Disney’s latest live action film, Beauty and the Beast, is debuting today with much Disney fanfare. Cue #BeourGuest and sparkly costumes!When the teaser started to show online and on tv, generations were captivated, including the generation that grew up watching the iconic animated version. Today, those kids who watched Belle and Beast’s animated tale are now parents, and of course, the new film’s appeal is reaching a new generation in an epic way.
In celebration of the film’s release, we’re sharing some of our favorite toys and trinkets that we spotted at the 2017 Toy Fair here in NYC. The various companies that have the Disney license created magical toys to dazzle kids and engage in cool new ways.
Enchanting Melodies Belle Doll
Dressed in her gold ball gown, the Belle doll sings the “Something There” song from Disney’s live-action movie Beauty and the Beast. With one press of Belle’s stomach, she will sing of her budding love for the Beast in this classic song. Requires three A76 batteries, included. ($29.99/Available: Spring 2017)
Dance and Code Belle
Dance and Code Belle was one of my absolute favorite toys at Toy Fair, and perhaps my most favorite coding doll. This unique and gorgeous doll is inspired by Belle’s brains and graceful dancing. With an app, kids can code Belle’s dances and movements. I thought this was such a unique way to incorporate the tenets of STEAM and introducing coding.
Check out a video of Belle in action, as well as the other Beauty and the Beast dolls from Hasbro’s Toy Fair Showroom
Disney Beauty and the Beast Grand Romance
The deluxe duo 2-Pack includes a Belle doll dressed in a removable dress inspired by her yellow ball gown, Beast figure in his ballroom attire featuring a furry textured body, and fashion accessories. ($49.99) Available Spring 2017
Castle Friends Collection Small Doll Set
Once the human servants of the enchanted castle, the Disney Beauty and the Beast Castle Friends Collection Small Doll Set features five loyal friends to The Beast. The set features some of the characters from the live-action movie including Lumiere, Cogsworth, Chip, Mrs. Potts and Plumette. ($14.99) Available Spring 2017
Beauty and the Beast Village Belle Doll
The Village Belle doll wears the iconic blue dress inspired by the village scene in Disney’s live-action movie Beauty and the Beast. Kids, collectors, and fans of the timeless classic will love reliving their favorite moments and imagining their own stories. Includes Belle doll, outfit, and a pair of removable shoes inspired by her outfit in Disney’s live-action movie, Beauty and the Beast. ($14.99/available Spring 2017)
Funko Disney’s Belle, Beast and Gaston
Funko creates an expansive line of licensed vinyl figures, including many beloved Disney characters such as Belle and the Beast. I loved checking out the multiple iterations of these characters from their Pop! line of vinyl figures. With their over exaggerated animated features, these lovable collectibles are ideal for fans and kids alike. Now if only they had a LeFou character!
Have you seen Beauty and the Beast yet? If so, what did you love about it? More importantly, which toys are on yours and your kids’ wishlist?
A mysterious and surreal tale that celebrates peculiarity and the power of friendship, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children hits theaters on September 30. The film, directed by the illustrious Tim Burton and based on the best selling novel by Ransom Riggs, left me enchanted and wanting more of this incredible story. It was a vivid portrayal of good vs. evil and how finding your true self is just as important as making and creating lifelong friends.
When Jake discovers clues to a mystery that spans alternate realities and times, he uncovers a secret refuge known as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As he learns about the residents and their unusual abilities, Jake realizes that safety is an illusion, and danger lurks in the form of powerful, hidden enemies. Jake must figure out who is real, who can be trusted, and who he really is.
This week, I had the unique opportunity to participate in a few roundtables with Ransom Riggs, the bestselling author of Miss Peregine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Colleen Atwood, the costume designer for the film and several stars of the film.
I enjoyed hearing what Ransom Riggs had to say on what seeing his book created into a film by Tim Burton.
Well, it helps when the person changing it is a director you’ve looked up to for 25 years. So, you know, if it had been anyone else, I might have been more nervous. But, I think also, I went to grad film school and I’m a total film nerd, and I’ve written screenplays that no one is going to buy or anything like that.But I’ve dabbled enough to–I think to have a good perspective on how much work needs to be done and adaptation to make it a genuinely satisfying cinema experience that stands alone as a movie. So, I totally respect that. And, yes, I don’t watch the movie and go what about this? What about that? I just try and remove myself as the author and say, “Am I enjoying this as a movie?” And, yes, absolutely, I think it works so well.
Because the film was set in modern day and then went back in a time warp, the costumes helped depict the story in such an eloquent way. Colleen Atwood had a unique task to create timeless and elegant costumes for this unique cast.
