My Very Own “Awesome Mix”

If you follow our social media feeds, you know that J and I are all about Guardians of the Galaxy. J has cosplayed as Rocket Raccoon one day of almost all conventions that we’ve attended. We watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1 ten times before the premier of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, and J has even curated his own “Awesome Mix” with his iPad on my Spotify account. To celebrate the digital release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, I was asked to create an “Awesome Mix” of songs that have shaped my life and have inspired me.

This playlist was hard for me to make because there are so many songs that have shaped my life. When I was a kid, I wanted a career in the industry as either a rock star or a talent scout for a record label. My parents raised us on every genre of music they could from country to rock and everything in between. We listened to show tunes, classical, mariachi, and banda. They had their favorites, but they wanted my brothers and I to develop our own taste in music. My playlist started as my top 10 favorite songs, it then stretched to 20 songs, and finally rounded out to a cool 30 songs.

I would like to think that after Peter listened to Awesome Mix Vol 1,  Meredith (his mother) sat down with him and explained her reasons for putting those specific songs on her mix. And, she probably would have done the same with Awesome Mix Vol 2 had she survived her cancer. So, like any parent wanting to share something they love, please click here to listen to the playlist and read along while I explain why I chose the songs for “James’ Awesome Mix”.

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  1. Superstition by Stevie Wonder: Superstition gets me to that place. Any time I’m feeling like something can’t be done, I turn on this track and just let the arrangement go straight to my veins. I always feel like I can accomplish anything after listening to this song.
  2. La Bamba by Ritchie Valens: Ritchie Valens was an inspiration for me as a young latino wanting to be a musician. He showed that at times when the racial divide was so great, a young latino man could cross a racial barrier and be successful.
  3. Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang: I’ve always loved Rapper’s Delight, but it became a special song in my life. I didn’t always have the greatest relationship with my step mom, and that was always on me. She always tried to make a connection, but I would just put up a wall. Long story short, those walls came down and my step mom and I have a great relationship. This song is on my mix because this is her jam.
  4. Oye Como Va by Carlos Santana: Carlos Santana, what can I say? Santana has been a major inspiration in me wanting to play guitar. This man is pure skill and I couldn’t have a mix without a Santana song.
  5. Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix: One of the most influential guitarist of all time. Jimi broke down walls with his experimental sounds. Purple Haze was the first Jimi Hendrix song I learned how play on the guitar
  6. Spanish Caravan by The Doors: My oldest brother introduced me to The Doors. I immediately fell in love with Jim Morrison’s lyric style and with the music. Spanish Caravan is one of my favorite Doors song and had to be on my mix.
  7. Sunshine of Your Love by Cream: In my opinion, Sunshine of Your Love is one of the best rock songs in the history of music. Its simplistic melody and guitar riff brings you in and the rhythm just gets you to that special place.
  8. Come Together by The Beatles: The Beatles played quite often in our home when I was a kid. I remember my dad’s love for The Beatles music. He would turn on the music and just lose himself in the music. He’d sit in his chair and just close his eyes and I remember wanting to be just like him. So when I got a job, i bought a stereo with a record player, some headphones and a Beatles album and would just lose myself like I saw him do years earlier.
  9. Careless Whisper by George Michael: Carless Whisper is one of those songs that I never knew what it was about as a kid. I just loved the saxophone and melody. As an adult I love the song because of the passion of the lyrics, but I still love that saxophone.
  10. Under the Boardwalk by The Drifters: Under the Boardwalk was the first song I had the opportunity of singing a solo for when I was in my middle school “jazz choir”. Listening to this song takes me back to a time when I knew that I could face my own fears.
  11. Runnin’ Down a Dream by Tom Petty: Like “Superstition”, this song makes me feel like I can do anything. The rhythm makes you want to move and the lyrics inspire me to work hard on whatever project I’m working on.
  12. Yakety Yak by The Coasters: The Coasters were a fun group. They had imaginative songs and fun melodies. We would listen to The Coasters a lot on weekends when we were doing house work. Yakety Yak was one of those songs that reminded us that we could have fun while doing chores.
  13. Africa by Toto: I have so many memories of me just singing this song at the tops of our lungs. For me, Africa is a song that reminds me to not take myself seriously and always be ready to drop whatever you’re doing and start singing whenever this song comes on.
  14. Strutter by KISS: This is another song inspired by my dad. My dad was a huge KISS fan, he made KISS costumes for us one Halloween, and it was one of my favorite Halloweens ever. The first concert my dad took me to was a KISS concert in 1993. This one is for you dad!
  15. Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen: You can’t have an “Awesome Mix” without Queen. One of the most influential groups of the 70s and 80s needs to be represented on this mix. While Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are the Champions, and Another One Bites the Dust are fantastic songs, I have always been drawn to Crazy Little Thing Called Love.
