Friday, May 30, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW: Maleficent

Thinking of taking the kids to see Disney's Maleficent this weekend? Here's what you need to know.

Image © Disney.

First and foremost, the movie is rated PG, but that's a rating I don't entirely agree with. I think the movie industry falls short, because I don't think it should necessarily be rated PG-13, but I think PG is just a tad weak. I think that the video game rating system works better here, and I'm calling it an E-10... yes, it's a Disney movie, but there is a lot of darkness to it and a surprising amount of violence early on. Younger kids who are sensitive may not mesh with this fairy tale. There were a couple kids that I guessed to be around 7ish sitting next to me in the screening, and I found myself looking over at them often to gauge their reactions. While TV Boy didn't go with me, and I'm sure he'd be fine with it (the monsters in Doctor Who and in movies like The Avengers didn't phase him in the least), I don't think this movie is quite the family flick they're painting it to be. Just be warned.

Image © Disney

Here's one of the trailers that not only shows some of the scary critters in the film, but a couple moments of one of the fight scenes. Plus it features the haunting version of Once Upon A Dream that gives me chills every time I hear it.

That said, let's get down to the meat of it. This time I was joined by my "little brother" and movie reviewer, Mike Raine. Check out his blog of movie reviews! And here's his review, which has a little more of the plot than I reveal here.

Image © Disney

The narrative is simple: the story we all know and love from the original Disney animated classic Sleeping Beauty isn't "what really happened". Disney adopted a sort of "Wicked" format... the villian isn't truly evil, she's just misunderstood. And honestly, with that they do a decent job. I am not going to get all spoilery, but if I was Maleficent and had the same thing done to me as she has in the beginning of the film, I'd be mad too and would probably seek revenge just the same. They do a good enough job of getting you to care about the villain, and really that's what matters.

The fairy dumdums. Image © Disney.

Fans of the original are going to be disappointed with some of the changes, including the three fairies entrusted with raising Aurora being made into complete bumbling idiots, along with having their names changed entirely (no Meriwether here, folks!). They aren't the only ones suffering a name change, as Maleficent's pet crow/servant Diablo is renamed Diaval... not much difference, sure, but it's enough. It bugged me.

He's a bird turned human, but with hollow bones! ©Disney

I found the plot to be pretty predictable overall. It kind of detracted from the performance of Angelina Jolie, which I have to say... I'm not a fan of hers usually, but she was absolutely outstanding in this role. I don't know if it's because they have to cram more than twenty some-odd years into one movie or what, but it felt rushed to me.

Image © Disney

The visuals are pretty spectacular, and they do a good job of tying in some of the classic film scenes we're all used to (see above). Our screening happened to be in IMAX 3D, which was kind of neat, but honestly I don't think the 3D element added much to the movie itself. Plus it gave me a headache. Glasses + 3D glasses =  not a good combination. I found myself having to look around too much to really take in the film entirely. Save your money and see the regular 2D version.

Mom and daughter. Image © Disney.

Fun fact: Angelina's daughter Vivienne makes a cameo appearance as one of the young Auroras (5 year old version). They share a really cute scene together and she gets a couple lines.

Elle Fanning as Aurora. Image © Disney.

Elle Fanning (aka Dakota Fanning's little sister) was a passable Aurora. Not amazing, but not horrible. For a change, the actress playing the character was actually right around the same age as the character. That's unusual for the entertainment industry, and I actually am happy with it. The Disney films especially seem to gloss over the teens in terms of body type and attitude.

Image © Disney

Overall, it was good, but I wasn't in love with it. If you're a die hard Sleeping Beauty or Angelina Jolie fan, it's worth seeing in theatres. I'd leave the little princess fans at home though, or wait to see it on DVD/Blu-ray.

Now I just want one of these Diaval dragon tees in my size and I'll be good.

Maleficent is playing in theatres starting today, May 30th, and is rated PG. 

Disclosure: I was provided a free advanced screening of the film for review purposes. Please see my Disclosure tab for more information.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

K5 Learning - Review Announcement!

K5 Learning has an online reading and math program for kindergarten to grade 5 students.  I've been given a 6 week free trial to test and write a review of their program.  If you are a blogger, you may want to check out their open invitation to write an online learning review of their program.

