In Anticipation of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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I was warm for Star Wars growing up. I hadn’t been introduced to the far away galaxy until I was in middle school when theaters around the world re-released the original trilogy in anticipation of the newer films.

I liked them, but I never really loved them. In fact, I always thought, even in middle school, that all the humans were really bad actors, except of course, for Han Solo (queue any songs about a possible man-crush).

Don’t get me wrong. I liked Star Wars. A lot. I just never got around to reading the endless spin-off novels or collected the C-3PO Pez dispensers or dress up as a storm trooper and go to comic cons (I did get the soundtrack, though).

But then my whole mindset was changed nearly a year ago with the release of The Force Awakens. That movie made me a die-hard Star Wars fan. That movie was like the answer to an impossible riddle. It was like the mayonnaise on my sandwich, the ice in my tea on a hot day, it was enough to make me join the fictitious resistance, as it were.

And now, judging by the trailers and poster of the newest (albeit unofficial) Star Wars installment, we’re in for another treat this year.

Personally, I love that the Star Wars universe is bringing in lead female protagonists. That’s because I have a daughter and I’m glad she can now be emotionally invested in the movies for upcoming family Star Wars nights. Rey is a great role model for my little girl as I’m sure Jyn will be just as kick-ass.

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And can we please give a huge applause to Disney for getting the galactic saga back on track with the original 70’s look? I swear the first second I saw they were doing that last year, that got me hyped up just like the Cars 3 trailer took me  (and the rest of the wordl) from eh to HOLY CRAP FREAKIN’ YES I CAN’T WAIT!!!

(Seriously, whoever’s doing the marketing at Disney/Pixar/Lucas Films needs to run for president because they clearly know how to do their job extremely well.)

So who’s excited about this unofficial Star Wars installment? What are you most excited about? Who loved The Force Awakens as much as I did? Also, to address a small point of contention between almost every couple in America, what’s a good age to start showing Star Wars to your kids?

Let’s Be Honest About “Cars”

I don’t need to open my mouth even a little for you to know that I’m a ginormous Pixar fanatic. Everyone is a Pixar fan, but I’m a fa-na-tic. If my wife would let me, I’d decorate the house in full-sized Pixar posters. With frames. Backlit.

Most people knew that Pixar was making a third installment of the so-so Cars franchise.

And most people groaned inwardly.

Personally, I loved Cars, but I don’t blame anyone who can live without it. I stepped over the threshold onto the haters’ side, thought, when Cars 2 literally put me to sleep more than once in the theaters. We bought it only to own the full collection. I haven’t watched it, I don’t think.

But then today happened.

Less than a week before the release of the highly-anticipated Moana, Pixar released the teaser trailer for what we assume is going to be titled Cars 3. 

To be honest, I’ve been inwardly excited about this movie for a while. My take on the news was that Pixar was going to take the dreaded franchise in a different direction, sort of a redo, or like a “Wait, hold on, watch this one instead. We were just playing around with Cars 2, you know, being silly.”

To say that this is possibly the darkest teaser trailer ever may be an understatement. It’s intense, it’s unexpected, it’s …so far from being anything remotely related to Cars 2 (and Mater for that matter …madder, mater,Madder), that just one look at social media, it’s clear that people are actually excited about this movie now.

What a turn of events!

I think I speak for everyone when I say that I hope the rest of the movie carries this same tone throughout, as John Lasseter eluded to about a year ago:”It’s very emotional and his relationship with Doc Hudson, and his memory of Doc Hudson.”

Could Cars 3 join the ranks of greats like Ratatouille, Up, Toy Story 3, and Inside Out? 

I think it will. But what do you think? Leave your comments below! Will you be seeing this? (And based on the trailer, I can tweak this question: With or without your kids?)

What My Three Favorite Movies Have in Common

Pixar and Disney movies aside, I have three ultimate favorite movies that I can’t ever get enough of and they all have one thing in common.

