Friday, April 26, 2019

Avengers: Endgame Spoiler-Free Zone!

copyright Marvel Studios, used with permission
I was given 2 free tickets to a pre-screening of Avengers: Endgame for a review, and whoa! We were not disappointed! Since it was on a weekday morning and I'd brought her to the early showing of Avengers: Infinity War last year, I brought my now-1st-grader to watch it with me. We wore our matching Captain America dresses, brought our Spider-Man hat and gloves, and a plastic Thor hammer (which the theater employees kindly turned a blind eye to. They have a strict "no weapons" policy. They probably figured a 7-year-old who looks like a 5-year-old carrying a ginormous hammer that clearly wasn't too heavy for her probably wasn't a threat to anyone...) We brought a blanket and our coats (we always get chilly during movies,) and hit the restroom before hunkering down with our popcorn and drinks for a 3-hour marathon.

Infinity War left us with a big loss for the heroes - and the world. Ant Man and Wasp left us with Scott trapped in the quantum realm as the Pyms all turned to dust. How does one deal with the aftermath of losing half of everyone they know? How does the world react? And how does a hero move forward? Endgame at first starts where Infinity War left off, but then jumps five years ahead. Which is when we forgot we had snacks and drinks, we were so riveted for the next few hours! Pretty much nonstop crying, laughing, or action scenes! I can't say much about the plot, since the whole movie is pretty much back-to-back spoilers. But I can say that there are flashbacks and clips from prior movies, so when you see dusted or dead characters in the previews or promotion posters, it doesn't mean they're "back." Pretty much every past character appears in the movie at one time or another (Vision and Odin being the only exceptions I can think of...) And that contrary to what popular internet memes would like, Ant Man does not shrink and crawl up Thanos' butt...

The basic non-spoilery plot is that they want to get the gauntlet back from Thanos and undo what he did, but some people have moved on and don't want to risk changing the present, while others figure that if they failed once, they'll only fail again.

Captain Marvel made a great addition to the Avengers, and when they get angry that she wasn't there when they needed her, she adroitly points out that Earth isn't the only planet out there... [Fun Fact: they had to film Brie Larson's Endgame scenes before filming began for the Captain Marvel movie - the directors did a great job keeping her true to a character that the Captain Marvel directors hadn't even had a chance to explore yet!]

Where Infinity War left us feeling like we were stopping in the middle of the story, Endgame left me with closure, even though it was bittersweet. In order to succeed, the heroes have to lose. And the cost is very high, and very heartbreaking. My daughter gets anxious during tense or exciting scenes, and clings to me, but I spent the whole movie clinging to her as well, and her hair was damp with my tears by the end. There were heart-wrenching moments, and beautiful moments, and a few happy endings - or as happy as one could be, under the circumstances. It was an epic, exhausting, and rewarding experience, and I feel honored that Marvel created this universe for us and spent so much love and time showing it to us.

Little E's spoilers: The Avengers are in it! Darth Vader is not in it. I am Groot.

We had some time to kill before the movie, so we did some fun poses in our cosplay, and fun editing afterward!

Remember - Doctor Strange saw Endgame fourteen-million six-hundred and five times, and didn't reveal any spoilers. So please, don't spoil this epic adventure that they've spent so much effort to keep secret so everyone can enjoy it for the first time.

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Friday, April 27, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War Reviewed By My 6-Year-Old!

