Music Monday! Harry Potter in Concert – Hollywood Bowl

Hello all!
Today’s Music Monday is going to be a quick recap of Harry Potter in Concert at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
HB occasionally puts on these Special Concerts where they show a movie & have a orchestra play the score live. Previously, they showed “The Little Mermaid” & I’m sad to have missed that because they had celebrities come out & sing the songs. The score for Harry Potter is all instrumental, so I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but I was still excited for another amazing Harry Potter themed adventure! Click the video below for a super quick vlog of the Event & keep reading for my thoughts overall…

The Venue –
I’d only been to the Hollywood Bowl once before for a “Behind the Scenes Tour” when I did the Disney College Program. I remembered there was a LOT of walking & I’d heard Event parking is a complete train wreck. They “stack” the cars so you end up boxed in on all sides, which is insanely inconvenient if you’re ready to leave but no one around you has left yet. On the advice of a friend we purchased off site parking, but couldn’t find the lot. We ended up just driving to the Event & paying again for on site parking. While I was deeply unhappy from a financial standpoint, because we had arrived late the only parking was right in front, not boxed in, & the chances of people arriving later than us seemed pretty slim – woo hoo! We strolled right into the venue but finding our seats was another story…we should have called ahead to find out the options for those with disabilities. We had nosebleed seats & even with the escalators, it was quite a struggle. The venue is extremely dark, which obviously makes sense because they want people to see the movie, but made walking/climbing stairs with no railings quite precarious. When we finally found our seats, we discovered we were in the middle of the narrow row & no one would get up to let us by! While this was rude, the bigger issue was that there was no space for us anyway! We let an attendant know, they conferred with their supervisor, & next thing you know we’re sitting in box seats way down in front! Amazing! Big thanks to the staff that made that happen, it definitely made our experience better! Next time, we will be purchasing more expensive but closer seats – it’s way worth it! Also, arriving late for parking worked in our favor as no one arrived after us, so we weren’t boxed in.  We were on the freeway in about 15 minutes!

The People –
I was disappointed by the negative response from the people in the row we were supposed to sit in. However, I guess I should be thanking them because they helped us get better seats! As I mentioned, super happy with the staff of HB! I wish we had thought to get the names of the staff that helped us because I would have written a “thank you letter” to compliment them personally. Beyond that initial negative experience, the crowd was…unified. That’s the only way I can explain it. Whenever something special happens for Harry Potter, there’s always this feeling of, dare I say, magic in the air. I think that’s because a majority of the crowd are real true fans. They’re willing to wait for hours to buy a new book, see a movie, spend the day in a theme park, etc, these types of Events aren’t for casual fans. They bring out the die hards, people in cosplay or themed outfits (I was wearing a Hufflepuff shirt!), people that know all the words to the movies & cheer when Harry catches his first Snitch or boo when Wormtail appears because they know what role he’ll play later. It’s truly, again, magical, to sit in a crowd of people & know that you’re all part of something. In a world that sometimes feels like it’s falling apart, it’s nice to know you can turn to your fandom.

The Performance –
I had no idea what to expect from a Harry Potter Concert! I had read a few articles leading up to the Event & mostly they talked about how difficult the performance was going to be in regards to pulling the soundtrack from the film but keeping all the audio. I did find the music overwhelmed the audio at certain times, but I realized I had to restructure the way I was thinking about the Event. Somehow, I wanted the music to just quietly frame the movie, but be really awesome & powerful! There’s no way to accomplish that. The point of this Event was to focus on the beauty of the music & how it added to the film. Once I kind of let the film take a back seat & focused on the music, it WAS really awesome & powerful. I noticed certain nuances I’d never noticed before when I’d watched the film & focused only on the dialogue. This is definitely an Event for music lovers. You must love the sound, the feeling, the epic-ness! of live orchestral music. Obviously these musicians are extremely talented & I was thrilled to see the Conductor wearing a Hufflepuff tie & pin!

The Final Verdict –
People always say to arrive early for parking, but we found that arriving later worked WAY better & will most likely do so again. As I said, there may be other options that we were unaware of, but based on what I saw, this Venue is not very “disabled friendly”. I will need to investigate other options for the future & definitely feel it’s worth it to pay for more expensive seats closer to the front. Overall, an extremely enjoyable & unique experience that brought together a lot of people & helped strengthen their love of Harry Potter. What could be better?! I hope Hollywood Bowl continues to put on these Special Events, especially if they continue with the rest of the Harry Potter series & Disney films.

Have you ever been to this Venue or seen a Movie/Concert like this? Please let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading 🙂

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!!!
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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 🙂

Event Recap! The Steve Jobs Movie

Hello all!

