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

The Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 101 Featuring Geof Grubb

pop poppa nap cast logoOn the 101st episode of The Pop Poppa Nap Cast, I’m joined by my longtime friend and internet superstar Geof Grubb. You can check out his Reddit (I don’t really know what that means) here and also the Instagram account he set up for the patches he draws on for his daughter Layla every day here. In the episode we talk about everything from being stay-at-home dads to the joys of spending some mindless decompression time with video games.

There aren’t much in the way of show notes this time around, so I’ll embarrass both of us by posting this picture of Geof and I from high school. This is us before prom our senior year. I cut out the ladies because I haven’t seen them in over a decade.

geof and me prom senior year

For more of me check out UnitedMonkee.com, Comic Book Resources, Geek.com and @PoppaDietsch on Twitter.

Photo Diary: March 2015 Part 3

Still very slowly working my way through these. Here’s the latest batch. More will go up…later.

I don’t usually do this, but here are a few links related to these posts. My action figure review went up on CBR and focused on three of the latest Greg Capullo Batman figures from DC Collectibles.

Here‘s my review of The Giant Mechanical Man which I really enjoyed. I also eventually finished that run on Amazing Spider-Man. It’s one of my favorites and I wrote about it on my pop culture blog.

You can read my Geek.com posts on my author page. That’s been a really fun gig!

The Pop Poppa Nap Cast Presents: TJ & Brett Love Christmas!

tj and brett love christmasA few weeks ago, my buddy Brett White and I started talking about our love of all things Christmas so we decided to record a podcast about it! You might notice I sound like I’m a little under water for the first 20 minutes or so. This is the first time I’ve recorded via Skype with the monitors on which was throwing me off like crazy. Also, I thought about cutting my daughter’s quick appearance, but it was just too cute.

And now for some show notes!

I highly recommend checking out Brett’s appearance on Hear Me Out. It’s even Christmas-themed!

The Santa’s Workshop LEGO set Brett mentioned can be seen here.

Dig my list of non-traditional Christmas movies over on Topless Robot.

For what it’s worth, right after recording, I saw that one channel shows The Santa Clause 1 and 3, while another shows 2.

Don’t believe me about Eggbert? The New York Times did a story on him a few years back.

I mentioned the MiniMate Christmas village from a few years ago which you can see above. Shot on my very first “smart” phone, I believe. As if you couldn’t already tell.

Here’s Muppet Family Christmas, which Brett mentioned and I haven’t watched yet, but I want to!

The Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 52

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The 52nd episode of The Pop Poppa Nap Cast covers diaper snaps, weird baby clothes and more.

Caillou, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Powerpuff Girls can all be found on Netflix Instant! marah float away

The Marah sampler I first discovered is called Float Away, the record I have is If You Didn’t Laugh, You’d Cry. I highly recommend both. Also do yourself a favor and check out the Ditty Bops.

Head on over to KAMSnaps.com if you’re interested in redoing your cloth diapers.

Don’t get me wrong, Carter’s makes great clothes, they just put some weird stuff on their shirts.

The post I mentioned about not being too strict or too passive was written by Janet Lansbury, called “Respectful Parenting Is Not Passive Parenting” and can be found here.

For more of me check out UnitedMonkee.com, MonkeyingAroundTheKitchen.com, Comic Book Resources and @PoppaDietsch on Twitter.

Lu Really Enjoyed Frozen

FROZN_014M_G_ENG-GB_70x100.indd I’ve got to be honest, when my wife first suggested taking Lucy to see Frozen in the theaters I was not thrilled. This kid wanders around the house while watching a movie she just spent the last 20 minutes screaming for while I was trying desperately to get an assignment written, how would she be out in public? I also am not super excited about the idea of going to see a kid’s movie that I’ll probably have to watch upwards of 40 thousand times after it comes out on DVD when I’d rather go see something with punching or monsters or whatnot. But, when Em threw the idea out on New Year’s Day, I didn’t really have an excuse, so off we went.