Aside from the fact that they’re all based on true stories and were nominated for best picture (one won), there’s an underlying theme that drives stubborn dreamers like me back to them time and time again.

My three favorite movies of all time are The King’s Speech, Frost/Nixon, and Moneyball. 

One is about the ascent to royalty, one is about the descent from power, and the other is about a guy who just wants to make a good living doing what he believes he’s good at. On the surface they can’t be any different from one another.

But a closer look will reveal that they are each about men facing the impossible. They are about men stubborn (and stupid?) enough to go after what they believe is best for themselves, their family, and their people, even though their treks defy all logic and even saneness.

Let’s look at The King’s Speech. King George VI had two things going against him: His name (reminiscent of Washington’s own Mad King George), and his tongue. He stuttered like a madman. He couldn’t get through a speech to save his life. He didn’t want the throne. He didn’t want the responsibility because he didn’t think he could handle it with his impediment. But when his lovesick brother abdicated, King George was left with no option but to learn to overcome his lifelong problem and take the crown.the-kings-speech

In Frost/Nixon, we find ourselves in the wake of Nixon’s resignation. But a British entertainer and talk show host, David Frost, is the only man crazy enough to elicit a confession from the crook’s mouth. He lays not only his reputation, but his money and career on the line to bring the darkness to light.

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And finally, Moneyball. You don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate this brilliant movie about baseball, numbers, and ultimate risk. Billy Beane, the GM for the Oakland A’s, is determined to bring his team up the ranks from their rock-bottom status, just not the way his co-managers would prefer. His method is nontraditional, unproven, and unfounded. He lays everything on the line to test out his theory of selecting the best hitters, despite how they play in the outfield.

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Something about ultimate risk just makes sense to me, it calls to me. The way I see it is, if you have it all on the line, failing is literally not an option. I’d recommend you check these three movies out. They’re perfectly acted, they’re funny, and above all inspiring in a non-Hallmark way. Nothing about these stories is sappy or cute. They’re about real men storming the ups and downs of their lives and careers, not satisfied with the status quo. Willing to pioneer innovation in their fields.

Maybe one day I’ll get the guts to be like these guys. Because of their tenacity, bravado, and just plain awesomeness, we saw the business of baseball do a complete 360, we got a confession out of a crooked ex-president, and quite possibly the new world was saved by the steadfastness of a king with a twisted tongue.

What would your impression on the world be if you dropped all pretense and caution? What are your favorite movies and are they because they inspire you to be a better person?

A Love Letter to Disney

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A while back I wrote a love letter to Pixar Animation Studios. I’ll never forget watching my viewership skyrocket that week. What was that all about? A couple of weeks later I received an email from Pixar Headquarters thanking me for my post and saying that it’s been making the rounds in the studio. Imagine that! I forget how long I cried. (The picture to the left is during the hysterics.) But the thing that made me happiest was knowing that the hard workers at the studio caught a tiny glimpse of joy they bring to our lives on a regular basis.

Yesterday Disney released the international trailer for their highly anticipated and surefire record-breaker, Moana. Take a second and watch it. I’ve watched it about nine times now and I still get chills.

It’s safe to say that Disney is on par with Pixar. After Wreck-it Ralph, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, and most likely Moana, we just need to stop denying it.

They bring a class and beauty to the world that we’ve all but forgotten. In our hurried and messy lives, Disney movies have a way of, I don’t know, restoring order. Even if it’s just the illusion of restoration – or better yet, the hope of restoration.

Their movies are not devoid of evil and chaos and bitterness and jealousies. And their resolutions aren’t as cookie-cutter as they used to be. Disney’s movies sell you on cute, sure, but they deliver on substance and depth.

I mean, how gut-wrenchingly hard is it to watch Hiro release Baymax into the Unknown? If that doesn’t tear you apart, I question your mortality. Not only is their attention to detail and vivid color out of this world, but almost every note strikes a cord with something deep inside us.

