Moana Review: Familiar and New At the Same Time

Moana One Sheet

I think most of us can rattle of our top 5 Disney animated movies. Some go back to childhood – The Rescuers, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – while others are played on a loop in our minds from the many times our kids ask to watch it. I grew up in the 70s and 80s but had to wait until I was in college for the first big modern hit, The Little Mermaid, swim into my memory. While it may not make it into your all-time top 5, Moana is sure to become a classic.

This week we welcome another strong young woman in the ever-expanding lineup of princesses, Moana Waialiki (voiced by Hawaiian actress Auli’i Cravalho). We know she’s a princess because her back-story tells us so. But even if we’re not convinced, her soon-to-be friend, Maui (voice by Dwayne Johnson) clearly points out, “If you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick, you’re a princess.” Hard to argue with that!

Academy Award-winning writer/director and New Zealand native Taika Waititi wrote Moana’s original script and the movie was directed by Disney veterans John Musker and Ron Clements, Moana is the first “Disney princess” movie not to give the leading lady a love interest. Compared to the now-classic modern Disney princess movies – The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahantas, Brave, and Frozen – Moana’s story joins that of warrior princess Mulan’s where it’s girl versus the world to save her family.

While her father, the chief, is in the movie, early on we get a strong sense that women are well-respected in her Polynesian culture. Moana’s grandmother is the chief storyteller in the beginning and sets the stage for the journey Moana will take. We learn about the disgraced demi-god Maui and are given an idea of how he will be part of her journey, but it’s not until Moana meets him that we’re treated to his humor. It was Maui, whose actions set the course for putting Moana’s people in peril, the set the stage for Moana’s grand adventure.

Moana HeiHei

Years prior, Maui took a mystical stone, “the heart of Te Fiti”, that causes Moana to set out on this open-ocean adventure. Like Pocahontas, Moana has two animal friends. However, only one, Heihei the clueless rooster, joins her on the water even though he should have stayed on the island. Nonetheless, he provides for comic relief among the few moments of tension.

While Moana means ‘ocean’ in Maori (the Polynesian people of New Zealand), Maui will likely evoke a sense of Hawaii among most moviegoers. A bit stereotypical, Maui is a large, hulking figure who knows the history of their ancestors, is covered in tattoos, and can shape-shift through the magical powers of his giant fish-hook sword alternative.

Moana and Maui

The plot is relatively simple – girl defies her father and sets out on an adventure to save her people and in the process makes a friend and defeats the enemy – but we’re taken along in a way that keeps you engaged and brings you back when you’re starting to feel like it’s becoming trite. Moana and Maui have to work together, but there is no romance that is brewing. Both are strong and have an appreciation of each other that does not need to be woven together with a love story.

Instead, the two join forces to return the stone so Maui can continue his journey through life and Moana and her people can, once again, live freely as their ancestors once did.

It wouldn’t be a Disney movie without great music, right? It’s the songs that keep us connected (along with all the merchandise!) to the movie. Moana doesn’t disappoint, but it’s no Frozen. With music by the renown Disney music writer Mark Mancina, we’re treated to a soundtrack that includes the lead singer of a South Pacific fusion band, Opetaia Foa’i, and Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda. While you may not think the music would hold together with such an eclectic group, it’s that diversity that keeps you wondering what’s coming next.

The movie is adorable and I’m sure will be a big hit. Will it be “the next Frozen”, I highly doubt it. Will it make you want to plan your next trip to Disney’s Aulani Resort on O’ahu? I wouldn’t be surprised. I anticipate an interest in all-things Hawai’i from this movie. Partly because of the island-theme, but also because Moana and her people are portrayed with such authenticity and depth it’s hard not to love them and want to feel that spirit.

My first impression of the movie was that it felt like Brave meets Hamilton with a musical interlude by Flight of the Conchords. If you don’t know Flight of the Conchords you might not get my description, but I throw them in because of the giant crab (voice by Jemaine Clement of FotC) scene. Nonetheless, I stick by that characterization. I use Brave instead of Mulan, mainly because Brave is more recent, but it easily could be Mulan meets Hamilton with a musical interlude by FotC. I say this not as a slight to the movie. However, in the first few minutes of the movie the song(s) take on a very Hamilton-esque cadence and feel that Baby Girl whispered that the songs seemed really familiar but she couldn’t place it. That’s when I whispered back ‘Hamilton’.

