Friday, December 26, 2014

Movie Review: The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game is based on a true story with which most audiences probably aren't familiar; I was not, and now am curious enough to try and look up more of the story. The film takes place during World War I, and has an all-star cast - Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley have both scored SAG and Golden Globe nominations for their acting, and the movie itself is up for Best Picture - Drama for both awards as well.

Alan Turing (Cumberbatch) is a geek and a loner, but also very intelligent. He is one of a select few chosen to help England try to break Germany's codes during World War I - breaking the codes would mean being able to decipher all of Germany's messages, giving England a distinct advantage in the war. He eventually is made head of the team and must recruit a few other members, including the team's first woman, Joan (Knightley), with whom he works very well. The rest of the team finds his seriousness and focus a bit off-putting, although they will admit that his methods look like they will be producing results.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Movie Review: Into the Woods

Before I saw Into the Woods, I knew that it was based on the Broadway musical of the same name, and has a fantastic cast of A-listers. I didn't know that it was going to be so whimsical and funny, though, at least for its first half, and I ended up enjoying it a lot.

There are four or five fairy tales that converge in this film. Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) wishes to go to the festival with her stepmother (Christine Baranski) and two evil stepsisters (Lucy Punch and Tammy Blanchard). Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) is trying to make it safely to her grandmother's house, but Mr. Wolf (Johnny Depp, in a fantastically creepy role) tries to detain her. Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) lives with his mother, who is trying to make ends meet, and she makes him sell the family cow, Milky White, because it has stopped producing milk, even though it's his best friend. Finally, the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) wish to have a child, only to find out that The Witch (Meryl Streep) cursed The Baker's family with barrenness a while back; the witch, however, offers to break the curse for him, as long as he can get her a few items she needs.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Last-minute holiday gift idea: Disney Planes toys #PlanesToTheRescue

*Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #PlanesToTheRescue #CollectiveBias

Looking for last minute holiday gift ideas? Delight the little ones in your life with Disney Planes items now on Rollback at Walmart! All items listed below are on rollback through the holiday season! #PlanesToTheRescue #ad

Disney Planes Flight to the Finish Speedway ($24.97)
Disney Planes: Fire & Rescue Die-Cast Vehicles, 3-Pack ($14.97)
Disney Planes: Fire & Rescue Deluxe Talking Vehicle Assortment ($19.97)

I saw Planes: Fire & Rescue in the theater back in July, and it was a cute movie! The 3D was fantastic, as well.

Have you seen Planes: Fire & Rescue, and if not, do you plan on it? Which of the toys above would you give as a gift?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Review: The Great Escape Room is a real-life Sherlock Holmes adventure

L to R: Alysia (Michigal), Anna Mae (Ann Arbor with Kids), Amber's husband, Amber (Metro Detroit Mommy),
me, Julie, and Crystal (Mom Among Chaos)

Last night, a group of bloggers and I had the pleasure of trying out The Great Escape Room, which is in the midst of its soft opening this week in Royal Oak. Prices normally range from $23 to $28, but if you try it out this week (12/19-12/21), you can experience it for $18.

Here's how the room works:
  • After entering a room with your team (up to 12 people), the door is locked behind you. You have 60 minutes to solve the puzzles and escape from the room!
  • You must work together to find clues and solve puzzles that will lead you to your escape
  • The room is part scavenger hunt and part puzzle game
  • Only about 20% of groups are able to meet the challenge and escape in time!

I thought it would be more of a real-life Clue game, but it ended up being more like Sherlock Holmes, complete with a Holmes-esque soundtrack (and some of the music I recognized from the soundtrack of the latest movie, too).

The room started out pretty neat and tidy ...

.... until we ransacked it looking for clues!

We were told to leave nothing untouched or unturned, and we definitely took that literally. Some of the clues were found easily, and some were found at the last minute. We then decided to "divide and conquer," as there were four color-themed puzzles to solve in order to escape from the room.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Yes/No Foods: Sartori cheese for the holidays

A photo posted by Liz Parker (@yesnofilms) on
*Disclosure: I received Sartori products to facilitate this blog post. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

When I was attending the #EcoTravelwithadoba event in Dearborn last week, our hostess, Gwen, had some delicious treats for us in her hotel suite the first night we were there. We feasted on chips, pretzels, cookies, and more, and one of the foods I liked very much was Rosemary & Olive Oil Asiago cheese on a cracker, which I later found out was Sartori brand.

The nice people over at Sartori were kind enough to send me a few cheeses to try! I love cheese, although sometimes have issues with dairy, so a little bit of cheese with crackers is a good portion size for me.

