Film Review – “The Cakemaker”

THE CAKEMAKER
Starring: Tim Kalkhof and Sarah Adler
Directed by: Ofir Raul Graizer
Rated: Unrated
Running Time: 1 hr 53 mins
Strand
 
Sometimes it takes just a little patience for a cinematic experience to blossom into a piece of work that can be appreciated for its artistic endeavor. While the Israeli drama “The Cakemaker” may be littered with delicious looking pastries, it takes about half of its nearly two-hour running time before it offers something you can sink your teeth in to. Directed and written by Israeli filmmaker Ofir Raul Graizer (“Dor”), “The Cakemaker” is slow to develop during that first half and it leaves us wondering if it is going somewhere. Thankfully, it saves itself from blandness and leaves us wondering something entirely at the end.
 
Premiering at this year’s 52nd annual Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic, “The Cakemaker” introduces us to Israeli Oren Nachmias (Roy Miller, “When Heroes Fly”) when he steps into a Berlin bakery where a young, talented German baker named Thomas (Tim Kalkhof, “Homeland”) is working. In quick order it is revealed that Oren is living a secret life as a gay man while maintaining the life of a happily married family man in Jerusalem. Their affair continues for a quite some time as Oren routinely travels to Berlin on business. However, it all comes to an end when Oren is killed in a car accident after returning home on one of his trips.
 
It takes a while for him to find out, but when Thomas does he is left in a daze. Armed with information he gleaned from Oren during their relationship, Thomas travels to Jerusalem to find Oren’s widow, Anat (Sarah Adler, “Foxtrot”). While keeping his knowledge of Oren a secret to himself, Thomas eventually garners a job at Anat’s struggling kosher café. His pastries, however, turn her business around, much to the chagrin of some in Anat’s Jewish neighborhood.
 
It’s all quite dry and laborious, but there is a tangible creepiness to Thomas’s actions as he inserts himself deeper and deeper into his former lover’s life. He even goes so far as to wear a pair of Oren’s swimwear and run in his jogging shorts. What Thomas doesn’t count on is the attraction that the still grieving Anat begins to develop for the troubled German. It puts him in awkward position, but it also appeals to his yearning to experience Oren’s life.
 
Graizer’s story is nothing extraordinarily original, yet he inserts enough small twists in it to make it passably interesting. The relationship between the two men is poorly developed in the beginning, which makes it difficult to become invested in the story. Important elements are brought to light much later, which helps the second half of the film but still leaves the first half high and dry. Graizer’s pacing is also sluggish with too many moments of utter silence with nothing of interest transpiring. Yawn.
 
Miller’s performance is just a blip on the radar and Adler’s is merely satisfactory without enough depth of emotion. Contrary, Kalkhof wears a terrific mask on his face as Thomas is a perplexing character to figure out. What exactly is his end game? Does he want to live a lie, or does he want to do harm to everyone in the middle of the night? His blue eyes speak of someone who is moving along with clear thoughts, but there is a churning, pent-up ocean of emotion rolling around inside him.
 
“The Cakemaker” is a solid endeavor of average cinema with an ending that at least everyone can sit around and debate for a while.

Film Review – “BLACKkKLANSMAN”

BLACKkKLANSMAN
Starring:  John David Washington, Adam Driver and Topher Grace
Directed by:  Spike Lee
Rated:  R
Running time:  2 hrs 15 mins
Focus Features

Spike Lee and I go way back.

The movie theatre I managed in Baltimore was in an urban area.  I proudly showed “She’s Gotta Have It” and “School Daze.”  I was (and still am) angry that “Do the Right Thing” wasn’t nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award and I was thrilled to meet him and speak for a few minutes in Washington D.C. while he very graciously signed my “Malcolm X” script.  I should also mention that I silently cursed him when he shot a reel of his film “Crooklyn” in the widescreen format but intentionally didn’t adjust it, giving the film a look that caused many customer complaints and passes given out.  He’s made more good movies than bad and this week he’s here with one of his best.

It’s the 1970s.  Ron Stallworth (Washington) is a black police officer in a time where, if you’re the first one on the scene of a crime, your fellow officers may think YOU are the perp.    One day, while reading the newspaper, Ron comes across an ad for the local chapter of the KKK.  As a joke, he sends in for his membership card and is delighted to get it.  When Ron is invited to meet the membership, he agrees, sending fellow officer Flip Zimmerman (Driver) in his place.  Zimmerman is Jewish and has to learn to keep his emotions to himself when surrounded by the idiot gang he finds himself a part of.  As Ron/Flip get deeper into the group, they soon find themselves chatting up David Duke, then the first Grand Wizard of the KKK, today pretty much a punchline.  When Duke is scheduled to come to Ron’s town, things go from comical to serious as the groups true goals are announced.

Powerful and pertinent, “Blackkklansman” is a film that deals with both the past and the present.  Director Lee and co-writers Kevin Willmott, Charlie Wachtel and David Rabinowitz have created a world that anyone over 21 will recognize.  There is humor but then there is horror.  Not violent horror, but the horror at the spoken word.  Can people truly be this vile?  Sadly, yes.

As with many of Lee’s films, a great cast has been assembled.  I was surprised to learn that leading man Washington is the son of Denzel.  If this performance is any indication, Pop better keep an eye on the rear view mirror.  He plays Stallworth with the dignity required, something that wasn’t easy to display in the early 1970s.  Driver is equally good here.  This is the first thing I’ve seen him in since the last two “Star Wars” films and – SPOILER ALERT – though as a filmgoer I will never forgive him for killing Han Solo, I will continue to recognize him as an actor to watch.  As David Duke, Grace is pitch perfect.  He doesn’t scream out his hatred, like his dimwit followers.  He oozes it, like the politician he would later become.