Go see the movie! It’s a sweet story (just know there are very few slightly scary parts), there’s a connected plot, and just when you think it could start to get boring you’re jolted back with a song or humorous exchange between the characters. Plus the music! It’s beautiful music and well thought out. It might not replace “Let it Go”, but there is hope.

Moana is rated PG
Run time: 1 hour 53 minutes
In theaters: Nov. 23, 2016

Images: ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.


Finding Dory Review

Finding Dory Review

I attended a press screening of Finding Dory prior to the movie’s public opening.

Finding Dory, the long-awaited sequel to the blockbuster hit Finding Nemo, takes us on a journey with the friendly blue tang fish, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), and her adopted clown fish family Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo. This is a special journey to reunite Dory with her parents. After over a decade of being separated, Dory begins to gain some of her childhood memory and decides it’s times to make that transoceanic journey back home, hoping her parents still remember her.

Unlike in Finding Nemo where Dory’s forgetfulness is played for jokes, it’s given a level of vulnerability and seriousness in Finding Dory. That’s important because it brings up in to her story, her desire to find her parents, her tenacity to ‘just keep swimming’, and her attention to details she needs to make the reunion happen. Rest assured there are plenty of funny moments.

Personally, I think Hank (voiced by Ed O’Neill) steals the show. An octopus with only seven tentacles, a septapus as Dory tells him, has many of the best lines. We meet up with him about halfway through the movie when Dory arrives at the Marine Life Institute in Morro Bay, California. Hank has ulterior motives in befriending Dory, but he signs on to help her find her parents.

Dory is reunited with her friend Destiny, a shark with vision problems who has a number of hilarious lines. Destiny and Dory were friends when they were younger, communicating through the pipes at MLI. This friendship explains how Dory ‘speaks shark’, as we discovered in Finding Nemo. Together with Hank, Destiny helps direct Dory to her parents. Of course there are side adventures along the way for everyone, it is a Disney/Pixar film.

Overall, it’s a great family film and will be a hit with kids and adults alike. There is enough adult-level humor to keep you engaged while the kids enjoy the colorful sealife, the friendships, and the interwoven messages of keep working toward your goal, you can count on your friends to help, and a parent’s love is everlasting.

In theaters beginning June 17, 2016, Finding Dory runs about 100 minutes. The 3D effects are done well and blend into the movie seamlessly. It’s nice to have that dimension and life-like feeling that brings familiar friends back to us after we met them for the first time 13 years ago. It’s a similar story told with slight differences. Only this time, Dory’s memory disability isn’t the punchline of every joke. To be sure, her memory loss is used a both funny and poignant. But in the end, we’re very much in 2016 where differently-abled individuals are finding how to use what could be their deficit as something that gives them strength.

Check it out and enjoy it for the entertaining movie it was intended. Don’t set your expectations too high and you won’t be disappointed. Finding Dory is charming and entertaining, but it is not the blockbuster spectacular that was Finding Nemo.

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Alice Through the Looking Glass is Over the Top but Still Entertaining

Alice Through The Looking Glass PosterPhoto Credit: Disney

You cannot change the past. It always was. It always will be.
Although I dare say, you might learn something from it. ~ Time

Alice Through the Looking Glass (PG) is this summer’s sequel to Tim Burton’s 2010 colorful and spectacular remake of Louis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”. With all the familiar inhabitants of Wonderland (or Underland if you’re a local), we see the calm and thoughtful White Queen, Mirana, (Anne Hathaway), the perpetually infuriated Red Queen, Iracebeth, (Helena Bonham Carter), the childlike Hatter (Johnny Depp), the morphing Cheshire Cat (voiced by Stephen Fry), and the caterpillar which became a butterfly in the 2010 movie (voiced by the late Alan Rickman), Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to help her friend Hatter find his family, who he thinks may still be alive.

During Alice’s adventure, we’re introduced to Time (played by Sacha Baron Cohen). A steampunk character who controls time, he brings a great deal of humor to a movie that could have been too uptight. Since Hatter does not have as big a role, it was nice to have another character bring a few laughs even if they were puns that seemed to try too hard. In her reprised role as the Red Queen, Carter gives the villainess a humanity and history that seems to soften her. As the quasi-girlfriend of Time, Red Queen allows us to see her history and understand why she also wants to go back in time.

