“The Secret: Dare to Dream” Review

The Secret: Dare to Dream” is all about the power of positive thinking. Although it started production in 2018 and is being released now during the pandemic, it’s a fitting film for this time frame. Like in the film, where a hurricane causes damage, we’re all facing a crisis too these days.

In the movie, which is based on the best-selling book, “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, Katie Holmes plays Miranda Wells, a widowed mom of three kids. The family is down on their luck both financially and emotionally. Miranda is dating her boss, Tucker played by Jerry O’Connell. There’s respect there and love, but is it romantic love?

secretdtd-movies-he-poster-01Miranda gets into a fender bender and bumps the truck up Bray Johnson, a college professor from Nashville, played by Josh Lucas. Viewers know that Bray had stopped at Miranda’s house earlier to drop off some paperwork but she wasn’t home. While there, he briefly interacted with her son. Bray offers to fix Miranda’s bumper and soon sits down with the whole family.

But a storm is brewing in Louisiana, where the family lives. Miranda’s house is a mess after storm damage and Bray seems there to pick up the pieces.

Why is he so helpful? And what was in that envelope that he needed to give her at the beginning of the movie? Most of the movie goes by, before we are find out what’s in that envelope – what’s the secret?

Along the way, there are relationship twists and turns for the whole family including Miranda, her boyfriend and her kids. There’s also a growing connection between Miranda and Bray.

“The Secret” has charming moments but at times the dialogue is like a Ted Talk of positive phrases:

  • “Anything is possible if you really want it.”
  • “We get what we expect.”
  • “The more you think about something, the more you draw it to you.”

Bray’s belief is that whatever happens – even the bad stuff – can lead to better things. He tells Miranda, “Think of what you want, not what you don’t want.”

For Miranda, the problem is she’s too stressed to think about what she wants. It’s not until a stranger walks into her life that she starts to realize she has the power to dream and think about what she really wants.

This movie is a respite from some of the real life drama we’re all facing and the message is uplifting. It’s entertaining and made me smile; a reminder that we all need focus on the good things in life, including figuring out what we want and going for it.

The Lionsgate film is available on demand. Watch the trailer here.

“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

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.

Silver

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.

“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.