generic propecia online

{Review} Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Action and Wit Translates Across the Generations

GuardiansoftheGalaxySome of my favorite childhood memories included going to the 7-11 with my father and picking up a comic book (or two or three) and reading them not just once but over and over. But over time, the Marvel Universe and I lost touch, and it is only via references via The Big Bang Theory and when I remember to actively seek out comic books for my own kids (alas, they are not as easy to pick up as they were in my youth), that I sometimes get a glimpse of the continuing storyline. So the true test for me about Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was if I could enjoy this movie without knowing the slightest thing about any of the characters — I deliberately did NOT read up about them ahead of time. The answer is a resounding YES. The second question in my mind was whether the PG-13 rating was going to be problematic for my kids, ages 8 and 10. They are mature for their ages, but I tend to be a bit protective of them — however, I knew they would want to accompany me to the media preview so with some quick research, I found the rating was due to action, violence and language and decided they could handle it. More on this further in the review.

The only other piece of the Marvel franchise I have seen is Iron Man — I haven’t seen Thor, Captain America, or The Avengers. So for comparison’s sake, I would say that while there is a lot of similar humor, I would say that Iron Man skewed to a far more mature audience (Tony and Pepper’s relationship being a major plot line) and that Guardians of the Galaxy, while requiring the ability to keep many characters straight and following a lot of double-agent type of scenarios, had a storyline my 8-year-old daughter could follow and enjoy.

I’ll admit, sometimes *I* got a little lost with some of the characters/species names, but not so much that it really mattered. I was also sitting between two kids, managing popcorn, and had some (funny, but talkative) reviewers sitting behind me, so that may be more a reflection on my situation than the move or… ahem… my brain cells. (Side note: my son also fractured his nose and I had to deal with taking him to the doctor, getting him x-rays that day and setting up an ENT appointment — all while there was no power in my neighborhood — so yeah, I was also a little frazzled that day.)

The movie centers around Peter Quill aka StarLord, a rakish mostly-good-but-sometimes-bad adventurer who travels through space finding/stealing valuable items and chatting up the female gender of all species. The Walkman and mix tape his long-dead mother gave him plays prominently in the movie, so unless you want to have a lot of whispered conversations during the movie with your kids about this, if you haven’t already explained what this mysterious object is to them, do yourself a favor and show them a picture of one. Sound track note:  if you like pina coladas… you’ll like the sound track!

As a result of stealing a mysterious orb, Quill sets of a chain of events that ends up attracting the attention of a beautiful but very deadly Gamora, a smart-talking, MacGyver-sih raccon named Rocket, a tree-like humanoid named Groot, and a revenge-driven “friend” whose species causes him to be overally literal, Drax the Destroyer. This unlikely quintet, uncertain of their own status with each other, soon find themselves in charge of protecting the galaxy from destruction.

There are many times this movie reminded me (and as I discovered, the kids as well) of Star Wars and this included several action scenes, the interplay of Groot and Rocket (only Rocket understands him), and sometimes Gamora reminds me of Princess Leia. I would be curious if you see the same parallels? Quill is a bit of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker combined to me.  I haven’t done any research to see if any of this was intentional — maybe it was.

Let’s talk about the PG-13 rating. Yes, there are definitely some swear words I don’t want my kids using but it is not over the top and I could talk to them both before and after the movie about it and felt like it was handled — I don’t recall any f-bombs being used, if there were, it slipped past me, these were more along words that rhymed with “ick” and “itch” and had the word “hole” in them. There is use of the middle finger. There is very mild romance in this, most of which will probably fly right past them. There is, of course, some violence and action scenes. There are fight scenes, spaceship shooting scenes, an implied beheading scene — that kind of stuff. My daughter, who is the more sensitive of my two kids when it comes to this stuff, did quite well and actually said to me after the movie (quite indignantly), “I don’t know why they rated that PG-13, I was the youngest one in that theater other than babies and it was fine!” (She wasn’t but that’s not the point.) As always, you need to use your own discretion. It could be scary to your kids, and you have to decide what is comfortable in terms of your own parenting style. We usually can talk things through.

We saw the movie in 3D and yes, the visuals were lovely, especially since the many galactic species were colorful and delightfully textured. But I will note that having seen so many movies in 3D lately, I did not find the 3D to be as eye-catching as say, Maleficient or Planes: Fire & Rescue. I can’t really explain why, it just was something that I noticed.

