Thursday, August 31, 2006

Sarah Silverman Saves the VMAs

I'm sitting here watching the MTV Video Music Awards in an attempt to expose myself to more music. Why I am wasting time with this instead of doing homework (of which I have a lot) I have no idea. The VMAs are at times painfully boring and at times just painful. I don't think I'm the only one who feels like this because everybody in the audience looks like they are dying. I think there is a lot of hatred/ego in that room. Here are some random thoughts on the festivities:
I miss Ludacris's hair.

Justin Timberlake is not bringing sexy back unless sexy is a white boy who thinks he can dance.
There is nothing original about him. How is this any different from that other hit song of his where he did that Michael Jackson impersonation? And it is not really necessary for every person to make a sexy back joke.

Jack Black should have been the best thing about this show, but he is barely in it, and when he is, he isn't that funny. His song at the beginning would have been better with the School of Rock kids or with Kyle Gass, the other half of Tenacious D. Although Jack Black's assertion that he was Jared Leto and Kyle Gass was his 30 Second to Mars was one of the wittiest moments of the evening. Maybe Jack Black just isn't meant to be a host (he was disappointing at the Nickelodeon awards as well).

Sarah Silverman saved the night. She looked adorable as always. She had one bit about Lance Bass, one about not doing drugs, and one begging Paris Hilton to lose weight. These are not the funniest things she's ever done, but in the context of the evening, it was a welcome relief. Unfortunately, they never panned to Paris Hilton during Sarah Silverman's speech, so I'm not sure what she thought.

I was going to spend more time talking about the performances and such, but it's not even worth it. A final thought, if I could sum up the event in one word it would be awkward. Nobody looked comfortable, the speeches made no sense half the time, and the presenters were often mis-paired, which I don't think is a real word.

I was going to end it there, but I'm still watching and Al Gore showed up. I take back my earlier statement, a sexy back joke is worth it if Al Gore says it.

Monday, August 28, 2006

I Still Love Hilary Duff

Bless you, Hilary Duff, for trying. Bless you for a gaining a little bit of weight so you look slightly more human. Bless you for always acting like Lizzie McGuire no matter what character you play so that I can never completely hate your movies no matter how poorly made they are.

I really wanted to like "Material Girls," but there was not much there to like. It was pretty boring and not at all funny. The only time I laughed was when the gym teacher from Lizzie McGuire showed up in a scene in which Hilary Duff's character, Tanzie Marchetta, ends up in jail. And that was more of a chuckle than an actual laugh.

Hilary and Haylie Duff play rich, spoiled sisters (what a stretch) who are about to lose their father's makeup company. They also burn down their house and get their stolen by two men (played by Joel Madden, Hilary Duff's real life boyfriend, and his brother, Benji) who they think are valets. We are somehow expected to believe that Tanzie, who is stupid enough to burn her house down, is smart enough to be a genius in chemistry. She would rather fill out applications to UCLA than party. Points for trying not to be a stereotype, but it never really flies.

There are too many subplots in this movie that never get fleshed out. A romantic interest for each of the girls (actually two for Ava, Haylie's character), a housekeeper who is like a mother to the girls who has two daughters of her own, and a woman who wants to buy their father's makeup company, to name a few. The editing in this movie is choppy, transitioning from scene to scene with no real purpose or connection other than trying to show how silly and funny the girls are when trying to do something as common as riding a bus. It is neither silly nor funny, just sad that the writers of this movie could not come up with anything more original.

I am not disappointed that I saw this movie. It proved to me that Hilary Duff still hasn't changed. She is still the innocent and adorable girl who can't act, but is so darn sweet that it doesn't matter. Even Haylie Duff was less obnoxious in this movie than she normally is, maybe because she didn't really have to act. I will continue to support Hilary Duff as long as she keeps making movies I love to hate, and possibly even after.

