Dear People Who Recreate Iconic Movie Scenes With Legos: never, ever stop.
Dear People Who Recreate Iconic Movie Scenes With Legos: never, ever stop.
I have spent some time in the Emerald City. I have eased on down the yellow brick road (below). I have paid attention to the man behind the curtain. I know from Oz.
What I did not know was what to expect from Disney's Oz the Great and Powerful. The original Wizard of Oz film is, obviously, a classic, and on top of that it is tied for FAVORITEST MOVIE EVER (with Mary Poppins) on a list of such things as compiled by my youngest son. Needless to say, the movie had some big ruby-stained footsteps in which to follow.
And so it was, two weeks ago, that we went to see Oz the Great and Powerful on the Walt Disney Studios lot, which is something akin to Oz in its own right. It was the night of my little boy's birthday, a full day of seven under his belt, and he had so many wishes waiting to be granted. I really hoped that Oz could deliver.
I have a thing about the end of the world, namely that I believe in it. Worse still, I’m sure it will happen in my lifetime. According to a life-expectancy quiz I took this week, I should make it to age 77 assuming nothing random happens to me like choking on a marshmallow or being hit by a flaming meteor (which we all know could totally happen). In any case, simple math dictates I’ve got 37 good years ahead of me. This is plenty time for either A, the Democrats to confiscate all of our guns and force us into same-sex marriages thus leaving us defenseless against a Chinese invasion or B, the Republicans take control and plunge 98% of America into extreme poverty after funding a pork barrel project that results in a zombie army, hence setting the stage for a World War Z.
Truthfully speaking, my beliefs on the earth’s demise are aligned with the events prophesied in the book of Revelations which are totally plausible according to a Discovery Channel special and Kirk Cameron. Nutty, I know, but a guy’s got to believe in something, and besides, what’s the harm? If I’m wrong you all get to come back to this post and tell me, “I told you so” in the comments.
Lest you think I’m about to go on a religious tear, allow me to put your mind at ease. I’m not. Unlike the crazies that manage to end up on FOX and Friends, I actually respect other people’s beliefs because who’s to say I’m 100% right. This reminds me of a joke.
It starts with Green Lantern. This past Sunday, as I sprawled out on the couch trying to recoop from a long work week spent away from home, I once again found myself playing the role of the moderator/referee for yet another round of What Are We Going To Watch On TV (Kids' Edition). Lucas had watched an episode of Young Justice, Zoe had watched an episode of My Little Pony, and I was attempting to stave off a shouting match by suggesting that we find a show that they both enjoy. (Solomon in sweatpants, I am.) I scanned the guide. "Not much on," I observed. "Green Lantern..." "GREEN LANTERN!" they both yelled. "Huh," I said aloud. To Zoe: "You like Green Lantern?" "Yes! I love Green Lantern!" "Huh," I said again. And so they watched Green Lantern. Together. Both enjoying it equally.
I had it in my head to write a post about Green Lantern, and how I was (but perhaps should not have been) surprised that my five-year-old daughter would dig a show about a superhero in space. A male superhero. In space. Before I jumped into writing that post, which would have been in part about the "traditional gender roles" that even the most forward-thinking of us still have a hard time shaking, I took a look at Facebook to see what was going on, as I do before I start writing, because hey, shiny objects! I saw that Andy Hinds had posted a link to a Jezebel article that was a rebuttal of sorts to a piece he'd written for The Atlantic.
Both articles were about The Princess Industrial Complex. I have a daughter, she loves her some Disney Princesses, and I didn't feel strongly about it one way or another. But reading the comments in the Jezebel post, and then in Andy's article, and finally on Andy's Facebook post got me to thinking that dammit, I need to have an opinion on Princesses. I write about being a parent. I have a daughter. I am obliged to say...something. Liz from Mom 101 has an opinion about Princesses! Jim Griffioen has an opinion about Princesses! I'm opinionated! By God, I need to chime in!
It was a warm September day and the studio lot was calm before the storm of politics sure to follow. Soon there would be debates, arguments, threats, and all that goes with a country torn apart at the seams. We sat in plush, comfortable chairs, and we braced ourselves for the making of history.
Five minutes into Lincoln and I had all but handed Oscars to Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field (I really do like her), Tommy Lee Jones, and Steven Spielberg. Yes, Lincoln is that good.
