Into the unknown: A Frozen 2 review

I tried my best to go into this movie with minimal expectations because that often gives me room to enjoy something without trying to live up to a hype I’ve created in my head. I loved Frozen when it first came out. I still enjoy Frozen, but it wasn’t enough to overtake any of my favorite movies of the past the way Moana eventually did. So I tried to keep my thoughts and excitement in check. I still managed to set a few expectations that I’m thankful were shattered in the best way possible. I promise to keep this as spoiler-free as possible because there is a lot of magic to behold in the unknown.

Frozen movie poster with Anna and Elsa in a frozen forest.

The story is unexpected and new, albeit still a little predictable as a 36-year-old life-long Disney lover. But not everything was predictable. There is a major event near the end of the film that felt SO RIGHT, but came SO UNEXPECTED. Disney storytelling truly hit this one out of the park. The movie weaves some seriously dark and emotional scenes with laugh-out-loud comic relief so seamlessly that you may be crying one minute and bellowing the next, completely engrossing yourself in this adventure.

The whole Frozen squad (Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven) stare in awe into the unknown.
FROZEN 2 – In Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Frozen 2, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven journey far beyond the gates of Arendelle in search of answers. Featuring the voices of Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad, “Frozen 2” opens in U.S. theaters November 22. © 2019 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Sven and his reindeer friends get a little more spotlight that I’m here for, as he’s one of my favorites from the original movie. And Kristoff is charming and adorable as ever. Both of the sisters travel on their own journeys of discovery, and they are beautiful and emotional as ever.

Anna and Olaf share an icy boat ride.
In Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Frozen 2, Anna (voice of Kristen Bell) and Olaf (voice of Josh Gad) venture far from Arendelle in a dangerous but remarkable journey to help Elsa find answers about the past. From the Academy Award®-winning team—directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, producer Peter Del Vecho and songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Frozen 2” opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 22, 2019. ©2019 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

The inclusion of the elements was something Brian was super interested in seeing, particularly in how they handled the lore behind the elements, and he was impressed. While they didn’t seem to pull each elemental representation from the same lore, they did use fitting mascots for each of the elements. My personal favorite is the fire salamander, who I will love forever. *lick*

Elsa sprinkles Bruni with snowflakes
BRUNI – Curious and cute, this salamander inhabits the Enchanted Forest. Though shy at first, Bruni can’t help but be drawn to Elsa’s icy magic and enjoys the cool snowflake treats she creates. From the Academy Award®-winning team—directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, producer Peter Del Vecho and songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez—Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Frozen 2” opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 22, 2019. © 2019 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

The music was incredible. I also believe this soundtrack to be superior to the first, though much different. I have been playing Into the Unknown on a constant loop in my head. It’s beautiful and powerful. Kristoff and Sven have an EPIC song, and I literally could not stop laughing through the entire thing. And the lullaby from the queen is hauntingly beautiful.

Easter Eggs and Extras

You know I love catching a cameo easter egg, so make sure you’re paying attention to Anna and Elsa’s ice dolls in the very beginning or you might miss Baymax! And stay all the way to the end credits, because like the first movie, Frozen 2 has one, well, too!

Frozen 2 was an absolute delight. I can’t wait to see it again. We saw it in 2D IMAX the first time, and we’ll likely go see it again in 3D, because some of the imagery is so stunning, I’m dying to see what they can do with it in 3D. That being said, there are some scenes that were a bit dizzying, even in 2D, so be cautious if you are easily affected by 3D movies.

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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

I’ll be honest: I have only seen Maleficent once, five years ago, when it first came out and I reviewed it here on the blog. I’ve watched Sleeping Beauty a few times since, and I guess that means I didn’t love it as much as I thought I did. That didn’t stop my excitement for the sequel, though. Angelina Jolie really was made to play this iconic role, who I have loved since childhood. She toggles between venerable victim and vengeful villain beautifully.

Angelina Jolie captures the essence of Maleficent

Humans are mostly horrible. And Maleficent has every right to become the Mistress of Evil with no need for a redemption arc. That’s the primary message I took away from the movie that was more Lord of the Rings than Disney classic, but let’s start at the beginning.

The movie opens with a trio of nefarious men, creeping through the forest. It transitions from this human darkness to the vibrant and colorful Moors, where Maleficent has made Aurora a barefoot, wildflower queen of the fairies (her human status notwithstanding). Five years after the events of the first film, Prince Philip wishes to marry Aurora, and Maleficent still can’t stand him.

And then, his parents invite them to dinner. Amusing hijinks ensue as Maleficent prepares to meet the parents, even though Philip’s entire kingdom is still apparently terrified of her. In the first twenty-ish minutes of the movie, I laughed quite a few times.

