Being A Dad

There are a few certainties in life - it's guaranteed to rain after you wash your car, the sun will rise and set (one's in the East, one's in the West, I can never remember which is which) and your kid will play video games.  Some kids more obsessively than others, but the sooner you make your peace with that, the better.  

The problem is there are millions of games out there (and judging from my house, millions of game systems to play them on) and it's hard to tell which games are appropriate and which are not.  

When I was growing up (after the Civil War but before Lady Gaga) the only determining factor when choosing a video game was whether it was lame or not. Now days the same decision involves whether or not they show brain matter when you run over a guy's head with a car.  

Fortunately, there's Lego.  I have to admit, when I first heard that they were making video games out of Lego's, I just assumed it was yet another blatant money grab from a toy company.  And it probably is, but they're really cool and kid-friendly for a number of reasons:

They're cheap - Jackson has Lego Batman, Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Star Wars for the Wii and each were less than 20 bucks.  Lego Harry Potter just came out and that's still pretty pricey, but we'll wait it out until the price comes down.  

They're incredibly accurate, but not frightening - the Indiana Jones and Star Wars games follow the story lines of the movies in incredible detail yet even the most intense sequences when animated with Lego figures keep the thrills without the chills.  

The violence isn't violent - whenever you destroy something in a Lego game, it's just a bunch of plastic blocks exploding in different directions.  Same amount of cathartic destruction, less therapy down the road.  That's a winning combination.  

There's just enough there for us old folks - whether it's using the original scores from the movies or an inside joke only those who grew up on these movies would get, the games have the right amount of elements to keep both the kids and the rest of us entertained.  

Another bonus is the game play itself is fairly simple which is a major plus when you consider that no one reads the instructions anyway.  

Would it be better if they played outside and got some fresh air?  Of course it would, but have you been outside lately?  Running around in 98 degree heat or relaxing in the AC playing a video game.  I think the kids might be on to something here.  

7 years ago today, I became a Dad.

Dear Jackson,

The best part of every day is the part I get to spend with you and your brother.  

Happy Birthday buddy!!!

Judging by the box office totals, I am officially the last man on the planet to have seen Toy Story 3 and news flash - it's awesome.  

Jackson's birthday is coming up and he wanted to take a bunch of his buddies to the movies and this was his movie of choice.  Having loved Toy Story and Toy Story 2, I wasn't disappointed one bit with his selection.  Plus we decided Inception was probably not appropriate for 6 and 7 year olds.  Yes, we were probably being overly protective, but better safe than sorry.  

Anyway, as you probably know by now the film packs a lot more emotion than the first two and to paraphrase the old Superman tagline, you will believe a Dad can cry. I'm pretty sure Jackson's friends think there's something seriously wrong with me but that's okay because I'm positive there's something seriously wrong with most of them.  So now we're even.  

I'm not going to go over the plot points because you really should see it for yourself but high points include the opening action sequence, the Ken doll (voiced by the very under-appreciated Michael Keaton) and of course the returning cast of characters led by Woody and Buzz.  

A word of caution, however, goes to those with really young ones - there are some very intense scenes that would probably be too much for kids of a certain age.  Griffin just turned 3 and I'm pretty sure he would have been running to the lobby on more than one occasion had we chosen to take him.  

My only complaint - we saw the movie in 3D and I had several problems with this growing trend.  First of all, the movie would have been just as good in 2D.  3D added very little to the experience.  Hell, the Fifth Dimension could have sat down next to me and sang "The Age of Aquarius" during the previews and it still would've been a great movie.  Also, we sat on the side of the theater and the angle didn't quite work. But most importantly, it was 4 bucks extra per ticket and movie tickets aren't exactly a bargain to begin with.  Granted, the site of 10 kids all wearing oversized wayfarers was pretty funny to look at but was it worth the extra expense?  I say no.  

So by all means see the movie - and bring some tissues - but save the extra dough and skip the 3D.  

It took me a while to figure out why this movie didn't do it for me and now, after 70-80 viewings, I think I got it...

First of all, it should go without saying that even a bad Pixar movie is still better than almost every other kids movie out there (it should have gone without saying, but I said it anyway).  

Also, I'm in the minority here - there are a lot of people who love this movie. There are also a lot of people who love sour cream, though, and we all know how gross that is.  

Now then, back to the movie - one positive thing I can say about it is it looks amazing.  Especially the views of Paris. Unfortunately, the realism is also one of its faults.  Any of the scenes that feature hundreds, if not thousands, of rats scurrying about is just nauseating.  Not to mention the scenes where they're preparing food.  

My main complaint, though, is with the characters themselves.  There's hardly anyone likable in this movie, which is very unusual for a Pixar, who traditionally have a knack for making even the most obnoxious creatures entertaining.  

But not here.  Remy, the main rat, is essentially a snob who longs for finer food and a more cultured life than the typical rat living on the tracks of the E train.  He's voiced by comedian Patton Oswalt, who has a cult like following, but to me has a voice that's like fingers on a blackboard.  And I don't mean that in a good way.  

The other lead, Linguini, Remy's human counterpart, is basically a whiny bitch (not surprisingly, the whiny bitch action figures under-performed at Toys R Us).  

The rest of the cast isn't much better - the only real humor comes from Remy's rat brother who is perfectly content eating anything and everything.  Everyone else is just pretty mean.  

Ultimately, there are many lessons to be learned from this film but the main one for me is that France has a massive, extremely animated, rat population.  That's gotta be great for tourism.  

To Griffin William Kanzer 

Happy 3rd Birthday!!!

Hugs & Smoochies,

Your Big Silly Daddy