Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Year-end Review: The Best Movies of 2016

I attend a lot of screenings, and as a result, I see a lot of movies. I also receive many Blu-rays/DVDs to review, thanks to generous studios and networks.

The final count for this year is: 88 movies.
(2015 count: 66, 2014 count: 95)

*not including Blu-rays/DVDs, unless I reviewed them here.

*not including any movies I did not review, except I'll throw in Rogue One since I saw it in the theater this past Sunday.

*I am seeing Sing today and Fences on Thursday, so I'm counting those two in this wrap-up, as well.

The top 10 movies I enjoyed this year are:

(in no particular order, except for #1)

1. American Pastoral. I still think about this movie sometimes. I tried reading the book, as well, but I could not get through it - it's very different from the movie. 4.5/5 stars.
*out on Blu-ray/DVD on February 7.

2. La La Land. The beginning of this movie didn't really reel me in at first, but eventually I started liking it more and more. Although I could see why the film ended the way it did, it was still rather heartbreaking, in my opinion, and it wasn't something I was expecting. 4/5.

La La Land - The Best Movies of 2016
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, in La La Land

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Movie Review: Lion

Movie review: Lion

I wanted to see Lion at a screening because of all the award nominations it has been receiving - Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman are up for both a SAG award and a Golden Globe for their work here. The movie did not disappoint, and the lush views of both India and Australia on-screen were a nice bonus, as well.

Young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) and his brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) are gathering things like coal to sell to support their family. Guddu is hesitant to bring Saroo along for a "night trip," but he does, and Saroo gets overwhelmed by it. Guddu leaves him on a bench in a train station, telling Saroo to stay there and that he will be back for him; when Saroo wakes up, however, Guddu is nowhere to be seen. Saroo finds an empty train and goes to sleep, not knowing that when he wakes up, the train will be in motion, and won't stop until it gets to Calcutta, about 1000 miles away from Saroo's hometown.

From there, Saroo wanders around a bit, until he finally ends up at an orphanage, where he's told that an Australian couple, the Brierleys (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham), want to adopt him. When he gets older, however, Saroo (Dev Patel) wonders about his biological mother, as well as his brother Guddu, and uses the relatively new tool Google Earth to try and find his hometown, and thus his family.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Movie Review: Why Him?

Movie review: Why Him?

Why Him? is your typical "parents meet child's significant other and dislikes him/her" movie. However, the actors in the film are all great in their roles, and because of that, the movie was funnier than I expected it to be.

Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) has always been a daddy's girl - she and her dad, Ned (Bryan Cranston), are very close. However, she hasn't told him or her mom, Barb (Megan Mullally), that she's been seeing a new guy, for about a year now; they find this out in a hilarious way, involving Skype. Stephanie invites them and her brother, Scotty (Griffin Gluck), out to California to meet her new guy, Laird (James Franco), and there's another surprise: Laird is a tech mogul who lives in a multi-million dollar house, and he wants them all to stay there with him and Stephanie for the Christmas holiday.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Movie Review: Passengers

Movie review: Passengers

A while ago, I read a book called Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and Passengers sounded very similar to the novel: two people on a spaceship wake up too soon ... 90 years too soon, to be exact. It turns out that the script for Passengers has actually been floating around for a longer time than Across the Universe has been published, but regardless, it made me want to see the movie, to compare the two.

Engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is a passenger on the Avalon, which is headed for Homestead II - a new colony planet. It will take the ship 120 years to reach the planet, and the ship is only 30 years into that journey when it hits an asteroid or meteor of some kind; Jim's hibernation pod malfunctions, and it awakens him. He figures out that he woke up 90 years too soon, and he spends the next year on the ship by himself, trying to break into the captain's area of the ship and also figure out how to put himself back into hibernation. However, soon he has another passenger who is awake: Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), a writer from New York, whose goal was to spend a year on Homestead II and then head back to Earth to write about it. When the ship starts to deeply malfunction, putting all 5,000+ hibernating passengers and crew members at risk, the two must work together to try to fix the ship.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

GIVEAWAY: Family 4-pack for The Lion King in Detroit {ends 12/27}

Back in November, I posted about The Lion King, which is coming to Detroit this winter, and now I have a family 4-pack of tickets for one of my lucky readers to win!

About the show:
In its 19th year, THE LION KING continues ascendant as one of the most popular stage musicals in the world. Since its Broadway premiere on November 13, 1997, 24 global productions have been seen by more than 85 million people. Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions (under the direction of Thomas Schumacher), THE LION KING is only the second show in history to generate five productions worldwide running 10 or more years. Translated into eight different languages (Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Spanish, Mandarin and Portuguese), productions of THE LION KING can currently be seen on Broadway; London’s West End; Hamburg; Tokyo; Madrid; Mexico City; Shanghai, Scheveningen and on tour across North America, for a total of nine productions running concurrently across the globe. Having played over 100 cities in 20 countries on every continent except Antarctica, THE LION KING’s worldwide gross exceeds that of any film, Broadway show or other entertainment title in box office history.