Michelle Pfieffer is a fierce and unyielding Ingrith

Once we meet Ingrith, Philip’s scheming, diabolical mother, the movie transforms into an epic fantasy war with destruction, desecration of lands, and plots of full-on genocide. These scenes take their time, slowly laboring through motivation, miscommunication, and historical context. Michelle Pfieffer kills it (literally) as the evil queen with the saccharine disposition. One of the highlights for me was her secret lair entrance, where she has to break a mannequin’s neck to open sesame.

Aurora doubts her godmother the first chance she gets, which sends Maleficent packing, swearing off the child she practically raised, leaving Ingrith take the helm. Elle Fanning’s Aurora gives me pause to question why I love the character as much as I do, because she feels very wishy washy between the human and magical worlds and it’s difficult to read her emotions.

Ell Fanning’s Aurora doesn’t quite know where to stand

The final battle is brutal and long with a confusing resolution, and I’m still not sure what happened to some of the characters. If you don’t think about it too hard, it’s a perfectly lovely ending, complete with some “make it pink, make it blue” references. And I still wish the three fairies were more like their animated counterparts.

Overall, I liked it. But if I learned anything from the last Maleficent movie, it’s that I will probably not watch it again (at least for many years). Much like Lord of the Rings, it’s slow and dark, and I just want to fill my world with joy.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, starring Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfieffer, and Elle Fanning opens in theaters Friday, October 18

I recommend the movie with caution. If you like Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, and other fantasy epics, you will probably enjoy this one. If you’re looking for something lighthearted and whimsical, you’ll be disappointed in nearly everything after the first 20 minutes. This movie has a PG rating, but I’m really glad I didn’t take my 8-year-old niece with me on this adventure. Because it is dark. So so so dark.

Are you excited to see Maleficent 2: Mistress of Evil? Have you seen it? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

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The existential crisis of a toy

Guys, this Toy Story review has *some* spoilers about the themes of the story, but I promise not to ruin the ending because some things are sacred. So before you run away — I loved the movie. I thought it was very smart, super funny, and full of heart. On the contrary, the movie did not captivate my niece (8) and nephew (5) enough for them to want to stay in the theater for the 1:40 minute run time. Their favorite part was playing hide and seek in the theater lobby with Uncle Brian (who patiently allowed me to stay in the theater and watch the whole movie).

So…while I believe the movie itself is worthwhile (and I can’t wait to see it again), it may not capture the attention of your littlest ones (not all little ones are created equal, obvi).

*Spoilers start here*

Bonnie making Forky in Toy Story 4
THREE-IN-ONE – He’s not a fork. He’s not a spoon. And most of all, Forky is not a toy! At least that’s what he thinks. Bonnie created him from an assortment of supplies Woody’s retrieved from the kindergarten trash can. So, it’s no wonder Forky feels strongly that he’s trash and not a toy. Featuring Tony Hale as the voice of Forky, Disney and Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” opens in U.S. theaters on June 21, 2019. ©2019 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

How does trash become a toy? When does a toy become trash? In Toy Story 4, we meet Forky, a handmade toy made out of a spork and other items pulled from the trash, who can’t grasp the fact that he is no longer garbage, and instead a toy loved by a child. Simultaneously, we see Woody begin to question his purpose now that he’s fulfilled his primary role as Andy’s favorite toy. While I’m not a parent, I am pretty confident that this likens itself to empty nesters coming to terms with their changing titles — from So and So’s Mom to Individual.

I loved that Toy Story 4 had a number of thematic callbacks to the past movies. Woody’s struggle with change is not unlike that of Toy Story when Buzz threatens his place in Andy’s Room. Rescue missions and antique toys abound in Second Chance Antiques just like they did in Toy Story 2. Toys moving on to the next phase of toy life and ensuring that every toy has kids to play with them is reminiscent of Toy Story 3. And in Toy Story 4, we see the concept of homemade toys taking priority in a child’s life, which I love so so much.

Ducky and Bunny and Buzz Lightyear
HANGIN’ AROUND – In Disney·Pixar’s “Toy Story 4,” Buzz Lightyear finds himself among a host of carnival prizes—including Ducky and Bunny, who’ve been waiting a long time to be won. They aren’t exactly welcoming to the Space Ranger—the odds are already stacked against them, and who needs that kind of competition? Featuring Tim Allen as the voice of Buzz, Keegan-Michael Key as the voice of Ducky and Jordan Peele as the voice of Bunny, “Toy Story 4” opens in U.S. theaters on June 21, 2019. ©2019 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The new characters are fantastic — Tony Hale’s Forky is charming and lovable. Keanue Reeves’ Duke Kaboom is super funny and a perfect frenemesis for Woody (and don’t worry. If you’re waiting for a “woah,” I promise, you won’t be disappointed). Key and Peele kill it with Ducky and Bunny as pure comic relief.

