A Subatomic Spoiler-Free Look At Ant-Man

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Big things come in small packages, and that’s something that’s always been true for the hero Ant-Man. The movie adaptation of the hero’s origin, Ant-Man, opens in theaters today,  is a definite treat for the Marvel Cinematic Universe fans who might not have been as impressed with Avengers: Age of Ultron, but were huge fans of Guardians of the Galaxy.  It is the final film in “Phase 2” and as staunch fans will catch on this is with good reason, as Ant-Man will be heavily connected to many aspects of the MCU going forward – some that might not come to any fruition, and others that are going to take us to DEFCON 1.

This is a story about Scott Lang, who in comic books was the 2nd Ant-Man, and the movie sticks with that theme.  He is a self proclaimed “cat burglar” who has just gotten out of prison, and through a series of events ends up breaking into a home where he comes into possession of a suit that he can use to shrink down to a size where he can ride an ant like it is a horse.  Hence his name… get it… Ant-Man.  In a way similar to the comic book also, he is doing this for his daughter… though the circumstances are a bit different.

Comic book fans like myself, those who are familiar with the history of the Avengers have been wondering just how Ant-Man would fit into the MCU.  After all in comic books, the original Ant-Man was Hank Pym, and he was one of the founding members of the Avengers, before Captain America, Hawkeye, or Black Widow were ever members.  In comics he is the guy who created Ultron, not Stark. He has also been several superheroes including Giant-Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, Wasp, etc.  So the big question for this group was just how were you going to fit this diverse a character back into the mix?

In short, this is handled extremely well.  The pieces of Pym’s story are brought in piece by piece and at just the right times.  In this way you can see the parallels between the growth of both Lang and Pym in the movie.  One thing that this movie helped me with is the Ultron that was presented in Age of Ultron – as I struggled with that interpretation.  Missing was the psycho-drama element of the Pym vs. Ultron struggle – and Ultron was turned into all the worst elements of Tony Stark instead.  Here, in place of Ultron, we have Yellowjacket – who unlike comics is NOT Pym (no spoiler here, this was all over the trailers), and as is true to the MCU is different yet analogous to his Earth-616 (soon to be zero?) counterpart.  As a result he takes on many of the personality traits of Ultron from the comic books.

There is the contingent of people who have been wondering why they should care about a dude who can shrink and talk to ants.  Well because when a dude with a bow and arrow or a gal with a guns and martial arts can stand tall against the likes of a Hulk, everything else in between can work, and a tiny dude can stand tall too. However, in case that’s not enough there are elements added to this movie that are there to help you through this particular issue.  Each a piece of the puzzle to set up so much of what will be “Phase 3” of the MCU.

While I’m sure you’ve already been taking your kids to see the MCU movies, I wanted to say that for younger, even Pre-Teen audiences, this might be the most approachable of all the films to date.  Cassie Lang being the differentiating factor there.  Because there are a lot of elements of the story that are there to make a young girl work within its context younger kids may relate better and understand more of the story.  That said, there are still guns, stuff gets blown up, crimes occur, and people die.  Overall this is a super fun movie, full of a lot of what makes comic book drama great.  MCU fans are going to want to see this.

In addition to doing the web design and programming for the On the Go in MCO website, Todd Perlmutter is a host for the Disney Film Project Podcast.

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A Vision of Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Welcome to a new age, a new rage, a child’s cry in the darkness – welcome to the Age of Ultron, the latest Avengers movie to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  While on it’s surface the story of Ultron, which has been going on in comics since 1968, appears simple tale of Artificial Intelligence gone awry, in actuality it is so much more.  There are so many aspects to the story, many not even covered in the movie: life, death, rebirth, hate, rage, a child lashing out against it’s father, passion, desire, love, loss, oedipal complexes, jealousy.  But most of all it’s about a story about how life, despite being broken at times, can persevere.  These are the aspects that have brought to life this mad-crazed machine, Ultron, over the years.

There are several aspects of this movie that change the story, and some with very good reason.  Some I’m actually happy to see go because they are actually more violent and invasive than any supervillain rampaging through a city will ever be.  And others… well I now have concerns that we’ll never see two of my favorite heroes, Wonder Man and Adam Warlock, ever appear on screen.  Don’t worry, it isn’t as sad as it may sound, and it doesn’t mean they won’t exist, it just means their tales will have to be different. That sacrifice leads to a great adaptation of what I imagine was a difficult character to envision, The Vision.  One of the five most central characters to any Ultron story, his portrayal by Paul Bettany is remarkable, and it serves to properly portray the morality of the story.

