Thursday, December 5, 2013

10 Best Movies I Saw With a Third Grader in 2013

Looking back at my year at the movies, I’m totally impressed. 

Mostly with myself, of course, for getting out of the house and into the glow of an IMAX screen every couple of weeks. What with a new baby and new job and maybe some other grownup stuff I’m supposed to be doing. 

Of course, the only movies I get to these days are those I see with my 8-year-old Zev, which is fine, because there’s nothing he loves more than big screens and M&Ms. 

And lucky for us, we’re in a kind of golden age of nerdy PG-13 fare, with superheroes and robots and semi-solid sci-fi ideas around every corner. 

It's been a big year, and it was hard to narrow this to 10. And for this list, I’m counting films we saw together, in the theater, and not just at home during Saturday Adventure Movie Nights. 

So here we go:



1. Pacific Rim: Easily my favorite movie this year. Inventive, huge, crazy, funny and just all-around thrilling. And I only say that when I really mean it. The giant robot-vs.-giant monster fight scene in Hong Kong beats all other robot-vs.monster fight scenes, and I’d watch Idris Elba sit on a park bench and read Twilight.

Zev loved Pacific Rim so much he edited together his own version of the trailer on iMovie, mashing up the best monsters with Elba’s big speech. Gonna send it to Guillermo del Toro, right? 

Also, too bad we’re the only people who saw this.



2. Gravity: Everything good that everybody else says about this...ditto. Zev even wrote his current events report at school about the special effects, and I love how they truly affected him, somebody who’s seen it all in the movies: 

“I can’t believe they didn’t film that in outer space.” 

(Caveat, Mayrav took him to this one, but I got to it the next day so we could discuss.)



3. [This spot reserved for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. We got tickets already, and having spent 15 hours in Middle-earth already, I have a pretty good idea where this will rank.] 



4. Jurassic Park 3D: The kid hadn’t seen it yet, and I haven’t since the original release, so we took advantage of the one-week IMAX release. Totally holds up, and now qualifies as the scariest movie my son has seen. (And that includes Poltergeist, which we watched during Scary Movie Saturdays in October.) 

I’ve always loved how slowly this thing unrolls, building the Big Ideas and tension before unleashing too many monster thrills. Few movies are confident enough to do that anymore.  



5. Thor: The Dark World: This was everything Man of Steel was not: Exciting, fast-paced, clever. Instead of an hour of thudding building smashing, we get a gravitational anomaly wielded by an unstable intern causing hilarious chaos during the climactic battle. I shouldn’t be surprised anymore at the Marvel movies being pitch-perfect.



6. Frozen: It’s no Wreck-It Ralph, but I’m super into the new breed of Disney princess flicks. (Maybe because I have a daughter now? She came, too, but slept.) The preschooler even enjoyed this one, first movie he’s sat all the way through start to finish. We’ll make a moviegoer out of Oz one of these days…



7. Iron Man 3: This came out the day my daughter was born, and Zev and I still figured out a way to go see it. (A week late, sure, but some things are just too important.) Loved this, especially the spell where Tony Stark needed a kid’s inventiveness to get back up to speed. Only ranking it on the bottom half of the list since it’s, like, the millionth time we’ve seen some of this stuff.  



8. Epic: Yes, it’s derivative and predictable and a ripoff of Avatar (and everything it ripped off), but this was also fun and charming and shows how you can still make a PG action movie for kids. And the talking snails here were way funnier than all the other talking snails this year. So many talking snails. 



9. Jack the Giant Slayer: Another one nobody else saw. Solid and strange, with just the right amount of wrong that a fairy tale needs. Also, the kind of gruesomely hilarious violence I love in, like, Peter Jackson movies. Proud of Zev for recognizing, at the false conclusion: Oh, there’s still one more battle left. The giants have a bean, and a way down from the sky...



10. Star Trek Into Darkness: Tons to dig, but mostly that this was my opportunity to introduce Zev to Star Trek. Watched some key TNG episodes, talked about what I love most about this version of The Future, saw the first JJ Abrams movie. We have plenty of time to get into TOS and the rest of it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There’s no right way to do it (as there is with Star Wars).

And now this list could go on and on, but it’s just as important to leave stuff off (Man of Steel, Monsters U.). You know, as a lesson.

What did you see this year and what did you love?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

12 Awesome Things I'm Gonna Make With Graphene, the Strongest Stuff on Earth. You Know, After I Get My Hands on Some


See? The future isn't all that bad. 

At least they're working on making this graphene stuff, this strongest substance on Earth, and they made some kind of advances this week that means it'll be way easy to manufacture. Well, maybe not way easy, but possible. 

What it is is a single-molucule thick layer of carbon, bonded together in hexagons and such, and it's nearly unbreakable and flexible and I probably close to invisible. Stronger than anything. Oh, and it's flexible and can conduct electricity and save the world.

Totally gonna get some of that and make some awesome stuff.

Like what? Easy, like this:

1. Invisible bulletproof hoodie! That's right, and invisible hoodie that nobody can see! And stops bullets! Maybe I'll just weave that stuff into a regular hoodie. Point is, bulletproof.