THE LION KING won six 1998 Tony Awards ® : Best Musical, Best Scenic Design (Richard Hudson), Best Costume Design (Julie Taymor), Best Lighting Design (Donald Holder), Best Choreography (Garth Fagan) and Best Direction of a Musical. THE LION KING has also earned more than 70 major arts awards including the 1998 NY Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, the 1999 Grammy® for Best Musical Show Album, the 1999 Evening Standard Award for Theatrical Event of the Year and the 1999 Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Choreography and Best Costume Design.

Click here to purchase tickets via Ticketmaster.

Movie Review: Jackie

Movie Review: Jackie

I didn't know much about JFK, aside from his assassination, and I knew even less about his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, so I was curious to see Jackie, which chronicles her life in the days and weeks after the assassination. Although Natalie Portman is great in the part, the movie overall is very slow, and a bit hard to watch.

Jackie Kennedy (Portman) has decided to talk with reporters, a week after her husband's death, and she is giving a sit-down interview to a journalist (Billy Crudup) at her home. The past week has involved her and her children moving out of the White House, as well as planning her husband's funeral, and they have a lot to talk about. The film switches from past to present, as we also get to witness Jackie giving a tour of the White House - something unprecedented - to a TV crew, prior to her husband's death, and we see events leading up to the Texas trip where he was killed.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Movie Review: La La Land

Movie Review: La La Land

I will say this about La La Land: both the music and the movie itself will have you thinking about it at least a day later (as I am, still, as I write this review). The cinematography is beautiful, too, but the movie is a little slow throughout.

Mia (Emma Stone) is working as a barista on the Warner Brothers lot as she pursues her dream of being an actress in Los Angeles. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is working jazz gigs as he tries to save money to open his own jazz club. Their "meet-cute" is more of a road rage-type thing - they're stuck in traffic on the freeway and Mia takes a little too long to move, so Sebastian aggressively beeps at her; she returns his gesture with a hand gesture of her own. Later, they meet again at a party, and Mia realizes they have chemistry - they start dating soon after. The film starts in winter and takes us through all four seasons with the couple, until circumstances start to tear them apart.

Movie Review: Collateral Beauty

Movie Review: Collateral Beauty

From its trailer, Collateral Beauty looked like it would be an interesting and different sort of film. After the movie begins, it appeared that its trailers were a bit misleading; however, near the end of the movie, we find that they actually were not.

We open with Howard (Will Smith) giving an inspirational speech to his PR firm's employees, including his friends Claire (Kate Winslet), Simon (Michael Peña), and Whit (Edward Norton). Fast-forward three years later, and Howard is a completely different man; he's depressed and withdrawn, due to the death of his young daughter. He shows up for work every day only to waste hours building domino structures, and then he heads home. His friends (who are also the founders of the PR firm) are worried about him, and also about some of their client relationships, which are failing because Howard was the "face" of those relationships. They decide to band together to help Howard, and they learn something interesting about themselves in the process.

Monday, December 12, 2016

TV review: Vice Principals, on HBO

TV review: Vice Principals season 1, on HBO
Back in October, I hosted a giveaway for Vice Principals season 1, although at the time I had not watched the series yet. I'm always looking for funny half-hour shows to watch, since most of the shows I watch are an hour-long, and this past week I finally had time to watch Vice Principals.

About the show:
Looking for something “profanely hilarious” to watch this fall? Season one of the “funny as hell” HBO comedy series Vice Principals is coming to Digital HD October 17!

Created by Danny R. McBride and Jody Hill (creators of HBO’s Eastbound & Down, along with Ben Best), Vice Principals: Season 1 tells the story of North Jackson High School and the two people who almost run it, the vice principals. McBride and Walton Goggins star as the school administrators, who are in an epic power struggle, vying for the top spot: to be school principal. But when new rival Dr. Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hébert Gregory) enters the picture, these bitter antagonists must form an unholy alliance to bring down the outsider by any means necessary.

Also featuring Georgia King, Busy Phillips, Shea Whigham, Sheaun McKinney and guest stars Bill Murray and Susan Park, the new comedy series was a critical and audience hit this summer on HBO. Heralded by Rolling Stone as “the summer’s best new comedy,” Vice Principals is a “must watch” series for Eastbound & Down fans and comedy lovers alike. 

TV review: Vice Principals season 1, on HBO

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village (Dearborn, MI) - Tickets available now!

credit: thehenryford.org
*Disclosure: I have an ongoing relationship with Henry Ford/Greenfield Village. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

This past October, I checked out Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village. Now, during the holiday season, Greenfield Village presents Holiday Nights, its winter celebration.

Holiday Nights has been voted a top event by both USA Today and Reader's Digest.

I'll be attending during the last week of December, but tickets are selling out *FAST* so I'm posting about this now.

Tickets are still available for: Sunday, Dec. 11 and 18; Tues.-Thurs. Dec. 20-22; and Mon.-Fri., Dec. 26-30.

About Holiday Nights:
credit: thehenryford.og
See why Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village presented by Citizens Bank continues to be voted a can’t-miss family-friendly event each year. Tickets are going fast for this authentic and immersive holiday celebration that takes place Dec. 2-4, 9-11, 16-18, 20-23 and 26-30 from 6:30 pm – 10 pm.

