Sunday, November 15, 2009

Favorite Kid Films

As I continue to contemplate retirement from blogging, I do feel compelled to call up a list of some of our favorites; films we really enjoyed when K was roughly 10 to 12 years old and we could get him to watch a movie. Now, he's much more social, and is a skateboarding fiend, meaning he spends a lot of time at the nearby indoor skate park. Much better than couch potato-ing (with TV, X-box and laptop), so we have no complaints.

First, you can start with the movies (like Little Manhattan, Iron Giant) that are linked to their graphic images below (far left), as those are definitely some favorites. Regarding Planet of the Apes, I'll point out that K and his dad watched the entire series of films and loved them all (I've seen three).

Here are some other titles we highly recommend (in no particular order):

The Prisoner TV series (PG)
Blindsight (PG)
Jackie Chan: Snake in the Eagle's Shadow (PG)
Genre: '50s Sci Fi/Fantasy and "Horror" Movies

Ok, that might keep you busy for a while.

What you you watched lately with your own kids?






Friday, October 30, 2009

Er... Halloween...

Ok, it's the LEAST I can do:

Here are some Halloween ideas for the kiddies.


And, I had all intentions (two months ago) of following up on some titles I've not covered, such as:

Tower of Terror (Disney, made for tv)

Hocus Pocus (Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler, rated PG)

The Witches Saving the world from witches is a tall order for a boy they've turned into a mouse!

Halloweentown High (Apparently there is a series of Halloweentown movies?)

Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) (Two animated versions of the Sleepy Hollow/Headless Horseman story and of The Wind in the Willows ... together in one film? I'm not sure.)

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (!) Oh come on, it's Don Knotts!

Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein ... Meet the Mummy ... Meet Jekyll and Hyde ... (I'm tempted to just say, GO! on these ...)

Something Wicked This Way Comes (For older kids? A Ray Bradbury adaptation)


But. As you can see, I'm providing zero in the way of a real thumbs up or down on these, as I did for these films.

If you see any of the titles above, drop me a note! (Or better yet, post here!)

Happy All Hallows Eve, everyone .... We will be enjoying a double feature of Earth vs. the Spider / War of the Colossal Beast (1958), and with a little nudging, I may be convinced to report on them here. We're just so darn happy that son K wanted to stay home and watch "a really good -- or really bad -- monster movie from the '50s" instead of going to the skatepark, where I'm sure a few costumes and lots of junk food will be livening things up.

What more could we ask for?


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Where The WIld Things Are

Interesting piece in PopMatters on Where The Wild Things Are, opening this Friday:

Both Spike and Sendak’s Max are reflective of their time, and yet completely true to the dark and often disappointing tenets of youth. Naturally, grown-ups would balk at such cinematic bravado. Give their progeny as much mindless eye candy as possible, but God forbid they be required to think—or even worse, question and reflect. [Jonze is] journeying deep into the fragile heart of pre-adolescent darkness here, reminding us of how fun and fractured growing up can be. ...

I have to confess I’m glad son K says he’ll see this with me, now that he’s making the leap to cell-phone carrying, football-playing, pre-teen ... I’m looking forward to it. Reviews are generally strong; the Chicago Trib called it “nervy and breathtaking.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

GONE FISHIN?

It seems that KidsFlix has gone fishin'.

(But you figured that out already.)

A busy summer morphed into a busy fall ... focusing on my writing gig (the one that helps pay the bills) and volunteering for Maine's No on (Question) 1 campaign has just completely derailed me!

The longer I'm away, the harder it is to start it up again.

So, that said, I suspect I may be waiting for some serious inspiration to get back on the ol' horse, and share my thoughts with you on offbeat, fab films for families.

Perhaps inspiration will come knocking once I see something that really floors me ... I know this weekend, husband D has a film coming in that sounds pretty great (Terror From Beneath The Sea, 1966). (No peeking! Give me a few days and I promise I'll write something, now that I've baited you.)

Another film I'm really looking forward to is -- and I share this with you freely as I'm sure it deserves even more attention than it will get -- is a new documentary called Afghan Star. It's still showing in pockets around the country, in art houses and on college campuses, so check your listings. It's impatiently sitting in my Netflix "saved" queue.

Ok. Carry on. I guess I'm warming up to come back!


Oh, and to give you somewhere to go right now, check out my friend's blog, Really? Estate, where she's documenting her and her husband's attempt to buy a house in the San Francisco Bay Area. You'll laugh and cry along with them as they look at houses in "landslide zones" with cracked foundations and shoebox-sized rooms going for a cool half million dollars. (No, I'm not kidding.)

It's fascinating. Send her some good karma while you're there.




Monday, September 14, 2009

THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED (PG)

The Greatest Game Ever Played doesn’t really fit the KidsFlix criteria (we try for offbeat, classic, foreign, etc.), but somehow this got to the top our NetFlix list when we weren’t looking.

