Movie Review! Central Intelligence

Looking for something to do this weekend?! Today’s post, a mix of a Collaboration, Event Recap, & Movie Review, will definitely provide an awesome idea!
On Monday, I was offered the chance to get a sneak peek of “Central Intelligence” – a new movie starring Dwayne Johnson & Kevin Hart that comes out THIS FRIDAY, June 17th! Thank you FabulousArizona.com for this awesome opportunity! The Event was a lot of fun, way more than just a basic Movie viewing. Radio stations Power 98.3 & 101.9 were there giving away a ton of free branded merchandise, as you’ll see below, & playing some great music. I was genuinely surprised no one started a dance party, especially when they started playing “The Wobble”! I posted a video of the theater filling up on my Twitter, go check it out & Follow me: @MissAl_Leigh. Keep scrolling to watch the trailer for “Central Intelligence” & read my Review – I’ll try to keep SPOILERS to a minimum!

As you can see from the trailer, the basic plot is that Hart’s character, Calvin, & Johnson’s character, Robby are high school classmates with very different social standing. Calvin is Prom King & basically Captain of every sport, voted Most Likely to Succeed & dating the prettiest girl in school. Robby is an overweight goofball that’s a social outcast, an easy target for bullies. Flash forward 20 years & Calvin definitely doesn’t have the amazing successful life he imagined. He married his high school sweetheart & now works as an accountant. The day before their 20 year High School Reunion, Calvin is reunited with Robby – now Bob Stone. Bob Stone is, of course, in way better shape, but the same lovable, if a tad bit annoying, goofball – & he’s also a human weapon employed by the CIA. Bob involves Calvin in his latest mission which twists & turns until Calvin has no idea who to trust! Underneath the huge muscles, is Bob still that misfit from High School, who now needs his help to save the world? Or is he really a dirty CIA Agent hell bent on killing whoever gets in his way? Calvin & Bob must overcome many obstacles on the road to clearing their names in this Action Comedy that has a really sweet message about friendship & learning to love who you are.

Rating: B
Usually I split my Movie Reviews into Likes & Dislikes, but there wasn’t anything I DISLIKED about “Central Intelligence”. I just didn’t really connect with it enough or find it hilarious enough to give it an A rating. It’s definitely funny & there were quite a few moments that had the whole audience laughing out loud. However, if you’re not a fan of Kevin Hart, you most likely won’t enjoy this film. He’s a “big” actor, but I have the same sense of humor/style of comedic acting, so I guess I’m biased! The writing is clever, pay close attention for a few lines that reference other characters the cast has played. For example, a line about Bob looking like Hercules – a character Johnson has played. Also, there are some awesome cameos for fans of “Breaking Bad”, “Arrested Development”, & “Bridesmaids”. This film was relatively tame in terms of language & violence which I was kind of surprised by. Plot wise, the details of the CIA storyline hardly matter. The real story is the developing friendship & character growth that occurs between Calvin & Bob. The end is predictable & slightly cheesy, but was nice to see in a mostly male cast action/comedy/buddy film. Character-wise, I liked that Calvin is honestly a good guy. I appreciate that he wasn’t some bad boy jock getting his comeuppance by becoming a paper pusher. I think more people can sympathize with a nice character that had a bright future ahead of him – & just turned out to be average. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I think many of us can identify with having big dreams, only to wake up to a reality that’s much different. All in all, I would definitely recommend this film for anyone looking for a movie that’s fun but also has a lot of heart – no pun intended!

For a chance to win a Sneak Peek of your own for an upcoming film & to check out all sorts of cool restaurants, local spots, spas, donut shops, etc, in Arizona, please Follow Fabulous Arizona on their website, Instagram, & Twitter!

While you’re at it, please Follow me here on MissAl-Leigh.com, Instagram, & Twitter! Let me know if you plan on going to see “Central Intelligence” or once you’ve seen it, Comment below what you thought! What other movies are you planning on seeing this summer?! Thanks for reading 🙂

Movie Review! PAN

Hi y’all, today I’m going to be reviewing PAN – the Peter Pan prequel film that came out this weekend.

I’ll keep this plot description brief, although, please be cautious as there will be spoilers down below. The film tells the story of how Peter Pan came to Neverland and met his famous band of Lost Boys, Captain Hook, Tinker Bell, & Tiger Lily.

Keep reading to see my likes, dislikes, final thoughts, & rating of this film! Be warned – SPOILERS!!!
Click the FOLLOW button on the top right or enter your email down below (mobile version) to stay updated with all my posts.

