Screentime: The Lego Movie – Building Something That Lasts

(YouTube//Warner Bros Pictures)

A Foregone Conclusion

For my final Screentime column, I wanted to talk about a movie that meant something to me personally. I considered picking something from my own childhood, maybe the first movie I saw in a cinema (Aladdin), or some obscurity that we just happened to own on VHS (1997’s MouseTrap, for example). But this column isn’t about looking back, about my own nostalgia. It’s about what kids movies mean to me now. How I interpret them today, as a 30-year old in 2018. As a father. So instead, I want to talk about The Lego Movie.

The Lego Movie was always going to have a special place in my heart: It was created with me in mind. I’ve always been a huge Lego nerd, and a lot of my happiest memories as a child center around that Danish construction toy. The directors, Phil Lord & Chris Miller, know their audience and pepper the film with references to Lego ephemera old and new, general and specific. For me, the film mines nostalgia in way that’s so precise as to feel personal. Many of the Lego sets that I grew up with are featured, and seeing details like the tiny break in Benny’s helmet feel like I’m hearing the fragment of the theme song from a long-forgotten, but much-beloved show from my childhood.

For my daughter, the thrill comes not only in seeing the toy she loves to play with come to life, but also in seeing the mashup of culture that Lego’s exhaustive brand relationships allows. Seeing Batman for the first time elicited a laugh from her, and every time he appeared on screen thereafter she would confidently inform me that “That’s Batman” or “Batman’s being silly.”

(YouTube//Movieclips Coming Soon)

Beyond Reference

This combination of general pop culture nostalgia and specific Lego fandom was enough to get me to buy a ticket way back in the halcyon days of 2014. Lord & Miller would have known this. Lego, backed by generations of devoted fans, was a pretty safe topic for a movie. That’s why so many of these branded tie-ins are so bad. The product is already so popular there’s no need to make the movie good. You sell tickets just based on the thing’s existence. A lesser creative team would have taken this route. Play up the nostalgia, throw in as many simple gags, memes, and winking references as you can and call it a day.

That approach may get butts in seats, it may pay the bills, but it doesn’t get people coming back. It doesn’t make for a cultural experience that affects people, that elicits emotions, that lasts.

The reason movie studios can so easily leverage those cultural touchstones, the reason that we will buy a ticket for The Lego Movie simply because its The Lego Movie, is that these references are shorthand for something deeper, something more personal and more meaningful. Lord & Miller understood this, and understood why it was important. A Lego brick, or the Batman logo, or the Thundercats theme; these things are like snapshots, reminding us of memories and feelings we used to have. But their thin evocations pale in comparison with what we’re searching for, which is to feel those feelings again.

It is obvious that Lord & Miller are, themselves, huge fans of Lego. They understand this longing. They understand that these trappings of memory are not enough. The simple fact that we all know and remember the shape & colors of a Lego minifig isn’t enough. What truly binds us to these commonalities is the actions they evoke. The sight of a Lego brick brings to mind the action of building with it, the feel of it in your hands. So rather than simply show you the object of nostalgia, The Lego Movie places the act of building, the act that binds Lego fans across the world together, centrally not only in its narrative (more on that later) but into the way the film itself is constructed. Watching The Lego Movie is the nearest you can come to actually playing with Lego without, you know, actually playing with Lego.

This raises the movie beyond an act of mere reference. It is not just paying lip service to the things we love, but actively evoking them.

(YouTube//Warner Brothers Pictures)

Building Something That Lasts

Most creators would be happy with this achievement, with turning a corporate exercise into an act of love, with transforming cynical reference, alchemy like, into passionate evocation. But Lord & Miller know that even this isn’t enough. Playing on familiar brands & ideas was enough to summon an audience, elevating that reference into something deeper was enough to turn that audience into a fanbase. But in order to turn those fans into devotees, people who watch the film not once, but 183 times, people who do deep dives into the film’s mythology, you need something more.

The films that last are the films inspire people, films that change the way people think, the way they feel. Films that say something.

Because while quick jokes or nostalgic brands or memes may make us smile, the media that stops us in our tracks, the media that we tell others about, the media that we return to again and again and again, are the films or TV shows or websites that present us with an idea we’d never considered before, an idea that scares us, an idea that changes how we look at the world, even just a little bit.

So Lord & Miller took the audience they built with their attention to detail, with their love of Lego, and they told us some things. They told us not only that “Chosen One” type stories (Harry Potter, The Matrix, Star Wars) are ridiculous and undramatic, but also the exact ways in which they are toxic. They told us that individualism is doomed to failure, but we still need to embrace each other’s unique perspectives and talents. They told us that Lego and life is about ever-changing creation and innovation, not unbending rules and inflexible ideas. And they told us that we were playing with Lego wrong.

