Movie Review: Furious 7

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Judging from the box office numbers (read: $$$$$), I am the last person to see this movie. I saw it last weekend and it was everything and more than I expected. I’ve had my share of celebrity crushes with the latest being Paul Walker. When I heard about his death, I was really saddened. It seemed unreal. So, it was really hard for me to see this latest film of the Fast & Furious franchise knowing it was his last. I’m so glad I finally did see Furious 7 because I feel like the cast and crew did a great job with finishing the movie for Paul.

I have been a fan of the Fast & Furious franchise since the beginning. I love the cast and the action. Most of the regular members are in Furious 7 and they did not disappoint. There is racing (obvi), flying cars and lots of ass-kicking. There is drama, comedy and all-around furious action. Basically, there is a bit of everything for everyone in this film. Including tears. Oh, there were tears. I knew they would come and pretty intensely.

Here’s the thing, we all know how Paul’s life ends. I will not be spoiling it for anyone, but I think the ending for Brian was appropriate. You can tell there was a lot of love between the real-life actors and their film alter egos (Vin Diesel named his daughter after Paul). If you are a fan of the Furious franchise, you will not disappointed. If this is your first Furious movie, you will not be disappointed if your intent is to be entertained. Overall, I really enjoyed the movie and look forward to the next installment.

Are you a Fast & Furious fan? Have you seen the movie? What did you think of it?

Here are all the movies in the franchise if you feel like binge-watching:

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{The Fast & the Furious – 2001}

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{2 Fast 2 Furious – 2003}

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{The Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift – 2006}

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{Fast & Furious – 2009}

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{Fast Five – 2011}

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{Fast & Furious 6 – 2013}

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{Furious 7 – 2015}

{All photos via IMDB}

Traveling Far, Far, Far, Away

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Ever want to just get as far away as you possible can (without going to the moon or space)? There is a website called furthestcity.com which does exactly just that, help you find the farthest city on earth from anywhere else. Here are a few samples below.

What is the farthest you’ve traveled from where you are? What is the farthest you’d like to travel?

From Chicago, IL – Perth, Australia

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From Los Angeles, CA – Saint-Paul (La Reunion), France

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From Ottawa, Canada – Perth, Australia

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From Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Uruma, Japan

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From London, United Kingdom – Dunedin, New Zealand

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From Manila, Philippines – Varzea Grande, Brazil

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From Sydney, Australia – San Cristobal De La Laguna, Spain

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From Rome, Italy – Lower Hutt, New Zealand

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From New Delhi, India – Talcahuano, Chile

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From Bulawayo, Zimbabwe – Honolulu, Hawaii

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Movie Review: The Skeleton Twins

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I watched The Skeleton Twins recently and would really recommend it. It stars Kristin Wiig and Bill Heder, who each did a wonderful job with their characters. The movie touches on a subject that I feel we are still not open about (at least here in the US), mental illness and particularly, depression. There is a certain sense of shame and guilt that comes with this subject which I hope will change in the future.

If you didn’t know, Bill and Kristin are Saturday Night Live alums, so there are definitely moments of uproarious laughter. However, the subject matter is very serious and the actors play their roles with much depth and compassion. Because of this, it is easy to empathize with them.

There are many plots throughout (ranging from extra-marital affairs, unrequited love, sexual orientation and a dog named Marley ;)) and the payoffs come at the end. Bill and Kristin’s characters evolve and change throughout the movie. They realize that, after being apart for 10 years, they really do need each other and learn to face their problems outside of trying to end their lives. Their relationship is strengthened by helping each other through their weaknesses. It was a very touching movie with great performances.

Have you seen The Skeleton Twins? What did you think of it? Are you from a different country? If so, is there a stigma where you come from when it comes to mental illness or is it openly discussed?

*Photo via IMDB*

Movie Review: Cinderella 2015

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I watched the new Cinderella film last weekend and can I just say that I have a totally new girl crush on Lily James? I’ve never seen Downton Abby, so I had not seen her in anything else. She was absolutely charming in the movie.

I just want to say first and foremost that movies or any other forms of entertainment are just that to me, entertainment. I do not look to them to teach me any lessons and when I have kids, I would not want them to learn their life lessons from media that is meant to entertain.  When I judge a movie, I judge it solely on whether or not it did it’s job: entertain me. Ok. I think I’ve got my point across.

My expectations for the film were simple: would it flow well and would I enjoy the actors in their roles? Yes and yes. I knew Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter would be exceptional because they are Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter, two of my favorite actresses. However, I did not know any of the others and I felt they all did a really great job. I loved the costumes and scenery and all the other magical and mystical fairy dust scattered throughout the movie.

