Monday, August 31, 2009


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


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


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


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.)