Playtest and Giveaway: New LEGO Star Wars Buildable Figures

The latest LEGO Star Wars figures are a little bigger than the previously available ones!

This giant (in LEGO terms) Vader is one of a series of six new buildable figures from their Star Wars line – Jango Fett, Clone Commander Cody, Obi Wan Kenobi (Clone Wars) General Grevious, Luke Skywalker (Return of the Jedi), and Darth Vader.

Unlike the previous LEGO Star Wars sets, which have been in the classic LEGO format, these are more like Bionicle and other similar buildable LEGO figures. When constructed you have a fully poseasble and articulated Star Wars figure.

We chose Darth Vader, as he is probably my daughter’s favourite character after Princess Leia.

The set a seemingly manageable 160 pieces. But this was my first constraction set, and many of the pieces were unfamiliar to me – with only a few seeming LEGO-like. The build was a different experience too.

My daughter and I like building LEGO sets together, even if the recommended age is far older than she is. However, it soon became clear that this was probably going to be something I built myself – which was obviously no great hardship!

This is not a criticism, as the recommended age is 9+, but other sets we’ve built had a similar age recommendation and we were able to collaborate on. This set, with it’s different style, was a more complex proposition, plus it required gross & fine motor skills which she simply does not have at 3 years old.

However, the finished result is a great toy for her.

It has some cool custom features, such as the cape, the lightsaber, and the head is a great Darth Vader sculpt.

We only had access to Vader, one of the six sets, and while it’s pretty cool when constructed, I would say that General Grevious appears to be the most successful. As he is a robot, his body of metal struts and joints suits the style of these sets perfectly.

These sets offer a nice point of difference to LEGO’s Star Wars line, as well as the wider range of Star Wars toys available. This is a far more stylish Darth Vader toy than many of the other official figures you see out there.

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Disclaimer: While I was not paid to write this review, we did receive this LEGO set free of charge.

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These LEGO Star Wars buildable figures are available from Amazon

Or, enter our giveaway below for your chance to win a Jango Fett figure (UK residents only).

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buildable LEGO Star Wars Jango Fett #75107

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This set of buildable LEGO figures feature a mix of goodies and baddies. Which characters do you or your little ones like best in Star Wars – the heroes or villains?

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Family Fever

Of Dinosaurs, Detectives, and Drug Lords (#StreamTeam)

This past month we’ve shown our daughter a classic superhero in action, brought some long dead creatures to life, learned about the highs and lows of an iconic performer, and discovered a great new drug (show) to get hooked on.

Batman: The Movie (Cert U)

Batman-the-movie-1966-Netflix-Streamteam
Batman: The Movie

My 3-year-old daughter has declared that two of her favourite superheroes are Batman and Robin. The 1966 Batman movie is probably why.

It’s ironic that the majority of modern superhero movies aren’t actually suitable for young children. That’s certainly not the case here, with this movie version of the famed campy Batman TV show.

The film features largely the same cast as the show, and the same style and sense of humour. The ‘plot’ sees Batman & Robin (Adam West and Burt Ward) take on a super villain team of the Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman.

Made after the first season of the Batman TV show, legend has it that it was made so the production could have access to more Bat-vehicles for the ongoing TV show – so here, as well as the iconic Batmobile, you also get the Batboat, Batcopter, and Batcycle.

In an age where superhero movies have become ubiquitous and ever darker (thanks in part to the dark detective’s recent trilogy), seeing this movie is a great reminder of how much fun comic books and superheroes can be.

The Land Before Time (Cert U)

Land Before Time
The Land Before Time (1988), Dir. Don Bluth

My daughter has also taken a liking to Dinosaurs of late, after reading a book to her about them. She also has a few toys, but I really wanted to show her some film and /or TV showing them for her to engage with them even more.

This was the perfect choice. Directed by Disney exile Don Bluth (An American Tail, The Secret of NIMH), and produced by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas no less, this is a great introduction to dinosaurs for little ones. It’s the story of a group of cute young dinosaurs who get separated from their family, and their journey to be reunited with them – with a T-Rex in hot pursuit.

While it’s rated U, it does have a family death near the start which might upset some children.

(We also tried Walking With Dinosaurs on her, but it was so well done – even though it’s 16 years old – it was too scary. For her, not me. Honest.)

What Happened, Miss Simone? (Cert 15)

Netflix has a great documentary selection, and this (a Netflix Original) was one I’m really glad we watched.

Previously, I knew very little about Nina Simone other than she was an African American performer who’s most famous song was ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’.

