Monthly Archives: April 2012

Chick Flicks for Geek Gals

Standard

Pop quiz time: Name the two things the following movies have in common: “Terms of Endearment,  “Steel Magnolias” “Sex and the City: The Movie” and “Beaches.”

Red goes best with butt-kicking.

Answer:

  1. They are all on the “Top 10” or “Top 20” lists from several movie sites of the best Chick Flicks of all time, and
  2. I couldn’t sit through any of these if you had me tied up Droog-style in a straight jacket.

You know the drill, geek moms, we try and try to fit in and get with the program. We give these saccharine romances and strong-yet-sensitive “himbos” a go, but halfway through the weepy, sappy, whiney, everyone’s dying and hugging, and way, way, waaaaay-too-beautiful women to be having man trouble movies we think “Gerard Butler looked so much better lopping heads off Persians in red skivvies…. lose the polo and Dockers, dude and yell ‘SPARTAAAA!’”

There is a truth we geek moms must face: we have our own definition of “chick flick” and it isn’t heavy on the “chick.” We know what we want — and it all comes from comic books. Yes we are women, and we have our emotional, romantic, motherly cinematic needs, but make no mistake, we get them met through different means, often with body armor, super heroes, alien invasions, capes, death rays and a bat signal.

Therefore, through completely scientific and hormonal means, here are all the elements “experienced” movie critics say make a great “chick flick” easily found in Comic Book/Sci-Fi properties.

• Romance:

Iron Man (I and II) — As a long-time reader of Iron Man comics, I can tell you girls read it differently than guys and we know without a doubt Pepper is in charge. How many issues have we read that gave a hint of a kiss or “what if” scenario when we want to say “just break down and do it already.” The chemistry of these two characters in the movie was exactly what most readers have been waiting for. Whatever their fate, the deep, complicated relationship of Tony and Pepper has been brought out in the open, and we will be forever rooting for them.

Thor — Natalie Portman’s giggly, shy reaction to the first time Chris Hemsworth kisses her hand valiantly was so girly girl it was nearly nauseating, but any woman who says she would have reacted differently is lyyyying. If that’s too sugary for you gals, we will take it tribal in two words:  Shirtless Thor.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine — We say we want a man who will love us, take care us, laugh at our jokes, walk our puppies and do all those “man you man can smell like” garbage, but in reality, we want a man so devoted to us, he would go berserker at the thought of our betrayal; take out a helicopter with his bare claws after jumping off a motorcycle in tight jeans and a motorcycle jacket.  If that’s not love, what is?

• Melodrama:

The Incredibles —From the newsreel interviews in the beginning to the fantastic monologuing throughout, this is over-the-top fun (and likely the best James Bond ever). The inside jokes are great including the nameless minion’s drinking game watching the citizens flee to Edna’s “No Cape!” reasoning. And don’t forget:  “Hoooney? Where’s My Super Suit??”

X-Men (all four films) — Could a telenovia be more melodramatic than these things? The bad-boy/nice guy love triangle with the sultry-yet-intelligent redhead. The family drama of tolerance and acceptance of the “gifted” teens (minus those horrid Glee-style musical numbers), the over-the-top machismo of the young males choosing good vs. evil and the fight against bloated bureaucracy. Then, there’s Magneto (two-actors worth of one fantastically complicated and sinister, yet somehow sympathetic) character. All set in one huge, home where they can live together Carrington-style. I would tune into this saga every week, if I had to, popcorn in tow.

The Dark Knight — Besides this being the best Batman movie ever made in my humble bat-crazy opinion, Heath Ledger couldn’t have been more wonderfully over-the-top if he tried. Geeks like me often rate how good (or oftentimes how terrible) a film is by its quotable lines. Dark Knight’s are endless fun from the near-clichéd “Why so Serious??” (of particular fun if you have a dog who is actually named “Sirius”) to personal favorites I find myself repeating like “It’s not about the money, it’s about making a statement.”

The Crow — Another quotable one with a gothic edge where nobody in this dark and dreamy ride knew the meaning of the word “understated.” The clever villainous lines uttered between cocaine snorts, the meticulously sexy and evil “sidekick” villain; the comic relief villain; the kindly token Black guy beat cop, the “literally” tortured hero and the spunky-punky kid. Even the bird in this film could take emoting to a new level, and it was so much fun to watch.