Woody meets Gabby Gabby and her henchman
GABBY GABBY – In Disney•Pixar’s “Toy Story 4,” Woody finds himself in Second Chance Antiques, home to an adorable, talking pull-string doll from the 1950s and her crew of voiceless ventriloquist dummies. Unfortunately for Gabby Gabby, a manufacturing defect in her pull-string voice box has left her sounding anything but adorable. Christina Hendricks lends her voice to Gabby Gabby. “Toy Story 4” opens in U.S. theaters on June 21, 2019…©2019 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Christina Hendricks is my favorite of the new characters with Gabby Gabby and her creepy band of ventriloquist dummy henchman as the primary villains of the story. Gabby Gabby enters the scene with the song from The Shining playing on a record player in the antique store, and I knew it was love at first sight for me. (Upon further research, I also discovered that The Shining references are rampant in the entire Toy Story franchise — primarily references to Room 237.)

Bo Peep in Toy Story 4
LOST AND FOUND – In Disney and Pixar’s “Toy Story 4,” Woody is reunited with his long-lost friend Bo Peep, who’s been on the road for years. She’s become an adventure-seeking free spirit whose strength and sarcasm belie her delicate porcelain exterior. Featuring the voice of Annie Potts as Bo Peep, “Toy Story 4” opens in U.S. theaters on June 21, 2019. ©2019 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The new characters rock and the classic toys are put on a backburner (spending most of their time back in the RV while Woody and Forky adventure into the antique store and Buzz explores the carnival), but it’s the return of Bo Peep who pulls through as the real MVP of this movie. Bo has gone through some serious off-screen character development, and I am so here for the new and improved Peep.

Toy Story 4 Poster

Overall, I laughed (Um, actually, I laughed way more than most people in the theater. Either I was getting more of the jokes than anyone else, or I think inappropriate things are hilarious. One of those, I’m sure). I cried. Although I cried less than I expected to. WAY less than I cried in Toy Story 3, which to be honest was a relief. Toy Story 3 was gut-wrenching. And I cheered. I will definitely be seeing this one again (did I mention, there are Easter eggs for, like, every Pixar movie ever?).

I won’t tell you what Woody discovers along the way or how the story ends, but it’s good. It’s all so good. Go see it. You won’t be disappointed.

Get tickets for Toy Story 4 on Fandango here

Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) has always been confident about his place in the world, and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. So, when Bonnie’s beloved new craft-project-turned-toy, Forky (voice of Tony Hale), declares himself as “trash” and not a toy, Woody takes it upon himself to show Forky why he should embrace being a toy. But when Bonnie takes the whole gang on her family’s road trip excursion, Woody ends up on an unexpected detour that includes a reunion with his long-lost friend Bo Peep (voice of Annie Potts). After years of being on her own, Bo’s adventurous spirit and life on the road belie her delicate porcelain exterior. As Woody and Bo realize they’re worlds apart when it comes to life as a toy, they soon come to find that’s the least of their worries. Directed by Josh Cooley (“Riley’s First Date?”), and produced by Mark Nielsen (associate producer “Inside Out”) and Jonas Rivera (“Inside Out,” “Up”), Disney and Pixar’s “Toy Story 4” ventures to U.S. theaters on June 21, 2019.

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Spoiler-free Avengers: Endgame review

I. Am. Shook.

I’m going to keep this review short and sweet and omg-it’s-so-hard-but-Ima-do-it-anyway free of spoilers. If you haven’t already seen End Game, get thee to a theater ASAP…but it would definitely be better if you’ve already seen the first 21 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (I recommend this order). The way End Game ties them all together in this beautifully composed goodbye letter is more than incredible…it’s breathtaking. 20 minutes ago, I bought tickets to see it again. In 20 minutes. So as I quickly draft this review , I’m also preparing myself to see it again, knowing now what I didn’t know last night.

Avengers: Endgame Black Widow

The best way I can sum this up for you without spoilers is in a listicle. So here goes: 8 things to know before watching Avengers: Endgame

  1. There is no room for bathroom breaks. Ignore the articles that tell you you don’t need to see certain scenes. They are wrong. There is nothing you purposely want to miss. So drink minimally and slowly, Avenger.
  2. The beginning packs a punch. We ate in a dine-in theater and I was crying into my fish taco within seconds. To be fair, I immediately knew what was coming thanks to one of Brian’s many predictions that became too real.
  3. The first half is a beautifully weaved build-up to some of the most epic movie scenes I’ve ever witnessed.
  4. Bring tissues. For real. Even Brian teared up a bit. I, the emotional basketcase that I am cried A LOT. Some sad. Some happy. Some just emotional. I won’t tell you whether there was more happy or sad. Because spoilers. Just know that if you cry, you will cry.
  5. If you haven’t seen all or most of the MCU movies, you might want to go back and watch them first. Or wait until the crowds subside. This movie is probably for everyone, but OMG it is MADE for the fans.
  6. You know nothing. Like Jon Snow, you probably think you know everything, but you know nothing. So several of Brian’s predictions came to be true. A couple of mine may have. But neither of us expected how this plot was going to play out.
  7. Be on the lookout for the ultimate girl-power moment. And that’s all I’m going to say.
  8. Go see it as soon as you can. Because the night is dark and full of spoilers. But you won’t find those spoilers here.
AvengersEndgame Poster