You may just think you’re going to watch a group of ten, yes 10, superheroes on the screen battling a bad guy, saving the day.  And yes, there is much action you shall see because roughly 80% of this movie is action, and that is huge.  However, despite that you will want to see The Avengers fight and win, you will probably find yourself rooting a bit for the quirky, genocidal Ultron.  Voiced by James Spader who is well known for playing both crazy dudes and evil doers, a new aspect of Ultron comes, one not provided in comic books, humor.  And I don’t mean irony.  Ultron himself has a sense of humor, and it’s both amazing and terrifying at the same time.

What about “The Twins”? In comic books you might know them as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, the Mutant children of the master of magnetism himself, Magneto.  However, even when this movie closes its unclear if they’ll ever be known by their superhero names.  And we already know that due to business dealings they won’t ever be Mutants, and Magneto won’t be a part of their story.  Overall, I think their story as told in the movie is done well enough because it requires less foreknowledge, which is important for audiences who many only ever know these characters from the movies.

War Machine fans will be happy as there is a lot of Rhodey in this film, and his look is now closer to comic books than it has been before.  And fans will love that.  The biggest win though is Hawkeye, as fans of both the character and Jeremy Renner will get a lot of great character development as he is one of the driving forces in this story.  In other words, fans wanted more of both of these characters, and now they’ve got it.  Oh yeah, and a certain love story starts to take a lot of strides forward, even though it seems to go the same way as Captain America: The First Avenger at the end – that last statement is both vague and intentionally misleading so as to remain spoiler free.

My feelings about this movie are a little mixed.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s was utterly amazing to watch and made me shudder with joy at times.  But I’m about one of the biggest comic book geeks on the planet.  This story is all for folks like me.  It’s a lot more like reading a comic book than any other Marvel movie ever.  And I can therefore see where it won’t appeal to many who are not comic book fans.  The story is hard to follow, the motivations of the villain are not well defined without taking into account foreknowledge.  That won’t stop people from going to see this movie, it’s projected to cap $2 billion dollars when all is said and done, and it’s already made more than $250 million dollars before it’s official US opening.

There are a lot of questions left on the table with this movie.  The face of the Avengers changes a lot more than was expected even by a fan like myself.  But that’s in sticking with comic books, an Ultron story is always a game changer.  You don’t have to stay past the credits for this one folks as there is no post-credits scene, but don’t think that you’re being stiffed.  If you count carefully enough you’ll notice there are 4 equivalent scenes at the end of the movie.

Comic book fans, especially long time Avengers fans like myself will love this movie.  Marvel movie fans, will love this movie as well, though likely not as much as the first Avengers film.  It’s important to note there’s very little backstory here, it is expected that you know what’s gone before to watch this one – it is not self standing film.  It’d be like starting a 30 chapter book at chapter 16.  Go back watch at least some of the others, including the first Avengers if you haven’t.  Parents might have to explain some things to children, as there is a lot of graphic violence and scary events in this film.  This one will end up being the second biggest movie event of the year, and only because this year we get a new Star Wars film.

In addition to doing the web design and programming for the On the Go in MCO website, Todd Perlmutter is a host for the Disney Film Project Podcast.

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A Look At Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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Let’s face it we’ve all had bad days.  Some terrible.  Some horrible.  Some just plain no good.  And others still very bad.  But what if one day you were faced with a day so awful that all those things got combined together and it was a day that just kept getting worse and worse.  That’s the basic premise behind the 1972 children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  A movie adaptation of the film by Disney opens in theaters today, October 10, 2014, and it provides us with a look at not one, but rather two very bad days in the life of Alexander.

This really turns out to be a smart move, as in the past others have tried to focus solely on the bad day described in the book.  However writer Rob Lieber, and indie superstar director Miguel Arteta choose instead to quickly move past that bad day and instead focus the movie on the day after – which also turns out to be Alexander’s birthday.  While there’s no actual magic portrayed in this movie, at the end of his really bad day as it becomes his birthday Alexander makes a wish that his family could know what it’s like to have a bad day also.

From there you can only begin to imagine some of the mayhem that ensues.  It’s clear from watching the movie that the comedy direction was provided by Steve Carell who plays Alexander’s father in the movie.  That works out really well as because while the gags are fairly redone as far as “bad luck” movie gags go, many of them play out with a renewed vigor as a result. While Jennifer Garner, playing the mother, is also great in her role, it’s a shame that she has nowhere near the chemistry with Carell as she had 2 years ago with Joel Edgerton in The Odd Life of Timothy Green.

