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.