Theatre Review “Disney’s Aladdin” @ Dr. Phillips Center – Orlando, FL

“Disney’s Aladdin” is one of my favorite movies and it is also one of the only Disney plays that I haven’t seen on Broadway. It opened at the New Amsterdam Theatre on March 20, 2014 and since then has become the 11th highest-grossing Broadway production of all time (as of May 2019), grossing over $400 million…and still going strong. The show is currently running from January 22nd through February 9th at the Dr. Phillips Center and it is a MUST SEE for the whole family.

Official Premise: From the producer of The Lion King comes the timeless story of Aladdin, a thrilling new production filled with unforgettable beauty, magic, comedy and breathtaking spectacle. It’s an extraordinary theatrical event where one lamp and three wishes make the possibilities infinite. Aladdin features all your favorite songs from the film as well as new music written by Tony® and Academy Award® winner Alan Menken (Newsies) with lyrics penned by the legendary Howard Ashman (Beauty and the Beast), Tony Award winner Tim Rice (The Lion KingAida), and book writer Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer). Directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw (The Book of MormonSomething Rotten!), this “Fabulous” and “Extravagant” (The New York Times) new musical boasts an incomparable design team, with sets, costumes and lighting from Tony Award winners Bob Crowley (Mary Poppins), Gregg Barnes (Kinky Boots), and Natasha Katz (An American in Paris).

Orlando native, Michael James Scott, played the role of the Genie and easily stole the show. Michael isn’t new to playing this role after though after being apart of the original Australian Cast (2016-2017), as well as taking on the U.S. National Tour (Jan-Aug 2018), took over the West End (Aug 2018-Feb 2019), and Broadway (Feb-Sept 2019). So as far as I am concerned Michael James Scott is the Genie. I literally loved every second he was on the stage. Such energy and such love for his craft.

Speaking of returning cast Jonathan Weir, who played Jafar in the original US tour cast as well taking over the reigns on Broadway. There was no shortage of talent on this stage. Jonathan was a riot with his companion Iago, played by Reggie De Leon. Together they both commanded the stage. Jonah Ho’Okano, who plays Aladdin, is also fresh off the boat from playing the lead in the Disney Cruise Line version of “Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular”. So he is also no stranger to the character.

The costumes are outstanding. There are so many quick changes that will leave you amazed as to how it is done. The colors are just so vibrant from the costumes to the set, which are also super elaborate – especially the Cave of Wonders. I absolutely loved the Cave of Wonders set. It was stunning and so well put together. Also “Whole New World” song was super impressive with the flying carpet, which I have no idea how it was done. This was a really beautiful moment of the evening.

Since this show running for a few weeks at Dr. Phillips Center, there are still plenty of time to get great seats for upcoming shows and Media Mikes had the tips for you to experience this amazing show. There are still great seats available for the following shows on Wednesday January 29th-Friday January 31st and from February 4th through Saturday February 8th. If you can make any of those shows, I cannot recommend any more to not miss this show. I had a smile on my face from the moment it started until the moment it ended. Definitely some magic happened at Walt Disney Theater.

Kansas City Stage Review: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – the Musical

  • “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
  • The Kauffman Center – Kansas City, Missouri
  • January 21, 2020 

Oh, how sweet it is! Filled with colorful costumes, magical set designs, and wonderful songs that will put a smile on your face, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” now performing at the Kauffman Performing Arts Center in Kansas City, Missouri, is a terrific musical the whole family can enjoy. Based upon the 1964 children’s novel of the same name by British novelist Roald Dahl (1916-90), “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was first adapted for the silver screen in 1971 and then again in 2005 before premiering as a musical in 2013 in London.

 The musical version takes us to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory where, after being shut up for 40 years, the legendary chocolatier (Cody Garcia) decides to venture out into the real world to find an heir. Disguised as a chocolate shop owner, Willy ends up befriending, in a small way, a local boy named Charlie Bucket (Ryan Umbarila). Charlie lives an impoverished life just down the block with two sets of grandparents, who never leave their bed, and his widowed, overworked mother. 

Charlie is a dreamer to the tenth degree and so, it’s only natural that he becomes enamored with the idea of getting a Wonka chocolate bar in order to get a golden ticket. The five lucky recipients of which will get to go on a tour of Willy’s factory with the chance to win a lifetime supply of chocolate. Of course, the whimsical and quirky Willy has other plans. Charlie ultimately proves himself to be a good-hearted lad, especially when compared to the other four children who reveal themselves to be brats, each meeting their own unique, laughable fate during the tour. 

The first half of the show contained a couple of heartfelt moments between Charlie and his Grandpa Joe (Steve McCoy) that pulled at the heartstrings. Umbarila had an overall nice stage presence but was overshadowed a bit by McCoy’s charismatic delivery of his comedic lines. Despite Charlie’s underdog nature, the most fascinating character remained Wonka himself. However, his portrayal during the first act was a little flat, which was accompanied by a sluggish pace even with a few entertaining dance sequences. 

The true highlight of the night’s show was the second act. It was fun, lively, colorful and thoroughly entertaining. Garcia delivered a superb performance down the stretch run with a portrayal that was reminiscent of a blend between Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp. Supported by a solid orchestral performance, the musical’s second act was punctuated by well-choreographed Oompa Loompas who generated the biggest laughs of the night. 

