Movies for Families to Share on Halloween

Posted on October 26, 2019 at 8:00 am

Copyright Warner Brothers 1966

 

Halloween gives kids a thrilling opportunity to act out their dreams and pretend to be characters with great power. But it can also be scary and even overwhelming for the littlest trick-or-treaters. An introduction to the holiday with videos from trusted friends can help make them feel comfortable and excited about even the spookier aspects of the holiday.

Kids ages 3-5 will enjoy Barney’s Halloween Party, with a visit to the pumpkin farm, some ideas for Halloween party games and for making Halloween decorations at home, and some safety tips for trick-or-treating at night. They will also get a kick out of Richard Scarry’s The First Halloween Ever, which is Scarry, but not at all scary! Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest has the beloved little monkey investigating the Legend of “No Noggin.” Disney characters celebrate Halloween in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse – Mickey’s Treat.

Witches in Stitches is about witches who find it very funny when they turn their sister into a jack o’lantern. And speaking of jack o’lanterns, Spookley the Square Pumpkin is sort of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer of pumpkins. The round pumpkins make fun of him for being different until a big storm comes and his unusual shape turns out to have some benefits.

Kids from 7-11 will enjoy the classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and the silly fun of What’s New Scooby-Doo: Halloween Boos and Clues. Try The Worst Witch movie and series, about a young witch in training who keeps getting everything wrong. School-age kids will also enjoy The Halloween Tree, an animated version of a story by science fiction author Ray Bradbury about four kids who are trying to save the life of their friend. Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock on the original “Star Trek”) provides the voice of the mysterious resident of a haunted house, who explains the origins of Halloween and challenges them to think about how they can help their sick friend. The loyalty and courage of the kids is very touching. Debbie Reynolds plays a witch who takes her grandchildren on a Halloween adventure in the Disney Channel classic in Halloweentown.  Recent favorites include The House with a Clock in Its Walls and Goosebumps.

Older children will appreciate The Witches, based on the popular book by Roald Dahl and Hocus Pocus, with children battling three witches played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. And of course there is the deliciously ghoulish double feature Addams Family and Addams Family Values based on the cartoons by Charles Addams. Episodes of the classic old television show are online and are still better than the new animated film.   Beetlejuice is a classic — with a nice 20th anniversary re-release DVD, and soon to be a Broadway musical.

LAIKA’s ParaNorman and Monster House, should become a  Halloween tradition. Frankenweenie,  Igor, and the Hotel Transylvania series are also a lot of fun.

The Nightmare Before Christmas has gorgeous music from Danny Elfman and stunningly imaginative visuals from Tim Burton in a story about a Halloween character who wonders what it would be like to be part of a happy holiday like Christmas. And don’t forget old classics like The Cat and the Canary (a classic of horror/comedy) and the omnibus ghost story films Dead of Night and The House that Dripped Blood.

Happy Halloween!

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St. Patrick’s Day 2019 — Irish Movies for Families!

Posted on March 17, 2019 at 7:09 am

Copyright Republic Pictures 1952

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Here are some movies from or set in Ireland for families to enjoy.

1. The Quiet Man John Wayne plays American Sean Thornton (John Wayne), who returns to in Innisfree, the small, beautiful Irish village where he was born, to buy his family’s old home. He meets fiery Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara), courts her, marries, her, and then really has to win her as both must learn some lessons about intimacy, pride, and trust. Yes, there are some moments that seem sexist but the underlying story is as glorious as the spectacular landscape and as touching as the endearing characters.

2. The Secret of Roan Inish A little Irish girl named Fiona goes to stay with her grandparents and becomes convinced that her baby brother, whose cradle was carried off to sea years before, is alive and being cared for by Selkies, seals who can transform themselves into humans. This is a quiet film, filled with lovely images that convey the magic surrounding anyone who believes in it. It explores themes of loyalty and commitment to family and following your heart.

3. The Commitments A group of hardscrabble Irish musicians come together to firm an American-style soul band and perform songs like “Mustang Sally” and “Try a Little Tenderness.” Look for future Frames and Once performer Glen Hansard in the group. (Mature material)

Copyright 2007 Summit Entertainment

4. Once The best song Oscar went to this bittersweet film about an Irish musician (Glen Hansard) who meets a pianist and singer (Markéta Irglová) from the Czech Republic.