On her inspiration behind Miss Peregine’s beautiful look for the film:
Well, the main thing that, that Eva Green [Miss Peregrine] and I talked about was having the costume sort of have some kind of quality that was birdlike without saying I’m a bird. So she has such an amazing shape. I mean she has an amazing physique so she lends herself to that sort of slim kind of goth middle and the kind of pointy shoulder. She was a little bit pointy as a character. So, we kind of did those instead of doing a puff sleeve we did the points on her sleeves. I didn’t really want to put her in a black costume. I really badly wanted it to not be black, and, and I found this amazing piece of navy blue, navy blue wool crepe which is what I ended up making the costume on. And, then I sponged into it a little bit with a little bit of green and some other colors, like how feathers reflect different colors. So, you really probably don’t see it in the film in the sense. It only just keeps it from being a really flat surface to photograph. It makes it more interesting photographically, and inside her shoulders there is a little inset. There’s a box pleat. There’s a feather that’s embroidered in a metallic and silk thread that sort of–I like how animals in nature sometimes they have a little piece of color or something that’s sort of bright that their own species catch but other people don’t catch, and then sort of that was my inspiration for that in her costume. And, I wanted to make her long – her things are all pointed kind of like feathers, and her jacket goes down in a little V in the back that, that kind of helps sell bird a little bit without being too aggressively birdlike.
We also had the chance to talk to several of the actors from the film. Varying in age and experience, these young actors were all so well spoken and so some thoughtful things to say about their work on the film. We interviewed Asa Butterfield (Jake), Ella Purnell (Emma), Lauren McCrostie (Olive) and Finlay MacMillan (Enoch).
On their key takeaway from being in the film, Asa Butterfield said:
You make a lot of good friends in a film, with every film you do, because you’re working so closely with people for a long amount of time. You get close, and you’ve made these friends, and you probably, hopefully, going to know for the rest of your life.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children in in theaters September 30. Be sure to catch this amazing film!
Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O’Dowd, Ella Purnell, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, with Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson Directed By: Tim Burton Rated PG-13
Full disclosure: I was invited by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporationto participate in this roundtable. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.
Bridget Jones is back, and this time, she’s having a baby. Finally, her career is on track, but her love trials are as interesting as ever…and now, there’s a baby on the way!
Bridget Jones came into our lives several years ago when Helen Fielding’s popular books became a pop cultural sensation and inspiration for the movie franchise. In the films, we watched a 30-something Bridget (Renée Zellweger) struggle with her career, love life and, well, life in general. Her self-loathing and bigger than life adventures are realities that so many of us—30 and 40 something moms, especially—have endured ourselves.
I’ll always remember Bridget’s love triangle with Darcy and Daniel, and how she wanted nothing more than to be loved and to love someone else. As a 20-something, working as an editor in NYC when Bridget Jones’s Diary first came out, the film resonated with me and became the Rom Com anthem of my life. And now, as Bridget’s life reaches a parallel to my own now that I’m in my 40s, the latest installment is as endearing as ever.
Bridget finds herself in quite the predicament when she literally falls for an American math/love guru named Jack. Their romance was quick and spontaneous, but progressed into something sweet and dreamy. Around the same time, Bridget kept bumping into Darcy who was on the verge of a divorce, but still very consumed with his work. After a sweet connection, Bridget and Darcy found themselves together again. The rest of the story is cunning and hilarious, and kept us laughing and guessing. I was laughing so hard at some scenes, I’m almost positive I snorted at the premiere! That would’ve been so Bridget!
This week as part of their promotional tour, I had the chance to participate in an intimate blogger roundtable with director Sharon Maguire and Renée Zellweger. These roundtables are always so exciting, but this one was especially lovely. With the London NYC as the backdrop, Maguire and Zellweger sat with us for afternoon tea.
Zellweger arrived in a stunning Reem Acra tea length dress and Maguire had an equally elegant outfit as well. Their demeanor was as gracious as one would imagine, and I remember that I couldn’t stop smiling.
On playing Bridget Jones again
Q: So, what was it like to come back to this character after all these years?
Zellweger: It was exactly like you said. When they sent the script, it felt like this fantastically happy reunion, and it’s reminded me how much I love her.
I love her friends and her parents and her world, and then, I got really terrified because I thought, “Oh God. I really–I don’t want to mess this up” because, I mean, I know that like–like myself, you know, who, when I discovered her in the books, like so many other people, you know, we fell in love with her.
It was so much fun to be back in her shoes or her boots and her walk and her laugh and her voice and her not quite altogether wardrobe and, you know, and back with her friends.
