A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving This is the one with the famous episode about Charlie Brown trying to kick the football Lucy keeps snatching away from him. And Peppermint Patty invites herself to Charlie Brown’s house for Thanksgiving and he is too kind-hearted to tell her that he won’t be there because his family is going to his grandmother’s. When the Peanuts gang comes over for a feast prepared by Charlie Brown himself, Patty gets angry at being served toast and jelly beans. But when she realizes how hard her friend tried to be hospitable, she learns what gratitude really means.
Squanto and the First Thanksgiving , Native American actor Graham Greene and musician Paul McCandless tell the story of Squanto’s extraordinary generosity and leadership in reaching out to the Pilgrims after he had been sold into slavery by earlier European arrivals in the New World.
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. Movies for families to share are especially important this year, as there won’t be much trick-or-treating or many Halloween parties.
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!
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 new Halloween treat from Netflix, A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting. It has gorgeously imagined settings, a great cast, and an exciting story that hits the exact sweet spot between funny-scary and scary-funny. Which means it is exciting, fun, and, I hope, soon to be followed by Chapter 2.
Don’t forget 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.
Movies to lift the heart and possibly inspire some exercise! Some of my favorite movie dance numbers:
Bye Bye Birdie: When a pop idol is drafted, the teenagers go crazy in this classic musical starring Dick van Dyke and Ann-Margret. Two teenagers trying to make each other jealous make this dance number one of the all-time best.
The Step Up movies have some sensational dance numbers. Here’s one of my favorites from Step Up 3, to a song originally from a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: Choreographer Michael Kidd was famous for his wildly energetic dances and this is one of the best. At a barn-raising the mountain Pontipee brothers compete with the men from the town for the hands of the ladies.
It’s Always Fair Weather: Kidd appeared on screen in this film, featuring the remarkable garbage can lid dance with Gene Kelly and Dan Dailey.
Kiss Me Kate: Speaking of choreographers on screen, Bob Fosse dances along with Tommy Rall, Bobby Van, Ann Miller, Carol Haney, and Jeanne Coyne (later Gene Kelly’s wife) in this merry musical based Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” with music by Cole Porter.
And here is Fosse with his wife, Gwen Verdon, in “Who’s Got the Pain” from “Damn Yankees.”
Every family is familiar with the Disney and Pixar classics, which are ideal for families who are looking for something to watch at home. Here are some outstanding animated films from other studios to add to your viewing list.
The Thief and the Cobbler There’s a bit of controversy about this wonderful movie due to creative clashes, which you can learn more about in the behind-the-scenes documentary and “recobbled” version. But the theatrical release, with voice talent by Jonathan Winters, Matthew Broderick, Vincent Price and Jennifer Beals is a visually dazzling fairy tale that is genuinely enchanting.
Kubo and the Two Strings I am the biggest fan of LAIKA Studios and their exquisite stop-motion films, and it is hard to pick a favorite. “Coraline,” “Paranorman,” “The Box Trolls,” and “The Missing Link” are all beautifully designed with wonderful stories that don’t shrink back from exploring the dark and scary. “Kubo and the Two Strings” is about the son of a depressed mother who sets off with Monkey (Charlize Theron) to find the three pieces of Hanzo’s armor that he will need to fight the evil sisters and their father, who wants Kubo’s eye. Along the way they meet a samurai who has been cursed and turned into a giant beetle (Matthew McConaughey). And they meet and fight three different monsters, a giant skeleton, an underwater garden of eyes, and an enormous, floating, reticulated moon serpent, each giving Kubo a chance to discover his courage and power.mThis is a gorgeous, epic adventure with grandeur, scope, and spectacular settings, every bit of it wonderfully imaginative.
Kung Fu Panda: Jack Black provides the voice for Po, a panda with an unlikely ambition — he wants to be a kung fu master. But he is rejected by the teacher, Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), and the Furious Five; Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Crane (David Cross), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Mantis (Seth Rogen). Po is not a natural. He says dejectedly, “I probably sucked more than anyone in the history of kung fu…more than anyone in the history of sucking.” He admits to Shifu that he only stayed “because I thought if anyone could change me, make me not me, it was you.” But Po will learn that the source of his strength is what no one can teach him — his sincerity and humility. Po will find within himself the strength, focus, and resolve to face Tai Lung. Followed by two sequels.
Surf’s Up: This story about a penguin (think very cold weather) who wants to surf (think very warm weather) is beguiling, thanks to vibrant visuals, superb voice talent, wit without ironic air quotes or snark, a sweet storyline, and a brisk running time. Like the sport it salutes and the island where it takes place, the movie has a laid-back vibe, taking its story, its humor, and itself lightly.
Spirited Away: Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki makes wildly imaginative, almost dreamlike films. Do not try to find a linear narrative, just enjoy the magic. A girl named Chihiro is on her way to move to a new city with her parents when they take a detour to what seems to be an abandoned amusement park. However, the park is filled with magical creatures and her parents are turned into pigs. Chihiro must grow up quickly in this exotic world not only to save her parents, but to survive. Other Studio Ghibli films to try: “Ponyo,” “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” “Princess Mononoke”
Wallace & Gromit Nick Parks’ stop-motion films are delightfully — and literally — hands-on. You can see fingerprints on the charming characters, the dim human Wallace and his ever-patient dog Gromit. All of their adventures are delightful in a slyly low-key manner, but I suggest starting with the first. Wallace is a fan of cheese, so why not go to the moon to find some?
Yellow Submarine: The Beatles have to save Pepperland from the Blue Meanies in this gorgeous musical adventure with some of the world’s best music (“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Eleonor Rigby,” “Nowhere Man,” “All You Need is Love,” “When I’m 64”) and some of the world’s most glorious animation.
Turner Classic Movies has a great line-up today of movies about angels — and a few devils, too. If you miss them on the broadcast, you can watch them on the TCM app. Highlights:
Heaven Only Knows: Robert Cummings is an angel sent to save the soul of a saloon owner played by Brian Donlevy by bringing him together with a minister’s daughter. But the devil has other ideas.
A Guy Named Joe: Spencer Tracy is a fighter pilot killed in action. His spirit returns to help the girl he loved find happiness. (Remade by Stephen Spielberg as “Always”)
The Horn Blows at Midnight: A trumpet player (Jack Benny) dreams he is the angel Gabriel, sent to blow his horn to bring on the end of the world. But he finds earthly pleasures a distraction.
Angels in the Outfield: This is the original version with Paul Douglas and Janet Leigh, about a little girl who lives in an orphanage and sees angels when she goes to a baseball game. I know the remake with Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a lot of fans but I prefer this one, which is sweet but not syrupy.
Angel on My Shoulder: The devil (Claude Rains) sends the soul of a murdered gangster (Paul Muni) to to ruin the reputation of an honest judge.
The Devil and Daniel Webster: This is Stephen Vincent Benet’s classic story about a New Hampshire farmer who sells his soul to the devil (Walter Huston) and then is defended before a jury of villains by the legendary New England orator.