I Want My Disney Channel Back

Zedis Lapedis! How I long for the days of Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century or Stepsister From Planet Weird, when Disney channel movies did not pretend to be anything more than silly, sometimes ridiculous wholesome family entertainment. Then along comes High School Musical, which is also silly and ridiculous, but the difference is it takes itself seriously.

As a long time fan of Disney channel movies, I could not wait for High School Musical to come out. A movie that combines my two loves of the Disney channel and musicals had to be awesome, but Kenny Ortega let me down. Nobody in the cast had any talent, and unlike the Disney channel stars of yore such as Hilary Duff and Kirsten Storms, they had no adorable personalities on which to fall back on. Not that Disney channel movies have genius story lines, but they were somewhat original, a girl who lives on a space station or a house that comes to life. High School Musical is the Grease-like story in which boy meets girl on vacation and she moves to his town, but it does not even have a unique twist to make it truly Disney. I am not here to review High School Musical, which would be pointless as it is such old news, but to use the film to talk about the Disney channel in general. For me, High School Musical was the beginning of the end for Disney channel movies. At the same time, it is the movie that saved the Disney channel, making it cool again.

The latest Disney channel movies was a combination of two success stories, The Cheetah Girls and Kenny Ortega to create The Cheetah Girls 2. Unlike the first Cheetah Girls, in which the girls only sang when they were performing, the sequel is an actual musical where the girls break out into song and dance even when they are not performing. This film is boring and has no heart. It is just an attempt to bring back something that worked once before without trying to bring anything new to the table. In trying to give the four girls equal screen time and individual plots, the movie becomes unfocused.

There is hope for the Disney channel yet, but it may not be in the form of movies, but rather television shows. Shows like That's So Raven and Phil of the Future may be nearing the end, but Hannah Montana may be the next big thing. Miley Cyrus, who plays Miley Stewart/Hannah Montana is adorable and has as much charm and spunk as Lizzie McGuire. Her real life dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, plays her father, Robbie Ray Stewart, and proves that he is not above making fun of himself or his mullet. This is what I'm talking about, a comedy that adults and children can laugh at together that doesn't make you want to kill the principal characters (except maybe Emily Osment, who plays Miley's best friend, Lilly, but even she has her moments).

Friday, August 25, 2006

Castaway Your Day

I've finally made it to the end of my Disney cruise blog postings (I think).

The Disney Wonder stops at two ports of call, Nassau and Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the Bahamas. Because we only had three days on the ship, we did not want to waste two of them on land. On Friday, we only spent an hour in Nassau just to walk around and see it, but we did not want to shop and did not sign up for any of the excursions. Maybe on another cruise.

Castaway Cay, however, was worth getting off the ship for. There was nobody on the island except for us and the people who work there. There are four beaches--a family beach, a teen beach, a children's beach, and an adult beach. Also there that day in the water was the Flying Dutchman, a ship from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

The family beach was the most crowded, but the water was calm and there were tons of chairs, umbrellas, and hammocks along the white sand. It did start to pour and amusingly enough, everybody ran for shelter even though they were already getting wet from the ocean.

The rain stopped shortly after it started and it started again a few times throughout the day, but always briefly. Lunch was at Cookie's BBQ (free, of course). Luckily, I was not overwhelmed with choices as there was mostly meat, but I enjoyed the corn on the cob and the garlic bread, which was the best bread on the whole trip. Also, for dessert, there was an ice cream machine with cookie dough and strawberry as opposed to the chocolate and vanilla on the ship.

Serenity Bay, the adult beach, is appropriately named as it is the most peaceful location on the island. The only beach that is not within walking distance of the ship, you take a tram to arrive in what can only be described as paradise. Because many parents choose to stay with their children, it was almost empty. The warm water was even calmer there than at the family beach. Every adult on the Disney cruise should drop off their children at the other beaches at least briefly to experience Serenity Bay.

Another Opening, Another Show

The shows on the Disney Wonder were what we looked forward to the most (other than the food). It was also a pleasurable experience to get dressed up to go to the shows and then to dinner every night.