The strongest factor about this movie is that it’s a solidly constructed family film.  You see, in strong contradiction to the lesson that the Joker tries to teach Batman in The Killing Joke, one bad day doesn’t have to lead to ruin.  Rather it’s how you approach that day, and the things that happen to you in it, and who you survive it with.  In this case Alexander chooses to help his family make it through their day, see his point of view, and they all become stronger for sharing the experiences together.  Fans of the book will like this movie, as will parents looking for a movie to share with their children, and even new fans like myself who now needs to go read a book.

In addition to doing the web design and programming for the On the Go in MCO website, Todd Perlmutter is a host for the Disney Film Project Podcast.

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A Non-Spoilery Look At Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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When it comes to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there are two types of people who will be watching over the coming months.  Those that are comic book fans and those that are not.  This is an important point, because what many believe to be the big reveal is, in fact, not the big reveal for many who will watch it.  Either way, that reveal is to me, an avid (rabid?) comic book fan, is about the fourth most important thing you should have picked up from watching this movie.  My point being this, when you’re watching keep an eye out for some of the smaller things because in a movie about subterfuge, subtlety is often key.

As I mentioned in Disney Film Project’s 2014 Preview Episode, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a movie drawing on a number of key things.  To start with you have to remember that S.H.I.E.L.D. is a spy agency, and in modern culture due to certain events, such things aren’t looked at favorably or heroically.  So it became necessary for the creators of the film to roll with that in order to create a story that will, I promise, lead to a better, stronger, and more heroic organization then what you’ve already seen.  To be more specific would be spoiling this movie and a bit of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Winter Soldier was a character introduced to comics in 2005 by Ed Brubaker as part of what was considered to be another revival of Captain America himself.  Pretty much right off fans were excited despite that they knew the “big secret”, because the journey was about Cap discovering it for himself and then working to track down The Winter Soldier and help him to regain his self and sanity by regaining his memories.  In comic books, this involves a Cosmic Cube (movie fans will call this the Tesseract), and is going to be the basis for Captain America 3: The Hunt For The Red Skull (okay I made that title up, but that’s what I want it to be).  By the time you get up from your seat, you’ll know what related device will be the Chekhov’s Gun for that film when it happens.

Also in 2005, as part of the Ultimate Universe from which much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe derives, came a story called Ultimate Nightmare created by Warren Ellis.  In it Nick Fury pulls together a strike team including himself and three superheroes: Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon.  Sound familiar? It should, this is the same team that was picked for this movie.  This team is one of my absolute favorites to come from the Ultimate Universe, and it made me extremely excited to know they would be at the core of this movie.  Seeing them on screen, the buildup of absolute trust that they accrue toward each other throughout, and watching their character growth in this movie is one of the major reasons this movie is enjoyable.

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Sam Wilson, a.k.a. Falon, is done fantastically in the film.  He’s always been a hard character to present well, but also since 2005 he’s really come into his own as a solid character who no longer feels like a tag along / second fiddle.  He is after all the second most important Captain America partner (the term “sidekick” doesn’t fit him. Keep in mind too that in comic books he’s not only teamed with Cap, he’s actually put on the uniform and been Captain America, and is actually an Avenger.  He also got awesome mechanical wings and guns which make for some of the best action moments in this film.

After you get up from the film you’ll probably want to look up these names as they most likely play into future Captain America movies based on the way things are going (hint: you’ll already have seen 3 of them):

This movie is just extremely solid for the first part of a storyline that took more than 5 years to tell in comic books.  It is designed in the same magical way that Marvel has created all their movies from Iron Man forward: appealing to movie fans, and appeasing the comic book fan at the same time.  It’s a mix that other movie and comic companies simply haven’t yet, and may never, figure out how to deliver on.  Will everyone like this movie? No, overall a lot of Avengers fans didn’t like Captain America: The First Avenger.  But plenty will love this movie and it is going to rock a lot of socks, and the box office.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6k0kkSHiiPE

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Marvel Review: Planet Hulk

Incredible_Hulk_Vol_2_94

Whether you look at him as being a superhero or a monster, the Hulk is quite a compelling character to read about.  In modern culture, the comic book portrayal of the Hulk tends to take a back seat to either fond memories of Lou Ferrigno and Bill Bixby and the never forgotten phrase of, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” Or the more recent portrayal in The Avengers movie and the defining phrase of, “That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always angry.”  Suddenly many realized, hey there’s a lot more to this character than simply, “Hulk Smash!”