• Tearjerking:

 Zombieland — Admittedly, I’m straying from the “comic book” genre in the category, but when the funny-all-the-way through film threw me a curve ball and we found out Texas’s “dog” was really his son…. I just fell apart, I couldn’t…okay, pull yourself together…I’m okay…no I’m not…oh never mind.

I Am Legend — Based loosely on the sci-fi novel written in 1954, here’s another post-apocalyptic film that slapped me upside the head, particularly as both a mother and a dog-lover. First, I had to watch as Smith’s darling daughter and his wife are blown to bits, and then he kills his poor doggy, Samantha (and a girl dog no less) while sweetly singing Bob Marley. Only seen this once, because I can’t even make it through the credits without getting misty.
District 9 — As bad-ass as this documentary-style film was (and it was bad-ass), even guys would have to be lacking a soul to not get touched by the Prawn’s love for his child as well as poor Wikus’s unconditional love for his wife. In particular, Wikus’s continued devotion to his “angel” after what seemed the last of his humanity was biologically replaced by an alien was a geek three-hanky moment. Is there anything more touching than a hideous prawn lovingly making a little tin flower for his soul mate in the midst of a South African landfill?

• Female point of view and/or strong female leads

 Kick-Ass — Who says the strong female has to be an adult? Hitgirl is the only fully functional superhero in this entire movie. Even though the mother in me didn’t like to hear a 10-year-old utter some of Hitgirl’s choice verbiage (it’s worse in the comics, though, I assure you), if I was able to reload my guns in mid air all while dodging inept thugs, I would. If all girls had her skills, the need for movies like “Bully” wouldn’t exist, but we would need some better trained school nurses.

Watchmen — Yes, everyone’s favorite character is Rorschach, but this movie is really about the Silver Spectre (mother, Sally Jupiter, and daughter, Laurie), how they overcome threats to women like sexism, date rape, generational differences and other very, very real issues in a very make-believe world.  In particular, we get to see how two very different women from different generations take charge of some very undesirable relationship issues. And here’s an “after-hours” bonus: watch and learn how a woman can take charge in the bedroom (or owl mobile) in one of the steamiest love scenes I’ve ever scene in a superhero movie. Keep your significant other on hand after this one; he’ll come in handy later.

Avengers — I’m going to give this one a pre-emptive review, since I haven’t seen it yet, but if that awesome clip of Black Widow untying herself from the bondage of a chair by flipping it on top of the generic thug kung fu style is any indication, sign me up for the next kickboxing class. That rocked; and we all want to rock.

Batman Returns — Michelle Pfeiffer’s portrayal of the transformation of Selina Kyle from the put-upon mousy secretary to the man-eating, take-no-prisoners tragic hero is nothing if not empowering. Want to control men? You would think a skin-tight catsuit is enough, but you also need to learn to do back flips out of a vandalized department store and time your mega-explosions to go off right after a strategically placed “Meow.” Oh, how I wish I could do this after a bad Wal-Mart run.

Next girls’ movie night, when the suggestions for films comes to you, you can argue your choice with such confidence, your friends’ little color-coded wine glass charms will be shaking on their stemware. Don’t be shy geek gals; Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne have got your back, and any other choice body part you can think of.

Next month: Keep you shirt on, Jacob. A Geek Mom’s guide to Werewolves before…and better than “Twilight.”

 

Advertisements

Five Reasons Why ALL Moms Should Embrace Free Comic Book Day

Standard

Get thee to a Comic Book Shop.
Photo by Rick Tate.

On Saturday, May 5, while bar hoppers from Miami to Minnesota will offer a Margarita Slurpee toast to Cinco de Mayo, (a holiday of which I would wager many don’t even have a clue about), geeks, fanfolk and freeloaders will revel in their own celebration: Free Comic Book Day!!

All of us in the world of Comic Book fandom know the drill: “Free Comic Book Day is held the first Saturday in May each year in which comic book dealers nationwide give free (select titles of) comic books away to anyone who wants them (while supplies last) to help promote the appreciation and awareness of the comic medium……blah, blah, blah…” okay, fine, give me my Avengers and Mouse Guard.