“There is no better way to celebrate the holiday season than with the sights, sounds and sensations of Greenfield Village,” said Rick Hampson, state president of Citizens Bank, Michigan. “We are proud to be a part of this celebration and continue our partnership with The Henry Ford as presenting sponsor of the 2016 Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village.”

This unique holiday experience immerses visitors in 300 years of holiday history. Inside the historic homes, visitors will be welcomed by the smell of evergreen-filled parlors and freshly baked-holiday treats as presenters bring to life traditional menu staples. At Giddings Home, the rich aroma of chocolate will greet guests as they watch presenters preparing hot cocoa 1700s-style. If the smells and sights inside the homes work up an appetite, food stations throughout the streets will be available with hot chocolate, hot apple cider, roasted chestnuts and a roast beef carving station.

Movie Review: Office Christmas Party

Yes/No Films movie review: Office Christmas Party

Office Christmas Party looked very funny in its trailer, which always worries me, because sometimes that means that the funniest parts of the movie are all used up in in the trailer. In this case, that mostly turned out to be true, and it's a comedy that doesn't warrant being seen in the theater.

Josh (Jason Bateman) works at a tech company, Zenotek, and his good friend Clay (T.J. Miller) runs the company; the branch was given to him to run from his dad, who recently passed away. Clay's sister, the ruthless Carol (Jennifer Aniston), arrives in town one day and tells Clay that his branch is underperforming, and that unless they land a big account, he has to lay off 40 percent of his staff. Enter Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance), with a $14 million deal that Josh, Tracey (Olivia Munn), and Clay must land. Against Carol's wishes, the three of them decide to throw an epic office Christmas party and invite Walter, though the consequences of this party later turn out to be worse than they could have imagined.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Microsoft Surface Pro: the perfect tablet for on the go {BIG savings + giveaway!}

Microsoft Pro: the perfect tablet for on the go {BIG savings + giveaway!}
Disclosure: This is a Fashionista Event and a promotional item was provided to me. Hosts for this event are Still Blonde after all these Years and ModlyChic.

When the Microsoft Store opened in my local mall (Somerset Collection, in Troy) a few years ago, it was definitely a "must attend" event. All of its new products were on display, and they even had Kelly Clarkson drop by for a live concert. A friend and I stopped by the store to check it out, and I loved trying out all of the new tech they were offering.

I'm constantly "on the go," whether it be for personal travel—this year I went to New Orleans for a wedding, San Diego for Yelp Spring Break, Grand Haven, MI for a girls weekend, and L.A. for BlogHer '16—or for work travel. Because of that, and also because I'm a busy millennial, I've been coveting a Microsoft Surface Pro for a while now, as it's both a computer AND a tablet. Right now the Microsoft Store is doing a deal on them, which would be perfect for gift-giving for the holidays {cough, cough}.

Microsoft Pro: the perfect tablet for on the go {BIG savings + giveaway!}

Movie Review: Miss Sloane

Yes/No Films movie review: Miss Sloane

I'll admit that I wasn't a huge fan of Miss Sloane at the beginning of the movie - it moves at a lightning-fast pace, which normally is good, but in this case it made some of the plot and characters hard to follow.

Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) is a lobbyist and a shark. She has a fantastic track record, and she doesn't let anything—or anyone—get in her way. Her current project is lobbying for a bill for gun reform, and she's intent on getting enough senators to vote for the bill so that it passes, thus making it harder for people to procure guns. She doesn't really have a personal life, instead paying escorts to fulfill her needs, and she focuses all of her energy on lobbying. When it looks like the gun bill might not pass, however, Sloane must take extreme measures to make sure it does, hurting some of the people she works with in the process.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: Noodles & Company, Macomb, MI {and enter to win Noodles for a YEAR! Ends 12/12}

Review and giveaway: Noodles & Company, Macomb, MI

*Disclosure: I received a meal at the Macomb Noodles & Co. in exchange for this post. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Back in June, I tried out some of the newest salads and other dishes at the Noodles and Company located in Royal Oak, MI. This winter, Noodles has some new mac 'n cheese and other entrees out, so I headed to the Macomb, MI location—which just recently opened—to try them.

We started out with a few appetizers, including a new-ish one that has come to be my favorite - the Korean meatballs. We also tried some of the salads that debuted this summer, and the restaurant's garlic bread, which is always good.

Review and giveaway: Noodles & Company, Macomb, MI

The meatballs come marinated in a Gochujang sauce, and they're a little spicy; I don't normally like spicy foods, but they have just the right amount of spice. The two salads we tried were the Chicken Veracruz (left), and the Napa Market Salad with chicken (right).

Review and giveaway: Noodles & Company, Macomb, MI

Review and giveaway: Noodles & Company, Macomb, MI
Spicy Korean beef noodles

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Movie Review: Moana

In the film world, the name "Disney" is synonymous with innovative movies. Although Moana is very colorful, and has some catchy songs, it a film that is easy to forget after you exit the theater.

Moana (voiced by newcomer Auli'i Cravalho) has always felt the call of the ocean. She lives on an island with her family, who is essentially the island royalty, and they fully expect her to become leader once she comes of age. Her grandmother, however, informally known as the island "crazy person," encourages her to listen to her heart, and fulfill her dreams. When the coconuts and fish supply start drying up around the island, Moana knows it's because of the legend of Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) and actions that he took many, many years ago, and she takes it upon herself to find Maui and make everything right again, for the sake of the islanders; who she finds, however, ends up being not entirely what she expected.