During our roundtable, we talked about a lot of things, but I particularly loved our conversation about being creators. Zellweger and Maguire had so many deep answers to all of our questions, but this was one of my favorites:
On Women in Hollywood and Being Creators
Q: Sharon, since the first one 15 years ago, as a female, as a working woman, as a working mother in Hollywood, how has it changed in terms of getting the type of movie made that you wanted?
Maguire: I kind of took time out after I made the movie really because I needed–I felt I needed to go away and breathe. And so, that’s what I did. And so, then, I kind of got hooked on that. You know, I kind of thought, “Oh, okay. I don’t need to be on the runaway train of work and, you know, define myself just like that. You know, I can live a life.” All I know is that I don’t understand why there aren’t more women directors in Hollywood. I really don’t understand because I can’t believe the whole movie industry is sexist. But, you know–so, the only thing I think that we need to do is I think we need to make–there needs to be a stronger thing about–in the curriculum for schools, there needs to be storytelling.
And I think part of storytelling is by film or by novels or whatever, and if we all learned storytelling from the roots up, I think there would just be more women filmmakers. You know?
I think probably Hollywood goes with what’s worked before. And if a man’s directed it before and that’s worked and it’s made money, we’ll go back with a man, you know, because people put a lot of money into these things.
But, I know loads of women directors in TV everywhere. You know? So, I don’t know why they haven’t translated it enough to Hollywood, you know, yet. I really don’t understand it.
Zellweger: I do think it’s changing because women are creators, and the things that are being put out there are becoming recognizably financially viable.
And when there’s a financial incentive to do something, people come running and sexism takes a backseat to–to, you know, capitalizing on somebody’s work.
And also, on this tour, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting ladies like–no offense–ladies like you in the room.
Ladies like you who are not waiting to be invited by the establishment to express yourselves. You’ve created forums for yourselves to share with likeminded people, women, who will share your interests and gives you an opportunity to express yourselves creatively, to exercise your creativity as writers, producers. You’re editors.
You are basically your own channel. You’re your own, you know, entertainment entities. Young women on AOL have their own channels, and they develop the content.
And they edit it, and they get, you know, access to whomever it is that they’d like to speak with because it’s effective. People are interested in what they have to say.
They’re not waiting, again, for that invitation. And, again, when there is a recognizable response, then people have to change and–and–and adapt and embrace that, “Oh, you know, we’ve been wrong. The conventional way of doing things is kind of passé, and we should start to recognize that all of these women have something to say and it’s valid and it’s important.” I loved it.
On Motherhood and Friendships
Q: What is a scene that you can relate to or one that resonated in your life?
Maguire: I kind of probably relate most to the jump around scene. Probably that. You know, sitting alone at home thinking, “I’m in my forties, none of my fantasies have come true. Great. Great birthday.”
Zellweger: Well, I guess more than a scene maybe a theme in the film that her friends have kind of moved on. And they have families, and they have partners. So, their lives have changed.
And I believe that with–from what I’ve experienced with the people that I’m closest to, you evolve when you become a mom. You become a bigger version of yourself. You become a more powerful version of yourself, a fully realized version of yourself.
And I’m watching all of my friends and my, you know, family members evolve in this way. And I’m a bit of a late bloomer, and so, it’s interesting to kind of be chronologically in that place, but not have–not experience that same transformation at the same time as your friends and the people closest to you.
It’s very strange, and it’s–it is a very unique kind of loneliness. It’s a bit of–yeah. It’s–it’s very unique because then it means defining your growth in a different way and insisting that it happen despite the absence of this thing that makes it happen naturally.
This roundtable with Sharon Maguire and Renee Zellweger will do down in the books. What a lovely conversation; I wish we could’ve chatted even longer. We did, however, get to hop in the photo booth with Renée and Sharon after the roundtable. What a surreal experience!
Bridget Jones’s Baby is, perhaps, my favorite film from the series, and definitely the most hilarious of the bunch. It’s a great film for date night with the husband, but an even better night out with the girls! Bridget Jones from Universal Pictures is in theaters now.
Cast: Renée Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones and Emma Thompson Writers: Helen Fielding, Emma Thompson, Dan Mazer Directed by: Sharon Maguire Produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward
Full disclosure: I was invited by Universal Pictures to participate in this roundtable interview. I did not receive compensation. As always, opinions on NKT are my own.
Last week, we had the esteemed honor of participating in a fun preview of Ice Age: Collision Course and interviewing one of the voice actors and famed astrophysicist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
So, you’ve heard how I loved the latest quirky installment of Ice Age, but we were over the moon (and stars) about meeting Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. My work allows for so many incredible opportunities and interviews, but immersing the boys’ in Dr. Tyson’s brilliance via Ice Age was such a highlight.