And I’ve got to say, she was awesome throughout the whole movie. She was a little unsure of those foldy chairs, but once we found a solid one and got her a booster, she was easily settled in. She also got a medium sized bag of popcorn — which I was excited to eat too — and was ready to rock. In fact, she was so quiet I almost forgot I was there with a 2 and a half year old for a few moments. Of course, after the movie, she could not stop telling us her version which mostly consisted of people losing gloves, people getting cold, snow, ice, a snowman and hair turning white. Between this movie and Tangled, actually, she has a big hang-up on hair changing color in movies. I wonder if she’d notice that happen in something like X-Men or if it’s only animated flicks.

The movie centers on sisters Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) who lose their parents at a young age after Elsa accidentally hurts Anna with her ice-making powers. To heal Anna, her parents take her to trolls who erase the memory of Elsa’s powers from Anna’s brain. After that, fearing what her powers can do, Elsa shuts herself away from Anna. Cut to a decade or so later and it’s time for Elsa to officially become queen. Anna meets a man named Hans (Santino Fontana) and falls in love. They announce their engagement to Elsa who starts losing it and winds up freezing the whole land before running off to the mountain.

Anna leaves Hans in charge before heading off into the mountains where she meets Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his pet reindeer Sven and an animated snowman named Olaf (Josh Gadd) who join her on her journey to save her sister. It gets crazy from there and I don’t want to ruin it, but there are plenty of twists and turns that kept me engrossed.

Needless to say, she dug the movie and in fact declared, “I love this movie” after it was over. My wife dug it and, I did too, for the most part. Early on I thought there were a few too many songs. I have a bit of a problem with musicals in general, especially the ones where the star sings in public and no one seems to notice or care. Take something like Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast, there are scenes in both movies where the lead sings in public and the townspeople join in. That’s fine by me. Yet in Frozen, there’s a similar scene, but no one in the town seems to care.

My wife actually noted something later on after we bought the soundtrack off of Amazon so our daughter could listen to it: these songs — and the film in general — are very Broadway. The songs feel more like numbers from The Great White Way as opposed to the usual Disney offerings, which is a nice change. Once I framed it that way in my mind, I was more okay with the front-loaded musical numbers.

All in all that’s a pretty minor quibble with a movie that I wound up enjoying quite a bit. Even though I didn’t dig them initially, I’ve grown to really love the songs. More so, I love the characters and how directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee played off of the typical Disney conventions in the film. I kept trying to figure out where the movie was going and was surprised at several turns, especially when it came to the resolution of the love triangle. Anna doesn’t need a man to save her. She’s as active in the story as anyone, limited only by her lack of experience out in the world. She never gives up and keeps working to save her sister even down to the very end. I don’t want to spoil the ending too much, but I loved how it flipped the script on what the trolls said needed to happen to save the day.

Much like Brave, I thought Frozen was not only a great film in and of itself, but also a wonderful example for my daughter that female characters can be strong and active, but also that they can work alongside male characters without conflict. These are important messages to send along to the next generation.

Jimmy Fallon, The Roots & The Gang Singing The Sesame Street Theme

Sorry for the lack of posts last week gang, but our whole family got walloped by a cold and it’s been all I can do just to work and keep us moving along. We’re all on the mend now and this video from Jimmy Fallon, The Roots and the Sesame Street gang definitely helped.

Even with the cold and a crazy-busy week this week, I’m still planning on posting the podcast tomorrow and hopefully catching up at least a little bit on Photo Diaries. Wish me luck, I’m gonna need it.

The Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 28

pop poppa nap cast logo Trips to the park, birthday parties, foiled parties, how angry babies are like drunk people and more get covered in the 28th episode of The Pop Poppa Nap Cast.

et blending in in the closetThe classic E.T. scene I mentioned in the episode.

The article I read from is called 10 Things To Remember When Your Child Gets Angry by Dr. Laura Markham as seen on Aha! Parenting.