That’s where reading about him in comic books is so much different.  The character is constantly changing, constantly evolving, but always breaks down into a question of what makes a man a hero or a monster.  When written well, it truly makes you wonder is it Bruce Banner who turns into the Hulk, or is it the Hulk who turns into Bruce Banner.  But one simple thing about the Hulk always carries the story, the madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets.  What if his anger became so focused that there became no stopping him.  That’s where Planet Hulk comes in, it is a story about pushing the Hulk to that brink.

It all starts with the Fantastic Four stopping a rampaging Hulk and calming him down for umpteenth time.  The Thing makes an offhand, joking remark to Mister Fantastic about rocketing the Hulk into space that sets the wheels in motion.  At this time in the Marvel Universe a group had formed behind the scenes calling themselves the Illuminati.  Comprised of Iron Man, Mister Fantastic, Doctor Strange, Black Bolt, Namor, and Professor X, this team voted to send launch the Hulk into space to land on a deserted planet to protect the Earth.  (note: Professor X was absent, and Namor voted against the plan and quit the group)  And they go through with it launching the Hulk into space.

From there their plan both works and fails.  The Hulk is off Earth, with S.H.I.E.L.D. training the She-Hulk as a stand in, though with an ulterior motive.  However the ship they sent him in is thrown off course by a wormhole and the Hulk ends up not on a deserted planet, but rather the planet Sakaar, a planet that has a society that is a conglomeration of other races that have been pulled through the same wormhole.  He is weakened from the journey, able to be injured, and easily subjugated by the natives with an obedience disc and made to become a Gladiator for the Red King.  One thing drives him through the storyline, his anger.

After all his friends have betrayed him, and stranded him in a place where he could be killed.  He has no knowledge that they did not intend for him to be on Sakaar, and thus his driving motivation throughout the story becomes a quest for revenge.  Along the way he makes a pact with other fellow gladiators, and together over the slain body of one of their fallen they make a pact to become Warbound to each other.  Each is in their own way as strong as the Hulk himself prior to departing Earth.

The Red King takes an immediate dislike to Hulk and the Warbound are sent off to die multiple times.  Eventually this all leads to a rebellion, led by the Hulk to defeat the Red King, free the slaves and free Sakaar.  Now that really leaves out a lot of details I know, but to find those out I’ll suggest that you take the time to read the story.  Though I promise there’s at least one cosmic surprise inside.

When all is said and done the Hulk – having defeated the Red King, and brought peace to the planet by uniting it’s cornucopia of inhabitants – is made the king of Sakaar.  And throughout the story as he’s constantly challenged throughout he becomes steadily stronger and more angry.  Then he takes a wife and she becomes pregnant.  He starts to calm down and accept his new home and his new position as its leader.  That is until the ship he crash landed in is paraded through the capital city of Sakaar where it has a warp core breach.

The ship explodes killing everyone in the city, including his wife and unborn child, and damaging much of Sakaar.  At this point the Hulk becomes pure rage and anger and all he wants is revenge.  A revenge that is targeted against the four members of the Illuminati that were responsible for sending him into space.  Together with his Warbound they take their stone starship and head for Earth.

It’d been a very long time since I’d read a comic book from a Hulk title.  It’s hard when one of your fondest comic reading memories looking back is that of Doc Sampson breaking his hand and arm to knock out the Hulk.  But really it was like riding a bicycle to read, and a great way to jump back into the standard character from a comic book perspective (with prior recent experiences being the Ultimate Hulk and Zombie Hulk).  Hulk fans who maybe don’t have as much comic book experience may struggle some with this story, but the payoff is grand for what it leads to later (see below).  This is pure raw, raging Hulk, and it’s a great story that delivers.

Reading List (approximate reading order):

  • Fantastic Four: 533 to 535

  • Amazing Fantasy (vol 2): 15

  • New Avengers Illuminati Special

  • The Incredible Hulk (vol 3): 88 to 105

  • Additional: Planet Hulk Gladiator Guidebook

Next time: World War Hulk

 

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On the Go Gift Guide – Oakley Reducer Tank

Oakley Reducer Tank Jake and the Neverland Pirates Shipwreck Beach Treasure Hunt Disney Eye Found It LeSportsac Celebrate Minnie Doc McStuffins All Better Game

If you are anything like me you have two things on your mind as Christmas is less than a week away, how am I going to find the best gift for everyone left on my shopping list and how am I going to work off all these cookies!