“Blackkklansman” took home the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and I look for it to be a front runner when the Oscar nominations roll around.  Do you hear that, Academy?  I don’t won’t to get angry again!

Film Review: “The Meg”

THE MEG
Starring:  Jason Statham, BingBing Lee and Rainn Wilson
Directed by:  John Turtletaub
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  1 hr 53 mins
Warner Bros.

If you’ve learned anything about me over the years, you know that “Jaws” is my favorite film.  That being said, every time a new shark themed film shows up (“Deep Blue Sea,” “Open Water,” “The Shallows,” etc) I have to put my blinders on and do my best not to compare the film to “Jaws.”  However, when the film in question steals whole sequences from the film, I may bet a little testy.

We meet Jonas Taylor (Statham) as he and his rescue team are trying to save the crew of a submerged vessel.  However, just as you think they’re all going to survive, they are attacked by “something,” causing Taylor to leave behind a couple teammates, who inevitably die.  Fade to black and jump ahead a few years.

Welcome to the bottom of the ocean, inside the Mariana Trench.  A bizarre philanthropist (Wilson) has financed an expedition to the trench with the purpose of trying to go deeper.  The idea is that it’s so cold at the bottom of the ocean that maybe you’re not on the ocean’s floor.  Maybe you’re just blocked.  Crazy guy arrives at his sea platform, which is full of scientists and a cute Chinese family (older father, daughter and granddaughter).  The mission is a success, but while down below their sub is attacked by “something.”  Only one person can help them…someone whose life was changed by “something.”  But what?

With a few good special effects shots and a cast that’s trying way too hard, “The Meg” is passable entertainment.  A giant shark that can actually eat people whole is kind of cool, though the filmmakers can’t seem to decide on how big it is.  When it’s out to sea it’s HUGE, knocking over boats and gobbling up people like cocktail peanuts.  But when it comes close to shore, where hundreds of people are bathing, it easily swims by, not one person noticing the 60 foot monster that just passed by.

Director Turtletaub has directed four films since 2004, three of them starring Nicolas Cage, the master of over-emoting.  He would have made a fine substitute to Statham, who has proven himself in other films.  The slow parts between shark appearances start to add up, and the film feels every bit of its almost 2-hour run time.

To steal (and paraphrase) from Woody Allen in “Annie Hall,” a film is like a shark.  It has to keep on moving or it will die.  And what we’re dealing with here…is a dead shark.

Big Muscles in the Film Scene

Having muscle mass can be of great significance to your body and health in general. It increases the rate of metabolism in your body, which is essential for controlling weight. You will also have increased strength, which makes it easier for you to carry out difficult tasks and other physical activities effectively. Working out is one good way to increase muscle mass.

High-intensity interval training using the right equipment will help you bulk up. Using legal steroids is essential for your workouts because they provide you with endurance and also increase your muscle mass. The anabolisant is one legal steroid you can try out. You can get them from various online stores and select shops.

We have witnessed quite a number of bodybuilders make it to different movie casts. Back in the day, seeing a bodybuilder as a cast member in movies left many in awe. This is because they were not regarded as actors by most people. However, things have changed over recent years.

Bodybuilders are playing the lead acts in many movies, which is different from the past when they were given minor roles. Aspiring bodybuilders should watch the following movies that feature big muscle guys.

Stand Tall

During the mid-70s, professional American bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno retired from bodybuilding to pursue an acting career. He starred as the Hulk in The Incredible Hulk TV show, which was released in 1977. His muscle build up was the main reason why he landed that lead role.

Predator

The movie, which was released in 1987, features Arnold Schwarzenegger, a renowned bodybuilder, as part of the main act. Schwarzenegger has proved on several occasions how he can use his muscle strength to outpower any human who comes his way. Other characters with an impressive muscle definition in this movie include Jesse Ventura, who is a professional wrestler, and Carl Weathers.

The Perfect Physique

This is a bodybuilding documentary that was released in 2015. The film takes an in-depth look at the different professional bodybuilding competitors. Some of the physique challengers featured in this documentary include Sadik Hadzovic, Jeremy Buendia, and the departed Greg Plitt.

The Bodybuilder and I

This is a 2007 movie that features one of the oldest professional bodybuilders. 59-year-old ‘Grandmaster’ Bill Friedman is the main act in this field. In this movie, he reunites with his son Bryan as he attempts to get back to the top by winning back his senior bodybuilding award.

Generation Iron

This is one of the most famous bodybuilding documentaries, which was released in 2013. Generation Iron is a film that covers some of the best bodybuilders of the century like Kai Greene, Phil Heath, Dennis Wolf and Branch Warren. There are also special appearances from other greats like Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Pumping Iron

This is a factual film that focuses on some of the most professional bodybuilding competitions. Mr. Olympia 1975 and IFBB Mr. Universe, which happened during the same year, are the competitions highlighted in this documentary. Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the top competitors featured.

 

Film Review: “Three Identical Strangers”

THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS
Starring: Robert Shafran and David Kellman
Directed by: Tim Wardle
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 114 minutes
Neon
 
“Three Identical Strangers” is the best documentary thus far in 2018 and one of the best overall films of the year. The well-deserved recipient of a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize for storytelling at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, “Strangers” is a compelling work that is thoughtful, compelling, moving and leaves a lasting impression for many moons after the credits have faded to black. Even though it’s been 38 years since long lost triplets miraculously reunited, it remains a story with ripple effects being felt to this very day.
 
