movies

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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The 50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs of All Time: #1-10

December 31, 2015 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

50 Greatest Superhero TV Theme Songs of All Time

At long last… the Top 10. As with much of the list, this final batch is a mix of expected crowd-pleasers and personal favorites. I toiled long and hard on it, so if you take issue with some of my rankings, please be gentle.

Without further fanfare, the final installment of the 50 GREATEST SUPERHERO TV THEME SONGS OF ALL TIME!

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10. TEEN TITANS / TEEN TITANS GO!

2003-2006 / 2013-present

Anime-inspired Teen Titans balanced fun and sophistication, as did its retro-cool theme song. Cancelled after its fifth season, the show was reborn in 2013 as Teen Titans Go! Though the spin-off features the same heroes voiced by the same actors, that’s where the similarities end. As an appeal to a younger audience, everything was shortened: the length of the episodes, the characters’ stature, even the theme song. The Teen Titans theme was chopped and remixed, now buzzing with frantic layers of electronica — a perfect fit for this over-the-top send-up of young superhero life.

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Designer Daddy’s Top 15 Blog Posts of 2015

December 30, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LGBT STUFF, MAKING MEMORIES, POP CULTURE

Designer Daddy Best of 2015

2015 was quite a year for me, for my family, and for several communities to which I belong. A flurry of sticky-note success; a milestone in equality; venturing into kindergarten; the return to a galaxy far, far away; the tragic loss of a friend — all of these contributed to one of the most eventful 12 months in my recent history. And it’s been exciting, fun, cathartic, intimidating, and inspiring for me to chronicle it all here (and a couple of other places) in word and doodle.

So if you’re a new reader curious to know what this site is all about, or a familiar friend sharing some moments of reflection, welcome. These are my 15 favorite blog posts of 2015.

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‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ SuperLunchNotes… Now for Sale!

December 15, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

STAR WARS WEEK IS FINALLY HERE!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens will finally debut this Friday in the U.S., and our family is as giddy as a Gungan! And I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to eat lunch! And of course BUY SOME OF MY NEW STAR WARS SUPERLUNCHNOTES….

Star Wars: The Force Awakens SuperLunchNotes

I polled the awesomest poeple in the galaxy (my readers!) on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, then created brand new notes based on the top requests. All characters appear in The Force Awakens, except Yoda. He’s was my son’s special request and that trumps everything. In addition to the Jedi Master, you also voted to see new characters BB-8, Kylo Ren, Captain Phasma and Rey, as well as everyone’s favorite sidekick, Chewbacca.

So kick it into hyperdrive and head over to my Etsy shop, where you can buy the whole batch of six, or purchase individual pages of each.

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‘Tis the Season for a Star Wars Holiday Giveaway!

December 9, 2015 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

Star Wars Holiday Giveaway!

Nope, I’m not done posting about Star Wars just yet… But I’m also not here to regale you with sappy stories or silly doodles (more of those to come later) — just a bunch of AWESOME FREE STUFF!

Whether you’re gearing up for the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 18th, or need gifts and stocking stuffers for the kids, Designer Daddy is here to help make sure your holidays are exceptionally stellar…

Star Wars Holiday Giveaway!

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Stellar New ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Character Posters Revealed

November 4, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

I know, I know — another freakin’ Star Wars thing. I was beginning to tire of the never-ending hype machine, too. But with these new character posters for The Force Awakens released today, I got all giddy again. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a kick-ass poster series.

While the “official” Star Wars posters are some of the most iconic in cinematic history, they tend to get a bit busy. Even the new one — overflowing with detail and daring dissection/interpretation — is a mite a lot overcrowded.

Star Wars The Force Awakens Character Posters collage

Click to enlarge/download this nifty collage for use as a Facebook cover photo. You’re welcome!

That’s why I love these new posters so much. Star Wars is about the big picture, for sure. But at its heart are the individual people/creatures/droids we’ve come to know and love, root for and hate. It’s what sets the Star Wars universe apart from so many other sci-fi stories — character.

And while these may not be as hip as this series from The Matrix Reloaded, or as action-packed as this set from the final Harry Potter film, they are singularly striking and powerful. Weapons drawn, staring us down… simultaneously allowing us a glimpse into their souls (or lack thereof).

