Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was a great film, which was slightly impeded by a few negatives. In this episode we pick up where Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the 2nd chapter, leaves off. ¬†In order to understand where we start here I do recommend seeing the 2nd¬†one if you haven’t. It is this reviewer’s opinion that¬†Dawn is superior to Rise.

The humans come out on the other side of the Simeon flu virus, which is decimating the population around the globe. We focus on a group of survivors in the San Francisco area, the same location of the second chapter. The humans are living in the remains of the city, and the apes live in the forest just outside of it.

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The movie shows us the constant struggle for the humans and apes to build trust with each other and co-exist peacefully.  And even, what happens when people & apes within their own factions start to divide.

The movie starts off on the right foot, with a compelling first few scenes, including a media blitz covering what is happening around the globe and the apes’ quest to locate food.

Dawn is a much darker version of the previous movie, and is setup in a post-apololyptic fashion, as humans look for ways to survive.

Action sequences are absolutely fantastic, didn’t feel very much like CGI at all.¬†The detail given to the physical characteristics of the apes was incredible. Nothing was left out, and expressions were flawless.

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Probably the best overriding theme of the movie was its stance on morality. The choices made by the primary characters would often change or bring to light new choices. Showed us that being moral is more often than not a moving compass.

Others themes in the movie included trust, leadership, interdependency, mutiny, fear, and family were thought out and planned very well, and clearly conveyed in the scripting and acting.

Gary Oldman shined in his role as Dreyfus, one of the leaders of the humans. Oldman never ceases to amaze me with his compelling brilliance as an actor. Keri Russell did a great job acting Ellie, a nearly-unnecessary role as the concerned wife, and had to endure several pointless lines of dialogue.  Jason Clarke portrayed Malcolm, our main human character, and his portrayal was compelling as he tries genuinely to bridge the gap between the species. Andy Serkis once again astounds us with Caesar, the ape who leads his colony and shows us that making the tough and right decisions are not always the most popular.

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Some of the best scenes were the ones between Caesar and his son, who thinks he knows his way, but then has trouble finding his allegiance through the film as new information comes to light. Also when Caesar returns to his old home and how the memories come flooding back.

Soundtrack was well-written and flowed with the harmony of the storyline. Possible Academy Award nod here for editing.

The negatives in the movie were some cheesy, unnecessary, inconsistent, overlong, and clichéd scenes with predictable lines. How do you have a completely abandoned city with no storage in the house you live in? The scene where Malcolm & Ellie converse about their plans and their son listens in.  A decent number of long and slow scenes, where audience en masse decided to take a take a bathroom break. These do not diminish the movie, but are small drawbacks.

Overall, I definitely enjoyed the movie, thought it was better than the last one, and there were only a handful of things that prevented it from being a 10.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes scores 8/10 stars

Did you see the movie? Please share your comment below.

 

 

 

10 Tips for Family Road Trips

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Just got back from a 10-day road trip with my wife and 2 boys, aged 10 and 4. Although it was a really fun and enjoyable trip, we had our moments of high stress and anxiety. ¬†Thought I’d whip up a post to share our experiences and hopefully provide a little wisdom to help those of you that are thinking about a road trip with your kids.

Everybody knows to take snacks, toys, and entertainment, but these are the things we found especially helpful this time around.

Some of the advice you may have to take with a grain of salt, say, if you have girls, or perhaps kids of different ages. But by & large, I’m hopeful that most of the points will be fairly universal in nature and will make sure your next road trip isn’t the last one your family will ever do!

1.  Space out the kids!

Driving a vehicle with multiple rows? If you can, space the kids on separate rows. Now I’m sure this’ll ruffle some feathers of parenting experts, but in our family, the boys get along so well that they manage to annoy each other incessantly. This is probably more important if the kids are not very close in age, and may have more of a tendency to fight if forced to sit in a fixed position for a long period of time.

If you have oodles of children this becomes more of a strategic placement issue – put the peacemakers between the arguers. This will understandably be more of a challenge, but I believe giving kids space in the vehicle will help keep them more well-behaved.

2. Earplugs are your (or the kids’) friend

Yes, I love my boys, but sometimes being in the passenger seat (not the driver’s seat because this would be dangerous), I just want to ratchet my chair back a little and nod off uninterrupted. Earplugs help to alleviate the high-pitched voices that come from the little people in the vehicle.

For kids, if you’ve got a reader, maybe that child wants to use earplugs so they can have a more peaceful environment.