Initially, “Strangers” reels us in with an infectious enthusiasm we feel radiating from Robert “Bobby” Shafran who describes with a gregarious smile how he stumbled upon his identical twin brother, Edward “Eddy” Galland. Their reunion made headlines across the country, but it became even crazier when a third brother, David Kellman saw doubles of himself in a newspaper. The triplets became overnight sensations and appeared on a multitude of media outlets at a blistering pace, which was only matched by their wild partying. Both David and Bobby recount those days, as well as how they started families, with great fondness. However, things start to take dark turn as “Strangers” begins to develop a grittier, tragic tone with its probe into how they were separated in the first place.
 
As it turns out, the triplets improbable, 1980 reunion in New York set a series of disturbing events in motion that began with a negative meeting between the brothers’ angry parents, who were upset their sons had been intentionally split apart, and an adoption agency with some shadowy backers. It’s paired with an author/journalist in Texas who uncovers a secret study that, as David describes, turned the brothers into lab rats.
 
The sinister background to it all begins with late child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr. Peter Neubauer (1913-2008). Neubauer was an Austrian Jew who was able to escape his Nazi-controlled country by fleeing into neutral Switzerland where he completed his training before moving in 1941 to New York City. It sounds heroic enough until we learn that like the Nazis he fled from, Neubauer initiated an inhuman, concentration camp-like experiment by orchestrating a program in which several sets of twins and one set of triplets, the brothers in “Strangers,” were deliberately separated during infancy as part of a clandestine “nature vs. nurture” experiment. Even more shocking is that it was the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services who helped Neubauer with a program that led to a variety of mental health issues among its unwitting participants as they entered adulthood.
 
Naturally, Bobby and David, among others, continually try to demand answers, but he ended the program in 1980, Neubauer, realizing his work would be controversial, had his study sealed upon his death at Yale University until the year 2066, thus insuring its participants would be dead by the time its findings would be released to the public.
 
“Strangers” is a superb example of documentary filmmaking as it entertains, educates and causes thought provoking discussion of the subject matter. All of director Tim Wardle’s interview subjects are engrossing to listen to and his overall storytelling flows naturally like winding stream. His work shines a light on a dark tragedy that almost disappeared into the shadows. This is a film that should not be missed.

 

Film Review: “Christopher Robin”

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN
Starring:  Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell and Jim Cummings
Directed by:  Marc Foster
Rated:  PG
Running time:  1 hr 44 mins
Walt Disney Pictures

Why do we have to grow up?

I’m 57 (58 next month) and as my childhood gets further and further away, I miss more and more the things of that time.  I think most of us do.  To forget out childhood, and our childhood friends, seems like an impossibility.  But not to Christopher Robin.

When we meet young Christopher (Orton O’Brien), he is being honored at a going away party by his best friends in the Hundred Acre Wood.  As stories are told and gifts exchanged, it is his stuffed bear, Winnie the Pooh (voiced by Cummings) that says what everyone is thinking:  “I wish this could go on forever.”

A film that melts your heart in its first five minutes, “Christopher Robin” follows the title character (McGregor) into young adulthood, where he goes off to school, falls in love, goes to war and then settles down to raise a family.  Now a working-class family man, Robin’s daily duties include cutting costs at the luggage manufacturing company he works for and ducking his Gin Rummy-crazed next door neighbor.  He has long ago put away his drawings from childhood, where he and his friends would have adventures.  His latest adventure – breaking his promise to his daughter and sending she and her mother off on holiday alone.  Another weekend working.  Oh, bother.

A perfect blend of live action and CGI, “Christopher Robin” brings back to life such cherished characters as Tigger (also voiced by Cummings), Eyore (Brad Garrett), Piglet (Nick Mohammed), Rabbit (Peter Capaldi) and Owl (Toby Jones).  Along with Pooh, they do their best to convince a dubious Christopher that you can’t lose the past if you don’t want to.  “Did you let me go,” Pooh asks softly.  Christopher can only ponder the question.

McGregor is perfectly cast as a young husband and father, trying to provide for his family and not realizing that, the more he tries, the further they are drifting apart.  Atwell is just as strong as Christopher’s wife, Evelyn, and young Bronte Carmichael is sadly sweet as their daughter, Madeline.  The special effects are flawless and, if you’re not too careful, you too might find yourself talking to stuffed bears and planning age-old adventures.

Win an Autographed DVD of the new film “ASTRO”

Media Mikes was proud to be the first site to review the film “ASTRO” immediately after it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.  Now, we have teamed up with our friends at Avail Films to give (2) lucky readers a chance to win an autographed DVD copy of the film.

All you have to do is let us know below what has been the best “under the radar” film you have seen this year.  (2) random entries will be selected and they will receive a DVD which has been autographed by the film’s director, Asif Akbar.

This giveaway runs through Sunday, August 12, 2018 at 5:00 pm CST.  To read MovieMike’s review of “ASTRO,” click HERE

Good luck!

