4-Down. Movie with Minions: DESPICABLE ME. Spica is the brightest star in the constellation of Vergo.
8-Down. "Spoon-bender" debunked by the Amazing Randi: URI GELLER. Rigel is the brightest star in the constellation of Orion.
32-Down. Diner list for animal product avoiders: VEGAN MENU. Vega is the brightest star in the constellation of Lyra.
And the unifier:
23-Down. Meteors, and what three Down answers aptly contain: FALLING STARS. Note that each of the Stars, which begin with circled letter, is in the Down, or Falling position. Each of the named stars is also the brightest star in its constellation. This puzzle really needs a bit of astronomical knowledge in order to truly appreciate the theme. I don't know that much about the constellations and their stars, so this puzzle was a learning moment for me.
1. In the thick of: AMID.
5. "Honey, I __ the Kids": 1989 comedy: SHRUNK. Disney film.
11. Brown bag staple, initially: PBJ. Apparently there is a proper way to make a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich.
18. "24" analyst Chloe __: O'BRIAN. I never watched 24, so was not familiar with this fictional character. She was played by Mary Lynn Rajskub (b. June 22, 1971), whom I recognize, but didn't know her name.
19. Operate: RUN.
20. Good thing to have for a change?: DIAPER BAG. Cute clue.
22. A lot: OFTEN.
24. Judith of "Down Home": IVEY. Down Home is a rather obscure reference to a sit-com that ran for only 1 year in the early 1990s. Judith Ivey (b. Sept. 4, 1951) was the only female star in the show.
25. Diplomat's post: EMBASSY. Does the Diplomat stay at the Embassy Suites?
27. Reacted to a really bad pun, perhaps: WINCED. I don't trust stairs because they are always up to something.
38. Flood deterrent: LEVEE. The Levees held up during Hurricane Ida.
39. Like a Frappuccino: ICED. You can find one at your local Starbucks.
40. Severe criticism: HELL.
41. Word with teen or golden: AGER. As in a Teenager or a Golden Ager.
42. Nab in a trap: SNARE.
43. The Ellery Queen Award is one: EDGAR. Everything you ever wanted to know about the Edgar Awards, but didn't know to ask.
45. Mideast or Midwest: REGION.
46. Motorcyclist's invitation: CLIMB ON.
49. "You're gonna need a bigger boat" movie: JAWS.
50. Biblical prophet: HOSEA. Hosea was an 8th century BCE prophet. He is classified as one of the minor prophets.
51. Apple known by its first three letters: MACINTOSH. Generally referred to as a Mac. We had one of these a lifetime ago. It got me through law school.
56. Notable period: ERA.
57. Words to live by: CREDOS.
59. R&B's India.__: ARIE. India.Arie (née India Arie Simpson; b. Oct. 3, 1975) has won 4 Grammy Awards.
60. Actress de Armas: ANA. Although her name didn't immediately ring a bell, Cuban-born Ana de Armas (née Ana Celia de Armas Caso; Apr. 30, 1988), has been in a number of movies, including the 2019 movie Knives Out.
61. Light, as a fire: KINDLE. Also the name of Amazon's e-book.
62. Demolish: RAZE.
63. Bench press muscle, briefly: PEC.
64. Barflies: SOUSES.
65. Winter ride: SLED.
1. Blown away: AWED.
2. Calf-covering skirt: MAXI.
3. DIY furniture brand: IKEA. You think I'm going to make an Ikea joke? Sorry, you'll have to make it yourself. *
5. Got a run home: SCORED.
6. Avocation: HOBBY.
7. __ avis: RARA. Today's Latin lesson. The two word phrase means Rare Bird. It's also the name of a town in Mississippi.
9. Code-breaking org.: NSA. As in National Security Agency.
10. Jedi Master Obi-Wan ___: KENOBI. A reference to the Star Wars movies.
11. Repair bill heading: PARTS.
12. B.B. King genre: BLUES. Although he went by B.B. King, is actual name was Riley B. King (Sept. 16, 1925 ~ May 14, 2015).
13. Female donkey: JENNY.
21. 12/24 and 12/31: EVEs. Tricky. December 24 and December 31 are Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, respectively.
26. Manufactured: MADE.
27. Genie's offering: WISH.
28. Run without moving: IDLE.
29. "Hud" Oscar-winner Patricia: NEAL. Patricia Neal's (née Patsy Louise Neal; Jan. 20, 1926 ~ Aug. 8, 2010) career was interrupted when she suffered a stroke at age 40.
Patricia Neal and Paul Newman in Hud.
30. Flu symptom: FEVER.
34. Antioxidant berry: AÇAÍ. This berry has become a crossword staple.
35. Old Roman fiddler: NERO. Emperor Nero makes frequent guest appearances in the puzzles.
36. Eve's first home: EDEN.
38. Italy's Como, per esempio: LAGO. Today's Italian Lesson.
42. Fixed with thread: SEWN.
44. Arizona MLBers: DBACKS. As in the Diamondbacks Major League Baseball team.
45. Workers' rewards: RAISES.
46. Inexpensive: CHEAP.
47. "SNL" producer Michaels: LORNE.
Lorne Michaels (né Lorne David Lipowitz; b. Nov. 17, 1944)
48. Author Asimov: ISAAC. Isaac Asimov (Jan. 1920 ~ Apr. 6, 1992) makes frequent appearances in the puzzles.
49. Rapper with the 2013 #1 album "Born Sinner": J COLE. I am not up on my rap musicians.
J Cole (né Jermaine Lamarr Cole; b. Jan. 28, 1985)
52. Also includes: ADDS.
53. Face-to-face exam: ORAL.
54. XL or L, but not LX: SIZE.
55. Take to heart: HEED.
58. Brazil metropolis: RIO. Rio de Janeiro is known for its Mardi Gras / Carnaval festival.