Family Movies for Thanksgiving 2023

Posted on November 20, 2023 at 9:07 am

Copyright 1973 United Features Syndicate

There are some great Thanksgiving movies for adults. And here are some for the whole family to share.

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.

Copyright 1947 20th Century Fox
Miracle on 34th Street is a Christmas movie, but it begins with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and it is a great family movie (for those who are comfortable with questions about Santa’s being real. The original is a classic with an adorable Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn won an Oscar for playing Kris Kringle. But the remake is nice, too.

Dora’s Thanksgiving Parade Dora the Explorer has to save the day when the parade float gets lost.

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.

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving Jacqueline Bisset stars in this warm-hearted tale, based on a short story by Louisa May Alcott (Little Women).

My favorite Thanksgiving movies are “What’s Cooking?” with four families preparing for the holiday and “Pieces of April,” about a family, including a terminally ill mother, driving to an estranged daughter for Thanksgiving. Both are funny, touching, and wise. Wishing all of you a Thanksgiving filled with gratitude for being together, even the crazy parts.

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Family Movies for Halloween 2023!

Posted on October 24, 2023 at 8:06 am

Happy Halloween!

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 Partywith 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 , 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 and fun. “Muppets Haunted Mansion” combines all the Muppet favorites with one of the most popular attractions at the Disney theme parks, which also inspired this year’s Haunted Mansion live-action film starring Tiffany Haddish, Danny DeVito, Owen Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Jamie Lee Curtis, and  LaKeith Stanfield. If you have Disney+, be sure to watch the Behind the Attraction episode about the creation of the various Haunted Mansions and how each one is designed specifically for its location.

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.

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, The Curse of Bridge Hollow, and Goosebumps.

Older children will appreciate The Witches, based on the popular book by Roald Dahl (the original with Anjelica Huston, not the remake with Anne Hathaway) and Hocus Pocusand the new sequel, with children and teens battling three witches played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. And of course there is the deliciously ghoulish live-action 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  there are now two animated films for younger kids. The second is better than the first.  The new Munsters from Rob Zombie is not good, but the original TV series episodes are still fun.

Beetlejuice is a classic, now even a Broadway musical. I’m fond of Beautiful Creatures, based on the best-selling YA novels about a witchy family in the American South.

ParaNorman and Monster House  are two wonderful movies that should become a  family 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 and Henry Selick in a story about a Halloween character who wonders what it would be like to be part of a happy holiday like Christmas. Selick’s Coraline, based on the book by Neil Gaiman, is wildly imaginative andhis 2022 film, “Wendell & Wild,” was co-written with Jordan Peele, who lends his voice to the film with his longtime colleague Keegan-Michael Key.

And don’t forget old classics like The Cat and the Canary and The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. (horror/comedy treats) and the omnibus ghost story films Dead of Night and The House that Dripped Blood.

Looking for a romantic comedy for Halloween? Try Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak, and Jack Lemmon in “Bell Book and Candle.”

Or Frederic March and Veronica Lake in “I Married a Witch.”

Happy Halloween!

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Family Movies for Independence Day!

Posted on July 4, 2023 at 7:37 am

Copyright 20th Century Fox 1996

Independence Day Will Smith, Bill Pullman, and Jeff Goldblum star in one of the all-time great popcorn pleasures. Aliens attack the earth and it takes a quirky engineer, a plucky President, and a heroic military pilot to save the day. What does that have to do with the 4th of July? Listen to the President’s stirring pep talk.

The Patriot There are many films about the Civil War, but not many about the Revolutionary War. Mel Gibson stars in this uneven but stirring film about a farmer pulled into the rebellion.

1776 I love this film, based on the Broadway musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with almost all of the stars from the acclaimed stage production, including William Daniels as the “obnoxious and disliked” John Adams, Ken Howard as a dashing Thomas Jefferson, and Howard Da Silva as Benjamin Franklin.

And don’t forget Schoolhouse Rock!

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Movies About Moms for Mothers Day 2023

Posted on May 11, 2023 at 8:44 am

The movies have given us warm, loving, mothers, evil, abusive mothers, even alien mothers. Some of my favorites are featured in my book, 50 Must-See Movies: Mothers, including these. The book will be free on Amazon all weekend.