The first night was Hercules the Muse-ical, a hilarious musical comedy. In this show within a show, the Parthenon Players were putting on Hercules. All the catchy songs from the movie were kept in the musical. Meg had a voice similar to Susan Egan's from the movie, but the other actors, while entertaining, did not have great singing voices. The actor who played young Hercules had a noticeable lisp and had a lead role in all three shows. One of the Muses was played by a man and he had one of the best voices in the show, but he did not get to show it off very often as he mostly had unfunny comic routines in Hercules and smaller roles in the other two shows. Hades and Pain and Panic were annoying at times but they made up for it with some of the best jokes, mostly pop culture references. Overall, this show was strong on comedy and although the singers were not perfect, the music was enough to make up for it.

The second show was The Golden Mickeys, about an award show honoring Disney characters. When entering the theatre, the audience walked down a red carpet and was greeted by paparazzi. Many of the same actors from Hercules were used in this show, which combined live actors with videos of Roy Disney speaking about his uncle Walt, Tim Allen, and Angela Lansbury. There was a good mix of music as many Disney movies were represented in the different categories. The best numbers were "Two Worlds One Family" from Tarzan which included acrobatics, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" from The Lion King which had the best singers, and "Be a Man" from Mulan which had decent singing and dancing. The dancing in this show as a whole was better than the singing and I noticed in general that most of the actors on the ship seemed to have more training in dance than voice.

Disney Dreams was described as an award winning show because it won an award for best show on any cruise line. It is obvious why. The show had the most elaborate sets and special effects out of the three and while not on the same scale as Broadway, for a cruise show it was definitely an anomaly. The show opened with an overture, which was a little unusual considering there was no orchestra, but it did add to the Broadway feel. A little girl wishes upon a star to be able to fly and Peter Pan comes to help her. She has until 6 a.m. to learn how to fly to the place where dreams come true. Peter Pan was played by the same actor who played young Hercules, but he was perfect for this role of a mischievous little boy which did not require him to do much singing. The actress who played the little girl was also charming in her role. Her journey led her through different stories including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Cinderella. Although the actors did not magically learn to sing over the three nights, the elaborate numbers were enjoyable enough regardless.

The actors from the shows did double duty as dancers at the theme nights at the nightclub, dressing up from the '8os and '70s. The '80s night was a combination of shows and participation from the audience, but there was very little audience to participate. To their credit, the dancers never gave up trying to get the audience to participate. The '70s night was less of a show and more of a regular dance at a nightclub, but again, there were not enough people to fill up the dance floor.

Other entertainment options included first run movies because as the program director said, Disney owns all the movies. I didn't watch any of them because I can watch movies anywhere and I had already seen Pirates 2 and Cars, and had no interest in seeing Step Up although it did come out in the theatres that same week.

Food Glorious Food

I am already regretting all the food I didn't eat on the cruise, but there is only some much a stomach can take. There are three restaurants on the Disney Wonder, and you eat at a different restaurant each night, but your servers follow you. There is a fourth restaurant, Palo's, which is for adults only, requires a reservation, and is not included in the price of the cruise. For breakfast and lunch, there is a buffet and usually one or two restaurants will be open as well for those meals. In addition to all this, there are places for pizza, hamburgers, and ice cream on the pool decks.

On the first day, we had the option of eating lunch at the Beach Blanket Buffet on the tenth deck or Parrot Cay, one of the sit-down restaurants for dinner, on the third deck. We chose Parrot Cay, mostly because it was closest to where we boarded and closest to our rooms. The amount of food was overwhelming, especially the desserts, a whole table and an ice cream bar. I had the tomato and shallot salad which was very tasty and a small portion of the veggie wrap which was good, but nothing extraordinary. The most unusual thing I tried was a cold strawberry soup which tasted like melted strawberry ice cream. Then I attacked the dessert table, trying the fruit salad, the tiramisu, and a strawberry puff dessert of some kind, which I am still not sure exactly what it was. The last item was filling and did not have much flavor, but the tiramisu was just right, moist and flavorful.