Today for our On the Go Gift Guide we look at a product that helps answer both of those questions, the Oakley Reducer Tank.

I know that I feel awkward going to the gym or out on a run when I don’t feel comfortable and confident in what I am wearing, and the Oakley Reducer Tank is designed with a little extra room to help you focus on your workout.

Oakley Reducer Tank

The O-form fabric is comfortable to wear, because it stretches four ways for complete mobility. The tank maintains its shape and is supportive for every step, bend, and jump without riding up or shifting. It was so great to have a tank that I wasn’t constantly tugging at!

The Oakley Reducer Tank also has a generous built in bra and crossback design that is flattering to any shape.

All of these great details combined with super reflective logo details, UV protection built into the tank’s fabric, a mesh overlay for ventilation, anti-bacterial action fabric, and more make the Oakley Reducer Tank my new go-to workout favorite!

If you are looking for a great last minute gift, you can order the Oakley Reducer Tank online or you can head to their store to pick one up!

If you are headed to the Florida Mall Oakley Store, which is my favorite, you are in luck because they have some great deals for last minute gifts for your list or for yourself to help kick off your New Year’s resolutions!

Oakley Reducer Tank
Oakley Reducer Tank in Georgia Peach
  • O–Form fabric maintains your shape and stretches four ways for superb mobility
  • Built–in bra with molded cups supports and controls bounce
  • Mesh overlay in back provides excellent ventilation
  • O Hydrolix fabric reduces the effects of sweat
  • Anti–bacterial action reduces odor–causing microbes
  • Reflective features stand out during early morning and night regimens
  • 86% Nylon, 14% Lycra

Oakley Reducer Tank

Disclosure: I received a Oakley Reducer Tank courtesy of the Oakley Store at the Florida Mall. All opinions, thoughts, and enthusiasm are my own. 

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My Little Pony At Build-A-Bear Workshop

{Sponsored Post}

Build-A-Bear Workshop Twilight Sparkle Review

Zoe and I headed over to the Florida Mall for a Mommy & Zoe day, and to check out Twilight Sparkle at Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Twilight Sparkle is Zoe’s favorite Pony, so she was thrilled when we walked up and saw her and Spike (not included with Twilight Sparkle)!

Zoe chose just the right Twilight Sparkle and Spike for her and we were on our way!

Build-A-Bear Workshop
Filling Twilight Sparkle

Going to Build-A-Bear is always a lot of fun for Zoe, because she really loves brining new friends to ‘life’ and picking our fun clothes for them!

Build-A-Bear Workshop
I have NEVER seen Zoe wish so hard on a heart at Build-A-Bear Workshop

Twilight Sparkle is 16 inches tall, and super adorable. There are a few things that we made sure to do and a few things we noticed.

Zoe opted for the ‘horse’ sound in Twilight Sparkle, but the My Little Pony Theme Song is also available. The theme song is a touch on the louder side of their sounds, but Zoe has the song in her Rainbow Dash My Little Pony from Build-A-Bear Workshop and it really is only barely noticeable & she loves it!

Build-A-Bear Workshop
Zoe giving Twilight Sparkle a bath.

When they are filling Twilight Sparkle, ask them to make the legs a little firmer, because it makes her a little steadier on her hooves! This is really handy if you have roller skates!

Also you may want to grab one of the new brushes they have available, because the older style brushes make the Pony’s hair a little frizzy. If your Pony’s mane does become a little wild, you can use some of their Bear Stuff Cleaner to help tame it!

Build-A-Bear Workshop
Every Princess NEEDS a cape and tiara!

If you’re nervous about Twilight Sparkle’s cape and crown being difficult to put on, don’t be! There are pre-made slits for her wings in the cape, and her crown fastens around her ears much like the bows so it stays on well.

Build-A-Bear Workshop
Don’t forget to register your Twilight Sparkle just in case your Pony runs free!

Also, Spike is already filled with fluff and love so you don’t have to worry about having to schedule time to fill both.

On a side note the Florida Mall Build-A-Bear location is now being renovated, but the Airport and Altamonte Mall locations are still open!

Twilight Sparkle is available now in Build-A-Bear Stores or Online!

Build-A-Bear Workshop
Zoe and Twilight Sparkle

Zoe is absolutely thrilled to have her new Friends Twilight Sparkle and Spike, and spending some time at Build-A-Bear Workshop is always a great way for us to spend special time together!

Disclosure: Through a partnership with Build-A-Bear Workshop, I received the products in this post for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Les Miserables With Shane – Do You Hear That Ambient Noise?