My final verdict: As a family, we enjoyed this movie and we think other families would as well. If you are an adult seeing it on your own, whether you are a comic book fan or not, I think you will be entertained. It is funny, adults will enjoy the retro references (especially if you were old enough to own a Walkman), and it is not overly-reliant on graphics to make the movie work. By the way, the media preview did NOT include the after credits scene, but there IS supposed to be one, so stay for it!

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy opens August 1, 2014. Check your local listings for times and theatres.

Disclosure: My family attended a complimentary media preview screening for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own. Images provided by the movie’s PR team.

{Giveaway} Four tickets to BrickFair VA 2014 LEGO Fan Festival

BrickFair Virginia

The JavaKids check out a perpetual motion machine at BrickFair Virginia 2012.

UPDATE: Congratulations Cindy B.!

This area is obsessed with LEGOs. Just look at the camp brochures and after school activity flyers for the camps and classes for all things LEGO — or try to walk across my kids’ bedroom floors — and it will take a nanosecond to see that these plastic bricks of all sizes are an important part of our culture. But they aren’t just for kids. Perhaps you are married to an AFOL (adult fan of LEGO) or are one yourself. The obsession can go from (almost) cradle to grave. This is why there are fan festivals — to share the joy and fuel the obsession in the best way Americans know how — ostentatious exhibits, sales of more related gear and good old-fashioned fun! Which is why I’m thrilled to be able to be able to share for the third year consecutive year an opportunity for my readers to win a four-pack of tickets to the BrickFair 2014 Virginia LEGO Fan Festival. The event is August 2 – 3, 2014 at the Dulles Expo Center, Chantilly, VA. BrickFair is primarily an exhibit/expo scenario (look and shop) but there are some interactive displays and a few sections where you can play and even win prizes. Although the tickets advise you to allow 90 minutes to view the displays, we have always stayed far longer and this is an extremely popular event, so there are often long lines to get in and a significant wait for games and anything interactive. In other words, plan to stay a while and bring a great deal of patience (and some spending money for the snack bar because you will invariably need it). But my family will tell you it is well worth it! Online tickets sold out already, but you can buy tickets at the door for $12 each (3 and under are free — no strollers allowed). OR participate in my flash giveaway.  The festival is THIS weekend and I have physical tickets to give to you.

BrickFair VA 2014

August 2 -3, 2014
11 am – 4 pm
Dulles Expo Center
4320 Chantilly Center
Chantilly, VA 20153
Admission: 3 and under – FREE.
Everyone else $12 at door – online tickets are sold out.
No strollers please

 

Caffeineandaprayer.com’s BrickFair VA 2014 Ticket Giveaway Rules:

  • The quick must-knows and must-dos:

    • This is a flash giveaway — it is shorter than my usual giveaways, please pay attention to the time frames.
    • These tickets are good for one day only, at BrickFairVA 2014 August 2 or 3 from 11 am to 4 pm. In fairness to others, please enter only if you actually plan on using the tickets. They have a total value of $48.
    • To enter: Use Please use the Rafflecopter entry form below to comment — make sure you use the term “BrickFair” in your comment. Get creative, but keep it clean!
    • In all your entries, you must include a valid email address so I may contact you if you are the winner. I must be able to reach you via that email address within 4 hours of the end of the giveawayI am not responsible for emails that land in your spam or junk mail or are otherwise blocked by your system or any other technical errors that may occur.
    • Tickets will be physically delivered to you, so if you are the winner, you will need to be willing to provide me a mailing address (no P.O. Boxes due to this being a flash giveaway) within 2 hours of my notification email that you are the winner so we can make arrangements for delivery of the physical tickets.  Time will be calculated based on when my email was sent. If I am not able to reach you, by necessity, I will have to pick a new winner. I am not responsible for emails that land in your spam or junk mail or are otherwise blocked by your system or any other technical errors that may occur.
    • Giveaway ends at 9 am, Eastern time,  Friday, August 1, 2014.
    • Standard rules and giveaway legalese is spelled out in a link in the Rafflecopter form.
    • Winners will be selected at random from all qualified entrants using Rafflecopter.
    • Once a winner is selected and has responded via email and arrangements for ticket delivery have been successfully made, winner will be announced on this site.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Tired of stepping on lots of little LEGO pieces at home? You might enjoy my previous blog post about LEGO organization.