There are different seatings for dinner, early and late, and not everybody eats at the same location each night. We had an 8:30 p.m. seating, which meant we could eat more during the day and still be hungry for dinner, but the negative side is that we were never hungry for the specialty late night buffets.

Dinner our first night was at the same location as lunch, Parrot Cay. We were introduced to Chat from Thailand, our head server, and Alain from Belgium, our assistant server. I cannot say enough good things about the two of them. Chat always knew what items were vegetarian for my benefit and both of them were patient and always willing to chat.

Parrot Cay is bright and colorful with green leaves everywhere and a Caribbean theme. It is the least fancy of the three restaurants, and I am glad we ate there first, because the restaurants kept getting better each night. The "warm" banana bread was too dry and not even warm. My appetizer, the quinoa and grilled vegetables, was also dissapointing as they were stingy with the goat cheese, but the gnocchi au gratin was exquisite, filled with cream spinach. I was so full that it was difficult to enjoy my creme brulee cheesecake which tasted more like cheesecake than creme brulee.

For breakfast the next day, we ate at the Beach Blanket Buffet. I had watermelon and mini Mickey chocolate pancakes which were more fun to look at than to eat. I also had a brioche with coconut icing which was the highlight of that meal.

For lunch at the same location I had a greek salad with deliciously warm pita bread and a cucumber and mint cold soup that was too strong for my taste. The caramel custard, which was really a flan, was ok, but the trifle tasted authentic.

Dinner that night was at Triton's, the fanciest restaurant with French cuisine. That was the same night as the Pirates of the Caribbean deck party, so dinner was a pirate theme. Everybody was given souvenir pirate bandanas.

The basil and tomato soup was thick and creamy. The rigatoni pasta with four cheeses and a light cream sauce was a little too heavy and it proved to be a bad choice as I could not enjoy the desserts which were probably the best out of the three restaurants. I had a bite of my cherries jubilee which was perfection on a plate, but sadly I could not try my mom's creme brulee or my sister's white chocolate domes, which they raved about.

On Saturday I had a very light breakfast at the Beach Blanket Buffet as I was still recovering from dinner the night before. I just had some fruit and a croissant. We had lunch at Castaway Cay which I will write more about in the Castaway Cay entry.

Dinner on the last night was one of the best experiences of the whole cruise. Animator's Palate has animation all over the walls. Everything is in black and white and as you eat, the walls get colored in. By the end of the night, you are sitting in a colorful display of Disney's most beloved characters. Each time a picture changes color, the music from that film is played, so true Disney freaks can tell which pictures will change before they do. Even the waiters start off wearing black and white Mickey vests and when they bring out the dessert menus, they have turned their vests to the colorful side.

The confetti tomato salad was simple, but the olive oil and herb dressing made it one of the best appetizers on the trip. The piquant vegetable curry was just the way I like it, not to spicy, but plenty of flavor. The Boston cream pie was luscious, but the other family that dined with us informed us that we could order off the kid's menu, so I only ate a bite of the pie, opting for a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar (which cost $2.50 at the parks) topped with sprinkles and marshmallows. It was the perfect way to end my dining experiences at the cruise.

On Sunday, before we left, we had one final breakfast at Animator's Palate with our servers. It was a bittersweet experience, and I could barely enjoy my blueberry pancakes.

In addition to these meals, Pinocchio's Pizzeria offered cheese, pepperoni, and vegetable pizza to enjoy by the pools. The pizza was nothing special, but I wish it was open 24 hours a day for a late night snack.

Pluto's Dog House offered hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers, french fries, and my personal favorite, cheese fries, but again, if it was open later or all night, I might have made more use of it. The only thing that I thought the Carnival cruise did better than Disney was they had a pizza parlor open 24 hours a day. On the Disney cruise, there were was more than enough to eat all day long but if I was ever hungry in the middle of the night, there was nothing.

Scoops offered soft serve ice cream with a choice of sprinkles, marshmallows, and caramel for toppings. They also had a display of fruit available all day long, which was convenient to have by the pool.

