Category Archives: Sunday Night Flicks

Watching classic flicks with the kids.

The Rest of Harry Potter

About a month and a half ago, I did a Sunday Night Flicks about watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneIt was fun to watch with the kids for the first time and to see how much they got into it. My oldest in particular really enjoyed it a lot. He enjoyed it so much, that over the next little while we were watching nothing but Harry Potter. He wanted to finish all of the films, and he wanted to do it as quickly as possible. The other kids enjoyed the first one, but they were not so quick to want to watch the rest. They had lost interest by the end of Sorcerer’s Stone, and when we suggested that we watch the next one the next day, they politely (insert sarcasm here) said, “No thank you.” Johnny didn’t mind. That meant he had the family room all to himself. Well, not really. He had the family room all to himself, plus me. Johnny doesn’t like to do anything alone, so there was no way he was going to watch these movies downstairs, all by himself. For my part, it meant I could sit down and watch 7 more 2 hour movies, and not feel guilty because I was bonding with my son.

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So, here’s the kicker: About two films into our Harry Potter adventure, it really wasn’t about sitting down to watch a film for a couple of hours. It really became about bonding with my son. Watching the films with him, I saw the excitement and magic I experienced when I first read the books. Johnny can’t just sit and watch something. He has to talk about what he is watching and he has to ask questions. He especially likes to ask questions about what is happening and what is going to happen. He can’t stand not knowing what is going to happen. About halfway through the 4th movie, he started asking me who was going to win, Harry or Voldemort. I chuckled each time and told him he would have to wait. He hated that answer. He wanted to know right now. I think he was genuinely concerned that Harry may not win, and I don’t think he wanted to watch it to the end if that was the case.

There is so much there that was just like me when I was a kid. Heck, it’s just like me now. I can’t stand not knowing what is going to happen. Sometimes, when I get a new book, it takes every bit of my will power to not look at the ending. I totally understand this is not the suggested course of action. I enjoy the book or movie much more if I don’t know what’s going to happen, but sometimes, it is just so hard to wait. I think a big reason why is because I am a happy ending kind of guy. I don’t like it when the hero loses or they die or whatever. I like good to conquer evil. That’s my preference. I don’t want to care about these characters just to have them lose or die in the end. I remember how I felt when I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time, and you get to the part where Frodo gets stung by Shilob, and Tolkien let’s you think he is dead. I almost threw the book down and stopped reading then and there. What was the point if the main character was going to die? Of course, he didn’t die. He lived, all the hobbits lived, and I was happy. I felt the same way when I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Harry died. I mean, he was really dead for a minute. He got better, though, and we got our happy ending after all. Watching Johnny stress about what was going to happen brought back all those memories, and it was pretty cool.

The other thing that was a lot of fun was watching Johnny just obsess about something. He is officially a Potterhead. He knows all the characters and the story and everything. After he was done watching the films, he begged us to take him out on Pottermore. I don’t know how he learned about it, probably from some YouTube video, but he wanted to go so bad. So we went out there, and he couldn’t wait to be sorted. Unfortunately, in his mind, he was sorted into Hufflepuff. He decided that only happened because he used his proper name, John, instead of his real name (in his mind), Johnny. He tried it again, this time trying to guess which answers would put him in Gryffindor. He was reasoning was pretty sound, like when the question was “What are you afraid of?,” he selected being alone, “because,” he said,”Harry, Ron, and Hermione were always together, so they must be afraid to be alone.” All this figuring on his part did lead him to a different result than the time before. It still wasn’t Gryffindor. Instead, he ended up in Ravenclaw, which makes sense, since he got there by trying to outsmart the test.

At the end of the day, I went into this experience as a big Harry Potter fan. I came out of it with a better appreciation for my son, and he for me. We got closer to each other than we were before. For me, I always enjoyed Harry Potter. I always liked the story, but I also felt like I was just a little too old to be obsessed with, and too much of a not teenage girl. The reality is, now, Harry potter will always be a little more meaningful for me because I got closer to my son. It will always be the first fandom we really shared with each other. Now, he we are, just waiting for our new Harry Potter Funko Pop characters to come from Amazon, and to see what Harry Potter related guests will be announced for the upcoming Salt Lake Comic Con, wands at the ready.