Alice plays two storylines, with her life in London not really getting enough treatment to make us care. And while I have never seen Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, I’m not sure there really is a need to understand that story to appreciate this new adventure. We know Alice is now a sea captain and while she was gone her mother made poor financial decisions. While this story gives us something to start with since Alice lives in our world, I think it’s there solely to connect to the end since Alice can’t stay in Wonderland forever so we need to know what she’s going to do.

Nonetheless, even with the bumpy plot, the visuals and pace keep you engaged. Part live action and part computer animation, Alice Through the Looking Glass is a feast for the eyes. Whether it’s the adorable robot-like helpers in the lair of Time, the heart-shaped world of the Red Queen, or the colorful Wonderland there’s always something to catch your attention. You can’t help but love the little soldiers working for Time. And, Time, himself, while dressed in black, has a colorful personality that keeps you hoping for the best.

I can see the movie getting mixed reviews. If you’re a Tim Burton fan you’ll love the movie. If you’re a purist when it comes to the retelling of classics, you’ll likely hate it. The movie bears little resemblance to Carroll’s novel, other than the characters. I think teens will enjoy the movie because it incorporates familiar characters and is entertaining. From a music perspective, there’s Pink with ‘Just Like Fire’, which just about everyone will love. And, of course, the fantastic Danny Elfman, adds the additional musical dimension to the show to keep you connected.

Overall, Alice Through the Looking Glass is a good movie. Not a great movie and not better than Burton’s Alice. It’s entertaining, visually appealing, funny, and, overall, a lovely story. It’s a nice way to step away from reality for a moment, enjoy a colorful film, and be entertained for about two hours. Oscar worthy, I doubt. Unless you’re talking about the makeup and costumes, those are pretty spectacular.


6 (Spoiler Free) Reasons Star Wars The Force Awakens Will Capture the Hearts of a New Generation

Star Wars Movie

Disclosure: I attended a free press screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Like most people my age, we remember a number of life-changing experiences of our childhood. Going to see Star Wars in 1977 was one of those experiences. As a kid who really wasn’t all that in to science fiction (and, I’m still not), Star Wars was the exception. From the opening music to the closing credits a generation sat riveted watching a story that George Lucas imagined in his head and brought to life.

We stood on-line to watch The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Then we were duped by Episodes I-III, which, in my opinion were so bad it’s good they just have numbers. But now, 32 years after Return of the Jedi we finally have the sequel. And the teenager in me is so happy!

Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens comes to us with a new director, producer and co-writer, J.J. Abrams. He had big shoes to fill and I think he’s done a great job. Taking over a franchise like Star Wars isn’t easy but he did it with a love and reverence not just to the story and characters, but for the fans too.

So, about the movie and the 6 (Spoiler Free) Reasons Star Wars The Force Awakens Will Capture The Hearts of a New Generation