I only hope that next time I can experience the seven day cruise so I can eat even more.


Checking in for the Disney cruise was the opposite of checking in to the Pop Century hotel. It was so easy. We had filled in all our paperwork online in advance and all we had to do was hand in our paperwork and show our passports and we were set. The whole process took about five minutes.

We boarded the Disney Wonder at around noon on Thursday, Aug. 17. The rooms would not be ready until one, so we went straight to lunch, where we were handed antibacterial wipes before entering the restaurant. This process would be repeated for every meal thereafter. Nobody was allowed into the restaurants or buffets without cleaning their hands. Not only that, but there were wipes placed in locations all around the ship. The rooms were also unbelievably clean. Apparently, on one of the first Disney cruises, there was an epidemic, and now they don't want to take any chances. This was fine by me, I only wish that every cruise, hotel, and restaurant would do the same.

Disney recruits people from all over the world and they live on the ship for about five months out of the year and then live at home for the rest of the year. The staff onboard the ship, all 950 of them, were friendly and helpful. There was always somebody around to help. I have never felt so well treated and taken care of as I did on that ship. Disney recruits people from all over the world and they live on the ship for about five months out of the year and then live at home for the rest of the year.

Everything on the Disney Wonder was just as organized as the check-in process. Even the safety drill was quick and easy, unlike the safety drill on the only other cruise I've experienced, the Carnival. We had sheets of paper, personal navigators, in our room every night to tell us what activities were going on the next day and announcements were made periodically by the captain and program director. The sound to signal an announcement was "When You Wish Upon a Star," which was also the song used for the horn.

The Disney theme was extended to the music played in the halls, the decorations, and even the fact that it was not unusual to run into Disney characters. The reason my family chose to do this cruise was because it was Disney, and we were not disappointed by the extent to which the Disney characters were represented.

I only have one complaint about the whole experience and that is the nightlife. Most of the people on our ship were families with little kids. The adult nightclubs had '80s night, '70s night, karaoke, and other activities, but very few people showed up to them. I know Disney wants to make their cruises more appealing to singles and twenty-somethings, but so far this does not seem to be working.

I wouldn't have minded this as much if they had more activities aimed at families with older children. I am 23, my brother is 21, and my sister is 15, and we all love Disney. We wanted to participate in the family activities, especially the Disney trivia, but they only chose families with very young children to participate. Fortunately, my sister had more than enough to do with the teen activities, but it would have been nice to have things that my brother and I could do with her.

Not that I was at a loss for things to do with all the pools, restaurants, and shows. There are three pools on the Disney Wonder. Mickey's Pool is only for young children, Goofy's Pool is for families, and Quiet Cove is for adults only. We stuck to the family pool, although it was fairly small.

Goofy's Pool turned into a dance floor for the two deck parties. On the first night was the sail away deck party with dancing and a live band as we watched the ship leave Port Canaveral. On the second night was one of my favorite events, the Pirates of the Caribbean deck party were everyone dressed up like pirates. There was also a show with the Disney characters and pirates and fireworks.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Magic Your Way

I have two brief disclaimers for the entries on my vacation. The first is that I will write a lot in the first person. I know that this is usually considered bad journalism, however, I love writing in the first person and since this is a blog, I think it's acceptable. I also think sometimes writing in the first person can help the reader understand where the writer is coming from. Also, I don't have my AP style book with me and I have a lot of information I am trying to get down quickly, so I apologize in advance for any errors.

When my family and I arrived at the Orlando airport, Disney's Magical Express was there to take us to what we thought would be a fairy tale world. On the half-hour bus trip, a video is shown of Disney World complete with happy children and of course, Mickey Mouse. My anticipation was already building. I had been looking forward to this trip for months, especially during the grueling six weeks of boot camp.