Image copyright Disney/Marvel Studios. Used with permission
I was offered two free tickets to see the new Marvel Avengers: Infinity War movie a few days early. Since it was a matinee, my husband had to work, so I let my 6-year-old superhero fan play hooky from school to come with me! She's a HUGE fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, and loves the Avengers heroes - especially Spider-Man. In fact she even wore her Spider-Man hoodie to the theater! Big fan!
Image copyright Disney/Marvel Studios. Used with permission

This movie has enough major spoilers, I can't really talk about the plot. It's basically one big HUGE spoiler! The premise is that Thanos wants to collect all the Infinity Stones to give himself the power to randomly halve the population of the universe, so the survivors on previously overcrowded planets have the opportunity to thrive. Unfortunately, he didn't have any. The Guardians had the Power Stone in the safekeeping of the Novacore (GotG1,) the Space Stone was assumed destroyed on Asgard at the end of Thor Ragnarok, the Reality Stone was left with the Collector since it couldn't be safely stored so near the Tesseract on Asgard (Thor 2,) the Mind Stone and Time Stone are on earth with Vision and Doctor Strange, respectively, and thus far no one knows where the Soul Stone has been. So it's safe to assume Thanos is coming for Earth, and that this movie will be an "all hands on deck" as far as Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) cast goes! 
Image copyright Disney/Marvel Studios. Used with permission

Here's what I can tell you. If you're not caught up on the movies and characters and plots within the MCU, you may be very lost or confused about a lot of the inside jokes, characters, and dynamics. Bring tissues if you're prone to crying when things get emotional - this movie has a LOT of feels! And it's over 2 hours long, so plan bathroom breaks and drink sizes accordingly! And be prepared for that feeling of letdown and betrayal at the end of the movie when you realize they're done and the story isn't really over. I compare it to how I felt when I was in the theater at age 5 and find out Darth Vader was Luke's father, Luke's hand gets chopped off, and... end credits. I shot up and howled "NoooOoOOoOooOOoo!" My 6-year-old almost did that here. She turned to me and said, "Wait. Is that the end? That's not the end, right?" It was only the promise of the standard Marvel "stinger" in the end credits that kept her calm and seated.

Basically, she sums this movie up really well. "I was sad. It was great. I loved it." And she's been enjoying running around telling her dad "spoilers" - so here's her big reveal... "THANOS is in it! Muahahahaha!" You're welcome.

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AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR is now playing in theatres everywhere!  

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Disney's A Wrinkle In Time Movie Review

image copyright Disney Studios, used with permission
My 9-year-old read "A Wrinkle In Time" last year in school, so she has been eagerly awaiting the release of a film version! I've been a fan of the adult actors in it, so I've been following along enjoying the sneak peeks on Instagram too!
Disclaimer: I was given free tickets to attend an early screening of this film for review purposes.

Just from the previews and sneak peek images, I could tell that this movie as going to be very visually stimulating, and it did not disappoint in that regard! The costumes, hair, and make-up for The Mrs Ws were detailed and stunning, and changing so fast it was hard to appreciate all the detail! Every actor was pleasant to look at, and there were lots of great visuals throughout the movie.

image copyright Disney Studios, used with permission
As for the plot, I'm torn. It's been a few decades a while since I read the book, so I don't know how the movie compares, and I purposely did not read it again before the movie, since judging by my daughter's indignation at all the changes made ("basically just the names are the same! And sort of the idea of the story") I'll enjoy reading the book better with these visuals and a richer world and plot, rather than starting with the whole story and different expectations in my head and watching it get hacked to bits and patched over with pretty visuals...

image copyright Disney Studios, used with permission
The premise of the plot is that a father disappeared 4 years before by using his mind to travel across the universe using the correct frequency, or a "wrinkle" in time and space. So once I shake off all my eye-rolling, I can follow along. Some magical light beings, the Mrs Ws, just called "The Mrs" in this movie, help his children Meg and precocious Charles Wallace and a friend of Meg's, Calvin, travel across the universe using a "tesseract" to "tesser" through time and space to find their missing father.
That's pretty much it. Except, of course, for The It, a darkness that tries to sneak inside each of us from a place called Camazotz. The Mrs are part of the Light, finding warriors to fight The It. Oh yes, and helping Meg and Charles Wallace find their father.
image copyright Disney Studios, used with permission