  1. The new droid, BB-8. This is no surprise given that BB-8 merchandise has been out for months. I think most of us assumed C-3PO and R2-D2 were “boys”. But BB-8 doesn’t really give off a male or female vibe and I think most of us think its adorable. In the movie it’s hard to get a real idea of its size. Sometimes you think it’s quite large then the cinematographers play with you and you start to think BB-8 is on the smaller size. And as for those blips and bleeps of speech, let’s just say BB-8 may have some of the funniest lines in the story. But, don’t think our beloved C-3PO and R2 are relegated to has-beens.
  2. Another girl! While there aren’t many leading females in the movie, there are a few that feature somewhat prominently. However, with Leia now a General and a Queen, and more “our age”, the new girl in town is Rey. She’s a spunky, no-holds-barred kind of gal. Perfect for young girls to look up to. And for those of us who grew up believing Princess Leia was pretty kick-a$$, Rey had some pretty big shoes to fill and we fall in love with her just as we did Leia. The story doesn’t give us much about Rey’s history but there are a few places where your mind will begin to craft her story.
  3. Han Solo and Princess Leia. They’re older and living their own “empty nester” kind of lives, although not in the “let’s remodel the house now that the kids are gone” kind of way. Han Solo shows up earlier in the movie than Leia and he’s as funny and charming as he always was. Leia is now the General of the Resistance and she’s had a lot to deal with since she told Luke he was her brother. But together they show how strength, love, and a belief in good over evil can be both heartwarming and heartbreaking.
  4. Kylo Ren isn’t just another Darth Vader. Most of us had a love/hate relationship with Darth Vader. We loved the robe and the voice and that funky mask but we pretty much hated him. Kylo Ren is clad in black with a more modern rendition of “the mask”. But he’s not Darth Vader or trying to fill that role. He’s actually much more complex and because we get to know a little more about him as the movie runs I think we, as the audience, feel more connected to his story.
  5. The Music. John Williams picked up right where he left off and pulls in another generation with his modern classical orchestrations. We’ve introduced our kids to the dun-dun-DUN-dun dun-dun-dun from the “original” Star Wars and for nearly 40 years it has been included on the soundtrack of our lives. With The Force Awakens, there are a number of times where the music describes the moment better than the visuals.
  6. The Story. While The Force Awakens picks up after Return of the Jedi, so many years have passed and there are a number of unanswered questions that don’t get resolved and plot holes that don’t get filled, all leaving us wanting more. At just over 2-hours run time, you’re pulled in to the story of Rey and Finn and Kylo Ren, and reconnecting with your childhood friends Leia and Han Solo that you don’t even realize it’s been that long. You’re captivated and a whole new generation connects with these characters just like we did.

There will never be a “first” Star Wars again, but just like other stories that captivated a new generation with its wizardry and characters of good and evil, The Force Awakens connects a new generation with their parents and brings together families and friends who are connected to this epic space opera and its characters. Whether you see it opening night or weeks later, it doesn’t matter. You’ll still feel the connection. And it doesn’t matter if you see it just once or multiple times, it’s a movie you’ll likely want to see again and again for many years to come.


 Image credit: Lucasfilm, Ltd.



The Avengers: Age of Ultron Review – Sometimes You Just Want To See Things Blow Up

 Age of Ultron ReviewImage Courtesy: Marvel Studios

Guest Post by CycleGuy who attended the screening as a member of the press! 

Hi There!, My lovely wife has decided to let ME talk about The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Sara asked me if I would be interested in attending the screening and was really surprised when I told her yes.  We’ve been married over 20 years and she knows that before all the movies or TV shows I watched as a kid,  I was a comic book boy.  You know, the one that would go to the grocery store with his mom (in the ’70s) and run to see what comic books were in the magazine aisle and actually read a few before she screamed at me for once again just being a boy.

My favorite Marvel comic was Thor. How could you not like a dude with a magic hammer!  I actually had over 20 Thor comics, a few Captain America and, of course, some Black Widow comics (because she was totally my type at that age, “tragically dark”).  I would still have those comic books but my mother threw them away when we moved in 10th grade. No, I’m still bitter. OK, yes I am!

But I digress.  The Avengers: Age of Ultron  is the sequel to 2012’s The Avengers  and has been eagerly awaited by fans who love this series.   This movie features Captain America (Chris Evans), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine (Jeremy Renner), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and, of course, Ultron (voiced by James Spader).  For fans of the series it does not disappoint.  Staying true to all of the characters’ stories this movie is non-stop action from the first frame.

But what about those of us who’ve only seen a few of the movies?   Although the Marvel franchise has made $7.1 Billion since 2008, some of us have not been able to watch every single installment.  I would say The Avengers: Age of Ultron  can stand on its own as a movie.  It is a complete roller coaster of action for the audience. The plot is what you expect from a Joss Whedon movie.

It’s not just about good versus evil, it’s about shades of gray which makes the character interplay interesting and thoughtful.   It actually tackles the topic of artificial intelligence and preys on one of humanities greatest fear, the Hal 9000 fear! It also introduced two new characters, Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) with super-human abilities that offer some great twists in the movie.

But let’s be clear: Yes, the world has to be saved from an evil plot and the antagonist is scary and maniacal.  Also Tony Stark is arrogant, Thor is still incredibly handsome, Hulk is still conflicted, Captain America wants to go home, Black Widow IS still tragically dark and Hawkeye is the everyman.  The action is over-the-top with guns blazing, shields flying, hammers pounding, arrows exploding, and robots getting destroyed.  But man, it is very cool how they blow stuff up, destroy buildings, and crush cars — all while trying to make sure innocents do not get hurt. If you want to suspend reality for a few hours and enjoy a good comic book with some popcorn and an Icee, this is for you!

