Friday, July 31, 2009

I Saw 'Funny People' and I Thought It Was Funny

Last week I was invited to a screening of the new Judd Apatow movie, "Funny People," that stars Adam Sandler and Seth Rogan as stand-up comedians. And guess what - it really was funny. Not only that, but I went to see it with my friend Amy, who is a stand up comedian herself, and she thought it was funny too. That's a pretty big endorsement, sort of like your cat giving a big 'Two Thumbs up' to the 'Garfield' movie. Well, not really, because 'Garfield' was awful and I guess that would just mean your cat's taste really sucked.

On with the review.

Along with Sandler and Rogan the movie stars a few people you've probably seen in other Apatow films (Jonah Hill, Leslie Mann) and also Jason Schwartzman who is great as Rogan's egotistical roomate Mark (Schwartzman also wrote the music for the film.) To be honest, I love Apatow's movies but I was hoping this one would venture away from the usual dude-living-with-his-friends-and-trying-to-get-laid scenario and I wasn't disappointed. Sure there was plenty of that, but the storyline involving Sandler is more dramatic (I won't give it away. Okay, I can't help myself - he's dying) and while he certainly plays a lot of lines for laughs, there's a serious side that gives the movie another layer.

(Disclaimer: I was one of the five people on the planet who actually liked 'Spanglish' and Sandler in one of his serious roles. Anyone else out there like it? You over there, Adam's mom, is that a hand being raised? That makes six of us.)

Sandler plays actor George Simmons who has successfully made the move from stand-up to feature films (hey, just like Adam Sandler) who befriends struggling comedian Ira Wright (Rogan) and hires him to be his writer and personal assistant. George confides in Ira about his illness, and also about his obsession with ex-girlfriend Laura (Mann.) This is the part of the story that seemed to go on way too long - George and Ira take a trip up to Laura's Marin County home while her husband is away, and I just kept hoping the guys would get back in their car and drive back to L.A. where the lines were snappier and the jokes funnier. I may have even yelled out something inappropriate like, "Dude, get back to your friends and try to get laid!" It's the sad truth - give me a bucket of buttered popcorn and a jumbo box of Junior Mints and there's no telling what I'll do.

One of the things I would have liked to see more of is the relationship between Ira and Daisy (Aubry Plaza) a comedian who starts off dating Ira's roommate but then falls for Ira. I have to stop here and say OMIGOD THIS GIRL LOOKS EXACTLY, I MEAN EXACTLY LIKE MY DAUGHTER. Not only that, she has the same mannerisms, and the same dry sense of humor. Here's a picture of her, and for any of you that know my 13-year-old you might just fall off your chair, or out of your bed depending on where you like to be when reading my reviews (I'm going to ignore the smartass who just said 'toilet.')

But overall I liked the movie, and would guess that Apatow fans won't be disappointed although they should prepare themselves for a slightly more melancholy ride. And Apatow fans like me who are looking for a little more will like it as well, and may be inclined to give it an enthusiastic 'Two Thumbs Up' as I did. Not sure what my cat would give it - he's been grounded ever since he dragged me out to see 'Garfield.'

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See the trailer for 'Funny People' here.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Whales are Smart and Other Things We Learned From Our Visit to Sea World

The nice people at Sea World in San Diego recently treated our family to a day at their park. We hadn't been there for at least four years, so it felt like a whole new experience for us. Besides having an awesome time, I think we learned a few things.

1) Whales are really, really smart. How do they get them to jump on command, and so perfectly synchronized? I can't even get my cat to bury his own poop.

(This was shot during our Dine With Shamu lunch, which I highly recommend for getting a great up-close look at the whales and their trainers. And for having a nice, civilized lunch buffet. As you know, I'm a big fan of the lunch buffet, with or without a five-ton mammal splashing around in front of me.)

2) Penguins are cute. (Okay, so we knew that already.) As part of our special behind-the-scenes tour, we were allowed into a private penguin enclave. This little guy just wandered around between us. I really wanted to put him into my bag and take him home but I hear they frown on things like that.