———————————————————–

Disclosures: BrickFair provided four tickets for the giveaway and a set of complimentary tickets for my family. All photos are provided by the BrickFair convention. LEGO is a trademark of the LEGO Group. BrickFair is not associated with the LEGO Group.

{Review} Planes: Fire & Rescue

planesfireandrescueThe JavaKids and I were able to attend a sneak preview of Planes: Fire & Rescue earlier this week for the purposes of giving our review of the movie. Amongst the other invited guests were area firefighters, as the theme of the movie centered around the vehicles who fight forest fires and the opening credits dedicate the movie to the men and women who save lives every day as firefighters.

This movie is of course a sequel to Planes, where we first met the main character, Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook).  Now a world-famous racer, Dusty discovers that he has a failing part that may soon end his racing days. As a result of testing his limits, he accidentally sets his hometown’s airstrip on fire, attracting the scrutiny of the safety department, which informs Dusty and his friends that the airport will be closed until improvements can be made, including updating the current fire engine and finding a second firefighting vehicle.

This sets the stage for a guilt-ridden Dusty to go off to Piston Peak National Park to learn how to be an aerial firefighter. Here we meet the brave crew who fights fires, the legendary fire and rescue helicopter Blade Ranger, scooper Dipper (voice of Julie Bowen), heavy-lift helicopter Windlifter, ex-military transport Cabbie, and the Smokejumpers, a team of  all-terrain vehicles who jump out of Cabbie and fight the fires from the ground by creating “breaks” and clearing paths.

Fires aren’t the only enemy the team faces. The Superintendent, who runs the National Park and more specifically is interested in his pet project the newly renovated lodge, is less concerned with safety than with dazzling VIP guests. Do kids in the audience understand the theme of bureaucracy and budget cuts and what happens when money is diverted to build pet projects? Well, maybe not as well as adults, but my kids (ages 8 and 10) understood it enough and it opened the door for some conversations, and to me, any time a movie does that, it’s a win.

Like the other movies in the Cars and Planes franchise, there are some jokes thrown in there that only the adults will get. There are a couple of romance themes. And there are times when the stories get a little clunky. For example, it took me a little bit to realize that Windlifter is supposed to be an Apache helicopter and therefore his off-the-wall-sounding stories are supposed to be Native American lore (I think?) so the way the characters respond to him (“Oookay…”) are not necessarily the most appropriate. But translating lore to vehicle-speak comes out sounding very bizarre. So it may be worth discussing that with the kids.

The visuals are stunning and yet not frightening. Hint: Stay a little bit through the credits for one last joke.

Overall, there are several good themes you can pick out in the story. The kids and I discussed several, including the fact that there can be more than one solution to a problem; the benefits of opening up and telling someone when you are afraid of something; what it means to be brave; and what the Superintendent was doing that was wrong.  There are more, but I don’t want to spoil things.

Is it cinematically perfect? No. Professional reviewers will pick apart elements of the storytelling and characterization. But from a family’s point of view, it was entertaining, provided a platform for deeper discussion, and we walked away smiling. The only regret I have is that I didn’t think to ask any of the firefighters in the audience what THEY thought of the movie.

Planes: Fire & Rescue opens today, July 18 and is rated PG. You can learn more about the movie on the web site or Facebook page.

Image copyright of Disney, provided as part of media kit.

Maleficent: Refreshes the Tired Tale of Sleeping Beauty #Maleficent

Press photo courtesy of Disney.

Press photo courtesy of Disney.

Of all the Disney princess stories, Sleeping Beauty was never my favorite. After seeing the press preview of  Maleficent, I think I understand why — in my childhood mind, the story was filled with scary scenes and no context, whereas Maleficent has provided a backstory so interesting that I now want to rewatch the classic 1959 animated film.

It is important to note that the live action Disney Pictures film bears little resemblance to the original movie. And that is the point. This is meant to be the story of what makes Maleficent (sounds a bit like “magnificent”) so villainous and causes her to utter the curse that will cause Princess Aurora to fall into a deep sleep upon her sixteenth birthday. This is her story, not Aurora’s.

But more than that, this turns out to be a movie about relationships. The relationship between two types of lands — the kingdom of the humans and the moors of the fairies and magical creatures; Maleficent and the lover who betrayed her; the three fairies entrusted with raising the princess in the hopes of avoiding the curse; Maleficent and her sidekick who often serves as her voice of conscious; King Stephan and his own guilt; and other relationships that I won’t spoil for you. Naturally, one of the most prominent ones is the tug-of-war between good and evil — often even within the same being.

