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


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 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


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.