Understandably, Meg gets into a lot of trouble acting out and getting teased and bullied at school after the disappearance of her father, so she has difficulty trusting The Mrs - and herself. So her personal development in this story is pretty predictable. But a great social story for grade-school kids, tweens, and teens! I'm constantly trying to show my oldest how the things she dislikes about herself can also be her strengths. Mrs Which gives the most powerful line in the movie - (paraphrasing here) "Do you know how many choices and events had to happen since the beginning of the universe to lead to the creation of you?" I'm always telling my kids that I never regret all the mistakes made and lessons learned, choices changed or delayed, and opportunities missed, because they led to the amazing children I got, and made me the mama I am. I may have annoyed my 4th-grader by interrupting her movie to indicate that this line defined how I feel about her.
image copyright Disney Studios, used with permission

Overall I enjoyed the movie, but I did have some issues with it, other than the cheesy sci-fi premise from the book (I asked my kid.) First off, my 6-year-old hated it. To be fair, she gets scared and anxious during the suspenseful or scary scenes in pretty much every modern movie. But my mommy-radar was going off for the characters when The It was dragging them away and they were screaming in terror. So I wasn't surprised that my sensitive little one was terrified and had to climb into Daddy's lap until the end. She did not feel that the rest of the movie was worth the terror of the It scenes. Before that point though, she was excited about the movie having Jack Frost (Chris Pine in Rise of the Guardians,) the mama pig (Reese Witherspoon as Rosita in Sing,) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling in Inside Out!)

I can't attest to this either way (other than I know they changed the winged horse to a magic flying carpet lady, since the book cover shows a horse,) but my oldest says the movie is pretty much nothing like the book. (So for those of you experienced with The Bourne Identity who have both read the book and watched the movie, sounds a lot like the similarities and differences there in the movie versus book.) Being a rigid thinker, my 9-year-old was outraged at the changes, however loved all the beautiful eye candy, and that there was a dog in it (she loves animals,) so gave it 5 stars.

I personally really hated the choice the father made at the end, but my daughter assured me that it was in the book [a lot of the film was spent with me annoying her like when I watch any Marvel movie with my husband - *poke poke* "Did that happen in the books? Was that character in the books? Did they do that in the book?"] So I'm not holding that part of the plot against the movie. Maybe they just didn't do a good job of justifying why his character made that choice, which is why it bothered me so much. I don't like wanting to slap a protagonist at the end of the film. Mixed feelings about a character should all be resolved by then!
The biggest issues for me though was that the pacing and cinematography felt off. Like this was made to be seen on TV versus the theater. I also got the impression they didn't do a lot of extra takes when filming the high-end stars. Little things like flyaway hairs blowing across a face of a magical being made of the light of the universe. Really? Couldn't do a re-take and spray down that hair? And a lot of creative angles and shots with unusual focus. Just gave me the impression that this was a TV or straight-to-DVD movie with a high special effects budget and a cast full of big names. It was a bit distracting for me, being pulled out of being lost in the experience to remember that I'm a viewer watching a movie, and why did they do that with that camera shot? But definitely still worth seeing in the theater with my kids!
image copyright Disney Studios, used with permission
A WRINKLE IN TIME opens in theatres everywhere this Friday March 9th!

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Ka-CHOW! Cars 3 Movie Review

image copyright Disney/Pixar, used with permission
We were offered tickets to see an advanced screening of Disney/Pixar's new Cars 3, and my girls could hardly wait! Pixar hasn't disappointed us yet, so I had high hopes for this next installment from the CARS universe!

image copyright Disney/Pixar, used with permission
While Cars 3 includes cameos from all our favorite characters, this movie takes Lightning away from his family at Radiator Springs as he competes in the racing circuit only to discover newer faster race cars starting to take over the sport, making him and his previous competitors obsolete. It doesn't help that the new guys come in with a big attitude and egos to match, instead of the playful ribbing and friendship he was used to before. One by one his racing friends retire as the old guard continues to get further and further outclassed. But Lightning isn't ready to give up his passion!

