Friday, May 29, 2009

Dig Deeper!

Looking for movies this weekend? May we make some suggestions?

Into the archives we go:

Rivers and Tides
Creation of the Humanoids
The Butterfly
A Man Named Pearl
Drums Along the Mohawk
Laurel & Hardy
Plan 9 From Outer Space
The Longshots
Fantastic Voyage
A bunch of "classic kids' movies"

If those don't float your boat, just keep digging!

Happy weekend.

Random Act of Self Indulgence .13

If you read my irregular RASI’s, you’ll know I love things like Werner Herzog and movies some of you moms (and dads) might find dark and weird. One rather culty film in the “dark and weird” category I’ve never seen, by choice, is Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant, but I have read enough about it that I feel I’ve seen it (okay, sort of).

Anyway, word is that Mr. Herzog is remaking this much talked about film, with Nicholas Cage in the Harvey Keitel role, which has many people scratching heads, for many reasons. (Really, one being, why not leave well enough alone? Why? Why? But then you remember we’re talking about Werner Herzog, who does not dwell in the Land of the Sensible, so you just shut up, and scratch your head some more.)

Actually, the project looks like a blend between a sequel and a remake, and the full title is Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.

A trailer was recently “leaked” on the web, and some folks are saying it looks so horrible they can’t believe it’s Herzog, and others saying that it looks so awful that it’s intriguing and they will have to see it. I think the story is still a bit too harsh for my tastes, but the what’s interesting to me is that the trailer struck me as rather Tarantino-ish, and not that horrible at all (in terms of movie-making, not in terms of stuff that makes you squirm).

Remember when Cage made interesting films? Remember when he ate a live cockroach in Vampire’s Kiss (1988)? I have a feeling Bad Lieutenant might put him back in the “serious actor” category. You can laugh at me later if I’m dead wrong.

Check out one of the few still-live trailers at

Two more non-kid film tidbits that I find intriguing: Chevy Chase will star in a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine, and yeah, it’s about a hot tub time machine -- which sounds really, really stupid -- but it also stars Crispin Glover (!), John Cusack, and Rob Corddry. Crispin Glover doesn’t seem to get out much these days, so I’m curious.

Fans of Jeremy Piven may or may not be interested in this goofy comedy he’s got coming out, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard. I laughed at the trailer. Do you think less of me?

Obligatory Kid Movie Snippet Here:

There's a cute trailer for Toy Story 3 over at, where they report that Tom Hanks will return as Woody, Tim Allen will return as Buzz, and the screenplay is by Michael Arndt, who won an Oscar for his work on Little Miss Sunshine. Toy Story 3 will be a digital, 3-D release, and hits theaters in summer of 2010.

(Why, when I type “2010,” does it feel super-bizarrely futuristic?)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Filmmaker Robert Flaherty spent some years traveling the far points of the earth -- mining, mapping, and exploring -- and took up an interest in film while on an expedition for Sir William Mackenzie's Canadian railroad. Original footage capturing Inuit life in the harsh Hudson Bay regions in Canada were destroyed in a fire upon Flaherty’s return home, but only after enjoying a wildly enthusiastic response from those who saw it. He returned to the far north with the sole purpose of filming in mind -- Nanook of the North is widely considered the first documentary film made, and Flaherty is considered a progenitor of “ethnographic film.”

This is a short, silent (black and white, need we say it?) movie that even your bounciest of kids may be able to sit through, as one scene after another is a jaw-dropping delight. Witnessing the patience and stealth needed to ice fish, to kill a monstrous, blubbery walrus, or to carefully construct an air-tight igloo (the window remodel scene was just the most awesome thing!), is mind boggling, and what’s better than visuals that happen to be fascinating and educational at the same time?

Husband D and I were so glad we saw this, even though we had to wrangle an increasingly impatient, pre-teen K into sitting through it. But we marveled over scenes, wondering how much was staged, and how much was natural.

I’m not going to spoil it by telling them that, according to Wikipedia, much of it was staged (some forgivably and necessarily, considering the restraints of filmmaking equipment at the time). Flaherty also wanted to show the historical, traditional ways of life in the far north, so, for example, although the Inuit at the time were using firearms for hunting they put them aside for the film. Nanook’s wife was not really his wife, but an actress.