Okay, I’m rambling. Enjoy the posters.

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What If ‘The Peanuts Movie’ Starred Real, Live Actors?

October 30, 2015 | By Brent Almond | POP CULTURE

As a lifelong fan of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang, I’m more than a little excited about The Peanuts Movie. However, other than the holiday specials, the 65-year-old brainchildren of Charles Schulz have lost a lot of their cultural impact. My 5-year-old knows who Snoopy and Charlie Brown are, but just barely. I can’t wait to fully introduce him to these beloved characters in their big screen debut.

And yet, I can’t help but worry that some of the depth and nuance — the humanity — of the Peanuts gang will be lost in this glossy, animated translation. The comic strips always had a subtle, adult sensibility to their humor that I fear may get dumbed-down by Hollywood. I could be wrong, but just in case…

how AWESOME would it be if there was a version starring real, live, adult actors? I’m sure the kids doing the voice acting in the film will do a swell job, but having adult embodiments of the characters would definitely make them more interesting for this older-than-G-Rated-fan.

With that in mind, below is my fantasy cast. I doctored the actors’ headshots a bit to help sell the match-ups… in case that wasn’t clear. (Warning: not all links are family friendly or SFW.)

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THE REAL PEANUTS MOVIE

starring:

LOUIS C.K. as CHARLIE BROWN
.

The Peanuts Movie Starring Real Actors: Louis CK as Charlie Brown

Who better to portray the film’s loser of a leading man than comedian Louis C.K.? A master of self-deprecation — and similarly doughy and balding — C.K. is the perfect grown-up (and slightly more bitter) C.B.
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Toy Box Life Lessons

October 15, 2015 | By Brent Almond | MAKING MEMORIES, POP CULTURE, THINGS MY KID DIGS

toys4bw2

My son’s transition to kindergarten has been more difficult than I’d anticipated. He finished preschool a confident, friendly, and bright young boy. I figured he’d just stroll into kinder (as the cool kids call it), turn on the charm, and settle right in.

Yet the first couple of months have been a roller coaster of emotions, for both of us. There are certainly plenty of good days, but also more bad than I’d hoped. The days — both good and bad — are long, a strain on his young mind and body.

My first inclination at pickup is to ask about his day…and if I sense something is amiss, to dig deeper, set it right, and dole out a life lesson on the spot. But often these attempts are met with blank stares from the weary 5-year-old in my back seat.

So when — and how — do I do my digging, setting, and doling? How do I discover what’s going on inside his scruffy little head, so I can then fill it back up with all the good stuff I want to share with him?

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Branch Out with This DIY Groot Halloween Costume

October 13, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DESIGN STUFF, POP CULTURE

DIY Groot Halloween Costume

For most, 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy was their introduction to one of comicdom’s lesser-known super teams. Marvel’s gamble paid off, with millions becoming fast fans of Star Lord, Drax, Gamora, Rocket, and of course, Groot.

This majestic, trisyllabic creature is both powerful and compassionate, frightening and kind. And he steals every scene with a wooden smile and only three words: “I. Am. Groot.” Naturally, when my son requested begged to be Groot for Halloween, I said yes. Then I immediately panicked, having no idea how I was going to pull this off.

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The Force Is Strong with These Gay Dads in Campbell’s Soup Commercial

October 8, 2015 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE

Gay Dads Featured in Star Wars Campbell's Soup Commercial

In the last couple of years — leading up to SCOTUS legalizing same-sex marriage — the appearance of gay dads and lesbian moms in national TV commercials and online ad campaigns has become more and more common. I’ve featured many of them on this site. And while I’ve always been excited to see families like mine celebrated this way (or exploited, depending on your level of cynicism), I’ll admit they no longer have the same impact on me as they once did. Until last night.

Take a look at this new Campbell’s Soup commercial I spotted (during Modern Family, natch), which stars real-life gay dads having a “Vader-Off” in an attempt to get their son to eat.

Actors David Monohan and Larry Sullivan — a married couple in real life — star alongside their young apprentice, Cooper, as part of Campbell’s Real, Real Life campaign, and to promote their line of Star Wars soups. The family also appears briefly at the end of a second ad in the series.

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