We all know the fairytale, right? Ideal family who goes through hard times when girl loses her mother and father and has to live with her evil step-mother and step-sisters. She is relegated to being their housemaid and treated unfairly until her fairy godmother comes to her rescue. She goes to a ball, the prince is smitten with her and she has to leave in a rush before the magic goes away. In the interim, she loses a shoe, the prince searches the entire town to find the girl who fits the shoe. He finds her and they live happily ever after.

This movie is a bit different in that the prince first met Cinderella while she was in her housemaid element, dirty dress and unkempt hair. They have a few words and he is smitten with her. They meet again at the ball and he falls even deeper for her as she does for him.

His desperate attempt to find her is both comical and absurd. Let’s face it, even in their small village, surely there was more than one woman who would have fit the shoe. Yet, there was only one woman who looked like her and instead of searching for the woman, they were searching for the woman who fit the shoe. But, then again, this is Disney and this is a fairytale so it’s not meant to resemble real life.

In the end, Cinderella and the prince meet again and before Cinderella tries on the shoe (which, at this point was kind of moot), she tells the prince she is who she is. Of course, we all know what happens next.

What do you think of fairy tales?

*** Another note, while I consider movies a form of entertainment, I do enjoy watching movies that are “think pieces” like Birdman and have a fun time dissecting them.***

My Celebrity Neighbor – Kieran Culkin

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I love my neighborhood because it is the central hub of the city due to its proximity to museums, restaurants, theaters, shops and everything in between. So it’s no wonder that my building has a revolving door of short-term celebrities that float in and out for various gigs (movies / TV shows / theater productions / concerts). I have always been a fan of pop culture and am pretty well-versed in the world of celebritydom. I lived in LA for a year (where I was fortunate enough to attend movie premiers and parties) and encountered plenty of celebrities. I can’t really say I get “star-struck,” but it is always a pleasure to encounter someone when I’ve seen them on the big screen before. Fortunately, I’ve never had a bad experience. I thought it might be a fun idea to write about some of my neighbors every now and then. Of course, these are people who are no longer residents.

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{The cast of This is Our Youth: Kieran Culkin, Tavi Gevinson and Michael Cera}

First up is Kieran Culkin (you know, the guy whose brother, McCauley, was the star of one of the greatest movies ever, Home Alone). I first encountered Kieran while I stepped out with my husband. Kieran was waiting in the cab line outside of our building. I recognized him instantly even though the last thing I recalled seeing him in was Igby Goes Down (a movie I am very fond of). It’s so funny how (most) people look exactly the same as you see them onscreen and how, even if you haven’t seen them in over a decade, they still look the same.

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I immediately did a search to see what he was in town for. Turns out, Kieran was in town for This is Our Youth (a play tested here that eventually went on to Broadway). I would see him occasionally on the elevator and once ran into him at our building’s cafe. I said “Hello” and we exchanged small talk about the weather, coffee and such. I never let on that I knew who he was. After all, it’s not unusual to talk to your neighbors:) Here are a few films that Kieran has done.

  • Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
  • Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride II
  • The Mighty
  • She’s All That
  • Music of the Heart
  • The Cider House Rules
  • The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
  • Scott Pilgrim vs the World
  • Iggy Goes Down
  • Fargo
  • Quitters

{All photos via IMDB}

7 Things to do in Austin {Inspired by the Movie Chef}

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I just saw Chef last night and was incredibly entertained. It’s a wonderful feel-good movie about a once highly-regarded chef who loses his fancy restaurant job and opens up a food truck. That is just the gist of it though because the movie is so much meatier than that, yet it really is a light-hearted and easy-going movie. If you haven’t see it yet, I highly suggest you do so. Be sure you do not do so on an empty stomach because you will be salivating for days. Well, you still might be salivating for days anyway.

The movie takes place in Los Angeles/Venice and Miami with a road trip in between. During their road trip, they visit New Orleans and Austin. I’ve lived in LA and have visited Miami and New Orleans several times. However, I’ve never been to Austin. I would love to travel there. Below is a sample of what my itinerary would like like. Have you ever been to Austin or do you live there? What are your must-see spots?

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1. Visit Barton Springs pool. Can you believe that’s a pool?!? I would love to take a dip in that pool and hang around just reading and people watching and maybe have a picnic.

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2. Do a tour of Austin on foot or maybe on bikes.

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3. Catch a show at Austin City Limits Live.

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4. Visit the State Capitol.

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5. Check out the HOPE Outdoor Gallery

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6. Check out the boutiques and vintage shops.