In Ice Age, Neil deGrasse Tyson voiced his furry counterpart, Neil deBuck Weasel. DeBuck Weasel offered lots of scientific insight and hard facts throughout the film. And as he does in everything he voices, Dr. Tyson was engaging, authoritative and relevant.
Dr. Tyson helped the filmmakers with weaving scientific information in Ice Age. When asked if that was a fun part of the process, he said:
“I seem fastidious, right? If an artist says, ‘Here’s the science we want to include. What do you think of it?’ I had first asked, ‘Well, what are you trying to do? Where is the fun, you know, where do you want to put the fun in? Where is it kind of zany?” and because I don’t want to just be cold and hard about it, “No, this is wrong. You have to get this right.’ That’s no fun.
Once I know where they’re coming from, then I can make suggestions that can improve the science without losing any of the comedic parts. There are obviously some completely absurd aspects of this. I am not here to say that you could never have the Scrat in a flying saucer, you know, hit planets like on a pool table. Obviously that’s for the fun of it, but even what they are showing are that any adjustments you can make to boost the accuracy of the science or–because sometimes the science you can put in that makes it funnier, okay? If they didn’t know that, I would say that is some expectation they would have of me.
We loved listening to Dr. Tyson speak so candidly about science and how he’d love to pen a book on how parents can get kids interested in science. Though this book he’s imagining is years off, my takeaway from Dr. Tyson was this:
When it comes to kids and science and learning about the world them, “as a parent get out of their way, get out of their way.”
Speaking of curiosity, one of the kids asked Dr. Tyson about his path to becoming an astrophysicist. It was so fitting that he told this story to a crowd of parent bloggers with kids, including my own 8 year old.
It was a family trip to my local planetarium, the Hayden Planetarium. In fact, that’s where you’re all visiting in a couple of hours. You are leaving here, going to the American Museum of Natural History, where I went at age nine. My parents brought me, my brother, and my sister, saw the dinosaurs, saw the animals, and we went to the planetarium. And we sat in a room, it got dark, the stars came out, and I think the universe chose me. It said, “You will be an astrophysicist one day.” And I’ve been hooked ever since.
Before our event took us to the American Museum of Natural History, J made sure to corner Dr. Tyson to ask him whether Mars was once like Earth, in reference to the theory that Ice Age touched upon in Collision Course.
Dr. Tyson confirmed that scientists believe that Mars once looked like Earth because it has river deltas, river beds; we may never know what Mars looks like, he said. Mars is still an unknown frontier.
At the American Museum of Natural History, we were given a very cool tour of the exhibit, Dinosaurs Among Us. A few of the scientists and curators of the exhibit spoke to us in detail about the exhibit, and of course the kids loved stamping their booklets and exploring the kid-friendly features.
The kids loved their first time at the Hayden Planetarium, where we watched Dark Universe, voiced by none other than Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson.
I loved getting a look at the Titanosaurous, which is so amazing and huge! When I asked J about his favorite parts of our trip to AMNH, he admitted the secret elevators and playing Pokemon Go (so many!) among all the dinosaurs rank pretty high on his list of summer fun.
If you ask me, not much can top meeting Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. Secret elevators at AMNH, though, are a close second.
Ice Age: Collision Course is currently in theaters.
The screening and event was hosted by 20th Century Fox and the American Museum of Natural History.
In the latest installment in the Ice Age franchise, Manny and crew are back for more fun in Ice Age: Collision Course. In the latest film, Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie’s (Queen Latifah) daughter, Peaches (Keke Palmer) is approaching a new phase in life. Peaches, who is getting married, hopes to explore the world with her new husband, Julian—much to her parents’ chagrin.
Alongside of this new phase in life, the Earth is experiencing its own changes, where Manny and his friends must team up to make things right. Along the way, they meet eccentric characters, such as Shangri Llama, who follow a different path in life, making this adventure even more colorful.
Several weeks ago, I had the chance to screen Ice Age: Collision Course and interview Keke Palmer, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, as well as the director Mike Thurmeier. This was such a fun junket at the Crosby Hotel, and an equally funny family film that I can’t wait for my kiddos to see.
I asked Keke and Jesse about their experience with exploring and roaming, and I loved what they had to say.
Traveling and roaming, exploration was a key component in this story, and it’s obviously a right of passage in many peoples’ lives. Have any of you taken any significant trips in your life that were, you know, life changing?
Keke said, “Significant trips? Probably when I was living in New York for the four months doing Broadway. That was the most significant change I could tell in myself because I’m so thankful that I used that time wisely because it really left me the opportunity to learn so much about myself. I used the opportunity of the discipline I had to have for Broadway to take time from my phone and to really sit with myself and discover more ways to meditate and do yoga. And that was a really cool time for me. Even though my mom was there, she really gave me my space, and she and I were transitioning into, you know, her seeing me also as an adult and respecting my boundaries. And that was a really cool time where I was able to see, “Wow, okay, you’re making a jump, sister.”
