. (Aw, it makes you proud, doesn’t it?!)

There is a bit of violence and tension -- a grisly dog fight, a moment of drunken stupidity in a saloon, and a rather intense death at the end of the movie – so it may best viewed by kids upwards of 10 years or so. Keegan gave it a thumbs up.

There are two other versions of Call of the Wild: a 1972 Chuck Heston and a 1935 Clark Gable version. Both have mediocre reviews on Netflix, but I’m interested in trying the Clark Gable version.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


“How do you get people to protect themselves from something they don't
believe in?”

While there have been some remakes and a sequel to the classic 1958 film The Blob, the original is the only one that matters.

Not only does it star Steve McQueen (in his debut role!) but there's something about the amorphous mass that eats people – and even engulfs an entire building – that is both scary and just a bit silly at the same time. There is also an undercurrent of the quintessential ‘50s theme of teens vs. cops, and you’re rooting for McQueen to break through a general sheen of teen prejudice in the town so that he can save the day.

Parts of the movie were filmed in Phoenixville, PA, and that town’s recently restored Colonial Theater is featured in a famous scene where moviegoers run in terror out into the streets, as the Blob suddenly appears during a screening of Daughter of Horror (a very strange film with an interesting history all its own!). Phoenixville celebrates the town’s 15 minutes of fame with an annual Blobfest,” and one of the events is a re-enactment of the scene, where townspeople and tourists have the chance to run from the theater, screaming in their amateur-acting best.

Parents can feel good about the storyline offering up positive spins on concepts such as community, responsibility, honesty, prejudice, and the feel-good meme of doing the right thing. And in the meantime, you can have a good, ol’ fashioned, scary movie night with the kids.

Monday, September 15, 2008

1950's Sci-Fi/Horror Flicks

There are so many great sci-fi/horror movies from the 1950s that I’ve decided to bundle a few here and there into single posts (much to husband D’s chagrin; he could write pages on each of them!). I just think I’ll cover more ground quicker if do quick pieces on one or two at a time.

(I also have to confess that K’s very existence is owed, in part, to D’s desire to have a kid sandwiched between us, with a big bowl of popcorn and some Mug Root Beer, watching what was called, in the Bay Area, “Creature Features,” on Saturday nights. It was a tradition in his family, and also in mine, and early on in our married life, D felt the addition of a kid to the mix was necessary. I said, “Ok.”*)

While some of the films from this period are viewed as “cult classics” and perhaps a little kitschy (they pretty much fall under the “B movie” rubric, and B-movies generally get short shrift), these films stand up today as involving, thought-provoking and even a little spine-tingling because they were well-crafted and well thought-out. They often played on very real fears of the time, about nuclear war and the “Red menace" (communism, for you youngsters), about the rapid advent of technology and new science ... a sort of unspoken, intangible fear that our glorious, apple pie-scented, U.S. of A. might wake up one morning only to find everything had changed and there was no going back.

The very idea of alien beings landing on your neighbors’ farm, or people being “replaced” by replicants, or shapeless monsters coming in the night, can still be extremely entertaining for kids and adults alike. But, with these older films, you pretty much know you’re free of worrying about the kinds of things that color so many sci-fi and horror films today.

Ok, you’re sort of free.

This is why I’m here, to help guide you!

I’ll open this whole can of worms with a recommendation of sorts (it comes with an age caveat), and look at another film that represents the kinds of surprises you may encounter in work from this era. Doing your own homework (on titles you can’t find here on KidsFlix) will help you out, of course, as it does with every other genre.

As I mentioned before, we made the mistake of watching the fantastic 1954 film, THEM!, when K was just a bit young for it. He was about eight or nine years old, and our own memories of the giant, mutant ants (they were, of course, a result of radioactive fallout from bomb tests) were that they were a bit silly and the entire movie was just oodles of fun. Well, we were part right: the movie was oodles of fun, and the ants were actually cooler than we remembered – but what freaked K out at the tender age of “under 10” was a scene neither of us thought much of when we all watched it. But K lost sleep that night. And the next. And the next.