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7. And, obviously, I need to check out their food scene, particularly the barbeque and, more particularly Franklin Barbeque

Time and Tide by Christian Chaize

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This Sunday, March 8, is daylight savings time in which we will be springing forward. And, in a few weeks, spring will be here, which only means that summer can’t be too far behind. This gets me so excited even though my city is known for 2 seasons: winter and construction (or August). LolSob.

I don’t have any travel plans at least until end of May/ beginnning of June, but I do have the beach on my brain (probably because it is freezing cold here once again). I’ve always been a huge fan of Christian Chaize’s art. His beach photographs are simply stunning. His book, Time and Tide, documents 6 years that he spent photographing a beach in Portual. You should get a copy if you don’t have one already. I love mine! The pictures are absolutely stunning! I plan to tear some out (gasp!) and hang them in frames.

Here’s a sneak peek if you’d like to see what’s in the contents of the book. Are you a beach-goer? What kind of travel plans do you have coming up? I’d love to hear!

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{All photos from christianchaize.com}

How to Live 12 Years in 166 Minutes

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I don’t know what took me so long (considering I had it on my list a long time ago), but I finally got around to seeing Boyhood and I loved it as much as I thought I would (if not more). I’m so glad I didn’t wait 12 years to see it. It is truly a moving masterpiece of a film by Richard Linklater.

I fell in love with the characters, especially Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke). The movie goes through the everyday life of this family in a span of twelve consecutive years and is centered around the younger child, Mason Jr. I am always up for a coming-of-age movie, but this was such a treat to actually see the characters come-of-age in the span of twelve real years. And, the entire family comes-of-age throughout the movie.

It can be deceiving because of it’s mundane actions (school drop-offs, sibling rivalry, homework), but there is so much depth to the film as well as the characters. From the moment you meet them, you are rooting for this family and go through their ups and downs as if they were your own (and, perhaps you have had similar experiences).

There is something about the way Rick (as the actors have referred to him in interviews) captures the moments and characters that want you to continue to care for them long after the movie has ended and keep you longing to want the relationship to go on. He’s found a formula to forge a very special bond between the audience and his characters. I would love if somehow they picked this up in a few years. Either way, you should pick up a copy or watch it online if you haven’t done so. There is so much truth and beauty to experience in this film. It’s pure magic.

Top 14 Romantic Movies of All Time

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{via here}

There are days when I can sit around and watch movies for hours. There are days when I can sit around and watch the same movie on repeat for hours. There are days when I can sit around and watch the same movie in different languages, in the director’s cut version…well, I think you get the picture. I love to watch movies. I’m not biased towards any particular genre, it just depends on how I’m feeling that day, week or month.

Sometimes, I get in my “I only want to watch dramas *or insert any genre here*” mood and sometimes I’m okay with watching a variety of flicks. I know you’re thinking, “This chick is cuckoo for coco puffs.” Maybe, maybe not. I’m a woman and it’s my prerogative to change my mind.

That said, romantic movies definitely have their place in my heart. How can you not love a good love story? Here are 14 of my favorite romantic movies.

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If I had to choose {and, let me tell you, it would be a really, really, really hard choice}, I would say my top 3 favorite romantic movies are the “Before” series: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight. There is something so magical about Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy together. And, obvi, Richard Linklater had to direct them. The three of them made movie magic together and I hope they continue this series. I want to know Celine and Jesse for the rest of my life.

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This movie alone is worth it for the fashion, but before The Fault in Our Stars and A Walk to Remember, there was Love Story.

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This fulfills 3 of my love story criterias: 1. A first love that you can’t get over. 2. A love that is all-consuming and intoxicating. 3. A lost (and found) love. {Bonus: Ryan Gosling’s and Rachel McAdams’ chemistry is hawt.} I’ve watched The Notebook far too many times than I can count and I’ll continue to do so.

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“I’m just a girl…standing in front of a boy…asking him to love her.” Need I say more? I think Julia/Anna said it all there. Plus, Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant were a winning combo. Notting Hill is the perfect romantic comedy.

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Admittedly, I’ve seen this movie an embarrassing number of times. Actually, I’m not really that embarrassed and I am going to be unapologetic about it because it’s. just. that. good. A truly epic tale of love and lost, Legends of the Fall has a very special place in my heart not only when it comes to romantic movies, but movies in general.

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I’m pretty sure this is the movie that had all the girls falling madly in love with Leonardo Di Caprio. Titanic was a larger than life love story that is as predictable as you can get (to be fair, we all knew what happened to the ship), yet it still made it’s way to the hearts of millions. Or did Leo do that? Or, maybe it was Celine’s “My Heart Will Go On?” Whatever the case, it was hard not to fall for Jack and Rose’s romantic adventure.