However, this is more than just the opportunity let your kids — and yourself — mooch a few colorful freebies. This is an excellent opportunity for geek and non-geek parents and their children to grow closer as a family.

As such, I give you, on this fifth day of the fifth month, five reasons why ALL moms should enthusiastically participate in Free Comic Book Day:

Comics are a stairway to reading “actual books.” You don’t have to tell me comics are a viable form of literature (I have a garage filled with long-boxes to back me up here). However, who doesn’t want to see their kids pick up and take on a classic tome. Give them a good Carl Barks “Uncle Scrooge Adventure” that mentions Jason and the Argonauts, and they might pick up a book on mythology. Or, look at the characterizations of Busiek’s “Astro City” and Brubaker’s knack for action in his “Daredevil” series and this might lead to picking up Tolkien, Verne or Lewis Carroll in the future. Get them into Iron Man and they might want to learn more about modern weaponry design and the annihilation of their enemies. Okay, maybe the latter wasn’t such a good example, but you get my point.

Unleash the artist/writer within. Many Free Comic Book Day events are celebrated with other activities such as character appearances, local (or even national) comic book writers and artists, costume contests and other events for shops to draw people into their fine establishment. This will really help let flow kids’ own creative juices. Whether or not your child shows a “natural tendency” as an artist or writer, there is something therapeutic and calming about taking a pencil to a clear sketchbook and seeing an image form or letting words spill out into a journal (or computer screen as the case may be for some). Not everyone may have a knack for realism or plot development, but everyone can draw or write. “Talent” may vary, but creativity is universal. Don’t waste it.

Great excuse to get out of the house. Fight the popular assumption that comic book readers are lonely little pizza-stained couch potatoes. Get your kids off said couch and away from the game console or television (stay with me gamers; we all need to get up every now and then) and take a family outing. A stopover at the comic book shop could lead to an entire afternoon’s adventure. Grab your books, pick up a hamburger or ice cream (or pack a picnic) and take your reading to a local park. It’s May and springtime, after all. If you happen to live in a city like Chicago, New York or San Francisco, take a comic book tour of the city and compare sights and places where action takes place. It’s great to learn more about your own town. I live in the Southwest on the edge of West Texas and New Mexico, not too horribly far from where a couple of little comic properties like “Thor” and “The Avengers” were recently filmed. Do I hear road trip?

Remind your offspring you were once (and in many ways still are) a kid yourself. I defy any adult not accustomed to entering a comic book shop to not get some twinge of nostalgia for a well loved (or even much hated) piece of pop culture from his or her own childhood. I love getting into cool conversations with my daughter about the evolution of Batman through the years or why Brian Michael Bendis is the best thing to ever happen to the depiction of the character Nick Fury. Start talking about, bragging about or even making fun of really bad comics from the past (cough “Dazzler” cough) and next thing you know the generation gap is gone, at least for a short while. I recently had a fun discussion with my nine-year-old on whether JLA or Avengers have the best archer; we miraculously agreed Hawkeye rocks and Green Arrow is a little too touchy-feely for our taste. Trust me on this one; imagination knows no age limits.

The conversation starters are limitless. If you feel it is hard to get your kids to open up to you on any issue, you can find pretty much whatever is plaguing your ‘tween or teen or peaking the curiosity of a younger child in comics today, from “playing nice with others” to discovering your life purpose. Pick a topic and it’s there somewhere: family values, war and peace, racism, love vs. lust, loyalty, trust, really cool technological advancements, stereotypes…need I go on. Also, from the point of view of a mom with girls, it is great to see less and less of the female characters are merely eye candy. These gals can finally hold their own, and drop kick anyone who says otherwise.

This Free Comic Book Day, venture into that comic book shop even if you’ve never set foot near a bag and backboard before and open your kids up to new venues of imagination. Who knows, you might even have (shhh, don’t tell anyone) fun!

How to Make A “Game of Thrones” Dragons Egg with a Paper Bag

Standard

Easter is coming!cdd26739cd5586232ef04e4970d0c38a

Time to make a special egg for that special someone, and what is cooler than a  “Game of Thrones” dragon’s egg made with stuff you already have laying around the house.