It was
a scene (or two) of a young girl, in shock, traumatized by what she had seen when the ants descended on her town (of course, the implied carnage – implied – may have been a bit much for a young kid, too). The girl was fair haired and delicate looking, and walked as if in a trance ... her eyes were deep wells of emptiness.

Who knew this image would give K nightmares for a few nights?
I’m sure some kids who are exposed to more mature themes than K was at that age might not have been bothered by anything in this movie. (You know your kids best, etc.) But I feel more comfortable saying that THEM! is probably fine viewing for kids 10 and older.

The other film was one that just caught us off-guard. It came from the 1950’s horror film calendar hanging in our kitchen; the calendar features 12 B-movie classics, and we’ve tried to see each month’s featured film. (I’ll be doing posts on the titles we found that were successful, and skip the titles that didn’t fly so well.)

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1959) was, to our surprise, pretty risqué and a bit more terrifying than the calendar artwork and any IMDB notes would have us think. But I blame D for this goof; a look at the user reviews on Netflix would have steered us away from this one (“I highly recommend it, especially for the mid-movie catfight between strippers [in all their 1950s pinup glory] and the evil head.”) Ooops. (Note: we never found the head to be all that evil.)

In this movie, our mad doctor/protagonist saves the severed head of his girlfriend, who died in a car crash, and sets about finding the perfect body for her. As you might imagine, this opens up all kinds of opportunities for injecting a bit of sexploitation into the mix, including the aforementioned wrestling m
atch/cat fight between two scantily clad women, grappling and pulling each other's hair on a nightclub dressing room floor. Yes. We watched strippers wrestle, with our 11-year-old son. (You’re not calling the authorities, are you?)

As if that weren’t bad enough, there was a mutant creature hidden away in a closet that became more monstrous as the film went on; the thing is never on camera, and so of course one’s imagination takes flight, and it becomes as hideous as one can imagine. The creature’s tortured existence leads him to violence and revenge in the end, and for a ‘50s flick, it was a bit more intense than we had anticipated.

A couple of years in age can make a huge difference, though, and K didn’t seem much phased by any of it. His mom and dad were the ones wringing their hands through the whole movie.

So, if you’re interested in this genre – and perhaps in a range of B-movies from this era – stay tuned and I’ll help you figure out which ones might not scare the bejeesus out of the kids, or have them asking, “Mom, why is that woman in a restaurant in her underwear?”

I'll also write up a few great movies for Halloween season in the coming days.

*Ok, there was a little more involved in the decision-making process than this.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Ray Harryhausen was an early pioneer in fantasy filmmaking and special effects. His films used stop-motion model animation, which was a method first used in 1925’s silent The Lost World, and later in the original King Kong (1933), which was a source of great inspiration to Harryhausen. (We recommend both of these films, by the way. King Kong is a classic, about which nothing needs to be said! K enjoyed it at a pretty early age, around seven, I believe. As for The Lost World, start with the 1925 original, and then you can move up to various remakes in 1960, 1992, even 2000; I can’t vouch for any of those, however!)

Two of Harryhausen’s greatest films are The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), and Jason and the Argonauts (1963). (His career began in the ‘40s as a special effects technician on Mighty Joe Young, which I’ve not seen, and he’s still working today.)

Harryhausen had made roughly a dozen films when he worked as associate director and director of visual effects on The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (not to be confused with the ancient Arabic stories of Sinbad the Sailor), so he had plenty of experience behind him, and was really refining his methods. Sinbad has a convoluted plotline to be sure, but just know that the story involves Sinbad and his lovely fiancé, an island rife with danger and mystery, and a magic lamp. Featuring a now-famous Cyclops, a snake-woman, a skeleton swordsman, a dragon, a two-headed bird, and all manner of peril and rescue, it’s easy to recommend this to kids. What could be better on a
rainy Saturday afternoon?