In the end, don’t wait for a golden ticket in a candy bar to see “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” because it will be gone before you know it. 

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” runs in Kansas City at the beautiful Kauffman Center through January 26th. For tickets in KC or for the rest of the tour, click HERE.

Film Review: “Three Christs”

THREE CHRISTS
Starring: Richard Gere, Peter Dinklage
Directed by: John Avnet
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hr 57 mins
IFC Films 

When you think of great films with mental hospitals as the setting, indelible titles such as 1975’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” or 1990’s “Awakenings” probably come to mind. With a similar backdrop, the drama “Three Christs,” starring Richard Gere, boldly attempts to delve into the realm of paranoid schizophrenia by exploring a time when pre-fontal lobotomies, insulin-induced comas, and electroshock therapies were standard treatments. Directed by John Avnet (“Fried Green Tomatoes”), “Three Christs” alas fails to achieve any level of greatness as it is saturated with terrible melodrama and an overall lack of emotional connectivity.

 An adaptation of the 1964 psychiatric case study “The Three Christs of Ypsilanti” by psychologist Milton Rokeach, “Three Christs” takes us back to December 1960 when a bruised Dr. Alan Stone (Gere) is recording a defense of himself against accusations leveled at him by a disciplinary board. It’s a nice hook as it gives off a sense of mystery. We are soon taken back to the beginning during the summer of 1959 when he arrives at the Ypsilanti State Hospital.

 Having left a prolific teaching and writing career to pursue a study of delusional patients, Dr. Stone, with the help of his new assistant Becky (Charlotte Hope, “The Theory of Everything”), finds three men who all claim to be Jesus Christ. Joseph (Peter Dinklage), Leon (Walton Goggins) and Clyde (Bradley Whitford) are tragic figures with sad pasts. Each has been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenics and left to essentially rot in near-barbaric conditions. 

With the encouragement of his wife (Julianna Marguiles), Dr. Stone challenges his peers and a reluctant hospital head by using more modern methods that don’t involve inflicting pain. The irony is that he is treating three men collectively who believe they are Christ while he himself does not believe in organized religion. Gradually he makes progress, but countless roadblocks make it a treacherous path. 

Despite having a solid cast, “Three Christs” falls flat on nearly every level imaginable. The story is without any unique qualities as it feels like any other run-of-the-mill medical drama. Its characters are nothing special and Gere seems to just rely upon every facial gesture he has ever used in his past films instead of pushing for something more. The pacing is sluggish, and the plot is predictable. Gere is also not believable as the father to two young, pre-teen daughters considering he was roughly 67 years old at the time of filming. Furthermore, we are supposed to believe Dr. Stone fought in WWII and Korea. Assuming his character matches his age, then Dr. Stone would have been 59 or 60 while fighting on the front lines against North Korea. Uh, no. Of course, to be fair I should mention the rest of the cast, which can be covered in one statement – every actor is so over-the-top with their performances you have to wonder how on earth the film ever got released, much less contemplate if Avnet should ever direct again. 

In the end, “Three Christs” is a strikeout.

Film Review: “Bad Boys for Life”

BAD BOYS FOR LIFE
Starring:  Will Smith, Martin Lawrence and Joe Pantoliano
Directed by: Adil and Billal
Rated:  R
Running time:  2 hrs 3 mins
Sony Pictures

Riggs and Murtaugh.  Carter and Lee.  Tango and Cash. 

The law enforcement teams above are some of the most beloved in film history.  Another powerhouse was the team of Miami-based cops named Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett.  Starting with 1995’s “Bad Boys” and continuing with the 2003 sequel “Bad Boys 2,” the two blazed their way across the screen with flashy cars and blazing guns.  It’s been awhile, but Lowrexy (Smith) and Burnett (Lawrence) are back…and it’s a welcome return.

It’s an ordinary day at the women’s prison.  In the laundry, the inmates do their best to fold and stack.  However, one inmate (Kate del Castillo) is motionless, staring off as if she was in a trance.  When she’s approached she suddenly springs to life.  The carnage that follows is horrific.

Meanwhile, in Miami, Detectives Lowery and Burnett are speeding through the streets in Lowery’s Porsche.  Their destination:  the local hospital, where Burnett’s daughter is about to give birth.  The new grandchild causes Burnett to rethink his future and soon he informs Lowery and their captain (the always great Joe Pantoliano) that he is going to retire.  But when you’re a “bad boy” do you ever really retire?

Moving at an almost breakneck speed, “Bad Boys for Life” plays on screen like a live action version of “Grand Theft Auto.”  The pace is fast, yet the plot never feels rushed.  Smith and Lawrence have great chemistry together and their playful banter feels natural.  They are assisted by strong supporting turns from Paola Nunez and rapper DJ Khaled, who does well in a small role.  And for fans of the original, keep your eyes open for a cameo from “Bad Boys” director Michael Bay.   

The production values are outstanding, with all of the light and color of Miami on display.  And I don’t know what cops in Miami make but Lowery seems quite comfortable in his penthouse pad and speedy Porsche.  All in all, a fine return to the screen for Lowrey and Burnett.  Now whatcha’ gonna do ‘til they come back for you?

Film Review: “Reality Queen!”

