Saturday, July 25, 2009

Weekend Family Movie Recommendations

Dig deep! We now recommend some weekend watching:


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


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



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


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!