Avengers: Endgame

The grave course of events set in motion by Thanos that wiped out half the universe and fractured the Avengers ranks compels the remaining Avengers to take one final stand in Marvel Studios’ grand conclusion to twenty-two films, “Avengers: Endgame.”

Kevin Feige produces “Avengers: Endgame,” and Anthony and Joe Russo are the directors. Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo, Trinh Tran, Jon Favreau and Stan Lee are the executive producers, and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely wrote the screenplay.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Movie review: Mary Poppins Returns

Yesterday was a weird day wrapped in a magic bow. It started with a rehearsal for my newest Second City Training Center coached ensemble (yay!) followed by my car getting towed because apparently, my Spothero reservation didn’t go through (boo!). But it concluded with dinner and a movie next to the most adorable husband this side of the planet.

And not just any movie. A pre-screening of Mary Poppins Returns, a movie I’ve been dying to see since it was announced (especially once I discovered one of my favorite celebrity crushes, Lin-Manuel Miranda, would have a role similar to that of DIck Van Dyke in the original film). I’ve also loved Emily Blunt since The Devil Wears Prada. And then there’s Colin Firth. Who I’ve loved since I was fifteen, watching Pride and Prejudice on repeat.

Mary Poppins Poster Jack Lin-Manuel Miranda

I went into the theater with high expectations. I was hesitant to have such high expectations after the Nutcracker kinda flopped on me (I was initially drawn into the colors and music and potential messaging, but after thinking about it for far too long, I realized that the action in the plot did not back up the messaging and it wasn’t actually very good at all). Thankfully, I’ve slept on it, and I still absolutely loved Mary Poppins Returns.

Mary Poppins Returns movie review

THIS is the movie we need right now. The world is dark and gray, and Mary Poppins animates it with positivity and color and sheer energy to yet again save the day (and the Banks family). Emily Blunt plays Poppins in a way that makes me believe she’s always been Poppins (no disrespect to Julie Andrews intended because she, too, played the part practically perfect in every way). It’s like in Doctor Who, when a new doctor comes in and you truly feel like they’ve been the doctor all along. Like magic.

Emily Blunt is Mary Poppins in Disney’s MARY POPPINS RETURNS,  a sequel to the 1964 film MARY POPPINS, which takes audiences on an all-new adventure with the practically perfect nanny and the Banks family.

Emily Blunt is Mary Poppins in Disney’s MARY POPPINS RETURNS, a sequel to the 1964 film MARY POPPINS, which takes audiences on an all-new adventure with the practically perfect nanny and the Banks family.

We’re on the brink of adventure; don’t spoil it with too many questions.

-Mary Poppins

In Mary Poppins Returns, the Banks children are more responsible than their artist father who has taken a part-time job at his father’s former bank to help make ends meet during The Great Depression. Mary Poppins arrives just in time to help the entire Banks family (Jane is a regular visitor to Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane). With Jack the lamplighter as her childlike adult accomplice, Mary takes the three Banks children on quite the adventure. From a dazzling display inside a Royal Doulton bowl, using classic animation (which Disney hasn’t really used since Winnie the Pooh in 2011) as a nod to the original sequence inside the street chalk scene to an important meeting with Meryl Streep’s Topsy on the ceiling of her home, Mary teaches the new generation of Bankses how to have fun.

Emily Blunt is Mary Poppins and Lin-Manuel Miranda is Jack in Disney's MARY POPPINS RETURNS, a sequel to the 1964 MARY POPPINS,  which takes audiences on an entirely new adventure with the practically perfect nanny and the Banks family.

Emily Blunt is Mary Poppins and Lin-Manuel Miranda is Jack in Disney’s MARY POPPINS RETURNS, a sequel to the 1964 MARY POPPINS, which takes audiences on an entirely new adventure with the practically perfect nanny and the Banks family.

I loved the energy and imagination and pops of color that swirl throughout the film like paint on a canvas. The music is full of clever lyrics (and several that are full of much more adult-humor than one would expect, including a line about flapping about in bathtub gin). I was grinning like a Cheshire Cat, full of joy, and so many chills, you guys. If you need a little boost of magic this holiday season, let this be the movie that takes you there.