Movie Review: Bad Santa 2

I wanted Bad Santa 2 to be just as good as the first one, which premiered in 2003, but as we all know, sequels rarely live up to their predecessors. This one wasn't awful by any means, but definitely not as funny as the first, unfortunately.

Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) lives a meaningless life in Arizona. He has no girlfriend, and mostly no friends, except for Thurman (Brett Kelly), who occasionally drops by to say hi. When Marcus (Tony Cox) drops by and offers him a chance to earn a cool million or $2M with him, he begrudgingly accepts, and they head to Chicago for the heist. Willie almost declines when he sees who the 3rd person in on the deal is, though - his estranged mother, Sunny (Kathy Bates), whom he hates. The place they are robbing is actually a charity, and Willie must don the Santa suit again to get an "in" there, with Marcus again as an elf, and Sunny as Mrs. Claus. There are multiple side negotiations going on, too, and Willie must make sure that he doesn't get screwed out of his share of the pot.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Upcoming: The Lion King at Detroit Opera House, February 1-26, 2017

*Disclosure: I have an ongoing relationship with Broadway in Detroit. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

THE LION KING is coming to Detroit this February, and I'm super excited about it!

As a '90s kid, I'm a huge fan of the movie, but I've never actually seen the musical, in-person. Plus, the Opera House is a gorgeous venue for the show.

More info:
Disney Theatrical Productions and Broadway In Detroit announced that tickets for the long-awaited return engagement of DISNEY’S THE LION KING are currently on sale all Ticketmaster locations, online at www.broadwayindetroit.com or www.ticketmaster.com, by phone at 1-800- 982-2787 and at The Fisher Theatre box office. Tickets will also be available at the Detroit Opera House box office. Ticket prices start at $25. Detroit’s most eagerly awaited return will once again leap onto the Detroit Opera House stage on February 1 for a limited engagement of four weeks through February 26.

In Detroit, THE LION KING will play Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. & 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. There are also special Thursday matinees on February 2 & 23 at 1:00 p.m. Please note there is no evening performance on Sunday, February 26.

A special Open Captioned Performance will be held on Sunday, February 12 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets for the open captioned performance may be purchased in person at The Fisher Theatre and Detroit Opera House box offices or by phone at 313-872- 1000, ext. 0.

A limited number of Premium Ticket Packages, which include a prime seat location, a commemorative souvenir program and an exclusive merchandise item, are also available.

For group sales (12 or more) please call 313-871- 1132 or email groups@broadwayindetroit.com.

Performance schedule, prices and cast are subject to change without notice.

The North American touring productions of THE LION KING have been seen by more than 17 million theatergoers and grossed over $1.2 billion to date. Having already played more than 70 cities across North America, THE LION KING now proudly makes its Detroit return at the Detroit Opera House.

Movie Review: Loving

Before I saw Loving, I knew it was based on an actual court case, Loving v. Virginia, that sought to prohibit discrimination against interracial marriage. However, I didn't know much about the real people behind the case, Mildred and Richard Loving, and this film helped provide insight into their lives.

Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga, 12 Years a Slave) want to get married, as Mildred is pregnant, but it's unlawful to do so in their state of Virginia; therefore, they drive up to D.C. and get married there. When authorities in their county in Virginia find out what happened, they drag them out of their home in the middle of the night, to jail; Richard gets out fairly easy, but they leave pregnant Mildred there for the weekend, until her father arrives to post bail. Eventually, Richard and Mildred get their day in court, where their lawyer negotiates a deal: the 1-year prison sentence will be waived, however, the two of them cannot come back to Virginia together for the next 25 years.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

First off: I SO wanted this movie to be, well ... fantastic. I've been missing my Harry Potter fix for a while now, and the events of Fantastic Beasts take place 70 years before Harry Potter's time at Hogwarts. Unfortunately, the film is very, very slow, which deters me from giving it a high rating.

Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) travels from England to New York via boat, to accomplish some things, and he brings along some special creatures with him, in his suitcase. Due to a mix-up when he arrives, however, a "non-maj" (non-magical person, aka Muggle), Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), ends up with the suitcase, and Scamander must retrieve it from him. Once he does, the two of them end up meeting Ms. Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and her sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol), who will eventually end up helping them with Scamander's mission.

For those unfamiliar with the Harry Potter universe, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is actually a textbook that he and his friends use while at Hogwarts, and Scamander is the author of said textbook. J.K. Rowling released the book in actual book form a few years ago, too, and she wrote the script here, as well; however, the movie is technically unchartered territory, since the book is more of a guidebook than a novel.

Movie Review: The Edge of Seventeen

I had heard a lot about The Edge of Seventeen before seeing it in the theater, as it was being touted as "John Hughes-esque" (ie, similar to classic teen films like The Breakfast Club, etc.) and that it was going to be the most memorable "teen" film that has premiered in a while. Although it didn't measure up to quite that level, it's still a refreshingly funny movie that is worth seeing.

Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) never had many friends, even from a young age, until she meets Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), with whom she bonds instantly. Flash-forward to today, and they're both juniors in high school, with Krista still being Nadine's only friend. After Nadine's brother, Darian (Blake Jenner) throws a small party at their house, Krista starts hanging out more with him, eventually becoming his girlfriend, and Nadine can't handle it: she demands that Krista chooses, either her or her brother. Because she's now friendless, Nadine starts hanging out more with Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), her teacher, and decides to pursue her crush on Nick (Alexander Calvert), while dodging advances from Erwin (Hayden Szeto), the cute boy who sits next to her in one of her classes. Nadine's mother, Mona (Kyra Sedgwick) has had a hard time ever since Nadine's father passed away, too, and it's up to both Nadine and Darian to help keep her sane.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Spreading MODness at MOD Pizza, from November 22-27 {and a giveaway!}

*Disclosure: I received a MOD gift card in exchange for this post. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

MOD Pizza will be spreading some MODness from November 22-27 this month, and needs your help!

MOD will donate $1 for every pizza sold, to locally-based organizations.

I just visited MOD last month (and have been previously, as well), and the pizza is always fresh and tasty.

More info:
TEAM Schostak Family Restaurants (TSFR), a Michigan-based family-owned restaurant group with an expansive portfolio of casual, quick service and family dining restaurants throughout the state, and its Livonia, Woodhaven, Rochester Hills, Brighton and Northville MOD Pizza restaurants, are teaming up with five locally based organizations for its annual Spreading MODness campaign.

During Spreading MODness, a week in which the company and its restaurants focus on supporting at-risk youth and families, each MOD Pizza restaurant will donate $1 for every pizza sold to locally-based organizations from November 22-27. Joining over 175 nonprofits across the U.S. that will be the beneficiaries of Spreading MODness 2016, the following organizations will be the recipients of the funds raised at TSFR’s five MOD Pizza restaurants:
  • Woodhaven MOD Pizza (23071 Allen Road): Woodhaven Brownstown Education Foundation
  • Livonia MOD Pizza (13229 Middlebelt Road): Livonia Public Schools (LPS) Education Foundation
  • Rochester Hills MOD Pizza (3058 S. Rochester Road): The Rainbow Connection
  • Brighton MOD Pizza (8605 W. Grand River): Make-A-Wish® Michigan
  • Northville MOD Pizza (18821 Traditions Drive): Northville Educational Foundation

This year celebrates the fourth year of Spreading MODness, and through its celebration of “Gratitude with Attitude,” each of MOD’s 182 stores will be supporting their local charity, with a goal to donate over $250,000.

To learn more watch Spreading MODness 2016 or visit our blog: http://modpizza.com/spreading-modness to see stories on how MOD is using their business as a platform for good.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Review - Looking: The Movie

By: Travis Noon

HBO's Looking was an original series that lasted two seasons on the premium network, and it provided a updated look into the lives of gay men in San Francisco in the modern day. Comparisons may be drawn with Queer As Folk, which was a popular show from 2000-2005 on Showtime. In my opinion, that show seems a little dated; however the importance in the gay community was very important.

Looking had relatable characters in the show's short run; nevertheless, by the summation of season two, closure wasn't drawn in the series finale, and HBO made a wise decision to have a two-hour movie to bring the fans what they wanted. 

As for relatable characters, the one that is like myself is Patrick, played by Jonathan Groff from Broadway fame. Patrick is a video game designer and had a circle of close friends in San Francisco; he's now left them and moved back to his hometown of Denver. This is where Patrick's story begins for the Looking movie, as he comes back to San Francisco for his friends Augustín and Eddie wedding.

Patrick's journey gets closure, as does the other men of Looking, such as one of my favorites, Dom (Murray Bartlett) as one of Patrick's close friends. 

If you were a fan of the series, I highly encourage you to have some great snacks at home, and enjoy this proper finale of Looking. Definite Yes!

Travis Noon is an award-winning new media artist who graduated from Oakland University with his Bachelors of Studio Art in New Media. He also has a yogurt blog, "Yog-in-a-min," and is a purveyor of creating anything in life.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Cold weather holiday winter gear choices {and free shipping!} with Sierra Trading Post + $250 giveaway {ends 11/27}

*Disclosure: This is a Fashionista Event and a promotional item was provided to me. Hosts for this event are Still Blonde after all these Years and ModlyChic.

It's November in Michigan currently, which means that very shortly, it's going to get cold. I'm not talking about cold like "kind of cold" (aka, 60 degrees to those of you in California and in the South), but like BRRRR cold. Like stay home and drink hot cocoa all day cold.

Unfortunately, most of us can't stay home all day and drink hot cocoa, so we need to purchase some jackets and other gear that will get us through the winter.

I'm in need of a new winter coat this year - I think my current coat is 7+ years old - and Sierra Trading Post has a large selection from which to choose.

I headed over to the women's jackets and coats page on Sierra Trading Post's site, and the first one that caught my eye was this North Face jacket ($99.99). I love anything purple, and the jacket comes in a variety of colors, including that, blue, green, pink, and others. It comes with some insulation, too, which is important for a Michigan winter.