Likes:
– Some of the writing/plot points were creative in a subtle way that was perfect for a family friendly film. There were a few instances where the writers created a sort of parallel universe between Neverland and the “real world” which was set during WWII. One example; Peter lives at an orphanage & boys have started to disappear. One character says he hopes they’ve escaped to Canada. You eventually find out they’re being sold by the orphanage to Neverland pirates. In real life during WWII, children were stolen by/sold to Nazi’s or were sent to other countries by their families to escape. These subtle references to that time period would go over the heads of most kids, but adds another layer to the story for those familiar with history. Another way they made things more family friendly was, rather than showing a bloody massacre when the Neverland tribespeople are killed during a fight scene, they explode into a mist of bright colored powder.
– References to source material included lines such as, “To die will be an awfully big adventure”, references to Peter crowing, minor characters such as Nibs & “the twins” who are important Lost Boys in the source material, a few important scenes involving shadows – a reference to the importance Peter’s shadow plays in the source material, a scene with a Neverland Bird’s nest, and a clever line at the end of the film when Peter asks Captain Hook if they’ll always be friends and he says, “Of course, what could go wrong?”. The line was humorous yet ironic, as most viewers know they go on to become enemies, but more importantly, seemed to be setting things up for a sequel.
– There were 3 big animation sequences that were amazing & reminded me of “The Deathly Hallows” scenes from Harry Potter. Overall, the visual effects were stunning, yet dramatic – some might find them cheesy, but I enjoyed them.

Dislikes:
– I don’t know anyone else that experienced this, but I found the accents extremely difficult to understand in the beginning.
– Super slow, kept waiting for something big/exciting to happen, especially between Pan & Hook.
– Garrett Hedlund’s portrayal of Hook felt extremely forced. With that deep voice & disjointed way of speaking, it seemed like a bad impersonation of The Joker or Indiana Jones. This was the first time I’ve seen him perform so I’m not sure if that’s his style or that’s what the director wanted. Either way, it didn’t work for me.
– Tiger Lily, a character that was originally written & is typically portrayed as Native American, was played by a Caucasian actress. I think they should’ve stayed true to the source material & not made the character Caucasian.
– Not a fan of the musical numbers. At first it was cool to hear modern music, but they didn’t include enough & the few songs felt out of place. They either should’ve gone for it or left them out all together.
– Very little about this film felt original. As the film progressed I was thinking to myself, “Harry Potter, Pinocchio, Star Wars, Stardust” etc, etc. I’m not talking about the THEME of the stories aka Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” but actual plot points felt lifted from other stories.
– Why did people grow old on Neverland?!?!!?!?
– There was a lot left unexplained. I feel like they only wrote this film to create/gauge interest & then planned a sequel that would delve into the meat of the story. However, I doubt there will be a sequel.

Final Thoughts & Rating:
– I really, really wanted to love this film. Peter Pan has a huge place in my heart. I love the story, the musical, the Disney film, & the 2003 film – but overall I was disappointed in PAN. I feel like they missed the point of the Peter Pan legend, or at least, the way I see it. Peter isn’t a hero. He’s a bratty little boy that doesn’t want to grow up because he doesn’t want responsibility. He would never want the responsibility given to him in the film – he wants “always to be a little boy & to have fun”, yes, I just quoted the source material, I told you I love Peter Pan. Nothing is real to him, there’s no consequences. When confronted with death he says, “to die will be an awfully big adventure”. Everything is a game, he’s just moving from one wild adventure to the next. I’ve always seen Peter as a warning. Yeah, being a kid & having wild adventures is great, but eventually you have to grow up or you’ll miss out on the rest of life – & the rest of life is pretty great too! Wild adventures don’t stop because you grow up, they just change – & usually involve alcohol, haha! If you can’t change/grow up, the best part of the adventures – your friends – will leave you behind & you end up alone, like Peter does in the source material when Wendy leaves Neverland & takes all the Lost Boys with her. I understand this film was showing us Peter before he becomes “Peter Pan”, so he has yet to turn into the famous character. However, in a film about how a character gets his start…they don’t really explain how he gets there! If you have any feelings at all for Peter Pan, go see this just for the heck of it, but don’t expect too much other than great visuals & the occasional clever reference.
My Rating: C

Did you see PAN? If so, do you agree with my review? If you’re planning on seeing it, please leave me a comment after & let me know what you think! Thanks for reading 🙂

Movie Review! Pixels

Hello all! Today I’ll be doing a review of the new Adam Sandler movie “Pixels”.
I wasn’t too keen on seeing this film. I’m not a huge gamer so I wasn’t sure I’d understand the jokes & also…it’s an Adam Sandler film. Let’s be real. My expectations weren’t too high. I don’t hate Adam Sandler, but my favorite films of his are, “Little Nicky” & “Click” – older material. I haven’t been interested in his more recent films such as “Grown Ups” or “Jack & Jill”. Although too be fair, I don’t think many people liked “Jack & Jill”, so I don’t think I’m alone. Moving on!