Jesse Tyler Ferguson had a wonderful anecdote about traveling too:
“I just got to go to Cuba, which was really, really interesting. And you sort of have to go with a purpose, which I love. It wasn’t a trip for the weak of heart. We went, and we brought Capezio dance shoes to a dance troupe out there, and they performed for us. And I was able to immerse myself in the artists that were in the culture there. And we weren’t just having mojitos and smoking cigars. You know, we really got to like experience and see the parts of the city that I think are, you know, not shown on Instagram and Yelp.”
Be sure to check out the brand new adventure in Ice Age: Collision Course, which is out in theaters on July 22.
Full disclosure: I was invited by 20th Century Fox to participate in this press junket. As always, all opinions are my own.
Every now and then, a movie comes along that brings together a star-studded cast to deliver a funny and feel-good story while truly living up to its hype—and The Secret Life of Pets does just that!
The Secret Life of Pets, from Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures, is an imaginative and hilarious portrayal of city pets that shows what happens when unlikely characters work together and find the value of friendship and loyalty in the process. Max, the terrier, is well-loved by his owner and embraces the life of a solo pet. That is, until his owner, Katie, introduces an oversized upheaval to the home: Duke the Newfoundland.
The newly-minted frenemies, Max and Duke, as well as their fluffy, furry and feathered band of domesticated friends find themselves in quite a storied predicament that leads to them exploring the city streets and navigating the underbelly of the city where the “flushed” animals go to live. On their adventure, Max and Duke meet stray cats, a psychotic bunny, Tattoo the pig, among other colorful characters.
The Secret Life of Pets is a great mix of silly antics and clever comedy, which appeals to both kids and parents. Surprisingly, the music complemented the story well, between the composed poodle headbanging to System of a Down, classic songs weaved throughout and Basement Jaxx’s Do Your Thing from the trailer. Semi-spoiler: my older son squealed when he realized the song during the sausage factory scene. Grease fans will appreciate it!
My kids, who are 4 and 8, both enjoyed the film from start to finish and continually quote it every time there’s a relevant reference. While drinking milk: “Chug, chug, chug…” Their favorite parts of The Secret Life of Pets revolve around pooping and the dogs drinking (chugging) out of the toilet. Naturally.
In line with the silliness, its the collective cast of characters and the voice actors who make this film an instant classic! My kids and I watched the screening before I read up on the voice actors, and I loved the surprise when I realized who voiced whom. With the big push for this film, it was hard to avoid that surprise, but it’s definitely cool for the adults to associate the actors to the characters they voice in the film.
A few favorite voices from The Secret Life of Pets: Louis C.K.(Louie) is mild-mannered Max the Terrier, Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family) is the fluffy Newf who uses his size to his advantage, Lake Bell’s Chloe the cat embodies the dissociation of felines in general and the crazy, but lovable Snowball the bunny was brought to life by Kevin Hart.
Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview several of the actors who voiced these fun pets. It was, hands-down, one of the funniest interviews I’ve done yet.
Before Hollywood, Eric Stonestreet, grew up at a farm in Kansas, so he has had animals his whole life. With respect to Duke he said: “ I think when you meet him at the beginning of the movie you think one thing about him, that he’s kind of a bully and kind of a tough guy, —mildly a tough guy because he is protecting something. We don’t know what that is. And I think we all do that as people; we put up a front in certain situations. So, I relate to him in that way, that you kind of protect yourself a little bit and hide what’s maybe sometimes going on behind the scenes. And he is fun and lovable. He’s a lap dog. I think I’m kind of a little bit of a lap dog.”
A photo posted by Jen Rabulan-Bertram (@jenrab) onJun 24, 2016 at 10:25am PDT
For a little fluffy bunny, Kevin Hart’s Snowball does an admirable job leading a revolution for his fellow flushed animals. Hart’s small but fierce mentality and self-deprecating humor is a perfect complement to his character. Well known for sharing his daily adventures as a parent, comedian and personality on social media, I used the opportunity as a fellow social media enthusiast to see what Snowball would do. That should be a thing, right? What Would Snowball DO? (WWSD) Ha! Hart had us cracking up, but inspired at the same time:
“Snowball is a leader. And he is starting a revolution, so everything is about recruiting. You know, if he was on there, I don’t think it would be in the realm of my Snapchats. Snowball’s are strictly PSA messages of join the movement, join the revolution. And it’s basically against people.