I would not suggest it for kids under 8 or 10 depending on a kid’s sensitivity.  But I would suggest it to fans of the series and to people like me who love a good comic book story. It was a fun way to spend 2 hours!

This might help you get in the mood to go see the movie.

Opens in the US May 1, 2015
Rated PG-13
Run Time: 2 hours, 22 minutes


Could Big Hero 6 Create A STEMGirl Revolution?

Big Hero 6 Girls

Admittedly, I’m not up on all things Marvel Comics. Other than watching a few of the cartoons growing up, Guardians of the Galaxy was the first mainstream Marvel movie I went to see. Even the, when I went to the Guardians of the Galaxy screening I took my friend with me because she was more familiar with the franchise and would be able to explain things I didn’t get.

When the Big Hero 6 movie marketing started it was all focused on the lead character, Hiro, and the robot Baymax. And while it’s great to finally see a positive male Asian lead character, that was pretty much a given with the Big Hero 6 story. The same with Baymax. Afterall, this is a Disney movie. Which is why I didn’t go to the screening. I really wasn’t in the mood to see a superhero movie about men (even if they are really boys) saving the world from imminent destruction. Even if it had a soft, lovable, squishy robot turned killing machine, turned lovable robot.

Then the movie came out and I read a great article by Bob Yamtich about Big Hero 6 and giftedness. And I figured it was worth researching more. Everything focused on Hiro and his band of superheroes. But there are girls in the movie. Girl superheroes. Smart girl superheroes. Science-minded, brilliant girls! Characters that really can be role models for young STEMGirls like BabyGirl.

From my research, both Honey Lemon and GoGo Tomago are very different in the comic version. The writers didn’t have to make them equal in the movie. But they did. I’d like to believe it was a conscious effort to create both women as equals with respect to their male counterparts.

This might be the first kid-focused movie to have strong women scientist characters BabyGirl can relate to. Girls across the country have few, if any, STEM role models in movies. But Big Hero 6 changed that. Honey Lemon was a very talkative college co-ed with a love for chemistry. But she is also feminine and smart, described in the press materials as an “effusive brainiac”. GoGo Tomago is described as “tough, athletic and loyal to the bone, but not much of a conversationalist.

So what was it that brought these two characters to the big screen? I’ve not read anything about their character development or why the writers and developers chose to change-up these characters from their original. I realize much of their original back story wouldn’t work given that the Big Hero 6 movie is set in the fictional town of San Fransokyo at the local University. Since the characters themselves are kids, much of the original story had to be re-written.

Long before Frozen hit the big screen, this movie was moving forward in development so we can’t even say that Big Hero 6 needed something for girls to like coming off the blockbuster hit. Somewhere, someone realized that maybe the girls in the movie could be equally as capable, smart, and awesome as their male counterparts. And for that I’m thankful.

Whether there was anything consciously done to create these STEMGirls I really don’t know. What I do know is that if they keep this up more young girls will see that staying with science, technology, engineering, and math are cool. That they, too, can create things and be superheroes.

For now, though, I’ll let everyone else focus on Hiro and Baymax while I talk about Honey and GoGo. Because, just as people talk about how Hiro and Baymax really come to life in this movie, I’ll be talking about how these two female scientists not only came to life but also helped stoke the flame that burns inside a new generation of girls who believe being smart is cool and amazing.

Have you seen Big Hero 6? If not, do you think you’re going to see it now?


Guardians of the Galaxy Movie Review – Two Perspectives

Guardians of the Galaxy Movie Poster

Disclosure: I was invited to a press screening of Guardians of the Galaxy and agreed to write a review. Given that I have never seen a Marvel movie as an adult, I brought along my best friend since she’d have some clue what was going on. This review is from two perspectives – someone who knows the franchise and someone who does not.