“Pixels” centers around a time capsule sent into space in 1982 that is eventually intercepted by aliens. A video of the 1982 Video Game Championships is included in the time capsule featuring games like Donkey Kong, Centipede, Pac-Man, Galaga, etc. The aliens misinterpret the video games as Earth threatening to start a war. They retaliate with video game “soldiers” modeled after our 1980’s video game stars. The main cast, Sandler, James, Gad, and Dinklage, were all kids that competed in the 1982 Championships with Sandler and Dinklage coming in at second and first place, respectively. James’ character is now the U.S. President & he calls in his old buddies to help defeat the aliens as they are the best at playing the old games. Hijinks and shenanigans ensue – but do the nerds save the day?!

Keep reading to see my likes, dislikes, final thoughts, & rating of this film! Be warned – SPOILERS!!!
Click the FOLLOW button on the top right to stay updated with all my posts.

Likes:
– I really enjoyed watching this cast work together. Yeah, you have to deal with Adam Sandler & Kevin James working together as they do for most of Sandler’s movies, but can you blame them? If I was a really rich/famous actor I’d want to make movies with my best buds all day too! It’s not the whole crew, no Rob Schneider or Chris Rock – which could be good or bad depending on your view. I was super excited to see Josh Gad & Peter Dinklage. They were a breath of fresh air in a typical Sandler film & played their parts excellently. Thankfully, overall the acting was pretty good. Even the celebrity cameos, like Serena Williams & Martha Stewart were well done.
– Obviously the film centers around ’80’s video games, so big icons like Donkey Kong & Pac-man make appearances. My favorite, video game “cameo” was by Q*Bert – SO CUTE!! To be totally honest, I don’t know who he is, I told you I’m not a gamer. Still, one of my favorite things about the film.

Dislikes:
– There were quite a few anti female “jokes”/references that I didn’t appreciate. Women are having a hard enough time making their presence known in the gaming & military world, & this movie jumped right on the “women don’t belong” bandwagon. Yes, Monaghan’s character is a high ranking officer but her main purpose is a love interest for Sandler. There were maybe only 4 other females in the film. 2 don’t speak at all & they all were love interests or assistants to male characters. In the trailers I saw a scene where Monaghan has efficiently killed some aliens, to the astonishment of Sandler and his crew, & she says something along the lines of, “What? You boys think you were the only ones that spent time in the arcade?”. However, in the film, they changed that scene to her killing an alien shaped like Smurf then saying, “Please don’t tell anyone I just killed a Smurf!” I was SO annoyed! The power of language is so amazing. Even while doing the same action – killing – one response makes her a total bad ass with non stereotypical feminine interests, while the other reduces her to a stereotype – weak & emotional, filled with regret over acting aggressively.
– There were some odd continuity issues/plot holes. When we first meet Monaghan’s character she’s drinking out of a baby’s sippy cup & I swear I saw baby food in her kitchen, yet there’s no baby. In another scene, Peter Dinklage’s character, Eddie, says he’s been in prison for a certain number of years, yet in doing the math it doesn’t come out to be 2015 or later. I assumed the film took place in at least 2016 as Obama has already served based on other dialogue. SPOILER!!! Another plot line I took issue with was in regards to the cheat codes, but this might have been confusing for me because I’m not a gamer. When Eddie reveals he used a cheat code written on his sunglasses to defeat Pac-Man, he says they’re the same sunglasses he wore to beat Sandler’s character at Donkey Kong in 1982. How does the same cheat code work for two different games? I might be showing my ignorance, so if someone could explain that in the comments I would be really grateful!
– Visually painful to watch. Super bright & fast moving with lots of explosions. I get headaches very easily, especially from 3D films. I didn’t see this film in 3D but I found I had to look away during the big action scenes as there was so much going on.

Final Thoughts & Rating:
– Overall, I suppose this was just a cute silly movie. Don’t dig too deep – which is probably the point of most films, especially Adam Sandler films. I’m not sure who the audience of this film was supposed to be. I don’t think children will find a lot of entertainment in the ’80’s references & I don’t think adults that can appreciate the references will find the rest of the content entertaining.
My Rating: C –

Have you seen “Pixels”? What did you think? I’d really to talk to someone that enjoyed this film & hear your reasoning. Please leave me a comment at the bottom of this post & let’s hash it out! If you liked this review, please feel free to share it (or any of my posts) on your social media! Thanks for reading!