He is basically fussing at people. That’s why I love Snowball. But, his anger is justified. Snowball doesn’t like people just–it’s not like he just doesn’t like people just because they’re people. He doesn’t like people because he was hurt. He bought into the whole person and pet reality. And when he was hurt by that because someone abandoned him, it really threw him off. That’s what I love about this character, you know.
I don’t just do things just to do them. I have to put depth to it. And that’s with any movie that I’ve done. I think I’m very funny in every movie that I’ve done, and the movies have progressed, but the reason why the characters are always funny is because there is a foundation underneath the character. And that’s what me and the director talked about. I was like, “I don’t just want to play the guy because he’s funny. What’s the foundation?”
And being that Snowball was hurt is one thing, but then I made him insecure. You notice he’s very insecure. You know, he gives out these orders, but then he questions the orders that he gave out, you know. “Everybody listen. Raise your hand unless you’re tired. Unless your arm is tired. Put your arm down. You don’t have to raise your hand.” And it’s funny. You laugh at it, but it shows you that he’s not really the guy that he’s being. This is a manufactured version of himself, which justifies when he gets the hug at the end–he melts.”
It’s always fun chatting with talent to hear what makes them tick as actors, but also to get their perspective on the film and their contribution of their characters in the film. In the end, The Secret Life of Pets is a fiercely funny story, but it’s the underlying story of loyalty, kindness and staying true to yourself that makes this a feel-good film, and one that is absolutely our favorite family film this summer!
The Secret Life of Pets is out in theaters July 8. You can purchase your tickets to The Secret Life of Pets on Fandango.
In theaters March 25, Toula and the whole family are back together for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. Fourteen years after the success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Nia Vardalos has written a sequel that will have the entire family cracking up and embracing their own crazy relatives.
Set 10 years after Toula and Ian Miller married in the first movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 gathers the star-studded ensemble cast to swig Uzo, devour Baklava, laugh with the Portokalos family, redefine relationships and, of course, to celebrate a big fat Greek wedding.
Academy Award nominee Nia Vardalos took inspiration from her own life when writing My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. Following her journey to become a mother after adopting her daughter within the American foster system, Vardalos documented her story in her book, “Instant Mom.” While promoting her New York Times bestseller, Vardalos spotted a mother, similar in age to herself, in line. The woman was part of the sandwich generation, in which she was busy parenting her kids while helping her aging parents. From there, Vardalos imagined what the Portokalos and Millers’ family life was like 10 years later. She wrote the script of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and gathered the original cast for another soiree.
In honor of this absolutely hysterical film, I was invited by Universal to take part in an absolutely wonderful press conference with several cast members. We heard from Elena Kampouris who plays Paris Miller. We listened to Joey Fatone who played Angelo and Andrea Martin who plays Aunt Voula. And we also had the pleasure of interviewing Nia Vardalos, John Corbett and director Kirk Jones.
I was enchanted by Elena Kampouris’ interview. She was poised and well-spoken—pretty much the opposite of the dark and dreary teenager she portrayed. I was able to ask Elena about Paris’ storyline and this is what she had to say:
NKT: So the message about strong women is such an important part of Paris’ storyline. Do you have any advice or insight on how other teen girls can harness girl power for good?
Ms. Elena Kampouris: Absolutely, yes. Well, what I love that Nia did with this movie is, a lot of people have asked, oh, are they going to do a third movie? Are you going to get married? And I don’t think that would be the case, and I know that Nia’s not all about that. Because in the film, she makes a point, if you’re a teen girl and you get to a certain age and you’re expected to get married, you don’t have to.
You can do what you feel is right for you, what your path and your heart is telling you is right. So I like that Nia makes that point. And for myself, I aspire to be a weapon of love and mass creation. To inspire positivity and empowerment. Not just with women, but with everybody. I think we should all feel equal and I think that Nia has infused that into the movie a little bit, especially with Paris’ character, and I love that.
I loved listening to Nia Vardalos impart her creativity, as well as understanding Kirk Jones’ creativity and indulging in John Corbett’s charm. (Could they be any more gracious with our questions and photos?)
In My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, Toula and Ian struggle with the status quo that had become their life. So busy parenting, like many couples, Toula and Ian forgot how to be in a relationship with each other. Their angsty teenage daughter, Paris, played by the eloquent Elena Kampouris, has college ambitions that would leave her mom seeking for solace. Never a family without drama, Toula always found herself responsible for her aging parents and dealing with her needy cousins and friends.
The highlight and my major takeaway from the press conference was the question I asked Nia, John and Kirk about balance. I appreciated their insight and it certainly give you a look at one of the main themes of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.
NKT: Nia, the beauty of your writing is that it resonates with from the young to the old. Everyone has a family member in the cast. But my question is for anyone. How do you think people can balance everything? We see the messaging in the story, but can we have it all? Can we balance our parenting without letting our relationships set to the side?