Jane (Emily Mortimer), Michael (Ben Whishaw), John (Nathanael Saleh) and Georgie (Joel Dawson) greet Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) upon her return to the Banks' home in Disney's original musical MARY POPPINS RETURNS

Jane (Emily Mortimer), Michael (Ben Whishaw), John (Nathanael Saleh) and Georgie (Joel Dawson) greet Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) upon her return to the Banks’ home in Disney’s original musical MARY POPPINS RETURNS

Lin-Manuel Miranda is there every step of the way, but the entire supporting cast is brilliant. Molly Weasley Julie Walters is the perfect casting for Ellen. Meryl Streep slays as Mary’s eccentric cousin (I wonder if any relation to Uncle Albert?). Colin Firth plays a duplicitous banker with sheer perfection. As for the Banks family? Emily Mortimer is such a perfect casting for Jane that I can see a resemblance to her 1964 childhood counterpart. Ben Whishaw is a wonderful combination of the child, Michael, and Mr. Banks from the original movie. The three children —Joel Dawson as Georgie, Pixie Davies as Annabel and Nathanael Saleh as John — are adorable and charming in their own rights.

Emily Blunt is Mary Poppins, Joel Dawson is Georgie, Pixie Davies is Annabel and Nathanael Saleh is John in Disney’s MARY POPPINS RETURNS, a sequel to the 1964 MARY POPPINS, which takes audiences on an entirely new adventure with the practically perfect nanny and the Banks family.

Mary Poppins easter eggs

The nods to the original are spectacular and come in every shape and size, including:

  • Dick Van Dyke’s incredible singing, dancing cameo
  • The return of the penguins
  • A passerby (UPDATE: this part was played by Karen Dotrice, the original Jane Banks!) stating, “Many thanks. Sincerely,” which is from the nanny advertisement that Jane and Michael write for their future nanny. No one else is picking up on this egg!
  • Admiral Boom still lives next door
  • Several sightings of the Sister Suffragette vote sash as the string on Michael’s kite
  • The blocks that Jane held, spelling out Mary Poppins
  • The snow globe from Feed the Birds

I found myself squeeing throughout the movie, and Brian often had no clue what I was noticing, so you really have to know your Mary Poppins to catch them all. I’m quite sure I missed as many as I caught, so once I’ve seen it a few more times, I’ll pass along the easter eggs.

Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins Returns

Are you planning to see Mary Poppins Returns? Have you seen it already? Let me know your thoughts!

In Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns, an all-new original musical and sequel, Mary Poppins is back to help the next generation of the Banks family find the joy and wonder missing in their lives following a personal loss. Emily Blunt stars as the practically-perfect nanny with unique magical skills who can turn any ordinary task into an unforgettable, fantastic adventure and Lin-Manuel Miranda plays her friend Jack, an optimistic street lamplighter who helps bring light—and life—to the streets of London. “Mary Poppins Returns” is directed by Rob Marshall. The screenplay is by David Magee and the screen story is by Magee & Rob Marshall & John DeLuca based upon the Mary Poppins Stories by PL Travers.

Mary Poppins Returns will be released in U.S. theaters on December 19, 2018. Get your tickets for Mary Poppins Returns.

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Returning to the Hundred Acre Wood

“Your life is happening now, right in front of you.”

Sage advice from a grown-up Christopher Robin’s wife, Evelyn (played by Hayley Atwell), as she lectured the titular character of the newest tale from the Hundred Acre Wood.

Brian and I had the opportunity to check out a screening of Christopher Robin earlier this week and it was everything I wanted it to be. Charming and sweet with the nostalgia my generation of millennials craves with every piece of media we experience.

Winnie the Pooh Disneybound

Of course, I Disneybounded as Pooh for our movie date! I also convinced Brian to wear grey as if he were DIsneybounding Eeyore.

Let me back up. I grew up with Winnie the Pooh as a child, fostering a mild obsession through high school. I loved Pooh,  and the rest of the gang. Even today, when I visit Disney World, I find myself snuggling up to Tigger and Pooh and Eeyore as if they were my best friends in the whole world. There was something special in each of the fluffy friends that really resonated with me. I loved them. And I recognized the wisdom in their tales. Christopher Robin is not without the classic wisdom that its predecessors have provided.

The movie begins with Christopher Robin (played by Ewan McGregor) bidding his childhood friends farewell before going off to boarding school. A series of drawings and scenes carefully, but briefly, detail Robin’s life to now. And then we hit the present day: Christopher Robin has to choose between saving his job and saving his family. Of course, by saving his job, he can also save his family, right?

With a little help from his dear friend Pooh, who stumbles into London after losing all of his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood, Christopher remembers that doing nothing often leads to the very best something, and drops the stance picked up from his woozle of a boss (played by Mark Gatiss) that nothing comes from nothing.