3) There are fish that look like people you know. Relatives, even. I'm not saying which one, but when I saw this swimming towards me I half expected it to be carrying a big casserole and telling me how much I'd grown.

4) There are rides at Sea World.
Really good ones! We took the awesome Bayside Skyride that gave us an incredible view of the surrounding bay. My husband and I reminisced like old people do, about how they used to have the same thing at Disneyland. Then we told our kids how we used to walk five miles home from school. In the rain. Barefoot. While being attacked by killer bees. But our kids still loved this ride.

Then there's this Atlantis thing, that I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot-pole but my husband and kids loved. I just sat on a bench and waited for them. And had some coffee. And checked my email on my iPhone. They don't call me wild and crazy for nothin'.

5) There is a great circus there. Really, why haven't I heard more about this? It was an incredible, Cirque-du-Soleil-like circus that was funny, action-packed and entertaining for kids and adults. Make it a point to see Cirque de la Mer - you won't be disappointed. Plus, when was the last time you saw an outdoor circus? On the water?

6) Whatever you do, avoid the cappuccino cart.
This was our only real downer of the day. We were looking for our caffeine fix, so we paid almost $18 for four coffee drinks. After a really, really, long wait I finally got my double-cappuccino, but I swore there wasn't a drop of espresso in it, and turns out I was right because we found out the espresso machine was broken. Were they even going to tell us? The woman working the machine didn't even bother to explain, just took my drink back and tossed it in the trash can. We saw her and her co-worker trying to call someone to fix the machine, but they didn't offer up a refund, an apology or an explanation to us or anyone else patiently waiting for their drinks. After waiting for a good ten minutes we finally just asked for a hot chocolate for our younger daughter, an espresso-less mocha for our older daughter and two drip coffees for my husband and I. They never apologized, never offered to refund the difference for our drinks and by that point we just wanted to get out of there. Eighteen bucks for two small coffees, a hot chocolate and a faux-mocha.

We didn't let our coffee cart debacle ruin our day, though. We had a great day, and enjoyed that our kids aren't all that jaded yet and still get excited at the sight of dolphins swimming and being able to touch a starfish. We ended the day with the fireworks display, and were having such a great time we stayed until closing. Another thing we learned: Kids will never complain of being tired until you start the walk through the parking lot to your car.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Another Reason to Stay Up Late: Nightastic at Disneyland!

Recently the girls and I were treated to an amazing evening at Disneyland previewing the new nighttime attractions there. But who am I kidding - do we need new nighttime attractions to have a good time at Disneyland? Not really - my girls turn into giddy, jumping, crazy monkeys as soon as we walk in the gates. If there was a Disneyland bath they would jump in and roll around until the sun went down. (Did that last sentence make sense? Well, you get the picture: MY GIRLS LOVE DISNEYLAND.)

Summer Nightastic is the summer lineup of after-dark entertainment that is being featured at Disneyland and California Adventure through August 23: a newly enhanced Fantasmic,; New Pixie Hollow Enchantment ; a new fireworks show, Magical; the beloved Electrical Parade with new floats; and the new TLT Dance Club on Tomorrowland Terrace. Whew - that oughta keep you busy for a couple of days. Or ten.

Our night started off with a preview of the TLT Dance Club and a performance by Mitchell Musso from Hannah Montana. My girls loved it, and since it's the closest they'll come to being at a club for at least another few years, they were soaking it up. I have to think this place was designed by a parent, since the seating area is elevated slightly above the dance floor - perfect for keeping an eye on your kids while they get down to Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. (And for making sure those boys don't get anywhere near your girls.) If only Disneyland loosened up a little and I could get a nice glass of wine there at the Tomorrowland Terrace restaurant, I'd be content to stay there all night while my teens danced the night away.