Movie Review! Pitch Perfect 2

As I’ve discussed here before, I grew up doing musical theater, acting, and cheerleading, among other performance based activities. Whenever a film comes along that touches on any of that, I’m usually super psyched to see it. Yes, “Bring It On” is one of my favorite movies – although I don’t care for any of the films that followed. That seems to be the trend. I love the first “Pitch Perfect”. I really connected with the plot and especially Anna Kendrick’s character, Beca. She has the perfect amount of sass and sarcasm, yet shows a lot of heart & dedication to the Barden Bellas, which I identify with in regards to my 10 years of cheerleading experience. I really wanted to love “Pitch Perfect 2”, but unfortunately, I just couldn’t. I’m sure my opinion will not be popular, but please read below for my list of Likes, Dislikes, Final Thoughts, and Rating! Don’t be shy – click the FOLLOW button on the top right of this page to be notified when my next post goes up 🙂

Likes:
– I empathized with Beca’s attitude towards the Bellas. She was appreciative for the experiences they’d had together, but felt it was time for her to move on. She felt torn between dedicating her time to the “last hurrah” and her future. I understand how she felt. During the end of my time cheerleading, I started to feel like the near constant injuries I was sustaining didn’t make sense to tolerate anymore. I knew I wasn’t going to be a cheerleader forever, or even in college, so why permanently injure myself over something that wouldn’t be permanent in my life? It’s hard to come to terms with those emotions, so I applaud PP2 for taking on that storyline.
– The scenes that took place at Beca’s Internship were the funniest parts of the film.

& that’s it. That’s literally it.

Dislikes: There are so many things I disliked about this film. SO MANY.
– The story seemed undeveloped. I loved the first Pitch Perfect because you really got to know all the characters and their quirks. You hardly see Jesse – Beca’s boyfriend. You hardly learn any new information about any of the characters.
– I was disappointed with Flo, who is basically a Guatemalan version of Lilly, a strange, awkward non-white character thrown in to up the count of non-white actors. However, does it really count as being inclusive, broadening your casting, & having a multi-racial cast if all the character does is reinforce negative stereotypes of their race?
– The “love story” between Bumper and Fat Amy. They could have turned that into a substantial storyline about how Fat Amy was afraid to get into a relationship because she didn’t want to lose her independence or because she wasn’t sure where her life was going after college, etc. Nope. They just created a cheesy, dramatic, excuse to throw in another 80’s throwback love song, like they did with “Don’t You Forget About Me”. However, the inclusion of “Don’t You…” was well executed because it made sense with the rest of Beca & Jesse’s story – and yes, it reminded me of “Bring It On” when Torrance includes the songs from Cliff’s Mix Tape into the Toro’s competition routine. You don’t often see “big girls” involved in love stories, so I was (again) disappointed that they chose to make Fat Amy’s love story sloppy and uncomfortable.
– I didn’t appreciate the substantial number of jokes aimed at women.  A few I remember off the top of my head were the classic, “Women belong in the kitchen”, “This is why we shouldn’t send women to college”, “I’ll do whoever it takes”, and one character’s plan to become “A music teacher in a 3rd world country, or an exotic dancer. Whatever pays more!” Really? In a movie marketed towards young woman, the target audience is being subjected to jokes that put us down. I’m so glad I paid money for this! Seriously, if I wanted to subject myself to BS like this I’d just look around the Internet for free.
– The classless jokes didn’t end there. This film covered the gamut of sensitive topics, poking fun at Thailand “Lady Boys” (their words, not mine!) and the Gay/Lesbian community, among others.
– A plot point I didn’t understand (SPOILERS!!!!): The Bellas lost the private Sing-Off because Emily sings an original song & everyone is yelling at her that “Acapella doesn’t do originals, we’re supposed to do covers” etc…but then they (SPOILER!!!!) win Worlds, by singing the same original song…?!? Wha!? There’s no consistency, unless, the story writer was trying to imply that the world of Acapella was old school & the judges appreciated them trying something new…? This could be, but was not explained in the film. I’ve never experienced anything like that. I understand cheerleading is a different beast altogether, but we usually were penalized for doing “new” things, because the judges were typically older people that had been involved in the community for a long time. They didn’t like twerking and Top 40 songs, they preferred “Oldies” and moves that focused on technique. I don’t understand how something that was criticized earlier in the film, helps them win in the end with no explanation. Maybe I missed something…?