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Serendipity the movie is about as sweet as the extra-large servings of frozzzzen hot chocolates served at the infamous Serendipity ice cream shops. I’ve been to the one in Las Vegas several times. The one time I tried to go to the NYC shop, there was a 5 hour wait. Not gonna happen. I could watch the movie twice in the same amount  of time and still have time to eat elsewhere!

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I’m pretty sure there was a record-breaking amount of people signing up for pottery classes after Ghost came out. Who could forget that intimate scene? But, I love a movie that can make the supernatural and metaphysical seem like a part of regular life, and romanticize it to boot.

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Patrick Swayze sure made some great movies, huh? And, let’s not forget to mention that Jennifer Grey made cut-off and rolled-up denim shorts super trendy. Aside from that, I couldn’t imagine Dirty Dancing with anyone else other than Patrick and Jennifer. They will always be Johnny and Baby, no matter how many remakes they make.

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I googled Jake Ryan once. Turns out he is living somewhere in the east and has a blacksmith shop or something? Obvi, that’s his movie name and not his real name. Truth is, I don’t think any of us really want to know what happened to Jake Ryan. I think we all want him to live on in our hearts and minds as the cute high school boy from Sixteen Candles. The birthday cake scene was probably one of the sweetest movie moments in history.

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Who would have thought that Jim Carey and Kate Winslet would make a perfect pairing for a romantic movie? Whoever did, I’m glad they paired them up in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. They were great together. Both in their moments of happiness and despair. But, I want to mention Tom Wilkinson and Kirsten Dunst too because their mini love story was so bittersweet.

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Lastly, the tale of two friends which begs the question, “Can a man and a woman be friends, without sex getting in the way?” Despite the message in the movie, tell me, what do you think?

8 Awesome Alternative Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day

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I’ve had my fair share of Valentine’s Day dates. From the sweet and simple (dinner) to the sublime (Paris). These days, my preferred way to celebrate is to not celebrate…with the masses. One year we went with my parents to a teeny, tiny family restaurant (with absolutely delicious food). No, it wasn’t romantic, but a memory I will cherish.

This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday, the holy grail of date nights. So, prepare to fight the crowds and find yourselves in not-so-romantic situations if you plan to venture out. Or, how about instead of eating an over-priced meal and being herded in and rushed out like a pack of animals, why not do something different? And, why not do it on a different day? Here are some alternative date ideas in celebration of love.

8 Awesome Alternative Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day

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{Noma in Copenhagen was voted the world’s #1 restaurant}

1. Book dinner at a nice restaurant on a different day. I hate being rushed during my meals, especially when I am dining at a nice restaurant. If you book at an off-hour during an off-day, you will get better service and better food.

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{A couple that paints together, stays together.}

2. Find a project to work on together. Are you into art? Wood-working? You can use this time to connect and create something together.

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{And…a couple that cooks together, stays together.}

3. Sign up for a cooking class for a cuisine neither of you has tried before (or, at least, has not tried cooking before). You will learn something new, prepare a meal for each other and lots of laughs are sure to ensue when venturing into new territory.

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{Take a trip down memory lane.}

4. Go down memory lane. Whether you have a long history or have been together for only a short period of time, why not make a list of things you used to do and go out and do them? Maybe you had your first date at a coffee shop or you used to bowl together or just sit in the car and listen to music together. Whatever it is, bring nostalgia back. Bonus: Take lots of pictures and do it again in the future to see how you’ve changed (maybe every year or every 5 years or so).

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{A romantic dinner for two at home.}

5. Make a list of your favorite foods and make a date of it. Go grocery shopping together and cook at home. Light some candles, put on some music and relish in the comfort of your home and away from the crowds. (If neither of you cooks, you can always hire someone to cook at home for you.)

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{The best spas according to Conde Nast Traveller.)

6. Take a day off work during the week (if permissible) and do a spa day together. Get massages, take a dip in the spas, sit in the sauna and relax.

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{Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago.}

7. Venture into a new neighborhood and plan a day out of it. Check out an art gallery, visit a monument, walk around, go to a local coffee shop, eat at some small business restaurants and see a show or musician. And, take lots of pictures.

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{River North neighborhood of Chicago.}

8. Or, why not tour your own neighborhood? Make a list of things you have not seen, heard or done and go see, hear and do them! You’ll be surprised at the gems you’ll find hiding in your own backyard!

Bonus: If you want to keep it really simple, why not stay home, order pizza and watch a movie? And, write love letters to each other. On paper. With a pen!