Think about that last one. They took a movie designed to appeal to 30-something nerds. The kind of guys who spent hundreds of dollars on a Lego Millenium Falcon to display in their home. They took a movie created with those specific guys in mind. And they used that movie to tell their audience they were wrong.

And their audience loved them for it.

Because what Lord & Miller understand is this: If you love something, be it Lego, or Paw Patrol, or your kids, you think about it a lot. You are passionate about it. And that passion means you cannot be neutral about it. You have strongly held opinions and beliefs, and you want to fight for those beliefs. And when you see someone else fighting, arguing passionately that Lego is to be built with, not to be displayed, you know that that person loves Lego too, just like you.

(YouTube//ThFerAnima)

The Dad Upstairs

Of course, the Lego movie is about one more thing. One thing I didn’t mention earlier. It’s about being a parent. About playing with your kids and listening to them and embracing what makes them special and unique. Its about treating your kids with love and respect, like the little people they are, not the annoyance they can be.

Because Lego, like Kung Fu Panda and Spirit: Riding Free and Tangled and Frozen and Elf and The Muppets and How To Train Your Dragon and Moana and Trolls and The Wiggles and Winnie The Pooh and Paw Patrol and The Lego Movie, is for kids. That’s what makes it so important. That’s why its worth fighting for, and about. Because as a parent you want to build something that lasts. You want to instill your kid with passion and strength and love and hope. And media is one of the most powerful tools we can use to do that. Which makes it one of the most important things in the world.

(YouTube//Warner Brothers Pictures)

33 Space Facts For Kids That Are Outta-This-World Interesting

Space Facts For Kids
(Getty Images/Flashpop)

Your kids probably love outer space, right? Even kids who aren’t science-oriented seem to have a fascination with the universe. Hey, we don’t blame ’em — you don’t have to be an astronaut (or a wannabe astronaut) to appreciate the vast and mysterious expanse above us. There’s just so much out there. Even with just your own set of eyes, you can see some pretty cool stuff. You didn’t need a fancy telescope to find 2020’s “Christmas Star” or marvel over the “Great American Eclipse” of 2017.

Whether you’re sitting through another cartoon space adventure, working on a science project, or just simply want to earn points as the coolest dad on the block, some weird info about outer space can be a great contribution. Does your kid know what an astronomical unit is? Or have they wondered what it’s like on the moon? We’ve rounded up some of the most interesting and quirky space facts for kids we could find. Share ‘em as you see fit.

Space Facts For Kids
Canadian Space Agency/Giphy

Fun Space Facts For Kids

1 Mercury’s craters are named after famous artists, musicians, and authors (there aren’t any named after Disney characters yet, but there is one named Disney!).

2. Mercury is shrinking due to its fault scarps, which we discovered in 2016 thanks to a purposely crashed spacecraft.

3. Neither Mercury nor Venus have moons.

4. While most planets are similar to Earth and rotate around a north-south axis, Uranus rotates on its side.

5. Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system. Betcha thought that record belonged to Mercury, eh?

6. Litter is everywhere, including space. Thanks to our constant quest to know more about our solar system, there are now-defunct satellites and out-of-service spacecraft scattered throughout our galaxy.

7. If you combined the mass of all other planets and doubled it, that object would still be smaller than Jupiter.

8. Mount Everest is only the tallest mountain on Earth. Mars’ Olympus Mons is more than 10 miles taller, making its peak nearly three times as high.

9. Jupiter is also the “owner” of the galaxy’s most active moon. Its moon, Io, has hundreds of volcanoes. They are in an almost constant state of eruption due to Jupiter’s gravitational pull.

10. On Neptune, one year is equal to 164.8 Earth years. In other words, you won’t live long enough for Neptune to complete even one rotation around the sun.

11. Neptune’s moon, Triton, orbits the planet “backward.”

12. Uranus’ blue glow is thanks to its atmospheric gases.

13. The Hubble Space Telescope has helped astronomers write more than 15,000 research papers.

14. While it seems like we’re on a never-ending space quest to find water on Mars, we do know that ice exists throughout our solar system — including on our own moon and even in shadowed Mercurian craters.

15. The first food ever eaten in space was applesauce.

16. The sun is 4.6 billion years old.

17. Did you know that technically the color white isn’t a lack of colors, but all colors mixed together? This phenomenon accounts for why the sun appears white to us.