Film Review: “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot”

DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill and Rooney Mara
Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hr 54 mins
Amazon Studios
There is little doubt that the late cartoonist John Callahan (1951-2010) was as politically incorrect as they come. However, to paraphrase Jim Morrison, he had enough of a good life, or at least enough of an interesting one to base a movie on. After several years in limbo, Callahan’s biopic “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” has finally hit the silver screen. Directed by Gus Van Sant (“Milk,” “Drugstore Cowboy”), this emotionally charged drama is one of the best films of 2018 thus far. This is due in large part to epic performances by three-time Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master,” “Walk the Line,” and “Gladiator”) as the lead and Jonah Hill (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Moneyball”) in a supporting role.
Based upon Callahan’s memoir “Will the Real John Callahan Please Stand Up?”, “Don’t Worry” is not a step-by-step biopic flick as it subtly dances back and forth among time frames during his life. An extra curve ball is thrown into the mix when some of his more notable drawings interject themselves across the screen to punctuate what his critics labeled as off-color humor. What we do learn about Callahan is that he was abandoned at a Catholic orphanage soon after birth and grew up in an area of Oregon called The Dalles near Portland. An alcoholic starting at the age of 12, Callahan became a quadriplegic at age 21 when on one evening in 1972 the equally inebriated driver (played by Jack Black) of his Volkswagen crashed into a utility pole at 90 miles per hour.
After months of rehabilitation, Callahan is eventually released back into the wild, but he continues to drink, something that is not played as darkly as it could have been. A day eventually comes when he hits rock bottom and he joins an Alcoholics Anonymous group sponsored by the guru-like son of rich parents, Donne Green (Hill). Green speaks continually of being honest and of recognizing a higher power to Callahan as he slowly makes his way through a 12-step program. Through it all he develops a relationship with a pixie-like flight attendant (Rooney Mara) from Sweden whom he first meets shortly after his spinal surgery. It’s an unlikely relationship and one that seems out of place within the film. It impedes the overall pacing of the story as it also eliminates other aspects of the real Callahan’s life that could have been examined – his earning a degree at Portland State University, his troubled childhood, or the six-year bender he went on after his accident, for example.
Don’t worry, this film is not all gut-wrenching sadness and pain as there is joy to be found in watching Callahan discover his true gift in life, a gift that led him to becoming a successful newspaper cartoonist despite his physical limitations. Phoenix delivers a raw, emotional performance as dives into his character with abandon. It ranks as one of his best roles and deserves to be remembered when Oscar season comes around. The same can be said for Hill who shines in a career defining role as an AA sponsor with his own set of demons. It is a genuine pleasure to watch them both as “Don’t Worry” won’t leave you any time soon after you leave the theater.

Film Review: “Mission: Impossible – FALLOUT”

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT
Starring:  Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill and Ving Rhames
Directed by:  Christopher McQuarrie
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  2 hrs 27 mins
Paramount

I’m curious if Tom Cruise has in his contracts a clause that says he must run in his films.  In early films like “Taps” and “The Outsiders” he ran with others.  He was constantly running to school in “Risky Business.”  “Legend.”  “The Firm.”  He raced Robert Duval at the end of “Days of Thunder.”  Hell, even though he spends most of the film in a wheelchair, he found time to run in “Born on the Fourth of July.”  But none of these films can prepare you for the mileage he covers in his latest adventure as Ethan Hunt: “Mission: Impossible – FALLOUT.”

The film begins with Hunt (Cruise) and his Impossible Mission Force (IMF) attempting to retrieve three pieces of hardware needed to outfit nuclear bombs.  However, when one of his force-mate’s life is put in jeopardy, Ethan chooses them over the success of the mission and the hardware is absconded with.  Cue the music!

Not only the best of the “Mission: Impossible” films, “FALLOUT” is also one of the best films of the year.  After an introductory scene that would have made the opening moments of most James Bond films seem tame, Hunt and company are soon introduced to CIA Agent August Walker (Cavill, out of his Superman uniform but just as bad-assed), a no-nonsense kind of guy who certainly would have let a member of his team die and not give it a second thought.

There are so many twists and turns here that to go into too much detail about the rest of the film would give away some nice plot points.  Suffice it to say that Cruise easily covers a few miles by way of his fleet feet.  Run, Ethan, run.

Warner Bros.’ Classic Holiday Film “A Christmas Story” will be Featured in Frozen Spectacular Ice! During Christmas at Gaylord Palms!

ICE! and the resort’s mix of holiday entertainment runs November 16 through January 6.

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – (July 17, 2018) – For the first time ever, beloved holiday film “A Christmas Story” will be recreated as a frozen, immersive attraction inside ICE!–the signature experience during Christmas at Gaylord Palms. During the holiday season, the Orlando-area resort welcomes guests to make memories amongst festive décor and a charming mix of Christmassy activities and shows, becoming “Everything Christmas in One Extraordinary Place” for the 52-day event, Christmas at Gaylord Palms presented by Pepsi.

CINEMATIC HOLIDAY CLASSIC IN ICE!

“A Christmas Story” has been a staple of holiday movie lists for years, but now guests can experience this holiday favorite in a whole new way inside ICE! presented by DEI. The hilarious family tale will come to life through hand-carved ice sculptures and displays, inviting guests to relive the film’s iconic scenes such as The Old Man’s Major Award, Aunt Clara’s pink nightmare and the ultimate triple dog dare at the school’s flagpole, and many more!

“We’re thrilled to see this Christmas classic brought to life inside ICE! for the first time ever,” said Johann Krieger, General Manager for Gaylord Palms Resort. “We know that ‘A Christmas Story’ has been a holiday tradition for so many people over the years, and we hope that guests can join us to make ICE! a part of their tradition as well.”