  • REALITY QUEEN!
  • Starring:  Julia Faye West, Denise Richards and Mike Tyson
  • Directed by: Steven Jay Bernheim
  • Rated:  Not Rated
  • Running time:  1 hr 24 mins
  • High Octane Pictures

You can’t get away from “them.”  The Kardashians.  The various Housewives of various counties.  “The Bachelorette.”  For good or bad, reality television has grabbed a major part of the world’s attention and, like it or not, it’s here to stay.

London Logo (Ms.West) is a CELEBRITY.  I use all caps to emphasize her status.  Known for her frequent magazine appearances, annual “nip slip” awards and exiting cars sans underwear, London is a mix of Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson rolled up into one.  When things begin to go bad for London, who finds her fame declining with the appearance of the large-assed Kim sisters, she agrees to participate in a documentary about herself which will open the eyes of everyone involved.

As a critic, “Reality Queen!” is the kind of film you love to discover.  Cleverly written by a gaggle of writers, including director Bernheim, the film is an amazingly precedent look at the state of “fame” today.  Nothing is sacred as zinger after zinger is thrown out and the jokes hit much more often then they miss, a testament not only to the script but to the cast.

As London, Ms. West proves herself to be a fine comedienne.  Movies like this often rest on the shoulders of the actors who, if they don’t deliver the lines properly, bring the production down to the level of any recent National Lampoon film that didn’t begin with the words Van and Wilder.  She is also breathtakingly beautiful.  Denise Richards co-stars as London’s best friend, an actress named Angelina Streisand.  She also shows fine comic timing.  Other standouts include Loren Lister as London’s put-upon publicist, Cliff De Young and Jill Jacobson as London’s parents, the amazing Charles Fleischer as a Larry King-ish television host, Kate Orsini as the documentary reporter and the late John Witherspoon in one of his final film appearances.

Mr. Bernheim keeps the pace moving smoothly and I must give credit to he and production designer Ryan Henneman, whose production values are amazing for a film you normally wouldn’t consider “big budget.”  If you’re not in the mood for football this weekend, I highly recommend checking out “Reality Queen!”

4K Ultra HD Review “Gemini Man”

Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen
Paramount Pictures
Running Time: 117 minutes

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
4K UHD: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“Gemini Man” isn’t a film I wanted to see at all. The trailers looks boring to me despite action sequences. After watching the movie, I was proved right in my assumptions. The movie was bland, predictable and packed a real terrible ending. Will Smith tries his best but there is just too much Will Smith here and I didn’t think that was possible. The film does have some solid visual effects though.

Despite my feelings on the film, I was mega impressed with the fact that this 4K Ultra HD release includes a first for Paramount. The 4K Ultra HD disc is encoded in 60FPS (frames-per-second) for exceptional sharpness and clarity. The standard Blu-ray release comes with the film presented in 24FPS, if you are a film buff this is a pretty cool deal. There is also an exclusive visual effects scene breakdown presented by WETA in 60FPS, Ultra HD and High Dynamic Range in the special features.

The 4K Ultra HD disc presents the film in Dolby Vision®, which brings entertainment to life through ultra-vivid picture quality with spectacular colors, highlights that are up to 40 times brighter, and blacks that are 10 times darker.  This film is the first ever Dolby Vision high frame rate disc to be released.  Also included this disc boasts a Dolby Atmos® soundtrack. The film comes including a 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital copy of the film.

Official Premise: Will Smith stars as retired hitman Henry Brogan, forced on the run by a young, highly skilled operative who will stop at nothing to eliminate his target.  Now on a race around the globe, Henry must outsmart the mysterious assassin at every step – but how far will he go once they finally come face to face?  Packed with epic fight scenes and groundbreaking visual effects,  “Gemini Man” is the future of action movies.

The bonus features include an Alternate Opening (even though this film needed an alternate ending more so), some Deleted Scenes and a few featurettes including: The Genesis of Gemini Man, Facing Your Younger Self, The Future Is Now, Setting the Action, Next Level Detail and The Vision of Ang Lee. The Visual Effects Progression presented by WETA in 60FPS is only available on the 4K UHD disc. Even though I didn’t like the film this extra was work checking out for sure.

Review: Wicked the Musical – A Brilliant Retelling of the Classic Story

Wicked the musical first opened on Broadway back in 2003. Since then it is one of the top-grossing musical of the twenty-first century. The production features several elements that make it a mega musical. Which includes its spectacular visual effects, musical themes, and capable cast.

Overall, wicked is a masterpiece which navigates us around racism against what’s different. It remarkably presents to us a retelling of a story we all are used to love but never paid attention to its other perspective. Its protagonist a socially isolated class and how impressive a bond can be to remove such differences. It speaks to its audience by telling a fresh and progressive story.

For more information

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_(musical)
https://www.tickets4musical.com/wicked-tickets

Wicked the Musical – Storyline:

Wicked the musical is an inspiring adaptation of a classic story and movie “The Wizard of Oz’. The 1900 novel by L. Frank Baum and the film is a production of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

The story we all know is the story of ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’. However, this musical sheds light on a slightly different person ‘The Wicked Witch of the West’. For those who had not seen the musical before can get tickets from tickets4musical.com. The musical shows the relationship of Glinda, the Good Witch, and Elphaba, the wicked green witch. They meet for the very first time at the Shiz University and from there grow into characters we know from the original story.

