reviews

Lego Batman: A Parents’ Guide

I didn’t want to leave my house to go the press screening of Lego Batman that I was invited to. Kitty had spent the previous three days sick, so I hadn’t slept. Nate was at Robotics, so he couldn’t join me, and Rick couldn’t join me because Nate couldn’t babysit.  I was tired, I was cranky, and I was going to have to go alone.  I was really hesitant to go, but I knew that a bunch of you would want to know what ages this is appropriate for, and I didn’t want to let you, dear reader, down (plus it was free).  I’m so glad I went.  I forgot about all of my problems for 90 minutes. Lego Batman is the movie America needs right now.

Most of the time, when I start these movie reviews I consult the good folks at Common Sense Media.  They get to see the movies even sooner than I do, and since they tend to be more conservative on what they consider potentially objectionable, I sometimes reconsider my suggestions based on what they say.  Common Sense Media and I pretty much agreed on this one. It’s very silly, but clever  It manages to be heartwarming with tons of positive messages, and  still be really, really funny.

If your kid is extra sensitive, it might be hard to see the characters constantly in peril – but other than that it’s family-friendly flick. A friend reported that their three year old lost the plot and got bored about half-way through, but getting bored is a pretty common thing for a three year old. There’s no real bad language, though there is mild name calling and teasing (someone gets called a loser). There are a lot of explosions, injuries, and explosions, but since it’s all Lego, it all gets put back together pretty easily.  I really enjoyed that the filmmakers highlighted Batman as a “master builder” who uses his skills and creativity to solve his problems. I also really liked that Batman showed a lot of personal growth over the course of the movie.  Finally, as the sister of adoptees, and as a family that has close friends we call aunts and uncles, I loved the message that families are made of the people who love you.

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Galaxy S7 Active Debut Party at AT&T’s Store of the Future

I hate going into my current mobile carrier’s store. The lines are long, and the counters are designed for quick purchases – not 30 minute change-of-service issues. Forget about even finding the accessories I need in store where the layout makes no sense. While I was traveling last week I had to stand in a 15 minute long line just to get help to find a portable battery. Throw kids in the mix and…ugh, forget it.

These are all reasons that AT&T’s Store of the Future in Bellevue, WA is a breath of fresh air. Even from the outside, the store is welcoming with a little porch and friendly orange awnings that make it a respite among the other storefronts in the very commercial Bellevue retail core.

Once you step inside, the first thing you notice is what’s missing, and that’s a good thing! There are no cash-wraps or registers, even the computers that are required for more complicated services like making a change to your plan, are tucked away in semi-private booths (with tables and seating!) towards the back. The store is large, with plenty of open space to move between tables.  They even offer beverages and popcorn!

Just popping in to grab an accessory?  The Store of the Future makes this super easy by presenting like items in “pavilions” based on their use. All of the external/Bluetooth speakers are together, and you can try them all.  All of the wearables are together, all of the in-car items are together.  Even the higher ticket items like home-security systems are presented together in a little home vignette that shows how your AT&T security, entertainment and home automation systems can all compliment each other. If you need more information about any of the items, there are screens stationed around the store to help you out without having to wait on someone. When you’re ready to check out, any of the friendly sales associates can help you out  right where you’re standing!

Guitar on a table surrounded by Bluetooth speakers.

The Music Pavilion at AT&T’s Store of the Future/

I was invited to the store this time around for a party to announce the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active, an AT&T exclusive, and a phone you need in your life. Local journalists and influencers got a sneak-peek of the phone a few days before its public launch. The party was attended by some high-ups at AT&T, and some of the Samsung product team, their pride in this phone was palpable. I left pretty convinced that this is going to be the perfect phone for me.

Three people chatting.

Greg Kurtz, Director of Product Marketing Management for AT&T Mobility tells Rick and I what he loves about the S7 Active. Battery life for the win!

I got a little bit of hands-on time with the phone, and I was really impressed. I was a pretty hardcore Samsung Galaxy fan, but they lost me with the S6 by taking away too many features that I loved. The good news is that Samsung listens to their customers and brought back the most missed features. So not only does the S7 bring back the expandable memory and high-level water resistance of the S5, the AT&T exclusive Active adds a majorly ruggedized body casing and a long-life 4,000 mAh battery (the S7 regular only sports at 3,000 mAh battery).  AT&T will be providing me with an S7 Active, so look for a more detailed review of what I expect to be my new favorite phone soon.

People being shown a phone

An AT&T Retail Consultant shows off the features of the new AT&T exclusive Galaxy S7 Active.

In the meantime, swing by an AT&T Store of the Future, your local AT&T retail location, or the AT&T website to grab an AT&T exclusive Samsung Galaxy S7 Active.

Captain America: Civil War – A Parents’ Guide. Can I bring my 6 year old to Captain America Civil War?

CivilWarHeader

I’m not going to lie, this may not be the most objective review of this movie you’re going to read. I totally fan-girled at this one. I love Marvel movies – I even love most of the movies starring Marvel characters made by other studios (there are some exceptions here of course, The Fantastic Four movies, the newest two Spider-Man Movies, X-Men: First Class).  I also loved the Civil War comics that the idea for this movie is based on.  So, yeah, I loved this movie.

But what about the kids? The movie is rated PG-13 for “Extended scenes of violence, action, and mayhem”, which is pretty typical stuff for a super-hero flick.  The big difference here – and what will undoubtedly be most disturbing to younger viewers – is that a lot of the “violence, action, and mayhem” occurs when the Avengers and friends are fighting each other. These fight scenes, especially as the movie reaches it climax, got increasingly more violent. I actually gasped at one point when I thought one Avenger was going to bash another Avenger’s head in. An arm gets ripped off, an assassin brutally kills a couple of civilians. Bombs go off, buildings collapse, people die. None of the wounds are especially gory or gross, but there is blood. It can be pretty rough.  That being said, if your kid has seen a bunch of other superhero flicks, this one probably isn’t going to phase them much.

The plot may be confusing to the youngest viewers. Once the civilians in the Marvel Cinematic Universe realize that all of these super cool battles come with a high number of civilian casualties, they push the government for oversight. The UN creates the Sokoiva Accords, which require Superheroes to register with and be governed by the UN.  (Side note: This was the most ridiculous scene in the movie to me. Secretary of State dude hands a 600 page document to Black Widow who looks at the title and hands it to War Machine. War Machine also glances at the title. Bam! Everyone’s mind has been made up – no one even cracks the cover of the Sokovia Accords). After being confronted by the mother of a civilian casualty, Iron Man chooses the pro-registration side. Captain America falls firmly on the side of personal autonomy  and THE LINES ARE DRAWN. Because this is technically a Captain America film, the fight centers around Bucky, the main villain from 2014’s Captain America: Winter Soldier who is also Cap’s BFF.  No spoilers here, but be aware that the plot could get confusing for younger viewers. There are a lot of side-changing and false accusations.

There’s a little bit of swearing (a goddamn, a son of a bitch and a shit).

While this movie is a little bit more intense, if your child is comfortable with the other Avengers films, this one should be fine. Just be ready to talk about why Captain America and Iron Man are fighting, and to go over some of the more confusing plot points.

So, “Can I bring my six year old to Captain America: Civil War?” I’d be fine with Kitty (currently age 9) seeing it, though I do think the plot is going to be tricky for her.