movies

12 Days of Christmas Lunch Notes

January 2, 2017 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

12 days of christmas superlunchnotes

As with many of my ideas, this one started bright but with very little planning — certainly not enough to allow for the predictable unpredictableness of the holidays.

“I SHOULD DO A ’12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS’ SUPERLUNCHNOTES! I’M SO NIFTY & CREATIVE! AND I’M SURE I CAN THINK OF ALL TWELVE, SO THERE’S NO NEED TO PLAN THIS OUT VERY FAR IN ADVANCE!”

I was zipping along doing a note a day to culminate on Christmas Eve. But then my 7 year-old got sick. Then some work crises sprung up. Then I traveled to Texas for a friend’s funeral. Mix in all the seasonal insanity of shopping, decorating, planning — and for the first time in our new house — hosting, and that puts me here, on January 2nd, posting about Christmas. Right on schedule.

In my defense, my (after-the-fact) research shows that “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is in fact about the days following December 25th, not those preceding it. Ergo, this post is actually a little ahead of schedule. Gold star for me. ⭐

Blah, blah, blah — here are the notes, along with a few notes on the notes.

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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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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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SuperLunchNotes: Now I Eat My ABC’s

March 18, 2016 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

As the old year rebooted to a new one, I kicked it off with SuperLunchNotes A-to-Z in my son’s lunch box. I was bored at the idea of just doing a character that starts with each letter, so I decided to include a word describing or associated with the subject. A word he could figure out on his own — either in context or using his ever-increasing reading skills. If he wasn’t always going to eat well, at least he could learn something.

I initially thought I’d also choose words that could apply to Jon, either in reality or aspirationally. But you’ll see I quickly hit a snag with “E” and broke that rule.

In any case, grab your lunch salad and a water (or goldfish crackers and a juicebox — I won’t judge), sit back and enjoy an alphabetized study in scrumptious superheroics!

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1.4 Aquaman  |  1.5 Brave’s Merida   |  1.6 Catwoman

superlunchnotes a-to-z

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An Adoptive Dad Reviews ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’

February 1, 2016 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE

Movie: Kung Fu Panda 3 (PG, 95 minutes)
Moviegoers: Daddy (46), Papa (48), Jon (6)
Individual Reviews: Daddy ★★★★, Papa ★★★1/2, Jon ★★★★★
Family Favorites: Star Wars (episodes IV-VII), Big Hero 6, Ghostbusters
Daddy & Papa’s Favorites: The Matrix, O Brother Where Art Thou, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Plot Snapshot: Po is living large as the hero of his village, content to “fight monsters and get high-fives from bunnies.” Two challenges soon arise to rock Po’s world: the supernatural villain Kai, who is stealing the chi of China’s kung fu masters; and the appearance of Li Shan, his long-lost biological father.

Po and Li Shan travel to a hidden village where Po meets scores of other pandas, reconnecting with his inner dumpling-eating, hill-rolling, oversleeping self. But Kai is on the hunt for our hero, so Po must train his new panda posse into fierce warriors in order to battle the otherworldly foe.

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[The remainder of this review contains plot spoilers.]

As an adoptive parent, I’ve always been interested in how movies like the Kung Fu Panda series handle the topic of adoption. I was particularly curious about Kung Fu Panda 3, as it introduces Po’s birthfather into the story. This is something more and more adoptive families can relate to, as open adoption is increasingly the norm.

I went into the film with some concerns about how they would treat the dynamic between Mr. Ping (the goose who raised Po) and his biological father. I was half-expecting a bait-and-switch, perhaps revealing Li Shan was not in fact Po’s father; or maybe Po having to choose between one family or the other.

Yet the moviemakers did a good job of resolving the family-related conflicts — which were almost entirely between the two parents, not Po.

Adoptive dad Mr. Ping seemed to struggle more with this new family dynamic — his protectiveness, mistrust, and competitiveness on full display. While I appreciated the honesty with which they portrayed these understandable (and familiar) emotions, I was glad they didn’t roost there, which might have caused some adopted kids or their parents to feel uncomfortable. However, I thought that within the confines of a 90-minute kids’ movie, they evolved the characters quite nicely.

Kung Fu Panda 3

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