Blu Review: Moana

For the first few years of my daughter’s life I knew, basically, everything she saw or did. As the one staying home with her, it was up to me to switch through movies — like all three Toy Story flicks in succession every day for a week — and do my best to ignore it so I wouldn’t be driven insane by pure repetition. Now that she’s older, our son’s got his own favorite shows and my folks live in town, I’m way less tuned into what they see, which I’m totally okay with.

When Moana came out last year, both kids were pretty excited and wanted to see it straighaway, as did my wife who’s a big Disney fan. I wasn’t as interested, so they went one day while I stayed home and watched football. They came home singing the songs and I soon found myself singing them as well after the soundtrack became the most requested CD in my wife’s car. Knowing a musical’s songs before seeing the show itself is an interesting thing because you get something of an idea about how the story works, but not the full picture.

That’s what I felt while watching the review copy of the Blu-ray we luckily received the day before Mother Nature dumped feet of snow on us. As I’m sure you know, this one comes from the same people who made Frozen and Inside Out, which are favorites in our house, with music by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. The story revolves around a young girl named Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) who has a special relationship with the ocean and wants to explore it, even though her father says she should just be happy with what’s around her, a bristle-worthy idea for her and too.

In an effort to stop darkness from spreading to her island, Moana plans to sail out into the ocean, find the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) and make him return Te Fiti’s heart which he stole a while ago. Soon they team up and wind up facing everything from coconut pirates and cold-encrusted, David Bowie-esque crabs to giant lava monsters in an effort to make things right.

I was immediately taken with the look and feel of the film. The water looks amazing. I remember when CGI liquid looked like pixelated Jello, so it’s still impressive to see it appear so great on screen to the point where it’s even a character. I also really enjoyed the concerted effort the filmmakers made to make the film feel and look authentic to a Polynesian island culture. I’m far from an expert, but I did visit New Zealand as a kid where I saw some things that were definitely reflected in this film. It felt authentic and respectful and honest, all of which are pluses.

Story-wise, I wasn’t super into it at first because the general idea felt a lot like Brave as the young woman didn’t want to participate in her royal familiar obligation. This really clicked during the scene where Moana’s running around the jungle, sliding down vines and whatnot. It reminded me of when Merida races on her horse through the forest. I mentioned the similarity to my wife and she said the comparison wouldn’t last and she was right. Besides, the idea of wanting to live your own life and explore the world as you see fit are about as universal as it gets.

All in all, I really enjoyed the film. It makes great use of not only the culture it’s reflecting, but also epic journey conventions. Moana and Maui each face their own challenges along the way, wrestle with their goals and ultimately persevere. Plus, it sure looks pretty and The Rock’s great in everything!

I haven’t fully gone through the extra features yet, but I loved the “Inner Workings” short and the “Gone Fishing” one is fun too. I’m also curious about the “Warrior Face” deleted scene and the bit about the clothing because I have distinct memories of both of those from my brief stay at a Maori village as a kid.

How I Got My Kids To Love Weezer…And Why It May Have Been A Mistake

weezer-blue-albumI’m sure I’m not alone in wanting my kids to like at least a few of the things I’ve come to love over the years. They’ve shown passing interests in comics, cartoons and a few others, but right now our biggest shared love is the band Weezer. If you’re curious about how I got into them, I wrote all about it over on UnitedMonkee.

Anyone with kids can probably guess, though, that getting there wasn’t as simple as just putting on a copy of the Blue Album and rocking out. Instead, it was a multi-stop process, one I actually started about five years ago when our daughter was just a baby. How we went from barely interested to listening to “Buddy Holly” on repeat while driving my son over to my parents’ house — we get through it three time exactly on a good day — is a fun story, so let’s jump in. Continue reading

Book Report: A World Of Food by Carl Warner

carl-warner-a-world-of-food

Before my daughter started kindergarten, we began a much more structured nighttime routine that involves watching a little TV with me while my wife puts our son to bed and then a few books in her room. We call this Books and Bed because we’re super creative. My daughter’s always been interested in books, but this new process has really boosted her interest, so I’m on the look out for new stories to dive into.