5. Millions The Oscar-winning director of “Slumdog Millionaire,” Danny Boyle, also shows his gift for working with children in “Millions,” the story of a young boy who finds a bag of money.

6. My Left Foot Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for his portrayal of Christy Brown in this true story of a writer and painter who was paralyzed and could only use his left foot — and of his indomitable mother (Oscar-winner Brenda Fricker).

7. The Secret of Kells This quietly exquisite animated film was a surprise Oscar nominee. It is about an 11th century boy who lives in a monastery run by his stern uncle and the gorgeous illuminated manuscript that changes his life.

8. Circle of Friends Minnie Driver and Chris O’Donnell star in Maeve Binchy’s story of love and friendship in 1950’s Ireland.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gV9sHAHGE5A

9. “Hear My Song” A fast-talking small-time promoter has to persuade a retired performer to sing again.

10. In the Name of the Father Day-Lewis again, in another true story, this time the story of a father and son who were imprisoned for an IRA bombing. Emma Thompson plays his dedicated lawyer and Pete Postlethwaite was nominated for an Oscar as the father who ends up in prison as well.

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EW Ranks the Best Fake Songs

Posted on March 15, 2019 at 8:00 am

I really enjoyed this Entertainment Weekly list of the best songs performed by musical groups on television and in films. Of course it includes the legendary Robin Sparkles “Let’s Go to the Mall” from “How I Met Your Mother” and he title song from “That Thing You Do” — though every song in that film should be included, especially “Mr. Downtown.” I was glad to see “Inside Llewyn Davis” included, “Sing Street’s””Drive it Like You Stole it”and two songs from the under-appreciated “Music and Lyrics” and thrilled to see “A Goofy Movie” on the list as well. And of course I have my own favorites that do not appear on the list. Where is Spinal Tap? “Waiting for Guffman?” “A Mighty Wind?” The also-underrated “Bandslam” has a great fictional group with a wonderful name: I Can’t Go On I’ll Go On and great songs, like “Someone to Fall Back On.” And the new “Documentary Now!” episode inspired by the D.A. Pennebaker film about the recording of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” cast album, “Co-Op,” has brilliant fake Sondheim songs like “I Gotta Go,” sung by Paula Pell, inspired by “Ladies Who Lunch,” and “Holiday Party,” echoing “Getting Married Today.” I’d buy that cast album.

I know it is unforgivably esoteric, but just once when I was a kid I saw a television show starring Ricky Nelson as a musician and there was a song in it I always remembered. Decades later, after the internet turned out to have the answer to almost everything, I was able to track it down and it turned out it was written by none other than Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Here’s the soundtrack.

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What Movie Makes You Feel Better?

Posted on November 4, 2018 at 8:00 am

The New York Times asked some of the stars of the big fall movies what movies they like to watch when they’re feeling down. Two of them picked “The Lion King” but for different reasons. Interestingly, most picked movies that meant a lot to them when they were kids, suggesting that it is partly about the content of the film but partly about taking them back in time that they find comforting. Perhaps the most surprising answer — and my favorite, though I’d never find that movie cheering — is from Tim Blake Nelson, who picks the documentary about underground comix legend R. Crumb. Nelson, who is a writer as well as an actor, expresses so beautifully what moves him about the film and about Crumb’s life.

In spite of a family whose level of dysfunction honestly cannot be described in words — making the film all the more essential — and a welter of his own debilitating social issues, R. Crumb remains resolutely true to who and what he is. His resilience and perseverance result in drawings as lacerating as Daumier’s, as distinct as Toulouse-Lautrec’s, and as beautifully, tragically human as Schiele’s — mostly in the milieu of underground countercultural cartoons and illustrations. The movie ultimately provides great hope in its depiction of an artist who simply won’t compromise, and who furnishes a way of seeing the culture that has impacted popular aesthetics to this day. As sad as it is, this makes “Crumb” one of the more strangely uplifting films I can name.

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List: Killer Robots in the Movies

Posted on October 11, 2018 at 8:00 am

Many thanks to William Topaz and inmyarea.com for inviting me to create a list of killer robots in the movies. Of course it has classics like “Terminator” and “Metropolis,” and some off-beat choices like the Fembots in “Austin Powers,” but I’m pretty sure I’m the only one to include “What a Way to Go!” with Paul Newman and Shirley MacLaine.

Actor Paul Newman & actress Shirley MacLaine in a scene from What A Way to Go. (Photo by Mark Kauffman/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
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