The story is historically accurate (no vampires) and does not treat President Lincoln with kid gloves—rather, he is portrayed by Day-Lewis as incredibly passionate, decidedly distant, and aggressively shrewd for all the right reasons. Also, his voice is a full octave higher than Disneyland would have us believe.
The movie is beautiful. The dialogue is crisp and cutting. The cast, including powerful performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and James Spader, is amazing. The tension created in the theater is thick and strong, especially when you consider that everyone already knows the ending. The history is alive, and it is riveting.
Lincoln is not a family film, although actual families may vary; however, it is a film that relates heavily with the target demographic of this site: fathers. It is easy to remember Abraham Lincoln for his deeds and his speeches, but what doesn't make textbooks and the head side of pennies, is that he was also a man dealing with the trials and fears of fatherhood even as he dealt with those of a nation.
Lincoln and his wife (Field) had lost two sons, each at an early age (only one of the four Lincoln boys lived past the age of 18), and as such they fought with their oldest (Gordon-Levitt) regarding his desire to fight in the war, and they treated their youngest (Gulliver McGrath) with a balance of affection and absence that must have been influenced heavily by duty and melancholy.
Much has been made of Lincoln and the way that the trials of the past correlate greatly with the tribulations of the present, and that is fair and accurate. However, it is my opinion that many of the more captivating scenes in the movie center on Lincoln the father and Lincoln the husband, not Lincoln the president, and as such they punch the collective gut of the audience accordingly.
Lincoln is remembered as a uniter. Lincoln will be remembered as amazing.
Lincoln opens November 9 in select cities and Novemeber 16 nationwide.
I don't remember my age at the time, but I was young—third or fourth grade, and I could see the entire neighborhood reflected in the glare of the wood-framed television in front of me. I was sitting alone on a bed of orange shag carpet, and the gathered crowd cheered behind me as I did what they had come to see: I flipped Pac-Man, hitting a score so high that the game reset it to zero. For a brief moment I was a hero, and video games would never be the same.
The title character of Disney's latest animated feature Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) has spent decades longing for that feeling. He has played the same game, Fix-It Felix, countless times for countless days, and he has never known the accolades of his neighbors or appreciation for a job well done. He has performed his duties without fail, and it has brought him nothing but long trips down and endless holes of mud to land in.
Ralph is a character in the Fix-It Felix video game, and during arcade hours he does what he was programmed to do: wreck it. Unfortunately for Ralph, the game is not about the glories of wreckage well done, but rather Felix (Jack McBrayer) and his impressive ability to fix the path of destruction that has been created.
Players maneuver Felix to mend an apartment building immediately after Ralph shows up to vandalize it for no apparent reason, although the judgmental socialites that live inside seems like a good one.
Wreck-It Ralph is a bad guy, and he is tired of it.
Here we go again — another family movie opens with bits of fright and scares, in this case Disney's latest Tim Burton offering, Frankenweenie, and parents come out of the woodwork with their torches, pitchforks, and assorted cries of woe.
"It is too scary," they say, or some version of it, and that might be true for their child — fair enough. Things are scary, kids vary, it happens.
However, this is a tale as old as time, and from the first bite of a poisoned apple to the dark curse of angry bears, Disney has been at the forefront of scaring audiences, often filled with children, because fear itself is something worth fearing.
It is my opinion that children need to develop an understanding for the emotions that come with fright just as much as they need feel the pangs of anger, humor, and sadness. That is not to say that I promote scares and tears as par for the course, I prefer the sounds of laughter, but at the same time I believe I am doing my children an injustice if we avoid the dark arts altogether.
Obviously I cannot speak to your children or family situation, but fortunately this space allows me to discuss mine, so humor me:
My wife and I are raising two boys fueled on imagination and emotion — to the point that I sometimes worry about the innocence that they carry. They are both very bright, and they easily excel in academics that are aimed at children much older, but they are noticeably sensitive, overly sweet, and socially naive compared to others in their respective grades, and while this was brought about through careful intent — a constructed world to cherish childhood to the fullest for as long as humanly possible, it is also cause for concern. Are they too soft for a world so hard? Are they too sheltered and unprepared? Are we doing it right?