K snorted and said, “Oh, it’s Disney. It’s probably really dumb.” For those of you who are newcomers here, K is 12 now, and of course at this age it gets more challenging to get him to sit through movies that he doesn’t choose himself. Although, to be clear, he’ll often choose something like Ratatouille, just as often as he might choose something like Inkheart. (Husband D and I are just grateful that K still loves to watch ‘50s and ‘60s sci fi flicks with us! He’s become quite the aficionado.)

This film is based on the true story of a young caddie in the early 1900s, growing up under the critical eye of a struggling immigrant father and hardworking mother, whose own golfing talents land him in the U.S. Open. The story is one of overcoming odds, of believing in ones’ self, of the ugliness of classism and stereotyping ... there are a number of discussion-worthy issues trotted out here. But the film itself is beautifully made, it’s rich to both the eye and the soul, and here’s the key thing: our scoffing son soon succumbed to the film’s charms and he thoroughly enjoyed it. It has a mature feeling about it, like it’s something kids can really sink their teeth into, and they can feel that in the first ten minutes.

I learned something, too: apparently Shia LaBeof is not all that cool with the male tweener set. I believe K referred to him as “Shia LeDoof “ (um, would that be spelled LeDuf, if it were short for “dufus?”). We managed to avoid the most recent Transformers movie -- K seemed pretty disinterested, which was a blessing considering the awful reviews I read and the surprising and annoying level of sexual humor in the first one, which was off-putting, to say the least -- and K hasn’t seen a whole of LeBeof in action. So I gather this is a general vibe from the tweener pack at the moment.

Maybe they’re old enough that they’re jealous of the guy getting next to Megan Fox. Is that possible?


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Randon Act of Self Indulgence .16 - Michael Moore's "Capitalism"

Go, Michael Moore.

Monday, August 31, 2009

TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE

I was just reading my quick post below about It Came From Outer Space, and realized I had a scene from this film in mind when I mentioned bad girl blonds... I don't think there was a platinum-haired young lady with "DOOMED" stamped on her forehead (to pay for her lusty thoughts, one presumes) in that film.

Instead, she appeared (briefly) in Teenagers From Outer Space, which was a fantastically entertaining 1950s "aliens from space" film we all enjoyed not long ago. (Yeah, we're on a bit of a '50s sci-fi kick here, but that happens!)

You'll understand my confusing the two movies, as both have a similar theme running through them that was rather atypical of the time: these aliens didn't choose our fair planet for conquering or blowing up, but rather as a temporary home for different purposes: in essence, for doing a little work under the hood in the former, and for growing food in the latter. Ok, more specifically, in Teenagers, they need to find an environment suitable for breeding the giant creatures on which they feed their human-like populace. The creatures are called Gargons, which coincidentally resemble very, very large lobsters, and make one's mouth water for a good portion of the film.

Teenagers is hilarious in many ways, and one of the most confounding quirks is that the actors portraying the "teens" look to be about 30 years old. Our hero, Derek, is the handsome young man -- er, teen -- alien who changes his mind about the whole plan, realizing it imperils Earth humans, and he's developed a bit of a crush on one of them, the perky Betty.

But other aliens don't share his view, and out come the laser guns, which can reduce a living, breathing body to a pile of bones (maybe this is more of a PG outing for younger viewers). There’s a fair amount of action, a moral message that ... um... not all teenagers are bad, and it’s just a whole lot of laughs.



Saturday, August 29, 2009

Random Act of Self-Indulgence .15

Wow. That's a quick snippet of Tom Waits, but did he have shaved eyebrows? Is that what makes him look so freaky?

And Heath Ledger. Wow.

I wrote about this before, but now it's further along, and there's an official trailer and release date (or two: I've seen both December and October mentioned) ... The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus:





If you want to read more about the film, visit IMDB:

"I saw this at the Munich film festival where Terry Gilliam introduced the film, and boy was he nervous. However, the film is of marvelous spectacle yet unprofound simplicity but limitless. It's along the lines of his magnificent visual storytelling as in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, leaving out the subtext like Brazil and Twelve Monkeys..."


Thursday, August 27, 2009

IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON (PG)

To my surprise, this documentary about the 12 human beings who have been to the moon and back is directed by British producer/director David Sington. This nifty little film not only captures a very American feeling about our amazing accomplishments in space so many decades ago, but also does a fine job reminding us what national unity and pride feels like. Ever since the post-9/11 ... love fest ... ended (around the time Bush started talking about invading Iraq), our country has forged a divide so deep, you think it may never close up.

(Also funny how the post-2008 election love fest has fizzled, adding to that divide, now that Republicans are remembering what it feels like to be in the minority: not fun, and kinda scary when you have no power. But I sure hope those who are getting so riled up figure out how to get along, and turn down the rhetoric and the stretching of truth, and leave the guns at home. Talk about scary.)

