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!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Scrumdiddlyumptious BFG Movie Lunches!

I was given 4 media passes to a pre-screening of Disney's "The BFG," so we had to celebrate with some "delumptious" lunches! My girls and I had fun brainstorming "glumptious" ideas for these lunches. But first, a whopsey look at the movie!

Image copyright Disney, 2016. Used with permission
It's been a few decades since I read the book, so other than generally remembering that I'd enjoyed it,  I really didn't remember the plot at all. So I was unprepared for just how much I was going to love the movie! My brother ended up coming with us because my husband had game night and my mom got sick, and it was so fun listening to a grown man enjoy this movie so much! As much or possibly even more than my kids did! So fun!

Image copyright Disney, 2016. Used with permission
The visuals were truly stunning, and the jokes and plot were appealing and logical to any child's mind. My favorite parts were when they were catching "phizzwizards" (good dreams) and "trogglehumpers" (bad dreams) and then mixing them together to create custom dreams. But of course both my kids liked the "frobscottle" (giant's special fizzy drink) and "whizzpoppers" (rocketing farts!) the best!

Sophie and the Phizzwizards
Strawbumbles, pickled snozzcumbers, Frobscottle, Phizzwizards and Trogglehumpers, and Sophie
For Sophie, I used a Bread Head sandwich stamp on a gluten-free tortilla and added glasses by gently using a small circle cutter. My preschooler doesn't like cheese, so she chose some Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter for her tortilla sandwich. This stamp was designed for bread, so the imprint was recessed a bit for some reason. So I had to push the cut tortilla inside and hand-press it into the stamp to make the impressions. It was annoying, but not terribly hard. And luckily both these sandwiches were able to recover from the tortilla being cut through in a few places by accident!

Image copyright Disney, 2016. Used with permission
My 4-year-old also helped me pack some natural dye-free jelly beans into a mini muffin cup because they reminded her of the phizzwizards [dreams] the BFG caught to mix into good dreams to blow back into the world. Plus jelly beans are delicious, and I don't pack treats into lunches often!

Frobscottle and Snozzcumbers
Phizzwizards and Trogglehumpers, Frobscottle, Sophie quesadilla, pickled snozzcumbers, strawbumbles
The snozzcumbers in the movie were pretty disgusting looking, and these mini pickles represented them perfectly. Plus bonus, both my kids love pickles, so they actually ate their veggies this day!

Apparently "strawbumbles" are only mentioned in the movie, but Sophie enjoys a big bowlful of them at the palace, so they had to make an appearance too!

I happened to find the perfect little 2oz glass bottles at a novelty shop just in time to send some homemade frobscottle for lunch! Mine was made with some Zevia Cream Soda and a dab of natural green food dye powder. Both girls noticed that the bubbles in mine went up, instead of down like the BFG's. I told them that I can't bend the laws of physics! I am assured that the resulting whizzpoppers were still plenty fun! [Note: the bottles leaked when set on their sides for too long, so I ended up packing them tucked snugly upright between the EasyLunchboxes and the sides of their lunch bags. The bags didn't come home sticky and green, so I assume it worked out okay!]

I'm really pleased with how well these turned out, and both girls ate practically every bite, which rarely happens lately! If you're a fan of more rummytot rumpledumpuses, check out these fun Roald Dahl lunches (including some BFG giant ear flatbread sandwiches!) from Bent On Better Lunches!

Tools of the Trade
Image copyright Disney, 2016. Used with permission
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Friday, June 17, 2016

Finding Dory Lunches and Movie Review

I was given two tickets to see a pre-screening of Disney-Pixar's "Finding Dory" in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own. Well, except for what my 4-year-old tells me to say... Since I was only offered one ticket in addition to my own, I couldn't take both girls. My youngest won the coin toss.
image copyright Disney-Pixar 2016, used with permission
The basic story (without too many spoilers, I hope!) starts one year after Nemo was rescued, with Dory living "next door" to Nemo and Marlin. Being someone with no short-term memory must be pretty frustrating and scary, but living and caring for someone with this condition has unique and frustrating challenges too. Which Marlin learns all too well. Along the way, Dory gets a flash of memory from her childhood, which prompts a quest to find her parents. After reminding Marlin and Nemo that they know all too well what it's like to love someone who is lost to them, the three of them embark on a grand oceanic adventure! And find some new "family" along the way!

image copyright Disney-Pixar 2016, used with permission
The title suggests that this movie is about Dory getting lost and (hopefully) found. And while this does happen (a few times!) this story is really about Dory finding herself. Finding her own strengths and trusting in her own abilities after a lifetime of being treated as "less than" - and realizing that she's not "broken" after all! This movie resonates a lot with me personally, since as a mother of a child with an "invisible" cognitive disability, I love stories that feature characters who are loved and accepted and even valued as "different, but not less." I can't wait for her to see it!

Since the oldest one didn't get to come, I wanted to make her a special lunch to celebrate getting to see the AMC Sensory Friendly showing coming soon (Regal also offers My Way Matinees now.) And I had to make a Dory lunch for the little one too, of course!

Dory and Nemo
GF goat cheese quesadillas, organic grapes and carrots
My 2nd-grader loves cheese, and has been asking for quesadillas. Normally I just use corn tortillas, since they're naturally gluten free and easy to find. But I happened to grab some gluten-free flour tortillas the other day, and it turns out they take cookie stamper imprints fantastically well! I foresee a lot more tortillas in our lunches next school year!

Since I was trying to make Little Sister's lunch at the same time, I opted to cook these quesadillas in the oven instead of a frying pan to free up some time. I accidentally overcooked them a tad. Which turned out to be a good thing, since my oldest prefers "crispy" cheese. She didn't even notice that these were quesadillas - she thought they were just fun cheese crisps! Ha!

I got the Nemo and Dory cookie cutters and stamps as part of my Disney Cakes and Sweets subscription. So many lunch-able Disney goodies! I didn't have any whale or octopus picks to represent other characters from the movie, so I grabbed some cartoony sea life cupcake picks just for fun.

Dory-tilla Sandwich
GF Dark Chocolate Dreams "fairy bread" tortilla sandwich, organic blueberries and spinach, rosemary vinaigrette
My preschooler (4) isn't a big fan of cheese, except on pizza, so instead of a quesadilla, she agreed to try a "chocolate peanut butter quesadilla." (Yes. I know "queso" means "cheese." To them "quesadilla" means "tortilla food." Ha!)

After cutting out three Dory shapes from the tortilla, pressing the stamp firmly into one of them, and carefully spreading the the Peanut Butter Co Dark Chocolate Dreams between the layers, I lightly buttered the stamped top. I then spent an agonizing amount of time carefully applying dye free natural-colored blueyellow, and black sanding sugars. (The black one was found at Whole Foods.) I used a tiny spoon to help scoop, pour, spread, and corral the different sugars, and had to resort to my bento tweezers a few times to move errant grains of sugar. For the eyes I used tubes of natural-colored blue and black icings sent from a friend in Australia (loads of dye-free food options there!) and added some natural purple sugar over the blue for the irises.

A few sea life cupcake picks finish the theme (naturally I don't have the octopus or sea turtle from that set, since the store selling them as singles only had these two options! Pfaugh!)

This lunch was definitely more time-intensive than I can normally be bothered with. "Luckily" we slept in so late that I had to just take the girls to school and go back home to pack lunches. This gave me a few hours before I had to head back to school to deliver them, so I could take the time to do them fancy!

Tools of the Trade
image copyright Disney-Pixar 2016, used with permission
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FINDING DORY is now playing in theatres everywhere!