I don't know.
The title of this post should clue you in: it's sponsored by the good folks at Dove Men+Care, who still sponsor our posts despite (or, we suspect, because of) our wanton use of profanity and crass approach to discussing their products. A few weeks back, the good folks at Dove Men+Care asked if I'd like to fire a fire questions at Steven McMichael. Who is Steven McMichael, you ask? Steven McMichael has what may well be the coolest job on the planet: he is an on-screen combat/stunt coordinator. In other words, he does fight scenes for movies, training actors and actresses to do spin kicks and use broadswords and dodge bullets. A retired Marine, he has been in the action movie business for 12 years. Dude was Hugh Jackman's stunt double in the first X-Men flick, y'all.
Like I said: coolest job ever. Right now he's working on a small art house movie about short people, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and its sequel, The Hobbit; The Desolation of Smaug. I asked Steven a few questions about his job and how he stays in shape, and yes, nerds, I got some info on those Hobbit flicks.
Someone recommended I peruse Pittsburgh Dad, the video creation of Chris Preksta and Curt Wootton, which chronicles the rantings and ravings of the title character (played by Wootton) about family, kids and life in general. He's a throwback to the meatheads of yore (OK, not Meathead nor Archie Bunker -- more like Peter Boyle's Frank from Everybody Loves Raymond), spouting off a lot of vitriol like a cranky old man chasing kids off the lawn.
Meh. It's not helped by a lame laugh track, either.
However, I will give my DadCentric thumbs up to Pittsburgh Dad's series of movie reviews, which drop the canned laughter to create some of the real stuff thanks to his narrow view of pop culture and the world. Here's one of my faves:
Pittsburgh Dad Tricked into Seeing Magic Mike
If you don't mind knowing the entire plot of the new Batman flick, you'll also want to check out his review of Dark Knight Rises.
Ice Age 4: Continental Drift is (obviously) the fourth in the animated Ice Age series following the adventures of Manny (Ray Romano), Diego (Denis Leary), and Sid (John Leguizamo) as they bond in ways that society frowns upon (e.g., multi-species herds are for hippies) and find like-minded characters to expand their group of mutual respect and friendship. As far as cartoon messages go it's a good one.
It starts, as it always does, with Scrat (Chris Wedge) the saber-toothed squirrel and his obsessive passion for the elusive acorn, which, as you may recall, he has been chasing since the big bang. Per usual his pursuit has world-changing consequences — namely the creation of the continental plates and their subsequent drift, hence the title of the film. (Note: Some of the scenes are a bit dark and intense, but like a storm at sea that you are watching from a dry, comfortable seat, they pass quickly.)
In all of the the confusion/danger the guys are separated from Manny's wife (Queen Latifah), daughter (Keke Palmer), and as an added bonus, land. Together with Sid's cantankerous Granny (Wanda Sykes) they set out to find their loved ones and something solid to stand on. Also, pirates.
The humor is consistent with the rest of the series in that it balances between the cheap, crude laughs (farts, snot, etc.) that kids love, and some pretty funny nods to pop culture, parenting, and life in general.
There are also a number of PSA/messages woven into the plot that deal with being true to oneself, the importance of family and friendship, and other chestnuts that parents love to talk about on the car ride home.
The cast list is fairly impressive and features the likes of Drake, Seann William Scott, Jennifer Lopez, Joy Behar, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Patrick Stewart, and DadCentric favorites Peter Dinklage and Aziz Ansari. Friend of the show Ashley Albert (The Jimmies) also lends her voice to the film, which is really cool. (Note: Nicki Minaj also provided voice work and was, in my opinion, the most annoying aspect of the movie, grating on my ears like fingernails on a Spotify suggestion. Your response may vary. On the bright side, that may be what they were going for, in which case Nicki Minaj is a genius.)
My boys found the film to be very entertaining, and I laughed heartily more than once (no, I wasn't drinking). Overall, Ice Age 4: Continental Drift is a nice way to get out of the heat and share some fun with the family. It is sure to delight the kids, most parents, and all fans of the franchise and/or plate tectonics.
Ice Age 4: Continental Drift opens Friday, July 13.
My boys and I attended a free media screening of the film for the purpose of this review. Photo courtesy of FOX.