Where was I?

Oh, yeah, national unity. In The Shadow of the Moon leaves you with a nice feeling, and when you’re gathering up the popcorn bowls and putting the pillows back on the sofa, it has you imagining some new goal, or mission, that the U.S. could embark on to pull us back together. Something universally desired, attainable, admirable.

As thoughts like “eradicate world hunger” and “wipe out illiteracy” whoosh through your pea brain, you find yourself wondering, “Uh, what did getting onto the moon actually do for humankind that was so great?”

And then you banish that thought, as suddenly as it appears.

Where would we (any of us) be without curiosity and exploration driving us to do crazy things like walk on the moon? Where would we be if we simply didn’t possess a desire to know what’s next, what’s beyond, or what is possible?

Ok, pyschological mumbo-jumbo aside, here’s what you want to know: this is a beautiful film, one that focuses on giving our hero astronauts ample opportunity to look back and tell us how it felt, what they were thinking at the moment of lift-off, or landing. They’re all intensely likable and easy to listen to. Unfortunately, Neil Armstrong is pretty reclusive these days, and declined to participate, which just seems crazy; he was the first human to touch moon dirt! (The weight and importance of that does not escape the others, and it’s briefly discussed and recognized as being quite a burden to carry.) The sense of awe that many of these men express about their experience is palpable; one proclaims, with no shortage of wonder in his voice, “I spent three days of my life on the moon ... that’s just ... science fiction!”

Original footage has been lovingly restored and touched up, and the visuals are brilliant. The moonscapes and earthscapes -- as well as the joyful first moonwalk footage -- should impress any kid (you just need to remind them it’s real). There is also tragedy (three astronauts perished in the tragedy of Apollo 1), but the film is mostly a celebration of everything that went right on the nine missions that put men on the moon.

If you haven’t started your kids on documentaries yet, this is a good place to start.

Monday, August 24, 2009

IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (G)

I nearly forgot to write this one up! I had another post ready to go and realized I’d somehow skipped over one of the finest ‘50s saucers-from-space flicks we’ve yet seen. Yikes.

Ok, since it’s been a while and I didn’t take notes, I’ll give you the briefest review possible: It Came From Outer Space has all we love about the genre, some really good acting, hilariously fun stereotypes (why are blonds always the bad girls?!), beautiful scenery (the southwest desert), and it’s got one heck of a moral theme running through it -- one about paranoia, ignorance-generated fear, and conformity. Excellent.

This was -- allegedly -- the biggest influence on Steven Spielberg when he made Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and it was originally released in 3-D. Occasionally you'll find it playing in art houses (such as our much-missed Castro Theater in SF where it played a couple of years ago). Based on a Ray Bradbury novel, you can pick out the professor from "Gilligan’s Island" if you’re one of us older and wiser people.

You'll find more KidsFlix recommendations along these lines in our sci-fi fantasy category.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Summer Slowdown

We're totally consumed right now with visitors/vacationing/home projects, and so let's call this The Summer Slowdown post!

I'll have something new soon ... next on our list is It Came From Outer Space, which I'm sure will be a fine and dandy cinematic experience.

Hope your summer is excellent!

Oh, and just to leave you with this thought: K has shown me some hilarious movies on YouTube that are made of Legos -- have you seen these? I stumbled on a Monty Python piece (a scene from Holy Grail) done with Legos that had us both ROTFLing (not to be confused with Rolfing).

Anyway, Variety is reporting that there are plans underway for a real film based on Legos, and although Warner Bros. hasn't released many details, they do say it's an "action adventure set in a Lego world." Hmmm. The producer is Dan Lin, who responsible for what looks like a great piece of work, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey! Robert Downey!), and who is also behind an adaptation of "Tom and Jerry" for a full-length film treatment! Son K loves "Tom and Jerry" -- I sure hope they don't do something weird like ... make it with Legos.

Ok, here are some recommendations for your weekend, before I run back to the grill and my margarita:





Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Harold Lloyd Collections (G)

I wrote a while back about one of the greatest silent comedies, Safety Last! starring Harold Lloyd, and there are a number of collections that feature his work in short form. I'm revisiting Lloyd (and should mention Chaplin and Keaton in this breath, too) to remind you that short films may be a great way to get kids raised on color screens interested in these silent, black and white classics.

We recently rented The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection (Vol. 2) from Netflix, when my 9-year old nephew was visiting, and weren't sure it would hold his attention. Son K is accustomed by now to his parents pushing ... unusual ("to a kid," he says, in the same way he says, "No kid eats grilled peaches" -- or, insert most any non-pizza/burger food item here -- "You just think they do!") movie fare his way, but we weren't sure about his cousin.

To our delight, it worked. These things are so much fun, and so out of the ordinary for today's kids, I urge you again to consider these for family movie night. Again, try the shorts first for many of these classics; some run 20 minutes, some closer to an hour, but all may be easier for the first time out.

(See my post on Laurel and Hardy movies here.)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

THE COLOUR OF MAGIC (NR - PG)

Oh, we stumbled on a great success the other day.

Do you know Terry Pratchett’s long-running sci-fi novel series called Discworld? If you’re a sci-fi nut, you probably do. (Actually, to clarify, the books are comic fantasy novels.) If not, and you have a kid sitting around this summer, watching too much TV or perhaps wishing they hadn’t finished the last Harry Potter book, you might want to check them out. According to Wikipedia, “newly released Discworld books regularly top The Sunday Times best-sellers list, making Pratchett the UK's best-selling author in the 1990s, although he has since been overtaken by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.”

Son K has been reading the Orson Scott Card Ender’s Game novel series, and I’m going to encourage him to take a look at these. I came across the DVD, and then read about the books, and they sound like a ton of fun.

This DVD is a made-for-(British)-TV adaptation, running approximately three hours, following the first two Discworld novels, The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic (there are over 30 books in the series).

Get this:
The wizard Rincewind is in charge of the na├»ve Twoflower (a “tourist” from the Agatean Empire) during his visit to the magical Discworld, a flat world balanced on the backs of four elephants which stand on the back of a giant turtle.

No, I didn't make that up.


The snippets I saw during K’s viewing were really wonderful. He and his 9-year-old cousin watched it, and loved every strange minute of it... I popped in and out at the beginning to get a sense of the content, and left them to the task, feeling it was more than appropriate and probably a wild ride. K told me later how much he and his cousin really enjoyed watching, over the course of a couple of nights.

I think I need to devote an evening to watching it with K (who wouldn't mind seeing it again), as it looks quite beautiful and wickedly fun in that Terry Gilliam kind of way. Actors like Jeremy Irons and Tim Curry make appearances as well. (Oh, and it's not rated by the MPAA, but I'd figure it falls into the "PG" category quite comfortably.)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Alice in Wonderland: Poof!

Trailers were popping up online for the latest Tim Burton extravaganza, Alice in Wonderland, but they quickly disappeared at the “request” of the studio!

There’s a chance it may be “re-leaked” on Friday, so in case I don’t get to tracking one down (I think a summer outing calls), you probably find it here, at IGN (I found the link on the Cinematical site).

Just the stills look fantastic! And the casting is pretty cool, too: Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen.... and (the best for last), the reclusive Crispin Glover as the Knave of Hearts. Oh, yummy! (Slated for March, 2010 release.)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid and World of Warcraft: The Movies

It's a busy summer here in the KidsFlix household! Summer is our slow season, as we are outdoors a whole lot more, and also playing host to various visitors and houseguests. It must be said: the beaches of Maine can't be beat!

To business: Reports are that the popular kids’ books "DIary of a Wimpy Kid" have been optioned for film treatment by Fox 2000, and Zachary Gordon (currently in The Brothers Bloom as the young Bloom, and previously in National Treasure: Book of Secrets) is in line to play Wimpy. Son K hasn’t read these books, but I know they’re quite popular, so this may be good news for a lot of young moviegoers.


Another film adaptation project in the works -- to K’s great consternation -- is the online role-playing game, “World of Warcraft.” K is a huge fan of this game, where you take on characteristics of any range of bizarre creatures such as trolls, orcs, warlocks, blood elves, gnomes, etc., and go about various “quests” in order to ... um ... well, I don’t know exactly. In order to rule the World of Warcraft, I suppose. Anyway, K’s a bit worried. How could they possibly make a movie of this mammoth, sprawling game world?

Dunno. But Sam Raimi will direct, and he’s responsible for scary stuff like The Evil Dead as well as the Spiderman films. Maybe those are perfect qualifications.

Monday, July 13, 2009

THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1948) (G)

There are so many film versions of the great Alexander Dumas story The Three Musketeers that it can be a challenge just to pick one! We had both the 1973 and this 1948 version on our list for a while, and the 1948 version ended up arriving first. We may keep the other in the queue, as it’s apparently a sillier, more comical version (it stars Michael York, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain and even Charlton Heston) that is a lot of fun, and quite different from the others.

The earliest Musketeers film is the 1921 Douglas Fairbanks version, a black and white silent vehicle that is no doubt glorious on its own terms. (The choreography is said to be quite stunning.) But the 1948 version caught my eye for a number of reasons, including Vincent Price starring as the evil Cardinal Richelieu and a young Gene Kelly as the earnest and dashing D'Artagnan who joins the Three Musketeers in interrupting Richelieu’s dastardly plot to overthrow the king.

Filmed in Technicolor, the visuals are very appealing for kids (and adults!), with gowns and jewels and the French countryside drenched in rich color. As I suspected, Kelly is superb as D’Artagnan, who is a bit green -- coming from a small country village to the big city of Paris -- but reliably cocky and self-assured, and rightly so; his sword skills are astonishing to all who unfortunately cross his path, and his footwork is magical. (You know, of course, that Gene Kelly is even better known for his dancing, in movies such as Singing in the Rain, right?)

The writing sparkles and jabs, it’s fast moving and witty. If your kids aren’t totally absorbed by the film in the first 15 minutes or so, when an acrobatic swashbuckling scene unfolds with all kinds of smart visual jokes neatly woven in, I would be surprised.

If that happens, then get them the animated, Disney version, and save this one for your own date night.
(PS: Note that the G-rating is my own, and it may in fact be more of a PG movie as far as younger kids go ... it's officially labeled NR, meaning Not Rated.)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (PG)

,

This is another fine Ray Harryhausen-effects film, from 1955, and it’s been on our list for quite a while. It’s directed by Robert Gordon, and the creature-effects are pure Harryhausen, and they’re as satisfying as one would hope.

What we’ve got here is an enormous, freak octopus lurking in the depths of the Pacific, roused from its slumber by atomic testing, surfacing to terrorize submarine crews, boats and the city of San Francisco. Navy Commander Pete Matthews and his crew narrowly escape the clutches of the giant creature, and Matthews is then paired up with a couple of professor-types (one is female, and so, following in true 1950’s film fashion, a love triangle must blossom) to figure out what to do about the thing.

The opening scene is really impressive, taking place inside the sub, with the actors and star, Kenneth Tobey as the commander, giving wonderfully natural, understated performances, conveying men going about their work, suppressing panic, and trying to figure out what this thing is that they have encountered. It feels like it was shot in a true sub, not on a set, and the faint bits of upper lip perspiration and the mounting tension help the sense of claustrophobia become more tangible.

The creature is fantastic, and the scenes of tentacles reaching into the streets of San Francisco, wrapping around the Golden Gate Bridge and piers on the Embarcadero are stupidly fun. It’s cheesy enough not to really scare the small kids (um, I think), and fun enough for everyone to enjoy. Our disc, from Netflix, came with a nifty little bio piece on Harryhausen that we all enjoyed.

Oh, and It Came From Beneath The Sea is one of those period pieces that offers up plenty of opportunity to discuss SEXIST BEHAVIOR with your boys.

"K,” I said after one scene that made me scream, “Personal space, personal space!” [Commander Matthews got way too close to the lovely professor Joyce if you ask me], “K,” I said, “You try that at any job and you’ll be immediately fired, if not punched in the nose.”

“Duh,” he said.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

NEVER CRY WOLF (PG)

Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted a review here on KidsFlix. But I’m back now!

I wrote some time ago about another film directed by Carroll Ballard (Duma), and you probably know a couple of others: his film The Black Stallion is beloved, as is Fly Away Home. It’s hard to believe that neither son K nor I have seen either of these, and they’re on my list, but they’re so well known that I tend to skirt around them in favor of lesser-known films. You may want to check them out if you haven’t yet.

Never Cry Wolf is a film taken from the autobiographical book by Canadian writer Farley Mowat, and in Ballard fashion, it’s stunningly gorgeous piece of work. There is much to rave about -- the story itself is an intriguing one, the performance by Charles Martin Smith is pretty much perfection, the scenery is breathtaking and the director wisely lets silence speak in many instances ... oh, and the score by Mark Isham is lovely. Oh! And the performances by Samason Jorah and Zachary Ittimangnaq as local Inuits are also perfect and lovely.

What’s not to like about Never Cry Wolf?

Not a thing. This story about an inexperienced scientist dropping -- literally -- into the middle of the frozen arctic to study wolves has so many important topics woven into it (a number of things worth discussing with the kids afterwards) that you really get two bangs for your buck: a fascinating and visually pleasing story on film, and plenty of food for thought.

(Caveat for the prudish parent: there is a scene -- actually two -- where Smith bares his backside, and one scene is rather lengthy. I don’t want to give anything away, so won’t give details, but Smiths’ character is basically portrayed [very carefully] au naturale for a good five or six minutes. There is also one scene that might be a bit scary for younger kids, where he dreams of a wolf attack.)

This is great family time viewing; add it to your list!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (G)

While I was out one night recently, husband D and son K watched Escape From the Planet of the Apes (1971), which is the third in the series of Planet of the Apes films.

