Traveling With Kids – San Diego – Catching Fire

Hunger Games Before Bed

catching fireCatching Fire’s a pretty good movie, but is it a good movie for a 7 and 11 year old? Will it be too scary, or too mature? Is there more than can be learned from that movie, or will the boys just want to shoot other children with arrows?

But hey, they’d seen The Hunger Games and didn’t get any nightmares, so I thought, why not? It’s a little deeper movie than they’re used to, I mean, there aren’t any big-eyed Japanese animations or stretchy dogs, but it could also be a little disturbing. It’s a pretty dark movie and people die. Good people.

IMG_3794So we decided to stay in, order pizza (I swear they could have pizza every day) and watch the movie.

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world gave me that look that says, I hope you know what we’re doing. I’m not sure if that look was for the garlic cheese bread I’d ordered with the pizza or the movie, but either way, if the boys were up in the middle of the night, it wouldn’t be good.

katnissSo we watched it all the way through. There are so many things that worked in this movie and, being a wanna-be story-teller, I want to point out all the great things the writers do. How they chose which character to kill and how they made sure that you’d care that they died. How they made a douchie character multidimensional by showing us someone he loves, or by having the villain care about something too, something other than just power, how they use lighting for mood, and how brilliant Jennifer Lawrence is as an actor.

But that’s a little much for them right now. Instead, I gleefully answer questions when they come up… like why did they kill the old man? They are shocked and horrified when this happens.

“He gave a symbol of defiance,” I tell them.

“What’s defiance?”

cathing fire saluteThe Prettiest-girl-in-the-world is wicked fast with an explanation. “He’s refusing to obey.”

“That three-fingered salute is like giving the people in- charge the finger,” I add in my typically clueless fashion. Did they even know what giving the finger is? And if they didn’t, how am I going to explain THAT to them?

Apparently they do. Apparently mommy gives that gesture to some drivers. So they ask, “But why, why was the old man defiant?”

Me – “Because he and all the others are forced to live terrible lives and they see Katniss as a symbol of defiance. And to salute her, they give her a 3 fingered salute, the salute of her district.”

“Why do they have such horrible lives?” the oldest asks.

“They don’t have any food. The are cold. They don’t have any hope that their lives will get better. At least until Katniss appears.”

More questions follow and I love that they are asking them. I want to show them movies that make them think. I want to take them to places in the world that gives them new experiences. I want to get them away from a world of youtube clips and mods in minecraft and into the real world of history and people and architecture and art and food and moral dilemmas.

Lofty goals, for sure. I mean, right now, it’s a huge success if they agree to try a Mexican fish stick, but I’ll keep at it.

presidentIn the end, the movie succeeds. They hate the president, and it’s interesting that they hate the person and not the system created.

I get a chance to talk to them more about that. I think the movie does a great job of personifying the government, the capital, in one person. And that, of course, makes it easier for good to triumph.

I do not tell them that good rarely defeats a system. At least in 2 hours. Good can defeat a villain, though, I tell them. It’s a good thing for them to believe, even if it’s something that isn’t always true.

But hope in the movie is powerful. Sacrifice is powerful. Love is powerful. Standing up for what you believe in is powerful.

And I think they understood that.

My only fear is that we’ll get the three fingers next time we tell them they have to eat their broccoli.



It’s On Fire

It’s On Fire

catching fireHunger Games: Catching Fire. It’s hard to do sequels. Some are brilliant. Godfather 2. Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back. Porky’s 2.

Most, however, are a disaster. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Dumb. Conan the Destroyer. Jaws the Revenge, (which if I remember correctly actually had the SHARK trying to get revenge.)

So I’m always a little cautious. Like walking on ice cautious.

But Catching Fire is simply fantastic. Better than the first. Better than the book. Better than a big-ass bag of buttery popcorn. It’s worth seeing in the big theater. It’s worth seeing on IMAX. It’s worth seeing with a friend.

The formula for success is simple. Good actors (who create great characters.) Great writing (that builds tension, adds depth and emotion to the story, that makes us care, that makes us feel.) And impressive details, from the tiny things like the whiter than white-white smile and purple eyebrows of the announcer, Caesar Flickerman, (aka, Stanley Tucci), to the immense and impressive Capital City.

Being the uber nerd, I love it when the visuals are amazing, when they’re so good you don’t poke your companion in the ribs and sneer “did blind 2 year olds do this?” The fog is perfect. The lighting is perfect. The ashen-grey of district 12 is perfect, with its coal-dusted miners tramping back home. And Katniss’ wedding dress, nothing short of amazing. (And this from a guy who normally would make farting noises when asked about wedding dresses.)

woodyIt has great moments that I won’t spoil, made even more epic by the superior acting of Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss), the ever surprising Cheers’ Woody Harrelson (Heymitch) and the evil Canadian, Donald Sutherland (who even has a very personal reason for wanting to see all the cuties dead.)

jennaBut the supporting cast and characters are strong as well, from the smirking is-he-an-ally-or-enemy? Finnick (Sam Claflin), to the spunky axe-wielding, I-love-to-be-naked-in-an-elevator, Johanna Mason (Jena Malone).

There’s so much to love. Heroes die. Innocents are abused. Villains triumph. All seems hopeless. Until the end.

Which, spoiler alert, is not really the end, but is satisfying enough, I guess, though I have to confess to sitting through the credits hoping for a bit more.

And isn’t that the best recommendation for a movie? You don’t want it to end.