Saturday, June 6, 2009

Alexander the Tyrant

Alex is most definitely in the middle of his"terrible twos" phase. Overall he's a pretty charming and fun-loving little man, but usually at least once a day he morphs into a tantrum-throwing maniac. It's usually something small and insignificant that sets him off (Josh taking his toy, his parents taking his food away too soon or not being allowed to do something "by self"). When he gets into full tantrum mode he whines non-stop, stomps around and repeats the same sentence over and over and over again until we forcefully make him stop.

Tonight's lovely episode (sparked by the act of me taking away his last two asparagus because he was playing and not eating) featured a hilarious fit of rage. After standing at the sink for 5 minutes screaming about wanting his food back, Alex became even more enraged and stormed over to the wine rack in the kitchen. For a moment, I thought he was going to pull a wine bottle from the rack and have it crash to the floor. But no, Mr. Muscle tried to show us who's boss by grabbing a single wooden toothpick from the small toothpick holder on the wine rack. He then chucked it at the ground with a grunt and stared at us with an angry gaze. That's Alex for ya. Expressing his fury by throwing the lightest object in the house. I immediately cracked up and was laughing for a good solid minute (Lori found it amusing as well). After a while we talked him out of his tantrum and he want back to being a very nice young boy.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Review: Gran Torino

I didn't really grow up as a fan of Clint Eastwood. I haven't seen any of the Dirty Harry movies or any of his westerns (outside of Unforgiven). I do find myself becoming more of an Eastwood fan as he and I get older. Eastwood's last two movies in which he has had the staring role have been extremely enjoyable. I can't compare them to his earlier work personally, but I believe Eastwood is becoming a better actor with age.
In Gran Torino, Clint plays the grumpy old man role to a tee. All throughout the film he's scowling and growling, complaining about the multi-racial community he lives in and forever stuck in his stuborn habits. After Walt (Clint's Korean war veteran character in the movie) sees his wife pass at the beginning of the movie, he starts to totally shun himself from contact with his neighbors or family. After recluctantly befriending a young Asian girl in the adjacent house, he opens up to her Vietnamese family next door and over time becomes a mentor to Thao, a shy boy who finds himself bullied by a local Asian gang. In dealing with the gang throughout the movie, Eastwood gives Walt an unexpected bad-ass quality rarely seen in roles given to actors over the age of 75.

I won't give any key plot details away, but most of the movie showcases Walt's relationship with Thao and how he tries to teach to be more of a man. There are numerous curse words and racial slurs throughout and all are delievered with hysterical precision by Eastwood and his supporting cast.
There really is a heart to the overall story and I found myself emphasizing with Walt and his attempt to change his ways. This is a very good movie (one of the best of 2008) and probably deserved to be nominated for Best Picture over lesser films like The Reader and Frost/Nixon. I recommend this film most everyone especially those who have a taste for racial humor. 4.5 JR's for this near-perfect movie which I doubt Clint will be able to top after the back-to-back punch of Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Two New Mario Games On the Way

I've never seen Josh as excited as he was yesterday on the drive back from school when I told him that not one but TWO new Mario games were coming out for the Wii. New Super Mario Brothers was announced yesterday at E3 (a nerd expo where all the big video game companies showcase the latest technology). This new version of the old school Super Mario Brothers side scrolling adventures allows for 4 people to play at the same time on one shared screen. I instantly knew that Josh and I would love playing this together. He is a Mario-addict and loves playing Super Mario 3 with me. However in that old Nintendo classic, we have to take turns playing Mario and Luigi in a two player game. In this new Wii update (due out at Christmas time), we'll be able to play at the same time (along with two other players if Alex or Lori are up for it). I showed him the video below last evening and he almost peed his pants for the first time since diapers.

Equally as exciting on the Mario front is Super Mario Galaxy 2. SMG 1 was the first game we bought for Wii back in 2007. I ended up beating the game (with Josh helping out slightly by collecting stars) and then Josh scratched the disc so it won't play anymore. By the time the sequel drops in 2010, Josh will be at the prime age to tackle it himself without assistance from me. I thoroughly enjoyed the original SMG experience on Wii so I am very excited about the next version as well.