Sierra Trading Post offers winter wear from brands like The North Face, Marmot, Columbia, and Marker at discounted prices, thanks to items being overstocked, small blemishes and irregularities, and closeouts. This jacket is normally $199, but the site has it for $99.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Movie Review: Arrival

I didn't know much about Arrival before seeing it - I watched the trailer the day of the screening, and it had a good cast and looked like it could be interesting. However, it ended up surprising me by far exceeding my expectations, and it's one that I'd like to rewatch at some point.

Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a professor at a university. One day, she arrives to her class to find only a handful of students there, and one of them asks her to turn on the TV - it turns out that there's been an alien invasion, although for now it mostly seems peaceful. Twelve alien crafts have descended upon various countries across the world, including the state of Montana (this is a state, not a city), and the government wants to know what they want from us. Soon after, Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) arrives at her door, asking for her help translating the aliens' language - she had helped the government previously with a different project. She and Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), a scientist, are the two experts that the government has brought in to help them, and they must work together in order to interpret who the aliens are and what they want.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

GIVEAWAY: Bad Moms on Blu-ray combo pack {ends 11/13}

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this movie on Blu-ray combo pack in exchange for this post. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

A few weeks ago, I had a giveaway up for a Digital HD code of Bad Moms - so if you didn't win that one, you're in luck, since I now surprisingly have a Blu-ray combo pack to give away!

The Blu-ray combo pack was released in November 1st, so you can find it in stores and online now.

About the movie:
Bad Moms, the year’s biggest R-rated comedy – a runaway hit with audiences and critics alike – is coming to Digital HD on October 18, 2016 and Blu-ray™, DVD and On Demand on November 1, 2016, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. The raunchy film described as “incredibly funny!” by Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly, is the first R-rated comedy since The Hangover to earn an “A” grade from audiences nationwide. Hailed by critics from The New York Times, Chicago Sun-Times and Washington Post, Bad Moms is one comedy not to be missed. The Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital HD come with nearly an hour of exclusive bonus content including hilarious deleted scenes, gag reels and exclusive interviews with the cast and their moms that will have everyone laughing again and again!

In this hilarious and heartfelt comedy from the writing duo behind
The Hangover, Amy (Mila Kunis) has a seemingly perfect life – a great marriage, over-achieving kids, beautiful home and a career. However, she's over-worked, over-committed and exhausted to the point that she's about to snap. Fed up, she joins forces with two other over-stressed moms (Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn) on a quest to liberate themselves from conventional responsibilities – going on a wild, un-mom-like binge of long overdue freedom, fun and self-indulgence – putting them on a collision course with PTA Queen Bee Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate) and her clique of devoted perfect moms (Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo). See the movie that critics are cheering as “…a funny, giddy, sentimental laugh-in…” - Manohla Dargis, The New York Times.

The film will be available on Blu-ray™ with Digital HD and UltraViolet™ and DVD.

  • Deleted Scenes 
  • Gag Reel 
  • Cast & Moms Interviews: A collection of intimate moments between the leading cast including Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo and their moms.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

GIVEAWAY: Jason Bourne on Blu-ray combo pack {ends 11/11}

*Disclosure: I will be receiving a copy of Jason Bourne in exchange for this post. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

I didn't get to see Jason Bourne in the theater, but am a huge fan of the Bourne series - specifically, with Matt Damon in the lead role - so I'm excited to see this one.

Jason Bourne will be released on Digital HD on November 15th, and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, and on-demand on December 6th. One of my lucky readers will win a Blu-ray combo pack - read on for details.

About the movie:
Matt Damon (Bourne Franchise, The Martian) is back and this time it’s personal in JASON BOURNE, the action-packed fifth installment of the blockbuster franchise, coming to Digital HD November 15, 2016 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand on December 6, 2016, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. Nearly a decade since fans last saw the former operative, the explosive return brings Jason Bourne into a whole new era, revealing key secrets about Bourne’s origins to a new generation. The 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD include commentary from the cast, filmmakers, stunt performers and fight coordinators, plus behind-the-scenes features that take viewers inside the making of the film’s intense stunt choreography and one of the wildest car chases in Bourne history.

  • Bringing Back Bourne - Matt Damon and Director Paul Greengrass discuss how they brought a beloved character back to the big screen.
  • Bourne to Fight - A behind-the-scenes look at the fight sequences in Jason Bourne.
  • Bare-Knuckle Boxing - Matt Damon discusses his love for boxing and how he prepared for the bare-knuckle fight sequences.
  • Close Quarters - A behind-the-scenes look at the brutal fight between Jason Bourne and Christian Dassault.
  • Underground Rumble - Matt Damon, Vincent Cassel, and fight coordinator Roger Yuan discuss how they staged Bourne’s final showdown with The Asset.
  • The Athens Escape - Matt Damon, stunt coordinator Gary Powell and second unit director Simon Crane discuss the challenges of shooting a chase sequence through cramped city streets.
  • Las Vegas Showdown - For the final act of Jason Bourne, filmmakers wanted something bigger and bolder than ever before. Here’s an inside look at how they pulled it off.
  • Convention Chaos - Join the cast and crew on location in Las Vegas as they film the final act of Jason Bourne.
  • Shutting Down the Strip - A behind-the-scenes look at one of the wildest car chases in Bourne history.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Smart shopping with Groupon Goods

*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. However, all opinions posted here are my own.