Once we arrived at the Pop Century hotel, the newest and one of the cheapest hotels at the Walt Disney World resort, we had to wait in a ridiculously long and slow-moving line. When we finally got to the front of the line we were informed that there were no rooms left in the sixties wing that we had requested three months prior, so we settled for the fifties wing. Also, only one of the two rooms was ready. Pop Century represents pop culture from every decade from the fifties to the nineties with fun, colorful, and larger than life decorations, making it an ideal hotel for my family and me. Unfortunately, it is one of the largest and more popular hotels at the resort, meaning that the service was not great and there were always long lines, especially for the buses to the parks. The buses to and from the parks ran only about once every twenty minutes, making it tough to get a seat, especially at night when the parks are closing. After those long and tiring days at the parks, standing for a ten to twenty bus ride was annoying.

This leads me to my first problem with Walt Disney World, it is way too huge. I realize this is why Walt Disney wanted to build the park their in the first place, because he had space he never had in Anaheim. However, I am used to Disneyland where the parks and the hotel are right next to each other and I was (perhaps naively) not expecting long travel distances.

The Magic Kingdom is modeled after Disneyland itself, with many of the same attractions. The only attraction that was worth it that Disneyland does not have is Mickey's Philharmagic, a charming 3-D show with many favorite Disney songs and characters. Cinderellabration, based on a Tokyo Disney show, was very disappointing as it barely made sense and it was in front of the Cinderella castle where there was no shade. For those who cannot travel to Disneyland, I am sure a trip to the Magic Kingdom is well worth it, but I focused my attention on the other parks.

The premise of the Animal Kingdom seems silly to me when there are other wild animal parks without having to Disney-ize it, but it does have some of the best rides in the resort. Expedition Everest is one of the fastest roller coasters in all four parks that includes a backwards portion. The safari was fun, especially being so close to the giraffes, but at the end they turned it into a ride with fake poachers and animals. I think it would be better to just keep it realistic since the animals are real unlike the ones at say, the jungle cruise at Disneyland, instead of turning everything into a ride.

Epcot was also a letdown as the main attraction there is the world showcase. There is not much to do there besides spend money at the restaurants or at the shops, so it seems unreasonable for the tickets to the park to be the same as all the other parks (almost $70) when the only thing to do there is spend more money. What my family did was buy food at each country rather than going to a sit-down restaurant, so we could try more and spend less money. I do recommend the Mission Space ride which is a simulation of a mission to mars with options for a less intense or more intense experience.

MGM Studios was by far my favorite of the four parks, as it had the most variety of things to do. Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is a great ride for anybody who likes roller coasters or Aerosmith. Aerosmith music plays in the line and on the ride. While some of the attractions are a waste of time, such as Journey To Narnia, which was described as a behind the scenes look at the making of The Chronicles of Narnia, but turned out to be mostly clips from the movie, overall there are some entertaining shows, especially Beauty and the Beast. As far as dining goes, the Sci-Fi Drive In is a restaurant where you dine in cars in front of a movie screen that shows science fiction movies from the fifties. The service is not great, but the experience is worth it. Be sure to make reservations far in advance for this restaurant or you will be stuck sitting in a flying saucer at the back of the restaurant instead of a car. I didn't actually eat at the 50's Prime Time Cafe because we failed to make reservations in advance for any of the restaurants, but I did get a soda at the bar, and this restaurant gives diners the feel of being in a 50's sitcom such as Leave it to Beaver and they treat you as part of the family.

In general I noticed that the cast members at Disney World were nowhere near as friendly as the ones at Disneyland. Even when they were smiling, it was obviously fake and most of the time when they said, "Have a magical day," it felt like they were struggling to get that out. In Disneyland, nobody ever says that, but usually the workers seem genuinely happy to be there.

I realize I sound biased towards Disneyland, but the size works better for me. Also, while it is hot there, it is never as humid and unbearable as Disney World. Everywhere I went, people seemed to be complaining. It did not feel like I was at the happiest place on earth.