The crux of this story is Maleficent’s transformation from a pure-hearted guardian fairy to frighteningly vengeful force to be reckoned with after she is cruelly betrayed. Her body transforms as well as her soul. The animated Maelficent is one of the most frightening villains in childhood tales, so I know one of the most burning questions for parents is, “Will this movie be too frightening for my child?” The answer is two-fold. It depends on the child, and yes, certain scenes may.

Maleficent’s appearance is striking but in my opinion, not nearly as frightening as the cartoon version. The twisted horns are there and quite realistic, so that may be frightening, but if your child has already seen the animated version, probably not. She is not green-faced, but pale with extremely sharp cheekbones and her eyes change color over time. She is mesmerizing and powerful. Inanimate objects come to life onscreen (trees, rocks, and the like.)  However, to me, the most disturbing scene was the act of betrayal, fairly early on in the movie — partially because of how effectively Angelina Jolie conveyed the physical and emotional pain involved.  There are several fight scenes, and magic, and a fire-breathing dragon — only you will be able to tell if your child is up to that kind of action. The special effects are impressive and if you see the movie in 3D, then the impact is amplified — watch some of the trailers online with your child, for example, to get a sense of his/her reaction. I would not take very young children, but my 10-year-old was fine and I think I will take my 8-year-old now. Note that this movie is rated PG.

As intense as this movie is, there is humor throughout, which both my son and I enjoyed. Some may be annoyed with changes made to the Aurora part of the story line (i.e. the curse is delivered a little differently), instead, I took this as further support to the premise of “not everything is as you have been told.” The title character definitely overshadows many of the others — in some cases I’m okay with that; for example, there was no real need to see much of the queen in the land of the humans. In other cases, it may have been a matter of the actor’s creative choices more so than the storytelling, for example, I just didn’t connect well with Sharlto Copely’s portrayal of the king. Could Aurora’s character have been more developed? Sure, but again, she is really not the main focus of this story. I think we see enough of her for the purposes of the plot.

Overall, the movie was beautiful to watch, the story was compelling, Jolie was a pleasure to experience in the role, and the end result made me want to revisit the original animation as well as to read the French fairy tale on which both are based. To me, that’s the sign of an entertaining movie.

Maleficient opens in theaters today. I recommend seeing it in 3D.  Check your local theater for showtimes.

Website and mobile site:  http://disney.com/Maleficent

Note: I was invited to attend the press preview screening of this movie with a guest. All opinions are my own.

Reboot

Java Mom and the Java Kids

Our new “happy family of three” photographed by Amanda Rodriguez of Then Again Photography. (www.thenagainphotography.com)

I’ve been absent for  awhile.

Not just the complete dearth of posts over the past several months, but even before that. My blog is a labor of love, a place to be genuine, and if I can’t write from my heart, if I’m just dialing it in, then I feel like I fraud. And I couldn’t write from the heart because my heart was hurting. Rather, it was hemorrhaging.

My marriage collapsed.

Time of death: December 10, 2013. 11 years, 1 month, 1 week, 1 day.

It’s been collapsing for a long time — I’ve told all of you that before. We separated in 2012, for three months. And I had high hopes when we reconciled after that. But that, apparently, was short-lived. This time, the separation is permanent. We are divorcing.

I’ve had difficulties writing here because of course the premise of the site had evolved to being about having fun as a family and I felt like a complete fraud at that. How dare I write a word about doing anything to maintain a happy family when my own family seemed anything but. In fact, going through old posts made me sad as I realized how much we had strayed from the family we used to be. Or at least thought we were.

When your marriage fails for reasons other than the obvious ones (there was no cheating, gambling, addictions, etc.) you find yourself grasping for any explanation. Even dumb ones. “Should I have been more like those women who makes everything so Pinterest perfect? Is that what went wrong?” No. Pinterest would not have saved this marriage. Nothing would. We fought a valiant fight.

When you believe in marriage and it still doesn’t work:

You go through the classic seven stages of grief. (This by the way, goes on for quite a while and is still going on.)

You fear rejection from your friends and peers. (Divorce is a great way to separate the wheat from the chaff. I’ve been pleasantly surprised more than I’ve been disappointed.)