Ms. Nia Vardalos: Let’s all answer that, if you don’t mind. I believe that that balance is a quest. And I think that we need the yin and the yang and the only way to know that you’re off balance is to lose it a little bit. So I’m actually happy for those dark places in my life, because I find the light–I appreciate the light so much more.
Mr. Kirk Jones: I think it’s increasingly difficult to find a balance in life. And you would think that as a species, if we were so smart and we were so advanced, then where we should be at the moment in our history of evolution is that we should working about three days a week and we should be spending real quality time, four days a week, with our families and hobbies and just kind of improving ourselves. But that isn’t the case.
I don’t know about anyone here, but more and more with email and technology and computers. It’s like 24/7 we’re all going. And I seriously think there’s going to be a backlash. I think we will look at this period in our history and in maybe 10 years or so, I think, especially a lot of young people will say, “Do you know what? We just need to get out and live our lives a little bit, instead of being slaves to trying to organize everything and control everything.” But it’s difficult. It’s really difficult to keep a balance.
Mr. John Corbett: And when I was, I guess I was about 18, I decided to never get married or have children, so I think I have the best life up here.
Ms. Nia Vardalos: But John’s so smart, too. John went off social media just to get off it, and I just thought that was so smart. This is the thing that just, it breaks my heart. I walk into a coffee store and everyone’s got their heads down looking at a screen. And I know I sound old school, but we are the sum total of our relationships, and we’re missing out on so much with our heads down. Not that I don’t love twitter. I do. But I limit my time.
I laughed so hard and I even shed a few tears during the film. As I told my friend, Mitch of NYC Gay Dad, I don’t think I’ve laughed out loud throughout an entire movie in so long. I got married right around the same time as the first movie, and I have a very large and loud Filipino family, so I could relate to the films on so many levels. But in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, I really felt like Nia could see in my soul and wrote this movie for moms and women like me. Not only does she get the whole parenting thing (wanting to be there for everything and never wanting to let go) but she also gets the marriage limbo. What do we talk about if we don’t talk about work or kids? For those of us in the throes of parenthood and marriage, Toula and Ian are our soul animals, and Nia nails it with the dialogue. The humor was well-timed, making it such a fun film for those who are going through the different phases in life.
Full disclosure: I was invited as media to cover the press conference and interview. I was not compensated and all opinions are my own.
Po and friends are back for Kung Fu Panda 3, and their adventures are as crazy as ever.
In Kung Fu Panda 3, Po reunites with his long lost father. Together, Po and his biological panda father travel to a secret panda paradise where he meets relatives and other panda characters. Things get dicey when the villain Kai threatens all the kung fu masters across China. Po is faced with trying to train the village, all of whom are challenged with coordination and motivation.
I had the chance to get a glimpse of the film before it was finalized and I literally LOLed so many times. As part of this fun opportunity, I was invited to participate in an intimate roundtable with Lucy Liu, who voices Viper, one of the characters from the beloved Kung Fu Panda franchise.
As an Asian American mama, I was thrilled to have the chance to meet Lucy Liu, an actor and intelligent entertainer whom I’ve admired for years. I was curious about Liu’s background as a prominent Asian American actor and new mom so I asked her about race and her thoughts on her influence on the younger generation.
NKT: I wanted to talk a little bit about growing up, there really weren’t a lot of Asian American performers, entertainers, actors, actresses. What are your thoughts on what you could tell kids who may be interested in getting in the business on creating that diverse voice that other kids can look up to?
Ms. Lucy Liu: That’s an excellent question. I think that now it’s becoming a little bit easier because we’re such a mixed race. And I mean, nobody’s just purely Chinese anymore or purely from another country. Especially in New York City, I think we’re spoiled because I think when we go outside of the country, it’s very segregated. There’s a Koreatown, there’s a Chinatown, there’s all of those things.
But, I do think that the most important thing is to create opportunities for yourself and not wait for other people to give them to you. And it’s really a great thing for kids, especially because they like to be motivated. They like projects. They like to be creative. And it’s just an idea of what is going to spur them to be the most creative and to never limit them, to allow them to make movies on their phone, to let them play, you know?
And that’s what a child does. A child plays and an adult is continuing that, one would hope. Do you know what I mean?
Ms. Lucy Liu: And I think that sometimes we forget that. Sometimes we forget because we’re so exhausted or we have so many responsibilities.
But, we also have to remember and remind ourselves for that gratitude, because for me gratitude also brings you back to the source of who you are ultimately. And I think that’s something that I want to instill in my family, always, always.
I loved Lucy’s answer, but especially her last statement about gratitude. Gratitude also brings you back to the source of who you are ultimately. What a great message!
