Being A Dad

Recently, we took the kids to see Gulliver's Travels. The theater we went to was only showing it in 3-D, which was more than okay for Jackson and Griffin. I asked for 4 tickets, 2 children and 2 adults. 56 bucks. I can't recall my exact reaction but I'm pretty sure I made Raisinettes in my pants. 

I realize it's a cliche to suggest going to the movies is too expensive. And it is. But we don't go that often (I think the last non-kids movie Kristin and I saw in the theaters was The Turning Point....Might have been An Unmarried Woman) and we were looking forward to doing something fun with the kids. Plus, you can usually save money by catching a matinee but unfortunately there are no discounts for 3-D.

The other issue is - spoiler alert - 3-D adds absolutely nothing to this movie. It's not a great movie, but it's got some fun parts and the kids enjoy their Jack Black as much as mom and dad do but 2-D would have been more than fine, thank you very much.

Plus, my glasses had a big old thumb print on one of the lenses which added a very unwelcome fourth dimension to the proceedings. 

Here's the deal - all kids movies are being made in 3-D now and initially both the 3-D version and the 2-D version would play in most multiplexes so you had a choice whether or not you wanted to cash in your 401k or not to see the film. But I fear that 3-D only is coming our way and I can't imagine anyone will be able to keep up with these prices. 

For an industry that practically invented the "shameless money grab" and who continues to crank out movie after movie filled with one-dimensional characters and stories, 3-D is at least one D too many. 

I should start off by saying that I did doze a bit during the movie.  But that had more to do with the 3-year old sleeping on my lap than my interest level.  The part that I was awake for was pretty good.

Somehow our kids completely missed the more recent wave of Disney animated movies - Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, etc.  I bring that up because Tangled, while not traditionally animated, fits right in with those films.  Which is why I think (at the risk of sounding sexist) that girls will love this movie.  There's some serious girl power going on (courtesy of Rapunzel) along with the  prerequisite wicked stepmother (courstesy of Donna Murphy although I thought it was Bebe Neuwirth until the credits rolled).  The derring-do is supplied by Flynn Ryder - a character name that both Jackson & Griffin (once he woke up) found hysterical. 

Much in the Disney tradition, characters break out in song at the drop of a hat (or hair, as the case may be) which is why you should expect Tangled - The Musical to hit Broadway sometime in the near future. 

I just read that this is the first Disney "princess" movie to get a PG rating and I suppose that's appropriate but there's very little here that could possibly cause nightmares and it's relatively tame compared to most children's fare.  Unless there was a decapitation scene when I was sleeping, then I might change my mind.   

Oh, and one other thing - your kids will want to see this in 3D because all kids want the extra "D", but there's nothing to justify the extra money you'd have to spend on a ticket.  If they really want to see 3D, tell them to look out a window. 

There are many reasons I really enjoyed this movie...

Will Ferrell - Supposedly, the role of Megamind was offered to both Ben Stiller and Robert Downey, Jr. and I don't think it would have been nearly as funny without Ferrell.  Thumbs up to Tina Fey, Brad Pitt and David Cross for their voice work as well. 

Melancholy - you'll never want to pronounce it the same way again.

Fun for kids, fun for grownups - while there's plenty here for the kids to enjoy, there's just enough for us old folks as well, from a fresh twist on Obama posters to a great Donkey Kong sight gag.

The geeks shall inherit the earth - this is a superhero movie after all, so obligatory comic book references are essential and there are some good ones here - from Superman to the Flash to Green Lantern. 

Most importantly, I've always loved going to the movies.  Before the kiddos came along, the Mrs. and I used to go all the time.  Now that our income and time isn't nearly as disposable as it used to be, we seem to talk about going to the movies more than we actually go to them.  So it was with great pleasure that we got to take the boys this past Saturday morning and experience the whole thing through their eyes (while they were open, anyway - Griffin fell asleep on my lap with about a half an hour to go). 

And while a massive bucket of popcorn at 10:30 in the morning might not be an ideal breakfast, it can't be any worse than their daily meeting with that lucky leprechaun and his magically delicious marshmallows. 

Earlier today, I took Griffin to preschool.  It was his turn to bring snacks, so I handed a bag of goodies to one of the teachers and told her there was yogurt and spoons along with some pretzels for anyone who couldn't have the yogurt.  She took the bag with a smile and said, "mom thinks of everything."