3. Bribery works

With everyone is such close proximity, we suspend traditional no bribery parenting rules.  From 1st dibs on the iPod , to whether or not we go out for ice cream later, the fun stuff you want to do (and were already planning to do) easily becomes a reward for good behavior in the car or hotel.

4.  Pringles snack-sized container

Let’s face it – kids are smaller than us and thus, their bladders are smaller. So they are going to want to go to the bathroom more frequently. Stopping at a rest area every 30 minutes isn’t the most practical nor is there necessarily one available every time you need one, so what do you do?

We stop the caravan, get the kids out of their seats, and help facilitate a bladder-emptying session in an empty snack-sized Pringles container (in this case) while they remain in the vehicle. This could be whatever you have on-hand, but I’m just tellin’ ya, not a bad idea!

Of course, pull off to the side of the road safely and don’t flaunt what you are doing to traffic that may pass you.

5. Swap out drivers

Of course this will only work if you have at least one other driver in the family. What works best for us is to have each spouse drive equal (or close to equal) increments on the road. Instead of having one spouse do most of the driving, which usually burns them out, we like our drivers fresh and alert.

Try to change maybe every 90 minutes or so. This also lets the non-driving person do something they enjoy that’s a little less intensive, like browse the internet on their phone, read a little, or enjoy a snack.

6. Going to a beach?

Expect to have a sandy car. There’s not really any way around this. Even if you do a thorough job of rinsing off under the shower at the beach, sand grains will somehow find a way in to your vehicle.

Don’t sweat the small stuff – when you get back home just count on a ¬†good car wash and vacuum of the interior.

7. ¬†It’s NOTHING like a vacation without kids

You could go to the same place, do the same activities, eat the same food, but the experience with kids is a 180 degree difference entirely, especially if your kids are smaller or medium-sized.

This is because they typically need a lot of maintenance and attention, and since they aren’t oriented to new areas yet, may experience anxiety, confusion, or just have a lot of questions to ask.

We have the brainiest 10-year old on Earth (don’t we all?) , and he likes to ask 10,000 questions. Most of the questions we have no idea how to answer, but by golly, we sure try.

Approach your vacation with adjusted expectations.

8. Hotel Pool is a God-send

From the tiny 2 1/2-star Best Western to the 4-star beachfront fancy pants hotel, almost every place has a pool these days. When you’ve been traveling in the car for multiple hours at a time and everybody’s a little frayed around the edges, nothing “chills out” the whole gang like a dip in pool. That super-stressful time between check-in and dinner can be alleviated with some family splash time.

9. DVD Player

I never thought we’d be one of those families that had a DVD player in their vehicle. Time change – roll with the punches. We purposefully don’t use ours during any outing other than vacation time. ¬†When we need to concentrate on driving through a new town, or one parents just wants a nap (see point 2), nothing quiets the vehicle quite like a favorite movie. For the record, we’ve played Frozen, The Lego Movie, and Wreck-It Ralph about 2,178 times.

10. Be Flexible 

We originally planned on driving from Phoenix to San Diego to San Francisco to Yosemite National Park to Provo and back to Phoenix.

Boy, that was ambitious!

Once we got to¬†Yosemite we decided to revamp our travel plans? Why you ask? Because we were all burning out from road time. After three 6-hour car days, we couldn’t imagine 2 more plus a 11-hour drive home.

From Yosemite we drove back to San Diego, stayed another 2 nights, and were happy campers, literally.

Hope these tips were helpful.  What are your best travel tips for road trips with kids?  Please leave a comment below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Vacation Part 7 – Returning to San Diego

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After much debating about whether to proceed to Provo, Utah or Flagstaff, AZ (both GREAT 4th of July towns by the way), we decided to conclude our family vacation back in San Diego.

The primary reason revolving around the driving time. By going back down to San Diego, we concluded that we’d save a good 5-7 hours of actual driving time on the road. We could see that the amount of driving we had been doing had started to take its toll on the boys and myself. Tia thrives on this kind of stuff and wasn’t quite as affected.

So in the family’s best interest we headed back down to San Diego, a place we knew wouldn’t disappoint, and sure enough, it didn’t.

Before our final destination, however, we needed to have an overnight hotel stay somewhere in-between. It happened to be Bakersfield, CA. Not the most interesting of towns, but we stayed at the Courtyard Marriott (review here)  in a decent area, had access to a pool, and managed just fine.

The next day we were fortunate enough to hit rush-hour traffic in the Los Angeles area (sense the sarcasm). I’ll never look at traffic the same way again. What should have been a 3 1/2 hour drive to San Diego turned into about 6. I kid you not. And oh, the traffic patterns drove me bonkers! Would be going 40 mph for awhile, the all of a sudden had to slam on the brakes because everyone else in front of us did. Once we started getting a move on again in a comfortable rhythm, we were surprised that never was there a car accident. Why do Californians all of a sudden seem to hit the brakes at once? Something I’ll never understand.

And then the law that ok’s motorcycles to speed in-between cars. This is illegal in Arizona, so when it happened to us about 20 times during the duration of our time in California, you can imagine how surprised we were to see it happen so much.

So we arrive at our hotel in San Diego – the Manchester Grand Hyatt( click here for review).¬†We have stayed here at least 3 other times in the past, and been highly satisfied. The first being a company trip we won when I was active with Primerica Financial Services, probably 10 years ago. During that time we didn’t have 2 nickels to rub together, and I remember struggling to make the decision to buy my wife an $18 souvenir in the gift shop of the hotel. How times have changed.

Old jail across the street from the Manchester Grand Hyatt
Old jail across the street from the Manchester Grand Hyatt

So we arrive, check-in, and decide to get out to see what we could see in the area. Hit up this restaurant called Pizzeria Mozza¬†(click here for Yelp review)¬†and were very happy with their product & service. The pizza was too fancy for Miller however, who didn’t like “very good” pizza, only “pretty good” pizza.

Waiting line at Donut Bar
Waiting line at Donut Bar

The next day we got up and had to get over to this place we had been hearing so much about, the Donut Bar (review here).Took a cab since it was a mile from our hotel and ended up waiting a good 30 minutes, probably because it was the 4th of July and no one was working. After questioning whether we had made the right decision, our fears were removed when we got in the store and consumed some of the yummiest donuts known to mankind.

Donut Bar options
Donut Bar options

Next we catch a cab back  to our hotel and decide to cruise around Seaport Village, an outdoor shopping and dining experience on the water. Being the attraction that it is, lots and lots of people were out for the holiday and we had a marvelous time strolling, people watching, walking by all the shops and vendors who had tables set up in the grassy area on the east side including card reading, rock stacking, sales of art, and so on.

My wife Tia & Miller on the merry-go-round at Seaport Village
My wife Tia & Miller on the merry-go-round at Seaport Village

You’d think I would be tired by now, but no, the fun continues. Oh, did I mention that this is all happening during the time that the Little People of America are having a conference in the hotel? Yes, indeed. My sons ask lots of questions about little people and we do the best we can to answer them, while teaching them proper etiquette as well. It was truly an educational experience for both the parents & the kids.

The 4th floor pool of the Hyatt is a subject in and of itself. We come out ready to swim and the area is surrounded with lounge chairs, fire pits, servers, games for kids to play, and lots of cool desk space. And did I mention the amazing views of the bay!! We absolutely loved the setup. Kind of like a large-scale party, only without all the college students. Haha. After not too long later, since I have fairly sensitive skin and a month prior had a layer of basal cell carcinoma removed, I head back to my hotel room to charge my cell phone, since it was ready to die. This also give me a chance to “recharge” my personal batteries, since I am after all, an introvert at heart.

Catching up on some internet & email, Tia keeps me posted as to what is happening with the kids. I head back to the pool area, refreshed and ready to take on the world, and sweetheart that she is, has already ordered dinner for me, which I promptly delve in to.

That night is the 4th of July fireworks – the moment we had been waiting for. And what better way to experience them than in our own private hotel room overlooking the bay! Up on the 23rd floor, we watched, photographed, and filmed the show, and I gotta tell you – it was really a blast! Didn’t deal with traffic or crowds ,but it was fun watching them make their way out of the area after the show ended.

 

The next (and last) day we ate breakfast at the hotel’s buffet restaurant, called Lael’s*. What a treat this was! And then it was time to check-out and head back home to Chandler, Arizona.

Until we meet again San Diego! Although next time we’re going to get out on on a boat….

Coates family at Seaport Village
Coates family at Seaport Village

Have you seen to San Diego recently? Please share your experience below!

Family Vacation Part 6 – A Deeper Look at Yosemite National Park

994453_10204425976119238_6363276288437686513_nToday my family drove from Sonora, CA to the Yosemite National Park.

At first glance it reminded me a lot of Flagstaff, AZ. There were trees everywhere and it was so lush and beautiful, but deep down I wanted more. As we got further in to the park I started getting my wish.

Grand views of hundreds of pine trees below the road we were traveling inspired an immediate “wow” response. It was like a small Grand Canyon of God’s greenery before us as we kept on driving. Seeing huge mountainous rock formations that dwarfed even the tallest person made me realize how small we really are.

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As we made our way through the 1,190 square mile park we started making observations. It was incredible how many people flock here from all over. We saw hundreds of people doing everything from hiking, to biking, to setting up a camp site, to fishing. And every one of them looked like they were having a good time.

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Any why wouldn’t they? They were disconnected from their usual environment, on vacation with their families, creating memories. Although we only took a couple of hours at the park while passing through to our next destination, I’ve heard it’s common for people to spend an entire week in the area.

While I confess that I was a little short-fused that I couldn’t get decent cell phone coverage for the duration, it would have been nice had we isolated there for maybe a day or 2 and instead of connecting with electronics, connected with nature.

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People were dressed to the 9’s for the great outdoors. Hiking short and shorts, bikes with baby carriers, hats, & sunglasses were among some of the accessories spotted.

I find most people have a “draw” to a certain type of natural environment. For example, my wife Tia is drawn to the water (specifically the ocean). She blames it on her Pisces nature, but when she is before a great body of water, she feels a calming presence and connectedness to a higher power.

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For some time I have wondered what kind of setting that might be for me. In some ways Yosemite reminded me of going to the Coates family cabin in Prescott, up in the woods away from civilization. While I do feel a sense of tranquility in this type of environment, I don’t know if that heightened sense comes over me the same way it does my wife at the beach.

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Whenever I’m snow skiing, sometimes I get a glimpse of this kind of feeling shooshing down the slopes or looking at a snow-capped peak from a distance.

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Maybe I’m putting too much pressure on the subject, but perhaps it is the plains (maybe somewhere in the Midwest) that would create that same feeling.

Where do you feel most at peace? Maybe it’s at your home, a favorite building, near a mountainous region, or just being with your closest friend. Please share below – I’d love to hear from you.

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Family Vacation Part 5 – San Francisco: Exploring Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and Ghirardelli Square

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Today we woke up ready for adventure!

Being well-rested we felt confident enough to tackle the areas of Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, and Chinatown in San Francisco.

As we walked from our hotel, the Sir Francis Drake (full TripAdvisor review here), we noticed that almost literally, there is a Starbucks on every corner in San Francisco.

We had a light snack in our room for breakfast, so were on the hunt for  something a little more substantial.

Entrance to Chinatown
Entrance to Chinatown

As we walked towards Chinatown, we tried to figure out which street that sloped upwards was less severe. They all seemed pretty steep, so, we kept walking through Chinatown.

On the way to grab a bit we passed Zoltar, the famous carnival 10383882_10204411212190149_4219707365042116805_nexhibit from the movie Big, where you put money in and Zoltar sends you your fortune. ¬† The highlight of mine was “you change your sky, not your mind”, and wonders what deeply-held beliefs I may be clinging to. I couldn’t arrive at an answer.

We stopped at a Chinese pastry shop and I tried the moon cake, a doughy-sweet and very heavy-tasting pastry I thought we decent, but didn’t hold a candle to a traditional donut.

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Outside of the shop was an old man playing some kind of instrument I couldn’t identify. I asked him and the cashier who sold me the pastry, but to no avail. The language barrier didn’t allow us to communicate in that manner.

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Our next experience was on the trolley. Do you call it a ‘trolley’ or a ‘cable car’? Anyhow, we did that down to Fisherman’s Wharf, and I caught an opportune photo of Miller en-route.

Miller wasn’t crazy about having to sit next to people he didn’t know, and his face during that portion of the ride reflected that feeling. We had a brief chat with him after exiting the trolley about his facial expressions around strangers, and then moved on.

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During this time I really started to appreciate not having a schedule or itinerary on this day. Just strolling, doing as we pleased, not having any kind of agenda, just seeing what the day held.

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Then it was over to lunch. We opted for Alioto’s Restaurant (full Yelp review here)¬†and then headed over to Ghirardelli Square, but not 10453438_10204411217990294_6801203813580011250_nbefore having a leisurely stroll, looking at a couple of huge ships, snapping a few photos, and enjoying each other’s company.

While there we ate some of their delicious ice cream, although I was surprised that Ghirardelli Cheesecake could not be ordered there. I had grown to love that after working at the Olive Garden for so many years during college.

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After that we came back to the hotel, and Toby made the comment that it was his first taxi-cab ride. We opted to avoid the trolley since the lines were so long, and ended up being pleased with the decision, as the cab ride was a mere $10 – saving us probably 30 minutes at least.

Have you been to the Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, or Ghirardelli Square areas of San Francisco? Please leave your comments below about your experience. Look forward to hearing from you!¬†