Sunday, February 23, 2014

In case you weren't in the target demographic...

...the LEGO movie was AwesomeTM! Actually, I thought it was just rather cute, but for some reason I can't stop saying AwesomeTM!
My kids really enjoyed it even though some of the parts were, as they tend to say, "derp". I was amazed that some studio exec hadn't managed to hijack the narrative and kept it close to what we understand the LEGO toys to be. I'm not going to spoil any details here since it's still in theaters, (*cough* Batman-is-kind-of-a-jerk *cough*) but I can definitely say that if you enjoy the basic free spirit of play you will enjoy the LEGO movie, and if you are too busy trying to teach your three-year old calculus on the way to his piano competition, then you're going to be mad that you wasted 100 minutes at the movies.

We watched it last weekend. Only a couple of dozen people were there for an afternoon show. I would have liked to see the 3D version, but I didn't want to give my younger child a headache. It was nice to see the adults and the kids laughing at different jokes.

For those of you that have seen the LEGO movie and are familiar with the works of Arthur C. Clarke, we have this video, done by a friend of ours and local LEGO expert.

For those of you that are thinking, "How did they not make a LEGO movie before now?" it's just that this is the first one in theaters. There were four Bionicle movies and a couple of Hero Factory movies that went direct to video. More recently there was the the LEGO:Ninjago TV series, a LEGO Star Wars direct-to-video movie, a LEGO Batman direct-to-video movie that came out at the same time as the LEGO Batman 2 video game, and a couple of movies starring LEGO hero Clutch Powers, one direct to video, and one 4D-direct-to-theme-park. Clutch Powers is voiced by Ryan McPartlin who most of us would know from the TV show "Chuck". He played Dr. Devon Woodcomb, Chuck's brother-in-law. Most often, he was referred to on the show as...

...wait for it...

"Captain Awesome".

Coincidence, or not?

And in other awesome news, speed cuber Kevin Hays totally destroyed the record for the 2x2x2 to 7x7x7 relay.

Sunday, February 9, 2014 maybe LEGO is like the Weak Nuclear Force?

I had planned for yesterday to go to a LEGO event with my kids. I wasn't exactly sure how it was going to go, since it wasn't (for us) a usual LEGO event. I presumed that the local movie theater/outdoor mall wanted to capitalize on LEGO fans being there the weekend that The LEGO Movie opened, so the timing was not unusual. We don't have a LEGO store here (the nearest one is at least an hour south of us) so it was run by a third party company that does really expensive half-day summer camps using LEGO and claiming to work on kids' STEM skills. There were two parts to the event, bringing your own creations for judging, and a speed-building competition. The flyer that we saw told us that the event started at 10:30, but not really any specifics about how the rest of it was supposed to go. The theme for the build was supposed to be the Sochi Olympics. Both kids built small structures - my older one built a snowball fight amongst athletes, and my younger child had Arctic Batman on a bobsled. Thinking that it wouldn't pay to show up too early, we opted to get there around 11:30.  We drove around the shopping center, found a central place to park, and then figured out where the event was but left the builds in the car. We found the event set up on  tables outside, right near the place where the bands play there in the evenings. It was a little warmer than usual, and scattered clouds and fairly high humidity made us wonder about the viability of an outdoor event. Then, we found the schedule. Submissions went well past 12:00, and the judging was 1-3. The speed build events were broken up into age groups, but the middle school group that my older son would have competed in wouldn't have started until 2:45 according to their schedule. Nobody was enthused about the idea of leaving their builds there alone (sure, there were event people there, but they can't watch everything), and nobody would have been comfortable standing around with their builds for 3-4 hours outside until the judging finished. Plus, there was the matter of lunch, so we'd have to either separate or leave the builds behind.

So, my older son and I seemed too uncomfortable with the whole situation to even bother. We saw an interesting ski jump that someone had made before we left, but it didn't seem compelling for us to stay. On a hunch, we drove to the nearby Toys R Us. As we drove over to Toys R Us my younger one was pretty adamant that he wanted to go home after that, so I didn't bring up the idea of going to the LEGO movie since he didn't seem like he was going to have sufficient attention span to hang out in the theater.

As an intermission to the whole escapade, I was crossing the major thoroughfare that separated the mall from Toys R Us only to have someone creep past the white line by at least a car length. I honked at them, so they would stop and I could finish crossing without incident. As it turned out, they turned into the Toys R Us anyway but I found that odd since they would have had plenty of time to do it way before I was anywhere near them. As I passed by the car, I could it was a rather old woman driving alone. I didn't know what to make of it at all. I parked on the far side of the parking lot and tried to keep a low profile. She snaked through the parking lot and eventually honked at us as we were walking towards the store. I told the kids to stay back at the curb and went over to talk to her.

The second she rolled down her window I immediately apologized. I tried to explain that I had only honked because I thought her intent was to try to jump out in front of the rest of the traffic before the light turned green in her direction, and I wouldn't have honked if I had been able to tell if she was turning right. (No, I didn't see a turn signal. It's Florida, it's rather commonplace.)

She looked at me with a rather dazed expression, and merely said. "Oh."

Then she told me that she only had a question and wanted to know if there was someplace she could buy some printer ink like Best Buy or something. I told her that she had missed the turn for Best Buy and that she was better off going to the Office Depot just east of there so she didn't have to make multiple left turns in a row.

I shrugged off my uncomfortableness and headed into the store with the kids. As it turned out, our hunch was correct! Toys R Us was also doing a LEGO event tied into the release of the movie! So, my kids walked around the store for a few minutes, the event started at 12:00, each of my kids picked up a free minikit that has two different forms, and we got a coupon that entitled us to a $15 gift card if we bought "The LEGO Movie:The Game" for 2DS/3DS that day. We passed on that particular deal since we felt a little too pressured to pick up a game we didn't know anything about, but there were a lot of good 3DS games that were buy one, get one 40% off.

Unlike previous build events, this one was done assembly-line style. Each kid in line was given a plastic bag and two instruction sheets. Each yellow cardboard bin of parts had a number on the front, and you grabbed that many parts from the bin. For example, since we were building a car, the number on the front of the tire bin and the hub bin were "4", and the number on the steering wheel bin was "1". Unfortunately, that meant that the kids didn't get to stand at the tables and build, since there was barely enough room for all the bins. We got our free parts, looked at some tablets in the "R" Zone, and picked up a couple of DS games.

Since we didn't opt to build in the store, it took my older son a few minutes after we got home to realize that the sets were missing a black 1x4 piece. Not really a problem for us, so he added one to both sets and built them pretty quickly.

So, here's the minikit in both forms, flying car and regular car.

It seemed like the shopping center event could have been fun if there was something else for the kids to do - like if they had had a table where kids could freebuild, but I could also see where having a freebuild space could make it complicated for people showing up with their own stuff. If it had been a regular store with its own restrooms and air conditioned space it might have made up for the length of time also, but then you don't have people wandering around the shopping center like the shopping center would want. The LEGO event at Toys R US had a free raffle in an attempt to get people to hang out until 2:00, but that didn't seem like a good idea for us either.

If the event is compelling, then I think it's easy to get people to stay, but the minute it feels like a 'gotcha', there are some of us that are just going to run away as soon as they smell any funny business. On the other hand, maybe there are just people that drive around looking for whatever they can find, compelling or not. Although if that's the case, just remember that they don't usually have printer ink at Toys R Us.