The ICE! attraction is crafted by artisans from Harbin, China, home of the world’s largest ice and snow sculpture festival, who travel more than 6,000 miles to hand-carve more than two million pounds of colorful ice, creating larger-than-life sculptures. This year, as guests explore the nine-degree attraction, they will discover more than a dozen fan-favorite scenes from “A Christmas Story,” along with the event’s two-story ice slides and the popular Frostbite Factory live ice carving showcase. The ICE! experience concludes with a separate area dedicated to a traditional Nativity created with crystal clear ice.

NEW EXPERIENCES

Award-winning buffet restaurant Villa de Flora will welcome special Christmastime friends during The Elf on the Shelf® Character Breakfast, where guests can join Santa’sOfficial Scout Elves for a fun and festive character breakfast. Kids and adults will enjoy a delicious buffet spread complete with classic breakfast favorites and live cooking stations, enjoying  special visits from Santa’s Official Scout Elves as they dine.

Gaylord Palms’ St. Augustine atrium will be home to a brand-new, dazzling light show when Dreams of Christmas makes its debut. This multisensory experience will feature a new musical score accompanied with millions of dancing, choreographed lights all around the resort’s six-story Christmas tree during nightly shows.

HOLIDAY FAVORITES RETURN

“Holiday thrills” take on a whole new meaning during Cirque Dreams Unwrapped, a 25-minute, action-packed experience, featuring soaring acrobatics, theatricality and imagination that will have guests on the edge of their seats. Cirque Dreams Unwrapped features new acts and performers each year to bring to life a magical and timeless Christmas wonderland, all imagined by Broadway director and renowned Cirque Dreams founder Neil Goldberg.

Guests exploring the meandering paths inside the resort’s Everglades atrium will find the Christmas Tree Trail, a display of nine magnificent trees provided by Balsam Hill. Sparkle the Elf, Santa’s chief Christmas Tree Decorator, has personally prepared these for display at Gaylord Palms. From snowmen and candy canes to reindeer and nutcrackers, each tree represents one of Sparkle’s favorite things about Christmas, with one even honoring the Florida-themed resort!

The immersive, interactive Reindeer Express Post Office returns this year, where everyone is invited to jot down their top Christmas wishes on a postcard before entering this special facility to launch their wishes off on a journey to Santa.

Festive Alpine Village will again be the central hub for holiday happenings. In addition to ICE!, the village is home to various attractions and shows, Photos with Santa, seasonal food and beverage options plus holiday retail locations, including a Build-A-Bear Workshop®, where imaginations soar. Guests choose from all kinds of furry friends to make and bring home, including the Gaylord Hotels-exclusive light-up Snowburst polar bear.

Gingerbread Decorating Corner returns, now located inside the brand-new Alpine Village Sweet Shop! Guests may select a gingerbread house or a themed cookie kit to enjoy a sticky and fun interactive experience, creating sweet souvenirs to take home. The Alpine Village Sweet Shop will offer additional candies and treats for purchase to decorate sugary masterpieces or to delight someone’s sweet tooth. The deliciously fun gingerbread pair, Cinnamon and Nutmeg, will also be available for toasty hugs and holiday photos.

Mrs. Claus’ Christmas Traditions brings the First Lady of the North Pole back to Gaylord Palms as she leads a half-hour interactive show. Guests enjoy classic holiday stories and a sing-a-long, plus a delicious finale as the holiday hostess presents everyone with warm cookies and a glass of cold milk.

Santa’s Snow Throw puts real snow in the hands of guests as they show off their pitching prowess by tossing snowballs at a variety of interactive targets created by Santa’s Elves. Bragging rights go to those with the best aim!

Snow Tubing sends guests zooming down an eight-lane tubing hill covered in real snow. This all-ages attraction offers both single and double tubes to accommodate children and parents.

The best way to experience all of Christmas at Gaylord Palms is with an overnight stay. One-night packages start at $250 plus tax, resort fee and parking. Packages include ICE! tickets for two (with option to add additional adults or children) plus a souvenir family photo. Overnight guests may also schedule a visit to ICE! during the daily hotel guest-exclusive Extra Cool Hour from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Make the holidays merrier and extend the package to stay for multiple nights! For additional information and to book packages or tickets, visit www.GaylordHotels.com .

Gaylord Palms Resort offers Christmastime field trips for schools, youth organizations and religious groups, customizable with educational or performance opportunities. Special ICE! ticket rates also are available to groups of ten adults or more.

For companies wishing to offer their staff an unforgettable holiday outing, Gaylord Palms offers the ideal “Everything Christmas” setting for onsite catered events with 10 to 3,000 guests, with or without an ICE! experience. To learn more about planning a holiday event, contact www.GaylordHotels.com.

Christmas at Gaylord Palms is open daily from November 16, 2018 through January 6, 2019 including holidays.

Gaylord Palms Resort offers a mix of entertainment year-round, creating a superior guest experience in one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Guests are welcomed into the resort’s 4.5-acre soaring glass atrium featuring winding waterways, lush gardens and animal habitats. Our extraordinary amenities include fine and casual dining, spa and shopping – all conveniently located within minutes of the Orlando area’s theme parks.