This is a pretty easy craft kids can help with, since dragon eggs are always cool, whether they belong to Eragon or Jane, or used as ceremonial gifts in an arranged marriage to a giant hedonistic barbarian warlord.

First, gather your junk, um, I mean “materials.”

Brown paper lunch bag

Egg (plastic or real egg hollowed out)

School glue

Old naked black crayon

Scissors

Now time to “dragonize” the egg.

Step One: Cut the paper bag into several half-inch strips. Make plenty in case you screw the next step up a couple of times. It happens.

Step Two: Either fold the strips “paper fan” style or roll it while creasing it to make several layers ready to be cut into dragon scales.

Step Three: Cut each folded strip into teardrop, triangle, oval or similar shape to create several scales at once. Make sure you cut all the way around the paper so the scales fall apart separately.

Step Four: Now for the tedious (or therapeutic, if you are like me) task of gluing the scales on the egg. Start at the bottom of the egg (the less pointy end, of course) and start gluing individual pieces around the egg. Make sure to overlap each scale below it to give it that scaly texture. Hint, cut about four or five “mini scales” about half the size of the others to paste on the top point. This will make it look more authentic. Let glue dry.

 

Step Five: Once the glue is dry, take the side of the crayon and rub up and own the egg to give it an antiqued look. Once you have the look and texture you like, mix a little of the glue with some water and smear it over the surface to give it a little sheen as well as protect the scales.

Behold, the dragon’s egg. Make sure you present it on a rustic tray accompanied by these words: “I am the blood of the dragon.”

Or just hand it to the person and say, “Hey, here’s a dragon’s egg I made you.”

Either way they will love it.

A Geek Mom’s Guide the The Orchestra

Standard

“I was raised on film. My musical experience is all via film, it’s not from classical music.”

Image

A highlight from Video Games Live.

Danny Elfman

When I was in fifth grade my class — along with about 8,000 of my closest school buds — were trucked into the splendor of Downtown El Paso, Texas’s Abraham Chavez Theatre for the local symphony’s annual Young People’s Concerts.

They pulled out all the stops to get us younglings to appreciate the parts of the symphony, including having Beethoven emerge from a “Time Machine” that looked suspiciously like a cleverly bejeweled Westing House refrigerator box to conduct his Ninth Symphony and tell us about his life. He would have the audience answer questions en masse with the recurring inside joke “Please zay eet louder, I am becoming hard uf hearing.”  (FYI, if you are parent and don’t get that joke, you need to brush up some simple music history).

To make an already long story short: they did an excellent job by revealing in a fun and visual way one of Beethoven’s most beautiful pieces that is now a favorite of mine….and I was BORED, BORED, SO FREAKIN’ BOOORED!

You see kid, a demographic of which fifth-graders belong, are just wired for the here and now; and Beethoven was sooo 1825. I remembered this fact when my I thought I would get my then 3-year-old daughter to appreciate the classics by taking her to a concert that compared Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to John Williams’s Darth Vader March. She politely sat through the former piece but make no mistake it was all about “Star Wars.” When the orchestra started in on that “Dum, Dum, Dum, dum dum, Dum, dum dum DUM,” (you know it’s in your head now), she was hooked.  Our symphony found the key to opening young minds to the orchestra: Sith Lords!

And they weren’t the only ones. Since then, I have heard and seen plenty of musically-inclined folk from my geeked-up generation who have come to realize movies, television and even video game soundtracks are the opera’s and requiems of today, and there are now more chances to see them.

Fortunately, the presence of iTunes and YouTube make it incredibly easy to both hear and see some of these awesome feats of today’s “classics.”

            First, give kids a sampling of some of the sections of the orchestra, primarily the strings. Violinist and performance artist Lindsey Stirling is best known by non-geeks as a finalist on a show I’m happy to have never seen, “America’s Got Talent.” However, this punky violinist isn’t afraid to show her geek side. Two of her recent hit singles were the “Lord of the Rings Medley” and “Legend of Zelda Medley.”  By popular “fan demand” she even took on “A River Flows in You” for Twilight fans.