Harder to take, according to Wikipedia (however, a “citation needed” notation appears next to this tidbit), is that Flaherty may have put Nanook and others in jeopardy all in the name of a few good shots. The worst of it is a detail credited on Wikipedia to Melanie McGrath's book, The Long Exile: A Tale of Inuit Betrayal and Survival in the High Arctic: Flaherty reportedly had an affair with the woman playing Nanook’s wife, and fathered a son that he never owned up to.

There is absolutely no mention of this on IMDB, so perhaps Wikipedia’s claims and sources are incorrect. I like to think that’s possible.

All that aside, this film was one of the first 25 films to be selected in 1989 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Forgiving the manipulation Flaherty may have felt necessary at the time to get his point across, one can certainly applaud the Film Registry’s effort, and enjoy this film simply for its purpose and spirit, and the truths that lie in it, even if they are perhaps slightly distorted. Flaherty had real foresight and vision; he also had an abundance of resourcefulness and creativity, and he possessed an admirable adventurousness, to say the least.

(There is a 1994 film depicting Flaherty’s making of Nanook, called Kabloonak [it means, “stranger], and one reviewer on IMDB calls it “A work of Existential art.” It might be worth checking out.)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

New Kid Movie News

Yes, I know KidsFlix doesn't normally focus on current films in release -- there are plenty of folks out there doing that -- but K and I saw Night at the Museum II today, and I have to say that the lukewarm reviews (two) that I read were way off base! Honestly, this was as much fun as the first one, I think, and K and I re-hashed favorite scenes over and over again all afternoon. Go see it.

I’m getting ready to get out of town for a while, but am trying to line up some posts for you ... in the meantime, here’s some “around the blogs” news:

Son K was into the “Avatar: The Last Airbender” animated series for a while but that gave way to a mild level of fandom to the series, “Naruto.” He may be interested to know -- we’ll find out -- that there’s an "Airbender" feature film in production, starring a 12-year old Texan in the Airbender role, and Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel will play the bad guy “firebender,” Zuko.

Over at Cinematical, there are reports on Stan Lee and Disney working together to create some “new” superhero films, which sound promising. Nick Ratchet is, by day, a “mild-mannered and bumbling police officer, but in an online game, he's a tough, sneering badass.” Sounds like an updated Clark Kent/Superman story, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Also from Cinematical, it sounds like there’s a good chance that the amazing Josh Brolin will be starring in a movie about -- wait for it -- the slavery abolitionist John Brown! Elisabeth Rappe writes:

It's the kind of story just begging to be told on the big screen (why Hollywood continues to reboot and remake the 1980s and 1990s instead of digging up stories from the previous century, I'll never know), and frankly it touches on a historical era that has had a lot of relevance this year. Let's hope it happens.

I echo her every sentiment. There are so many amazing true stories out there, waiting to be told. Hollywood is incredibly lazy sometimes.

Bazooka Joe as movie star? Hmmm. I dunno. (Yeah, I can hear about half of you whispering, “Who’s Bazooka Joe?”) The Hollywood Reporter sez Michael Eisner has a project under way featuring the bubble gum marketing icon in a feature film. Weird.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


This should probably be a Weekly Kids Classic Movie, but I'm sort of desperate for copy at the moment. (I attempted to recommend a nice French film for you and your kids, but Small Change is a bit too ripe with mature themes and dialog, so changed my mind. It's a great Truffaut film for us big kids, remembering growing up in the '70s in France ... oh, wait, I grew up in a California suburb. Oh well, we had the same hair cuts!)

Anyway, as the weather changes here in the East and the outdoors beckons (along with the real work of recovering from winter!), viewing time has been a bit diminished.

However, last week we picked up the '80s movie, War Games, for K to watch, and I ended up sitting in on it. (Husband D was well familiar with this film, and you may be, too.) It's a classic Cold War paranoia thriller, using a computer savvy teenager (Matthew Broderick, whose hacker character is clearly breaking the law most every time he gets online, it must be clearly stated) to get its anti-war point across. (It's a good one, by the way. Great fodder for thought and discussion.)