  16. The Cisco Kid by War: This is another song that would play often while we were doing chores. My grandpa used to watch reruns of The Cisco Kid when he was babysitting my brothers and I, and the 1994 remake movie with Jimmy Smits and Cheech Marin was our family movie, next to Three Amigos.
  17. Heartland by George Strait: I grew up in the Colorado farm town known as Sterling. Before we got our first Wal-Mart your choice of employment was fast food or farm hand. This song reminds me of home. My mom is a big George Strait fan and when my parents were going through their divorce, I was pretty sure he was going to be my step dad. This one is for you mom!
  18. Lithium by Nirvana: Growing up in a farm town and not really feeling like I fit in was rough. Losing myself in Nirvana’s music made me discover that it was okay to not fit in and that everyone had struggles they were dealing with.
  19. Basket Case by Green Day: i firmly believe that I would not be the person I am today without Green Day’s influence. While other kids were getting invited to parties, I was in my room with headphones listening to Green Day and playing along on my guitar. You’re probably thinking, “how sad”, but honestly I look at it as a god send. I wasn’t out getting in trouble, and I wasn’t sad.
  20. Girl’s Not Grey by AFI: It took me a while to really get into AFI. I started listening to them when I joined a band the summer going into my senior year of high school. I loved the guitar riffs and would try similar things in our music.
  21. Soco Amaretto Lime by Brand New: The soundtrack to my senior year. This song reminds me of when I started getting invited to parties with kids in my grade. One of the funnest times I had at school was playing this song at the school talent show with one of my best childhood friends. Sterling High School Class of 2004, this one is for you.
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  22. Papercut by Linkin Park
  23. Numb by Linkin Park
  24. Leave Out All the Rest by Linkin Park
  25. One More Light by Linkin Park
    I have Linkin Park grouped together because of the importance of their music in my life. Like other people, I’ve dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts in my life. One of those bouts of depressions came around the same time I discovered Linkin Park. Their songs spoke to me in a way that music never really did up to that point. I always saw music as speaking to me, and this was the first time that I felt like music was speaking for me. Chester was singing and screaming things that I wanted to say but that I didn’t have the courage to say. Linkin Park’s music was a life changer and I don’t know if I would have come out of some of those dark times without their music. Thank you Linkin Park. My heart is broken from the loss of Chester Bennington, but I think it’s a wake up call that we need to make sure that if we are feeling low that there is a way out. Please talk with friends and family. We can’t keep things inside anymore. If you need someone to talk to, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.             ______________________________________________________________
  26. Amie by Damien Rice: As I grew in my age, I found a love for acoustic music. Damien Rice’s music is so amazing. If I ever feel nerves rising, I can sit with my guitar, play some Damien Rice songs and just feel the tensions of the day melt away.
  27. Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova: All of the songs from Once are amazing and that story reminds me of my young dreams of wanting to be a musician. This song reminds me to keep following my dreams, even if circumstances change.
  28. A Beautiful Mess by Jason Mraz: This song helps to try and see the beauty in heartache. It has helped me get through the pain of losing my grandfather a week before my son was born. There is a beauty in looking at your situation and just stating, “we’re still here.”
  29. Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers: The soul of this song is amazingly inspirational. The harsh reality of the lyrics taught me that life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows and that we have to make our own sunshine.
  30. I Caught Fire by The Used: My wife and I got married when we were pretty young. We were both fans of The Used when we were dating, and this became “our song.’ Whenever I listen to this song, it reminds me of the spouse I want to be, because my wife deserves every feeling this song shares. My partner in life and love, this one is for you.

There you have it! My very own “Awesome Mix” has been fully explained. I hope you enjoy the playlist and the peek into my life as you are listening to the music and reading this post. What would your “Awesome Mix” look like? Let me know in the comments!

Don’t forget that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is now available on Digital and will be available on 4K/BluRay/DVD on August 22. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content.

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***Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post and I was compensated for creating a playlist and writing this post. I chose all the songs for the playlist and all the thoughts in the explanations are my own.***

X-Men: Apocalypse Review

This latest X-Men movie wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. It was another 20th Century Fox film where the actors were great, but the story just fell flat. I felt like they were pandering to the audience with their some of their choices. There were scenes that didn’t need to be the movie and I wanted way more Quicksilver than I got.

Definitely not a movie for the younger kids. If they’ve seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, they may be able to handle some of the more gruesome death scenes in the movie. I would follow the PG-13 guideline with this one.

I will say that fans of this 20th Century Fox franchise will like this movie, but it’s defientely one that not everyone will enjoy. If you like the previous X-Men movies go see this, if not wait for Redbox. Also feel free to skip the 3D, I don’t think it added anything to the feel of the movie.

Captain America: Civil War Review

Captain America: Civil War is probably going to go down as my favorite movie of the Summer. It was everything that I have been dreaming about since I first read the Civil War comic books. Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, and the Russo brothers did an amazing job working around the characters that they were not able to use (thanks to 20th Century Fox) and still come out with an amazing story.

With the cast list was large enough to rival the previous Avengers films, the Russo brothers did a great job pushing Cap’s storyline to the forefront of the movie. The Russo brothers also excelled in their challenge of introducing two huge characters into the MCU. Spider-Man and Black Panther were fantastic additions to cast and Tom Holland and Chadwick Boseman were great casting choices. It seems like a lot of people were skeptical about going with a younger Spidey, but in my opinion, Tom Holland is the best Peter Parker/Spider-Man to date.

I took J to see Captain America: Civil War, we were going to do a video review, but there were some technical difficulties. So, here is a transcript of J’s thoughts on Civil War:

Me: What did you think about Captain America: Civil War?

J: IT WAS AMAZING!!!

Me: What do you think made it AMAZING?

J: The story was really good, I also really liked the fighting scenes.

Me: Which character were you most excited to see in the movie?

J: Black Panther, Spider-Man, and Ant Man!!

Me: What about Cap and Iron Man.

J: They were great too, daddy. But Black Panther was so cool, and Spider-Man and Ant Man made me laugh a lot. They were just really funny.

Me: Ok, what do you want other young kids to know about Civil War?

J: It’s just a really good movie, there are some parts that might be scary and some parts that might be too sad. The other kids should just snuggle with their mommies and daddies if they get scared or sad.

Captain America: Civil War is rated PG-13 for language, violence and some adult humor. The language isn’t too bad, there is probably just as much swearing in all the other Disney/Marvel movies. The violence is a little heavier than that of Winter Solider. If your kids were able to sit through Winter Soldier, then they should be fine with Civil War. The adult humor is basically a few jokes that are going to go straight over your kids heads, so I wouldn’t be too worried about it.

Are you Team Cap or Team Iron Man? Choose your side and go see the movie! And after you see the movie, click here to join in a discussion group about Captain America: Civil War. The group has spoilers, so please join after you see the movie.

The Future of Comic Book Movies

With the success of Deadpool and with the announcement of an R-rated cut of Batman V Superman, there are many parents out there who are worried that all movies based on comic books will bear the R rating. I personally don’t think that this is something that will happen. Comic book movies make so much of their money from parents taking their younger kids, that it would likely be financially irresponsible for studios to only make R-rated movies.

Something else to think about is that Batman V Superman is not the first Comic Book movie to get an alternate rated dvd/blu-ray release. If you go back three years to The Wolverine (I know it was terrible, but it was the last comic book movie to get an unrated cut after it’s PG-13 theatrical release), you will see that it really doesn’t take much to get an R rating. The theatrical release of the Wolverine had one “F-Bomb”, quite a bit of action, a little blood here and there, while the Unrated release had three “F-Bombs” (more than one is an automatic R), more action, and blood EVERYWHERE!

According to the Motion Picture Association of America, “An R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually oriented nudity, drug abuse…” Before we continue, I want to break down a few of these guidelines just a little more:

Language: Movies are getting pretty lax these days, and it seems like they can pretty much get away with saying pretty much whatever they want. But as I mentioned before, more than one “F-bomb” can get you an R rating, unless there is a two-thirds majority of the board who believe the language is justified by context or use.

Violence: Movies based on comic books will usually have some kind of violence, but when it is intense or persistent, you are tiptoeing the line between PG-13 and R.

Nudity: Along with the guidelines about sexually oriented nudity, in 2010 the MPAA added that “male nudity” will likely get you an R rating.

Back to the issue at hand. Everyone behind Deadpool was doing everything in their power to push the R boundary as close as possible to the NC-17 line. With 84 “F-bombs”, violence and blood out the wazoo, a multiple minute sex montage, and a view of Deadpool’s penis, Deadpool was lucky to premiere with their R rating.

The news that Batman V Superman is getting an R-rated cut shouldn’t scare anyone, it should excite people. Where Deadpool can be seen as a model for future characters who don’t have established storylines in a cinematic universe, Batman V Superman can be seen as the new model for the PG-13 theatrical/dual rated dvd/blu-ray release. I’m not saying every comic book movie should follow either model just for the sake of following the model, but that the studios should just be focusing on who the character is via the source material.

The future of comic book movies is not going to be based on the success of Deadpool, Marvel will keep doing what they are doing with the MCU with their PG-13 films, their ABC crime style dramas, and their mature Netflix content, and DC will continue to play catch up with their cinematic universe while dominating in the animation department. The only change that we will most likely see from Deadpool’s success will hopefully be more movies/online series starring more of the anti-heroes of the comic book world.   

The bottom line is that no matter what a movie is rated, it is our job as parents to view questionable content before letting our kids watch it. If I am wrong and all comic book movies go the way of Deadpool, then you can always wait for the FX release.

So Your Kids Want to See Deadpool

I get it, I really do. Your kids probably fell in love with the Deadpool that guest starred on his very own episode of Ultimate Spider-Man. My kid and I loved the Ultimate Deadpool episode too. Here is where I am going to stop you and say that the Deadpool that is in theaters right now is not the Deadpool we see in Ultimate Deadpool.

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The Deadpool movie that is in theaters right now makes Ultimate Deadpool look like an episode of Teletubies. Deadpool is not intended for kids, this movie was made for adults. There is violence galore, with shots of brains being blown out of heads, language like you’ve yet to see in a movie, I’ve heard someone has counted 80+ “F Bombs”, and there is about a 3-5 minute sex montage, with glimpses of frontal and rear nudity.

Do not, I repeat “DO NOT”, take your kids to see Deadpool. If they really want to see Deadpool, log in to Netflix and watch Ultimate Deadpool a few times. Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let me tell you what I thought about the movie.

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Photo by Joe Lederer – © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Deadpool fans rejoice, 20th Century Fox did not screw this one up, like the other movies about certain mutated characters. Deadpool is everything that you’ve been waiting for. Ryan Reynolds shows why he was the only choice for Wade Wilson/Deadpool. Reynolds brings out what we loved about the “Merc with the Mouth” from the comic books. I thought the movie was funny and as a Deadpool fan it made sense. I do think that there is a small lull during the origin story portion, but I understand why they had to tell the story, so it didn’t bother me too much.

Colossus and Nega-Sonic Teenage Warhead were fun additions to tie into the X-Men Franchise, and while I am not a big fan of that franchise, it will be fun to see where Deadpool fits in with the X-Men in future Deadpool films. The entire cast was on point and brought their “A game” to the movie. The special effects crew really brought it and made Deadpool look spectacular.

If you are not offended by gratuitous swearing, violence, the sight of breasts or a penis, then head on down to the theater and watch Deadpool. If you are offended by things I have mentioned, then do not watch Deadpool. If you are offended by the things mentioned and still go see the movie, I think you forfeit your right to complain about the violence, nudity, and/or swearing. You have been warned, this movie is not for the faint of heart or children.

I personally loved the movie and hope that 20th Century Fox doesn’t screw up Deadpool 2.

DON’T TAKE YOUR KIDS TO DEADPOOL!!!!!

Marvel Universe Live!

To keep the tesseract out of Loki’s reach, Thor decides to smash the cube into three fractals causing them to scatter across the Earth. Loki decides to kidnap 3 X-Men to help him create a “cloned” cosmic cube so he can conquer the Universe. With the help of A.I.M, Hydra and the Sinister 6, Loki plans on keeping our heroes busy while his plan unfolds. Will the Marvel heroes overcome their devious villains? Will they stop Loki and save the Universe? Buy your tickets today and see what happens!!

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Loki addresses the crowd

The storyline of Marvel Universe Live! seems to mix a few different Marvel mediums together to create a fun and original story that fans young and old will love. Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been wanting to see a live action adventure with both the Avengers and X-Men, and here is our chance. That being said, Marvel Universe Live! is in no way connected with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but this is the closest we will get to a live action Avengers and X-Men team up.

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Avengers Assemble

Marvel Universe Live! is an edge of your seat, action packed adventure filled with motorcycles, explosions, fire, and more. If you are taking small children be aware that the arena gets loud, so you may want to bring some ear protection. There are lots of fight scenes, and Wolverine does impale a Chitauri solider with his claws, but there is no blood, so in my opinion it is not too intense.

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Black Widow laying the smack down on Madame Hydra

If you are a Marvel fan, you will love Marvel Universe Live!. You will want to see it again and again. Make sure you walk the corridor before the show, during intermission, and after the show to see everything else that Marvel Universe Live! has to offer. There are Selfie Booths, Green Screen photo ops, plenty of vendor booths (to cut down on long lines), and some interactive games. Marvel Universe Live! is entertainment that the whole family (even non Marvel fans) will enjoy.

Marvel Universe Live! will be playing 6 more shows in Salt Lake City at the Vivint Smart Home Arena, click here to see show times and to purchase tickets. Ticket prices range from $25 – $75 with children’s tickets starting at $15. Children 2 and above are required to have tickets to this event. Make sure you follow Marvel Universe Live on Twitter, Instagram, and on Facebook to see some amazing pictures from the show and to follow the show’s amazing journey.

J absolutely loved Marvel Universe Live!, but I think I should let him tell you in his own way. Thank you to The Summit Group in Salt Lake City for giving us a fantastic night that we will remember for the rest of our lives.

*This post is sponsored by Marvel Universe Live and The Summit Group. We were provided tickets to the show*