When to Let Your Kids Watch What

Las-mejores-películas-de-miedo-para-niñosProbably one of the most controversial issues with parenting is when to introduce nostalgic entertainment to our kids.

Moms and dads seem to always have a different view on this topic, and Sarabeth and I are no different.

Every dad wants to show the old Star Wars movies to their sons, while moms seem content to let them watch The Little Mermaid for the eightieth time. (Not that I have anything against The Little Mermaid–I think it’s a masterpiece.)

One thing Sarabeth and I agree on is that our kids won’t have their own video game consoles – that’s just setting the whole family up for failure, and is a no-brainer on many different levels, in our opinion.

But I made a comment the other night in bed when we were watching The Lord of the Ringsimg494678dbe5ca2 that went something like, “I’m totally fine letting our kids watch these movies even when they’re five.” (Keep in mind this was during the scene where the cave troll had just stabbed Frodo in the heart and the other members of the fellowship were beating it to death.)

Sarabeth was gracious enough not to say anything, probably realizing I had at least four years to come to my senses.

Heck, I play Jurassic Park with my daughter all the time, pretending to be an T-rex while she’s a raptor. Our son just plays the stagnant dilophosaurus since he still spits up overtime he moves.

I’m all about skipping the whole Playhouse Disney stage and jumping right into Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. 

zs5WlqpUgxtNA6Ycf0naoaVRdDBut that’s because I forget that The Never Ending Story made me scream bloody murder when that wolf jumped out of the trees. And some old non-Disney cartoon version of Pinocchio gave me nightmares for weeks (in an alternate story, Stromboli actually did cut the puppet up into firewood – although, that may have just been a bad dream Pinocchio was having – I never cared to resist that).

It’s easy to forget that kids still think everything is real. The only thing that can be construed as imaginary is Mom and Dad telling them to do something they’d rather not do.

But I’m sure when the time comes to make those decisions, I’ll know my kids enough to know if they’re ready for such fun revelations.

Besides, it might all be moot. Who knows if, when my kids are thirteen in 2027, they’d even be interested in watching those old fantasy movies about “hobbits and stuff” made twenty-seven years ago.

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Why Books Are (Almost) Always Better Than the Movie

bored-audienceIt’s not uncommon to go watch a movie and be completely disappointed by the outcome, especially when it’s a movie based off of a book that you love. Only once in a blue moon will the movie be better than the movie (Forest Gump) or the movie will not completely change key points in the story (Unbroken). Here are a few reasons why I think the book is often better than the movie.

1. It’s All About the Details

We are a people that need detail in order to color in the context of any given situation. I mentioned Unbroken above, and while the movie gets and A+ for not changing anything from the book, it still cannot hold a candle to the book because it cannot describe the details of the anguish the hero felt or the true expanse of struggles he endured, both internally and externally.

2. Unlimited Runtime

We all know someone who will talk and talk and talk even though everyone around them has completely lost interest. Well, movies don’t have that luxury. They’re given strict time limits to tell their stories (usually between 90 and 120 minutes). But books, thank goodness, do not have a limit of page numbers (or volumes) to tell their story. Therefore, they are able to really stretch the story out and let it linger longer where it needs for impact, whereas movies need to hit the point and move on. I think The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy would have been a lot less successful if Peter Jackson were forced to cut back the runtime.

3. Wrong Place, Wrong People

Most people have vivid ideas of who the main characters look like when they’re reading books (except me – everyone sort of just have blank faces). But if a movie is cast wrong (like so many complain about Prim and Peta in The Hunger Games movies), then it’s game over for many people. But then again, sometimes those miscast people can really grow into their roles (again, like Prim and Peta).

4. True Love

When a producer is picking a director to adapt a book into film, it’s extremely important that the director chosen is a die-hard fanboy of the book and has a true appreciation of fellow fans. The director must appreciate the original work so much so that he or she feels compelled to match it as closely as possible so as to the do the book and author justice. I know it’s not technically based off of Crichton’s work, but what the director did for Jurassic World was beyond everyone’s hopes and expectations. Why is it so popular? Because he is a true, die-hard, Jurassic Park fan. And it shows.

Do you agree with my list? Disagree? Add some more thoughts below as to why books are usually so much better than the movies. 

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Why Inside Out is the Perfect Father’s Day Movie

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Alright, hopefully you’ve all seen Jurassic World by this point, because obviously, that’s the movie to take your dads to with there being dinosaurs and explosions and all that fun stuff. And the hype is true – it really is almost as good as the original!