I’m excited to finally announce…I was an Extra in “Steve Jobs” – the newest Steve Jobs biopic being released THIS WEEKEND!!! The film was directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) & written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, Moneyball – which I was also an Extra in). The film stars Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, & Jeff Daniels. I saw the director & all the stars except Seth Rogen, which I was kind of upset about, but it was from far away anyway so it’s okay. The film takes place backstage during 3 key Apple product launches leading up to the 1998 launch of the iMac. Obviously it will delve into what was going on with the company and Jobs during these times.

Filming took place in San Francisco at the Davies Symphony Hall and the surrounding streets. During the scenes at the Symphony Hall we were portraying guests at the unveiling of the “brand new” iMac so we did a lot of sitting, waiting, and cheering when Fassbender came on stage as Jobs. During the outdoor scenes we were portraying guests arriving for the unveiling. As these were large crowd scenes, I do not expect to have any screen time AT ALL, but hey, ya never know! It was a long day. There were some slight scheduling issues & we didn’t get a food break until we were done filming around 7pm! People were VERY upset because we had been waiting quite awhile & it had started to get cold. I had a great time, my mom was an extra with me & we quickly made friends with other extras & of course had each other for entertainment. However, to a certain extent, I understand why others were getting a bit peeved, especially because we weren’t getting paid to be on set.

All in all it was an awesome experience! A major highlight of the experience was overhearing this conversation…
Woman 1: “Is Steve Jobs actually going to show up?”
Woman 2: “GIRL, he’s been dead for years! If he shows up we’re all in trouble!!!”
With conversations like that, it’s no wonder I love to be on set! Take a look at the pictures I included below, they’re just picturse of my “’90’s costume”, but I’m curious to see what y’all think. We were told to dress like it was 1998, but when I was 7 & 8 years old I was definitely NOT wearing anything that I wanted to wear to a movie set in 2015, haha! I wanted to dress my current age within the staged time period, not wear clothes I actually wore during that time period. I did a lot of research on Google & Pinterest, but even that proved to be somewhat difficult as certain ’90’s trends are making a comeback. There were a lot of modernized looks, but of course, that wasn’t what I was aiming for. Anyway! Please let me know what you think of my look! Also, please see the movie & let me know if you spot me! 😛 Thanks for reading!

Book Review! Big Fish by Daniel Wallace

Hi everyone!
Today I will be doing a review of “Big Fish” by Daniel Wallace. I had a lot to say about this book, read on for my thoughts on the book plot versus the film plot, some character break downs, & great quotes! Also, please FOLLOW me to stay updated with all the book reviews & articles I post here, thank you!

Initial Thoughts:
I feel like I’ve mentioned before that “Big Fish” is one of my favorite movies. I was disappointed that the “Big Fish” musical totally flopped (fish pun intended), so I was excited to read the original source material & see what they were working with that succeed in film, but not on the stage.

Plot:
“Big Fish” is the story of a man named Will Bloom & his relationship with his father Edward. Will grew up hearing all sorts of wild tales from his father. As a child, he loved the stories, but as he grew up he realized the stories were heavily exaggerated & felt that his father lied to him. This created a disconnect between the two until Edward falls ill. Will asks his father to tell him about his real life, not the make believe stories from his childhood, so that he can finally learn who his father is, before it’s too late.
The chapters are written somewhat like short stories, they don’t really flow. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll recognize sections that were plucked from the book. Some scenes play a bigger part in the book & some play a bigger part in the movie. If you are a fan of the film, I’m not sure you will like the book. The way some of the stories were originally written create a whole different tone than is showcased in the film. Of course, this is a typical occurrence when books are turned into films. On the bright side & another note completely, I was happy to see that the characters kept the same names throughout the book & the film. It’s a small nuance that paid homage to the book & I appreciated it.

Characters:
– Will, the son, is a complicated character. It’s not revealed how old he is at first, so there’s no context for you to judge his maturity level. On one hand, I think Will is kind of brat because I found Edward’s stories somewhat adorable. They’re the kind of tales grandparents tell about situations like walking to school – uphill both ways – in snow – even though they lived in Florida. The stories mean more than what they’re really saying, you have to read into them & find the wisdom. On the other hand, I can understand how Will felt lied to. It must be frustrating to never get a straight answer out of someone you’re looking to for guidance, but…suck it up. He could have had a much worse father figure. We all think the grass is greener somewhere else though, & Will is no different. I felt that he was extremely passive & didn’t really seem to care wether he figured out his father & patched things up or not.
– Edward is also complicated. When he passes through Ashland & the townspeople warn him not to test the guard dog, he eventually races by. He is able to leave the town while many others can’t & has a friendly interaction with the dog, which shows his personality as strong & a bit stubborn, but ultimately a fighter & someone who won’t listen to nay-sayers because he believes in himself. In the film, Edward leaving the town later inspires another character to leave as well, showing that Edward was an influential person, he was a big fish all along. A lot of Edward’s movements throughout the story stem from his dissatisfaction with life, he’s always looking for the next best thing, ignoring what’s right under his nose – his family.