Les Miserables With Shane – Do You Hear That Ambient Noise?

Shane Grizzard takes us along to the movies with his review of Les Miserables! 

Les Miserables

Last week I got the second greatest Hanukkah gift ever when Shelley invited me to go see the Les Miserables film a week early and cover it for the site. I was very excited because, contrary to popular belief, I’ve never seen a true production of Les Mis before, despite my background in theatre. The only time I’ve ever seen it partially was PBS’s 25th anniversary concert, which was very hard to follow along because there was little scenery, props or stage direction.

Les Miserables is a musical based on Victor Hugo’s famous novel that tells the story of several families’ lives over the years leading up to the [failed] Paris Uprising of 1832. The main conflict follows Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a reformed convict, and Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), the officer trying to recapture him for breaking parole.

I invited my friend Mike along to the early screening, partly because he’s a Les Mis veteran- his cousin played Gavroche on Broadway for a year and they saw it like 12 times- so he would be a good contrasting opinion to my newbie voice. Going in, he kept telling me to pay attention the revolutionary new way they filmed the singing. You see, in the past when movie musicals were made they would record the soundtrack first and then when you went to film the scene the actors would lip sync to the song. In Les Mis they decided to film the singing live in the moment while a pianist played in the actors’ ears off screen and then add the orchestrations in post production. Theoretically, this would create a more theatrical experience, allowing the actors to be more emotionally involved in the scene. Sounds good, right?

I have to say this was my biggest pet peeve for the first half of the film. Perhaps it was the acoustics of some of the spaces where they filmed. Perhaps it was because of the ambient noise in some of the scenes. Perhaps it was because my heart was two sizes too small. (Wait- right holiday, wrong story.) But it kept taking me out of the scene. For some reason it didn’t feel like a musical and more like just people randomly singing out of nowhere. At points I just wanted the actors to stop crying and finish singing the dang song!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCPoIsi8m08&feature=share&list=PLA01F605EEACAC54B

Another issue I had was there are many “inner monologue” moments throughout the musical. You know like in a Shakespearean play where a character would step out and say what they were thinking or explain something to the audience. This works well on the stage but feels odd when you try to adapt it to film, especially when the actors are singing every moment out loud and not keeping their thoughts in their heads. One particular moment, the student Marius (Eddie Redmayne) was thanking his best friend Eponine (Samantha Barks) for finding the love of his life Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), a girl whom he had only seen once across a crowded square (don’t get me started). Eponine is standing off to the side singing aloud about how every word is like a dagger in her heart and she wishes he would just see her for once- ALL FIVE FEET FROM THE GUY. I kept expecting him to turn and say “I’m sorry, did you you say something?”

The actors were hit and miss. I went in to this with very low expectations of Russell Crowe. Yes, he’s sung in his own band before, but can he carry one of leads in this major almost-operatic musical? Personally, I thought Crowe did better than I expected, but as Mike went on to point out he still wasn’t on the caliber of every Broadway actor who’s played the role before him, especially when placed against Hugh Jackman, a stage veteran. Sacha Baron Cohen (who played Thénardier) couldn’t sing either, but was very funny in his little improvisations and quips with Helena Bonham Carter. Unfortunately though there was very little comedy to cut through this extremely dramatic film.

All that being said, as many issues as I had with Les Mis, I found the next day I was longing to go back and see it again! The movie was epic and and the score was beautiful. If you’re a fan of the musical, rest assured they cut barely anything out. Mike and I could only think of one or two small songs that weren’t there. If you’re not a fan, be warned they cut barely anything out and you’re walking into a three hour musical with no intermission. Definitely go to the bathroom before you see the film!

My conclusion: Though I had many issues with the production of this film and its transition from stage to screen and I wouldn’t put it in my list of Top 5 Films of 2012, it was still enjoyable! Go see it, if you’re into epic musicals about depressing miserable French people!

I hope you have a happy holidays!

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Roccos Tacos – A Mexican Restaurant With Flair

Roccos Tacos
Roccos Tacos

Roccos Tacos and Tequila Bar is a fabulous new restaurant located on West Sand Lake Road in Orlando. The decor is very eclectic and representative of what one would find in the tequila region of Mexico.  There are beautiful star shaped chandeliers as well as masks of all shapes and sizes along the walls.  The restaurant houses three bars, one outside as you approach the front door, another just inside the main entrance, and a third which opens to the outdoor patio situated with a charming lake view.  Starting at 9 PM nightly, a live DJ plays a variety of upbeat music, setting a fun and party like atmosphere.  The dress code is casual while maintaining a hip and trendy vibe. It’s a family friendly environment but can get very loud so take that into consideration with young children. Dining reservations can be made by phone and walk-ups are taken as well.  There is complimentary valet which is recommended due to the limited availability of parking.