Although K told me it was “really good,” it was D who told me it was perhaps even great, and that K really enjoyed it. Since I didn’t see it, and getting anything more out of either of them is like getting the younger one to ... say, clean his room -- ahem -- here’s the Netflix descriptor:

In this third installment of the Planet of the Apes series, Cornelius (Roddy McDowall), Zira (Kim Hunter) and Milo (Sal Mineo) travel back in time to escape the destruction of their world. Landing in 20th century Los Angeles, they're treated as curiosities and celebrities at first, but soon become hunted by a suspicious and fearful government intent on making them the subjects of an experiment that could alter the course of human and ape events.

I’ve already given the thumbs up to the first two films (Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes), but adding a third one to the “recommended” list feels very satisfying.

Now that you know you’ve got three here that work with kids in the 10-year-old range, you can plan a series of movie watching nights.  How cool will your kids be, growing up knowing about these classic films of the ‘60s and ‘70s?

(By the way, these are all officially rated G, but you know that these days that equates a PG rating, right?)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Chastened, I Am

I have been informed by a kind friend that Curly of the Three Stooges did not say, "Nyet, nyet, nyet" -- of course, he didn't. I think perhaps Stalin and Tolstoy may have said "nyet, nyet." Certainly Vladimir Putin said it when George W. Bush said he saw into Putin's soul.

Curly said, "Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk," of course .. as any t-shirt, poster or Stooges-centric joke will tell you.

Mea culpa. Not enough coffee this a.m.


Randon Act of Self Indulgence .14

Today’s a mishmash of tidbits... appropriate for a Friday, yes?

First off, we tried a Monty Python episode via Netflix/Instant View the other night, and after one forced laugh and about 14 minutes of viewing, son K said, “I’m gonna go watch TV” (in the other room). Yes, Holy Grail worked big time for K, but the TV show -- not so much. Of course, like any other comedy show (or TV show, for that matter), any one episode can be hit or miss. Maybe this was a miss episode (it didn’t strike me as hilarious), so we may try again. But if you’re thinking about sharing the love of Python with your own tweener, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work -- the first time, anyway.


KID MOVIE NEWS

Out on July 1, Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs looks to be as much fun as the first two! Here’s a trailer that’s a bit different from what’s in the theaters. I’m a sucker for this franchise, I have to admit. (Oh! and if you live in a real city, you may have a sneak preview available this weekend. Here are details on where and when.)

(File this under "Semi-Kid Movie News," as I suspect it won't really be for the kiddies --) Word is out that Sean Penn has pulled out of the Three Stooges movie that I wrote about a while back. I think this is a good thing. Sean Penn as “Larry?” Nah. (Or maybe I should say, “Nyet, nyet, nyet.”) This Farrelly Brothers project is reportedly still online with Jim Carrey as Curley and Benecio Del Toro as Moe. 

Benecio. Benecio. What can we do to change your mind?

And Carrey? Well, we don’t really care what Jim Carrey does.

(On a serious note, Penn also pulled out of another movie project called Cartel. Dunno if his agent just had second thoughts, or if something else is going on ... maybe he's working on his marriage. Anyway, we hope all is well in Penn-world.)


UN-KID MOVIE NEWS

Came across this interesting trailer for a film called Cold Souls, starring Paul Giamatti, David Strathairn and Emily Watson that I liked so much I just want to share. It opens in November.


WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND

From our posts past:

- Alaska
- Journey to the Center of the Earth
- Snake in the Eagle's Shadow
- Shackleton
- The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T
- The Incredible Shrinking Man

Have a great weekend.





Wednesday, June 17, 2009

WINCHESTER '73 (PG)

In 1876, the rare and coveted ’73 Winchester rifle was the “gun that won the west,” and when our hero Jimmy Stewart -- er, I mean Lin McAdam --wins one in a shooting contest (one of many great scenes in this classic western), you know there’s trouble ahead.

The gun is stolen, and what follows is a series of tense standoffs and misadventures between McAdam and a dirty, rotten character named Dutch Henry. Son K points out: “Like most westerns, you got your good guy, your bad guy, a tough girl,” (Shelley Winters) “... attacking Indians, some gun fights and fast horse riding.”

Yeah, that about sums it up. But it’s superbly acted, tightly directed (by Anthony Mann, who also directed El Cid, Spartacus, and The Fall of the Roman Empire, among many others), and the story goes easy on the depictions of boozing and hard livin’ women. (Winters does play a former “dance hall” girl, but there aren’t any scenes too racy or difficult to explain to the kiddies regarding her past.)

Of course, there’s some violence. People get killed, and some of the villains are oustanding examples of the dark side of humanity.

Just put on your best Jon Lovitz impression, and remind the kids, “It’s just ... acting!”

(Oh, a warning: do not read the summary on Netflix! They have a huge spoiler in their brief description of the film. Also, have fun finding a young Rock Hudson and a young Tony Curtis in the movie. One plays an Indian chief. Hilarious. )

- Scene during a night ride, Lin and his partner, High-Spade Frankie Wilson, know they’re surrounded by Indians on the war path:

Lin McAdam: Yeah, I hear 'em.
High-Spade Frankie Wilson: I told you night riding wasn't smart.
Lin McAdam: I guess you did.
High-Spade Frankie Wilson: Now we're smack in the middle of 'em.
Lin McAdam: I guess you're right again.
High-Spade Frankie Wilson: Being right ain't gonna do us any good. What do we do now?
Lin McAdam: Well, keep riding.
High-Spade Frankie Wilson: With injuns all around us?
Lin McAdam: Maybe you'd feel better if we stopped?
High-Spade Frankie Wilson: Ah... no.
Lin McAdam: Well, then maybe we better just keep riding...

Monday, June 15, 2009

MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (PG)

Monty Python and the Holy Grail was officially rated PG, but that was back in 1975, before PG-13 was instituted as a step before R. It definitely earns the higher rating, so depending on the age of your kids, you want to consider what’s ahead.

Son K is now 12, going on 18, and we figured it was an appropriate time for Monty Python. Of course, the television episodes are available on Netflix and elsewhere, so starting there is a possibility. Those can be spotty, in terms of what might be inappropriate, as you don’t know what you get from episode to episode. (For some reason, when I think of Monty Python, the first thing I think of is, “Oh, intercourse the penguin!”)

Anyway, we rented Holy Grail, knowing that both The Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life have solid R ratings, and figured we’d be pretty safe.

First, you need to know that there is a great amount of cartoonish gore in the film, which isn’t a problem -- at least not in our house. You may not care for the spurting streams of fake blood and occasional rampages of killing that are darkly hilarious -- how funny is the line, “It’s only a flesh wound!” uttered by the Black Knight as he’s losing limbs in a sword fight?! -- but compared to what a lot of kids see in movies and X-box games these days, it’s probably no worse ... and the cartoonish aspect helps offset the volume.

As suspected, K loved Monty Python’s absurd and bizarre brand of humor ... we had a great time, and now we’ve got some TV episodes lined up to see.

Here’s the caveat: material that may be inappropriate includes some language (no F-bombs), and dialogue rich with sexual innuendo, most of which kids under 12 or 13 will either not get, or will miss due to the speedy delivery. Most of it takes place in one scene, where one character enters a castle full of vestal virgins, one of whom points out they are all between the ages of 16 and 19, unsupervised, and pretty much all deserve spankings. We were sort of holding our breaths through this scene, and it reached a pinnacle with her offering -- very quickly and rather casually, so it didn’t really stand out -- “followed by oral sex.”

I’m not sure, but I think I heard K laugh at that. I was trying to just get through the moment.

Anyway, now that you know the worst of it, you can plan to talk loudly over that part, or take one of those well-timed breaks.

If you’re new to Monty Python yourself, you need to be the type of person who appreciates ridiculously hilarious lines such as, “I fart in your general direction!” These are lines your kids are sure to remember, and will practice repeating until you long for the good old days of "Blues Clues" and "The Wiggles."

Here's a great clip (whoever put it on YouTube had a brightness issue, but you get the idea):




Friday, June 12, 2009

NATURE'S MOST AMAZING EVENTS

We caught some of “Nature’s Most Amazing Events” on the Discovery Channel, and this month the series is released on DVD and on Blue-ray.

A close cousin to the great
Planet Earth series, this
program also features stunning photography, and really enlightening storytelling. Following the natural cycles of nature that can be both life threatening and species propagating, the series is a great way for kids to grasp the interconnectedness of all things: One animal’s tragedy may be another’s survival.


The Great Flood; The Great Feast; The Great Melt; these are natural and climactic phenomena that stretch across the planet, affecting wildlife on different continents with equal vigor. (These are also the names of episodes.)

If you’re looking for some nature viewing this weekend that’s a notch (or two) above what you might stumble on watching TV, clicking between Animal Planet and PBS, pick up Nature's Most Amazing Events instead. Highly recommended.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

THURSDAY TIDBITS


A few months ago, I wrote about an upcoming animated film called 9 (it hits theaters on 9/9/09), directed by Shane Acker, featuring the voices of Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover, Christopher Plummer, and Martin Landau. It’s a dark, post-apocalyptic tale about the impending extinction of all life (on earth? I think so). 9 is the little guy who saves the day, from what I gather.

Anyway, the poster has been released, and it’s quite a beauty. This film will be for the older kids, as it’ll carry a PG-13 rating.

I noticed some less than enthusiastic reviews on the IMDB message board for the film. Hmmm. Does Focus Films have time to pull off a fix?

~ ~ ~


Shortly after the Steve Carell/Anne Hathaway Get Smart movie came out in 2008, HBO Home Video started releasing the original, 1965 television "Get Smart" series (starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon) on DVD. I believe Season 3 has just been released.