I received five different cheeses to try:
  1. Rosemary & Olive Oil Asiago: This one continues to be my favorite. It goes well with just about anything, and it was the one I definitely dug into first when I received my package from Sartori.
  2. Espresso Bellavitano: I very much dislike coffee, so I had a feeling I would not like this one, and I did not - however, I was able to eat most of it, avoiding the rind, which has a strong coffee taste.
  3. Merlot Bellavitano: I brought this to a small party last weekend and it was a big hit among kids and adults alike. It has the bellavitano taste that I did like from the espresso bellavitano, but the rind (merlot) is much tastier, in my opinion.
  4. MontAmore: Noodles & Co. has a dish topped with montamore cheese, which I like, so I figured I would like the MontAmore and I definitely did. It actually went very well on a flatbread pizza with pesto sauce rather than tomato.
  5. Sarvecchio Parmesan: I only recently opened this one, and two of us had it over pasta this week, which was good. I also had it tonight in a ham panini with pesto and the shaved Sarvecchio on top, and it was again very good.
If I could only choose one to recommend, I'd choose the Rosemary & Olive Oil Asiago, but it's a hard choice - the Merlot Bellavitano went very well with crackers, and I like the MontAmore and the Parmesan for pastas or sandwiches. So I suppose it depends on what you are looking to pair the cheese with.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Family Movie Night with Guardians of the Galaxy #OwnTheGalaxy

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #OwnTheGalaxy #CollectiveBias

I reviewed Guardians of the Galaxy back in August 2014, and I attended the screening of the movie with my dad; however, my mom was unable to go. So when the movie came out on Blu-ray/DVD, I knew I wanted her to finally see it.

She's a huge fan of '70s and '80s music, which Chris Pratt's character loves in Guardians, so we headed to Walmart to pick up the DVD and also the soundtrack as an early holiday present for her.

The DVD was easy to find on the shelf, on an end display. It's offered in DVD, Blu-ray 3D/Bluray format, or just Bluray, and I selected the DVD, as my parents have a DVD player but not Blu-ray.

Walmart also offers exclusive character "O-sleeves" for its Blu-ray copies, as you can see in the top two rows of movies here; the DVD also has a music zinepack and a 64-page magazine with cast and crew interviews, behind-the-scene photos, and trivia, as well as a custom "cassette" laptop decal (sticker).

The DVD was also a great price, on rollback for $14.96.

It took some searching but we found our copy of the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, too!

Movie Review: Wild

Though I unfortunately don't have a review of Wild up on my book blog, I read it in May 2013 as the first book chosen by my book club. I don't read much nonfiction, but I do sometimes like autobiographies, and Cheryl Strayed's story was an unusual one that stayed with me: she chooses to walk the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to try and straighten up her life, and get rid of some of the demons plaguing her. I was excited, then, to hear that the book was being made into a movie, with Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl, and the film adaptation did not disappoint.

Cheryl (Witherspoon) has gone through a lot of hardship recently, so she decides to walk the 600-plus-mile PCT even though she doesn't have much hiking experience. Her childhood and early 20s is shown in flashbacks; she loved her mother, Bobbi (Laura Dern), who recently passed away from cancer, and she wasn't as close with her brother, Lief (Keene McRae) as she would have liked to have been. Cheryl meets a lot of interesting people on the trail, and although she at first struggles with the journey, both physically and mentally, she perseveres on, and aims to finish the trail within three months or so.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

GIVEAWAY: Wonder Forge Frozen 6-in-1 & Star Wars Rebel Missions Games, ends 12/17

Disclosure: Yes/No Films did not receive compensation for this post and is not responsible for prize fulfillment.

Wonder Forge Frozen 6-in-1 & Star Wars Rebel Missions Games Giveaway

Sponsor: Wonder Forge

I've partnered with a few other bloggers to bring you this giveaway - it would make a great holiday present for any children in your life! (or, keep them for yourself too if you like ...)

Frozen 6-in-1 Games - It's six classic games in one—Bingo, Go Fish, Crazy 8's, Four-in-a-Row, Dominoes and Matching—all featuring Anna, Elsa, Olaf and the rest of your favorite friends from Frozen!

Star Wars Rebel Missions - It's a dark time in the galaxy as the evil Galactic Empire tightens its grip of power. Work together as the ragtag crew of the Ghost starship and fight Imperial forces on the remote planet of Lothal! In this exciting team strategy game, race against the Imperial Timer to complete daring Rebel missions and find the four secret codes that will deal a blow to the Empire! Every game is a different edge-of-your-seat adventure!

Prize: Frozen 6-in-1 & Star Wars Rebel Missions Games
Dates: 12/10-12/17
Open to: US Residents 18+
Enter to win using the widget below. Good luck!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

GIVEAWAY: Pumping Iron (HD copy) with Arnold Schwarzenegger, ends 12/17

So you think you know Arnold Schwarzenegger ... but do you know the whole story? I have a chance for one of my lucky readers to win an HD (digital) copy of the new movie about him, Pumping Iron.