Don't get me wrong, I liked Disney World and I enjoyed myself a lot of the time, but Disney World is the type of place I would go to once. I know there are people who vacation there all the time, and more power to them, but I couldn't do that. I am happy I went, but next time I would opt for a longer cruise and skip the parks altogether.

Money, Money, Money

For months, my mother, sister, and I had been planning our family's vacation. From calling Triple A, hotels, and the Disney World resort (each call ending with the obligatory, "Have a magical day") to filling out paperwork to studying the websites of each park, we were determined to make this the best vacation ever while spending the least amount of money. Here are some money-saving tips:
1) Book your cruise through Triple A. It costs the same as through Disney, but they give you an additional $25 onboard credit per stateroom. If you use your Disney Visa credit card, you receive an additional $50 per stateroom.

2) There are 12 different categories for staterooms and it can be a little overwhelming trying to decide which one to get. Obviously, different families have different needs. Since we are a family of five, we had the option of getting deluxe family stateroom with a verandah or two adjoining inside staterooms. We decided on the latter and we saved a few hundred dollars. The rooms were very spacious and even though we were on the second floor, close to the bottom of the ship, we could not feel any movement. Although it is nice to have a verandah, it is not necessary as you can go out to the deck whenever you want. I also found that I was not in the room much except to sleep, shower, and change.

3) Transportation to Port Canaveral can be pretty costly, depending on where you are coming from. Disney Cruise Line provides transportation to and from the airport and to and from the Disney resort, but for our family it would have cost $300 roundtrip. Other options are a cab or renting a car, and renting a car turned out to be the best option. Not only did the total cost end up being a little over $100, but we could decide when to leave and arrive extra early to beat the lines.

Have a Magical Day

After a week with no internet access, I'm back in the real world. To be honest, I prefer the Disney world, but not Disney World, for reasons I will get to shortly. I spent three days on the Disney cruise, and a total of four days at Disney World (one before the cruise and three after). I have never done much travel or food writing, so I thought I would try my hand at both. I'm having trouble figuring out how to organize these entries, but I think I will do one entry on just the food and dining experiences, one on the experience of the cruise, one on the shows of the cruise, and one on Disney World, and I'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Too many things to think about

Now that boot camp is just about over, I have way too much time on my hands apparently. I was looking at more trailers and things online (I honestly never thought about watching trailers online before, it seems like it takes half the joy out of going to the movie theatre if you've already seen all the trailers). But anyway, there is a documentary coming out called "The U.S. vs. John Lennon" about John Lennon's protests against Vietnam and Nixon's efforts to deport him. I'm not sure how I feel about this movie. At first I wondered why this movie is coming out now when this happened so long ago and A lot of what I saw in the trailer are things that most John Lennon fans have seen hundreds of times. At first I wondered why this movie is coming out now when this all happened so long ago, but it just seems like propaganda against the war in Iraq. There is something slightly unsettling to me about using an icon like John Lennon to further your own agenda, especially when he is no longer around. But I guess I'll have to see the movie to see how it's done.

Then there is "Chapter 27," a movie about John Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman. There are people really upset with this picture and there are boycott "Chapter 27" websites. Again, I'm not sure how I feel. It seems that just by making a movie about somebody like this, you are glorifying him and allowing people to remember him, which is probably what he wanted in the first place. So in that sense I don't agree with it. But then I love the musical, "Assassins," and isn't that kind of the same thing? Is the reason it doesn't upset me as much because I don't have the same connection with those dead presidents that I have with John Lennon? It's something for me to think about. And I probably will see this movie as well before I judge it completely.

P.S. I promise this won't be a Beatles blog, even though a lot of the posts so far have been related to them.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Movies to look forward to

In procrastinating my work, I stumbled upon some movie trailers.

I found a preview for "Marie Antoinette." It's not the one with just music and quick shots from the movie that has been playing for a while. This one shows actual scenes. I find it odd that Kirsten Dunst doesn't have any sort of accent, but I'm still excited for it.