I absolutely loved Christopher Robin. I thought it was light and charming, but full of a powerful message — one that really hit home, especially less than a week after finally piecing together my words about leaving my job and rediscovering my own childlike joy. The message of working to live instead of living to work isn’t hammered, either. It’s sweetly weaved throughout the movie, as Robin remembers what it’s like to be a kid again (to the benefit of his 8-year-old daughter, Madeline, who doesn’t know how to play).

Emotional Factor: I surprisingly didn’t tear up much (of course there were some moments, particular with slightly melancholy versions of the class Winnie the Pooh songs playing in the background) during this movie, but I sure did laugh.

Brian, my harsher Disney critic, enjoyed it without the nostalgia (he didn’t grow up with Pooh!) and thought “it was sweet.”

Be sure to stick around for the end credits scene featuring Richard M. Sherman and a few new songs from the Disney music legend (and if you don’t know who he is, I highly recommend watching The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story, which is a truly incredible and fascinating documentary about Richard and his brother Robert).

What childhood memories do you have of Pooh and his friends? Are you planning to see Christopher Robin in the theaters?

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN is directed by Marc Forster from a screenplay by Alex Ross Perry and Allison Schroeder and a story by Perry based on characters created by A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard. The producers are Brigham Taylor and Kristin Burr, with Renée Wolfe and Jeremy Johns serving as executive producers. The film stars Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin; Hayley Atwell as his wife Evelyn; Bronte Carmichael as his daughter Madeline; and Mark Gatiss as Keith Winslow, Robin’s boss. The film also features the voices of: Jim Cummings as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger; Brad Garrett as Eeyore; Toby Jones as Owl; Nick Mohammed as Piglet; Peter Capaldi as Rabbit; and Sophie Okonedo as Kanga.

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN opens Friday, August 3 in theaters everywhere.

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Tale as old as time

Earlier this week, Brian and I had the privilege of attending a pre-screening of Beauty & the Beast in 3-D Imax.

As expected, the movie was utterly delightful. Following a similar path as live-action Cinderella, Beauty & the Beast offered a more detailed backstory for our heroine and also clued us in to more of Beast’s tale. Unlike Cinderella, the movie needed to take fewer liberties for dialogue and plot thanks to an already rich screenplay.

Belle and Beast dancing during the titular song

Fun fact: The costume designers created ethical and sustainable costumes made from fair-trade fabrics.

With 1991’s Best Picture nominee, they knew not to mess with the story too much, adding a few new musical numbers and smart character-building dialogue to the film.

The story of Belle and Beast is more developed, showing how she might be falling for him, despite the whole Stockholm Syndrome thing. With lines like, “Can anyone ever really be happy when they’re not free?” and “we don’t like what we don’t understand,” and a slightly more diverse cast than the original animation, Disney is trying to fight some of the stigmas that have plagued earlier films.

Belle and Beast in the castle library

Let’s talk about that library, though. Seriously. Who wants one? Hand raises?

The music was…well, it was okay. Once you get past the auto tune job they did on Emma Watson and the weird filter they put on Dan Stevens’ vocals, the songs you know and love plus a few new tunes wrap the movie in a familiar melodic blanket. I enjoyed the new music, including Audra McDonald’s stellar performance as Madame Garderobe (Wardrobe) and a melancholy song, “Days in the Sun,” which replaces the Broadway and remastered animated song, “Human Again” – a song I wasn’t sad to see removed from this soundtrack as I never quite loved it.

Fandango Beauty and the Beast Ticketing Banner
The Disney CGI magic blew me away, as usual. The beast is almost real, the castle staff is incredibly detailed and ornate in a way that adds new depth to the visuals. “Be Our Guest” was everything I hoped it would be with Ewan McGregor at the helm. The scene itself was pure Disney magic at its finest.

Gaston tries to Charm Belle with flowers

Luke Evans may have been may favorite, with my opinion of Gaston waffling from moderately attractive to completely heinous and despicable. Everything I want in a fairy tale villain. His “Mob Song” was incredible, and I’m quite sure of the solo vocals, his were my favorite closely followed by Lefou’s “Gaston.”

Of course, I’m sure you’ve heard by now of Josh Gad’s Lefou coming out of the closet he’s been living in since 1991. It’s a brief scene at the end of the movie, in which he dances with another man. Blink and you might miss it. But throughout the movie, you’ll find other adorable Lefou nuggets that are sweet and funny in a very relatable way.

Gaston and Lefou riding horses

Keep an eye out for a few nods to Watson’s breakout role as Hermione Granger, including a glimpse of Hedwig and Crookshanks.

Should you see Beauty & the Beast in 3-D? I vote no, and definitely not IMAX. While the CGI work is fantastic,  you lose some of the visuals with the rapid movement in IMAX, which I also found distracting.

Overall, a fine high-budget trip down memory lane to accommodate my generation’s obsession with nostalgia. I’ll go see it again for sure. Are you planning on checking this one out? What are you most excited about?