18. You could fit more than one million Earths inside the sun.

19. The sun is made of roughly ¼ helium.

20. The distance between Earth and the sun is called an astronomical unit.

21. Did you know the sun makes its own orbit? It takes roughly 225-250 million years to complete one orbit around the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

22. When the sun runs out of hydrogen, it will begin expanding and devour Mercury, Venus, and Earth. Don’t worry, though! Scientists believe we have another 5 billion years before that happens. Even your grandchildren’s grandchildren’s great-great-grandchildren won’t see this happen.

23. There are more stars in space than grains of sand on Earth. (If you want to fact check that, you better start counting.)

24. The first woman in space was Russian astronaut Valentina Tereshkova.

25. There’s no wind on our moon.

26. Because of the lack of wind, our astronauts’ footprints will never disappear.

27. Combined with the sun’s, the moon’s gravitational pull creates our tides.

28. No matter where you are on Earth, you’re always seeing the same side of the moon.

29. We know more about our moon than our oceans. It’s true! We’ve mapped 100 percent of our moon’s surface. However, we’ve only explored about 5 percent of the ocean floor.

30. Sure, you know about black holes, but what do you know about white holes? Despite having never discovered one, scientists know it’s mathematically possible they exist.

31. The center of the galaxy reportedly smells like rum and tastes like raspberries. Um, yum! Wondering why? Well, that would be thanks to the chemical ethyl formate, which gives both their distinct smell and taste. It was recently discovered in a gas cloud near the center of the Milky Way.

32. “Outer space” is only 62 miles away. That means you’re closer to outer space than Disney World is to Miami or Los Angeles is to San Diego.

33. Space is completely silent.

Heartwarming Doritos Ad From Mexico Features Son Coming Out To Father

Doritos Mexico's heartwarming ad
(YouTube/Doritos)

Name one TV commercial you remember, and I’ll bet you had an emotional reaction the first time you viewed it — whether it made you laugh, smile, cry, or all three.

It’s no secret that some of the most memorable advertising somehow pulls at your heartstrings. Case in point: the Budweiser Clydesdales, the Apple iPad widower, or the Mac Daddy of them all, the Sarah McLachlan SPCA ads (you’re welcome for that earworm btw).

However, there’s a new player on the list of corporate emotional manipulators, and it’s one you may not expect: Doritos.

Over the holidays, Doritos Mexico launched a commercial that’s since made waves for all the right reasons, especially in the LGBTQ+ community.

It features a divorced father with a college-age son who brought a friend home for the holidays. However, he soon suspects his son and the male companion “are a couple and they do not dare tell me,” so he goes to Reddit for advice on how to break the news gently that he knows… and, more importantly, that his love is unconditional.

The ad — which is based on a true story — ends with a simple, subtly sweet exchange between father & son… followed by the viewer’s own visceral ugly-crying (or maybe that’s just me?).

With everything going on in the world today, it’s the virtual, inclusive embrace we all need right now, albeit from an unexpected source. (Then again, as the saying goes, “If you can’t get a warm, bosomy grandma hug, fill the spiritual abyss with a chips commercial!”)

Here’s hoping it makes its way to U.S. airwaves soon.

Watch the full Doritos Mexico ad (in Spanish with English subtitles) below.

Kevin Smith Thinks HBO Max May Revive Batman: The Animated Series

Batman: The Animated Series Returns
(Warner/DC)

Say what you want about DC’s handling of Superman, the Justice League, and their movies in general, they’ve never once wavered from their commitment to Batman. Barely a year goes by without Batman making news one way or another, and this year is no different.

There’s a new movie in the works with a new take on the character, a new cut of Justice League fans are hoping fixes the last version, the return of several former actors reprising their roles in the eventual Flash flick, a new comic series featuring a black Batman, a new HBO Max show set in his universe and now a new cartoon as well, picking up where the beloved Batman: The Animated Series left off.

On their Fatman Beyond podcast, legendary geek/director and the man behind the He-Man revival recently set the batcorners of the internet aflame when he discussed a rumor the HBO Max is developing a follow-up to the legendary Batman animated show from the 90s.

“The rumor is that HBO Max is looking at making a Batman: The Animated Series sequel, that they want to continue that forward,” Bernardin said before his co-host began gushing.

“I’m not involved, but I too have heard this and I’ve heard this from very reliable people,” Smith said. “When I heard it I freaked out, and I heard this…I would say a month before you just said it. I think that’s real, I don’t think that’s a rumor, I wouldn’t say ‘Set your watch to it,’ but it’s an idea whose time is not only coming, I think it came, and it’s smoking a cigarette. I think that’s gonna happen. How fucking amazing would that be because you can just literally pick up and keep going. It’s not like, oh we gotta explain why everyone’s older, it’s fucking animation man so you can go right back to those amazing fucking stories.”