Now let me step back for a moment and state some facts.  The teacher in question is a lovely woman.  And in this particular instance, it was mom's idea.  I'd go so far to say in almost every instance it's Jackson and Griffin's mom's idea.  She's always thinking 6 or 7 steps ahead of everyone in every situation - she's like the Jason Bourne of the PTA.  And, if left to my own devices, our kids would probably be knocking back Red Bull and chewing tobacco for breakfast.  

I just find it fascinating that there are certain things in life that people still assume mom took care of.  Take gifts, for example.  See if this sounds familiar - it's holiday time and the family is gathered to open gifts.  Your Aunt Irene unwraps her present and turns to your wife to thank her for her thoughtfulness.  Meanwhile, you're the one who picked it out, bought it and wrapped it.  Now there's no way to say, "hey, lady, the edible underwear was my idea" without sounding like a tool but it wouldn't hurt to give credit where credit is due.  

Look, I understand that many dads bring this upon themselves.  For some, their only contribution was a teeny little chromosome and a steady supply of AA batteries.  But times are changing ladies - we're deep in the Mr. Mom generation now and there are plenty of fellas out there packing those lunches, changing those diapers and waiting for mom to bring home the bacon so we can fry it up in a pan.  
Yesterday was library day at Jackson's school.  It's always an interesting proposition for a number of reasons - will he remember to bring home the book, will it be a book he already owns, will it be a copy of Finnegans Wake again, etc.  

I was quite pleased to see John, Paul, George & Ben make a return visit to our house.  The book is written and illustrated by Lane Smith and features a humorous take on the lives of John Hancock, Paul Revere, George Washington and Ben Franklin.  And lest you be concerned that Smith took too many liberties (pun intended) with their stories, there's an entertaining true or false section at the end to help readers separate fact from fiction.  

Jackson & Griffin's favorite passage involves (somewhat predictably) Paul Revere and a search for a pair of extra large underwear but there's lots of fun stuff throughout for readers of all ages.  

Smith is perhaps best known as the illustrator of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and his artwork here serves as a perfect complement to the text.  

So if you say you want a revolution, you could do a lot worse than spending some time with this fun book.  

I was never a big Ben Stiller fan.  I can appreciate his talent but always found him to be a bit unlikable on screen. Oddly enough, that wasn't the case with the second installment of the Night at the Museum franchise and I think that's part of the reason I prefer the sequel to the original.  

Another reason is the supporting cast.  I love Dick Van Dyke (one of the villains in the first movie), but he didn't have a lot to do and was absent for most of the film.  The MVP of Smithsonian has got to be Hank Azaria.  Playing the main heavy, Kahmunrah, with an accent borrowed from Boris Karloff along with providing the voices of The Thinker and Abe Lincoln, Azaria really delivers.  His scene with a certain green muppet and a black cloaked bad guy is hysterical.  

Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan, returning as miniatures brought to life, are very funny as is Bill Hader as a crazed General Custer.  I can never tell Amy Adams and Amy Ryan apart but I can assure you one of them is in this movie playing a fast talking Amelia Earhart (I almost said whip-smart, but I can't stand that phrase).   And while Jonah Hill might already be overstaying his 15 minutes of fame, his scene here with Stiller is pretty strong.  

The only disappointment is the usually dependable Christopher Guest has absolutely nothing to do here as Ivan the Terrible.  Oh, and the Jonas Brothers make an appearance but it's brief so no real harm done.  

I can't say I'm looking forward to Night at the Museum: Brunch at the Whitney (in 3D), but as long as this one stays in heavy rotation at our house, I can't complain.  

We rented this DVD late last week and Jackson has already watched it start to finish three times.  So I think it's safe to say it gets a healthy thumbs up from him.  

I wanted to see the film when it was in the theaters but like so many other releases over the past few years, we missed it.  So one night after everyone went to sleep, I watched it and loved it.  

I never read the book (written by Roald Dahl) so I can't speak to how faithful an adaptation it is, but I definitely recognize Dahl's trademark darkness as well as his fascination for pretty despicable human beings.  The other major element at work here is the director Wes Anderson, who has a healthy bag of idiosyncrasies of his own. I happen to be a fan of Anderson's films but of course your mileage may vary.  