Enough logistics, let’s discuss the food!  It’s delicious! The menu can be described as upscale Mexican cuisine with a variety of choices.  One of the house specialties is the guacamole prepared tableside. Eaten with the house made tortilla chips, it’s almost a meal in itself.  Another great appetizer choice is the Queso Fundido Con Chorizo, which is simply a casserole of cheese, Chili’s, and chorizo sausage baked in an iron skillet and served with flour tortillas.  There are a variety of other appetizers to choose from, but be sure to save room for the main course!

Rocco’s offers an array of entree choices including salads, enchiladas, burritos, chimichangas, and combination plates. Within our group, we had the California fish tacos, the chimichanga Nationale, and the carne asada soft tacos.  The fish tacos are filled with fried mahi mahi, served with cabbage slaw and avocado ranch, and come with rice and beans for $17.  The chimichanga is made with a spicy chicken, also served with rice and beans, and is $13.  The carne asada, or grilled skirt steak, tacos were $4.50 each. Speaking of tacos, Tuesday’s are a great time to visit for Taco Tuesdays.  For $14.95, it’s all you can eat tacos, in any combination of chicken, pork, spicy beef, steak, mahi, shrimp, chorizo and mushrooms.  You can choose from hard or soft shell tacos and all are served with taco sauce, lettuce, pico de gallo, cilantro, pickled red onions and cotija cheese.  The shrimp, mahi, and steak seemed to be the most popular. Rocco’s Tacos also has offerings for kids including chicken fingers, pasta, quesadillas, and hot dogs.

The bar at Rocco’s serves everything from tequila and margaritas to sangria, beer and wine. They have 225 varieties of tequila ranging in price from $6 to $85.  The flavored margaritas are not to be missed including pomegranate, mango, and blood orange.  When owner Rocco Mangel is in the restaurant, he can be found on the bar in his white platform shoes pouring free Patron to the sounds of the song “Tequila!” A great non-alcoholic treat is the “REAL” Coca Cola made with real sugar cane in Mexico.

Rocco’s Tacos is a great place to go to hang out with friends, grab a drink, enjoy a meal, or bring the whole family. They serve lunch, dinner, and have a limited late night menu along with a full bar during all business hours.  The atmosphere and service are top notch as is the quality of the food and drinks.  Be sure to check out the newest location in Orlando or try one of the other four locations in South Florida.  Visit their website at www.RoccosTacos.com, friend them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

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Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance Review

Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance Review

Hello Gamers!

Disney Interactive Studios and Square Enix have released another game in their highly successful Kingdom Hearts series. This one is for the Nintendo 3DS and titled “Dream Drop Distance”. The title is a play on the 3D aspect of the game as well as a “Dream Drop” component that was added to this installment not in previous ones.

kingdom hearts dream drop distance review
Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance – Available for the Nintendo 3DS

First off, allow me to tell you a bit about myself. I always find it is important to know something about a reviewer while reading a review so that you know where they are coming from. I know that when I know a little bit about a reviewer, it helps me make a more informed decision about whether or not I agree or disagree with their opinions.

have loved video games since I was a child. I think I’ve went through every system from Colecovision and intellivision (showing my age) to the current PS3 etc. I have already put a pre-order in for the upcoming new Nintendo Wii U. Now, at 40 years of age, I still love video games, but it takes a lot more to keep me interested and engaged. I definitely prefer a game where I don’t have to sift through a Bible sized book of instructions in order to play. I really love the Nintendo 3DS and feel it is the perfect platform when you’re ON THE GO in MCO or otherwise. It’s like a small alternate universe you can fit in your pocket. I love keeping the 3D slider on Maximum 3D although it’s a bit of a challenge keeping your eyes in the “sweet spot” when battling Ursula and other Villains!

So, now, let’s get to Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance! Only for the Nintendo 3DS.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6bIOFaLYd0

You needn’t have played other Kingdom Hearts games in the series to enjoy this title. It helps, but is not needed. Kingdom Hearts is basically a union of Final Fantasy and Disney. On its own, I don’t really like Final Fantasy. When married with Disney, I think it’s magical. It gives the fight between good and evil a real sense of wonder and validates Mickey Mouse as a relevant Hero.