The following review is from my friend who goes by Aunt Zoni on this blog.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie about a ragtag group of unlikely superheroes who save the galaxy from an evil bad guy. It’s also a movie about a group of reluctant friends who find common ground in their pain and loss, and save each other. The fact that both of these stories are woven together in a skillful blend of thrilling action, sly humor, amazing special effects, and a fantastic soundtrack, is likely to make this movie a huge summer hit.

The movie opens in 1988, where we find our hero, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), as a young boy whose mother is dying. As he runs away from the hospital in his grief, he’s whisked away by a spaceship, and we are off and running, with a jump to 26 years in the future. Peter has adopted the name Star-Lord, and has become a “Ravager”, making his way around the galaxy collecting artifacts, and selling them to interested buyers. He retrieves an item known as “The Orb”, which puts him in the crosshairs of the bad guy, Ronan, and his henchmen.

Star-Lord’s misadventures find him imprisoned with Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a genetically modified, walking raccoon; Rocket’s sidekick/bodyguard Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a giant tree being of limited vocabulary; Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the unwillingly adopted daughter of the evil Thanos (Josh Brolin); and Drax the Destroyer (David Bautista), a man whose only goal in life is avenging the deaths of his family against Ronan. These unlikely allies band together to escape their prison, and eventually, to become heroes and save the day.

All of our heroes are dealing with loss, abandonment, emotional pain, alienation, and loneliness. As they work together to stop Ronan’s evil plans, they find companionship and support, and form a family. It’s unusual to find these themes in your typical sci-fi shoot ‘em up, but this movie is anything but typical, and the emotional aspects of the film are handled well by the cast and writer/director James Gunn.

One of the most interesting aspects of the film are the 1970s and 1980s music and pop culture references found throughout. Peter’s ties to Earth, his mother, and childhood, are maintained via a cassette mix tape, which he plays on his Walkman and the rockin’ stereo system in his spaceship, and which provides the unusual and amusing soundtrack for the film. You’ll definitely want to buy the soundtrack album by the end of the movie.

Guardians of the Galaxy is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and fans of the Marvel films will find several references to tie the movie into the larger universe of the Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Avengers movies. Whether Star-Lord and his merry band will show up in a crossover with any of the other Marvel films remains to be seen, but it seems likely, given the clues we see.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun, humorous, and surprisingly emotional film, that kids will probably enjoy for its irreverent humor and complex characters. It’s probably best for older kids who can handle the intense, sometimes violent action, and mild amount of profanity. There isn’t much gore to speak of, but there is a lot of gunfire, and many characters in peril. It’s definitely a film that will have you talking about the characters and their journey after leaving the theater, and probably wishing to see it again.

That’s a pretty impressive reviews from Aunt Zoni, yes? So, are you going to go see Guardians of the Galaxy?

As a newbie to this movie franchise, I was very impressed with the movie. I had no clue going in what the movie was about. All I knew is that it took place in an alternate universe, which, honestly, means nothing to me other than maybe I shouldn’t go to this movie. While I had no prior knowledge of the characters or the story, I followed along easily, laughed at the appropriate parts, and walked away connected to the characters. For parents who need to go with their kids, you’ll likely enjoy it quite well. If you’re tagging along just to hang out with your friends or partner, keep an open mind and just go with it.

The screening was in 3D, but the movie will also be available in 2D. Action movie, alternative universe, and 3D would have made me skip this movie. But that wasn’t an option. I think the 3D effects were well-done and appropriately incorporated into the movie. There were very few random things just flying at you for the sake of 3D.

And I can’t do a review without mentioning the music. I’m connected to the 70s and 80s through music. It’s what I grew up with and, ultimately, what connected me to this movie. Without any real understanding or interest in the movie going it, hearing familiar music from the first moments was something that drew me in. I figured it couldn’t be all that bad with cool music from my childhood. And I was right! Music is such a universal language and it’s what drew me in to their alternative universe and kept me interested.

Sure, there’s the adorable Groot and the spicy-tongued, sarcastic Rocket. And those two really do a lot to steal the show. But it was the music that left me feeling connected to Star-Lord and his mixed-tape band of friends. If you’re into the movie franchise, you’ll be very pleased with how the story and characters are treated. If you’re like me and have no real connection to the movie and are thinking of ways to feign illness so you don’t have to go I suggest you go along. I’m confident you’ll enjoy it. I think I surprised Aunt Zoni by how much I really did like the movie. So, go! See Guardians of the Galaxy. If nothing else, you’ll love Groot!