image copyright Disney/Pixar, used with permission
Lightning is excited to train for the next racing season, and discovers that Rust-eeze has a fancy new training center, run by the new owner Sterling (voiced by Nathan Fillion, whose voice I could listen to allllll day!) Sterling has been a huge fan of Lightning's career, but he has other plans for his old racing star. So they make a wager. If Lightning can win the first race, he gets to race until he's ready to quit. But if he loses, he'll go along with Sterling's plans to shill branded merchandise.

image copyright Disney/Pixar, used with permission
Lightning and his new trainer Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo) have different ideas on what it takes to be a race car, but they work hard to find a nice mix of both old-school dirt tracks and new-technology training tools to try and match the top speed of Lightning's fastest competitor, Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer, who among other things, had a small role in J. Edgar, as did my friend and EasyLunchboxes founder Kelly Lester!) As you watch them train together, the ending isn't difficult to foresee for the savvy movie-experienced mamas, but it was still exciting and satisfying nonetheless! One thing I didn't see coming was Lightning seeking out his mentor Doc's old trainer, Smokey to help. Lots of humor for the grown-ups with the old classic car crowd, while still maintaining interest for the kids.
Pixar is genius at seamlessly weaving together scripts and visuals that keep all ages entertained throughout! I was too engaged to check out how my girls were enjoying the movie as much as I usually try to do, but I heard loads of giggles and guffaws, and saw a few excited bounces and even a little dancing from my youngest at one point! Definitely worth taking the family to see!

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CARS 3 is now playing in theatres everywhere!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Be Our Guest! Beauty and the Beast Review

image copyright Disney - used with permission
I was never much of a fan of Disney's animated Beauty and the Beast movie. I felt the message of not judging someone's character by their looks was portrayed too obscurely for most kids, and saw many children cheering and making punching arms during Gaston's pub scene, since clearly he was the hero to be emulating! The ending with Gaston stabbing the Beast in the back was also more violence than needed, and more than I expected from a Disney kids movie! But I couldn't say no when I was offered pre-screening tickets to the live-action version starring Obi Wan, Gandalf, and Hermione! *Swoon!*

I must say, not only was the all-star cast amazing, but this new version changed a lot of the issues I had with the original, and the whole thing was so epic and moving that honestly, I didn't mind the bits that had bothered me that weren't changed! For example, live-action faces are much easier to read, and I felt it was clearer early-on that Gaston wasn't a nice guy, and there was less punching in the pub scene. Already a win!
image copyright Disney - used with permission
Since the showing was during a weekday when my kids would be at school, I knew my mom was the perfect choice to take with me! She'd appreciate the majesty and music like I would, and would also enjoy seeing familiar actors and hearing familiar voices that my kids just wouldn't appreciate. The chorus was just more epic in a live action setting. I cried like I do at theatre musicals, just from the spectacle and beauty and a touch of nostalgia when the "provincial" townsfolk started singing "Belle!" I must admit, by the end of the movie I had tears runneling into my shirt!

I think this version has much scarier moments, with the real-looking wolves snarling and growling in several scenes, and the fight scene at the end is dark and harrowing, so expect to find your younger ones needing to be held during this film - but I will definitely be taking my anxious 5- and 8-year-olds to see this!
image copyright Disney - used with permission
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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST opens in theatres everywhere on March 17th!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Disney's Moana Movie Review

 image copyright Disney Studios, used with permission
My preschooler E is in her second-year at the Montessori school, and they are learning about world cultures and traditions. So while I would have jumped at the chance to get free tickets to see Disney's "Moana" in an advance-screening anyway, it was a particularly appropriate treat for us right now. This movie was full of stories and history and culture of the people of the Pacific Islands, and this movie is a fabulous resource to expose children to its beauty and richness. Plus once again, Disney knocks it out of the park!

 image copyright Disney Studios, used with permission
"Moana" is about a girl named - you guessed it - Moana who is compelled by the water surrounding their island, but who is always kept away for her safety. One day she manages to toddle down to the beach and is "chosen" by some sort of magic. When she is grown and her people start to experience a blight, she learns secret about her tribe's history and is convinced she must leave the safety of their reef to find the god Maui to save her people. Her journey is filled with humor, love, tolerance, respect, and acceptance.