Several years later, Harryhausen’s personal favorite, Jason and the Argonauts, w
as released. This plot involves a murderous and greedy Pelias, who kills the king to usurp the throne. The dead king’s son, Jason, grows up and plots to avenge his father’s death. Gods and goddesses, a brave crew of Argonauts, and a giant merman aid him in his quest, and there is no shortage of danger and mythological backstabbing. The fighting skeleton scene in Sinbad was so popular that Harryhausen resurrected him for Jason, and put him in league with several more bony swordsmen for a scene that became the film’s most memorable. I still get a laugh and a thrill out of those skeletons.

We watched these films when K was about eight years old or so. He recalls now
thinking some of the scenes “were sort of scary at the time,” but adds, “they didn’t really bother me at all. Just a little scary.” So take note for your sensitive, younger ones at home.

Others to check out (and they’re on our own Netflix list):

- 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)
- Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)
- It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)
(about a giant octopus attacking San Francisco!)
- The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) (Rated G)
- Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) (Rated G)
- Clash of the Titans (1981) (Rated PG)

Dad might especially admire the, um, dinosaurs in One Million Years B.C., released in 1967 and starring Raquel Welch.

Harryhausen currently works with Bluewater Productions, publishers of comic books based on his movies (such as "Ray Harryhausen Presents: It Came From Beneath the Sea ... Again!", and "Ray Harryhausen Presents: Jason and the Argonauts", etc.) If your kids like these films and you’re trying to get them to read more with graphic novels and comics (which can be a very effective tactic!) visit Bluewater Productions.

Fun Harryhausen homage facts, courtesy of Wikipedia:

* In the music video for the song "Bones" by The Killers, there are numerous references to the skeleton fight scene in Jason and the Argonauts.

* The Pixar film Monsters Inc. (2001) features a restaurant called Harryhausen's.

* Both the Tim Burton stop-motion film Corpse Bride and the Nick Park stop-motion film Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit featured a piano made by a piano maker called Harryhausen.

* Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, paid homage to Ray Harryhausen in The Fellowship of the Ring when a giant cave troll attacks the Fellowship, claiming that its movements mimic ones made by the monsters in Harryhausen's films.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Transformers, Schmanformers!

Ok, I did start this blog so that I could write about cool film for kids and sound off when something warrants it (and I've got plenty to sound off about... I'm just saving it up). So, I’ll sound off here about the 2007 Transformers movie.

It’s rated PG-13. I’d gathered from reading parental notes that it contained a bit of raunchy humor and language, so ignored it and hoped it would go away. Keegan never bugged me to see it, so its theatrical released managed to skate by us, and I thought that was that.

This past summer, one of K’s buddies saw it and couldn’t stop talking about it, so K did start bugging me to rent it. I finally relented, thinking it was about Transformers, for cryin’ out loud, a stupid toy that boys are infatuated with starting around age seven. How bad could it be? The movie would surely be geared towards boys maybe ... eight years to ... 12? Maybe it had one or two cleverly inappropriate moments that would go over K’s head, at most (as in the superb Iron Man – now that is a successful way to do a PG-13 movie; actually, put Robert Downey Jr. in just about anything, and I’ll call it successful!)?

I also figured I would watch Transformers with Keegan, and have the remote handy if necessary. I thought that would help. Somehow. Instead I wanted to sink into the couch and was rendered speechless for a full minute while I groped for the remote; I also thought, “How would I explain turning it off now, anyway?”

So, you wonder, what was so awful? First, and briefly, the sexual humor and innuendo was a bit strong for a young audience. I did cringe a few times, but those moments passed quickly (and I think I’m getting used to it, which is not to say it’s a good thing) and I do think some of it was lost on K (some was not). But the crowning moment of utter stupidity and inappropriateness was a moment when our teen hero’s mom asks him if he’s been masturbating. From there, a full exchange takes place that lasts about a minute.
That’s when I started sinking into the couch.