Guardians of the Galaxy website and mobile site

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Running Time: 121 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
Running Time: 2 hours, 1 minute
Release Date: August 1, 2014
Written by: Nicole Perlman and James Gunn
Directed by: James Gunn
Themes: loss, family, friendship, sacrifice for the greater good, found families, good vs evil


Frozen Sing-A-Long Comes To Theaters Nationwide

The runaway animated hit of the 2013 holiday movie season will be coming to cities nationwide as a sing-a-long. One of the first of its kind from Disney, Frozen Sing-A-Long will allow the audience to sing along without worrying about bothering other movie-goers.

Starting January 31st, 2014 audiences nationwide can become part of the show. Whether it’s Anna, Ella, or the lovable Olaf, get ready to sing along with your favorite Frozen characters.

Frozen fans have embraced the film’s original songs and its soundtrack with such passion—there are countless YouTube videos from people singing songs like ‘Let It Go’—we decided to create a version that would celebrate that enthusiasm,” said Dave Hollis, executive vice president, theatrical distribution, The Walt Disney Studios. “It’s a great opportunity for families to get together and have some fun with these songs.”

According to Hollis, on-screen lyrics and a magical bouncing snowflake will accompany select showings; moviegoers can check local listings for showtimes and theaters. The duration of the sing-along run will vary by theater.

Check your area for times and locations. In the Phoenix area, check out Harkins or Studio Movie Grill for times and locations convenient for you. Until then, you can practice your Frozen sing along skills with this video.

And if you can’t be without this movie, you can preorder the Frozen Movie on DVD or Blu-Ray which will be released March 18..


Disney’s Frozen Movie Review

 Disney Frozen Poster

Disney’s Frozen movie

As we left the screening of Disney’s Frozen, BabyGirl was telling me what she liked most about the movie. And then she said “It was a very formula Disney movie”. Can’t argue with her, as Disney’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen is a very formula movie. Done in typical Disney style, it’s a storyline we’re familiar with and visuals we’ve come to expect. But it’s so beautifully done! And the introductory short, Disney’s Get A Horse, harkens back to Steamboat Willy and pairs it with modern animation to make it both current and nostalgic that even young kids who have no idea how Mickey Mouse first became real will love it.

In the fictional town of Arendelle, a young princess named Elsa is found to have special powers. In one moment her life is changed when those powers injure her sister Anna. Being a Disney film, her parents, the king and queen, don’t feature heavily in the movie (sorry, won’t spoil this part for you). The story focuses on the relationship between the sisters.

While we’re often given stories of true love, this one presents itself with a slight twist (again, won’t spoil it for you). This movie has wonderful music, as both Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel voice the sisters Anna and Elsa, respectively. The animators created both princesses to be flawless in looks and movement, but didn’t forget that this is supposed to be a comedy.

Yes, this is a comedy. So while there are a few dramatic moments in the movie, we’re treated to a story where the two main characters, Anna and her new friend Kristoff (played by Jonathan Groff) are given dialogue that keeps you entertained. Kristoff’s best friend, his reindeer Sven, is given a wonderful personality that is keeps the story moving.

Stealing the show, though, is Olaf, a snowman created by Elsa early in the movie and voiced by Josh Gad. If you’re familiar with Disney movies, let’s just say Olaf and Donkey from Shrek would battle it out for the best lines. Olaf will likely emerge as the favorite character from the movie. To create Olaf, Disney had to first create new software so it can create an animated character that could do what the character was imagined to do.

The new software created wasn’t limited to Olaf. Animators wanted to improve on the braids they’d created in Tangled and Rapunzel so Frozen’s creative team set to work developing a computer program that would allow them to create realistic hair for Elsa. It paid off, because the realism greatly adds to the movie’s flow and helps to make you feel more connected to her as a person and not just a caricature.

Overall, Frozen is likely to be one of Disney’s biggest hits. The story, the characters, the imagery they all flow so well and draw you in. You have so much empathy for Elsa you can’t help but love her. Anna’s love for her sister, and everyone she come in contact with, is beautiful and we’re drawn in to her genuine goodness. And it’s a story that doesn’t apologize but instead helps a strong female character come to love her unique powers and in that love realizes that true love is found in your own heart first and isn’t limited to a romantic love.

