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.

“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.

Review: “The Grinch”

Getting ready for Christmas? There’s nothing like a holiday movie to get you in the mood to celebrate the season.

Film Title: Dr. Seuss' The Grinch

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.

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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.)

Film Title: Dr. Seuss' The Grinch

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.

Film Title: Dr. Seuss' The Grinch

This “Grinch” was a fun start to the season. www.grinchmovie.com

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Rated: PG

 

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.