I also saw a preview for "Material Girls," the new Hilary Duff movie that comes out the same day as "Snakes on a Plane." I can't speak for anybody else, but I'd much rather see the former. Any movie that has Hilary and Haylie Duff singing a cover of "Material Girl" has to be awesome. It looks like the rich man's "Cow Belles," which was a made for Disney Channel movie starring Aly and AJ that was also about rich girls who lose all their money and have to work like real people. But "Cow Belles" didn't have the Duff sisters or Anjelica Huston and isn't described as "a modern day makeover of pop icon Madonna's famous hit song of the eighties" (from Hilary Duff's website).

In related news, "Trust the Man," starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Billy Crudup looks like it's finally coming out also on August 18. I just hope it's not one of those movies where the preview is better than the movie. I'll let you know once I see it.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Viva Elvis

Today I went to an Elvis movie festival in Syracuse to do a profile on Trina Creighton, who started a belly-dancing troupe to '50s and '60s music. While "working," I also got to enjoy some Elvis films. Here is what I thought about the day:

The first film was "Tickle Me," but unfortunately, I was only able to watch the beginning before doing my interviews. It looks like a very cute movie, so hopefully I can see it sometime.

Then there was a performance by Elvis impersonator, Sammy J. I must say I was dissapointed. He wasn't so much an impersonator as a man dressed as Elvis and singing Elvis songs. Dante, who is in arts journalism with me, got it right when he described Sammy J as a "B-movie Elvis impersonator." For one song, "Little Sister," Belly Be-Bop, the dancing troupe, joined him onstage. They did an impressive job for their first performance and I was surprised at how well belly-dancing goes with Elvis music. The way they move their hips and arms is similar to the twist and other dances from that era. The highlight of the set was when Sammy J gave me one of his yellow scarfs. I felt like a groupie.

"Viva Las Vegas" was the only one of the three movies that I was able to see in its entirety. It is a typical Technicolor sixties musical, complete with a pool scene in which Elvis sings to Ann-Margret while she is changing out of her bathing-suit. Classic. The film is worth seeing if nothing else than for the chemistry between Elvis and Ann-Margret.

The second Sammy J set was better than the first. He does a good job of getting the audience into it and they all seemed to love him. Belly Be-Bop improvised a few numbers with him, and having interviewed Trina before the show, I knew they weren't planning on doing this. The improvised numbers were just as good as the choreographed ones, especially "Fever." For this number they danced around Sammy J and it ended up looking really sexy. The highlight of this set was that Belly Be-Bop changed into poodle skirts while keeping the rest of their traditional outfits on. I think they should have used that costume the whole time as it represents the combination of American Tribal Style with rock and roll. Not to mention poodle skirts are cute.

I missed part of "Jailhouse Rock" because of interviews, but I loved what I saw. Elvis plays a James Dean-type in this relatively dark musical. His acting was by far better in this movie than in the other two. I know this movie has gotten criticized for its script, but I thought it was good for an Elvis movie with its bleak undercurrents about the music industry and success.

All in all, it was a fun day. Although Elvis is a better singer than he is an actor, seeing these movies made me like him more (and I liked him a lot already).

Thursday, August 03, 2006

All You Need is Ears

That's the name of George Martin's book, by the way. I wanted to add something about "The Beatles Love." The reason I was so amazed by this show is that as somebody who has been listening to the music of the Beatles since I was born, it is difficult to hear the music in a new way. While I never stop being in awe of their music, I have heard it so many times that I don't really listen to it anymore. I play their albums and sing along, but I know exactly what is going to come next. So to hear their music in this new way brought out all these new ways of thinking about their music. Take a song like "Tomorrow Never Knows." The song has lost a little bit of it's mystery after seeing the Anthology. I know how they did the looping, I know that one of those funny sounds is Paul McCartney laughing. In the show, you hear the opening of "Tomorrow Never Knows" and George Harrison starts singing "Within You Without You." It's jarring at first, but it made me actually listen to the music in a way I haven't for a long time. I almost hope they release the soundtrack to this show so I can really study the music and unravel all the mysteries of it.