I’d love to give you some of the back story about Kingdom Hearts, but even though I have played and completed every single one, I can’t. I have no idea what the story is. As a true matter of fact, I don’t even think the writers who explain the story even understand it themselves. It’s a convoluted mess that makes me laugh every time I read it. If you get a moment, and it interests you, check out the Wikipedia entry of the storyline and try to make sense of it. It will blow your mind LOL.

kingdom hearts dream drop distance review
Some of the characters in Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance

You play one of two characters in this game, Sora and Riku. The game features seven playable Disney Worlds, including La Cité des Cloches from The Hunchback of Notre Dame; The Grid from Tron: Legacy; Prankster’s Paradise from Pinocchio; Country of the Musketeers from Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers; and Symphony of Sorcery from Fantasia. The two other playable worlds are Traverse Town and The World That Never Was. You alternate between playing as Sora and playing as Riku when a timer runs out and you go into a Dream Drop. It’s fun but also a little gimmicky. It’s really a way of making the game longer without adding more worlds. Meaning, you play the world as Sora and then the same world as Riku with few variations. It can be frustrating when you are just about to kill a boss and you are “dropped” and switched to the other character (shakes fist at sky) J.

Unlike most Disney games, you actually fight in Kingdom Hearts. No blood of course, but using your KeyBlade you bash enemies around in satisfying style. You need to kill the boss of each world as both Sora and Riku in order to save the worlds from evil. Familiar Disney characters and villains are always popping up making it a Disney fans delight. The voice work on the characters is top notch and appears to be the original actors whenever possible.

kingdom hearts dream drop distance review
It is time to protect the Princess!

This installment of the series adds a special “flying” move technique called FLOWMOTION that really makes gliding and pummeling enemies a lot of fun, especially in 3D.

The pet component is totally cool. Remember those virtual reality pets that you needed to take care of on little key chain games back some years ago? This Kingdom Hearts game contains mini games like that.
You can create and “adopt” pets they call spirits that fight alongside Sora and Riku and help you in the game. They are needed to defeat many enemies. You need to nurture these spirit pets to make them more powerful. You get to feed them and pet them using the touch screen. The more attention you give them, the more they level up and become an asset to your game play. Of course, I love the Big Blue Panda Mickey looking one.

Children pick up this game and get into it almost immediately while those of us over 25 will likely need to read the instructions a few times to figure out what is going on. Once you do, it is a marvelous fun romp through Disney fantasy realms where you can escape reality and believe you are saving beloved Disney characters and enchanted places.

Something fun to note – Sora can sometimes be spotted in the Magic Kingdom during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I only saw him once but bascially freaked out when I did. He was the most amazingly designed park character I have ever seen – holding his keyblade weapon and all. Try and catch him the next time you are at the MNSSHP event! The first person to tweet me a NEW picture of Sora from this year’s event gets a prize!

Also – A new Kingdom Hearts game is in the works for all the major current and upcoming new consoles within the next year. If you get a chance to play this Nintendo 3DS installment, you’ll be seasoned enough to take on the next big screen Kingdom Hearts when it is released!

Now go forth and save the Disney Worlds!

kingdom hearts dream drop distance review
Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance Logo

Be sure to follow John Saccheri on Twitter @DisneyWorlds!!!

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The Muppets – Possibly The Bestest Muppets Movie Yet

So when I was asked to attend a Media Preview of The Muppets my heart soared and sunk at the same time.

I grew up on the Muppets and love them dearly like they are family members, and while I was stoked from the first second I heard about this movie I was also a little nervous about how it would turn out.

As I sat down in my seat this morning, I took a deep breath and hoped for the best…

First up were trailers for The Secret World of Arrarity and Brave, both of which I am now absolutely DYING to see!!! They both look like great stories that are breathtaking on the big screen.

Then it was time for the Toy Story Short ‘Small Fry’. This short lives up to it’s predecessor ‘Hawaiian Vacation’! It was super funny, just the right length, and absolutely set the mood for the movie!!!

The Muppets is a heart warming story where three devoted fans help the Muppets reunite to save their old theatre.

The story itself is full of nods to the history of the Muppet franchise while staying current enough to be funny to newbies. And in true Muppet fashion the jokes read on the adult and child level, which led to TONS of laughter from all of us.

I am not going to lie, I cried during The Muppets. Now this may sound silly, but there were parts that struck such a cord of nostalgia for the past and hope for the future that I couldn’t help myself.

I absolutely cannot recommend this movie highly enough…I seriously want to see this movie again…NOW!!!!

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mq5LfuvRBVM

 

 

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