Most of you already know about my love of Groupon for all things deal-related. I actually just bought a great deal for Pieology, in Royal Oak, a fast-casual pizza place - $10 for two unlimited-topping pizzas, which normally would be $15-16. [if you're in the Detroit area, check that deal out!]

However, did you also know that Groupon also has a Groupon Goods section too? I first found out about this when I was looking to buy Meghan Trainor's newest CD, Thank You - Groupon had it, and it was even less expensive than Amazon.

Today I actually stumbled across this in an ad on Facebook, and as a new Gilmore Girls fan, I was immediately enthralled - Groupon Goods is selling t-shirts based on the TV show:

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Review and GIVEAWAY: Hallmark Blockbuster Keepsake ornaments {ends 11/6}

*Disclosure: I received a set of the Hallmark Blockbuster Keepsake ornaments to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

What was your favorite blockbuster movie or TV show this year? If your answer is Batman v. Superman, Star Wars, or TV's The Walking Dead, you're in luck - Hallmark has just released Blockbuster Keepsake ornaments, which would be great atop the Christmas tree or to give as a gift.

I received five ornaments to review: Batman, Superman, a Stormtrooper, Wonder Woman, and Rick Grimes. Walking Dead is one of my favorite TV shows currently, so I was definitely excited to receive Rick in the mail. I'm also a big Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Star Wars fan.

All of the ornaments are available on Hallmark.com or in Hallmark Gold Crown stores:

· Rick Grimes (from AMC’s The Walking Dead)
· Imperial Stormtrooper Helmet w/Sound
· Batman (from Batman v Superman)
· Wonder Woman (from Batman v Superman)
· Superman (from Batman v Superman)

GIVEAWAY: 4-in-1 Horror Collection Blu-ray {Hostel, Hostel II, Hollow Man, Hollow Man 2} - ends 11/4

Mill Creek entertainment has just released a 4-in-1 Horror Collection, on Blu-ray, and two of my lucky readers will win a copy!

If you can't wait until then to watch it, click here to purchase the collection.

Movies on the Blu-ray include:

Hostel (Unrated Director's Cut)

(2005) - Color - Not Rated

Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson,Barbara Nedeljakova

Presented by Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill, Vol. 1 & 2) and directed by Eli Roth (Cabin Fever), Hostel is a shocking and relentless film in the tradition of Saw about two American backpackers (Jay Hernandez, Friday Night Lights and Derek Richardson, Dumb and Dumberer) in Europe who find themselves lured in as victims of a murder-for-profit business.

Hostel Part II (Unrated Director's Cut)

(2007) - Color - Not Rated

Lauren German, Roger Bart, Heather Matarazzo, Bijou Phillips

Presented by Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill, Vols. 1 & 2) and written and directed by Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever), Hostel Part II is the shocking and gruesome sequel about the underground torture ring where rich businessmen pay to torture and murder their victims.

Hollow Man (Director's Cut)

(2000) - Color - Not Rated

Starring: Elisabeth Shue, Kevin Bacon, Josh Brolin, Kim Dickens, Joey Slotnick, William Devane

What would you do if you were invisible? How far would you go? After years of experimentation, Dr. Sebastian Caine, a brilliant but arrogant and egotistical scientist working for the Defense Department, has successfully transformed mammals to an invisible state and brought them back to their original physical form. Determined to achieve the ultimate breakthrough, Caine instructs his team to move on to Phase III: human experimentation. Using himself as the first subject, the invisible Caine finds himself free to do the unthinkable.

Hollow Man 2

(2006) - Color - Rated R

Christian Slater, Peter Facinelli, Laura Regan

Christian Slater stars in the action-packed sequel to the box office hit Hollow Man as a dangerous invisible solider gone rouge. Facing his demise unless given a life saving serum, he hunts down the biologist involved in his transformation, the detective assigned to protect her, and the government forces that created him.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Movie Review: Inferno

Confession time: I haven't read any of the Da Vinci Code books, including The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, or this one, Inferno. I also haven't seen either of the first two movies in the series. Therefore, I was a little apprehensive going in to Inferno, since I didn't know if it was more of a standalone movie or not; it turned out it was, but it was still a bit confusing, plot-wise.

Dr. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up in an Italian hospital without any memories from the past 48 hours; last thing he remembers, he was still in Boston. Someone comes to the hospital looking for him and starts shooting, and his ER doctor, Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), helps him escape. They soon figure out why people are looking for Langdon, and they escape again, to Venice, where clues are hidden that may help them uncover more about why Langdon initially ended up in the ER, and why he's in possession of a certain object. However, he's still being chased by people who want him dead, so they have no time to waste.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

GIVEAWAY: 4-pack of tickets for Phantom of the Opera at the Detroit Opera House {ends 11/2}

Phantom of the Opera is coming to Detroit this January, and one of my lucky readers will win a family 4-pack of tickets to go see it!

The show will be here January 11-22, 2017; purchase tickets on Ticketmaster, or you can buy them at the Opera House or at broadwayindetroit.com.

