What to Watch is a continuing series that showcases some film recommendations in a specific category.

The phrase “Children’s films for adults” may seem like a paradox but the best so-called children’s films appeal to people of all ages.  Disney classics such as Aladdin (1992), the Toy Story trilogy (1995,1999,2010), WALL-E (2008), and Up (2009) go without saying.  They are all terrific films.  I am presenting some films/TV that you may have overlooked.

Films:

  1. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

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Logline: A poor boy wins the opportunity to tour an eccentric and mysterious man’s candy factory.

Comments: Mel Stuart’s classic is such a wonderfully bizarre film that has deliciously dark elements.  There is one scene in particular that makes a strong case for this film being a horror film disguised as a kids movie.  There is a trailer circulating on youtube that advertises the film as a horror and it is very amusing.  Gene Wilder’s performance in this film is nothing short of legendary.  Avoid Tim Burton’s weak remake released in 2005.

Rating (out of ****): ****

2. The Black Stallion (1979)

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Logline: A young boy becomes shipwrecked on a desert island with a black Arabian horse with which he forges a strong connection.

Comments: The Black Stallion, directed by Carroll Ballard and produced by Francis Ford Coppola, is a beautiful film about the relationship between a boy and a horse.  The film features dazzling cinematography by Caleb Deschanel and a winning performance from Mickey Rooney.  It seems cliche to call a film magical but I cannot think of a more fitting word to describe this gorgeous film.

Rating (out of ****): ****

3. Gremlins (1984)

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Logline: After inadvertently breaking three important rules concerning his new, cute and furry pet, a boy unleashes chaos onto a small town in the form of small, mischievous creatures known as mogwai.

Comments: Joe Dante’s 80s classic Gremlins has elements of horror and comedy and it is loads of fun.  Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, both released in 1984, pushed the MPAA to implement a rating between PG and R and so, they created PG-13.  Many parents were concerned with the amount of violence in these films.  Gremlins is perfect Christmas holiday viewing and features the beautiful Phoebe Cates, who you may remember from the infamous pool scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982).

Rating (out of ****): ***1/2

4. The Black Cauldron (1985)

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Logline: A young boy embarks on a quest with a group of misfits to find an ancient, magical cauldron that the Horned King intends to use for evil.

Comments: This film was a box office bomb when it was released and nearly bankrupted Disney.  It is a very dark fantasy adventure that has never been given its proper due.  In any case, it is one of my personal favorite Disney flicks and needs to be seen by more people.

Rating (out of ****): ***1/2

TV:

  1. Batman: the Animated Series (1992-1995)

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This animated series is fantastic.  I love the animation, the voice-work, and the stories which are incredibly faithful to the comics, more so than any of the Dark Knight’s incarnations on the silver screen.  For Batman fans (and I am a huge one), I cannot recommend this series enough.

2. Reboot: Season 3 (1997-1998)

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The third season of Reboot is one of the most consistently great pieces of television I have ever seen.  Reboot was the first computer animated series in television history and it ran sporadically for four seasons from 1994-2001.  It depicts Mainframe, a computer system inhabited by binomes, sprites, and a Guardian who are under the threat of two viruses who plan to infect and take over the city. They must also defeat the User in downloaded games.  Though the third season is the show’s crowning achievement, I recommend watching the series in its entirety.  The first season is much more kid-oriented than the rest of the series, though and the animation is pretty tame.  However, it is still a lot of fun, particularly the final episodes of that season.

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