Fandango - Beauty and the Beast Sweepstakes
Beauty & the Beast stars: Emma Watson as Belle; Dan Stevens as the Beast; Luke Evans as Gaston, the handsome, but shallow villager who woos Belle; Oscar® winner Kevin Kline as Maurice, Belle’s eccentric, but lovable father; Josh Gad as Lefou, Gaston’s long-suffering aide-de-camp; Golden Globe® nominee Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, the candelabra; Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, the harpsichord; Oscar nominee Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, the mantel clock; and two-time Academy Award® winner Emma Thompson as the teapot, Mrs. Potts.

Directed by Oscar® winner Bill Condon based on the 1991 animated film, “Beauty and the Beast” is produced by Mandeville Films’ David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman, with eight-time Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken, who won two Academy Awards® (Best Original Score and Best Song) for the 1991 animated film, providing the score, which will include new recordings of the original songs written by Menken and Howard Ashman, as well as several new songs written by Menken and three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice. “Beauty and the Beast” will be released in U.S. theaters on March 17, 2017.

All images used with permission from Walt Disney Studios.

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Harry Potter vs. Captain America

One time, I convinced one of my best friends to dress up as Harry Potter and go to a costume party with me. It was awesome.

image

And then, this morning, Brian and I had the following conversation:

Me: If someone wants to polyjuice me, my hair just fell on the ground.

But, to be fair, I shed all the time. So I guess that doesn’t really make a difference.

Brian: So you’re saying, the next time I see you, you might not be you.

Me: Yes.

Brian: Well shit! How am I going to know it’s you?

Me: We shouldhave a secret passphrase so you know.

Unless I’m polyjuice me right now. And then real me will never know the passphrase.

Brian: …

I think he’s still considering the possibilities.

Don’t fight it, Brian. The polyjuice is gonna getcha.

Brian’s going to see Captain America Civil War tonight with his coworkers as part of a work adventure. Without me. I’d be upset, but I saw a prescreening on Monday night in IMAX 3D, and I don’t think Brian’s viewing will top that.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will say that the Captain America movies are among my favorites in the Marvel Studios movie series. (Guardians of the Galaxy trumps all). It was fantastic.

What would happen if someone polyjuiced the hair of Captain America? Click To Tweet

And if anyone cares, I’m on Team Ironman. I think.

You know what? I think I just came up with Marvel’s next movie.

Captain America vs. Harry Potter. Call me, Warner Brothers and Disney. I’ve gota great idea!

Are you a Harry Potter or Marvel fan? Who would you pick in a battle: Harry Potter and his peeps or the Avengers?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

The Wonderful World of Zootopia

You want to know why your mother and I are so happy?

Because we gave up on our dreams and we settled.

So begins the plot of the latest Disney animated flick about the bullied bunny daughter of two carrot farmers as she heads to the big city of Zootopia to become the first bunny police officer. Ginnifer Goodwin’s sweet and innocent voice lends itself to the character of Judy Hopps perfectly, and compliments the sass of Jason Bateman’s foxy Nick Wilde.

Zootopia is beautiful

©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

While the message of inclusion feels a little heavy handed at times (think Fern Gully and Happy Feet), it’s a good message and one of being able to do anything regardless of who you or what others perceive of you. Shakira’s Gazelle character sings an upbeat song about trying everything, which serves as one of the main themes of the movie.

The imagery is visually stunning with vibrant colors and intricate animation depicting the tiniest details of the many climate controlled districts designed to accommodate anthropomorphic mammals of all walks of life from the arctic Tundratown to the deserts of Sahara Square.

Judy recruits hustler Nick to help her in a case which she promises the wife of a victim to help solve, despite the near loss of her job for doing so.

The film is ripe with clever one liners and adult jokes to keep childless grownups like me happy, but cute and sweet enough that I want to take my niece and nephews to see it.

Life isn’t an animated show where you sing a little song and your insipid dreams come true.

You’ll also find a few Frozen nods if you look closely enough. In one scene, two little elephants are dressed up as Anna and Elsa.

Zootopia Anna and Elsa Frozen Easter Egg

ZOOTOPIA – TUNDRATOWN. ©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Zootopia Easter Egg Anna and Elsa Frozen

©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Even one of the characters, Duke Weasleton, voiced by Alan Tudyk, is a subtle nod to Anna and Elsa’s foe, the Duke of Wesselton (also voiced by Tudyk).

You play cribbage with a weasel
And he cheats

A lot of stereotyping animals occurs throughout the film, but of course, my favorite scene is still the DMV sloths. Sure, they may be slow, but they are the most adorable, funniest creatures in the movie. They just look so happy! And Flash is the man.

Zootopia Sloths - Flash

©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved. I love him so hard.