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The Pop Poppa Seal Of Approval went to the Music Together program. If it sounds like the kind of program you and your kid would enjoy, give it a look. red tornado

Finally, the Pop Poppa Of The Week is one of the few superhero dads: Red Tornado. I wrote about him over on UnitedMonkee in the context of Brad Meltzer’s Justice League Of America.

For more of me check out UnitedMonkee.com, MonkeyingAroundTheKitchen.com, Comic Book Resources and @PoppaDietsch on Twitter.

TV Talk: Fraggle Rock – Meet The Fraggles

fraggle rock meet the fraggles

Over on my pop culture blog UnitedMonkee, I’ve talked a bit about my history with Jim Henson and The Muppets. I only realized after watching The Muppets film that most of my knowledge of that franchise actually came from Muppet Babies instead of the classic Muppet Show. I was just too young to really get into it and my world didn’t involve reruns of that show. And yet, it’s fairly impossible to be my age and not have at least a tangential relationship with the man’s work. I might have missed out on Dark Crystal and Labarynth as a kid, but like I said Muppet Babies was super influential, I was a big Sesame Street fan and also dug Fraggle Rock.

So, when the fine folks at Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment sent out a mass email asking if any recipients would be interested in reviewing Fraggle Rock: Meet The Fraggles or Fraggle Rock: 30th Anniversary Collection. Even though it had been ages since I saw the show, I jumped at the chance and was delighted to get a copy of Meet The Fraggles in the mail. I wanted to get this review up earlier, but my incredibly picky two-year-old refused to watching anything past the first episode for want of most established favorites like Sesame Street, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and the umpteenth viewing of Brave and Cinderella.

So, I took some time out today while she napped to finally sit down and really get into this six episode collection — “Beginnings,” “We Love You, Wembley,” “Boober’s Dream,” “Red’s Club,” “Mokey And The Minstrels” and “Gobo’s Discovery” — which spans the show’s first few seasons. “Beginnings” launched the series, but also spawned about a million memories in my brain starting with that iconic opening theme song. All of a sudden, I was sitting in front of the gigantic, ridiculously heavy TV set my parents had in the living room until it died years later watching Jim Henson’s latest world come to life.

The beauty of this show is how complex and full it feels. This world is so gigantic and multi-scaled that it’s a wonder in both story and scale. Of course you’ve got your Fraggles, but there’s also the human world right outside Fraggle Rock as well as the giant Gorgs, tiny Doozers and whatever the Trash Heep is. There’s so much going on that you’re always moving from one scale size to another which varies the dramatic impact of the episode and scene. But, there’s also all kinds of technically wizardry going on behind the scenes. There’s a huge musical number in the first episode and I found myself just sitting back in awe at the Busby Berkeley-like production. So many Fraggles were up and doing their thing, plus a whole legion of Doozers. This DVD doesn’t have any extra features, but I would absolutely love to see a documentary or featurette about how this show was put together.

I also appreciated how the show’s writers tackled issues. Kids deal with a lot of wild feeling as they grow up, not all of which are covered as well on Disney or Nickelodeon these does. In the episode “Red’s Club” Red wants to start a club to help people, but the other Fraggles vote Gobo as the club’s president. This leads her on an ill-advised jaunt as she first starts her own club and then teams up with a Doozer who she keeps endangering just so she can help her. So, the episode doesn’t just deal with jealousy, but jealousy that comes from a very positive place and the ways it can get morphed.

I really enjoyed this six episode jaunt down memory lane and will continue to try and get my daughter to watch it. I think there’s not only a lot of entertainment to be seen in there, but also a lot of artistic greatness that will somehow ooze its way into her brain.

The Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 13

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This week’s episode of The Pop Poppa Nap Cast talks about Sesame Place, Brave and includes a special appearance by my occasional co-host, Lucy Dietsch.

Here’s the official Sesame Place website.

twiddlebugs at work

During the episode, I mistakenly referred to the Twiddlebugs as Doodle Bugs, sorry about that. The book I mentioned is pictured above and was called Twiddlebugs At Work.

To check out my food posts about Disney World over on Monkeying Around The Kitchen, click here, that should give you the whole rundown.

fergus brave

Merida’s dad in Brave is formerly known as King Fergus, check him out above. If you want to buy the movie, do so via this link: Brave (Three-Disc Collector’s Edition: Blu-ray / DVD). I first wrote about the film here.

Mattel The Sing-A-Ma-Jigs – Pink is one of the two Sing-A-Ma-Jigs we have.

The Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 10 – FIXED!

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I’m really sorry about the janky version of this episode that went out. I was in a rush pre-vacation and didn’t check to make sure it was the way it should be. Here it is as originally intended!

In this episode we prepare for Disney World while also talking about a super fun party with friends, the waning days of Wizard and how that experience has helped me refrain my bad days now. Oh, and fun with baby talk!

I was actually right that a pidgin is a combination of two languages! I know this because I looked it up on Wikipedia!

If you’re curious to see what other offerings Golden Books have right now, check out the official Random House website.

If you’re interested in The Spirit Is Willing check it out on Netflix Instant, that’s what I did. If you want to read more about it, check out my review over on UnitedMonkee.

The Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 8

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As the weather goes from great to grey, I talk about everything from nice weather memories and Mariah Carey to Mickey Mouse coloring books and how the movie Spring Break holds up as a good lesson on how to be a worthwhile person.

If you missed it, here are a pair of Photo Diary posts about us going to the park from Friday and Tuesday.

Here’s my wildly uninformed Sesame Street post from last year.

If you’re interested in checking out Sesame Street: Old School – Volume One (1969-1974) pick it up from Amazon.

And here’s a few images if you’re curious to see what Big Bird and Oscar looked like originally.

When I said that they hung out in a junkyard on The Cosby Show, I meant Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids – The Original Animated Series, Vol. 1 (with Bonus CD). I’m fairly certain Rudy and Theo never found themselves digging through trash.

The inimitable Mariah Carey singing “Always Be My Baby.”

If you’re curious to read my review of Summer School , head on over to UnitedMonkee. If you want to buy the film, follow that first link to Amazon.

Story Time At The Cornwall Library

A few months back, my wife told me about a series of storytimes at the nearby Cornwall Library. Since we’re not residents we had to wait a few days to sign up, but lucked out and got one of the last spots in the Tuesday morning 9:30 AM class which included kids from 18 to 36 months. When I went to sign up the lady tried to get me to do the 18 month and under, but I stuck to my guns for two reasons: 1) a woman and her daughter from our birth class was going to take that class and 2) I thought it would be better for her to be around older kids instead of being the oldest baby.

My wife’s been taking Lu to a weekend music class to give them some mommy and me time and also get her out there with other kids, something she doesn’t always get staying home with me all day. She’s told me how social Lu is at those classes, running around with the others, playing with kids, sharing and even cleaning up, so I thought that would be the case with this story group.

That wasn’t really the case, though for some reason. We’d get to every class and sit around in a circle with books set out beforehand. The kids would walk around, look at the books or stick with their parents. Lu almost always stuck with me. Then there were a few songs that were a bit over her head, but did involve clapping which she’s awesome at. Eventually we’d get to the story and then a few more songs, a game of sorts and then it ended.

I was kind of surprised at how shy and standoffish she was during the class. She gets like that even with her grandparents when they first get her for visits, but usually warms up pretty quickly. She didn’t really get there with this class, though. She’s also gotten really good at a lot of different sign language signs, but wouldn’t do a single one while we were out. I wonder if she’s shy or just wary of people. Either one she probably gets from me. I wonder if that’s in the genes or something she’s picked up on from being around me so much.

A new group of classes starts back up in January. I’m definitely going to sign us back up for that. Hopefully in another couple months she’ll be more social and communicative. I’m still proud of her for being curious about other people, approaching some of them and getting wicked good and putting on and taking off her “Lucy” name tag.