Quotes:
– Pg 20: “Remembering a man’s stories makes him immortal”
Definitely one of the main points of this story.
– Pg 21 & 22: Edward: ‘I’ll tell you what the problem was…I wanted to be a great man…”
Will: “…if a man could be said to be loved by his son, then I think that man could be considered great’ For that is the only power I have, to bestow upon my father the mantle of greatness, a thing he sought in the wider world, but one that, in a surprise turn of events, was here at home all along.”
Edward: “Ah…[n]ever thought about it in those terms…”
Sometimes we get so caught up in our own desires, we forget what others need & want from us. Edward wanted to leave behind a great life for Will to remember him by, instead of spending time creating a great life WITH Will. In the end, a life of shared memories mattered a great deal more to Will & he had to make his peace with not having them, or at least not having them the way he wanted.
– Pg 139: “We all have stories, just as you do. Ways in which [Edward] touched us, helped us…lots of stories, big & small. They all add up. Over a lifetime it all adds up…We’re a part of him, of who he is, just as he is a part of us.”
This is what life is all about. Everyone we meet makes us who we are & in turn we’re part of their story too. We live on through stories. We don’t always know why things happen until we look back and see how everything adds up over our lifetime.

Overall:
If you haven’t seen the film, you might enjoy this book as somewhat of a memoir of a father & son trying to patch up their relationship. After all, Wallace did write the story based on his relationship with his father. However, I think it just falls flat. The message of the story focuses on the idea that we all want to be special & mean something to others, especially within the parent – child relationship. The fatal flaw in that thinking though is that most kids just want honesty & at a certain point, to be treated like adults. Instead of being honest, Edward wanted Will to see him a certain way & ended up creating a negative relationship between them. I don’t feel like they were really ever to solve their issues, but I suppose that’s up to the interpretation of each reader.

Rating: C
I hate to keep comparing the book to the film, but the film is so much better! It’s filled with life & is so imaginative. The movie really makes Edward a hero & Will a sympathetic character, while I found them barely likable in the book. Another issue with the book was that there was really no use for the female characters. The film makes MUCH better use of all the characters & the romance within the story. I also appreciate how the film comes full circle & shows a bit of what happens to Will. The book sucks all the imagination out of the story told in the film. Where the film is magical, the book is real life. That isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just not my cup of tea, especially when I went in expecting the lush imagery & captivating story that is featured in the film. Despite my criticisms, I definitely connect with this story, to a certain extent, because part of my family is Greek & we’re big story tellers. I really believe in the message of “Big Fish”, that stories keep our memories, and those we love, alive. I really wanted to like this book, but unfortunately it just couldn’t live up to the film version that I know and love. If you at all have an interest in the film “Big Fish”, read this book if you want to learn about the source material, but don’t expect it to be like the film. If you’re not already familiar with the story in some capacity & are going into this as “just another book”, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Have you read “Big Fish” or seen the film? Which do you prefer? Do you agree with me or am I missing something? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

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 Vow by Kim & Krickitt Carpenter with Dana Wilkerson

The Vow

The Vow

Plot:
“The Vow” is the story of Kim and Krisxan (aka Krickitt) Carpenter. I’m sure y’all are somewhat familiar with the film because it stars Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams, but I’m not sure how many are familiar with the true story that inspired the film. I have not seen the film, but after reading the description on Wikipedia & watching the trailer – it is VERY different from the book. The Carpenters address the film & while it was given their approval, they acknowledge it has been given the Hollywood treatment. It only contains the framework of their story, but does not tell it the way it really happened. After a whirlwind courtship & marriage, the Carpenter’s are involved in a horrific car accident that leaves them both with severe injuries. While Kim’s injuries are extensive, he is eventually able to recover. Krickitt, on the other hand, suffers a Traumatic Brain Injury that results in amnesia preventing her from remembering the last year and a half of her life. This is especially inconvenient because that is the exact length of time she’s known her husband. She wakes up from the accident with no memory of her husband or any of their relationship. The book details their life as they struggle to regain a sense of normalcy & figure out how they’re going to move forward.

Review:
– I felt like the Carpenter’s entire relationship was kind of an odd, extreme, only in the movies type romance. For example, they meet completely by chance when Kim is ordering jackets for the baseball team he coaches. Krickitt answers the phone and Kim falls in love with her voice and spunky attitude. He continues to call to “check on his order” & asks only to speak to her. Their conversations quickly become personal and they get to know each other outside of the business transaction. It’s honestly the kind of meet-cute that easily could have been really creepy if Krickitt hadn’t returned Kim’s feelings. I know most people meet completely by chance, but this is just SO random! Out of all the people in the world, he happens to order jackets from a girl that’s his perfect match and then they get in this terrible car accident that makes her forget her perfect husband!? OF COURSE THEY MADE THIS A MOVIE.