Sunday Night Flicks: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

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It’s summer time, which means the kids will not be going to bed as early as they normally would, which means it will be easier to get in some good Sunday Night Flicks. This last week we decided to start the eight film journey covering the adventures of Harry Potter and his friends. I have been wanting to share these stories with my kids for a long time, and my oldest finally showed a little bit of interest after playing the Harry Potter Lego games. We started where everyone should start such a journey; at the beginning.

It was pretty interesting to go back to the beginning of this saga. It had been quite a while since I had watched either of the first two Harry Potter films, and it was kind of strange to see Harry, Ron, and Hermione so young, and know what was lying ahead for them. The three of them seem wide-eyed through out this movie, like they are just as amazed and astonished by this wizarding as we were. In this film, and the next installment, Chris Columbus begins to bring to life the hidden magical world that David Yates would later perfect starting with Order of the Phoenix.

The Sorcerer’s Stone for me, is fun because we see Harry Potter come to life for the first time. These characters I had always imagined in my head were there, on the screen. I wasn’t sold on Daniel Radcliffe as Harry at first, but he grew into the role, and it would be hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Rupert Grint, on the other hand, was brilliant from the start, as was Emma Watson. I remember being somewhat disappointed with this film when I saw it for the first time, which was at home on DVD since it came out while I was spending two years in Germany. It is still probably my least favorite of all the films.

Watching it for the first time with my little ones changed my perspective a little bit. I got to experience the magic again but through my kids’ eyes. The only thing I could compare it with is when we took our kids to Disneyland for the first time. I had always loved Disneyland, but seeing them experience for the first time brought the magic to life in a whole new way. That’s kind of how this felt. My son was so excited about the movie, that he wanted us to immediately put in the second film. We are making him wait until at least next week.

Overall, this film was ok. As much as I enjoyed watching the kids enjoy this movie, I couldn’t get past how much I disliked this compared to the other movies. The child actors aren’t great right away, and their chemistry is good, but still awkward, not like it is by the end of the films. That makes sense, since by the eighth movie they had all grown up together. I guess for me it is like watching the first season of Seinfeld. You can tell it has a lot of potential, but it’s not there yet. However, the world the film is set in is fantastic and rich in detail.

The fun factor is what really counts here. The kids love this Harry Potter movie, and in a lot of ways, it feels like a kids’ movie, kind of like how the first book feels more like a children’s book. I had no problem with all of my kids sitting down to watch this movie, but I am not sure how I feel about some of the younger ones watching the films as they go on. They may have to head off to bed before we watch Order of the Phoenix.

I guess, in the end, watching this with my kids, I had a lot of mixed feelings. In some ways, it was still hard to get through this whole movie and to look past the acting in some cases, knowing it would get better. In other ways, it was a lot of fun to experience Harry’s first trip to Diagon Alley with my little ones. It was like they were there, in Diagon Alley, with Harry and Hagrid. Maybe that experience made me appreciate this film on a new level.

What about you? What did you think about this first installment of the Harry Potter films? Where does this one rank compared to the others? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday Night Flicks: The Princess Bride

Some of my fondest memories growing up revolve around our old tube TV and VCR and sitting down with my family to enjoy a great movie. In fact, almost all of my favorite memories growing revolve around good movies and good company. There was something special about going on a Friday night to the local Video store to pick out a movie or two and then coming home and watching it. Staying up late, bringing out all the blankets from your bedroom and making a big pile of blankets and pillows on the floor, lying on your stomach, head perched on your hands, kicking your feet back and forth and watching those opening credits. It was almost always magical. In some ways, kids today will never experience that kind of magic. Their idea of movie night is sitting down with the iPad and selecting a show to watch on Netflix, and their movie night happens every night, and is rarely together. They will never know the joys of going to the video store, spending an hour at least trying to find the perfect film. I remember browsing for so long  thinking about trying something new, but often times, I would settle for an old favorite. My favorite movies were like good friends. I know that sounds sad, but I don’t think I minded.