This isn’t just a movie we’ll see go to DVD or BluRay. I imagine we’ll soon see Disney’s Frozen on Broadway, a la The Lion King, because the music ranks right up there. I’m sure some will disagree with me on this because the music does have a bit of a “high school glee club” feel. But when you have Idina Menzel hitting an out of the park homerun on “Let It Go”, well, really, on every song, and Kristen Bell pulling you in with “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing songs from Frozen.

Is it a must-see? Definitely! Are there some scary parts? Yes, the snow monster is dreadful and a bit too much but it’s short-lived. Will it make you cry? Absolutely, it’s Disney!


If you’ve seen the movie but want more, or if you haven’t seen the movie and would like to have some fun before download these free coloring pages from Disney’s Frozen.

You can also play games, download posters and wallpaper directly from the Disney’s Frozen website. And don’t forget to enter the Disney’s Frozen sweepstakes for a chance to win and Adventure’s By Disney trip.

MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 102 minutes
Images from Walt Disney Pictures used with permission.


Review: Despicable Me 2

Despicable Me 2

Disclosure: I was provided two tickets to an advance screening of this movie. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Why write a review of Despicable Me 2 when (1) people will see it regardless of this review and (2) there are professional reviews that range from a “despicable” 1-star to a gushing 5. So what is it? An absolute “must see” because it’s a great story and so well done or a “don’t waste your money” because it completely misses the mark? For me it was neither. For my daughter, probably a 4.

I didn’t see Despicable Me when it first hit the big screen. And, lucky for me, it didn’t matter because that story line (which I have now seen) isn’t all that important. That’ll bode well for the adults who didn’t see the prior movie but who takes the kids. If you didn’t see the first movie, it won’t matter. All you have to know is that Gru is a villain-turned-good-guy and those adorable yellow things are called Minion. Yes, minion. As in, “I don’t need to do it, I’ll have my minion do it for me.”.

Kids will love the movie. Shown in 3D, the animation is top-notch and the story is easy to follow. For most kids who go to see it, they’ll be familiar with the story but it won’t matter that this one doesn’t flow from it related back to it very much. Adults will appreciate the animation and the sweet, but very predictable, storyline.


5 Reasons Adults Will Like Despicable Me 2

1. The story is predictable, but still engaging. Some kid-focused movies tend to dumb down their plots or focus on trite and over-written stories. While the plot is one we’ve seen before, that’s what makes it good. The writers have taken a plot suitable for an adult good guy vs. bad guy movie and make it kid friendly without making it adult unfriendly.

2. The 3D effects are better integrated. Like recent 3D blockbusters, the technology is better integrated into the story rather than just being there for the kids to ooh and aah over. I felt more part of the movie than the movie coming at me.

3. The voice cast is top-notch. With those adorable Minion vying for your attention (and often winning), Steve Carell makes Gru come alive. The characters aren’t just speaking, they have well-developed personalities that make them feel less animated and more real. Kristin Wiig gave Lucy a voice and personality that many adults could relate to and likely find someone we know that could easily be Lucy.

4. The jokes are both appropriate and funny. One of the challenges with kid-oriented movies is that often there are two sets of funny lines. There are those for the kids that tend to border on the annoying and ridiculous, and the other set for the adults which are references to things kids don’t get but still ask about or double-entendres that, again, cause parents to have to explain things they many not wish. Despicable Me 2, keeps the funny and jokes to things that most kids can relate to and that adults won’t feel are groan-worthy.

5. The Minions steal the show – Batman had Robin. But Gru has Minions! Robin wasn’t nearly as adorable, sweet, or funny. These little yellow creatures may not speak but you know exactly what they’re communicating. And they break out in to song! Songs most adults can identify and relate to. One particular song “I Swear” was a country hit, then covered by not one, but 2, R&B/Pop bands. It’s a beautiful ballad, and, hilariously instead of “I swear” it sounds like they’re saying “underwear”.

It’s easy to see that Despicable Me 2 will be a summer blockbuster and the movie will do very well. It’s fun, entertaining, and has a sweet story that both kids and adults will appreciate. Despicable Me 2 opens nationwide on July 3rd, and is presented in Real D 3D.