POP CULTURE

Movies, TV, music, comics/superheroes, etc.

Doodles, Diversity, & Lunch Notes

December 13, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE

Here we are at the end of 2016, and Holy Haircut, Batman! — it’s been a roller coaster of a year. I can’t recall a recent 12 months that contained as many highs and lows. Between the election and all the ugliness it exposed, the numerous police shootings of black men, and the Orlando nightclub massacre, it’s been an especially harrowing year for women, people of color, immigrants, Muslim-Americans, Jewish-Americans, and the LGBTQ community.

Yet through it all, there have been constants to keep me grounded: my family, feeding said family, and my love of superheroes. So the lunch notes were pretty constant, too.

Doodles, Diversity & SuperLunchNotes

Since starting this adventure three (!) years ago, I’ve tried to include a good mix of characters: DC and Marvel; comics and non-comics; human, animal, and whatever the hell Pokémon are. But this year in particular both inspired and challenged me to step up the diversity being represented in my son’s lunch notes.

Dude, they’re lunch notes. With cartoon characters on them. GET OVER YOUR ARTSY-FARTSY, DRAMA QUEEN, HOLIER-THAN-THOU SELF.

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Movie Review: ‘Storks’ Better Than Expected

September 23, 2016 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

storks movie review

Movie: Storks (PG, 86 minutes)
Moviegoers: Daddy (47), Jon (6-3/4)
Individual Reviews: Daddy ★★★1/2, Jon ★★★★

Plot Snapshot: Storks deliver babies…or at least they used to. Now they deliver packages for a global internet retail giant.  Junior (Andy Samberg), the company’s top delivery stork, is about to be promoted when he accidentally activates the Baby Making Machine, producing an adorable, and wholly unauthorized, baby girl. Desperate to deliver this bundle of trouble before the boss gets wise, Junior and his friend Tulip, the only human on Stork Mountain, race to make their first-ever baby drop – in a wild and revealing journey that could make more than one family whole and restore the storks’ true mission in the world.

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[The remainder of this review contains mild spoilers.]

Storks is actually two stories told simultaneously, merged at the end. The synopsis above is from the film’s marketing materials, but it fails to mention the other plot line of an overworked couple and their only child, Nate, who longs for a baby brother.

Trigger warning: If you’ve got an only child longing for a baby brother (or sister), be prepared to squirm a bit. I know I did.

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We Are the Dreamers of the Dreams: RIP Gene Wilder

August 30, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, POP CULTURE

RIP Gene Wilder, Willy Wonka

I love Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka so much. Like most people my age, I saw Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory many, many times growing up. I was drawn to Wonka as a kid, and even more so as a parent. Not because he’s sweet and colorful and cheesy — well, not JUST those things. It’s because Wilder also plays him as clever, sarcastic, and a little intimidating.

My son doesn’t scare easily. He was largely unfazed by The Avengers  or The Force Awakens or Jurassic Park. Yet Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is one of the few films that sent him crawling into my lap — of course during this scene. Any kid’s movie that can creep out my un-creepable kid (and cause him to need some cuddles) — while encouraging him to both behave and follow his dreams — is tops in my book.

Speaking of following dreams, the quote on my son’s lunch note today is from one of my favorite WWATCF scenes. Just reading the words themselves, this looks to be an inspiring, heartwarming sentiment. But when Wonka said it, he was smooshing Veruca Salt’s face in his hand, scolding her for doubting the existence of snozzberries. As well he should have, because Veruca was being a whiny brat. And because if Wonka says something is real, it’s real, dammit.

My other favorite role of Wilder’s was Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein. In it he played opposite the most amazing comedic actress of all-time, Madeline Kahn. I’d like to think they’re up in heaven reenacting this romantically riotous moment…
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Rest in Peace, Gene. Thank you for sharing your magic with us — your smart, stupid, silly, sarcastic, snarky, sweet, scary, splendiferous magic.

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Check out the lunch notes I make for my son every school day, by following me at SuperLunchNotes on Instagram.

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R.I.P. R2-D2

August 14, 2016 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

RIP R2-D2

Kenny Baker 1934-2016 Rest In Peace

While the character of R2-D2 will be around for a long, long time, I wanted to pay respect to the actor who played him in the first six Star Wars films. Special effects aside, Kenny Baker was the one who brought everyone’s favorite droid to life.

In October 1977 I was eight years old, and my dad took me and my younger brother to see Star Wars. There were so many moments in that first viewing that have stayed with me ever since. Certainly the adventure and fantasy are incredible, but the characters are what make the films more than just a thrill ride. Luke was the everyman I related to most; Chewbacca, the furry bodyguard I wished I had; and R2-D2 was the loyal friend — filling the screen with mischief and humor, all without a face or uttering a word.

Not long after seeing the movie (maybe the same day?), we got our first Star Wars t-shirts. My brother got the one with Sand People; I chose R2-D2, and I never really stopped…
.

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Movie Review: ‘Pete’s Dragon’ Soars With Disney Magic

August 11, 2016 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

Disney's Pete's Dragon

Movie: Pete’s Dragon (PG, 95 minutes)
Moviegoers: Daddy (47), Jon (6-3/4)
Individual Reviews: Daddy ★★★★★, Jon ★★★★★
Family Favorites: Star Wars (episodes IV-VII), Ghostbusters (all versions), Despicable Me

Plot Snapshot: For years, old wood carver Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) has delighted local children with his tales of the fierce dragon that resides deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. To his daughter, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), who works as a forest ranger, these stories are little more than tall tales…until she meets Pete (Oakes Fegley). Pete is a mysterious 10-year-old with no family and no home who claims to live in the woods with a giant, green dragon named Elliott. Grace sets out to determine where Pete came from, where he belongs, and the truth about this dragon.