Sunday Night Flicks is my attempt to get some of that magic back. I think part of the magic was more than just the experience. Part of the magic were the great films we watched. I want my kids to experience those films. I want my kids to be the kids who look down on other kids who don’t know classic films. I want my kids to appreciate a good film for being a good film, and not just the latest and greatest. In short, I want my kids to be geeks like me. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

The Princess Bride was one of those old favorites for me. If I couldn’t find something new at the video store, I would pick this film. Eventually, we owned it on VHS (ahhh, the glory of VHS), and the case quickly became battered and well worn as we watched it over and over again. I could recite almost the whole film from start to finish. I would run through the house with anything I could find that resembled a sword and yell, “Hello, you killed my father, prepare to die!” It was just such a big part of my childhood, that I felt it was an appropriate place to start with my kids. And, we had just bought it on iTunes and watched it for Valentine’s. Let’s be honest, there is nothing wrong with watching The Princess Bride two days in a row.

The key was finding a way to entice the kids to watch it. My kids rarely agree on anything when it comes to watching a movie. Plus, they rarely want to watch something not animated. We can talk about all the ways I have obviously failed as a parent later. I’m working on it. I started with my oldest daughter, Eliza. She was going to be the easiest sell. I asked her if she wanted to watch a princess movie. Before I could say anything else, she was on board. No problem. She loves all things princess, and I like to show her princess stuff that isn’t Disney. Like Star Wars (wait…well it didn’t start out as Disney).

Next, I had to convince my oldest child, Johnny. I wasn’t sure how to do it. I knew he would love the movie, but he had to get past all the kissing and stupid stuff like that.  Then I remembered the way the Grandpa in the film convinced the Grandson to listen to the book. I asked Johnny if he wanted watch a movie with sword fighting, and giants, and a fire swamp, and pirates. He just kept getting more and more excited as I added more things to what was in the film. He was sold. The other kids would fall in line as long as the oldest 2 were on board.

Then we started the film. At first, I think Johnny agreed with the Grandson. He thought I had tricked him. Eliza loved the whole “As you wish” thing and started repeating it over and over. Except when I asked her to do something for me. Then she only remembered how to say no. Apparently she doesn’t love me. Johnny was about to be bored and ready to walk away, about the time that Buttercup runs into the 3 kidnappers. Now, i am going to assume that most of you have seen this film, so I am going to be pretty free with any spoilers. Anyway, as they kidnapped the princess, Johnny was suddenly interested again. When she jumped overboard and the eels started circling her, both Johnny and Eliza were on the edge of their seats.

Johnny thought the Man-in-Black was pretty much the coolest guy ever as he beat Inigo in their awesome sword fight, and then when he beat Fezzik. Johnny thought he was pretty much a superhero at that point. Eliza was thrilled when he turned out to be Westley, because she thought he had died. I thought that was funny, because I always thought that it was pretty obvious that he was Wesley from the beginning. I guess not when you’re a kid and this is the first time you have seen the show. They enjoyed every minute of the film, and something fun happened as we watched it. We all started out in different spots on our sectional, but by the end, we were all cuddled up together.

As I sat there with my kids all around me and my wife and I only separated by a two-year old, I thought about how good movies always did this when I was I kid. They brought us closer together. They gave us inside jokes to enjoy together, they gave us laugh and tear together and all-around gave us a common experience that brought our family together. That was what was happening now with my young family. It gave me a thrill to see that they were enjoying this movie as much as I did as a kid. After the movie, I asked they liked it. Eliza said yes right away. Johnny kind of shrugged his shoulders, like he didn’t care or he was too cool for it, but the smile on his face gave it away. The best indicator was that they wanted to watch it again tonight.

I can’t wait to show them more great movies. Each week will be anew experience and hopefully it will bring us closer together as a family. Hopefully, it will help my kids to appreciate really good movies with really good stories. Hopefully, it will make them want to tell really good stories. Who knows. Mostly, I hope it will be fun, and someday, maybe they will have blogs of their own where they write about stupid little stuff like this that always seems to mean so much more than the big stuff.