The dialogue takes place while tension is building to frame a major action scene about to unfold, which made it hard for me to hit the “pause” button and feign a popcorn break and do some quick fast forwarding (or something). Yeah, I’ll admit that the idea of having that type of conversation while huge robots are about to tear your house apart is a moderately funny idea. But they could have taken the high road and done something else there entirely.

Of course, K turned to me and asked what it meant. I acted distracted. He asked again. I mumbled, “Um, later... oh, look at that guy!” (a Transformer), “He’s trying to eat the car! Isn’t that hilarious? Ha ha ha!”

Somehow we got out of the moment. But it really made me ... angry.

K’s fifth grade class had their first shot at sex-ed this past year. We have open and frank talks whenever an opportunity seems present, and did so well before the fifth grade (he once put his hand up and said, “Ok, I got it; that’s enough, mom.”). Yes, this was a “teaching moment,” but it was also a popcorn-and-root-beer-float-silly-entertainment moment, and trying to explain that particular aspect of sexuality then seemed both ludicrous and impossible. I was steaming.

Ok, so that’s my thumbs down on Transformers, should you be thinking of renting it for your own family entertainment. Maybe if your kid is like, 15, it’s different. But then, does he really want to see a movie about Transformers anyway?

My point, exactly.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Kids-in-Mind Web Site

I've just recently found a very helpful site for determining which current release movies are really not appropriate for kids of varying ages. You may already know it.

It's called Kids in Mind, and goes into great detail on various aspects of new films: violence and gore, substance use, sexuality and nudity. Check out their feedback on Disaster Movie, it's excruciatingly detailed -- but you don't have to read it all, you can get the basic idea in seconds: not for kids!

You can also just glance at the rating number assigned to the film; that's based on how many objectionable or inappropriate moments the film contains. The higher the number, the hotter the content. For instance, Disaster Movie has a 7.8.5 rating, and Swing Vote has a much friendlier 1.2.5 rating. Here's the reason this site is so helpful: both movies are rated PG-13!

BTW, I saw Swing Vote, and saw it with a friend who has the exact opposite political leanings as I (that's what happens when you leave San Francisco! You broaden your social circle horizons!), and we both laughed a lot, and probably thought, at least for a second or two, "Hmmm. That's a good point about my side that's not particularly positive..."). It was a darn good movie for a regular old Hollywood vehicle, starring Kevin Costner, and is thought-provoking for kids and adults alike. It's definitely appropriate for slightly older kids, maybe 11 or 12 and up.

I've just added Kids in Mind to my list (at right) of film sites that I use, and I'll soon be adding a list of cool and useful parenting sites to that column as well.


If you're new here, welcome to KidsFlix, where we hope to give you the tools and knowledge to allow your kids to be intellectually stimulated AND entertained by the big black box in your house!

Thursday, September 4, 2008


“I’m not a number! I’m a free man!” So shouts No. 6 (Patrick McGoohan) throughout this stylish and cool British series in which he starred back in the ‘60s.

My sister-in-law gave this boxed set to my husband last Christmas (another year, she gave him the DVD set of a semi-obscure Japanese series called "Daimajin," which will be another post here, on another day; K has enjoyed both of them immensely! I bet you wish you had a sister-in-law like mine.). When D started to watch "The Prisoner," it struck him that K would like it, and so he invited him to join in.

To my surprise, K took to it right away.

This isn’t the "Batman" series from the 1960s. Or "Mission Impossible."

"The Prisoner" was pretty sophisticated fare. Cerebral even. Surreal? That, too.

Here’s what K has to say about it:

Q. How are you enjoying the Prisoner so far?

It’s a very fun show, with a good base idea.

Q. What’s the base idea?

A man from a spy agency in England, like the CIA, suddenly resigns, then is captured and is brought to the “village.” In every episode they try to “break him” – put that in quotes – and find out why he resigned.