Why?

Because they take beauty to the extreme. They push the bounds of reality and expose us to a world of bliss and hope.

Like Pixar, they no longer make movies for kids. Their movies address us adults just as profoundly. Zootopia reminds me that even if I achieve my dreams, my story doesn’t stop and the struggles will keep coming.

Wreck-it Ralph delivers the hard message that I’ve been dealt my cards and I need to figure out how to make the best of it.

Frozen sings about letting go. Big Hero 6 shows us how to do it.

Thank you Disney, for the work and painstaking efforts you infuse in your movies. You have the challenge of not just catering to one specific audience, but to literally every single demographic. And you pull it off with class and style and unimaginable beauty.

I believe Disney movies do make the world a better place, even if it’s just a little. They bring families together. A reason for parents to take the kids out. They provide contexts for us to talk about serious things with our kids. They give us parents footing to address things such as good byes, racism, bullying, sibling rivalry, and my favorite: You don’t have to be a jerk just because you’re popular (Fix it Felix, Jr.).

I know there’s people out there who don’t watch Disney or Pixar movies just because they’re cartoons. I pity those people. They’re missing out on some of the greatest filmmaking in the history of film.

Thank you Disney, for all that you do. Keep at it, and we’ll see you in November!

For more on Disney check out

Baseball and Disney

and One of the Greatest Companies in the World.

 

Make This Your Next Netflix Movie

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Hilarity ensues in the Netflix original The Fundamentals of Caring. It’s the first Netflix original I’ve ventured to watch, but wow, I was impressed!

I expected just another melodramatic indie film that attempts to tie everything together at the end just for the sake of closing out smoothly. But this Paul Rudd-led film was anything but a half-hearted effort. It was hilarious from the very beginning.

And for me to call a movie hilarious is pretty impressive. There are only three movies I think are actually funny. This makes four.

Anyway, I’m not going to go into the specifics except that you’ll want to watch it when the kids are in bed due to the excessive amount of F-bombs dropped.

So if you have 90 minutes to spare, or if you’re like me and your work schedule has completely changed and you don’t know how to adjust to no longer having to wake up at 5:00 AM, then get your Netflix on and enjoy this gem of a movie. The book is on my Christmas list.

How Pixar Movies Can Make You a Better Dad

We had on The Incredibles the other night and I was stuck by a crazy thought. Bob Parr, as Bob_Parrincredible as he is as a super hero, is actually more endearing as a dad. When he’s playing catch with his son or hugging his daughter, there’s a certain gleam in his eyes that you don’t get when he’s fighting crime.

I’m not trying to be sappy here. I’m not. I’m just making an observation.

That made me think. Of course that’s how it comes across. Pixar movies are made primarily by parents who live in the world world. They know firsthand the trials and joys of parenthood. And it comes across crystal-clear in their films.

Finding Nemo is perhaps the most obvious one, and possibly the best father/son movie ever made. It reminds us as parents not to take our kids for granted, because they can be taken from us at any moment. And that’s a reality made even more clear as foster to adopt parents.

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Actually, Pixar movies even make us closer to our kids just by their mere existence. My son and I bonded when I took him to see The Good Dinosaur last year for his birthday. Sure, he couldn’t talk yet, but it was an experience we got to share together that we’ll always have. It was fun!

It’s not like going to the latest installment of Ice Age (not Pixar) where, as a grown-up, I’d likely fall asleep.

heart-in-handPixar films are brightly colored adult movies that just happen to be appropriate for kids. It would be inappropriate for me to gather our kids on the couch to watch Apocalypto, but it’s far from a sacrifice to snuggle with my daughter and watch Brave for the eightieth time.

Most Pixar movies appeal to us as parents. They show us the world through our own children’s point of view so that we can better understand them and better parent them.

I can’t count the number of times I put the computer away to play with my kids because Inside Out reminded me that my kids will always remember these days. It’s my job to make their memories yellow/gold. Not blue. So I chase them around the house pretending to be Bruce the shark or Mor’du.