– I’m really weird & get excited when I recognize places in stories, I’m not sure why. I guess it helps me feel connected to the story. Henceforth, I was excited when Kim name drops Fullerton, CA & Phoenix, AZ. Krickitt went to Cal State Fullerton – I took a class there and the nearby junior college, so I felt like we were kindred spirits as I’ve possibly wandered the same areas of campus that she had once called home. I travel to Phoenix pretty frequently as I have family/friends there. Kim & Krickitt are traveling to Phoenix, where her parents live, when they get in their car accident. Krickitt spends part of her recovery at the Barrow Neurological Center in Phoenix. Like I said, it helps me feel connected to the story/people to know that we’ve probably driven down the same streets and seen the same things.

– I was a little peeved that the story was 99% told through Kim’s point of view. I understand Krickitt doesn’t remember their relationship before the accident and can’t speak on that subject, but I was interested to know what was going through her mind during the aftermath.

– Kim “doth protest too much”. He constantly assures the reader that the ONLY reason they decided to write the book/go on TV/be interviewed/agree to the film was to spread God’s word. I respect the Carpenter’s relationship with God, that they bonded over their faith, & it brought them peace after the accident. I’m fine with it in theory, I just didn’t know the story was going to revolve around religion so heavily. There’s no way to make this sound nice, so I’m just going to be honest, religion is just not for me. I was borderline uncomfortable with all the references to God. When Kim kept talking about how they didn’t want the attention/money that came with being famous, they just wanted to spread God’s word, I was rolling my eyes. They wrote a book! Obviously, they knew/hoped they’d be making SOME money. I’m not sure they were paid for any of their appearances, but if a Radio/TV station wanted them to appear badly enough, they certainly could’ve paid them. I can’t imagine anyone openly admitting they wanted to capitalize on the tragedy/miracle of their life, but it’s understandable that they would need money considering how expensive their medical bills must have been so I don’t think he needed to justify himself with the religious reasoning.
Another issue I felt Kim talked about way too much was divorce. He mentions numerous times that divorce was “not an option”, “never crossed their minds”, “never on the table”, “never discussed”, “not for them” – dude, we get it! You’re a solid guy that wasn’t planning on leaving your wife in her hour of need. You became famous because we live in a world where you get in a fight with someone and you leave them – and in the face of serious adversity – you both stayed. Granted, you did mention that there was a time you seriously doubted you could live under the same roof together, but you were going to stay married because you made promise to each other & God. I’m not sure how permanently living apart would’ve been much different than divorcing, but okay.

Rating: C
“The Vow” was a quick read for me & I can definitely understand why they chose to make it into a movie. I admire the Carpenter’s commitment to each other and their willingness to work through a very traumatic event. If you like romantic, inspiring tales of love conquering all, especially with a heavy helping of Christianity – this is the book for you.

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 – Les Mis – LATE POST!

Late Movie Review 2 of 7…

Les Miserables – released December 5th, 2012

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, talented newcomers like Eddie Redmayne & Aaron Tveit, and several Broadway vets.

Plot WITH SPOILERS!: Valjean (Jackman) is on parole, Javert (Crowe) is the police inspector dedicated to finding Valjean and putting him back in prison.
Valjean becomes the mayor of a town and helps out Fantine (Hathaway) a single mother to Cosette (Seyfried), who sells ALL her body parts to earn money to raise her. Fantine ends up dying & Valjean becomes Cosette’s guardian.
Cosette grows up, meets Marius (Redmayne), a revolutionary student planning to rebel against the French monarchy with his friends, they fall in love, which is really too bad because his best lady friend Eponine is already in love with him, but oh well. The fight against the French monarchy doesn’t go so well and all of Marius’ friends die, including Eponine. Marius almost dies, but is saved by Valjean, who also has a chance to kill Javert, who has been hunting him this whole time, but doesn’t. Javert doesn’t know how to deal with the split in his moral compass, he wants to keep hunting Valjean because it’s the “right thing to do”, but now he owes him a solid because he let him live. In order to escape this confusion, he decides to kill himself. Marius and Cosette get married. Valjean dies. There is singing. The End.

My opinon/rating: Eh. As you can probably tell by my overly enthused description of the plot, I don’t care a whole heck of a lot for the story of Les Mis. I enjoy the music, but the story itself doesn’t really have a special place in my heart. I thought this was a well done version, I just don’t have a personal connection to it, so it’s not one of my favorite movies. If you’re not really into musicals, I’d probably skip this one since there’s little to no dialogue, it’s JUST singing. All in all, this movie gets a B rating.