Posted March 29, 2010 by dumbricht
Categories: Uncategorized

Welcome to Family Movie Night where every week I will discuss a film I have shared with my kids.  My plan is to provide non-traditional reviews, focusing on my overall perception of the film and how it affects the kids rather than opining on the overall quality of a film.  There are plenty of other places on the web to find more conventional critiques.  A few that I find helpful are:

Rotten Tomatoes – aggregates reviews of many of the top critics in the US.


Roger Ebert – Siskel & Ebert were very instrumental in my formative years as a film fan.  Ebert continues to be a prolific and entertaining writer.  In addition, he has a searchable database of his reviews dating back to 1967.


I will also defer to better sites to recommend age appropriateness.  Every kid and every family is different and what may be fine for some could be unacceptable to others.  I find Common Sense Media does a rather good job of cataloging of the themes, language, sex, and violence found in a movie.  While they give an age rating for many films, I suggest you go the next step and look at the details that led them to give a film a specific rating to determine if it is something you are comfortable watching.  The link to their site is:


I will attempt to span genres and time periods in my posts, discussing classics, near classics, and movies I probably thought were classics when I was young.

I am a child of the 70’s and 80’s and grew up on live action Disney films, but I promise not to subject you to lengthy discussions of either Apple Dumpling Gang films (although the Shaggy D.A. is not out of the question).  I welcome suggestions from anyone reading, as I am always looking for new films to try out on the family.   I would also love to hear how your family reacts to movies I write about.

As this is Family Movie Night, I will talk about movies we can watch at home.  An outing to the theater is one of my favorite activities with the kids, but since my wife and I also have a baby that means one of us will be left at home.  Watching a movie at home is something we can all do together. 

The advent of the internet and On Demand has led to a nearly infinite number of options in how we consume our movies at home.  My favorite method remains Netflix with more and more of the movies I watch coming through their instant service. 


Their basic service will allow you to watch an unlimited number of movies per month through your laptop or TV via one of many devices that will stream.  The Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii all allow you to watch Netflix.  I use a Roku player rather than the Xbox, mainly because the Roku is smaller and is easily transportable from room to room.  All you need is a wireless connection and Netflix subscription and you are ready to go.


I look forward to joining you on this journey.  I want to introduce my kids to some of the great movies in history, some of the films that affected me deeply and shaped me.  But it’s not just about what I want to teach them, because I’ve found I learn more about my kids from sharing this time with them.  I learn what makes them laugh and what makes them dance.  I learn what inspires them and makes them cringe in fear.  I learn what makes them cry and what makes them smile.   I get to know them a little bit deeper than I did before.  We all remember when we first saw Star Wars or the Wizard of Oz or the Sound of Music and we remember who we were with.  I want my kids to look back on these times and smile when they remember that they saw them with me.


The Joy of Creativity – “Shorts”

Posted March 27, 2010 by dumbricht
Categories: Family Movie Recommendation

Tags: , , , ,

Shorts/Rated PG/ Running Time: 89 mins
Over Christmas, I sat down with my six year old son and had him tell me a story.  He began with a simple premise of two aliens who need to fix their spaceship to go home.  We’ve all heard that one before.  But then one of them finds a treasure map in the ship’s glove box and they travel to dinosaur land to get the pirate treasure from the king dinosaur who had a castle with disappearing doors and little dinosaur soldiers and they had to go through the jungle and elude traps, Indiana Jones-style and, and, and . . .  unfiltered creative brainstorming.  Now imagine a movie studio executive heard his idea and gave him a few million dollars to film it and you would end up with the movie “Shorts.”
The film is directed by Robert Rodriguez, who is better known for more adult fare like Sin City, From Dusk Till Dawn and El Mariachi.  However, nearly half of his films have been kid’s movies, most notably the Spy Kids franchise.  “Shorts” may be the ultimate kid’s movie as it feels like it is a direct feed into a seven year old’s brain, without any adult editing.
A synopsis of this film doesn’t do it justice.  It’s the story of a magic rock that grants its owner unlimited wishes and the consequences for each person that holds it.  The movie throws every idea a kid could ever imagine up onto the screen.  Want crocodiles that walk on two feet?  Check.  Giant robots?  Check.  Booger monsters?  Check.  And my favorite, a Super Genius Telepathic Baby.  The movie is unbridled creativity, which makes it messy, yet beautiful. 
As adults, our creativity is often stifled.  Many of us have impulses to write or paint or sing, but are afraid to follow our instincts.  Kids have a much easier time doing this.  Perhaps it is because as kids we are closer to the creative source.  Or maybe it’s just that adults have been judged and graded and nitpicked so many times in their life that there is a fear of really putting a true thought out there, unless it is considered safe. 
Family movie night is a great time to spend with the kids and share movies that we remember loving as children, but there are times when it can be a teaching tool.  “Shorts” can teach kids (and their parents) about creativity and the creative process, and the joys of brainstorming without critique.

 A game the whole family can play after watching the movie is called “Yes and ….”  The rules are simple, Mom or Dad pick a topic like “we are going to build a new house” or “let’s make a movie.”  Then he or she says something they would want to include.  If Mom says a big living room, then everyone would say, “Yes” (because the idea of this game is to be positive and not to judge any of the ideas).  And then everyone says “And” leading to someone else adding to the suggestion.  It does not matter what anyone says, the key is to accept all of the ideas, even if they are outrageous or impossible (A giant  tank with Great White Sharks is possible in this game, so Dad can’t disagree with this, even if there have been very few Great Whites held in captivity).   You can play with any topic.  Just remember the point is to be open to all possibilities.

Now of course, we adults have also learned that at a point, editing is a key step in the creative process, where we hone what we have created into its best possible format.  But it is important to remember that we need to allow the raw material to be created in order to be able to edit it. 
After all this talk about judgment hindering the creative process, it wouldn’t be fair to really review “Shorts.”  The kids will love it because it is how they think.  Parents can enjoy it by watching their kids’ enjoyment and by challenging themselves to try and be more creative.   “Shorts” reminded me of the power of brainstorming and how much fun it can be to let every wacky idea out.  I’d love to teach my kids to always be free and to explore their creative urges, to never be afraid of being judged, and most important of all, not to judge themselves.  That is the ideal.