Next up was the new Magical fireworks show, with a soundtrack by Wicked star Eden Espinosa. (I dare you not to cry when she sings 'Baby Mine' from Dumbo.) But the best part was the appearance of the flying elephant himself, making a trip around Cinderella's castle. Take a look:

Our next event was a viewing of a re-vamped Fantasmic, presented on the Rivers of America. We never get tired of this show, no matter how many times we've seen it. Some friends recently let us in on their viewing secret - get some dinner at the French Market restaurant, grab a table on the patio and enjoy the show!

Last but not least we had a chance to see the Electrical Parade over at California Adventure. I haven't seen this since I was a kid, so it was great to be able to share it with my girls. We all loved it - I mean, how could you not love this:

Still not convinced a trip to Disneyland should be in your future? Check out the special Summer FunPass, where So. Cal. residents can get a 3-day Park Hopper ticket for only $33 a day. Makes alot more sense than that Disneyland bath.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

This Ain't Your Daddy's Circus: Ringling Brother's Zing Zang Zoom!

ringling-bros-zing-zang-zoom-staples-center-michael-jackson-memorialFor the past couple of months my 10-year-old has been obsessed with magic, diligently teaching herself tricks she's learned from YouTube videos and books. I don't know how many times I've heard, "Pick a card, any card," and "Wanna see this (fill in the blank) disappear?" in the past few weeks. After my husband taught her the "Pull my finger" trick, he told her about The Magic Castle in Hollywood - an exclusive venue for professional magicians that is usually invitation-only - and she was mesmerized but disappointed that she'd have to wait until she was an adult to try and score an invite, since kids aren't usually allowed. YouTube would have to do for now.

So imagine the squealing that took place when I got an invite to a special preview of the new Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus being held at - you guessed it - The Magic Castle. It took some talking to convince her that she would be merely watching and not performing, though.

Titled Zing, Zang Zoom, this new version of The Greatest Show on Earth has a new twist - a theme of magic and illusion, and features world class illusionist Alex Ramon as the Zingmaster (the term 'Ringmaster' is so five minutes ago) and his sister, the beautiful and talented (ex-Oakland Raiders cheerleader) Leah Christiana. These two have a hipness and youthfulness that seems to have been missing from the traditional circus, and I think they'll go a long way in attracting a younger crowd. Throw out your image of the circus as a show filled with tired-looking elephants being paraded around by an old, even tireder-looking clown. I haven't been to a traditional circus since I was a kid, and this is the first one my kids have shown an interest in going to. My 13-year-old even thought the Zingmaster was 'really cute.' Sure, disturbing for my husband and I to hear, but if it'll get her to the circus and away from Gossip Girl reruns for a few hours, so be it.

To give you an idea of the sophistication of the show, the illusions were created by Jim Steinmeyer, who has worked as a consultant for Orson Welles and Harry Blackstone and was responsible for helping David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear. And Alex is an accomplished magician in his own right, having performed since the age of 13 and even co-authoring a book on card tricks, which of course my 10-year-old had to rush out and buy the very next day. (We're hoping to get it autographed by Alex at the all-access Pre-Show that takes place before every performance.) I always wondered what kind of kid would want to run away and join the circus - who knew it would be my own?

Here are a couple of videos, one where Alex appears to saw his sister in half (and what brother hasn't dreamed about doing that?) and another where he pulls cards out of thin air. Call me a sucker, but I swear I have no idea how he does this.

If you're in Los Angeles, Ringling Brothers' Zing Zang Zoom will be at the Staples Center July 8-12. (Don't show up a day early, on the 7th - that's the day Michael Jackson's memorial will be taking place at the same venue.)

Check out Ringling Brothers Zing Zang Zoom here.
Find a show near you here.

Hey, if you're interested in seeing Zing Zang Zoom for yourself, here's a special discount offer: Get a specially-priced four-pack of tickets for $44 by entering the codeword 'MOM' in the Ticketmaster coupon code. This is an actual offer, not an illusion.

Code is the word “mom”. Code needs to be entered in the “MC Promotion Box” on Ticketmaster. Must purchase AT LEAST 4 tickets for code to be valid. Each additional ticket after 4 is still priced at $11. Not valid on Circus Celebrity/Front Row/VIP seats and facility fees do apply.

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