Final Thoughts & Rating:
As much as I don’t want to admit it, I’m capable of laughing at plenty of stuff that offends other people, but this film pushed too hard and it didn’t seem genuine or in line with the previous film. I’m fine with films like the Jackass series, you know they’re going to be offensive, you expect it. I did NOT expect this type of material from PP2. It seems like they can’t decide who their audience is. Pitch Perfect 1 was a nice, happy, girl power, family film, but PP2 did a complete 180 and distanced themselves from that. They were trying to be “hard/edgy” & have a Borat like set up where they wanted to offend as many people as humanly possible just to be “funny”. Overall, I thought this film was full of crass jokes that took aim at people who are different for cheap laughs. I loved the first Pitch Perfect because it was inclusive. It was a film about a group that often gets made fun of and their hard work goes unappreciated. A group of misfits that banded together to create a family. PP2 ruined all of that and was just another run of the mill, over the top, teen “comedy”.
My Rating: D

What do you think? Am I being too harsh or taking things too seriously? Did you like Pitch Perfect 2? Hopefully my review gave you some food for thought. I’d love to know what y’all thought of the film and my review! Please shoot me an email, or write me a comment down below! Thanks for reading 🙂

Book Review! The Happiness Project – January/February/March!

Click here to purchase The Happiness Project!


Hey all!
I’ve had this book on my To Read list for a long time & decided January 2015 was the perfect time to start a Self Actualization/Self Help book, ya know, “New Year, New You”. That turned out to be the best decision because the author, Gretchen Rubin, created The Happiness Project as a year long project. Each chapter is a reflection of goals she set for herself & how she spent the month working towards them. Rubin was a Supreme Court clerk, but decided to leave law to become a writer. The Happiness Project consists of her personal values and research she conducted on the subject of Happiness.

I connected with Rubin almost immediately because she talks about something that I often struggle with, waiting to start projects until her life is in just the right place. I have a tendency to do the same thing, as evidenced by the way I waited precisely until January 1st to start this year long project. Rubin ends up deciding there are no perfect circumstances & sometimes you just have to dive into things. Her desire to change her way of thinking motivated me to join Rubin on her Happiness Project, instead of just reading about it. Each month I will follow the goals & we’ll see how I do. Look for these reviews periodically as it will (obviously) take me a year to fully complete this review and project.

Below, you will find the Goals for January, February, & March, my review of the author’s experience, and what my own experience was. Click the FOLLOW me button on the top right to be notified by email when I post the next installment!

JANUARY
Goals: Sleep earlier, Exercise better, Toss/restore/organize, Tackle a nagging task, Act more energetic
Review: I enjoy Rubin’s writing, she’s sarcastic and sassy. We would be great friends or hate each other because we’re too similar. She’s pretty Type-A & I can be too. She talks about finding peace through having things in just the right order. My friends & family semi-seriously joke that I have OCD because while I’m not necessarily a neat freak, I can be VERY particular. Another thing we have in common is an “insatiable need for credit” (p 24). We want the gold star! We’re highly motivated by praise – I’m really giving away all my secrets – haha!
My Experience: January’s goals were a breeze as I had already made them my New Year’s Resolutions.  I had just moved back to my hometown & was an unemployed, recent college grad – it was the perfect time to focus on my health and sort through the belongings I had accumulated in recent years plus all the stuff waiting for me at my childhood home. I definitely felt better after getting my things in order (somewhat) & getting back into a healthy lifestyle.

FEBRUARY
Goals: Quit nagging, Don’t expect praise or recognition, Fight right, No dumping, Give proofs of love
Review: While this book is based on Rubin’s experience, she also delves into research she conducted, which I found interesting & somewhat troublesome. Something that struck a nerve for me was, “the most reliable predictor of not being lonely is the amount of contact with women” (p 52). I found this interesting because I don’t consider myself lonely & a majority of my friends are males because I don’t often find friendships with women fulfilling. The troublesome part of the research was that it relied heavily on stereotypical gender studies. For example, on p53 she talks about her husband not being a good listener, “[l]earning that men & women both turn to women for understanding showed me that Jamie wasn’t ignoring me out of lack of interest or affection: he just wasn’t good at giving that kind of support…[he] wasn’t going to have long discussions…[h]e didn’t want to spend hours pumping up my self-confidence” First of all, who WANTS to spend HOURS pumping up someone’s self confidence?! Second, why should we assume just because he’s male that he doesn’t want to have long discussions or isn’t a good listener? I know plenty of males that enjoy talking way more than I do & are way better listeners – that’s why we’re friends, because we complement each other. I understand there’s science behind these ideas, but if we want to grow as a society, we have to stop applying stereotypes to all men/women. Just learn about people & who they are.
My Experience: This month’s Goals were focused on Rubin’s marriage & I’m single, so I simply chose to apply the Goals to my friends and family. Following through was not as simple. I definitely struggled this month. I was especially nervous about “Don’t expect praise/recognition” because as mentioned earlier – I want that gold star! For example, as a “proof of love”, I bought my mom & myself passes to a ZUMBA studio. The instructor asked how we found them & my mom said, “We found you on Groupon”. Usually, this is where I would jump in & say, “Actually! I found the passes & bought them as a gift”, but I bit my tongue. I tried to consider these struggles as “what difference would it make?” issues. What difference did it make for the ZUMBA instructor to know that taking classes was MY idea, who cares!? Well, I care, but I guess that’s not the point. Another Goal I struggled with was “Quit nagging”. I found it hard to distinguish between nagging and giving a proof of love. Continuing with the ZUMBA example, in the past when my mom wouldn’t want to work out, I’d nag her about getting in shape, being healthy, etc. In an effort to not nag, when she didn’t feel like going to ZUMBA, I didn’t say anything. To me, it felt like I was uninvolved, the nagging was how I showed I cared. In this instance, not nagging worked because my mom found motivation on her own & didn’t feel like I was forcing her. In another instance, when I didn’t nag my friend about following through with something, feelings were hurt because she felt like I hadn’t been involved enough. You can’t please everyone!