Learn more about the resort at GaylordPalms.com and stay connected with all the resort happenings by following @GaylordPalms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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About Gaylord Hotels
Gaylord Hotels®, part of the Marriott portfolio of brands, offers extraordinary environments with “everything in one place” – diverse dining options, a full –
service spa, pools, top-notch entertainment, shopping and more. Locations
include Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee; Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, Florida; Gaylord Texan on Lake Grapevine, Texas; Gaylord National on the Potomac in National Harbor, Maryland; Gaylord Rockies in Aurora, CO, opening late 2018; and The Inn at Opryland in Nashville. For more information, visit www.GaylordHotels.com.
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About Cirque Dreams & Neil Goldberg
Over 50 million people have experienced a Cirque Dreams show in theatres, casinos, theme parks, cruise lines, and on Broadway. For 25 years, Cirque Dreams shows have garnered the praise of critics around the country from USA Today, Associated Press and the New York Times to CNN,Today Show and Fox & Friends. Producer and Director Neil Goldberghas been declared “One of today’s leading theatrical impresarios” by The LA Times and “Uniquely ingenious” by the New York Daily News. The Cirque Dreams franchise is a globally recognized entertainment brand including, Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, Cirque Dreams Rocks, multiple Cirque Dreams Holidaze tours along with a return engagement to The Grand Ole Opry House, Cirque Dreams Unwrapped at Gaylord Palms Orlando Resort and Cirque Dreams & Dinner onboard Norwegian Cruise Line. Cirque Dreams recently joined VStar Entertainment Group o f quality family entertainment worldwide. For more information, visit www.CirqueProductions.com
About Warner Bros. Consumer Products
Warner Bros. Consumer Products, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, is one of the leading licensing and retail merchandising organizations in the world.
A CHRISTMAS STORY and all related characters and elements © & TM Turner Entertainment Co. (s18)
© Build-A-Bear Workshop, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
PEPSI is a registered trademark of PepsiCo, Inc.
The Elf on the Shelf® and ©2018 CCA and B, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Film Review: “King Cohen”

KING COHEN

Starring:  Larry Cohen, J.J. Abrams and Michael Moriarty

Directed by:  Steve Mitchell

Rated:  Not Rated

Running time:  1 hour 49 mins

Darkstar Pictures

 

As a teenager there were two film trailers shown on television that not only scared the hell out of me, but that I still remember vividly to this day.  One was for the film “Magic,” featuring Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margaret and a dummy named Fats, who would look into the camera and recite, “Hocus, pocus…we take her to bed.  “Magic” is fun.  YOU’RE DEAD!”  The other one began like this:  “There’s only one thing wrong with the Davis baby.  IT’S ALIVE!”

 

“King Cohen” is an excellent documentary about filmmaker Larry Cohen, whose films, including “It’s Alive!,” “The Stuff”  and “Q” have a devoted following of fans, including such successful directors as J.J Abrams, John Landis and Martin Scorcese.  All three of these men face the camera and expound on the effect Cohen has had on their own projects.  Abrams recalls a time when he was fifteen years old and running into Cohen on a Los Angeles street.  Cohen was lost and the young man pointed him in the right direction.  Decades later, when the two meet again, Cohen remembers Abrams as the kid who gave him directions.

 

Cohen grew up like many people in show business…wanting to be in show business.  He broke into television in the 1960s, writing for such shows as “Surfside Six,” “The Fugitive” and “Branded.”  Occasionally Cohen was ahead of the times.  A script he wrote for the show “Naked City” was turned down for being to “rough” for the times.  30 years later, Cohen sold the script to “N.Y.P.D. Blue.”

 

The film looks at the various films in Cohen’s career, with Cohen and others talking about his filmmaking process.  Cohen was often a true guerilla filmmaker, often putting a cameraman up on a fire escape and filming the passerby’s reactions.  For one film, he required a parade of 5,000 New York City.  To get the shot, he dressed Andy Kaufman up as a cop and had him join the rest of the boys in blue in marching across the city.  While filming a film dealing with J. Edgar Hoover in Washington D.C., Cohen learns the address where the former F.B.I. director lived and films a few scenes on the front lawn.

 

This film covers pretty much Cohen’s filmography, focusing more on the most popular films, especially “Q” and “The Stuff.”  Interviews with fellow filmmakers, crew members and actors such as Michael Moriarty and Eric Roberts gives the viewer every possible look at Cohen’s process.

 

All in all, “King Cohen” is one of the best documentaries about Hollywood to come down the pike in a very long time.  Now, if I could only get that Davis baby out of my head!

Film Review “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”

Directed by: Ol Parker
Starring: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski, Pierce Brosnan, Dominic Cooper, Colin Firth, Andy García, Stellan Skarsgård, Julie Walters, Cher, Meryl Streep
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 114 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Earlier this year I heard word that “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” was coming out and I thought to myself that it was a sequel that really no one asked for nor did it seem necessary…but the trailer was a lot of fun, so I was excited. The cast is all back along with some new great faces (more on that below). I really just enjoyed this movie a lot. It had tons of laughs followed up by some really solid drama (bring the tissues). I loved the balance of the two. Listen, I am not a huge ABBA fan but those songs seems to win me over and performed by these amazingly talented people makes it hard not to enjoy! I have a feeling that I will be seeing this film again soon in the theaters again perhaps if they have a Sing-a-long version (if you are reading this Universal) 😉

Let’s just talk about the cast, this film brought back EVERYONE! Amanda Seyfried looks better than ever, WOW, and her voice was on point. Christine Baranski and Julie Walters were amazing together again. I just love their characters. Pierce Brosnan was sweet in the film and really gave some heart. It’s looks like he was trying really hard, so I am throwing him a bone here. Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård were very funny again and added a lot of heart. Cher still has it let me tell you and she looks fantastic! Meryl Streep delivers a very emotional song and I really enjoyed her being back as she was. Some new faces Lily James and Andy Garcia were fantastic as well. Andy Garcia steals the show for me personally. Lily James though was simply perfect as a younger Donna. Her voice is extraordinary and she really nailed that carefree spirit and made you want to be like her (except for the three random hook-ups). I loved her in “Cinderella” and she is even more amazing in this!

