“Onward” – On a Quest for Magic and Family Connections

“Onward” is a brotherhood movie in the way that “Frozen” is a sisterhood movie. I attended a media screening of this film, which has a lot of heart. Like many Disney/Pixar movies, it made me tear up at the end.

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When we meet Ian, he’s preparing for his 16th birthday and just trying to fit in at high school. Meanwhile his older brother Barley is a fun loving character who spends a lot of time in a fantasy world, full of magic and spells. Did I mention? The teens are elves.

It’s Ian’s dream to spend time with his dad, who died before he was born. Barley, remembers their dad and misses him too.  Ian’s dream could be a reality after the teen’s mother gives him a gift from his father. The gift? A magical stick that with the right spell can make their father come back for just one day.

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It turns out Ian has more magical powers than he ever knew. He makes a spell and it partly works: the boys have half of their father back. Their dad revealed from the waist down, purple socks included. The brother duo then embark on a quest to find a gem to help Ian create another spell to reveal the rest of their father.  Throughout this endeavor, Barley drives a rundown van named Guinevere. The vehicle is a character in itself.

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The brothers’ voyage starts as a mission to find that magical gem to help them spend one more day with their deceased dad. But it turns into a journey of self-discovery. The premise is that we all have a little magic in us if we just look for it and believe in ourselves.

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Tom Holland, who plays Ian, and Chris Pratt, who portrays Barley, are really a great set of brothers in this film. Pratt reminds me of Jack Black. As an aside, I’d like to see a Jack Black/ Chris Pratt film.

The movie is part fantasy, part modern day story. Some of the things that happen are absurd but you accept them and they somehow work in the overall storyline. The main characters are elves who live in cul-de-sac homes that look like mushrooms. Ian is a typical teenager; the family has a pet dragon, his mom does workout tapes and they all have cell phones.

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The fun unfolds. Ian’s mother, voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, has an interesting new boyfriend, a half cop/half Minotaur, who annoys the kids. During the journey, the teens meet tough biker elves who are hysterical. Plus, Ian and Barley spend a lot of time worrying they they’ll end up in a green gelatinous cube if they can’t make their mission a success.

Their dad loves to dance and despite not having a torso or a head, he’s got moves. He stumbles because he can’t see and the result is silly and endearing. It even has “Weekend at Bernie’s” vibes.

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We, Ian and Barley realize at the at end that we don’t really need to see the dad’s face. He lives on beyond the physical world because he’s reflected in his kids.

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This Pixar Animation Studios’ film is produced by Kori Rae and directed by Dan Scanlon. As expected from a Pixar/Disney film, the animation, music and sound are well done. The characters are lifelike and the storytelling is solid.

This heartwarming story will resonate with viewers, especially those who love a family story or anyone who grew up without a parent.

The movie opens March 6.

Animated Spy Movie “Spies In Disguise” Thrills the Whole Family

Spies in Disguise is the kid’s version of a James Bond movie. It has lots of heart and humor too, for kids and adults.

My family and I attended a preview screening of  the animated comedy from 20th Century Fox. Will Smith plays super spy Lance Sterling, a smooth agent who prides himself on working alone.  He relies on gadgets made by CIA-like scientists. Enter millennial scientist Walter Beckett, played by Tom Holland. He’s been using his stem skills to create and innovate since he was a little kid.

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Flash forward the present day and Walter is working in a government lab, tasked with making gadgets for secret agents. Lance needs those gadgets to get his missions completed quickly and efficiently. Even though his job is to build gadgets to take down bad guys, Walter encourages non-violence whenever possible. Many of his inventions are so mesmerizing that they cause bad guys and the audience to say, “aww.” Glitter is a theme.

At one point Lance needs helps and relies on Walter, who promises to make Lance invisible. Walter’s invention makes it happen but hijinks ensues when he turns Lance into a pigeon. The high-action secret mission continues for both Lance and Walter, who make an unlikely spy duo.

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This animated movie is very entertaining. The characters are great and animation is well done. Plus, the soundtrack from Mark Ronson is a hit. I predict this film is poised for a sequel or two.

Spies in Disguise opens Christmas Day.

Frozen is Back! Frozen2

I was invited to attend a media preview of Frozen II​. The Disney film is back with familiar characters and new adventures.

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This time, Elsa hears a voice that no one else hears. She and her sister Anna, as well as Kristoff, Olaf and Sven go on a journey through enchanted forests and dark seas to find the truth behind that voice.

Along the way they make new friends and sing some fun songs. My favorite new song is called “Something’s Never Change.” #Frozen2 is rated PG and opens Friday, November 22.

Photo credits: Disney

Kicking off the Christmas Season with “Klaus”

It’s only November 2, but who can pass up the opportunity to hang out with Santa? 🎅🏻

Today my family and I attended a sneak peak of the new Netflixfilm’s movie, which premieres November 15 on the streaming service.

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This cute holiday movie has lots of heart. The theme? Every good deed sparks another good deed.  My kids, my husband and I really enjoyed it. 🎅🏻  These festive Klaus cupcakes were delicious too!

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Angry Birds 2: Animated Summer Fun

Ready for a fun movie? The Angry Birds Movie 2 opened this week and it’s a cute summer flick with humor, a great soundtrack and a new inspiring character. My kids and I got a sneak peek and we loved it!

 

Angry Birds 2 Cast

Even if you didn’t see the first Angry Birds movie, you’ll quickly catch up to meet the crew. Last time the angry birds, guided by Red who’s played by Jason Sudeikis, battled the green piggies led by Leonard, who’s voiced by Bill Hader.

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Red (Jason Sudeikis) and Leonard (Bill Hader) in Columbia Pictures and Rovio Animations’ ANGRY BIRDS 2.

This time they have to join forces to take on a new nemesis – Eagle Island’s Zeta, played by Leslie Jones. Zeta is fed up living in frozen conditions so she decides she’s going to take over Bird and Piggy Islands for her own paradise. She blasts ice bombs at the birds and pigs but instead of surrendering, the once-enemies, band together to fight for their homes.

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Zeta (Leslie Jones) in Columbia Pictures and Rovio Animations’ ANGRY BIRDS 2.ANGRY

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Red wants to be the hero but instead it’s Silver, voiced by Rachel Bloom, who has all the good insights, calm demeanor and scientific know-how.

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Silver is cool under pressure and shows being smart is awesome. She’s girl power through and through. In the end, Red isn’t threatened by her. Instead they work together, making a great team.

Kids and adults will enjoy Angry Birds Movie 2 – it’s lighthearted but it still has lots of heart and some nice lessons too.

 

Live-Action “Aladdin” – a Whole New Movie

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.

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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.

nullAladdin 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.null

 

Aladdin dusts off the lamp and unknowingly summons Genie, (played by Will Smith) who promises Aladdin three wishes.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.