The film stars George Clooney, perfectly cast as Mr. Fox, and Meryl Streep as Mrs. Fox. Jason Schwartzman, who I sometimes like, sometimes don't, is great here as their son Ash.  Other standouts include Wally Wolodarsky as Kylie, Eric Anderson as Kristofferson and Michael Gambon as the hideously evil Mr. Bean.  

Completing the experience is an old school stop motion animation reminiscent of the old Davey and Goliath show and a great soundtrack that includes the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, the Bobby Fuller Four and Burl Ives.

There are a couple of scenes that are pretty intense, including the killing of some animals, so keep that in mind if your kids are sensitive to that sort of thing (as opposed to the kids who relish it, I suppose).  

Not because they're one of the greatest bands ever.  Not because they've recorded some of the best songs in the history of music.  Both of those statements are true, of course, but the reason they appear here is much simpler...

A couple of weeks back, we were making our way home from Hershey Park.  It was very late and we had more than four hours to go.  Both kids were sleeping in the back. Suddenly, Griffin woke up screaming.  Inconsolable.  We were moments away from him waking up Jackson.  Then a song from The Beatles appeared on my iPod.  

Griffin stopped screaming and said, "The Beatles", before falling back to sleep.  

That was pretty fab indeed.  

A couple of weeks ago, on the way home from camp, Jackson announced he had a new favorite band (after Bruce and The Beatles, he clarified).  You can probably guess from the title of this post that the band in question was Kiss.  

I'm not sure how he became aware of them but I'm thinking it was either through one of the older camp kids or the new Dr. Pepper commercial with Gene Simmons.  Either way, he was hooked.  

Now I could have just left it at that and immediately enrolled him in Bible Camp, but I didn't.  You see, I went through a Kiss phase of my own as a youth and I was feeling somewhat nostalgic (and somewhat frightened).  So I set the DVR to record a Kiss concert on VH1 Classic and I dug out an old Kiss CD for him to listen to.  

Cut to the present day and now we have a 7-year old who walks around the house singing about drinking, prostitutes, drinking with prostitutes, partying, sex, sex with prostitutes and Beth.  

Watching your kids grow up can be a strange experience.  There are certain things you look forward to (becoming toilet trained) and other things you don't (discovering iCarly).  

And while you admire their growing independence you also know you're witnessing the march towards "I don't need you anymore".  We're heavily into "Dad is God" mode around these parts and I have to admit I'm not emotionally ready to give up my deity status just yet.  

This summer has been particularly landmark-filled for Jackson from unleashing his inner Evel Knievel at local carnivals to getting his groove on at camp dance parties. So I guess it should not have surprised me that he wanted to take our bedtime readings and kick them up a notch.  

Up until this point, Jackson's choice of bedtime books has been the equivalent of comfort food.  We've been sticking primarily to the classics even though he probably has grown out of the majority of them.  So when he told me he wanted to switch to chapter books, the timing was probably right.  After all, you can only read The Very Hungry Caterpillar so many times before the magic starts to wear off.  

His first selection was the first book in a very popular series - Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  I must admit I was totally ignorant of this worldwide phenomenon and while there has already been a movie made of the first book, we've yet to see it.  

For those who are not familiar with the books, they star Greg Heffley along with his family, his friends and his enemies.  In the first book, Greg is in middle school and he's not very happy about it.  As you might have gathered by the title, the book is written in the style of a diary (printed on lined paper with a font that resembles a boy's handwriting) and features Greg's illustrations (the artwork is reminiscent of Matt Groening's Life in Hell).  

The stories include Greg's Halloween adventures, his quest to become more popular and his ill-fated career as a cartoonist for the school newspaper.  The book doesn't follow the standard pattern of conflict, resolution and a moral thrown in for good measure.  It's more realistic this way, but still caught me by surprise.  For example, Greg's best friend gets blamed for something Greg actually did and while Greg considers stepping up to admit his wrong-doing he quickly realizes it's far easier not to.  

From a practical standpoint, it's a fairly quick read and there are just enough illustrations to break up the text.  

There are four books in the series with the fifth coming out this fall.  Both Jackson and I look forward to starting book two soon.