I know you detractors will say "kids shouldn't be playing video games so much, blah blah blah..." I grew up at the beginning of the age of video games and I really believe they helped spark creative skills and especially hand-eye coordination. I went through numerous game systems and logged hours and hours of play and I turned out fine so I don't buy the hype that video games (in moderation) are bad for you. As soon as I became a father for the first time, I envisioned the day where my son and I could bond playing video games. Now that it's a reality, I am enjoying it more and more. When Josh starts BEATING me consistently, I probably won't enjoy it as much.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bath Time Hair Art

When I give the boys a bath each night I usually end up giving them some crazy hairstyles during the shampoo process. I decided to take a few shots tonight but my creations were not as good as usual. It's also very tough to get the kids to sit still for a picture at bath time.

"The Volkswagon Jetta" (shown better from the side on Alex below)

The FauxHawk (deflated after several attempts to get Josh to sit still.

Not sure what to name this one. I believe there was a horn sticking out the back too.

Oh and for you Rebecca fans out there, here's a token shot of her doing what she does best.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Review: Up

At nearly 2 years, 4 months, Alex took in his first ever movie theatre experience today. As with Josh's first movie on the big screen (Wall-E when he was 3 and a half), Alex's first film was a Pixar effort. My friend Omar came by to see Rebecca today and tagged along to watch a matinee of Up at the Kingstowne theatre. I was glad that Omar came along as I fully expected to need to take Alex outside the theatre when he started acting up. But much to my delight, he possesses the same "popcorn gene" as his brother. All three of us shared a medium popcorn and it was enough to keep Alex seated and interested through most of the movie. Despite whining that he wanted to watch Wall-E after seeing the Pixar logo at the start of the film, Alex ended up having a good time and laughed during several scenes. Towards the end, once the popcorn ran out he was fidgeting and ended up snugging with me on my lap for the last few scenes. He gave an impromptu "I love you daddy" towards the end which made me smile and Omar laugh.

The movie itself was another solid effort by the best movie studio in Hollywood. Gorgeous visuals and a decent plot line helped offset a few uninteresting characters. The lead in Up is Carl, an octogenarian who recently lost the love of his life and had become increasingly grumpy and lonely in the same house he and his wife played in as kids. He decides to fulfil a dream of his late wife and take a trek to South America. Buoyed by a floating house attached to hundreds of helium balloons, Carl and his sidekick (a young curious boy scout) head to South America and end up on a wild adventure that didn't get showcased much in the trailers for the movie. The supporting cast features a pack of talking dogs, a world class explorer and a weird Jar Jar Binks looking bird. Once again Pixar manages to weave some heart into the film as you really do feel the loss that Carl feels now that he's lost his wife. Josh was able to follow the back story of Carl's wife's death well as he asked me about 15 minutes into the movie, "Dad, where did his wife go?"

Josh and I felt the same way about Up. We both enjoyed it but thought that Wall-E was definitely the better Pixar movie. I'd have to place Up at #6 in the Pixar arsenal behind Wall-E, Cars, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo and Toy Story 2, tied with director Pete Doctor's previous Pixar film (Monsters Inc.).
This movie just seemed to have too much going on once the action shifted to South America. So much of the high flying house scenes were just way too unrealistic (even for a kids movie). What made Wall-E so good is that even though the story was far fetched and set in the future, everything still made sense and seemed plausible. In watching up, you feel like the overall plot was set in stone from the beginning but that some of the intricacies of the story were made up on the fly and cobbled together to form the finished product.

A #6 film in Pixar's world is still worthy of 4 out of 5 JR's. 10 films in, Pixar has yet to produce a dud and I can only expect more of the same excellence when Toy Story 3 drops next Summer. When we left the theatre and I asked Alex how he liked the movie and he said "movie really funny!" So 5 out of 5 AR's for Alex.