So I didn’t know about her role in the civil rights movement, her protest songs, the troubled family life, and the highs and lows of her career and life.

A fascinating story, well constructed with a mixture of new and archive footage & interviews, with some great music too – this is well worth a watch.

Narcos (Cert 15)

This is a terrific new Netflix Original series. I’m a sucker for a good organised crime drama, and this is a fine example. It’s a dramatised account of the 1980s American drug wars and the rise of the infamous kingpin Pablo Escobar. The story is told through the eyes and narration of US DEA Agent Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook), who guides us through the ins and outs of the emerging Central & South American drug cartels – especially the Medellín Cartel headed by Pablo Escobar (played here by Brazilian actor Wagner Moura).

We’re only two episodes in, but rest assured that if we didn’t have a 3-year-old in the house we’d have binge watched it all weekend.

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Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam program. Our household receives free Netflix for a year and I post about how our family uses the service.

If any of these grab your attention, please head over to Netflix to check them out.

Does Caring Make a Man Stronger?

This week I received a package of goodies from Dove Men+Care, with this challenge put before me: Dare to Care.

While some men may balk at the suggestion they are caring, I would venture that even those who don’t exhibit this side of their personality are likely hiding it. For many, it doesn’t fit with a traditional view of masculinity and they may be uncomfortable to be seen stepping outside of that. Perhaps for them, it does take great strength to do that.

For me, this was an easy challenge to accept. As a father and primary carer for our daughter, caring is part of my day-to-day existence. My desire to care for her was one of the reasons I became a stay-at-home dad in the first place. I kiss and cuddle my daughter all the time. I tell her I love her daily. She responds, in true Han Solo style, with “I know”. She calls it our little joke.

Dove Men+Care, Dare to Care, Care Makes a Man Stronger
For me to ‘Dare to Care’

The Dove Men+Care package contained a selection of their products for me (to care for myself), plus a range of items to administer care to others – all nicely packaged up in a First Aid case.

Care Makes a Man Stronger

The items to care for others included things any parent will use regularly.

A packet of issues is an essential item in my parenting arsenal. I foolishly thought the advent of summer would mean less colds, but I think my daughter has had more of them over this mild season, plus occasional hay fever. These were also good for wiping chocolate off her face and hands on a cinema visit this week.

Dove Men+Care
Our Lottie Doll needed care for grazed knee

Something that also happens a lot in summer, because of bare legs and more running around outside, are scratches and scrapes. The pack of plasters that was included will definitely come in handy. In the past I have also offered them when other children have been injured nearby (like this instance, when a mum was very grateful). We didn’t use them this particular week, but my daughter often plays out scenarios with her dolls when they graze their knee and require a plaster, as she did this week.

We haven’t had to call on the Rescue Remedy yet (wine has a similar effect though), and the Starbucks Card is also unused – but we’ll hopefully use that when out with a fellow parent and child in the remaining summer weeks. I need to work out who to send the 10 Thank You cards to. Lots of people to thank when you’re a parent!

Dare to Care (for myself)

Dove Men+Care

For me, there was the Dove Men+Care Hydrate+ moisturising products. These were great for me because:

  • I have really dry skin
  • I’m dark so that dry skin really shows on me
  • We live in an area with some or the hardest water in the country which makes it all worse.

The Hydration Balance body and face wash was a welcome change from our household’s usual citrus fragranced shower gel, and it did leave my skin feeling noticeably less dry afterwards.

The Ultra Hydrating Cream was great to have, as another moisturiser is always welcome to have around – especially one that stays effective for as long as this (it says 24 hours on the jar).

Ever since a trip to a fancy Mayfair barber, I’ve always kept my shaving routine old school, e.g.. using a badger hair shaving brush to apply lathered foam. The Shave Cream was an interesting change. The moisturising cream removed the need to apply post-shave treatments to the skin, and the shave was pretty smooth too.

So thanks for all the goodies Dove Men + Care. I have and will continue to Dare to Care – for both others and myself.

 

Does caring make a man stronger? Please join the conversation by commenting below.

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Who is the Most Baddass Female Marvel Character? There’s an Infographic For That

I often get emailed stuff for me to run on the blog in return for nothing. No product, no money. Nothing. Usually, I ignore these requests. But for once I’m not, because this is kind of cool.

Fancy dress makers Morphsuits have put together this stylish infographic to help you figure out who is the most badass female Marvel character out there.

To be honest, this doesn’t help me decide that at all. Storm? She Hulk? Wasp (no, really)?

But it’s kinda cool to look at.

Female Superheroes, The Most Baddass Female Marvel Characters, Captain Marvel,

“We Don’t Eat Peppa Pig… Do We?”

I rather mischievously call venison sausages Bambi, and more recently have taken to naming any pork one as Peppa Pig. When shopping, and given a choice, my 3-year-old daughter generally chooses the Peppa Pig sausages. She didn’t know why they were Peppa Pig sausages, just that they were.

I was wondering when the first question about where meat comes from would happen. She understands that fruit comes from trees, vegetables are grown in the ground, and eggs are from chickens. I assumed that a knowing question about where chicken or lamb comes from would be first, as they don’t have a secret identity in the way beef/steak (cow), venison (deer), and pork/ham/bacon (pig) do. Chicken is chicken, and lamb is a baby sheep (awww).

So, while we shared a lunch of a ham & cheese rolls, my daughter asked me “Where does ham come from?”. From a pig, I answered. “How does it come from the pig?”.

While I may be disingenuous at times with my daughter, I never want to lie to her. So I set about telling her an admittedly sanitised and idealised explanation.

“Ham is actually a piece of pig who was raised to be our food. A farmer looks after a pig from when it’s little, gives it good food and treats it very nicely. When it is big, the farmer decides it’s time for the pig to die, and after it does it gets chopped up into pieces. The farmer sells them, people buy them, and we cook and eat them.”

She mulled that over for a moment and then carried on eating her ham roll, seemingly undisturbed.

I was quite glad to get this out of the way relatively early. I have friends who’s children have stopped eating meat when they realise what it is.

The other day, on our walk to nursery, my daughter had by this time made a few connections, and then asked me – “We don’t eat Peppa Pig… do we?”.

It’s fair to say I don’t really like Peppa Pig. We’ve never seen the show, but the books are so poorly written I have refused to read them aloud any more. They are read the books at nursery from time to time. I also had a copywriting job where I went a little mad with all the Peppa and George tat I had to gush about. I understand the TV show is better, but I’m too preoccupied with showing her the likes of Star Wars, Studio Ghibli, and (currently) Dinosaur movies.

So I was very, very tempted to answer “Yes, we eat Peppa Pig”. But on consideration I replied “No, we don’t eat Peppa. Or George. Or their mummy or daddy.”

“But we do eat other pigs. Sausages, ham, bacon, are all from other pigs who are dead”.

Again, she pondered that for a moment, and then our walk to nursery continued.

I appreciate that as a society, we have become increasingly removed from the fact that meat is part of a dead animal. My wife has made a better go at facing this head on. When 7 months pregnant, she took it upon herself to skin, decapitate, and joint three wild rabbits that a friend had hunted – just to prove to herself that she could. We don’t have a photo of any of this, as I was hiding in the living room until the dead animals were transformed into meat, which I was then more than happy eat.

My daughter has the beginning of an understanding of where meat comes from, and so far it hasn’t conflicted with her love of cute animals. Or annoying ones like Peppa.

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A New Hope? Next is Selling Star Wars Clothes… For Girls

Last week local blogger and author Polly Walker alerted me to the fact that Next was selling some new Star Wars clothes. What made these different was one important detail – they were created specifically for girls.

While overall I remain uneasy about the way boys & girls clothing is defined and divided, this addition is immensely positive and demonstrates for all what I’ve always known – Star Wars is for girls too.

As a geek dad, I’ve bought my daughter all sorts of sci-fi tops since she was born. When they’re babies what they wear is frequently for parental amusement. A baby has no idea why their father might like to dress them as a Star Trek red shirt.

While these geeky baby clothes tend to not be labelled by gender, as she got older I ended up browsing the ‘boys’ section, as there was never any in the ‘girls’ one. While it didn’t bother me at first, I begun to realise that this was how geek culture becomes defined as a boys interest from an early age.

Because of this, I was nervous about letting my daughter choose her own clothes when she turned 3, as I thought that would be the end of it. I needn’t have worried.

But getting hold of different styles is an issue. Making or buying custom made clothing is one solution. My daughter was lucky enough to be the recipient of a Star Wars skirt, made for her by Francesca of Sewing Circus.

I connected with Francesca online, and the internet has helped a great deal by bringing together the large and growing geek culture fangirl community. The fact it exists at all is a testament to members individuality, and determination to not be defined by strict parameters of what it means to be a girl or woman.

While the likes of the innovative Her Universe label is taking full advantage of this gap in the market, the mainstream assumption remains – that geeky stuff involving space and superheroes is for boys only.

This often means female characters being omitted altogether in licensed merchandise, as happens with The Avengers, Big Hero 6, Guardians of the Galaxy, and – yes – Star Wars. This tells boys and girls that there is no place for women in these environments.

There is a close link between a childhood interest in geek culture and science in general. The reasons for lack of women in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Manufacturing) are many, but the perception of science and science fiction as ‘boy’ interests is suspected of being a major contributing factor.

Do Girls Really Like Star Wars?

All I want for my daughter – and all girls – is choice. If your daughter loves pink and princesses, then she is well served by the market. But my Star Wars loving little girl and her fellow fangirls usually have to rely on what’s in the boy’s aisle, and many will feel uncomfortable about this as they grow older. I’ve already had older girls and boys ask me with disbelief whether my daughter really does love Star Wars when they see her running around the playground in her Star Wars gear. Well, she absolutely does.

The new Star Wars movie is only a few months away, with a film a year to follow after that. There are additional comic books, novels, and cartoons. The merchandise tsunami has already begun. The new saga is about to be embraced by a brand new generation of fans, including my daughter. When I was a kid, one of the biggest Star Wars fans I knew was a girl who lived around the corner. Somehow, in the ensuing decades, it became redefined as a boys only brand.

A high street retailer like Next selling Star Wars clothes for girls – even ones with pink and sparkles – gives me a new hope that such an attitude will be a thing of the past for Star Wars fangirls in the future.

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What do you think? Is Star Wars for boys only? Do you know any girls who love it too? Please share your opinion below, or on Facebook.

My Favourite Photos of the Month – July

Here’s a selection of my favourite July photos from our Instagram account.

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Watching Wizard of Oz, wearing her Dorothy dress.

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It's a tutu kinda Tuesday 🙂 #ootd

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Our puddle hunt was successful 🙂

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"Would you care to join me for a dance?"

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Dancing to 'Kiki's Delivery Service' 🙂

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Celebrating Disney Princesses of Colour

Something a little different from me. Today I want to celebrate some Disney Princesses.

You can’t escape seeing merchandise adorned with the likes of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Merida, Ariel, and Snow White – and of course the as yet unofficial Disney Princesses of Frozen’s Anna & Elsa.

But as well as being Disney women, they also have something else on common – all of them are white.

As parents of a mixed race daughter, it’s important we include representations of girls & women of colour in stories, films, and merchandise she is exposed to. As far as Disney Princesses are concerned, the women of colour tend to be far less prominent than their caucasian counterparts, so here are some Disney Princesses of colour that I have made a point of introducing our daughter to.

Princess Jasmine in Aladdin (1992)

Disney Women of Colour, Disney Princesses of Colour, Disney Women of Color, Disney Princesses of Color, Princess Jasmine, Aladdin, 1992
‘Aladdin’ (1992), Dirs: Ron Clements, John Musker
© Walt Disney Pictures

One of the early films in the Disney Renaissance, this sees Princess Jasmine as the female lead opposite the eponymous Aladdin. Of presumably Persian royalty, she is a character who is destined for an arranged marriage but is looking for more than a foppish or arrogant prince. Could Aladdin be the one?

The animation is classic Disney, the characterisation very American, and the songs are catchy enough. Jasmine has an independent spirit, but storywise she’s really there to support Aladdin. And the fact is that the human characters are all upstaged my Robin William’s genie anyway – one of the first times a big star was cast in an animated movie.

Probably the best reviewed and most popular film on this list, it is a fairly safe choice. However, some scenes may be a bit intense for young children. I had lots of cuddles during the finale.

Pocahontas (1995)

Pocahontas, 1995, Disney Women of Colour, Disney Princesses of Colour, Disney Women of Color, Disney Princesses of Color
‘Pocahontas’ (1995), Dirs: Mike Gabriel, Eric Goldberg
© Walt Disney Pictures

Imagine Avatar minus spaceships, plus songs. That’s kind of what Pocahontas is.

I’m doing this film a disservice. While it was cited as one of the main sources of theft inspiration for James Cameron’s sci-fi saga, it’s a far more involving movie than that (not a fan).

A highly fictionalised version of the true story, this focuses on the romance between the Native American ‘princess’ Pocahontas and the English Captain John Smith.

Pocahontas shares similarities with Princess Jasmine, in that she is expected to be married off to a husband of her father’s choosing – but she wants more.

Featuring some stunning design and animation, this was a far better movie than I remember. It was an engaging mix of comedy, drama, and action – and a great starting point for conversations about race, colonialism, and the consequences of the choices we make. The casting of Mel Gibson as John Smith, in this tale of racial tolerance, seems somewhat ironic in the light of later events

I also found myself humming the standout musical numbers of ‘Just Around the River Bend’ and ‘Colours of the Wind’ for many days afterwards.

Mulan (1998)

'Mulan' (1998), Dirs: Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook  © Walt Disney Pictures
‘Mulan’ (1998), Dirs: Tony Bancroft, Barry Cook
© Walt Disney Pictures

Based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan (or Fa Mulan), and voiced by Ming-Na Wen (now well known as Melinda May in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Mulan is a woman who joins the Chinese army in the place of her elderly father, disguising herself as a man.

The film possibly tries a little to hard with the ‘women can do what men do too’ angle, and it perhaps falls into the trap of songs that pause rather than progress the plot – but the most memorable number of all, ‘I’ll Make a Man Out of You’ navigates this adeptly.

Mulan is a welcome Disney Princess because she is a woman of action. We need more of those, alongside princesses known for dancing or sleeping.

Honourable Mention…

Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Esmeralda The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996, Disney Women of Colour, Disney Princesses of Colour, Disney Women of Color, Disney Princesses of Color
‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ (1996), Dirs: Mike Gabriel, Eric Goldberg
© Walt Disney Pictures

You probably won’t find Esmeralda on any backpack or water bottle at the Disney Store. She was never fully admitted to the hallowed ranks of the Disney Princesses, and has now all but disappeared from the world of Disney. This is a real shame.

Based on the book by Victor Hugo, the film liberally adapts many elements of the story, including this character. Voiced by Demi Moore, here Esmeralda is a dark skinned Romani Gypsy, who displays the exuberance of a woman who is confident and adventurous, as well as being kind and empathetic.

Set against a backdrop of the Romani people being demonised as subhuman criminals (sound familiar?), Esmeralda is both despised and lusted after by the villain of the tale Judge Frollo, who is waging a campaign against all Romani in Paris yet is having trouble dealing with some repressed feelings for Esmeralda. She is a trusted member of her community, who is older and wiser than most Disney females, a step ahead from the teenage heroines we are generally used to.

Again, this film offers a good starting point for discussions about discrimination and injustice, while presenting a well rounded female character who is full of life and determination.

And I wish I could get my daughter an Esmeralda lunchbox at the Disney Store.

Representation Matters

Disney have made a decent effort over the past twenty or so years to be more racially diverse (recent examples also include Princess Tiana in The Princess and the Frog, and the forthcoming Moana, set in the south pacific). While I appreciate there are overriding issues with gender representation and Disney Princesses (admittedly only two of these movies – barely – pass the Bechdel Test), that is something that I can address by talking to my daughter about these stories. But there is no substitute for her seeing women who look like her, or at least the woman she will grow up to be, on films, tv, and merchandise.

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Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam program. Our household receives free Netflix for a year and I post about how our family uses the service.

To check out these Disney movies featuring women of colour, please head to Netflix.

Has the New Big Screen Batgirl Been Revealed?

We knew Jena Malone (The Hunger Games: Catching FireInherent Vice, Contact) was cast in the forthcoming Batman V Superman movie, and it was assumed that she was most likely being set up as a female Robin, as depicted in The Dark Knight Returns comic.

However, Latino Review reports that this may not be the case – that she may in fact be playing Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl. The character was previously seen onscreen in the critically mauled Batman and Robin, played by Alicia Silverstone.

What do you think? Would she make a good onscreen Batgirl?

First Look at Wonder Woman in ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’

While it’s pretty clear that Star Wars – The Force Awakens was the big winner at Comic-Con 2015, the Princess Leia reveal overshadowed another iconic female character who’s returning to our screens soon.

A new trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice gave us our first look at the brand new big screen Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot) in action.

Wonder Woman, Dawn of Justice, Batman V Superman, Gal Gadot

Wonder Woman, Dawn of Justice, Batman V Superman, Gal Gadot. comic-con 2015, female superhero

You can also check out the full trailer here:

I showed these images of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman to my daughter (who has numerous items of Wonder Woman merchandise) and she had no idea who this was. However, she recognised Henry Cavill’s Superman and Ben Affleck’s Batman instantly.

I think it’s the colours. When I showed her this image, she recognised it straight away.

Wonder Woman, Dawn of Justice, Batman V Superman, Gal Gadot

What do you think of this first look at Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? Does she look like Wonder Woman to you?