Read one of my latest Mediaplanet articles to catch up with Latina actress and entrepreneur Naya Rivera.
Packed with lively music, precise choreography and attention to detail, Disney’s “Aladdin” (in theaters May 24) is pure fun. I attended a media preview and was wowed by this vibrant and energetic musical.
The storyline is easy to follow: “street rat” Aladdin has to steal to survive; he doesn’t recognize Princess Jasmine, the Sultan’s daughter, when he meets her in the marketplace and she’s dressed as a commoner. He steals her bracelet and then rescues her when she gets in trouble with a market vendor.
Aladdin follows her home and meets Jafar, played by Marwan Kenzari, the Sultan’s trusted advisor. Jafar, who wants to rule and has a plan to overthrow the Sultan, convinces Aladdin to locate a magic oil lamp from a dangerous cave. In return, Jafar says he’ll help Aladdin. But that’s not the case.
Aladdin dusts off the lamp and unknowingly summons Genie, (played by Will Smith) who promises Aladdin three wishes.
Genie wants to be a prince to capture the heart of Jasmine, who by law, can only marry a prince. The story plays out in exciting and adventurous fashion.
This new “Aladdin” will surely draw comparisons to the 1992 animated version which is a beloved classic film. My take? On its own merit, this movie is a charmer. The animated version and this new “Aladdin” are two separate movies, both based on a Middle Eastern folktale, “One Thousand and One Arabian Nights.”
I was impressed by the performances, especially the stars: Mena Massoud, who plays Aladdin; Naomi Scott, who portrays Princess Jasmine; and Smith, who doesn’t disappoint as Genie.
Comedian Robin Williams was hysterical as the animated Genie in the animated film, so no doubt it’s a tough role for Smith to step into. He nails the multifaceted performance. Throughout the movie, he’s charismatic – singing, dancing and storytelling in big ways. When we first meet Genie, he’s larger than life and engaging; later he’s theover-the-top tailor who transform Aladdin in Prince Ali; and then we see how charming he is as the suitor for Princess Jasmine’s handmaiden, Dalia, played by Nasim Pedrad. Along the way, he becomes Aladdin’s friend too.
Massoud and Scott have great chemistry, singing and dancing throughout the movie as well. We’ll likely see more of both actors in other projects. Their star power is evident.
The common theme is freedom. Aladdin wants freedom from his life as a street rat; Jasmine wants freedom to be herself, leave the palace and someday lead the people of Agrabah; and Genie wants freedom from living in a bottle and serving whichever master picks up the lamp.
I found “Aladdin,” directed by Guy Ritchie, to be a worthy remake. I can like both the original animated blockbuster and this new version. Let me know what you think.
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.
Getting ready for Christmas? There’s nothing like a holiday movie to get you in the mood to celebrate the season.
The other night, my sons and I got a sneak peek of “The Grinch,” which opens today.
This animated movie by Illumination, which is based on Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is the latest iteration of the Grinch, chronicling a cranky green guy who hates Christmas.
This Grinch isn’t portrayed as mean, evil or even very spiteful. Instead he’s a loner, who seems more sad, than anything else. (In a fun moment, he wallows in self-pity, playing “All By Myself” on the organ, next to his beloved dog, Max.)
His Who-ville neighbors are far too happy about the holiday and Grinch just wants the jolly season to end. Grinch, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, decides to pose as Santa so he can steal Christmas. His plan backfires when the town’s little darling, Cindy-Lou Who has a special request for Santa. The theory is that Grinch’s heart is two sizes too small. After his encounter with Cindy-Lou Who, Grinch’s heart grows.
Grinch is a loner, who seems more sad, than anything else.
Narrated by Pharrell Williams, “The Grinch” has an impressive cast. We enjoyed Kenan Thompson as Mr. Bricklebaum, the over-the-top Who-ville neighbor who loves to decorate; and Rashida Jones, who plays Donna Who, Cindy-Loo’s overworked single mother.
This “Grinch” was a fun start to the season. www.grinchmovie.com
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
September is Hispanic Heritage month. I was honored to write a number of articles for Mediaplanet’s “Hispanic Heritage” report, published recently in The Los Angeles Times and PeriódicoHOY.
The cover story was about #EGOT award winner Rita Moreno, who discusses her passion for her Puerto Rican roots and her 70-year career, including her role as Anita in “West Side Story.” Check out the article here.
Here are some of the other articles I wrote for this Hispanic Heritage report:
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.
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.
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:
This week is Spring Break in our house and a movie night is a welcome opportunity for fun.
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:
Sherlock Gnomes is rated PG and runs 86 minutes.
Recently my boys and I got a complimentary preview of Cirque du Soleil’s LUZIA: A Waking Dream of Mexico, at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa.
Like all Cirque shows, LUZIA is a treat for the senses. There are multiple performers from trapeze artists to high climbers to a contortionist. This show is told with music, movement, and even, water!
LUZIA’s look and feel blends old-world Mexico with modern times, as well as some mythical animals and imagery. The music is lovely and varies throughout the show to match the different scenes.
The colorful backdrop mirrors the show’s theme: a sensory treat as if you’re dreaming in Mexico, where the big stars are the “luz” meaning light and the “lluvia” or rain.
As if stunning choreography and aerobatics weren’t enough, LUZIA ups the ante. That’s because throughout the show, water is integrated into the acts. It’s impressive to watch as an aerialist – suspended from a trapeze – twist and turn in the middle of this “rain.”
Water also plays a comical role, with the gimmick being the lead character is thirsty throughout the show. He never seems to have water and when he finds it, it’s elusive to catch. My kids and I, as well as everyone in attendance, giggled as the character struggled to get a sip throughout the show.
LUZIA is consistently entertaining.
There’s suspense and excitement in many acts showcasing balancing, hoop diving and even stunts while moving on treadmills. Check out the juggling…
Watch below for even more nerves and fun as performers jump from swing to swing!
The show runs through March 25. Check it out. It’s fun for the whole family.
Check out my this #MondayMotivation message featured on my son’s #pumpkin. He wrote: “Be…fun, silly, wacky, creative, YOU!!”
We were decorating pumpkins last weekend – doing the usual thing of making eyes, mouth, nose, etc.
Then my son got inspired to write a personal note. I love his sentiment and it’s perfect for Halloween, when everyone wants to dress up to be “someone else.” So go ahead, this Halloween and every day, Be Yourself!