Claudia Before they went on to co-star in the luminous romance, “The Enchanted Cottage,” Dorothy McGuire and Robert Young played a young married couple in this sweet neglected gem based on the books by Rose Franken.  Claudia and David love each other very much and he finds her innocence very appealing.  But her immaturity leads to many problems.  A neighbor thinks Claudia is flirting with him and without consulting David she impulsively decides to sell their farm.  And she is very dependent on the loving mother she adores but takes for granted.  Claudia’s is about to face two of life’s most demanding challenges – her mother is dying and Claudia and David are going to become parents themselves.  So Claudia’s mother has to find a way to help Claudia grow up.  Watch for: a rare film appearance by the exquisite Broadway star Ina Claire as Claudia’s mother

Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner There are two great mothers in this talky, dated, but still endearing “issue movie” about inter-racial marriage from 1967.  Katharine Hepburn’s real-life niece Katharine Houghton plays her daughter and what Houghton lacks in screen presence and acting experience is less important than the genuine connection and palpable affection between the two of them.  The question may seem quaint now, but as filming was underway, inter-racial marriage was still illegal in 17 states.  The Supreme Court ruled those laws unconstitutional that same year.  Hepburn is electrifying in what she knew would be her final film with her most frequent co-star and real-life great love, Spencer Tracy.  And the distinguished actress Beah Richards is brilliant as the mother of a son who says his father thinks of himself as a “colored man,” while he just thinks of himself as a man.  Watch for: Hepburn’s expression as her daughter describes falling in love

Claudine Diahann Carroll was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as a single mother in this ground-breaking 1974 film, one of the first to portray a domestic employee as a real person with her own home and family, and one of the first to provide an honest look at the perverse incentives of the “Great Society” welfare programs.  Claudine is the mother of six who has to keep her work as a housekeeper and her relationship with a genial garbage worker (James Earl Jones) a secret from the social worker because they put at risk the payments she needs for her children.  Watch for: the very romantic bathtub scene

Dear Frankie Emily Mortimer plays Lizzie, the divorced mother of a young deaf son in this heartwarming story set in Scotland.  She is devoted and very protective.  She does not want him to know the truth about his abusive father (the source of his deafness), so she tells him that his father is a merchant seaman.  The letters he receives from all the ports of call full of details about all the places he has been are really written by Lizzie. When the ship comes to their town, she has to find someone to pretend to be his father.  Watch for: Lizzie’s explanation of the reason she writes to Frankie —  “because it’s the only way I can hear his voice”

Imitation of Life This melodrama about two single mothers, one white and one black, who join forces has been filmed twice and both are worth seeing.  The best remembered is the glossy, glamorous 1959 version with Lana Turner and Juanita Moore.  Lora (Turner) and Annie (Moore) are brought together by their daughters, who meet at Coney Island.  Lora, a struggling actress, needs someone to help look after her daughter and Annie needs a job and a place to live.  Annie moves in to be the housekeeper/nanny.  She and Lora have a strong, supportive friendship, though Lora and both girls take Annie for granted.  As the girls grow up, Lora’s daughter is resentful of the time her mother spends on her career and Annie’s daughter resents the racism she confronts even though her skin is so light she can pass for white.  Watch for: the most elaborate funeral scene ever put on film, with a sobbing apology from Annie’s daughter (Susan Kohner)

Copyright MGM 1944

National Velvet Anne Revere played three of the all-time great movie mothers, in “Gentleman’s Agreement,” “Body and Soul,” and my all-time favorite movie mom, “National Velvet.” Her scene with Elizabeth Taylor, when she gives her daughter the money to enter her horse in the big race, is the essence of the love and support we get from great moms. Watch for: the end, when the parents call each other by their first names for the first time in the film.

Please Don’t Eat the Daisies Doris Day stars in this film loosely based on Jean Kerr’s hilarious essays about life as Kate, the wife of a theater critic (David Niven) and mother of four rambunctious boys.  While most of the film’s focus is on the marital strains caused by her husband’s new job and the family’s new home, the scenes of Kate’s interactions with her children are among the highlights.  It is clear that while she tries to be understated about her affection and sometimes frustration, she adores them.  Watch for: Kate’s affectionate interactions with her own mother, played by Spring Byington

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Disney’s Hannukah Treets

Posted on December 17, 2022 at 12:58 pm

8 Disney Hanukkah Specials to Stream This Holiday Season

The holiday season is here… and while there is no shortage of holly, jolly films and shows to stream on Disney+, we thought we’d highlight some of the Hanukkah specials that are also available right now! Whether you’re getting ready for a winter-break streaming marathon or just looking for something to watch to learn more about the holiday itself, we’ve listed eight things to watch—one for each night of Hanukkah.