MARCH
Goals: Launch a blog, Enjoy the fun of failure, Ask for help, Work smart, Enjoy now
Review: It was comforting to hear Rubin go through similar trials that I have experienced while blogging. A couple quotes from this month I took to heart are, “People don’t notice your mistakes as much as you think. Even if [you do] something wrong on the blog, it [won’t] be a disaster” (p75). Also, “one of the biggest challenges posed by my blog was the doubt raised by my own inner critic…Was it egocentric to write so much about my own experience?…I didn’t want to be [a] novelist who spent so much time rewriting his first sentence that he never wrote his second…I needed to…[push] ahead without constantly second guessing myself” (p78).
My Experience: At first glance, I was feeling iffy about these Goals because I already write a blog (obviously), & failure & asking for help are not things I enjoy. The blog issue turned out to be a non-issue, because I’m still in the beginning stages of blogging, so it was easy to follow some of Rubin’s advice and start creating more content. I think I made great strides in terms of posting here more often, which has definitely made me happier and gotten my creative juices flowing as I try to plan my next post. I’ve been asking for help from others in the form of trying to find work & looking for companies that offer new bloggers support like the Bloguettes or Blogger Babes. I’m trying to enjoy the failure of being rejected from jobs, but that’s proving to be difficult. However, when I’m rejected, I try to think of it like “Woo hoo! Now I have more time to find an even more perfect job!”

Overall at this point, I can’t say I’m remarkably happier, but I feel like I’m challenging myself and growing along the way. Is that the same thing as Happiness? I’m not sure, & I think that’s what Rubin is aiming to find out. What do you think!? Have you enjoyed reading about The Happiness Project? Are you inspired to start a project of your own or follow along with me? Please let me know in the comments below! Remember, you can click the picture of the book at the top of this post and it’ll take you to all the Amazon listings – some sales are as low as one penny! Thanks for reading!

Movie Review!: Cinderella 2015

Promotional poster from Disney with my graphic add ons

Promotional poster from Disney with my graphic add ons

My childhood took place during a time in Entertainment known as “Disney’s Golden Age” or “Disney’s Renaissance”. I was raised on princesses and sing alongs. I saw Beauty and the Beast in a movie theater at least 30 times, according to my mother. For Halloween I have dressed up as Chip (the teacup from Beauty & the Beast), Belle, Ariel (The Little Mermaid) both mermaid and wedding version, Megara, Esmeralda, Pocahontas, Snow White, and Jasmine. I was an Annual Passholder to Disneyland and later, Disney California Adventure for many years. I completed 2 internships with the Disney College Program and worked at Disneyland for 2.5 years. To say that Disney is part of my life is an understatement. More recently, my love for Disney has waned somewhat as their prices go up and my bank account gets smaller (thanks, college education!), but I knew I wanted to see their live-action version of Cinderella ASAP!
Without further ado…here’s my Likes/Dislikes/Final Thoughts & Rating which contains SPOILERS! if you’ve never seen any version of Cinderella. Proceed with caution…

Likes:
– The cinematography/graphics/costumes/hair/makeup of the film are really beautiful. Disney’s huge financial resources were definitely put to good use. Supposedly one of Walt Disney’s favorite scenes of animation was Cinderella’s transformation & they definitely did it justice in this version.