When she finds Maui, his selfishness is surprising to her, although very funny to the audience, and particularly identifiable to children, who are by nature fairly self-centered already. His journey and character development are a joy to watch, and an especially good example for my 8-year-old with a social delay to be exposed to. Like Maui, she is fairly narcissistic, but has a good soul, and is capable of making selfless choices. And likes to eat chicken...
 image copyright Disney Studios, used with permission
My only problem with this movie was the visit to Tamatoa's lair. In a film rich with Pacific Islander culture and history and songs and language, it was very dissonant both visually and aurally to have a psychedelic black-lit 60's scene and song reminiscent of David Bowie. This was also the only part my preschooler E (she'll be 5 in a month) found scary.

My children particularly enjoyed the antics of the chicken HeiHei (voiced by Alan Tudyk, who has made a vocal appearance in each of Disney's computer animated tales!)
 image copyright Disney Studios, used with permission
I definitely recommend this movie for adults and children alike, and E is already making plans to buy it on DVD!

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MOANA is now playing in theatres everywhere!

Monday, July 25, 2016

IFBC 2016 - Sacramento Farm-to-Fork Excursions

I'm excited to be going back to IFBC this year, to hobnob with fellow food bloggers, brands, and sponsors again! I had so much fun last year in Seattle, and this year they've moved it to Sacramento! We get to meet local growers and tour farms - I can't wait!

Since this year the conference isn't local to me, I can't just drive over each day after dropping the girls off at school. So I chose to fly down several days early and take advantage of the amazing pre-conference "excursion" tours! (Hubby's going to work from home the two weekdays I'm gone to get the girls to and from day camp at their school. Maybe he'll even take pictures of their packed lunches!)

For Thursday's excursion, I opted for the tour of some olive farms in the Capay Valley. I'm not a huge olive fan like my 8-year-old, but it will be exciting to see where the magic happens and learn more about curing and how they extract the oil! Years ago when Hubby was moving back to Seattle from Phoenix, I flew down to meet him and we drove back up together with as much of his stuff as he could cram into his car. I remember stopping at an olive farm in California and buying a ginormous jar of garlic-stuffed olives (I hate pimientos!) It might even be one of the ones on this tour! Wouldn't that be something?

After the excursion, there will be a reception generously hosted by Raley's Markets and the California Cling Peach Board ("Millions of peaches, peaches for me...") There will also be nibbles from CA Almonds, artisanal cheeses from Marin French Cheese , aperitifs (that's fancy for "booze") from Jardesca California Aperitiva, and premium local cider sips from Gowan Orchards Cider! Since I don't drink, I'm hoping the cider is non-alcoholic!

On Friday before the conference itself officially opens at 1:30, they set up another group of excursions! I chose the Farm-to-Fork Adventure through Historic Sacramento Delta. We'll get a first-hand look at the indoor growing facility at California Endive Farms where they render endives (pronounced “on-deev”) from chicory roots! And then the California Pear Advisory Board will take us to see a "live action" harvest at a Bosc pear orchard! 
And then they're feeding us! On the banks of the Sacramento River, we'll get a light lunch featuring endives, pears, local wines, and other locally-grown "farm-to-fork" ingredients! Whew! All this, before the keynote speech and panels and such have even begun! It's going to be a full, amazing day! A full, amazing WEEKEND!

I'll be posting loads of pics on my Instagram the whole weekend, so be sure to follow me to see all the yummy foodie fun!