You want to curl up and die. (I never opened the Christmas cards. I have a backlog of emails I just never looked at. I couldn’t — I had to turn inward for a while and only focus on the kids and I and just live day by day. Day by freaking snowed-in day.)

And then you realize you have to just pick up and move on.

I am reminded of a story from my own childhood. The minister of my church was going through a divorce — I was too young to know the details, but it is my understanding he had not initiated it. Broken-hearted, he turned in his resignation, feeling that if he could not make his marriage work, how could he stand at the pulpit each Sunday? But the church board rejected his resignation. They surrounded him with love, and reminded him that he was a child of God, imperfect like the rest of the flock, and that his experience would only make him even more compassionate to those who were facing similar struggles. They knew he had done his part in his marriage and that the circumstances causing the divorce were beyond his control. I heard this story years later, when I was older, and I’ve always loved the church for the grace they showed in that moment. He was a wonderful preacher who later remarried and has always been devoted to his wife and kids.

We are all flawed human beings. I write this post in the hopes that my readers will forgive me for the past year (or longer) of holding back and disappearances and will bear with me as I get my feet back under me again. I love my blog and my readers and want to return to it, renewed and refreshed. I couldn’t write about my failing marriage as it was happening for many reasons. Embarrassment. Denial. Hopes that it would turnaround. And… because it wasn’t only my story to tell — there was another party involved. But what happens from here forward, that is my journey, and it is okay for me to write about that if I want to. There are some people who are not going to be comfortable with that, but there are always some people who are not happy with what I do. (Anything relating to the kids is shared with their permission.)

I’m rebooting my life. Even prior to the actual separation, I’ve been working on a new degree, which was another reason you haven’t seen much of me on this blog. I’ve been taking pre-requisites in order to apply to nursing school. Something I’ve wanted to write about, but I just haven’t. It’s been quite a journey for me to go from not having had any science classes since my junior year in high school to taking Anatomy and Physiology, Chemistry, and Microbiology!

Other changes include finally putting some of my personal needs first — following up on long-delayed doctor’s visits and such. And then far simpler things such as getting rid of things in the house and rearranging things to my liking. I bought a $16 terrarium at Home Depot simply because it made me happy. Little things like that.

It’s a strange time, learning how to go from being a wife to a… well, I’m in limbo. I’m not an ex yet but I’m sort of “not a wife.” I remember how odd it was for me when we first got married as I tried to learn how to become an “in-law.” I guess now I’m trying to figure out how to not be one. How to be just the “mother of the grandchildren.” Disentangling lives is complicated stuff.

The worst of it, frankly is that I have had to make all of these changes during the seemingly endless winter — trying to establish a “new normal” when there was absolutely zero chance of a routine was pure hell, not just for me, but the kids as well. But I have walked through the fires of hell and have come out stronger and so have they.  And yes, there has been a LOT of caffeine and a LOT of prayer through all of it.

So, if you’ve managed, to stick around with me long enough to still read this post, I appreciate your loyalty. Like the rest of my life, this blog will go through some changes. And yes, it’s probably going to be neglected a few more weeks as I wrap up the last of my pre-reqs for school. Middle-aged brains are not as great at all-nighters as twenty-year-old brains!

I don’t have all the answers to having a happy family and I hope I never gave the impression that I did. I’m just on a journey like you, but sharing mine publicly and willing to laugh at my imperfections quite publicly in the hopes that it will make other people feel okay about their own trials and tribulations. The kids and I are learning to be a “happy family of three.” (They will also have to learn to have to be a happy family of three with their father.) That hemorrhaging heart? I’ve stemmed the bleeding a bit. Yes, I still hurt, yes, I still “go there” and wonder where things went so very wrong. But I also look ahead and I am making the best of the life I have now. The uncertainties are a bit daunting, but aren’t there always uncertainties? The only certainty is uncertainty.

Like most of my life right now, I’m really not sure what happens next for this blog. But the backbone of it — the part about being strong no matter what, embracing imperfections, facing fears head on, and finding humor whenever possible, that will remain. That part will never change.

So if you are willing to bear with me, I promise to come back, more consistently, and not hold back any more. Life is a full spectrum — highs and lows, but it can be lived with zest and vigor, as long as you have a cup full of caffeine and some prayers in your heart!

Thanks for sticking with me! Your loyal readership is a blessing in my life and I hope to be a blessing in yours.

J.J.