About the film:
From Gold's Gym in Venice Beach California to the showdown in Pretoria, amateur and professional bodybuilders prepare for the 1975 Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe contests in this part-scripted, part-documentary film.

Five-time champion Arnold Schwarzenegger defends his Mr. Olympia title against Serge Nubret and the shy, young, deaf Lou Ferrigno, whose father is his coach; the ruthless champ psyches out the young lion.

Sardinian Franco Columbu competes in the lightweight class; at home in Italy he solves a tight parking problem by lifting the car into place. Joe Weider is the marketer; Mike Katz and Ken Waller go for the title of Mr. Universe. Bodybuilding and a celebrity-to-be go mainstream.

Special Features:

Still Pumping: Success in bodybuilding is a mental challenge as well as physical. In these newly recorded interviews, Arnold Schwarzenegger talks about the will power and focus you need to become a champion, and the mental attitude that has shaped his career.

The Hard Science of Bodybuilding: Arnold Schwarzenegger and top bodybuilders give insights into the sport of bodybuilding and tips for building the body of your dreams.

Monday, December 8, 2014

December DVDs: When the Game Stands Tall

*Disclosure: I have been compensated for this post. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

I reviewed When the Game Stands Tall back in August of this year, and it was a great movie. I love films that are sports-related, and especially films that are based on a true story.

Here's the synopsis of the movie that I gave in my review:
Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) is in the midst of "The Streak" - 151 wins for De La Salle, over about a ten year period - until, at the start of the 2004 football season, he's suddenly not: the team loses their first game. The players and seniors, especially, are understandably upset, but Ladouceur is not: to him, it's more of making "a perfect effort" than winning every game. Two games later, the team starts winning again, and there's talk of another "streak" starting to take hold, which Ladouceur doesn't like; freshman and sophomores at the school are even starting to dream of the number the streak will be up to when they're juniors and seniors (33 games, at most). The coach must decide if he will stay at De La Salle - a job he's comfortable in and very good at - or take one of the many college football coaching positions that he has been offered.

Jim Caviezel plays Bob Ladouceur in the movie, and he's generally good in all his films - I especially liked him in Frequency, back in 2000, with Dennis Quaid. Laura Dern seems to be in EVERY movie this year - she was in The Fault in Our Stars, as Shailene Woodley's mother, and I just saw her in Wild as Reese Witherspoon's mother as well; she, too, does a great job in this movie. Alexander Ludwig (The Hunger Games) also has a small part in the movie, as one of the football players.

The DVD and Blu-ray of When the Game Stands Tall isn't out until December 31st, but you can pre-order it now at Family Christian:

  • Click here for the DVD ($19.99) 
  • Or here for the Blu-ray combo pack ($24.99, and includes a Blu-ray, DVD, and digital copy)

You also will receive a free $10 savings pass if you pre-order the movie!

What I like about Family Christian, too, is their commitment to helping others. They are a completely nonprofit business, and you can read more about their efforts here.

Have you seen When The Game Stands Tall, or would you like to see it? What are some of your favorite sports movies?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Upcoming: Trans-Siberian Orchestra, December 27, Palace of Auburn Hills {Detroit area}

*Disclosure: I received TSO tickets in exchange for this post. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

The TSO (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) will be at the Palace of Auburn Hills this month, and I'm excited to finally attend one of its shows! I've heard a lot about the TSO, and I know it will be a great concert.

A little bit about the show:
Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) will wrap up 2014 by performing their rock opera The Christmas Attic live for the first time in arenas across the nation on their Winter Tour 2014, including two shows at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Saturday, December 27 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Tickets are $74, $64, $54, $44 and $34 reserved, and can be bought here. A portion of the proceeds from every ticket sale benefits The Salvation Army and Gilda’s Club.

While 1998's The Christmas Attic features one of the band's most popular songs “Christmas Canon,” surprisingly, it is the only album of The Christmas Trilogy never to be performed live. The 2014 Winter Tour will find TSO playing more than 120 shows in 71 cities across North America and presented nationally by Hallmark Channel. (see for details).

As in all previous years, a portion of all ticket sales will go to benefit select local charities. The consistent growth of TSO's touring popularity has increased the group's contributions and, to date, TSO has donated more than $11 million to local charities.

This will be my first time seeing them in concert, but I've heard only good things about them. If you look them up on youtube, as well, you can hear a few of their songs, as well as see some live performances that have been uploaded.

I play violin, too (though I was more active in high school and college with it), and I'm curious to see how the TSO blends rock music with instrumental. TSO's website says:
When Paul O'Neill first conceived Trans-Siberian Orchestra, his goal was as straightforward as it was incredibly ambitious. "The whole idea," he explains, "was to create a progressive rock band that would push the boundaries (of the genre) further than any group before... Way, way further."
Have you seen the TSO in concert before, and if so, what are some of your favorite TSO songs?