Batman: The Animated Series originally ran from 1992-1995 and features what some fans consider to be the definitive versions of both Batman (as voiced by Kevin Conroy) and The Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill). The cartoon also introduced Harley Quinn, who has since skyrocketed to become one of DC’s most popular characters (and who has her own show on HBO Max).

The rumor that a new version of Batman: TAS might be coming has fans rejoicing for yet another take on the Dark Knight. Check out Smith and Bernadin’s glee at discussing the rumors:

 

Liam Neeson May Play Frank Drebin in New Naked Gun Movie

Liam Neeson Naked Gun
(20th Century Fox)

With all the remakes and reboots of classics that continue to be in development, there is one genre that never really seems to get recycled, and that’s comedies.

There have been a few attempts, like the Ed Helms version of Vacation, and a reboot of Fletch, coincidentally another Chevy Chase series, is currently in the works, with Jon Hamm (but it will adhere more closely to the series of novels than the movies). And now another classic comedy that, coincidentally, also once had Ed Helms attached may be coming soon: The Naked Gun.

The Ed Helms casting never made sense to me, because one of the things that made Naked Gun work was the fact that Leslie Nielsen wasn’t known as a comic actor, aside from his hilarious performance in Airplane!, which was also a Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker joint.

Thankfully, there’s a new name being bandied about, and he’s far from a comedian, despite how hilarious The Phantom Menace is: Liam Neeson.

Yes, I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.

Neeson revealed that Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, with whom the Taken star has collaborated on A Million Ways to Die in the West, Ted 2, and several of his TV shows, has approached him to headline the Naked Gun reboot.

“I’ve been approached by Seth MacFarlane and Paramount Studios to maybe resurrect the Naked Gun films,” Neeson said while talking to People about his latest action movie, The Marksmen.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this idea. McFarlane himself floated Neeson as a comedy star once before.

“Generally with dramatic actors they do kinda like the idea of coming in and doing a comedy to show they can do comedy,” McFarlane said back in 2015. “Liam is great with comedy. I don’t know whether you’ve ever seen his Ricky Gervais sketch? Liam is awesome.”

He even expressed his desire to relaunch the Naked Gun with the tall Irishman.

“My dream at some point would be to do an entire movie with Liam where he does a Leslie Nielson Naked Gun kinda thing. Because he’s so good at playing against the comedy and therefore he’s hilarious. He just really knows what he’s doing.”

This is all just chatter for now, but if they do end up remaking the Naked Gun, Neeson strikes me as a great choice for Lt. Frank Drebin.

Father Figures: Tired

“My husband is the best dad in the world, but even great dads get tired!”

– Sidney Gregory

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email [email protected]

“I’m Sending You Strength,” Ryan Reynolds Reaches Out to Fan Battling Cancer

Ryan Reynolds Video
(Twitter/CadenFanshaw)

Having a kid forced to fight cancer seems like one of the cruelest things a family can face, so anything that can bring a smile to the kid’s face must feel like gold. Ryan Reynolds came through in a big way for a young fan in that situation, sending a video message to an 11-year-old boy with Hodgkins Lymphoma and Crohn’s disease.

Ryan Reynolds is a class act, and exhibit A in how to act if you’re a movie star. Whether it’s helping a lonely kid on his birthday or sending love to a sick kid, Reynolds is there (along with the many hilarious things he does as well).

In this case, the boy’s mom had recently shared on social media that they were having a hard time, but watching the Deadpool movies was one of the things getting them through. So Reynolds sent a personal message of hope to the kid.

“Brody, it’s Ryan Reynolds, I just heard a little bit about your story and I wanted to send you this video and let you know that I’m thinking about you and I’m sending you tons of love and I’m sending you strength, whatever strength I’ve got.”

He closed the message with praise for the boy and expressing his hope they can meet in person someday.

“Man, you have a ton of people in your life that love you so much. I know you’ve been going through it, I know it’s been a challenge, but you’re just the man for the job Brody. So I’m sending you lots of love. I hope I get to meet you in person one of these days.”

His mom was over the moon, telling a Canadian news outlet that her son’s jaw hit the floor when he saw the video and kept saying “I feel like I’m the movie star.” She said when they are having a hard day, they love watching Deadpool to cheer up and that they’ve been watching the clip nonstop since he sent it. They had put the call out earlier in the week, after a hard week of chemo.

Ryan Reynolds, coming through, yet again. You can almost set your watch to how awesome Reynolds is on a daily basis.