            Another great piece featuring strings is The Piano Guys’ “Cello Wars Lightsaber Duel” Star Wars Parody. This one might appeal to boys a little more, but is super cute and actually sounds pretty awesome.

Infuse some percussion in there; more specifically the piano (yes, it is a percussion instrument with string tendencies), and here I refer back to the Piano Guys again, and performer Jarrod Radnich who knocks out some powerful piano solos of themes from “Harry Potter” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Now add the woodwinds and brass in some full concert feats, starting with one I am still bouncing up and down about getting to see live: “Star Wars in Concert.” Since this show toured globally for well over two years, I am confident many of my fellow geek moms did the right thing and took the family to this multimedia concert with live orchestra blaring highlights from all six films, a traveling prop and costume exhibit, laser show and film clips on a massive LED screen all hosted by C-3PO himself Anthony Daniels. I got to cross one off my bucket list after seeing this show.

Two other touring orchestra concerts right up there are “Video Games Live” and “Lord or the Rings: Fellowship of The Ring” in Concert.

“Video Games Live” has been selling out venues worldwide since 2005 and is still making its way around the United States and beyond. This too is an immersive production with full orchestra, choir, and big screen visuals, as well as audience participation. This covers everything from the “old school” classics like Space Invaders and Tetris to today’s big sellers like Halo, Portal, BioShock, Medal of Honor, Zelda, Warcraft and tons more. 

Right now the show is planning concerts well into 2013, so there may be an opportunity to catch this one live in the near future, from the looks of it cosplay and lobby gaming welcome.

“Lord of the Rings” in concert brings Howard Shore’s power score to the stage, with the expected visuals, orchestra and chorale similar to the “Star Wars” and “Video Game” live events. The show is still touring, but it is heading overseas to Europe and Australia this year.  Hopefully soon, with “The Hobbit” brewing, it will make its way back stateside soon.

Quick note for all you Trekkies the “Star Trek” Theme (both original series and Next Generation) continues to be a perennial favorite among symphony orchestras everywhere. The San Francisco Philharmonic even got George Takai to narrate their July 4 performance a couple of years ago; a performance documented on YouTube. 

Image

Well played, indeed.

Finally, once kids get into experiencing the symphony in action, sneak up on them with some original music. My choice, composer extraordinaire Danny Elfman’s “Serenada Schizophrana.”  Today’s kids may not be familiar with the campy Adam West “Batman” theme (expect mine), but Elfman’s foreboding-yet-nostalgic overture for the Dark Knight is instantly recognizable. It’s no wonder the former Oingo Boingo frontman and mind behind some of the most well known themes in television and movies (‘The Simpsons,” “Tales From The Crypt,” “Nightmare Before Christmas”) would put together an awesome symphony. Elfman once said he never had a burning desire to write a symphony, but this symphonic performance premiered at Carnegie Hall with John Mauceri conducting.  It has Elfman’s signature rhythms with a quirky eerie edge, but features six movements highlight strings, brass, “Bells and Whistles,” as he calls it, and a Spanish language choral movement.

This CD has served as both a lullaby disc for by two-year-old and peaceful deadline-helper for me. Essential Elfman.

Next thing they know, they’ve learned to appreciate the symphony.  By the time their uptight music teacher decides to expose them to the “finer things,” they can both impress and confound her with their music knowledge and proudly hold their own in class. Well, not literally as that’s an awkward afternoon in detention.

Reading bonus for younger kids and really fun grown-ups: Lemony Snicket’s ‘The Composer is Dead.” Yes, the original classical composers, as Monty Python said in song, are decomposing, and that’s what makes them cool. Dead musicians!!!!  The man behind the too-cool “Series of Unfortunate Events” presents a children’s picture book, illustrated by Carson Ellis.  Written like a murder mystery, it sneakily introduces the parts of the orchestra, all suspect in the composer’s supposed whacking in an easy-to understand and joyfully freaky way. It includes a companion CD of classics performed by the San Francisco Symphony, conducted by Nathaniel Stookey.

Got any other geeky classical suggestions? Send them to me at lisathegeekmom@hotmail.com. Next month, I’ll give you my idea of what really makes a for a geek mom’s Chick Film…and it ain’t “Sex and The City.”