Like I mentioned at first I thought this would be unnecessary, put I feel like the sequel does have some extra life in it that I didn’t expect. It takes place tn years after the first “Mamma Mia!” (which grossed more than $600 million around the world). In the film, we return to the Greek island of Kalokairi, where Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) running planning a grand re-opening of Donna’s (Meryl Streep) villa, who had past away a year prior. She finds herself thinking about her relationships and her future. With the arrival of friends and family to support they guide her through the opening event. Plenty of surprises along the way including an appear from Sophie’s grandmother played perfectly by Cher. The story intertwins with a flashback of Donna when she is young and how Sophie was led to be born, which also connects with Sophie today.

Let’s not forget the music now. “Mamma Mia” wouldn’t be “Mamma Mia” without the songs of ABBA. There is a decently balanced combo of new songs mixed with a few songs redone from the first film. At first, I really wasn’t too keen on hearing the same songs again but they were really well done, specifically “I Have A Dream” by Lily James. When you think about “Mamma Mia” though, I would want to hear “Dancing Queen” and songs like that, so this movie does not disappoint at all. This is a fun movie that has a really good heart and even though a little cheesy but you leave the theater smiling (and a little teary).

Film Review “Leave No Trace”

Starring: Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie
Directed by: Debra Granik
Rated: PG
Running Time: 1 hr 49 mins
Bleecker Street

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Has another star been born thanks to director/writer Debra Granik? While watching the powerful performance delivered by New Zealand-born actress Thomasin McKenzie in the new drama “Leave No Trace,” it is impossible to not think about what Granik once pulled out of a relatively unknown young actress named Jennifer Lawrence. It is perhaps an unfair comparison considering that Lawrence received the first of her four Oscar nominations for her role as a tough, teenage Ozarks girl in 2010’s “Winter’s Bone.” However, McKenzie, whose previous experience has primarily consisted of TV work, has, at roughly the same age as Lawrence was eight years ago, provided something that is special to watch on the silver screen. Through her eyes alone she projects her character’s tough, determined nature which she also reveals is just a façade masking a 13-year-old girl’s desperation to please a father traumatized by war.

The present-day setting for “Leave No Trace” is a heavily forested park on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. Widowed veteran Will (Ben Foster, Hell or High Water, The Messenger) and his daughter, Tom (McKenzie) live an isolated existence in the often damp and rainy woods. They survive by scavenging for food that nature provides them with only a few creature comforts of modern society. Will drills her on hiding techniques by making sure she leaves no trace of where she is at. Occasionally, they walk into Portland where he checks into a Veterans Administration hospital to get medications he later sells to other struggling vets to buy necessities for their life in the woods.

Their existence is changed forever when they are discovered by park rangers and law enforcement. Each is subsequently given a series of tests with social services questioning if she has ever been violated by her father. The system gives them a second chance to have a conventional life together as they are placed in a residence on tree/horse farm where Will is given a job. This new sense of normalcy is too much for Will as he cannot bring himself to be a part of society. The opposite happens with Tom whose introduction to a life outside of the one with her damaged father sparks a sense of curiosity within her and a desire to be a part of something more. This puts them on a collision course that will test the bonds of their relationship.

Based upon the 2009 book “My Abandonment” by American novelist Peter Rock, “Leave No Trace,” which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, is a moving work of genuine sadness that will pull at the heartstrings of anyone who has a heart. McKenzie is a revelation of such proportions that it is hard to think of another young actress who has demonstrated this level of promise since Lawrence. Her delivery is flawless as she brilliantly plays a young girl who has been forced to grow up faster than anyone her age ever should. There is a certain sense of tragedy about her, yet you can tell it has also forged an iron determination within her.

I would be negligent if I did not mention Foster who once again demonstrates how skillful of actor he has become in recent years. Pain leaks out of every pour in Foster’s skin as his character is so consumed by PTSD from combat that he is putting Tom in danger every day they are on the run without thinking about what he is doing. Unfortunately, like someone from a Greek tragedy Will is man who has fallen so far and is so broken that he simply cannot be fixed again. Foster does not have a lot of extensive dialogue to recite but his quiet moments speak volumes.

Although her story lacks the complexity of “Winter’s Bone,” Granik, who co-wrote the screenplay with Anne Rosellini, also a producer and writer on “Winter’s Bone,” has created something that will haunt you for a while after leaving the theater.

Film Review: “Skyscraper”

 

SKYSCRAPER

Starring:  Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell and Roland Moller

Directed by:  Rawson Marshall Thurber

Rated:  PG 13

Running time:  1 hour 42 mins

Universal

 

I can hear the studio pitch now.  “What if we combined “The Towering Inferno” with “Die Hard” and have the Rock play Bruce Willis, Paul Newman AND Steve McQueen rolled into one character?”  My answer?  “Hell yeah!”

 

When we first meet FBI Hostage Rescue Team Leader Will Sawyer (Johnson), he is leading his group in trying to arrange the surrender of a man who is also holding his young son.  Thinking he has resolved the situation, Will and his team are badly injured when the man, feigning surrender, detonates a bomb.  Waking up in the hospital, he is comforted by the reassuring face and words of trauma nurse Sarah (Campbell).