1. The Ghost and Molly McGee – “Festival of Lights” (Season 1, Episode 10)

In this adventure, the entire McGee family and Scratch the ghost visit Libby Stein-Torres and her family for the final night of Hanukkah. When a sudden blackout occurs across the town of Brighton, Libby’s mom boots up their bookstore’s generator, but she only has enough gas for one hour. Inexplicably, the generator keeps running for eight hour—during which Libby and her family teach the McGee’s, and later the entire town (who come gather at the bookstore for warmth)—about their Hanukkah traditions!

2. “Puppy for Hanukkah”

In 2020, Hamilton star Daveed Diggs partnered with Disney to create a new Hanukkah anthem — “Puppy for Hanukkah.” Written by Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes, “Puppy for Hanukkah” tells the story of a little Jewish boy wishing for a puppy each night of Hanukkah before finally receiving one on the last night of the holiday. The song also explains some of his Hanukkah traditions, with Diggs reciting a Hanukkah blessing in Hebrew mid-rap. You can enjoy this Hanukkah bop by streaming the adorable music video for “Puppy for Hanukkah” on Disney+!

3. Firebuds – “Hanukkah Hullabaloo” (Season 1, Episode 13)

One of Disney Channel’s newest holiday specials is this episode of Firebuds, where Bo wonders why his mother doesn’t put up Hanukkah decorations like his father does for Christmas. To share how special Hanukkah is with his community, Bo goes overboard with decorations for Hanukkah, including a gigantic dreidel balloon that flies off in the wind and causes mild destruction across town. In the end, Bo learns that Hanukkah is special for reasons other than flashing lights and balloons—and that people choose different ways to celebrate the holidays.

4. Even Stevens – “Heck of a Hanukkah” (Season 1, Episode 15)

In this episode of the Disney Channel classic Even Stevens, troublemaker Louis Stevens can’t wait to open presents and searches for the Hanukkah gifts his parents have hidden somewhere in the house. When he ultimately finds them and ruins the family gift exchange for everyone, he ends up grounded for the entirety of Hanukkah. In an homage to 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life, the ghost of Louis’ great-great-great-great-grandmother, Bubbe Rose, appears to show him what his family would be like if he had never been born.

5. Full Court Miracle

Based on the true story of the University of Virginia Cavaliers basketball star Lamont Carr, this 2003 Disney Channel Original Movie follows a Jewish basketball team in Philadelphia who need a new coach. Set during Hanukkah, this group of high school athletes find college student Lamont Carr and convince him to be their basketball coach. When the power goes out during the team’s final championship game, they make an agreement with their opponents that whoever has the most points when the generator runs out will win. In a true Hanukkah twist, the generator goes out and our heroes are losing, but the power miraculously comes back on and allows them to score the winning basket.

6. Puppy Dog Pals – “Latke Kerfuffle” (Season 1, Episode 20)

In this episode of Disney Junior’s Puppy Dog Pals, Bingo and Rolly go on a mission to help their owner, Bob, make latkes for their neighbor Chloe’s Hanukkah party! While on the hunt for eggs and potatoes, the pups sing a song about the “festival of lights” and how delicious latkes are. Bob makes enough latkes for everyone at Chloe’s party and Bingo and Rolly even get to attend, participating in the lighting of the Chanukiah when they spot the first star in the night sky.

7. Pepper Ann – “A Kosher Christmas” (Season 3, Episode 11)

Pepper Ann is another Disney character who celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, and in this holiday episode she mistakenly believes that her parents want her to choose only one holiday to celebrate. She begins to make a list of what she loves most about each holiday to help her decide. In the end, she tells her parents that she loves Hanukkah and Christmas, and that choosing between them would be like choosing between her parents themselves! Of course, it was all a misunderstanding, and her parents were never asking her to choose between the two holidays. Together with her family, Pepper Ann has a great holiday season celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas.

8. Elena of Avalor – “Festival of Lights” (Season 3, Episode 18)

When Princess Rebecca of Galonia and her grandmother shipwreck on the shores of Avalor, it is up to Elena and her family to give them the best Hanukkah celebration possible! Rebecca and her family teach Elena all about Hanukkah, as well as some and Yiddish words like “nosh” (to have a snack) and “mitzvah” (a good deed). When Rebecca gets caught up in making their Hanukkah party absolutely perfect, it’s her bubbe (grandmother) who reminds her that Hanukkah is about carrying on even through the toughest challenges and making the most of what you have.

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