But if you’re looking for something else now that that’s over, you might want to consider taking him to a very different kind of movie – a family movie.

This is not your typical “kids” or family movie – Inside Out redefines the family genre in every way. It also does for storytelling what Toy Story did for the animation movie industry. This is a movie with a lot of brains – and heart. If your dad is cool like me, then he will be anxious to see Pixar’s latest installment anyway.

So why is Inside Out a good Father’s Day movie? Why would I suggest a movie that primarily focuses on the inner workings of an adolescent girl?

tumblr_nl2dpdR8eW1un8fiuo1_400Because this movie will give your dad an idea about what’s going on inside his kids’ heads, and it will most assuredly remind him of when he himself was a kid, filled with innocence and wonder and goofiness.

And yes, this movie is ridiculously sad, but never once does it get sappy. No, you won’t find any Full House corniness here. All the emotions are as honest and real as they can be.

This movie is a gift to every person on the planet, especially to fathers and their children. And I can almost guarantee that by the end of the movie, your dad will give you a big, weepy hug.

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What to Expect From Pixar’s Inside Out (Spoiler Free)

inside-out-Eggman-10-12-11-002I had the opportunity to attend an advanced screening of Inside Out last night where the director and producer took us on a virtual tour of the Pixar studios (yes, Finding Dory and Toy Story 4 are actually happening). My strong desire to visit  Pixar in Emeryville, CA only deepened.

The short film before the movie, Lava, was kind of weird, but also really breathtaking both visually and audibly. I won’t give anything away other than you’ll be saving your money to go to Hawaii ASAP.

And now let’s talk about Inside Out, Pixar’s first original movie since Brave. There are no spoilers.

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Being quite possibly the biggest Pixar nut on the planet I have been dying to see this movie for a long time. And let me just say, like Jurassic World, the wait was worth it. But unlike Jurassic World, the payoff was much, much deeper – and emotional.

Go ahead and search the web for any bad review about Inside Out. As of the writing of this post, you won’t find one, and you certainly won’t find it here.

Inside-Out-Movie-Review-Image-5Let me just first start off by saying that if you’re a parent of little ones, this movie is going to absolutely wreck you, as it did me. I saw my 18 month old in Riley growing up – they actually look similar. And the hardest part about the movie was realizing that, like Joy, I won’t be able to keep my little girl happy all the time, and that realization tore me up.

Much deeper still, echoing the themes of Toy Story 2, I also was reminded that I can’t stop my kids from growing up.

Though the main characters look silly and cartoony, there are very few jokes in the movie – however, riley-inside-out-trailer-2-pixarthey’re very well placed and sharply hilarious. The movie is filled with clowns and hockey and unicorns and rainbows and characters made out of cotton candy – yet it’s one of the darkest movies out of the Pixar canon, save for maybe Toy Story 3. 

The movie is faceted with so many layers that it not only makes me reflect as a father but causes me to look inside myself and I wonder, with deep sadness, when did my childhood end? What memories have I forgotten? And whatever happened to my imaginary friend (he was a mouse in overall suspenders named Chucky)?

Inside Out isn’t primarily about growing up, per se. It goes a step beyond that. It’s about the death of childhood. And it hits hard. Yeah, it’s Toy Story-sad and comes very close to being as sad as Up, and on some days, if you watch it at the right time, it can be sadder, I’m sure.

I don’t use the word masterpiece flippantly or ever, really. But Inside Out is just that. And I can tell without a doubt it’s going to be one of those movies that gets better with age.

Oh, and you know how Woody is my favorite Pixar character of all time? Well, he’s got a contender, and her name is Joy.

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Go See Jurassic World

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The Internet is currently inundated with reviews for the country’s latest record-breaking box-office smash hit, Jurassic World

I’ve been waiting forever to see this movie, and have been more excited than the average person. In preparation to the release I watched the previous three Jurassic movies, read both books, got the Jurassic World blizzard, and have been playing dinosaurs with Baby A. nonstop.

My poor wife has been obliging me in all this nonstop dinosaur talk.

Finally went and saw the fourth (or should I say the second installment) last night and the wait was very, very well worth the excruciating pain.

All the reviews that say Jurassic World is almost as good as the first movie given to us in 22 years ago in 1993, are spot on.