 

Jump ahead several years.  Will and Sarah are now married, with two young children.  They are in Hong Kong where Will, now a safety and security assessor, has been summoned to go over the world’s tallest building.  Without his O.K., the buildings lavish owner cannot get the 200-plus story building insured.  Things go well until Will is attacked by a mysterious person trying to get a computer tablet he possesses that gives him access to ALL of the building’s security protocols.  It seems someone doesn’t want the building to open.  EVER!

 

Full of some amazing set-pieces and some serious “jump in your seat” moments, “Skyscraper” is a film that rides capably on the back of Dwayne Johnson.  Will possesses both Willis’ John McClain’s personality while also embodying the caring about of the situation that Newman’s architect and McQueen’s fire chief did in “The Towering Inferno.”  But while the latter film’s destruction was due to an accident, “Skyscraper” deals with a nasty man by the name of Kores Botha (Moller).  He’s not as smooth as Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber, but he is as vicious.

 

The cast does a fine job in dealing with the situations around them, and I’m giving Johnson extra credit because, due to opening bomb explosion, Will is missing a leg, having to move about the building (and do some extraordinary stunt work) on a prosthetic leg.  And yes, while I realize it’s all CGI, Johnson moves and reacts as if he really is standing precariously on a piece of molded metal.  The story moves smoothly and represents a graduation to a new genre’ for writer/director Thurber, best known for creating the “Terry Tate, Linebacker” series of commercials as well as the film “Dodgeball:  A True Underdog Story.”  The film moves on and the action flows.  A definite hit for the hot days of July.

Film Review: “Eating Animals”

Starring: Natalie Portman
Directed by: Christopher Dillon Quinn
Rated: Unrated
Running Time: 1 hr 34 mins
IFC Films

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

After having reviewed movies for almost 20 years, it is a challenge to think of a work that has had more of a personal connection to yours truly than the new anti-factory farming documentary “Eating Animals,” with Academy Award-winner Natalie Portman providing its narration. For you see, even though I may be a mild-mannered film critic I have also been a family farmer my entire life, as has eight generations before me. “Eating Animals” doesn’t take aim on family farmers necessarily, but it most certainly shows what the effects of industrial farming has had on them since its skyrocketing growth beginning in the 1970s. The gross mistreatment of the animals we eat on our dinner plate is sickening to watch, but “Eating Animals” makes a valid point that it is nevertheless a dirty little secret everyone already knows yet chooses not to think about.

Director Christopher Dillon Quinn, who based his documentary on the 2009 novel of the same name by American author Jonathan Safran Foer, introduces us to a turkey farmer in Lindsborg, Kansas who is resorting to old practices of raising birds because of his disdain with genetically modified turkeys. Other farmers in the swine, dairy, beef, and fowl industries are also highlighted to demonstrate the difficulties they face trying to remain on their own. Quinn also examines the risks whistle blowers within the factory farm industry take when they try to shed light on the darkness. This latter point is punctuated with the enlightening and disturbing fact that several states have passed “Ag Gag” laws that essentially prohibit and punish whistle blowers.

Overall, there is nothing revolutionary about what “Eating Animals” has to say about family farms. It’s a tradition/business that has been vanishing at an alarming rate for a few decades now. Quinn wants to lay a lot of this at the feet of corporations like Tyson, who have indeed had a negative impact on farming communities that once thrived when small farmers cooperated with one another. Now the farmers who work under contract for a company like Tyson, according to “Eating Animals,” are prohibited from helping each other and are treated like indentured servants. However, there are many more factors that have led to the demise of family farming that is left out of Quinn’s documentary.

Farms were lost during the 1970s not simply because of the explosion of prepackaged frozen dinners, as the film implies was a part of the problem, but because interest rates rose so high during the latter part of the decade that some farmers went into bankruptcy thanks to the loans they took out on their land. Quinn also ignores the fact that because of the rising costs of land, equipment, and seed/feed, most young people cannot afford go into the business if they don’t inherit the land outright. (It’s no coincidence that the farmers he interviews are middle-aged men.) There’s also a lack of desire among increasing numbers of young people to put in the long hours that it requires 24/7, 365 to maintain a farm and make it successful. Not to mention that farming is one of the most dangerous jobs to have considering the equipment that’s used and what larger farm animals can do.

In a back-handed way, “Eating Animals” does slam farmers for the ones being responsible for the disappearance of a large, freshwater lake in California. No mention is made of the historic draught the Bear Flag Republic has endured over the past several years or the fact that without irrigation, crops and animals in many parts of that state could not thrive. Quinn’s effort also mentions animal feed laced with anti-biotics and how it has contributed to the rise of superbugs. Unfortunately for him this is not the case anymore as the use of antibiotics in feed was eliminated effective January 1, 2017. The real problem, and it’s not discussed enough, is the explosion in the world’s population over the past 50 years. The consequential soaring demand, in part manufactured by corporations like Tyson with clever marketing, is what has put extreme pressure on the farming industry and helped propel the rapid growth of factory or industrialized farming.

Quinn does a nice job of exploring some of the ecological consequences of the swine and fowl confinement houses in the Carolinas, and the horrific distortions of what nature had intended when it comes to the animals we eat. The images of animals being treated cruelly at these confinement houses is stomach churning to say the least and may very well turn some folks who watch this film into vegetarians. While “Eating Animals” is a solid documentary, it still fails to give this topic the thorough examination it requires and leaves out a lot of details it should have included.