– Disney is famous for controversy because a majority of their stories revolve around conventionally attractive Caucasian women waiting for a man to save them. This is a sticky issue for me because I understand they’re trying to be faithful to the original source material which in this case was written by Charles Perrault in 1697. Obviously in this time period society had certain rules & expectations. He could only write about what he knew. However, as a modern audience we know more and want to see films that reflect society as we know it. So I say to Disney, if we can believe that fairies exist and pumpkins can become carriages, give your audience some credit that we could suspend belief a little more to include other races & get rid of certain gender expectations, even if they don’t conform to society at the time the plot takes place. Also, there are other Cinderella stories throughout history, Perrault is not the only author, he’s not even the earliest author. Many cultures have their own version of Cinderella that fits their customs. These tales could have been blended together. Like I said, it’s a sticky issue everyone has a different opinion on. Getting back to the movie! I thought it was interesting that they tried to include other races through the inclusion of a African American/Black Captain of the Guards/best friend to the Prince and a Latina Princess that is engaged to the Prince. They also kind of changed the genders of Cinderella’s mice friends. As I recall, in the animated version there is Jaques, Gus Gus, and Suzy. In this version, there is Jacqueline and Gus Gus. She might have mentioned some other names but I didn’t catch them. My bottom line here is I appreciated their small attempt to include other races and use female characters – because let’s be real, they certainly didn’t have to & people still would’ve seen the film.

– There was a scene when Ella’s father is leaving for a business trip & asks Ella what gift she’d like. Her stepsisters ask for frivolous items, but Ella asks for a sentimental item. That scene is certainly not in the animated version, but perhaps is from the source material or another version. I like this because there is a similar plot point from an original version of Beauty and the Beast. I took it as a nod to Disney’s next live action fairy tale & my favorite Disney movie, so I was happy with that.

– I liked this version’s Prince Charming aka Prince Kit. He stood up for what he believed in and took charge of his own destiny. I appreciated the realistic relationship he had with his father.

– I appreciated the effort Disney put into creating a more in depth explanation for Lady Tremaine’s hatred for Ella. The message of the movie was obviously, “Have courage & be kind”, but also how love makes life beautiful and helps people be the best version of themselves. There was a scene where Ella confronts her stepmother and asks why she’s so cruel to her. She responds with something along the lines of “Because you are young, innocent, beautiful” etc. She trails off, and the implied rest of that sentence is “…and I’m not!” She was a very bitter woman and in another scene she explains why. Her first husband was the love of her life and she was completely destroyed by his death, not only emotionally, but financially. She touches on some of the societal expectations for a single women in that time period – she was basically required to marry again in order to keep her family alive. Her marriage to Ella’s father was a business decision – not a marriage for love. Marriage for love vs. marriage for advancement is a huge theme in this film & many other fairy tales. Imagine how hard her life must have been, to live every day grieving over the death of her husband plus have it constantly thrown in her face that her new husband and step-daughter would never give her the love she was missing because they were still grieving over Ella’s mother. Lady Tremaine lost love & lost herself. While I don’t condone the enslavement of your stepchild, learning a little more of her backstory made her a much more sympathetic character.

– I liked this version of Ella because she knew the way she was being treated was wrong. Eventually she stood up for herself somewhat, which was a vast improvement over animated Cinderella who didn’t really ever complain, if memory serves me right. I always felt that animated Cinderella was an airhead. She let her family push her around and she accepted it all with a smile & a song. I never felt like that made her brave or kind, I just thought she was dumb. At the end of the film when Prince Kit comes to take her away, Ella looks back at her stepmother as she’s leaving the house and with a little smirk says, “I forgive you” & that’s the last we see of the stepmother. In some versions of Cinderella, she totally forgives the family and marries them to Lords of the Kingdom. In other versions, Ella is not as forgiving and has them murdered. This ending was the perfect amount of polite sass, like, “Thanks for all the abuse! It put me on a path to marry the King who, in a twist of great fate, I’m genuinely in love with. Bye, have a great life!!”

Dislikes:
– Everyone kept hyping up Lady Tremaine’s laugh like it was spot on just like the animated film, but I’m not sure what they were listening to. It didn’t impress me.

– As mentioned above, I loved the extravagant costumes used throughout the film. HOWEVER, they needed to get the Captain of the Guards/Prince Kit’s best friend a bigger uniform. He was a big dude & every costume they stuck him in looked extremely unflattering and uncomfortable with his belly hanging out over the top of his pants. I felt bad for the actor.

– The dress tearing scene was really tame compared to what I remember from the animated film. That scene was a chance to really show the cruelty of the family towards Ella & it just fell flat.