UK Man Spent Over $400 To Learn That His Dog Was Limping Out of Sympathy

Man pays for vet visit only to learn his dog copied his limp out of sympathy
(Facebook/Russell Jones)

Dogs are wildly intelligent, but sometimes, they’re too smart for their own good. A video of Russell Jones and his sweet dog Bill has recently gone massively viral, and at first glance, it looks like the pair has seen better days. Both Jones and Bill limp slowly to their front door, Jones on crutches and Bill holding up his front paw as he hobbles alongside him.

Jones and Bill weren’t in some sort of accident. In fact, according to Bill’s vet, nothing is actually wrong. The video has been shared on Facebook over 28,000 times and has popped up on every imaginable social media site in the four days since it was posted by Russell.

“Cost me £300 in vet fees and X-rays, nothing wrong just sympathy. Love him,” Jones captioned the video.


According to Bill’s vet, a slew of tests revealed that there was nothing physically wrong with the empathetic pup. Presumably, Bill saw his human limping, and copied his behavior. While some animal behavior experts claim that limping out of sympathy is unlikely and more tests are needed, others have pointed to studies that do in fact show that dogs imitate the behavior of their pack leaders. In this case, Bill’s pack leader happens to be a human with a limp.

Fortunately, for everyone concerned, the video is something Jones has been holding onto for months. His ankle was broken in June, and he shared an updated video of Bill running around just fine in August. When Jones’s cast was removed and he was no longer on crutches, Bill seemed to realize, “oh ok, we’re not doing that anymore?” and proceeded to walk normally again. We truly do not deserve dogs.

MCU’s Moon Knight Series Pits Oscar Isaac Against Ethan Hawke

ethan hawke in moon knight
(Getty/Francois G. Durand/Dave J Hogan)

It was only last week that Disney+ finally premiered the first MCU TV show, with two episodes of WandaVision dropping Friday. In some ways, it’s totally unique – it features somewhat minor characters and the show is spoofing sitcoms of years gone by, in service of a larger mystery that will take some time to unpack.

In other ways, it’s one of many, in that there are about to be a whole bunch of MCU TV shows, including The Falcon and Winter Soldier, Loki, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, and more. One of the “more” is to be Moon Knight, aka Marvel’s Batman (rich vigilante), who has been many things over the years, including an ex-Marine mercenary, a vigilante (who sometimes has supernatural ties to an Egyptian god), to a guy with multiple personalities. The character is not exactly a headliner, but maybe that’s why Marvel is making sure the cast is.

Rumor has it that Oscar Isaac, an excellent actor with three Star Wars flicks under his belt, will be playing the titular Moon Knight, and now Marvel and Disney have secured his foil: Ethan Hawke.

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Hawke, who has been in our lives for decades, from Explorers to Reality Bites to Training Day, Boyhood, and Sinister, but has never quite gone the blockbuster or superhero route. Until now.

No one is quite sure who Hawke is playing – aside from the lead villain – but Moon Knight has an archenemy named Bushman, also a former mercenary, that may be an option. It probably doesn’t matter all that much, considering how talented an actor Hawke is.

This show is shaping up to be another interesting entry in the MCU’s increasingly diverse stable of TV shows, each with a different tone and style. We’re yet to learn what genre Moon Knight will fall into, but with actors like Isaac and Hawke leading this show, it can pretty much be whatever it wants.

Amazon’s Massive Lord of the Rings Series Is a Prequel With a Familiar Villian

Lord of the Rings Prequel
(Warner Bros)

It’s one of the most-hyped TV projects that we know the least amount about, but we’re finally starting to get some details about Amazon’s massive Lord of the Rings series set to debut later this year or in early 2022. The hype is real for the series, as Amazon invested a shocking 500 MILLION into the project, sight unseen, with a five-season minimum commitment. For Tolkien fans, this is almost as big (possibly bigger?) as the movies.

So what do we know? Amazon confirmed the series description that first appeared on TheOneRing and was also confirmed by Entertainment Weekly. And that description indicates the new series will take place during the “fabled Second Age” of Middle-earth’s history, meaning it’s set thousands of years before the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.

The series “will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness.

Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.”

The greatest villain teased in the description is thought to be Sauron, the second Dark Lord and the creator of the One Ring. So the series has a tremendous amount to explore while keeping enough familiar characters and locales to satisfy fans of the books and movies, as it details Sauron’s rise.

The series is currently filming in New Zealand (where the movies were also shot) for the epic 20-episode first season that was intended to be released in late 2021. While no release date has been set, it is still expected to be later this year or early 2022 when we’ll finally get to return to Middle-earth.