War Games is mostly innocuous, except for the law breaking part and the cursing (there are a few real curse words here) ... and the threat of U.S. annihilation may be kind of scary. All said, it's great for kids 11 and up, IMHO, and if you parents haven't seen it, you'll probably enjoy it, too. It's great fun pick out the names and faces of the '80s (Ally Sheedy also stars, along with Dabney Coleman... and extra points to me for figuring out that one of the earliest scenes in the movie is that of a young and hunky Michael Madsen, playing opposite a youngish John Spencer, who played Leo McGarry on "West Wing!").

And honestly, it does provide a great opportunity for discussion with your kids about the topic of war ... don't let it slip by when the movie ends.

Friday, May 15, 2009

This Week's Classic Kids' Movie

This 1963 madcap comedy has inspired countless others, and is so jam-packed with top-name comedy actors it’s hard to know where to begin.

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (rated G) is a true classic, and you owe it to your kids (and yourself) to see it. It’s a piece of American comedic and film history, truly! Set aside a chunk of time, like a pizza/popcorn night or a long, rainy Sunday, and plan a break or two as it’s looong (153 minutes) and will probably feel that way to the kids. The slapstick nature of the movie is plenty old-school (come on, it stars Jonathan Winters, Mickey Rooney, Phil Silvers, Milton Berle, Spencer Tracy, Terry Thomas, Buddy Hackett and Sid Caesar for goodness’ sake), but the snappy dialogue and amazing driving and car stunts should hold the kids’ attention.

The basic storyline is that before driving a car off a cliff, Jimmy Durante tells some folks where he’s stashed a large sum of loot. When they see him meet his demise, the race is on. Oh, yeah, we could go on about lessons learned in the movie about greed .... and integrity, and ... um ... safe driving, but that would just spoil the fun.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Random Act of Self Indulgence .12

So the seed of this blog was planted one night talking about "cool" movies for kids, how to avoid seeing Shrek and Shark Tales over and over again ... my focus has never been new movies, what to take the kiddies to see in the theaters.

Now and again, however, I'll get a little excited about Will Farrell or Ben Stiller (oh, I can't wait for both Land of the Lost and Night at the Museum II, I'll be the first to admit), and now and again I chat with you, parent to parent, about grown-up stuff I'm looking forward to.

Maybe because it appears to be an homage to the Godzilla flicks we love so much in this house, blended with a jigger or two of the offbeat and the arty, but Big Man Japan keeps grabbing the attention of myself and husband D. We can't wait. It's being released this week, albeit a limited release, meaning it will be in a handful of cool theaters in cool cities (meaning, it won't be here). Boo.

(For the kids in your house, well, the trailer says it's rated R, but other sources I've found online say it's PG-13. Hmm. And you can see the gorgeous HD tailer over at Apple Movie Trailers.)

If you're lucky enough to see it, and you're a visitor here, please drop a comment here on it! I'd love to know what you think.

(And have fun.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tuesday Tidbits

I wrote a while ago about the film version of The Lightening Thief, a much beloved kids' book, slowly coming together. New cast members have been announced, and it's pretty amazing: Uma Thurman, Steve Coogan, Rosario Dawson, Catherine Keener and Pierce Brosnan are among the names. To get caught up on the director and starring role, see my original post .

I also wrote a while back about the upcoming Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog, and about how it's a return to the hand-drawn animation of yore and about how Disney - so it's rumored - will be producing one of these gems every two years or so. (Another significant factoid: Princess features Disney's first African-American princess!)

There's finally a longer, official trailer out, and I thought you might enjoy it:

Alright, alright, calm down. I know last week I posted Tuesday Tidbits on Thursday, and that in many parts of the world it will continue to be Monday as I post this (but my time zone is nearing Tuesday), but ... whatever. It's close enough in my time zone.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

S.A.D. (Seasonal Adjustment Day)

Ok, we've all been there. Suddenly you look at a ratty old t-shirt and you can't stand it anymore and you rip it up for rags, and the next day you're sobbing like a spoiled three-year-old, wishing you had thought it through just a little bit more.

That's how I'm feeling now, with Kids' Flix' new look.

But, like a bad hair cut, it will grow! It will change! It will morph over time!

Trust me. It will.

But Saturday beckons, my morning is shot, the fam is waiting for me to get on board with all these projects we lined up for the day. So enjoy your own Saturday, know that the pretty new clothes on Kids' Flix will likely be exchanged at some point for something better, and hang in there with me. (And, why, exactly, are there so FEW templates available in Blogger? Why?)

Happy weekend.

(This is an adjustable page; if you are accustomed to leaving your browser window open all the way, you may want to pull it in a bit so the lines don't run so long -- they're harder to read.)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Near Miss: THE BEAR

This PG-rated, beautifully photographed 1989 film starts off so promising, feeling more like a cross between a documentary and a foreign film (it definitely does not feel American, and the director, Jean-Jacques Annaud, is French), but ultimately it becomes a victim of its own ambitions.

The lack of dialogue, realistic depiction of nature (you can smell the bear's matted fur and fetid breath, feel the buzzing flies on your skin), and stunning shots of Canada’s British Columbian mountainside eventually give way to overkill: copious amounts of what looks like red paint attempts to stand in for blood, the admittedly adorable orphaned bear cub starts to emit weird, humanlike sounds (to make us love it even more?), and a few scenes provoke chuckles where none are intended. (For example, the huge male grizzly who adopts our orphaned cub hooks up with a female, foaming-at-the-mouth hottie one night, and as they repair to the brush, grunting and groaning, the cub -- abandoned once again -- has his own party, ingesting some pretty, psilocybin mushrooms. Wacky animation ensues. It’s perhaps a bit too un-Disney.)

When our little orphan loses his mom in a rockslide in the opening scenes, the tragedy unfolds with a quiet matter-of-factness that keeps the tears at bay. The next morning, as the sun rises over distant mountains, and the cub wakes on a hillside, surveying life ahead without mama bear, you feel all the promise of what appears to be a very thoughtful film. Soon there is (drumroll) ... man, and an intense bit of “hunter vs. hunted” ensues (and more violence). There are some amazing scenes where you scratch your head and wonder, “how’d they do that?”, and a note at the beginning claiming that any “violence” done to the animals is, indeed, a trick of the camera reassures the viewer. (Ok, occasionally you wonder if the animals were really treated properly; there’s a scene where they clearly placed the little cub in a raging river and filmed him being swept away, helplessly clawing at rocks in desperation.)

There’s so much to admire about this film, that I really want to recommend it. But I just can’t do it.

Cinematographer Philippe Rousselot was nominated for an Academy Award, and he, the director, the editor, and the film itself were nominated for numerous other honors, and won a few, including the equivalent of a French Oscar.

But I still can’t recommend it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Thursday Tidbits

I know, I know, what happened to Tuesday Tidbits? And the Weekly Classic Kids’ Movie? Well, let’s just say I’m doing what I can here... perhaps life offline is taking a bit more focus these days.

Anyway, let’s do it, and call it Tuesday, shall we?

This week’s tidbits focus on “kid” movies that parents will be happy to sit through.
First off, did you know plans are underway for a Disney Lone Ranger film, written by the team that wrote the Pirates of the Caribbean screenplays? You did? Well, you’re ahead of me! British director Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, High Fidelity and 2010's Prince of Persia: Sands of Time [this image of Jake Gyllenhaall in the movie just makes me giggle]) is being rumored as the guy at the helm.

Johnny Depp is one of the big names attached so far ... but he’s not playing the Lone one, he’s playing the loyal sidekick, Tonto! It’s reported that Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey are contenders for the Lone Ranger role.

In other Depp news, a blog devoted to the actor (which I somehow "lost" and didn't get the exact title/URL for, otherwise I'd link! Apologies--) is keeping tabs on the Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland project starring Depp as the Mad Hatter. They report: “Mia Wasikowska stars as Alice, alongside an all-star cast that includes Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter (perfect casting), Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, Helena Bonham-Carter as the Red Queen, Christopher Lee as the Jabberwock, Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat and Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar.” Wow. Brilliant. Here's an image from the film:

A while back, I mentioned a film in the works by the quirky director Terry Gilliam, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and Entertainment Weekly has an update and a report on a special screening that took place in L.A. a few nights ago. No surprises here: “All of the major independent buyers in town packed Hollywood's DGA theater for the screening, and while most left feeling a bit befuddled (as one often does coming out of a Gilliam feature) the consensus was that the movie is better than expected.”