2. Invisible bulletproof balaclava!


3. Invisible bulletproof Chuck Taylors!

4. Bendable iPhone! So it's all comfy in my pocket. And probably bulletproof, why not. 


5. A big-ass Dyson sphereTotally using a giant ball of this stuff to encase the sun and trap it's energy to feed an ecosystem and platform for civilization billions of times larger than Earth's, securing the future of humankind and my place in history. Probably will be too thick to be invisible, but for real: bulletproof.

6.-12. You get the idea.

Anyway. Stuff is super cool and I want some. What are you gonna do with it?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Star Trek Bootcamp: How to Introduce Your Kids to the 24th Century



The only two things in this world I take seriously: (1) movies and (2) my kids. With this Star Trek Into Darkness thing coming out, I'm planning to take Zev, but needed to get him up to speed on the Federation and the whole history of the 24th century.

Introducing Star Wars, on the other hand, was easy. I've had that one worked out for decades (feel free to disagree, but know that you're wrong):
  1. Watch Episode IV first.
  2. Watch it again.
  3. Then Empire and Jedi.
  4. Take a long break.
  5. Introduce the prequels.
  6. Pretend The Clones Wars never happened.
  7. Rewatch only Empire and Jedi.

Easy.

Star Trek is trickier. There's the original series, 7 seasons each of Next Generation and Deep Space Nine and Voyager, and however much Enterprise, the original movie series, and on and on. There's no clear or easy way in.

Advice I got from two nerd-dad friends: Watch some episodes with Shatner, then maybe some TNG and perhaps Wrath of Khan. A greatest hits approach.


I ignored them and went this way, given that we're dealing with a 21st century kid with things to do and places to be:
  1. We talked about why I love Star Trek, the vision for a spacefaring peaceful Earth where exploration, goodwill and curiosity drive galactic progress.  
  2. Watched the first JJ Abrams' reboot. It's a good entry and set-up, to both the new stuff and the old.
  3. Watched some of the best episodes of Next Generation, starting with "Q Who" and a few of the other Borg episodes. Going to move on to some Data-centric ones. The pacing of the shows is dated and slow, to be honest, but the sci-fi and characters are solid. I could watch it all day and all night.
  4. Whatever's next. 

How did you do it? 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Minecraft Is a Virus and It's in My House



Like any amazing father, I'm super involved in my kids' gaming life. I play along. I join the Lego adventures and play the coop companion. I encourage and support, I look up cheats and hints. That's good parenting, right? Yes it is.

Usually, we're playing something we got into together (my all-time favorite coop: Portal 2), but Zev has started bringing this own tastes into our gaming. Skylanders Giants was all the rage with the second graders for a while, but that's worn off (plus, we beat it in like 2 weeks, and only fully upgraded one giant).

So now he's brought Minecraft into the house, and it's taken over everything. The thing is a virus. A truly awesome and social and brain-bending virus, but still.

We both have worlds going on the Xbox. It's on the iPhone, all the time. He's watching YouTube clips of advanced gameplay and elaborate (and very well done) music videos recasting pop songs into the Minecraft universe (loving "Some Items That I Used to Own"). He makes up his own songs now, too, and shares everything he learns about the world, constantly, with all the other boys in the second grade.

And that's the best part of the whole game for me: All the good stuff to know about Minecraft, you hear from friends. (Well, in my case, the wiki or the book.) And what could be more social than that?


This is how I even know anything about Minecraft, from all the second-grade gossip. It's not like the game tells you that you need to build a portal to hell, and collect some eyes, and find a hidden fortress, and defeat a dragon. The casual player would have no idea. At all. Not a clue. But the kids all know this, and they obsess about it and talk all about it, so now I do, too.

My wife calls it the game where I break rocks and kill cows, and that's true. There is a lot of breaking of rocks and killing of cows. But there's also fighting zombies with pig faces, and building flying castles, and…breaking rocks.   

But I finally made a diamond sword, and I'm collecting obsidian (it's hard!) for my Nether portal. Zev's keen on making an iron golem and building an underground city and only occasionally loses track of his house and gets so upset he can't play for a few days.

We have goals, agendas and we know how to get there. Hard work and patience. Again, good parenting, right?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Your Only Official Glenn Gaslin News Source


Here's the lastest on my work and projects. You know, just in case you're curious:

 

Digital Content & Editorial


I work as a digital content strategist, pop culture journalist and Big Idea guy with more than 15 years of editorial and marketing experience. Most recently as Director of Special Projects at NBCUniversal.

I'm on the LinkedIn.

Art & Monsters


My drawings and short stories can be found here:

Monsters With Issues.


Books & Writing


I'm a novelist and pop culture journalist, and my writing has appeared in The Los Angeles TimesEntertainment WeeklySlate.

My novel Beemer™ was called "a blisteringly funny satire" by The Washington Post.

At the moment, I'm writing a book about mythical creatures and impossible machines. I have a YA sci-fi adventure in the hands of agents, so we'll see how that goes

Here are my books.

Twitter


I'm on the Twitter @glenngaslin

Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Day With Newt Gingrich. Or Rather, His Skull



Way back in 1995, when Newt Gingrich was at the peak of his power and making a whole lot of noise in Congress, I was a (very green) newspaper reporter in Virginia. I wrote a (very silly) weekly column with my colleague Ken Baker, and it only made sense that we go to Washington D.C. to mess with Gingrich.

I’m pretty sure we couldn’t get away with this today, but here’s what happened in 1995, as it ran in The Daily Press: