Kids grow up way too fast. Our oldest daughter has finally reached the stage where we are comfortable letting her watch some of the PG-13 superhero movies that have become so popular. She is almost 11. Until now, the only PG-13 films she's seen are the Harry Potter movies. All the kids at school have seen the superhero movies, of course, and she just started asking if she can watch them too.
She's not the type of kid to get scared by something she sees in a movie and never really has been. For the most part, many recent superhero movies don't focus too much on sex or degrading images of women. So, even though we always thought we'd be "no PG-13 until you're 13" kind of parents, we've now bent that rule again -- which is a parent's prerogative, especially when trying to walk that fine line between being overprotective dictator style parents and allowing kids to grow up too fast. Additionally, there really is a wide spectrum when it comes to objectionable content in PG-13 movies, and talking with Marvel President Kevin Feige about Iron Man 3 , we learned that Marvel tries to stay on the more kid-friendly side when it comes to making these movies and not push those PG-13 boundries. We're not talking about 4-year-olds here of course, but older kids who are ready for more high action flicks.
We're most excited for her to see The Avengers, which is our favorite of the superhero movies so far, so my husband started out by introducing her to the characters. So far she's watched Captain America and Iron Man (we fast-forwarded one scene in that one). She loved them. It's kind of fun to be able to get into a few fun action movies with her. I'm excited to see the new Super Man movie to determine if that one is okay for her to watch as well, and for any other parents wondering the same thing, our parent review will be posted soon. The only drawback is, now she is going to be begging to join us on date night.
(Photo © Marvel)
School is out, or will be soon, for most of us. If your kiddos are itching for something fun to do, the animated action/adventure movie Epic is now playing in theaters, and the nature theme of the movie can inspire some fun and educational summer activities for kids and families.
When I went to the local press day for the movie, they held it at a butterfly museum. We felt immersed in the whimsical natural world as we learned about the making of Epic and snacked on flower-shaped cookies, mud cake and cake pops that looked like dirt clods. You can turn the movie into a summer adventure for your kids by planning a few activities related to the movie and making some fun nature-inspired snacks like dirt dessert or fruit cut into flower shapes throughout the week. Here is a list of Epic Movie Related Crafts and Activities to get you started.
(Photo © Fox)
Today while searching for something else on Amazon, I came across a book I had never seen before: The Witches: A Set of Plays (Compare Prices), which is a book of plays based on Roald Dahl books. Additionally, the book offers ideas for props and things for kids to put on the plays.
We read several of Roald Dahl books and watched the Roald Dahl based movies as a family. Our favorite movies were Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the book was our fav. too) and Fantastic Mr. Fox. I ordered the book of plays and can't wait to give it to the kids.
Movies based on books are my favorite genre of film, though it's not really a genre. We have so much fun reading the books as a family and then watching the movie. It will be even more fun to watch the kids act out the play as well.
(Photo © WHV)
Ever heard of the National Geographic Bee? This is the first year I've heard of it. My oldest daughter's teacher got her class really excited about it, and what does that mean for me? My daughter has her heart set on competing next year. The 2013 bee was televised on National Geographic, and you can learn more about it on the National Geographic website.
Right. Now more about what this means for me. I will be spending the summer helping my girl learn geography. No problem, right? Then I took a look at some of the actual questions from the bee. Wow. It's not just geography. It's also history, and a lot of it. As well as some social studies thrown in there for good measure. No wonder the winners get a total of $50,000 in scholarships.
To help my daughter learn the information she needs to know, we'll be having quite a few summer travel adventures. We'll be "visiting" each of the 50 states first (one each day!), and learning all about each of them. To seal the information in, I plan on doing some fun things like making a famous dish from the state, having them write a poem about a famous landmark, or learning a song or story that's special to the state. We'll also be doing the same thing with different countries.
For fun, and just to help cement the knowledge a little further, I'm putting together a list of movies that will help her. First on my list is Disney's Up -- not so much for the movie, but for the bonus feature game that quizzes you on the location of all 50 states as well as countries around the world.
The next best media on my list is the Families of the World series. Each of these DVDs teaches kids about what life is like for families in a different country. Even if they don't get facts for the Geo Bee from these movies (though there are certainly plenty of facts in there), they will develop a more personal knowledge of the countries and a connection with the people.
Just for fun, I'll also use animated movies set in real world locales for movies nights so we can remind the kids where that country is located and some of the defining characteristics about it. For example, the movie Rio is not only an entertaining and amazingly animated film, but it also introduces kids to several famous Brazilian landmarks and a few customs like Carnival.
I think we'll have fun learning about geography and other countries, and hey, we aren't going to be doing much real travel this summer, so why not go on a mini-vacation each day for an hour or so and learn about a place we may like to visit someday? And if you have any favorite movies that teach about geography, the states and other related subjects, please leave your ideas in the "comments" section below.
(Photo © Disney)
After watching a movie in our friends' home theater over the weekend, I truly think that if I had that setup, there would be no reason to go to the movie theater. I can buy a 3D Blu-ray for much, much cheaper than the cost of taking our family to the movies, and my theater snacks would be healthier, more fun, and way less expensive. Plus, my theater would be filled with good friends and family. We don't need anything bigger than a 110" screen. Really.
It's not that I think the day is coming when most families will have luxurious home theaters of their own, making movie theaters obsolete. Having a separate room dedicated just to movie watching and the expense of buying the equipment simply isn't realistic for many families. However, as technology becomes cheaper and time goes by, a lot of people will have some type of home theater, or at least friends who have one. The dwindling numbers at movie theaters over the years could mean that movie theaters will become fewer in number, or they will have to adapt.
Which makes me wonder, what will movie theaters be like in the future? Will they try to go 4D or add some other component to the theater experience that can't be replicated at home? The 4D component was attempted recently with the movie Spy Kids 4. Fail. Even kids didn't love the scratch n' sniff card, mostly because the smells were indistinguishable from each other and having to watch for the cues in the movie was distracting. Or, maybe movie theaters will become more like those simulation rides at fairs and amusement parks, with seats shaking and the floor moving up and down. A lot of people don't like that kind of gimmicky stuff, though, so maybe they would just all become more like IMAX theaters with a bigger, more immersive experience.
We have a decent home theater system, though not a dedicated media room, and we do go out to movies less since we got a nicer TV. I have a feeling that if we do get a media room, my kids would use it just as much as a stage to perform their "shows" they love to put on as they would to watch movies or play video games. Yep, if my husband ever gets his wish for a decked out media room, my requirement will be that it has a proper stage, and we'll probably spend a lot of time watching the performances of three little girls who love to sing, dance and act. And were it not for my job, we would also spend a lot less time at movie theaters.
Carolyn Danckaert, co-founder of A Mighty Girl, a girl empowerment website that features the world's largest collection of books, toys, movies, and clothing for smart, confident, and courageous girls, launched a petition on Change.org just three days ago, and over 15,000 (and climbing) have signed on so far. The petition has to do with Disney's latest Princess addition, Merida from Brave. Apparently, Merida's foray into the princess collection line has involved a few changes to her look and style for some products. You can view Merida's new look on Change.org. Here is what Carolyn has to say:
"Merida inspired countless young girls by showing them that they too could go off on adventures and save the day; that it's not about how you looked that matters but what kind of person you are. With Merida, girls finally had a princess role model that looked like a real girl, complete with the 'imperfections' that made her such a unique and appealing character. By redesigning her to fit the mold of the Disney Princess line and making her skinnier, sexier and more mature in her appearance, Disney is sending the message that for girls and women to have value -- to be recognized as true princesses -- they must conform to this narrow definition of beauty. With our petition, we're calling on Disney to return to the original Merida that we all know and love and to keep Merida Brave!"
So, after reading the petition I hopped on over to the Disney Store online to see if I could find instances of the new Merida. The website was slow for me today for some reason, but after painstakingly searching around for a few minutes under the categories of "Merida" and "Princesses," I wasn't able to find anything resembling the "new" Merida. A couple of dolls and a t-shirt had a Merida that looked slightly more mature and alluring than the traditional images, but not like in the picture on Change.org.
I did find a few clothing items with all the princesses except Merida, and let me just say, I don't know how they will possibly fit one more princess on those close to begin with! They'll have to be so small you won't be able to see Merida's clothing anyway. I don't know exactly how often this new Merida will be featured in the Disney Princess Collection line. Already there are many versions of Merida and other princesses in the doll, toy and clothing lines. I hope there will not be too many that feature the off-the-shoulder dress and super skinnified waist version of Merida.
I have three little girls who love Merida. We have some Merida merchandise. I bought the bow and arrow, which was a huge success and I loved watching the girls get so excited about Archery. We had a Merida birthday party for my youngest, so I also got her a fancy nightgown and a Merida doll. I wouldn't buy a product with the Merida as designed in the photo on Change.org. And as long as there are traditional Merida products available, I probably wouldn't have been moved to start a petition or anything about the new look for some products.
But, I'm glad there are watchdogs for this sort of thing. Sometimes corporations need a reminder that a lot of us moms care about how our daughter's view themselves in relationship to these role models they are putting forth through their movies and immense marketing machines and the messages the characters are sending through their actions and their attire. So if you feel like this is an important issue to you and your family, head on over and sign the petition. The biggest benefit I see in this petition is that it encourages Disney to think twice about how they design characters in all the iterations, and reminds them that we love Merida because of the strong and empowered character she is.
(Photo © Disney)
From above the world of Cars, comes an all new adventure called Planes. Sure to excite kids (I mean, have you heard the rockin' music in the trailers?), Disney/Pixar's upcoming planes movie takes the beloved anthropomorphic autos and adds another thing kids love, airplanes, in a new adventure filled with new characters and diverse personalities.