It was great to see the world’s most awesome amusement park functioning as a fully operational theme park…the crowds, the tourists, the attractions, the lines, the ticket counters, and even Starbucks and Ben and Jerry’s.

Part of Jurassic World‘s genius is pretending the previous two movies never even existed, which, in our best moments (even as die-hard dinosaur fans) we wish never really happened.

The only thing this movie lacked from the first one – and I mean the only thing it lacked, was that it didn’t drag out the suspense as long as the 1993 hit did. Don’t get me wrong – there’s plenty of scary moments and jumps, but I just wanted that intensity to be dragged out just a bit longer.

Jurassic World provides us with the greatest opening of the franchise, very few cheesy moments, subtle and hilarious laughs, and some brand new favorite dinosaur moments. It’s definitely a thrill ride for the ages and I will be anxiously awaiting the next installments!!!

Check back tomorrow for my advanced review of the highly anticipated Inside Out!

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Our Jurassic Curiosity

JurassicWorld.posterIt’s true. I fell captive to commercial marketing.

I willingly subjected my wife and myself to 2,000 extra calories from a DQ blizzard just because it came in a Jurassic World cup (a picture of the giant mosasaurus opening its jaws to swallow a great white). My monthly DQ update in my email inbox had me at the words “Jurassic Crunch.”

I will be lining up to see this movie early next week as I’ve been waiting forever to see it.

What is it that drives us toward dinosaurs (or monsters in general)? Why are we so compelled to run to the theaters when we know we’re going to see people eaten and torn apart by ferocious prehistoric beasts?

Personally I think it’s more our desire to see how people would respond in alternate universes or in fantastic scenarios that the adventurer in us kind of wishes would actually happen. I often find myself daydreaming about what plan of action we would have to take as a family if we were faced with some sort of apocalyptic disaster.

At any rate, I’m super excited to see how this Jurassic installment holds up in the franchise. Word on the street is it’s almost as good as the first one. That’s saying something.

Oh, and the Jurassic Crunch from Dairy Queen is awesome (if you like cookie dough).

Which Came First, the Ant or the Bug?

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You remember back toward the end of the century it seemed all the movie companies were copying each other?

It was Dante’s Peak vs. Volcano, Armageddon vs. Deep Impact,and perhaps the biggest showdown of all was DreamWorks’ Antz vs. Disney/Pixar’s A Bug’s Life.

I don’t know the story behind what went on with the volcano and the astroid movies (although I can say that Armageddon is the best out of all of them), but I can at least give you the rundown as to what really happened with the two really big insect movies.

At the time, only one fully-CGI animated movie had hit the big screens – Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story – and I don’t need to tell you how much of a success that was.

There was this guy named Jeffrey Katzenberg who worked under Michael Eisner at Disney, whom we actually 002a95f5_mediumhave to thank for The Lion King. Eisenberg and Katzenberg had many, many fallings out (all of which can be read in Disney War by James B. Steward). Katzenberg finally had enough in the summer of 1994 and decided to leave Disney and start a competitive animation studio with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, which became known as DreamWorks SKG.

That’s why the big debate over who stole the insect idea first was so intriguing. Did Katzenberg leave the idea with Disney before he left and Disney used it anyway?

No. Katzenberg had never heard of A Bug’s Life before he left. In fact, he stay in touch with John Lasseter (Pixar founder and chief creative officer). Lasted, a jovial, spirited, trusting man who wanted to maintain a friendship with Katzenberg answered Katzenberg’s questions about what films he was doing next…

Ant-Z-antz-9184288-1024-768At the word “insect,” Katzenberg pressed more on it. And more, and more, and more… Then Katzenberg asked when it was slated to be released.

Around 1996, Lasseter realized the gravity of his mistake when he heard that DreamWorks was working on their own CGI movie (their first) about an ant being its lead character. When Lasseter called Katzenberg up to inquire about the rumor, he admitted it was true and lied, “We had the idea long ago.”

Katzenberg later admitted that he sped up the production of Antz, which actually beat A Bug’s Life to theaters by six weeks. Despite the rushed product, Antz was favorably accepted by critics and audiences, raking in $91 million domestically.

But A Bug’s Life was much more epic, colorful, and mind-blowing. Richard Corliss of Time wrote that A Bug’s Life made DreamWorks’ film seem like radio by comparison. Rightly so, A Bug’s Life did twice as well as Antz, grossing $163 million domestically.

So there you have it. The whole buggy story. Which one did you like better?

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