We can say that the story empathizes Elphaba. An outcast and shamed witch only because she has green skin. She possessed unusual magic skills perhaps that is the reason nobody was willing to accept her. Yet there are some truly kind and loving people still alive. Who despite the initial awkwardness accepted her and offered their hand in friendship.

Wicked An Audience Favorite To Date:

The musical has broken every record of musical theater. Since opening, it’s been loved and has had many successful, long-running productions all over the world. Which includes on Broadway on the West-End, and one to many tours.

The show is a must-see and shines through in every scene, every staging. The overgenerous shine of the stage during musical’s #1 score ‘One Short Day’ is incomparable. Plus, the attire of the cast during this song fabulously detailed with gowns and suits complements the scenery. Another same popular show is the Lion King musical https://www.tickets4musical.com/the-lion-king-tickets of same time.

The scenes where Glinda descends in her fascinating bubble from the ceiling, and at the start of the show in her breathtaking gown will always be our favorite.

Every moment, every character brings the fantastical world of Oz to life. The whole group of cast and creative have such bright energy that shines through their work and captivates the audience. 

Wicked The Musical – Achievements:

The Wicked Broadway original production was nominated for 10 Tony Awards in 2004. Which includes Best Musical, Book, Orchestrations, Original Score, Choreography, Costume Design, Lighting Design, and Scenic Design. It also received two nominations for Best Actress the same year for Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth. The award was for their respective roles as Elphaba and Glinda. In which, Menzel won the award.

Then the show went ahead and won the Tony Awards for Best Scenic Design and Best Costume Design. In the same year, it won 6 out of 11 Drama Desk Awards nominations. Which included Outstanding Musical, Book, Director and Costume Design. Moreover, the production has also received 4 Outer Critics Circle Awards. Aside from this, the original Broadway cast received the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.

Awards And Nominations Received According To Subsequent Productions:

Wicked’s West End production received 5 Laurence Olivier Award nominations. Later it won the Audience Award for Most Popular Show at the 2010 award ceremony. Likewise, the original Australian production won 6 out of 12 Helpmann Award nominations, counting Best Musical. Jesus Christ Superstar is also the best show now a days and its cheap Jesus Christ Superstar tickets can be purchased online.

Critical Acclamations:

Other than receiving nominations and reward the musical has been widely acclaimed by critics. Entertainment Weekly magazine entitled it the Best Musical of the Decade. While Variety magazine called it “a cultural phenomenon”.

In the Entertainment Weekly’s list of The 100 Greatest Characters of the Past 20 Years, the character of Elphaba was ranked at #79.

Conclusion:

Wicked the musical offers an experience that leaves a mark in your hear for a lifetime. As I mentioned earlier it is one of the longest-running show but despite all that, each experience is fresh as it was the first time. From the original cast member to ensembles and new troupes every single one of them is iconic.

Each of them offers their own respective grace to their characters. Still, they work together to bring the production to success. Despite its bittersweet ending, the show a nice reminder to treat each other with kindness and accept them without judgment.

If this review piques your interest I suggest go and watch the show right now. Click Here to Get Your Cheap Wicked Tickets from Tickets4musical. Pick your favorite seats and have fun experiencing a no-hassle purchase.

Film Review: “Just Mercy”

JUST MERCY
Starring:  Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson
Directed by: Destin Daniel Cretton
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  2 hrs 16 mins
Warner Bros

Recently here in Kansas City a gentleman was released from prison after serving 17-years for a crime he didn’t commit.  Naturally, your heart goes out to him and his family but, even in your worst dreams, there is really no way to understand what he went through.  I mention this because injustice is the theme from the new film “Just Mercy.”

Monroeville, Alabama.  Fans of the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” will recognize the town as the birthplace of author Harpee Lee.  It was also the birthplace of Walter McMillan.  We meet Walter (Foxx, in a top notch performance) in the woods, cutting down a tree and enjoying the freedom of nature.  However, Walter’s life takes a dark detour when he is arrested for, and convicted of, the murder of a young white woman.  I mention the victim’s race because that is an important part of the story.  You see, Walter is black.  Found guilty (in an amazing precedent the jury sentenced Walter to life in prison and the trial judge overrode the decision and sentenced Walter to death) he’s sat on death row for the past six years, waiting for the horrible dream his life has become to end.  Enter Bryan Stevenson (Jordan, equally strong) a young, Harvard-educated lawyer who has received a grant to start an advocacy program for inmates on death row.  To say Bryan is welcomed with open arms would be a lie.  More like welcomed with clenched fist – and closed minds.

A powerful film that pulls at your emotions, “Just Mercy” is based on a true story, one of racial bias and unscrupulous people.  It’s almost fate that the story takes place in the birthplace of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” That bit of information is played up by the locals, who urge Bryan to visit the Mockingbird Museum and stand in the same courthouse as Atticus Finch.  But “Mockingbird” also deals with the trial of an innocent black man, Tom Robinson, who is falsely accused and, even though there is mounds of evidence to prove his innocence, is found guilty.  Bryan, like Atticus Finch before him, believes in the system and can’t understand how that system has failed Walter.

As noted above, the performances from Mr. Jordan and Mr. Foxx are powerful.  Jordan continues to add great work to his resume’ and this is easily Mr. Foxx’s best performance in years.  As Bryan’s assistant Eva Ansley, Brie Larson delivers in a true supporting role and Tim Blake Nelson is well cast as a fellow convict whose testimony sent Walter to prison.  The film is well paced and Mr. Cretton’s direction is spot on, his camera capturing the little things that help make the story a powerful one.  He has definitely created one of the best films of 2019.