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Woody couldn’t have said it any better: “I can’t stop Andy from growing up, but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

That’s a haunting and encouraging reminder. But multiple viewings of Toy Story 2 has implemented that message in my head permanently. And then, of course, the next Toy Story installment screams out: “No, seriously! Your kids are going to grow up really, really fast! Don’t bloody miss it! Don’t miss it! Don’t miss it!”

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Don’t throw your daughter’s bow in the fire. Don’t tell your kids to act happy when everything sucks. Buy your kids lots of toys (not video games). Go on road trips and put the brake on at rest stops. Don’t lose your temper over their limitations. Don’t try to convince them that a rock is a seed. Teach them to slow down. Cross the ocean if you have to to find them. Your kids are your greatest adventure. Teach them to cook!

I’m not an expert parent and will never claim to be. But Pixar movies have been a better parenting resource than any psychology book I can think of.

Have a happy Father’s Day and take your kids to see Finding Dory. Or buy them a bunch of toys. Make today about the kids, because without them, there would be no Father’s Day.

How Finding Dory Will Make Me a Better Dad

maxresdefaultYou may laugh, but I highly doubt I’m the only dad who wanted one specific thing for Father’s Day: to go see Finding Dory. It couldn’t have come at a better time as we’re struggling through a hard time in our extended family. (Thank you so much Pixar, for consistently providing a light to us in dark times.)

The movie’s release also comes at a time when my kids are still young, which I’m so grateful for. Finding Dory sucker-punched me in the father-gut as it forced me to examine my current parenting techniques.

By the way, this post will be spoiler-free if you haven’t seen the movie, which you should (it’s shattering records already).

Right off the bat being a father has shown me how impatient I can be. You really never know how much of a perfectionist you are until you become a parent! But when my kids mess up, I’m quick to lose my temper and, I’m sad to say, make them feel bad for what they’ve done.

Finding Dory was like looking into a mirror when Marlin berates Dory (his surrogate daughter, I take it) for her disability (short-term memory loss). I can sympathize with Marlin because- “Son! I JUST told you not to pull on the dog’s ears! What’s wrong with you??”

See what I mean?

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The way Inside Out reminds us parents not to encourage our kids to act contrary to how they feel, Finding Dory practically scolds us for expecting our kids to be perfect despite their learning disabilities (and, as my wife often reminds me, they’re just kids). And for me, the message stung like a jelly fish.

635948550074796045-finding-dory-fdcs-dory10-125-per16-125There are plenty of messages to be found in Dory for the kids too, such as they never need to feel limited by their imperfections. And no matter what, there’s always a way out of their problems, no matter how dire, if they’re just brave enough.

Okay, maybe those reminders aren’t just for the kids.

All in all, Finding Dory doesn’t disappoint. It’s no Toy Story (1,2, or 3), but it’s still millions of leagues (pun) from being an animated movie not closely monitored and fostered by the Disney/Pixar powerhouses. In fact, Finding Dory, in all it’s excellence and daring, encourages, inspires, and illuminates laughter and happiness in an increasingly dark world.

Perhaps it’s a timely movie for all of us at this stage in our history.

Oh, and by the way, the photorealistic short film that precedes the feature is nothing less than 100% brilliant (my second favorite in Pixar’s short film lineup, just behind Presto!). I’m so excited for our kids to see it so I can teach them that things aren’t always as threatening as they seem.

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Yeah, we left the kids at home to go see an animated movie. How often do I have to stress that Pixar/Disney movies are not made for kids? They’re brightly colored adult movies that kids can happen to enjoy, and Dory is no different.

Once it’s been out for a little while, I’ll talk about the film’s climax and why I think it’s so perfect.

Oh! And what did you think about that Beauty and the Beast trailer?? Is that going to be amazing or what? Sarabeth and I have already made the proper arrangements to see it next March.