I can’t wait to see rest of the film, which will be out in theaters on January 29. Until then, be sure to check out the trailer
Full disclosure: This Event was hosted by 20th Century Fox & DreamWorks Animation. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.
Just before the highly anticipated Hotel Translyania 2 hit theaters, the boys and I were thrilled to enjoy a day with the Drac Pack at the Bronx Zoo. Hosted by our friends at Kidz Vuz and Sony Pictures, we enjoyed breakfast in an event space overlooking the Congo Gorilla Forest.
The guys were beside themselves by their incredible surroundings and hanging with our blogger friends. Actually, I don’t think we did much eating; we certainly took in the sights more than anything else.
We absolutely loved meeting and greeting the Drac Pack and posing with our cool capes. In the new animated film, several notable names get in on the monster fun: Adam Sandler once again voices the lovable Dracula, Andy Samberg voices Jonathan, Selena Gomez lends her voice for Mavis, Kevin James is Frankenstein, Steve Buscemi voices Wayne and David Spade is Griffin.
As part of the event, we had the chance to learn more about bats from the Bronx Zoo experts. My guys loved learning about Rodriguez Bats and all about their environments and what they eat. It was so cool to see them in their habitat at the zoo.
Thanks to Sony and Kidz Vuz, we enjoyed the rest of the day at the Bronx Zoo exploring and taking in all of the fun with our friends!
This one isn’t for the kids, but definitely for the parents who love music and for those that can relate to chasing dreams.
Rock dramas could easily populate a genre of its own. The new film, Ricki and the Flash starring Meryl Streep, is a unique story that seems to transcend genres and your typical rockstar story.
Directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Diablo Cody, Ricki and the Flash is a story about a musician who set out to chase dreams at the expense of her family and traditional path in life. Ricki Randazzo, the veteran rocker, played by Streep, is at her best on stage, alongside of her multi-faceted band, the Flash. When her adult daughter is facing a crisis back home in Indiana, she has a chance to redeem her role as mother and come to the rescue, when she, herself, could use a dose of the same support and rescuing.
In Ricki and he Flash, Meryl’s starring role has the potential to upstage this heartwarming story. Ricki’s relationship with her daughter, Julie, played by Mamie Gummer, is a modern mother-daughter relationship heightened by dysfunction and healing. Mamie and Meryl’s onscreen relationship catapulted their real-life mother-daughter chemistry, and further solidified Mamie’s rising star status. Man, does she play the angsty, bitchy victim well!
Ricki’s boyfriend, Greg, played by the ruggedly charming, Rick Springfield, lifts the love storyline at the best possible moments. Kevin Kline played a conservative secondary character as Ricki’s ex-husband. The talented Andra McDonald was nice to see in the film, but I thought her character was underutilized.
The strengths of this film are the relationships, the live music and the raw emotion. When all three catalysts are in full force, expect all the feelings. All of them.
As Ricki, we see Meryl as we’ve never seen her before. She’s passionate about her music and doesn’t apologize for chasing her dream to be a rockstar. At one point of the film, while on stage, she starts a diatribe about why women are punished for putting careers first. We knew she was talented, but she takes her musical chops to the next level. She learned to play the guitar for the film and shows her rockstar status in various scenes. Of all the songs played, “Cold One” is undoubtedly the most unforgettable. This song catapults different meanings with every time it’s played, with the last scene making it all come full circle.
If you’ve ever chased a dream, wanted to chase a dream or had a dysfunctional relationship, Ricki and the Flash will resonate with you. The relationships portrayed by Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer and Rick Springfield make this film worth seeing and believing in second chances.
On that note, I had a cool opportunity to sit in on a blogger junket with three of the main characters of Ricki and the Flash. As expected, Meryl was gracious, Mamie was cool and reflective, but quite honestly, Rick stole the show for many of us who grew up listening to him.
I have a short video to share of his impromptu serenade! Several people asked the predictable questions about Meryl working with Mamie, and what it was like for Meryl to play live for the movie. (It was great to work together; and it was fun to rock out with Rick and the band!)
The one question I asked had to do with music for the film and how music affects them.
“The music and lyrics throughout Ricki and the Flash complemented the storyline and evoked so much emotion between Ricki and Julie and Ricki and Greg. Do any of you have songs or lyrics that could be a part of your life’s soundtrack?
Mamie Gummer answered that she spent many years listening to powerful female musicians such as Sarah McClaughlan, Fiona Apple and attending Lillith Fair—the type of music that speaks to your emotions.
As a college kid of the 90s, I can totally relate to this language and music choice!
Ricki and the Flash is now in theaters and is rated PG-13.