Film Review: “1917”

1917
Starring: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Rated: Rated R
Running Time: 118 minutes
Universal Pictures 

With three Golden Globe nominations, “1917” is not only a masterful example of the war film genre, but it is also a masterpiece of cinema in general. Directed by Oscar-winning British filmmaker Sam Mendes (“Skyfall,” “The Road to Perdition”), who also co-wrote the screenplay with Krysty Wilson-Cairns (“Penny Dreadful”), “1917” is a highly accurate depiction of the Great War with a plot that is essentially Great Britain’s “Saving Private Ryan.”

 The story takes place during Operation Alberich, a strategic German military withdrawal lasting from February 9 to March 20, 1917 in France. Its purpose was to shorten German lines along a section of the Western Front in order to consolidate forces along the Hindenburg Line. “1917” plays upon this event by thrusting two young men into what appears to be an impossible mission.

 British Lance Corporals Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman, “The King,” “Game of Thrones”) and Schofield (George MacKay, “Where Hands Touch,” “Captain Fantastic”) are suddenly pulled away from their unit on orders from their overall commander, General Erinmore (Colin Firth). The general needs a message dispatched deep into German territory to stop the advance of a Colonel MacKenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch), who believes he is pursuing a defeated enemy when in fact it is a trap that will cost the lives of 1,600 men including Lance Corporal Blake’s brother. 

Lance Corporal Schofield is the more seasoned veteran of the two and is wary of crossing No Man’s Land as he believes they are the ones who are walking into a trap. However, Lance Corporal Blake is doggedly determined go through with the mission, which must be completed by the next morning when the fateful offensive by Colonel MacKenzie is planned. In their way lies a myriad of obstacles including endless amounts of mud, deep craters, barbed wire, booby traps and German snipers. It is a heart-pounding, near-continuous sequence of events that will leave you riveted to the silver screen. 

Historically, “1917” delivers the goods with its accurate depiction of trench warfare ranging from the uniforms worn to the hellish conditions to the psychological effects on the soldiers. Painstaking care was clearly made to get every battlefield detail right as well as an accurate depiction of the Germans’ scorched earth policy as they pulled back to the Hindenburg Line. “1917” also delves into the toll the German occupation had on the French civilian population, best embodied by a young woman barely surviving in a burned-out city. 

Chapman and MacKay deliver solid performances throughout the film as they humanize their characters, thereby making it easy for us to become emotionally invested in their epic journey. The biggest praise, though, is reserved for Mendes direction. For example, the first half of the nearly two-hour film, which does not feel that long, is shot so seamlessly that it has all the appearance of being one, long continuous take. His orchestration of mass chaos with a multitude of extras and cameras, not to mention how his hand-held work puts us right in the trenches, is worthy of an Oscar for best cinematography. “1917” is nothing less than one of the ten best movies of 2019.

Toy Review: Playmobil The Movie “Del’s Food Truck”

“Playmobil The Movie”

Del’s Food Truck

Playmobil

Our Score:  4 out of 5 stars

By chance siblings Marla and Charlie are drawn into the magical Playmobil universe and separated. To find Charlie again, Marla must embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Fortunately she meets Del, a crazed food truck driver, who helps her to find her way in this fantastic world with its wacky rules. Matching the cinema launch, Is the “Del’s Food Truck” play set consisting of film characters Marla in college jacket and Del, Del’s red food truck with equipment, sleeping serum, magic hay and many other extras that let you relive the adventure of the film and beyond all from your very own home.

Playmobil continues to make their mark on the always growing licensed toy market however this time it’s a license of their own creation. Based off the recently released “Playmobil The Movie” youngsters and fans of the film can relive all hysterical action from the film. We had a chance to check one of the key pieces in the set and from the movie “Del’s Food Truck”. Packed with tons of cool details and accessories this play set will have you up and going on adventures in no time. From a parent’s stand-point there is quite a bit of assembly and sticker-ing which needs to be done so be prepared for several “are you done yet?” questions from your young ones. Also I do want to point out that a lot of the parts in this set are quite small so you will defiantly want to make sure your loved one is passed the “putting stuff in the mouth” phase before handing this over However, once you have the truck assembled and all the food in-place you probably won’t see your loved one for a bit as they surely will be busy providing food and fun to other toys in their expansive collections. Our in-house toy tester Ian provided spicy burritos and magic hay to anyone he could. I think our dog Damon even took part in an adventure or two which was quite entertaining to say the least given his rather anti-social personality.

I can’t say it enough; this is probably one of the most detailed sets to date from the fine folks at Playmobil. From labeled food cans to Del’s removable rubber slides there was no expense spared. I would have like to have seen a few less stickers to put on (mainly the really smalls one) however once on everything looked great. Scale wise everything matches to previous Playmobil sets allowing for seamless play between other sets allowing you and/or your loves ones to create endless scenarios time and time again across all Playmobil licenses.

Film Review: “CATS”

CATS
Starring:  Idris Elba, Rebel Wilson and Judi Dench
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Rated:  PG
Running time:  1 hr 50 mins
Universal

I lived on the east coast for many years – from 1982 through 1995.  I was a frequent visitor to New York City and, every time I would walk by the Winter Garden Theater I would see the words “Now and Forever.”  These words were very true when it came to the show playing at the Winter Garden: the musical “CATS,” as it ran on Broadway for a then-record 18 years!  This week, 37-years after it opened on Broadway, “CATS” has finally come to the big screen.