Q. Do you know why he resigned?


Q. Are there many English phrases that are hard to understand? Any difficult accents?

No, and the village he’s in (which is really nice in this fake way) isn’t any particular culture, it’s a mix—Russian and English and French -- so that you don’t know who it is.

Q. What do you like the most about it?

Well, before I answer—he is No. 6 and everyone has numbers in the village. His goal is to figure out who No. 1 is. So far, No. 2 has been the one who always tries to break him.
What I like is that it’s gone from No. 2 trying to break him, to him trying to break No. 2, and the rest of the village.

The storyline has gone all the way from episodes where they try tricking him to thinking he’s gone back to London, to them trying to infiltrate his dreams with powerful drugs and machines... to making No. 2 feel as though he is the one being watched, just as No. 6 is.

Q. So the tables turned, psychologically, basically.


Q. Is there any violence?


Q. What kind?

Fist fighting mostly. No guns really. Nothing gruesome.

Q. At what age could kids enjoy The Prisoner?

Hmm. I don’t know if most kids my age would like it. They might find it boring. Maybe kids somewhere in the 10 to 13 (and up) could like it, it depends.

Ok, there you go. I can tell you, the older boy in the house (husband D) is really enjoying "The Prisoner" (revisited; he actually watched it in high school when it was re-run on PBS stations) and the time they spend together watching. (D said that during last night's viewing, K turned to him at some point and said, "I really like this show, dad!")

I'm thinking about "The Avengers" next (not the punk band, the TV series!) ...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Your Suggestions

Ok, now that I've started to send out the link to the world at large, hopefully we'll have some eyes here, and I'd LOVE to get titles from YOU ... things you think we should write about here.

Someone said the other day, "Oh, you'll write up Fantasia, even though it's Disney, right?"

I was stumped. Fantasia IS a great movie for kids. It's not that obscure, however. So I'm not sure I would do it, based on that more than the fact that it's a Disney film. (I've got one title in the queue that carries the Disney label; it won't be a deal breaker!)

Maybe you could help me decide in either direction. Mostly what I hope to do here is provide ideas that are a bit unusual, interesting, thought provoking, or just plain fun (like some John Wayne films that are also in the queue). Parents don't have the time to think about this stuff too much, so that's my driving force here...

So, please use the comments section here for feedback and ideas! And have fun browsing....



(2003) (Subtitles)

This film falls into a category called “narrative documentary,” as it uses real people, living in their real lives, to tell a story that either springs from their own culture and experience, or is inspired by it. Some shots may be staged, but as a whole, the filmmakers employ the same truth-telling ethos as they would in a strict documentary to create a compelling narrative.

In this case, we follow a multi-generational family of herder nomads in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia as they work to help one of their camels deliver a colt – a long and arduous process – and then watch as the mother rejects the unusual offspring, a ghostly, white colt. These two themes are responsible for the PG rating: the pain of maternal rejection surprisingly translates loudly and clearly into human terms (the mother refuses to nurse her baby, and the cries of the colt are heart wrenching), and of course the birth itself may be upsetting to some children. It ain’t pretty.

There are so many beautiful moments in the film, however, that most children with an interest in the unusual and the exotic should be smitten. The filmmakers (one of which apparently came from a herder background herself) tell the story of the people and their culture so naturally, letting their everyday actions speak for themselves, and letting the stark terrain of the Gobi illustrate the story with its dust and wind. It’s a quiet film, with a warm heart, and offers an almost voyeuristic peek into lives that are so very different from our own.

The “weeping camel” aspect is not what you might think. A good part of the film is focused on the family’s search for a musician to come and play a traditional song for the mother, a song that may persuade her to change her feelings about the colt. When this happens, it is said that the camel will weep as she nurses her young. Two of the sons venture out on camelback to find such a musician, and in their search stumble on evidence of the outside world (and modern technology) closing in on their own traditional way of life.

There is much to think about, much to admire, and much to love about The Story of the Weeping Camel. For younger viewers, you could always fast forward through the fairly graphic birthing scene without losing a critical part of the story.