About the show:
Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA will go on sale Sunday, October 9 for an engagement at the Detroit Opera House, January 11 – 22, 2017. With newly reinvented staging and stunning scenic design, this new version of PHANTOM is performed by a cast and orchestra of 52, making this one of the largest productions on tour in North America. Tickets will be available at all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at 1-800-982-2787, online at www.broadwayindetroit.com or www.ticketmaster.com, and The Fisher Theatre box office. Starting at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, October 10, tickets will also be available at the Detroit Opera House box office. Ticket prices start at $35.

Monday, October 24, 2016

GIVEAWAY: Digital HD copy of HBO's Ballers (season 2) - ends 11/1

Ballers season 2 is out on Digital HD today, October 24th, and one of my lucky readers can win a copy!

About the show:
If Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights don’t provide quite enough time on the turf, may we suggest your best bet for filling the hours between games this football season: the hit HBO comedy series Ballers.

Starring Dwayne Johnson as ex-superstar Spencer Strasmore, who has reinvented himself as a financial manager for today’s players in sun-soaked Miami, Ballers: Season 2 will be available to own on Digital HD Monday, October 24. The complete season download includes all ten Season 2 episodes, plus Inside the Episodes features at select retailers that take viewers behind the scenes of the show.

In Season 2 of Ballers, things are getting more competitive and complicated for Spencer. As the lines between professional and personal blur in his pursuit of lasting success and glory, he must face demons from the past when he goes head-to-head with the biggest business manager on the scene.
Heralded by critics for Johnson’s “movie-star charisma” (The Hollywood Reporter) and co-star Rob Corddry’s “hilarious” performance (TV Overmind), Ballers is a must-see comedy for football fanatics and TV junkies alike.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Celebrating National Pizza Month at MOD Pizza

*Disclosure: I received a meal at MOD in exchange for this post. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

MOD Pizza in Northville, MI, opened in August 2015, and a Rochester Hills location opened soon after. This month, MOD's across the country are celebrating National Pizza Month, and I stopped by the Northville location to check out the October seasonal pizza, the Petra.

A regular-sized pizza is $7.87 at MOD, and that includes all the toppings you want. I highly suggest getting an order of the cinnamon strips, as well ($2.97), with cinnamon dipping sauce, as that's fantastic as well.

GIVEAWAY: HBO's Vice Principals season 1, on Digital HD {ends 10/31}

Season 1 of Vice Principals is now available on Digital HD, and one of my lucky readers will win a Digital HD code to watch the series!

I haven't watched the series yet but I'm looking forward to it - Danny McBride is hilarious in anything he's in, usually.

About the show:
Looking for something “profanely hilarious” to watch this fall? Season one of the “funny as hell” HBO comedy series Vice Principals is coming to Digital HD October 17! 

Created by Danny R. McBride and Jody Hill (creators of HBO’s Eastbound & Down, along with Ben Best), Vice Principals: Season 1 tells the story of North Jackson High School and the two people who almost run it, the vice principals. McBride and Walton Goggins star as the school administrators, who are in an epic power struggle, vying for the top spot: to be school principal. But when new rival Dr. Belinda Brown (Kimberly Hébert Gregory) enters the picture, these bitter antagonists must form an unholy alliance to bring down the outsider by any means necessary. 

Also featuring Georgia King, Busy Phillips, Shea Whigham, Sheaun McKinney and guest stars Bill Murray and Susan Park, the new comedy series was a critical and audience hit this summer on HBO. Heralded by Rolling Stone as “the summer’s best new comedy,” Vice Principals is a “must watch” series for Eastbound & Down fans and comedy lovers alike. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Movie Review: American Pastoral

American Pastoral is based upon the book of the same name, by Philip Roth, and what initially attracted me to it, other than its fantastic cast, was its trailer: there's a haunting rendition of Mad World throughout. The movie ended up being one of those films that will make you think about it days and maybe even months later, and now I want to read the book version.

Seymour "Swede" Levov (Ewan McGregor) is a Jewish boy from New Jersey, who eventually marries Miss New Jersey, Dawn (Jennifer Connelly); much to his father's chagrin, she's not Jewish. Swede was known in high school for being the quarterback and all-around great at sports; now, after he and Dawn have a daughter, he has the perfect family. That is, until that daughter, Merry (Dakota Fanning), grows up, and starts to hang out with radicals in New York. Soon, an event happens in their small town of New Jersey that changes everything, and Merry is on the run because of it - with her parents desperate to find her.

Movie Review: Keeping Up with the Joneses

I had a choice of two movies on the same day, when I saw Keeping Up with the Joneses at a screening last week, and apparently I chose poorly; Joneses provided light chuckles, at best, and even those were sporadic.

Jeff Gaffney (Zach Galifianakis) and his wife Karen (Isla Fisher) are typical suburbanites, who love living in their Florida cul-de-sac. When their two boys go off to summer camp, they find themselves as empty nesters, temporarily, and so they're excited when a new couple moves in across the way: Natalie (Gal Gadot) and Tim Jones (Jon Hamm). They find themselves befriending the couple, but Karen is convinced that the couple is hiding a secret; it turns out she's right, and the two of them are government agents. Jeff and Karen soon find themselves tangled up in Tim and Natalie's world, and running for their lives.