We open on a London street where we see a car pull into an alley.  A woman takes a bag out of the car and casually throws it towards the garbage bins.  The bag lands with a thud and begins to move.  As the woman drives off the bag is surrounded by a motley group of cats.  They open the bag to discover a young cat who is obviously frightened.  One by one the cats introduce themselves.  So begins the film adaptation of the Tony-award winning Best Musical, “CATS.”

How do I describe this film?  When the trailer first premiered many people, myself included, were confused by what the film was being portrayed as.  It seemed almost like a joke, the way the cat characters were jumping around on over-sized furniture.  But it wasn’t a joke.  Unlike the Broadway show, which takes place in a junkyard, director Tom Hooper has opened up the sets, allowing the feline characters to jump on beds, sing on library steps and even tap dance across a railroad tie.  Fun stuff, to be sure, but creepy as heck.  And while the cast gives its all, the show seems to almost come to a stop in between musical numbers.

The cast is phenomenal, featuring everyone from revered actors like Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen to pop singer Taylor Swift.  Others spinning a yarn include Rebel Wilson, Jennifer Hudson and Ray Winstone.  Heck, even Idris Elba gets in on the action.  The actors are fine…they just don’t have shoulders enough to carry the film.

The high points here are the make-up, special effects and choreography.  Rather than follow in the footsteps of Broadway, where the cast wore unitards, here the very expressive faces of the cast are modified with whiskers and CGI.  Most of the makeup is fine, but Judi Dench comes off looking like Bert Lahr’s older sister from “The Wizard of Oz.”  The musical numbers, of course, are superb, which is a no brainer when you’re dealing with Andrew Lloyd Weber.  Sadly a few people in my screening fell asleep but those of us who stayed awake were treated to a very different way to tell a story.

If you’re a fan of the musical, or a member of the cast, then by all means go see “CATS.”  If you’re not a fan of musical theatre, go stand in line and see “Star Wars” again.

Film Review: “The Two Popes”

Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Anthony Hopkins, Juan Minujin
Directed By: Fernando Meirelles
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 126mins
Netflix

In 2013, the Catholic church faced a prospect it had not dealt with in 600 years when Pope Benedict XVI decided to step down as head of the Catholic Church. Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named as his successor, taking the title of Pope Francis. The official reason Benedict gave was declining health but he also did so in the face of mounting progressive movements among the global congregation as well as the rampant allegations of sexual abuse from clergy. In Netflix’s new film, The Two Popes, writer Anthony McCarten (“Darkest Hour”) stages an imagined meeting of the minds between Benedict and Bergoglio before this changing of the guard. Each of the men having crises of faith and trying to convince the other to keep or take on the title, respectively. Fortunately for director Fernando Meirelles, acting legends Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce stepped in to play these two. Unfortunately for viewers, their discussions do not dominate the entire film as you might hope nor do those talks address the church scandals in a meaningful way. That Meirelles’s film manages to tread through such tonally rocky terrain without more of an issue is down to great performances from Pryce and Hopkins.

Meirelles’s film opens amidst the death of Pope John Paul II and the ensuing 2005 papal conclave. The highly secretive process requires a super majority of the cardinals convening in Rome to elect a new pope. Publicly it was a spectacle in which crowds gathered in St Peter’s Square in eager anticipation of seeing white smoke to signal that choice had been made. The interior specifics of this conclave were under official oaths of secrecy. The film brings this all to vivid life within a recreation of the Vatican and introduces Bergoglio (Pryce) and Ratzinger (Hopkins) as opposing roads for the church to take at this crucial moment in time. Ratzinger is the more conservative of the two and glad-hands the other attendees like a politician while Bergoglio downplays talk from his peers who insist he is also a favorite. Ratzinger, redubbed Benedict, wins the votes. 

Anthony McCarten’s script is based on his own stage play of this story and the best parts of this film felt like a stage production. The film easily moves from the spectacle of the conclave to the intimate summit between Hopkins and Pryce with Bergoglio seeking to tender his resignation from a Benedict who refuses to grant the request. Hopkins plays Benedict here with an air of mischief that lifts all their interactions. Bergoglio is pressing Benedict with his sincere desire to leave while Benedict brushes him off and inconveniences him at every turn. Their dialogue is also peppered with charming little old man moments. Bergoglio being the more “in touch” of the two brings both ABBA and the Beatles into the discussion for example. But once the gravity of Benedict wanting to leave takes priority–he speaks of losing touch with the voice of god–and Bergoglio’s reluctance has to be supported by how he got to where he is, the film drags. As interesting as it is and as capable an actor Juan Minujín is at playing the younger version of Pryce in war torn Argentina, it shifts the focus of the film down in taking it entirely through his past.

It’s also jarring to have the two old men watching the World Cup as though they’re in a set up from Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip while literally dropping out the audio of Benedict confessing regarding the abuse scandal later in the film. Such a jarring decision when we’ve already seen a lot of Bergoglio’s rough past, made me wonder if they knew acknowledging this darkness was a bridge too far in tone, your mileage may vary. Either way, I was grateful to see these two acting legends share the screen as much as they did.  