While perusing the aisles of the kids section at my local library I saw Carl Warner’s A World Of Food standing on top of the shelves and it immediately grabbed my attention. I mean, just look at this thing! I’d never heard of Warner, but I was super-impressed with his ability to craft these amazing landscapes out of food!

carl-warner-a-world-of-food-orange

The story itself consists of a series of poems about what the world would be like if it were made out of foods of a certain color (orange is above). The rhymes are nice but they really accentuate the images by partially explaining what kinds of foods are in there. When I read this book to both kids, we definitely spent more time pointing out the items than reading. As you might imagine pink, brown and white (candy, chocolate and vanilla ice cream) were all very popular with them, but I was particularly impressed with silver which features a whole sea made out of fish.

I definitely recommend checking out Warner’s work — you can read more about him on his site — and I’ve already requested another one of his books from the library (and will keep an eye out for them at book stores/online). World Of Food would be an even better pick for kids who have an interest in cooking or food. I was impressed with how many items my kids were able to spot, but now they’re interested in couscous (which they’ve had, but didn’t recognize). As the cook in the family, I’m all for further food curiosity.

Cooking Anne Burrell’s Pasta Fagioloi

anne-burrells-pasta-fagioliHey, look, a food post! For those of you who might not know, I used to have yet another blog called Monkeying Around The Kitchen where I chronicled my journeys with food. After a while — and a lack of posts — I realized two things: one, I just didn’t have time to keep it up and two, I cook for my family, so those posts could easily be shifted over here to Pop Poppa. Hence, the MATK archives can now be found here on PP. Continue reading

Celebrate Father’s Day With Speyburn

speyburnWhen I get an email asking if I’d like to sample alcohol for review purposes, I respond with a hearty, “Yes please!” In other ways, I was ecstatic when I got an email asking if I wanted to check out a pair of Scottish whiskies from a company called Speyburn. I actually came home from a trip to Disney World — from the sun of Florida to the grayness of New York — to find the package waiting on my doorstep welcoming me back. It was a nice way to ease back in to regular life!

For a bit of Speyburn history, the company takes its name from the River Spey nearby. When the distillery was built back in 1897, the stones came directly from the river. To find out the closest distributor, head to the official site and pop in your zip code.

Above you can see both bottles with a shot poured of each, but for my first taste of each I actually poured about two fingers in a glass over my whisky stones. Now, I’m far from an expert on tasting spirits and explaining what makes each of them wildly unique, but I know what I like and I like both of these for a a few reasons.

Speyburn-10YO-LOW-res_2_0Let’s start with the Speyburn 10 Year Old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky. According to the information I was given, this $29 bottle is described as having a “fresh, clean and aromatic with a rich lemony fruitiness” smell to it. The flavor is also described as having notes of toffee and butterscotch. I’ll be honest, the specific sweet notes didn’t light up the toffee and butterscotch sections of my tongue, but this one definitely has a cleaner, easier taste to it. There is a sweetness to it as well, but I can’t quite place what the sweetness reminds me of (maybe like a sweet coffee, but only just barely).

SPEYBURN-ARRANTA-PACK--LOWresUp next I tasted the $40-a-bottle Speyburn Arranta Casks Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Only available in the U.S., this spirit is created by using “first fill ex-bourbon casks” and comes with a more complex flavor. I personally don’t pick up on the citrus or honey notes in the description, but it is one of the more robust, fiery scotchs I’ve ever had. I’ll admit, at first it was a bit much for me, but the more I’ve sipped, the more I’ve come to really enjoy this one.

So, if you’re looking for a Father’s Day gift — or gift for any Scotch drinker — you’ve got two solid choices here. I’d say the 10 Year Old works better as a smooth, clean sipping Scotch while the Arranta would be perfect for someone who’s a bit more adventurous and wants a wilder drinking experience.