We haven’t seen any of these yet, but I’m utterly convinced K would love them, and have added the first season to our Netflix list. I’m curious if any of you have tried them?

My dad loved this show. I’m not sure I remember the actual show, really, as much as I remember my dad getting a kick out of it. He did a mean Maxwell Smart impersonation.


~ ~ ~

Robert Rodriquez recently told MTV that in between his Grindhouse spin-off (titled Machete), his Sin City sequel, and his sci-fi thriller (NerveWrackers), he’s hoping to get moving next year on a live-action film of The Jetsons. (You can Wiki that if you’re, say, under 30 years old. Otherwise you should know about "The Jetsons." Come on.)

We’re not sure what happened to Rodriquez’ proposed remake of Barbarella. But he’s a busy guy, isn’t he? And I think it’s amazing how he can pull off really decent kid fare alongside stuff like Grindhouse and Sin City. Ultra cool.

~ ~ ~

I’ll leave you now with this photo of Mickey Rourke in his villain gear for Iron Man 2. Yeah.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

MARX BROTHERS' DUCK SOUP (G)


Well, we didn't exactly have a Marx Brothers fest this weekend (as predicted earlier), but we did make a second attempt to charm son K with a Marx Brothers classic. I can't say it was a successful endeavor.

A few years ago, we tried Night at the Opera, but it was clear that K was too young to keep pace with the speedy dialogue and definitely too young to understand the humor. So, at age 12, we figured we'd try again; this is, after all, a kid who has grown up seeing black and white films of all kinds, and has a fairly mature sense of humor.

This time out, we tried Duck Soup ... but with pretty much the same results. Duck Soup is barely over an hour long, so not a huge time investment. Groucho is appointed leader of the country of Freedonia, and his brand of absurdist governing is hilarious at the same time it feels slightly dated and sexist. But his bluntly chauvinistic character is part of the charm (isn't it?) and so you don't really tsk tsk so much as you rather guiltily chuckle along to the gags. 

But of course, most of this inarguably adult humor is lost on kids.  

Unless you are dying to get a Marx Brothers fix yourself, and want to test your own kids' capacity for staccato one-liners and double entendres with phrases they may not be familiar with, I'd say these films are probably better saved for later.    



Friday, June 5, 2009

New Movie News

Yes, it’s been quiet here at KidsFlix, but two days of travel time returning from the West Coast (read: airport hell), will take it out of you. (And, um, how dumb was it to have my laptop with me, but not my power cord? Talk amongst yourselves.)

We’ll get back into gear soon, promise. I think we’re having a Marx Brothers fest here in the KidsFlix household this weekend, so we’ll let you know our thoughts again on these great but dialog-driven films and how they work with the younger set.

For now, take a gander over at AwardsDaily.com’s report on upcoming Dreamworks projects, and you can get a Monty Python booster while you’re at it. (Big cheers for a Kung Fu Panda sequel, and for the Ben Stiller executive-produced Oobermind, featuring Robert Downey Jr. voicing a super villain.)

Also at AwardsDaily, you can get more on Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus and its showing at Cannes, along with some clips. The visuals alone seem enough to save the film from any tepid reviews.

Speaking of tepid reviews, I’m over my disappointment that Land of the Lost is rated PG-13 (sounds like the filmmakers were lost!), but want to just make sure parents know about some of the comments being made by reviewers before they relent and take their 10-year olds to see it.

(RedCarpetRatings notes: Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content and for language, including a drug reference.)

From Cinematical:

Directed by Brad Silberling and starring Will Ferrell, this update on the Sid and Marty Krofft television series from the 1970s is the strangest, filthiest summer movie I think I've ever see.

From RottenTomatoes (where Land of the Lost earns a paltry 25% rating):

About once a year, I like a film everyone else despises, a film so admittedly and indefensibly bad that I have no justification whatsoever for having enjoyed it. Last year it was The Love Guru. This year it is Land of the Lost. -- Brandon Fibbs.com

Land of the Lost becomes an endurance test -- one that's too borderline bawdy for families and too dull and rote for anyone over 15. Who, exactly, is the intended audience for this drivel? -- Miami Herald

From the L.A. Times:

The filmmakers get props for persuading Leonard Nimoy to suit up as the Zarn -- you know, an invisible alien creature except for the spots of light that totally make him visible. But not so much for a close-up shot of Ferrell delivering an F-bomb that seems the definition of gratuitous ... 

Ok, don’t say we didn’t warn you!


Did you know you can watch movies on YouTube now? Granted, it’s with commercial interruptions -- highly annoying, no? -- so exactly why people would choose this over Netflix Instant Play, or SnagFilms or iTunes, etc., is beyond me.

Any ideas? What do you think? 

(Apologies for the font wackiness here... I can't seem to track down the issue.)