Tag Archives: games

Dude Review: The Lego Movie

Go see this movie!

I don’t know how I can be any plainer, dudes. This movie, The Lego Movie, is just plain fantastic. In a paraphrase of one of the movie’s lines of dialogue (and an iteration of one of many themes) “everything (about this movie) is AWESOME!”The Lego Movie, starring Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnet and many others, is a fantastic movie, that is fun, funny, full of love and heart, and just plain AWESOME!

Seriously, this is a revelation akin to the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Remember that, dudes. I know I was poo-pooing the entire concept of a movie based on a Walt Disney World ride. It had to be terrible. And, yet, against all odds, the movie was one of the best of the year and still merits rewatching whenever I stumble across it. I just have to forget much of what came after and that’s relatively easy.

This movie has the same vibe. I mean, come on. It’s a movie based on a toy comprising building blocks that you click together. That’s it. That’s the basis.

Well, I should have had some insight that this would be a relatively entertaining movie, considering the various Lego versions of movie video games have been pretty amusing. But this. . . This movie is a quantum leap over the video games. It is, flat-out amazing. And hilarious. Don’t forget hilarious. And moving. Yes, really. It’s moving with a wonderful metamessage.

To start with, after all the gushing, let’s talk technical achievements. Since this takes place in the Lego world, where all the people look like Lord Business Plan, played in The Lego Movie by Will Farrell, is a vicious man er block who plans to destroy the world on Taco Tuesday. The fiend.the little Lego people with their curved hands and all, every single thing is on the screen (with an exception we’ll get to later) is a Lego piece.

Which means that when there’s an explosion (and there are plenty) it’s not a CGI of fire. No, it’s a rapid stop-motion explosion made of Lego flame places. That is, little Lego pieces that are (roughly) shaped like a flame. When Emmet, the generic construction worker and hero, takes a shower, it’s not water or badly CGI’ed water, it’s small blue Lego pieces that come out of the shower head.

Just the detail is an astounding achievement. No matter how small you look in the movie, it’s Legos all the way down. There were scenes where I literally could not close my mouth, forced to hang open in awe.

The story concerns the fascistic Lord Business Plan, who is going to destroy the Lego world on Taco Tuesday. A loose coalition of Master Builders (Lego pieces who don’t need to follow the directions to build something, but can whip whatever they need out of the parts around

Vitruvius, played by Morgan Freeman in The Lego Movie, is the venerable old dude who knows stuff and is there to mentor our hapless hero, Emmet. All, however, is not as it seems.
Vitruvius is most funny near the end of the movie.

them), who are, themselves, Lego versions of real people (Abraham Lincoln, who flies around on a giant stone seat) or fictional people (the best Batman in years, Superman, Wonder Woman, a horribly needy Green Lantern) gather together to stop Lord Business Plan’s um plan. They are led by Vitruvius, a blind, bearded prophet who is voiced by Morgan Freeman, who sounds like he’s having the most fun he’s had in years.

The focus of the resistance is Emmet, the so-called Special, who is destined to find the Piece of Resistance, which will stop the Cra-gl, a weapon so diabolical, it will freeze Lego worlds for ever. Emmet is the least “Special” Lego person ever, the very definition of generic. But he supposedly is the one who will win the day. (Spoilers: He does, but in a way you’ll never guess.)

Near the end of the movie, it changes format completely for a very meta reason. I’m not going to spoil this for you right here, but, trust me when I say, it’s amazing. It adds a tremendous depth and warmth to the movie. Yes, to a movie about Lego bricks. As hard as that is to believe.

This is a movie you really must go see, even if you dudes have to go see it on your own, without benefit of kids. It’s that good.

I’m giving this six (6) dudes out of five. Go see it now. Before it’s out of theaters. And then buy the DVD. You will want to rewatch it.

Share on Facebook

Time Management, Or The Hour That Got Away

Who knew Breaking Bad was so good?

Okay, sure, fine. Everyone, all right. Everyone knew that Breaking Bad, the award-winning story of a high-school chemistry teacher and his descent/ascent into the life of a big-time meth king was a tremendous show.

I’d heard about it, but never checked it out. Until I decided, one boring weekend afternoon, to give it a try. I was instantly hooked on the characters, the situations and, well, just about everything. Yes, I understand that, for a show revolving around addiction, that statement has a great deal of possibly unintended irony. It still stands.

So I started watching. And watching. And the next thing I knew I was finished with the seven-episode first season and was ready for more. The only problem was that the afternoon was gone and evening had taken a runner. Time, you see, had slipped away while I was watching this.

It’s something I began thinking about again when I was talking to both Zippy the College Boy and Hyper Lad. Both are studying hard at their respective schools, University of North Carolina Wilmington and a Falcon High. Both have time-management needs that must be fulfilled if they’re to do a good job in school.

The difference is that Zippy the College Boy is doing it on his own, while Hyper Lad has help. That is, his parents are likely to come around and thump the back of his head if he’s goofing off and not using his time wisely. Well, perhaps not wisely, but at least well.

Zippy the College Boy is out on his own and, knowing him as I do, is not using his time either wisely or well. He’s a smart kid, who learned well during high school, both his academic lessons as well as the things that his teachers had to say about how best to study. The problem is there are far too many distractions for college students, especially for those with ADD and/or a learning disability.

Time, for people with those disorders, is much different. They, even more than most people, can get involved in something and never notice the passing of time. Even if it’s studying, that’s probably not a good thing, because there is more to study than only one subject or one part of a subject.

Despite my words of encouragement on the subject, Zippy the College Boy still relies on his internal clock and a sense of when things are due for his time-management skills. I understand. I was the same way in college and for most of my life after.

However, I’ve come to understand that I’m a lot more like Zippy the College Boy, Sarcasmo and Hyper Lad than I had thought. I get caught up in things as well, and not just episodes of compelling television like Breaking Bad. I’ll start writing and never even notice four hours go past and I’ve still got work to do other than the writing.

Enter the futurephone. I’ve become somewhat reliant on the thing. I will look at my list of to-do items for the day and decide how much time needs to be devoted to each item. Then, when I’m starting that item, I’ll set the alarm on the futurephone to that number of hours or minutes and work until the alarm goes off. I also use the calendar app to schedule when things are due. I’ll set up a repeating schedule to make sure I’m continuing to work on things with plenty of time left before deadline so I’m not caught in a crunch.

I tried to work on those things with Zippy the College Boy and Sarcasmo, but the whole futurephone thing came along too late for those dudes. Not so with Hyper Lad.

He’s the one on whom I’m really experimenting with using the futurephone for more than games. So far, I think it’s working. We’ve still got work to do, especially considering that he got homework detention for not turning something in during the second week of school. Still, it’s good to have a path laid out ahead of him.

Now we only have to make sure he stays on the path.

Share on Facebook

Dude Review: Kidobi.com

It’s summer, dudes. So why the heck am I talking math and schooling?

Other than the fact that it’s known that I am a mean-spirited, horribly fun-crushing ogre of a dad (I’m writing this on Father’s Day. What can I say? The spirit is moving me.), I’m talking about it because, frankly, summer break is one of the most appalling times for brain rot and knowledge sink there is.

For kids, of course. For adults like us. . . That kind of thing never happens. Mostly because we don’t get almost three months off to do nothing. It’s the nothing part that’s important. Kids can lose a lot of hard-won knowledge and skills during the summer inactivity. And that means wasted time in the fall when school starts and teachers have to use precious instructional time to reteach stuff that students learned the year before, but forgot over the summer.

And the thing of this is, there is a way to get around it. I’ll talk more about that tomorrow, but I want to start talking about laying the groundwork for it today. You’ve got to get them early, so they’re used to using summer and their free time as a time to have fun while learning.

Which brings me around to Kidobi.com. I was approached by the folks behind Kidobi.com asking if I’d like to take a look at the site and the iPad and iPhone apps. Sure, I said. Why not?

Well, I’ve been poking around in the website, but I have no review of the iPhone or iPad apps, mostly because I never got them. And that’s probably because I didn’t actually sign up for them. Who knows? I thought the form I was supposed to sign up on was just to log the fact that I reviewed it. Maybe they forgot, maybe I forgot. Let’s not lay blame, here. Mistakes were made. Just move on. In that vein, let’s do just that. Regardless of the fact that I didn’t use the apps, I’m going to have to go with the idea that the iPad and iPhone apps are at least as good as the website and, if so, then that’s a pretty good thing.

The entire concept of Kidobi is based around the idea that one-size-fits-all doesn’t. While teaching, I found that individual students learned best when they had an individualized lesson plan that catered to their strengths and supported their weaknesses. Kidobi works like that.

Kidobi is an online video content provider for children ages 2 – 6 that removes parents’ guesswork by automatically generating customized video playlists, completely personalized to fit children’s learning needs and developmental stage.  Since all the videos are pre-screened by educators and child development experts, parents are reassured of the age-appropriate, educational value.

And that, dudes and dudettes, is a fantastic thing. Some little dudes learn best when they see things, while others learn best by listening to people talk. This service takes advantage of that fact by offering up things that, not only does your kid enjoy, they also are the ones from which the kids derive the most learning.

There are games and videos and, well, really, just about anything you’d want to help your little dude or little dudette start to learn the things they’ll need to know as they ramp up to kindergarten and first grade. The really good part about this is that the site adapts to your child. That is, if the little dudette really likes firetrucks, then the videos they start to watch will feature more firetrucks to capture her attention.

This is what the infinite space of the worldwide web was meant to do, I’m convinced. And these little dudes are just the perfect age to really dig in and begin to love learning.

The site and the app work on a freemium model. That is, there’s a free, basic level of service that will help your kid to move along and learn somethings. There’s also a premium level, which costs $4 a month. This upper level provides more detailed content, ad-free playlists and a few other things.

You won’t go wrong either way, but the premium level does allow for a bit more control on your part as well as some nicer enrichment content for your little dude or dudette.

Overall I found it a nice experience that I think you and your little ones will enjoy. Give the free service a trial over the summer when you’ve got more time. See how it goes and, if you like it like I think you will, you can move up to the premium level.

It’s a good thing, dudes. Give it a shot.

 

Share on Facebook