The movie includes sloths (which I’m seriously hoping means there will be more sloth toys and accessories for me to collect as a result of this movie) and mention cheese; the only thing missing from my favorite things was dolphins, but maybe we’ll see Zootopia 2: Under the Sea coming soon.

Oh sweet cheese and crackers.

Zootopia Slothursday Snapchat filter

Even Snapchat was all, “Chrissy, the sloths love you and want to dance with you.” (Follow quirkychrissy on Snapchat for more weird snaps)

As Judy and Nick follow leads through Zootopia, an unlikely friendship between Predator and Prey occurs despite Judy’s fox away spray. But hey, at least she didn’t opt for the fox taser.

Oh come on; when is there not a need for a fox taser?

Zootopia Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps

©2016 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

In the end, Zootopia acknowledges our flaws, through its humanless world and looks to a brighter future, as long as there are good guy fighting the way.

The world has always been broken; that’s why we need good cops like you.

Have you seen Zootopia yet? What animals are you most looking forward to watching on the big screen? What’s your favorite Disney movie to date?

Zootopia opens in theaters everywhere on March 4. No one paid me to say nice things, but I was able to see an early screening of the movie in order to review it. I went because of the sloth trailer. Can you blame me?

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My Mom and Dad are Moving Into the 21st Century

My parents have never really been ones to jump on the technology bandwagon. We didn’t get a home computer until my senior year of high school (and dad referred to it as “The Devil’s Tool”). My parents only have cell phones because I wanted to be able to get in touch with them – so I signed ’em both up on my plan and got them phones. Mom still loves her VHS tapes, and dad swears by his flip phone. Until a few weeks ago, they were perfectly content with their ancient tube TV living inside the entertainment center my dad and I built together when I was about eleven. It was time for a change.

They upgraded to some fancy pants smart TV, not unlike the amazing 43″ Sharp Roku TV that Netflix so very generously provided to me for all the hard work (and by hard work, I mean TV watching) I do for them as part of the Stream Team.

my parents got a new TV, so I thought I'd teach them about Netflix

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My brother and I convinced our parents to stop paying for premium cable and instead sign up for Netflix where they can watch movies and TV (including some Netflix originals that you can’t watch anywhere else such as House of Cards, which Mama Bear is dying to watch).

So I though I’d share with you the shows and movies I think my parents are really going to enjoy, separately and together.

My parents just got a smart TV. I thought I'd give them a headstart in the wonderful world of Netflix.Netflix for Mom

She loves reality TV, a good drama without too much violence, solid sitcoms, and nostalgic movies.

  • She’s excited to watch House of Cards, though I think she might be surprised by some of the violence (although I guess not after reading this). Even so, that first season is wicked smart. And Robin Wright’s and Kevin Spacey’s performances are killer.
  • Chef’s Table is likely to be a hit with Mom, as she loves watching cooking shows and chefs at work.
  • Friends was always one of Mom’s favorite shows. So I think she’ll enjoy a commercial-free binge watch.

Netflix for Dad

He loves war movies, sci-fi, strong dramas, John Wayne, and musicals.

  • Men in Black II hits the sci-fi nerve that Dad loves. Plus he’s probably seen it so many times, he can have a cat nap while watching.
  • Coyote Ugly is chock full of romance and country music, which Dad loves and Mom despises (the music not the romance). I recommend he watch this when she’s at poker night.
  • The Walking Dead is likely to be entertaining for dad, for at least the forst couple of seasons. I suspect like Brian and I, he’ll get bored with the plot midway through the series and stop watching.

Netflix for my Parents

They share a love of romantic and laugh-out-loud comedies, adventure and disaster movies and TV, and animated classics.

  • Adams Family Values is one of their absolute favorites. My bestie, Lily and I just watched the original Adams Family movie last month and it was just as fantastic as it was when I was a kid, but this one is pure gold for Mom and Dad.
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is my favorite Netflix original to date. (Fuller House hasn’t started yet, but I’ve got some seriously high expectations for it). I think both my parents will love the cast and the story, particularly Titus Andromedon.
  • The Walt Disney short films collection is sure to be a hit. Mom will appreciate the brevity, and they’ll both love some of these amazing shorts. When watching Feast, there won’t be a dry eye in the room, but it’ll be worth every second.

Well, Mom and Dad, Welcome to the 21st century. I hope you love Netflix as much as we do! Cheers to a winter full of binge TV! Might I suggest a bottle of wine and a big ‘ole tub of cheese balls?

When your parents get their first smart TV, these shows may just make them addicted to Netflix. Click To Tweet

What Netflix shows do you recommend? We’re always looking for more recommendations, especially with hibernation season right around the corner.

Netflix Stream Team

This is a sponsored post for Netflix. I received a year’s subscription and a device on which to binge watch TV shows and movies in return for these monthly posts.

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