The Two Popes is now streaming on Netflix

Head to the Danger Zone: Top Gun Slots Review

Casinos have a vast selection of slot games with themes ranging from sports to cartoons, music to fantasy and everything in between. If you are new to the world of slots, you will be delighted to learn that you can try them without spending any money at online casinos which offer free spins with no deposit which we have found for you. You can sign up to the offers and get to play for free without having to make a deposit. Movie slots are popular and one of our most favourite games is a nod back to the 80’s and comes in the form of the Top Gun Slots.

Top Gun the Film

If you haven’t seen the film for a few years then here is a quick recap. Feckless hero Maverick, played by Hollywood hunk Tom Cruise, is on a mission to be the best of the best. Reckless and branded a danger, he doesn’t care who he hurts on the way to the top. Until the fateful day that his best friend Goose is hit and ends up smashing into the cockpit release glass, dying on impact. With Meg Ryan playing his grieving widow and Maverick’s girlfriend Charlie, played by Kelly McGillis, on his case the hero is prevented from ruining his career when he becomes wracked with guilt. The film is both action-packed for octane seekers and brimming with emotion for romance lovers.

Top Gun the Slots

As you might expect, there is plenty of imagery from the film in the Top Gun slots. It is now owned by software giants Playtech who acquired it from the original developers IGT. On the five reels, you will find most of the big stars from the movie featuring as symbols on the reels. Maverick is missing, this is thought to be an infringement issue, but the game is still packed full of everyone else that you love. With 243 different ways to win, it comes as no surprise that there are win triggers associated with almost every symbol including Charlie, Goose, Iceman, Jester and more. The reels also feature iconic symbols such as the bomber jacket, the Ray-Ban sunnies and the fighter jets which also fly in and create Dogfight Wilds. You can also trigger the Danger Zone Free Game, which gives you some extra chances to win big. This is a real adrenaline-charged adventure that fans of the movie will love.

Film Review: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

STAR WARS:  THE RISE OF SKYWALKER
Starring:  Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  2 hr 21 mins
Walt Disney

In 1977, theatre owners everywhere were excited about an upcoming film from 20th Century Fox that they were sure was going to fill their theatres for weeks.

That film was “The Other Side of Midnight.”  Based on a very popular best-selling book, the demand for the film was so great that the studio was able to do a little quid-pro-quo with the owners.  If you promise to play this little space movie we have coming out in May we will make sure you get “The Other Side of Midnight.”  That “little space movie” was, of course, “Star Wars.”  The punchline to this story is that “Star Wars” proved to be so popular that, when “The Other Side of Midnight” opened two weeks later, many theatres NEVER played it as they were still filling the house.  I’m pretty sure I can guarantee that the final installment in the original series will do the same.

Let me begin by saying this will be a spoiler-free review.  Not only because the studio asked critics not to give anything away but also because if, like me, you’ve got 40-plus years of your life invested in the saga you don’t want some pencil neck with a computer spoiling your fun.  The story begins with our heroes Rey (Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron  (Oscar Isaac) still trying to defeat the First Order, led by Kylo Ren (Driver).  While Rey continues her Jedi training, Kylo Ren is raging his way through the galaxy, hoping to confront the all-powerful Emperor, the leader of the evil Sith.  Things are getting bleak for the resistance and General Leia Organa (Fisher) is out of ideas.  Will the final pieces of the rebellion be destroyed?  Sorry, the studio won’t let me tell you!

Here’s what I can tell you.  Director J.J. Abrams, who co-wrote the screenplay with Oscar-winning screenwriter Chris Terrio (“Argo) has crafted a story that should satisfy every “Star Wars” fan in the galaxy.  Old friends return while new friends extend the story.  You would have to have a heart colder than a Wampa not to enjoy this movie.

The cast is top-notch, with the three principal actors having grown into their roles.  It is obvious they are much more comfortable here than they were in Episode VII (“The Force Awakens”).  Rey is certainly my grandchildren’s version of “Alien” crewmember Ellen Ripley, a strong, young woman that others can look up to and admire.  Fisher’s Princess Leia in the original trilogy was the same kind of character and Ms. Ridley gives her both an outer and inner toughness, though the goodness she possesses is also visible.  Both Boyega and Isaac have larger roles here.  Finn is much more decisive in his actions while it’s nice to see Poe NOT in a spaceship for the majority of the film.  The filmmakers were able to include Carrie Fisher in the story by reshaping scenes she filmed for “The Force Awakens” and it is a joy to see her on the big screen one last time.

Driver has also grown into the role.  To me he came off as a little wimpy when he was introduced in “The Force Awakens” but here he is downright terrifying.  The man has some serious anger (and family) issues and you don’t want to be near him when he snaps.  To counter the intensity of some scenes Abrams has also included some good, old fashioned humor and the jokes play well.

Visually, of course, the film is a masterpiece.  Battles between literally hundreds of ships take your breath away and the musical score, by the great John Williams, is a perfect accompaniment to the action on screen.

The original 1977 STAR WARS campaign book.

In the spring of 1977 some friends of mine and I wrote away to 20th Century Fox for some information on “Star Wars.”  We each received a beautiful full-color campaign book, which I still have.  I was 16 when “Star Wars” came out.  Like many people my friends and I went to the theatre not knowing what to expect and walked out hooked.  I enjoyed the films so much that half of my basement is crowded with “Star Wars” memorabilia.  I was even asked to moderate the 40th Anniversary Q&A event that was held in Kansas City.  “Star Wars” is, and has been, a very important and memorable part of my life and I must say that “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” is the perfect ending to my childhood!