– While I enjoyed the cast as a whole, Lily James (Ella) reminded me too much of Mia Wasikowska (Alice from Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”). I know that’s random & not necessarily a bad thing, it was just odd. She did a lot of heavy breathing, a lot of chest heaving breathing throughout the movie that was kind of distracting. I kept looking at her collarbones moving around. I’m a weird person. I know that, & I’m fine with it.

– One plot point didn’t get resolved for me. Many wonder why Ella didn’t just run away/move out. In this version, Ella explains that she didn’t want to leave her house because that’s where her parents lived and all her memories of them were there. However, she didn’t seem to care about that ONE BIT when Prince Kit came to take her away. They never addressed what happened to her beloved childhood home after she left and she never hesitates to leave it all behind. I would’ve liked at least one line between her and Kit, or maybe her Fairy Godmother, about how the house doesn’t hold the memories, her heart does.

Final Thoughts & Rating:
I really enjoyed this film. It’s the right mix of modern and classic. I don’t have a soft spot in my heart for the Cinderella story, so I won’t be rushing out to buy this, but I still thought it was a well made film.
My Rating: B+

What do you think? Did you see Cinderella 2015? Are you planning on seeing it this weekend? Please let me know in the comments below – thanks for reading!

Movie Review – Delivery Man!

Last night I went to see Vince Vaughn’s new movie “Delivery Man”.

“Stats”: Opened on November 22nd to mostly mixed reviews. Notable cast includes Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, and Cobie Smulders. Here’s the trailer!

Plot: “Delivery Man” centers around a middle aged guy named David who discovers he’s the biological father of 533 children due to a mix up at a fertility clinic he donated sperm to in his 20’s. A group of the kids are suing David, contesting his right to remain anonymous. The film follows him in trying to figure out how to do the right thing for his current growing family and the kids who want to know their father. Along the way his journey is highlighted by picking out select profiles and meeting those kids and helping them in some way, while trying to remain anonymous. I think the trailer does a really good job of revealing the key plot points, while not giving too much away, so I won’t say too much more.

Thoughts: I thought this movie was a standard “drama-dy” (Drama/Comedy), but it was definitely NOT your typical Vince Vaughn movie…not necessarily a bad thing. “Delivery Man” had a good mix of sweet, funny moments, mixed in with some darker plot points.

Cons: This isn’t necessarily a con, but was something I found a little off. The “name brand” actors in this movie all played against type. I understand that’s not a horrible thing, but it was just so strange to see Chris Pratt, who I recognize from “The O.C”, playing a lawyer and father. Cobie Smulders, who normally plays Robin from “How I Met Your Mother”, was Vince Vaughn’s very serious/angry girlfriend with no sense of humor.

Pros: The highlights of the movie were definitely the stories when David interacted with his kids. I feel like the actors that played the kids in these “special” stories are on their way to big things, especially Dave Patten, Adam Chanler-Berat, and Jack Reynor.
Dave Patten plays Adam, one of David’s kids who is pretty much the ring leader of the lawsuit to find out his identity. He plays a musician in the film and in real life is a talented singer-songwriter-musician who plays multiple instruments. He’s also a published author. His novel “Run of the Mill” is definitely on my book list! Also I swear I recognize him from something non-media related but I can’t put my finger on what it is.
Adam Chanler-Berat plays Viggo, one of the kids involved in the lawsuit who figures out that David is actually his father. He uses this information to his advantage to kind of blackmail David into spending some one on one time with him. Chanler-Berat is notable to me because he’s also well known for playing Henry in the stage show “Next to Normal” and Boy/Peter in “Peter and the Starcatcher”. “Next to Normal” also features two other actors I’m extremely impressed with, Aaron Tevit, probably most well known for being in last year’s film “Les Mis” & Skylar Astin, from “Pitch Perfect.” I just saw “Peter and the Starcatcher” in S.F (review coming soon!) and it was awesome – so I’m automatically enthralled with anyone who’s been involved in the show.
Jack Reynor plays Josh, one of the first of David’s kids that he helps. I think he gave a really honest performance…and he looks like Jesse Spencer (Dr. Chase from House). Reynor can be seen soon in the next Transformer’s movie, a series I generally enjoy, so I thought that was pretty cool too.

I’ve rambled enough…would I recommend this movie? Sure, I guess. I’m mostly enthusiastic about it for the performances from Vaughn and the above mentioned actors. The plot was iffy for me because it was all these kids complaining about how they didn’t know their dad so they don’t know who they are and they feel a part of them is missing. I was raised by a single mom, I don’t know my dad, and I don’t feel that way, so it was hard for me to connect with that part of the plot. Overall I’d give this film a B rating. Give it a go if you’re interested in seeing some new talent and a different side of Vince Vaughn. 

If you’ve seen the film, what did you think? Are you interested in seeing it? Let me know!