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[The remainder of this review contains mild spoilers.]

Disney’s new remake of Pete’s Dragon is a truly enchanting experience, and a welcome improvement on the rather dated original. Directed by David Lowery and filmed entirely in New Zealand, the movie is at its most magical when it’s just boy and dragon. Fuzzy, purring Elliott acts as both loyal pet and doting parent to Mowgli-esque Pete. And while I rarely think 3D is justifiable, the flight scenes alone make it well worth the extra cost.

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How To Make Captain America: Civil War Bento Lunches for Your Little Avengers

May 10, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

Earlier this year, Babble (Disney’s parenting web site) kicked off an Instagram series called #LunchboxLove. It features fun and creative lunches from fun and creative parents. So of course I was beyond stoked when they asked me to participate — because I’m so fun and creative. 🙂

Our whole family has been looking forward to Captain America: Civil War, so I was immediately inspired to create something from Marvel’s hero-vs-hero soon-to-be blockbuster. I had initially thought I would try and represent several characters in the lunch, but that was proving to be rather complicated. So then I turned my focus on the two iconic heroes leading teams into battle. But knowing my son was a diehard fan of both Captain America AND Iron Man, how could I make him choose?

I didn’t. Avengers assemble… your ingredients!

Captain America: Civil War Bento Lunch

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

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• Bagels (I used plain, but any kind would work)
• Captain America: strawberry & blueberry fruit spread, cream cheese
• Iron Man: salami, cheddar cheese, mozzarella string cheese, condiments
• Popcorn
• Dried fruit: cranberries, blueberries, cherries
• Red & yellow snacking tomatoes
• Red & yellow bell peppers
• Ranch dressing or other veggie dip
• Cookie cutters (2″ star, 3″ circle, 4″ biscuit cutter)

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Remembering Prince and How His Music Helped Save My Life

April 30, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE

Remembering Prince & How He Helped Save My Life

In the summer of 1984 I turned 16. I had a year of high school behind me and was living on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific. My dad was a military chaplain, and we’d moved to Okinawa, Japan the previous summer. For several months we lived in a house in Okinawa City, and the top floor consisted only of my bedroom and a wraparound balcony with a view of the ocean. Aside from the occasional gecko scurrying across the ceiling, it was a sanctuary of solitude for this eldest of four boys.

I had a pretty good first year of high school, as years of high school go. My grades were good, I made the tennis team, and had a solid group of friends. I’d even been voted “Cutest Couple” with a girl who I happened to be dating when the votes were cast, though soon after reverting to friend status.

By the summer of this story, we’d moved onto Kadena Air Force Base. Military housing is typically bland, but here was accented with island flavor: a clay tile roof, palm trees growing from the patio, poinsettia bushes along the side of the house. I hadn’t yet attained high school party-attendee status, so weekend nights were spent walking to the movies or bowling alley, days at one of the beaches scattered around the island.

At the end of that June, I bought Purple Rain at the BX. Over the course of the summer and into my sophomore year, Prince’s magnum opus was the soundtrack of our collective youth. Blasting from cars and boom boxes, on every Walkman, every track (and some B-sides) played nonstop at school dances.

Like Thriller the year before, Purple Rain crossed lines of gender, race, and genre. But it went even further, delving into and mixing sex and spirituality. This was exemplified most in the album’s two biggest hits. “When Doves Cry” dripped with sensuality, while “Let’s Go Crazy” sang of the afterlife with raucous, unpious fervor. The latter was a revelation for this preacher’s kid struggling not only with faith, but also with my sexuality… and what that meant for my own afterlife.

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Back to the White House: Discussing Gender Stereotypes in Media & Toys

April 12, 2016 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES, POP CULTURE

For the second time in less than a month, I found myself an invited guest of the White House. (I don’t think I’ve ever written a more unfathomably awesome sentence.) While hearing the First Lady speak about nutrition and fitness a few weeks prior was certainly amazing, the topic of the second event was much more in my wheelhouse.

gender stereotypes in toys and media

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SuperBunnyEggFriends Easter Craft to the Rescue!

March 27, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

Superhero Easter Craft

If the new film Batman v Superman is too dark for your littlest superhero fan, here’s a nifty Springtime/Easter craft I whipped up. I had a lot of fun recreating my favorite childhood heroes in bunny/egg form, and then putting them in silly scenarios. After I was done playing with them, they made eggceptional prize eggs for an epic backyard egg hunt at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

Enjoy the goofy Easter vignettes, then scroll to the end of the post to learn how to make them yourself.

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Batman v Superman: Pick a Side to Win $200 in Fandango Gift Cards!

March 24, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

Batman v Superman SuperLunchNotes

My son’s a little young yet to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but he’s been witness to this epic battle his whole life. Between TV shows and movies, t-shirts and Halloween costumes, and of course multiple action figures of each — my 6-year-old has grown up amidst this greatest of superhero struggles.

Yet nowhere has this played out more frequently than in his lunch box. The Dark Knight and the Man of Steel are not only the two most iconic superheroes on earth, but they’ve also made more appearances as SuperLunchNotes than another other character. Between the two of them, they’ve accompanied his PBJ and Pirate’s Booty on nearly 25 occasions. And that’s not even counting notes featuring sidekicks, pets, or rogues galleries.

So to commemorate the premiere of the big screen skirmish, I thought I’d feature some of my favorite notes from each titan, then let you weigh in on who should be declared the winner of Batman v Superman: SuperLunchNotes… And your pick could win one of two $100 movie gift cards from Fandango.com!

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