Sunday Night Flicks: Back to the Future

In a continuing effort to expose my children to more than just the stuff that’s on today, we are choosing a different movie each week that we think they might kind of enjoy. This week was Back to the Future. I would like to take full credit for selecting this movie and making my kids sit down and watch. This was an absolute favorite when I was a kid. It was just so cool. I wanted to be Marty McFly when I grew up. Who wouldn’t want to be him? He was just so cool. In fact, I distinctly remember a period of my life where I was slightly angry with my parents because they did not name me something cool like Marty. Or maybe Jason, but that’s not related to this at all, so I probably shunt have mentioned it. Not only was the premise to the film cool- Kid gets accidentally sent back to the past, where he runs into his parents and has to find a way to get the two of them together and find a way to get back to the future- but the way he went back in time was awesome. He was trying to get away from Libyan terrorists in a DeLorean that is also a time machine. I was convinced that the DeLorean was the coolest car ever when I was a kid. When Doc mentions something about if you’re going back in time, you might as well go back in style, he wasn’t lying. I loved all three BTTF movies. They really were such a big part of my growing up. For all of those reasons, I wish I had thought of this movie being our second attempt at Sunday Night Flicks, but it was my wife’s idea. And of course it was, because, well, my wife is cooler than yours. When she suggested it, I was totally on board with the idea.

My kids loved last week’s Sunday Night Flick, so when I suggested doing it again, they were totally stoked. This time, they didn’t care what the movie was. I told them anyway. Johnny thought it sounded awesome, while Eliza just asked if it was funny. I told her it was, and then hoped at least some of the jokes wouldn’t be over her head. Fortunately for me, anytime someone falls over while trying to put pants on, and they have purple underwear, she thinks it’s hilarious (it happens more often than you’d think). Overall, the kids liked the movie, although it took them a little bit to get the concept of time travel, which was surprising since they have watched so much Doctor Who with me. Maybe I should have explained that the car was like Marty’s TARDIS. Maybe that would have caught them on to it more quickly.

I wish I could say that this week went as smoothly as last week, but unfortunately, it didn’t. Jak was not interested at all in the movie, which is fine. He usually isn’t, and we don’t try to force him. That wasn’t why it didn’t go as smoothly. No, the problem this time was equipment. I think our Blu ray player is getting older and had been well used. I mean it is going on 5 years, which for cheap tech nowadays, is more than a life time. It had a hard time reading the disc. We would get a little bit into the film, and then it would just freeze. We tried cleaning the disc and starting it from where we left off, and then it would just freeze again. Now, if you have ever been in a similar situation as this, with 5 children, then you’ll know how well kids remain patient. I mean my kids just sat there quietly while we tried to get it to work and politely asked to help. And then monkeys began flying out of my posterior (Garth). What really happened is that the kids were so excited about the whole thing, that when the movie stopped working, they had not choice but begin running around the family room and jump on our sectional and start our very own version of the latest WWE pay per view. That’s what kids do when they are expecting to be entertained, and all of a sudden the entertainment stops working. The good news is that I actually find all of that chaos very therapeutic and calming so it really helped me work through trying to get the Blu ray player to work without getting frustrated at all. After messing with it for 20 minutes, and just before the kids’ main event, which was going to have Johnny facing off against Jak for the Dietz Family Heavyweight Championship, I decided to just download the movie from iTunes. Which worked like a charm.

This is how good Back to the Future is: I started the movie off where we had left off, the kids immediately sat down and were quiet and glued again to the TV. That is being written, by the way, with no sarcasm. That is honestly what happened. That is the mark of an exceptional film, at least by our standards. It’s like this: I would give that movie 2 out of 5 kids- in other words it got 2 of my 5 kids to sit down and watch it. Forget stars, that’s how I rank movies. How many of my children will the movie hold captivated for the length of the movie? If it’s less than 3, it’s not worth my time. This movie got 4 out of 5 kids sitting and watching it. We have only come across a few 5 kid movies: My Neighbor Totoro, Frozen, and Hal’s Moving Castle. Those are truly magical films because they keep the other kids sitting and watching, and Jak is even interested. 4 out of 5 isn’t bad, though. Even my little 2 year-old was just sitting on my lap for the whole movie and was glued to it. So, despite the 20 minute forced intermission, it worked out well.

Now how’s this for a truly geeky moment: As I was watching the movie, we had just had Stake Conference and one of the speakers had spoken about Family History. So, as I was watching BTTF, I kept thinking, this a really good endorsement for the importance of Family History. Marty had a whole new respect for his parents as he got to know them. It made me want to go out and do my own Family History. I just have to remember where I parked my time machine…