Eek. That doesn’t bode real well for this highly anticipated project, featuring Heath Ledger in his last performance, along with Johnny Depp (again), Colin Farrell, and Jude Law (and Tom Waits!). You can see some new photos from the film on the German site DVD Forum.

Go here for my review of Gilliam’s Time Bandits and other sci-fi/fantasy recommendations.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Son K once spent a gorgeous summer day here in Maine building and rebuilding a stone “dam” in a river, and I suspected that half the thrill was directing the water, and being in control of it, and the other half was the visual aspect, the ability to change stone size, shape and color in any way that gave him pleasure. It was simply heavenly to watch him so absorbed, so focused on his task all afternoon in this quiet, undisturbed place we’d found. I also remembered, briefly, the joy and wonder I felt as a kid doing the same kinds of things.

If your kids love playing in nature, collecting stones, playing in sand, exploring creeks and tidal pools, they’ll probably love Rivers and Tides. It’s a mesmerizing documentary about an artist who uses the natural world as his creative tools, and it quietly stirs the viewer’s own memories and feelings related to the tactile exploration of nature and our inexplicable desire to rearrange it.

Andy Goldsworthy is a noted Scottish artist who uses items such as stones, driftwood, water, bracken, and lily pads to create art that is often ephemeral and fleeting. He is sometimes working with nature, and sometimes against it, almost always racing with an incoming tide, an ice-melting sun, or some other natural force, which he incorporates into the piece. His work is lovely, and like the web of a spider, is often concentric or patterned, and seems to have some complex blueprint underlying that we can’t see. At first, the idea that some of his creations should have such a short life is hard to take, but eventually it becomes obvious that the complete cycle, or life, of the piece is the work. “The real work is the change,” Goldsworthy notes, and you see that the way an incoming tide changes a driftwood formation, or the way that sun and shadow changes a sculpture of bracken is integral to the work, it becomes an even bigger part of the work.

Of course, watching a piece come tumbling down as he’s still building it, due to wind or water or some other force of nature, is heartbreaking, but Goldsworthy seems pretty impervious at this point. He’ll just quietly start again, light and weather willing. His work can be as detailed as carefully placing a brilliant white rope of wool atop a long, rambling stonewall in the Scottish countryside, or it can be as fleeting as throwing snow into the air. It’s a great reminder (or lesson) that art can be many, many things, and created in many ways.

There is a hypnotic, restful quality to the film, and I’d suspect that kids on the younger end of the age spectrum will be quite engaged, as would kids just past the tweener stage, especially creative, thoughtful teens. (Watching our own tweener son in his changing viewing habits, I’m finding this stage a bit difficult; at this age, they beg for PG-13 movies, they want more action, more adult themes, and documentaries are sometimes the most difficult genre to get them to agree to.) K wasn’t home when I watched this, so I can’t give you his take, but I’m not completely convinced he would have given it a chance. I might hold on to the disc and give it a try.

It’s such a magical film. I’d be interested to hear about your own family experience if you’ve seen Rivers and Tides.

(Oh, and here’s the parental caveat: at about 50 minutes in, when the POV has changed from the woods to sheep country, there is a very abrupt mood changer: a sheep is running in a circle and a man, rather brusquely, snares it with some contraption and he grabs it and wrangles is to the ground. Before you can say “little lambs eat ivy,” it seems the man has pulled a baby from the mother’s womb, in all its graphic glory. The hardest part for me was when the mama sheep got up and stumbled around, it nearly (or may have) stepped on the little guy -- I was horrified.)

Here is a trailer, where Goldsworthy expounds, brilliantly, on the ephemeral aspect of his work. Unfortunately, they cut off the very end of his point: listen carefully, and then add these words after he ends with “shock” (I happened to make note of this while watching): [He scratches his chin.] Reluctantly, but as if a light bulb went off in his head, he admits, “I can’t explain that.”

There are a lot of videos featuring Goldsworthy's work on YouTube if you have a few minutes to search around ... you’ll see some really superb stuff.

Rather than link to another here (it’s so hard to decide!), here’s something cool I stumbled on that has nothing to do with Rivers and Tides:

The Singing, Ringing Tree: