Choosing the Best Summer Camp for Your Child

Summer camp season is fast approaching! There’s a lot to consider – what type of camp is best for your budget, your child’s interests and the family’s schedule?

Before you make a camp decision, check out the video I made with San Diego Family Magazine in which I share tips on how you can make sure you’re choosing the best camp for your child. 

Next, check out the magazine’s summer camp guide.

 

 

Movie Night Under the Stars

I love watching a movie under the stars! 🎥

I really enjoyed the media preview of Rooftop Cinema Club, a rooftop “theatre” atop of the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego. It’s such a pretty setup and the views are amazing.

I got to watch a classic movie, “Grease,”  a very fun sing-along! The set-up includes snuggling under the stars in comfortable deck chairs (blankets are so cozy!) and watching the movie while listening with wireless headphones.

Rooftop cinema season kicks off this week and continues throughout the summer.

The movies are always iconic films that people know and love. Upcoming shows include Top Gun, Dirty Dancing, Bohemian Rhapsody and The Greatest Showman, among others.

“Dumbo” Takes Flight

In Disney-fashion, the new version of “Dumbo” is shot well, has great sound and graphics. Directed by Tim Burton, the film is dark and moody.

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There are many nods to the 1941 original Dumbo, which was animated. For example, in one of the early scenes, we see a stork fly over the train car signifying that Mrs. Jumbo has given birth to Dumbo, just like in the classic. Also, in the beginning and again at the end, we see some white mice, a tribute to Timothy Q. Mouse, the small white mouse that helps Dumbo soar in the animated original.

The premise of the film is similar to the original: a baby elephant with oversized ears is the joke of traveling circus. When the kids discover Dumbo can fly, they make him an instant success at the circus.

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SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT – In director Tim Burton’s all-new live-action adventure “Dumbo,” former circus star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) are charged with caring for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. Expanding on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated, family is cherished and dreams take flight, “Dumbo” flies into theaters on March 29, 2019. ©2018 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Soon, others want to cash in on Dumbo’s success. Enter over-the-top entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere, played by Michael Keaton, who makes Dumbo the star of his theme park, Dreamland. Aerial artist Colette Marchant portrayed by Eva Green plays Dumbo’s co-star as they fly around Dreamland. But the park isn’t as dreamy as it seems.

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DREAMING BIG — In Tim Burton’s all-new, live-action reimagining of “Dumbo,” persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton) decides that a young elephant from a struggling circus belongs in his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Directed by Burton and produced by Katterli Frauenfelder, Derek Frey, Ehren Kruger and Justin Springer, “Dumbo” flies into theaters on March 29, 2019. © 2018 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The themes of this movie are relatable. First, there’s the strong bond between parent and child as exhibited between Dumbo and his mother. It’s emotional when Mrs. Jumbo and Dumbo are separated.

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MEET MEDICI — In Tim Burton’s all-new, live-action reimagining of “Dumbo,” struggling circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) is disappointed to learn that a newborn elephant has enormous ears. But when Medici realizes that the elephant can fly, the circus’ return to prosperity suddenly becomes a real possibility. Directed by Burton and produced by Katterli Frauenfelder, Derek Frey, Ehren Kruger and Justin Springer, Disney’s all-new, live-action reimagining of “Dumbo” flies into theaters on March 29, 2019. Photo by Jay Maidment © 2018 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The circus owner, Danny DeVito who’s well cast as Max Medici, decides to sell Mrs. Jumbo once he sees her baby has big ears. Devito has the perfect persona, attitude and energy for the role.

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BATHTIME — In Disney’s live-action reimagining of “Dumbo,” Milly Farrier—the daughter of a former circus star charged with caring for a newborn elephant—quickly embraces the newest member of their circus family. Featuring Nico Parker as Milly, “Dumbo” opens in U.S. theaters on March 29, 2019…© 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This theme plays out with the human characters, as well. Children Milly, played by Nico Parker and Joe, played by Finley Hobbins reunite with their father, Holt Farrier, portrayed by Colin Farrell, who has just returned home from war and is missing an arm. The character’s wife has died while he was deployed.

The next message is about the importance of respecting and taking care of animals. For example, a circus worker who does not respect Mrs. Jumbo, suffers a dramatic fate. Karma perhaps for not respecting the pachyderm.

I liked the film but I did have a problem with how they handled time periods. There are many anachronistic things that trouble me. For example, in the beginning of the film, we’re told the timeframe is 1919 but then Dreamland seems far too advanced for that time period. And the ringleader is voiced by the “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” guy who announced, “Let’s Get Ready for Dumbo.”

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TRUE LOVE — When former circus star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) is charged with taking care of a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus, he’s surprised by just how quickly his children (Finley Hobbins and Nico Parker) fall for the peculiar pachyderm. Directed by Tim Burton and produced by Katterli Frauenfelder, Derek Frey, Ehren Kruger and Justin Springer, Disney’s all-new, live-action reimagining of “Dumbo” flies into theaters on March 29, 2019. © 2018 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Overall, the film was enjoyable and a pretty nice adaptation from the animated classic Disney fans have loved for years. The movie opens today – March 29, 2019.

Review: “The LEGO® Movie 2: The Second Part”

Everything is awesome again…or is it?

Last week my family and I got a sneak peek of “The LEGO® Movie 2: The Second Part,” and it didn’t disappoint. The movie opens this weekend and kids and adults will enjoy catching up with the animated crew.

Emmet, Lucy, Batman (voiced by Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks and Will Arnett, respectively) and the Lego friends are back but this time they have a new foe: LEGO DUPLO® invaders from outer space, who seem to be on a mission to ruin everything we know and love about Bricksburg.

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Five years ago, we met the team that worked together to make everything awesome but now that awesomeness is in jeopardy. There are new characters (including a character voiced by Tiffany Haddish, who’s constantly morphing into new looks) and yes, new songs that definitely will get stuck in your head.

There’s a big theme: all of the characters want one thing – not to get relegated to the bin or storage, where the fun and awesomeness would cease. The whole family will enjoy watching as new and old LEGO friends work together to prevent that sad fate.

“The LEGO Movie 2” brings out many emotions: it’s silly and sentimental; fun and imaginative; and it makes kids and adults feel wistful about growing up.

These characters definitely have more stories to tell. I have a feeling there will be a third LEGO movie.

“Mary Poppins Returns” Is Movie Magic

It’s fitting that “Mary Poppins Returns” is opening right before Christmas. This cheery musical, based in 1930’s London, is a delightful gift for Disney fans of all ages.

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The plot is simple: The Banks family is struggling to keep their home after their mother died. Michael Banks, whose childhood nanny was Mary Poppins, is widowed and struggling to pay his mortgage. The bank is ready to foreclose on the home. That’s when Mary Poppins flies in to assist the family whose home is on 17 Cherry Tree Lane.

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Emily Blunt, as the leading lady and Lin-Manuel Miranda as a Jack, a lamplighter, are fabulous in their starring roles.

Even 92-year-old Dick Van Dyke, an original cast member from “Mary Poppins,” has a cameo in the new film. The audience cheered when he was first seen on screen. A joy then and now, Van Dyke still has impeccable dancing and singing skills.

My kids and I attended a media preview and loved the film. Fun and upbeat, it’s poised to become a new Disney classic.  There are moments of melancholy, like when the three Banks children are sad and miss their mother. But with Poppins’ magic, life lessons prevail – good triumphs over evil and family is everything.

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The movie is based on “Mary Poppins” stories by author PL Travers. Like the 1964 original film, this one is packed with catchy, memorable songs and dances. It has a lot of heart and I’m sure the soundtrack will do well. One of my favorite scenes was for a song called, “A Cover Is Not the Book,” where Blunt and Miranda merrily sing and dance about books.

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Throughout the musical, the costumes are colorful and the design is detailed. A few fun facts:

  • All the animation in the film is two dimensional and hand-drawn/hand-painted, just as it was in the original “Mary Poppins.”
  • Every costume Blunt wears features a bow at the neck of her blouse. The bows are a tribute to costume designer Tony Walton’s work in the original movie.

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My kids and I thoroughly enjoyed “Mary Poppins Returns.” I’m sure we’ll see it again soon.

Go See “Teen Titans Go to the Movies”

Fun and at times irreverent, “Teen Titans Go to the Movies,” is a cute film that’s appealing to kids and adults.

I attended the preview with my sons and they loved this film.

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The premise is easy to understand: Robin is tired of just being seen as Batman’s sidekick. He wants to star in movies and save the day like all the Justice League superheroes he sees. Robin, paired up with his Teen Titan crew, struggles to be taken seriously in his life and on screen.

Robin wants the movie director, voiced by Kristen Bell to give him a shot as a movie star. She’s reluctant to do so unless the Boy Wonder can have a great adversary. He finds that rival in Slade, played by Will Arnett, who is also “Teen Titans Go to the Movies” producer.

Slade tries to manipulate Robin and the Teen Titans with mind games. But they see beyond his gimmicks. The theme resonates with kids and parents: you don’t have to be a superhero, you just have to be yourself.

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“Teen Titans Go to the Movies” was full of potty humor, fart jokes and booty shaking. The jokes are targeted to kids but much of the humor gets laughs from adults too.

The soundtrack is filled with many great 80’s hits, including Huey Lewis’ “Back in Time.” There’s also an “Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life” by Michael Bolton, which is cheesy, silly and perfect all at the same time.

Teen Titans Go to the Movie,” rated PG, opens Friday, July 27.

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Conan Live at Comic-Con

I had so much fun attending a taping of the Conan show at The Spreckels Theatre during Comic Con.

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Conan tapes four shows in San Diego every July during Comic Con.

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My husband I attended Conan’s final Comic Con-themed episode for this year.

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The episode we watched featured the cast of  the upcoming “Aquaman” movie. The taping last almost an hour an a half.

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What a fun experience!

I’ve watched Conan on TV for years – I love his self-deprecating humor and he didn’t disappoint in-person! Can’t wait for next year’s Conan visit to Comic Con and San Diego.

 

It’s Panda-monium!

Last week my sons and I got a sneak peak at “Pandas,” an IMAX movie that opens this weekend.

This documentary, which took three years to shoot, has lots of appeal. It’s educational – showing viewers the challenges pandas face in the world in terms of breeding, handling tough terrain and overall survival. Pandas are an endangered species around the world, mostly due to humans developing properties on their land, and the lack of bamboo, their primary food source.

“Pandas” grabs your heart too. It’s hard not to love these cuddling looking bears that we typically only see at the zoo.

When we first meet these cute pandas, they’re newborns, adorable and looking like stuffed animals. We see them cooing as babies and then we watch them – one panda in particular, “Qian Qian,” pronounced Chen Chen – grow up on camera and learn to navigate the world.

The pandas are born at the Chengdu Panda Base in China, a breeding center which has helped breed over 200 baby pandas. In the movie, the scientists interact with the pandas and they explain how they’re tracking the animals and helping them thrive in the wild.

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The movie took three years to shoot. The Chengdu Panda Base, which has helped over 200 baby pandas born during her tenure. Viewers meet the  scientists interacting with the pandas and they explain how they’re tracking the animals and helping them thrive in the wild.

We loved the movie – so fun and interesting. It’s narrated by Kristen Bell – a familiar voice for kids, who recognize her from “Frozen.”

Fun Fact: Giant pandas eat up to 30 pounds of bamboo every day!

We saw the IMAX film at Fleet Science Center in their Heikoff Giant Dome Theater, which has 76-foot wraparound movie screen and 16,000 watts of digital surround sound. Everything looks and feels so close. That experience makes you feel like you’re sitting across from the pandas in the wild in China.

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My sons and I enjoyed playing with the Panda props at Fleet Science Center too!

Fun Fact: Pandas sleep 10 to 16 hours a day! That bamboo they eat isn’t very nutritious and lacks protein, so they don’t have much energy.

“Pandas,” is rated G and opened April 6, 2018. Get tickets.

Check out the trailer below:

Movie Night: “Sherlock Gnomes”

This week is Spring Break in our house and a movie night is a welcome opportunity for fun.

Movie Night: "Sherlock Gnomes"

Last night, my sons and I got to attend a complimentary preview screening of the new animated kids’ movie, “Sherlock Gnomes.” The movie comes out today and it’s an entertaining film for the whole family.

Here’s the premise: garden gnomes in London are disappearing. Detective Sherlock Gnomes and his sidekick, Watson, along with two gnomes named, Gnomeo and Juliet, are searching for clues to find missing garden gnomes.

Among the highlights:

  • Johnny Depp portrays Sherlock Gnomes. He plays the character with a mix of snark and sophistication and I loved it.

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  • The movie references both “Sherlock Holmes” and “Romeo and Juliet.” My 9-year-old liked how characters from two stories could share the screen. I agree – a nice touch and it familiarizes kids with more literature and characters.

 

  • I really liked how every time Sherlock is thinking about a clue, the screen swirls into a black and white actively-animated dream-like sequence. For example, in one scene, he’s looking at a playing card with a black “9” and a scuff in the corner of the number. He’s trying to remember where he’s seen that “9” and that scuff before. So, in his daydream, we see lots of “9” – the number is in his bed, on an escalator, etc. He’s processing the information and so are we! This daydream is a lovely way of showing kids (and adults) how the brain processes information.

 

  • The movie features lots of Elton John songs and – spoiler alert – in one scene early on in the film, there’s a garden gnome that very much resembles the “Tiny Dancer” singer. At the end credits, I realized Elton John is one of the executive producers of the movie. His music is timeless and I’m happy this is a way to introduce his music to a new generation.

Sherlock Gnomes is rated PG and runs 86 minutes.