I say new characters, and that's true, but some of them seem to have a little bit in common with the characters in the first Cars movie. For example, there's a young plane with big dreams of racing, and an old timer who's been hiding from his past ever since his glory days were prematurely cut short. Read about more of the Planes characters and see what you think. I was most surprised by the intense supernatural meaning behind the name of the air racer from Mexico. It will be interesting to see if his name has any bearing on his character in the movie.
And while we're waiting for the movie to come out (August 9, 2013), it might be fun to re-watch the Cars movies, or introduce your kids to the characters if they haven't seen them yet. I think the new Planes movie will feel very similar to Cars, but it will be interesting to see if Disney/Pixar can pull off a whole new adventure that is as unique and fresh as the original.
More on Cars and Cars 2:
- Cars - Photo Gallery
- Cars 2 - Movie Review for Parents
- Cars 2 - Movie Trailer and Info
- Cars 2 - Photos, character info and quotes from the voice actors
(Photo © Disney)
"I'm sorta like a pollinator...just like the pollinators are sort of seduced into pollinating flowers based on color, taste or smell. I think, in a way, that's what nature does to all of us. We're part of that pattern where, through color, taste, and beauty, we end up falling in love with things. And because we fall in love with them, we protect them. Just like you protect your children."
~ Louie Schwartzberg (Director/Cinematographer)
Disneynature did not release and Earth Day film in theaters this year (boo!), but they did release a direct to Blu-ray/DVD film called Wings of Life. Directed by Louie Schwartzberg, the family-friendly documentary presents stunning footage of hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, bats and more. The movie is narrated by Meryl Streep and told from the point of view of a flower.
Wings of Life is a great Earth Day film, and kids will learn a ton about the reproductive cycle of flowers and the intricate balance between pollinators, flowering plants and us. Read our review of Disneynature: Wings of Life to learn more about the film, including fun facts I learned from an interview with Louie. Also, as usual, Disney has gone above and beyond in creating amazing educational material for kids--click on the box below to download the colorful science pack. And, if you want to help your kids get some hands on experience, Louie suggests starting out with growing a tomato plant. Tomatoes are easy to grow, and kids will be able to see how a plant blossoms and the flowers then become food we eat.
(Photo © Disney)
The French animated film A Monster in Paris is available today on Blu-ray (3D & 2D) and DVD. Set in Paris in 1910, the story follows a shy projectionist named Emile and his comical inventor friend Raoul as they accidentally create a monster and embark on a wild adventure around the city.
What's to love about this movie? The simple yet exquisite animation paints a wonderful and flavorful picture of 1910 Paris. And, the characters are so charming it's impossible not to fall in love with them.
With the French theme and sultry soundtrack, the movie is also perfect for a movie party. Make some Eiffel Tower shaped cookies, grab some French themed plates and napkins, and challenge kids to watch for Paris landmarks or French words and phrases as they watch. You can also break out the globe and help kids find Paris so they know exactly where the movie is set. Click on the box below for a few French recipes courtesy of Shout! Factory, and make the whole evening a French experience:
(Photo courtesy Shout! Factory)
The Hub Network features several TV shows based on HASBRO toy lines that have become highly popular among kids, and some even among adults. And if your kids are fans of two of the new Hasbro Studios shows, Littlest Pet Shop and Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters, there's good news. Netflix and Hasbro have announced that the shows will be available to Netflix members in the U.S. along with already available shows My Little Pony Friendship is Magic, Transformers Prime, and Transformers Rescue Bots. New seasons of each of the shows will be available for members to watch instantly one month after their finale airs on The Hub Network.
My husband has been a member of Netflix since it started up years ago. He was one of the first -- dutifully renting movies and sending them back for a decade. We still use Netflix, but in very different ways. The kids can choose shows to watch or movies on movie night if there's one we don't have. Netflix also comes in especially handy for me if there is an older movie or cartoon I want to review or watch for a holiday or some other occasion. My kids have Netflix available on their Windows 8 devices, which comes in handy at times if we are away from home or something. Netflix has kept up with the times remarkably well, considering the old rent and return by mail model is quite outdated now. With more kids shows available and exclusive content for kids and families to come, parents may find the service even more useful.
On demand TV shows and movies provide great benefits for families. It's nice to control what we watch and when, instead of just flipping through channels to see what's on. For me, having the kids shows I like my kids to watch on demand makes it much easier to steer them away from shows I find less desirable. When and if they have extra time to watch TV, they can just pull up Netflix and watch their (and my) favorite show without having to search through kids' channels just to see what's on. Of course, Netflix also makes it easy to watch a gazillion episodes in one sitting, so we just have to make sure they know it's a two episode deal.
With all the new ways to watch, it can be confusing for parents to figure out which services are the best. There is content for kids available online, on demand, though various services and multiple devices. What services does your family use to watch TV & Movies?
(Photo courtesy Netflix)