Concert Review: “Tid The Season” 2019, Buffalo, NY

“Tid The Season” 2019

Every Time I Die, Against Me, The Damned Things, Terror, Harms Way, All Get Out, Mercy Union

Friday, December 13th, 2019

Riverworks, Buffalo, NY

Our score 4 out of 5 stars

Buffalo’s favorite sons Every Time I Die kicked off their two day “Tid The Season” event on December 13th at the expansive Riverworks complex in Buffalo, NY. The annual event which this year was spread across two days features tons of great music, ice skating, curling, a bucking reindeer and on day two a full card of Pro Wrestling. With both nights of the event being sold out well in advance the venue quickly became packed with fans from all points of globe who were anxious to see what the ETID boys had in-store as a thank you to their rabid fan base.

With Riverworks now in its 3rd year of hosting the annual Christmas show the venue and crew operate a tight ship as the night’s first group Mercy Union started promptly at 5pm. The New Jersey based group performed a brief upbeat set which helped warm fans up as they patiently made their way in from the cold and on to the venues large corridor and balcony. Leaving little time for the energy to wane indie rockers All Get Out would perform next. The group wasted little time getting acquainted with the growing crowd as they blasted through songs from their “Northport Sessions” release which the audience seemed to enjoy. Harms Way would follow taking the evening into a much heavy direction as vocalist James Pligge and company laid down a thunderous dirge of homegrown Chicago hardcore which almost instantly whipped the crowd into a circular frenzy for nearly the entire set. Hardcore veterans Terror would take the stage next serving as the explosive catalyst that the capacity crowd had anxiously been waiting for. Helmed by Buffalo native Scott Vogel the band easily put down one of, if not the best performance of the night. As the band blasted through songs from their seven album catalog, countless bodies made their way over the heavily manned security gate seemingly fueling the bands ferocity. Later on in the set Vogel stoked the coals even further buy demanding the crowd put the security to work which in turn caused even more bodies to fly towards the stage nearly decimating the yellow shirt clad staff.

The collective group known as The Damn Things followed for what would be the groups second ever Buffalo performance. Consisting of Anthrax’s Scott Ian, Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano, Fall Out Boy’s Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley and fronted by Every Time I Die vocalist Keith Buckley the group put on a really impressive set for a group who doesn’t play together all that often. Songs like “Cells”, “Omen” and “We’ve Got a Situation Here” sounded great and showcased each of the member’s musicality outside of their natural habitats. Filling the slot normally labeled as “Direct Support” was the punk rock group Against Me! which on paper may have had some scratching their heads given the aggressive sound of the other bands on the bill however the staple four piece group quickly alleviated any doubts people had as they performed songs like “I Was A Teenage Anarchist”, “Dead Friend” and “Cliché Guevara” before closing out the sixty minute set with the song “Black Me Out” from the groups 2014 album “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”. 

Closing out the night were event hosts Every Time I Die. As the group came to the stage cloaked behind a giant curtain where a fire place was being projected while Christmas music blared over the PA you could feel the anticipation come to a boiling point. As the curtain dropped and several air cannons and sparklers erupted the moment everyone was waiting for had finally arrived. The band opened the set their song “Floater” before bridging into the songs “Pelican” and “Glitches”. Guitarist Jordan Buckley and Andy Williams along with bassist Steve Micciche dominated the stage from all angles while drummer Clayton “Goose” Holyoak and vocalist Keith Buckley handle business from their prospective perch’s. The band who has been touring off and on this year in between writing for a new record sounded great as always and in between numbers thanks fans for their continued support over the years. To further show their support the band treated the crowd to a new song they have been working on titled “Back Distance”. Like much of the bands previous work fans quickly showed their acceptance and appreciation for the song as they kicked, swung and flailed throughout signaling their approval.

Having attended this event for the last few years I always wonder how ETID will top the previous years show. With 2019’s show being split over two days I wasn’t sure how things were going to play out or if the band was going to really give their all on the first night knowing how big of a day Saturday generally is. Not only did ETID and the rest of the bands on the bill all turn in solid performance they all seemed to give just a little extra due to the magnitude and energy of the crowd. Yes it would have been great to see some killer pro wrestling on both days of the bill but there has to be room to grow. Given the successful sell out of both days and ETID’s uncanny ability to one up themselves time after time my hope is that they continue to build on making a really fun, fan friendly event for us die hard ETID-iots.  

Every Time I Die Set List:

1.) Floater

2.) Pelican of the Desert

3.) Glitches

4.) Wanderlust

5.) Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space

6.) Holy Book of Dilema

7.) She’s My Rushmore

8.) Decayin’ With the Boys

9.) Thirst

10.) No Son of Mine

11.) Godspeed Us to Sea

12.) The New Black

13.) White Void

14.) We’rewolf

15.) It Remembers

16.) The Coin Has a Say

17.) Ebolarama

18.) INRIhab

19.) Bored Stiff

20.) Cities and Years

21.) Map Change

22.) Two Summers

23.) Idiot

24.) Fear and Trembling

25.) Back Distance

26.) Indian Giver