Be sure to stay tuned to find out what I think of the program and what TV Boy thinks! He's heading to Kindergarten in the fall. Coming soon from!

Littlest Pet Shop Season Premiere and GIVEAWAY! #LPS

This coming Saturday, the newest season of Littlest Pet Shop kicks off on Hub Network. Thanks to my friends at Hub Network, I was given the opportunity to see the premiere before it airs! A new pet comes to the day camp and Sunil and Vinnie are charged with entertaining him. Meanwhile, Biggest Ever Pet Shop is trying to figure out a better marketing strategy to beat LPS. There is also a new rockin' song from composer Daniel Ingram! I can't say much else about it--you want to be surprised, don't you?--but I can say that parents watching might find a little familiarity with a certain Weekend at a certain person's house whose name starts with B and rhymes with Ernie... kids will love the slapstick comedy that ensues!

Image © Hub Network.

To celebrate the new season, Hub Network sent a fun play set featuring Zoe! We already have the same playset (thanks to my trip in October for the Hub Halloween Bash!), so I was given permission to give it away to one lucky reader! Just fill out the Rafflecopter widget below to be entered to win!

You want to win it?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, May 23, 2014

Gear up for How To Train Your Dragon 2 with new graphic novel! #DreamworksDragons

With the upcoming release of Dreamworks' How To Train Your Dragon 2 (due out June 13th!), kids are going to be clamoring for anything Dragon related. Titan Comics comes to the rescue with their new kid-friendly graphic novel series based on the Cartoon Network hit Dreamworks Dragons Riders of Berk!

The full-color comic is easy to read and appropriate for even the youngest Toothless fans. It is written with the humor of the television series, and the characters are all our familiar favorites: Hiccup and Toothless, Astrid and Stormfly, Snotlout and Hookfang, Fishlegs and Meatlug, Tuffnutt and Ruffnutt with their two-headed dragon Belch and Barf, and more viking village folks.

The art is fantastic, and the characters--while not drawn in the CGI fans might be used to--are true to the ones we've come to know and love on both the big and small screens. It's the perfect way to get your Dragon fanatics excited for the movie, or even just introducing your child to the world of comics. Because you totally should. Comic books are a fun way to get kids interested in reading!

The story: Snotlout's dragon Hookfang has an issue that puts the village of Berk in danger, and he must be quarantined. However, Hookfang goes missing! The friends must find Hookfang before he ends up in even more danger!

The comic releases on Tuesday, May 27th, which gives Dragons fans a few weeks to gear up for the new animated feature. More issues are planned to release later in the summer and periodically throughout 2015. It retails for $6.99, but pre-order price seems to be running at $6.29. For more information or to pre-order, check out the Titan Comics website or you can buy it now using this Amazon widget!

*Disclosure: I received a free copy of this comic for review purposes. For more information, please see my Disclosure tab above.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Breaking the Silence and Things You May Have Missed!

If you're a regular reader of mine, you might have noticed it has been awfully quiet around here lately. Part of me wants to say something like "I've been super busy, life got in the way", but it just wouldn't be honest.

Well, it's time for the honesty.

So, I have some sad news... mostly sad for myself and my bank account. As of a week from today, I will no longer be writing for the Kids' Cartoons page at This is mostly what has fueled my radio silence around here. I'm bumming. Hard. I have been with About for two years and I'm definitely going to miss it and the notoriety that came with the brand. I have put in applications for a couple other topics over there, but since one application is entering its seventh month of going unread (according to the status update thingy), I'm guessing I won't be strolling back onto their servers any time soon.

It has taken a lot out of me to even think about blogging or writing lately. The wind has been let out of my sails and even though my parting with About has nothing to do with me personally (the program under which I have been writing for the past two years has ended and they essentially just let my contract expire), it still felt like a major blow to the old self esteem.

I have been pitched by one brand to jump on the ground floor of their marketing campaign for their app. It's going to be a neat opportunity and I'm looking forward to working with the company. Keep an eye out for that either late June or early July. In the meantime, my dear blogger buddy Nickida over at has been helping me hone my pitching skills and teaching me some tricks of the trade, and I can't even begin to explain how grateful I am for her help. Be sure to pop over to her site for lots of fun posts and tell her I sent you!

I'm trying really hard to get back up on the horse and ease on down the dusty trail. (Why am I making cowboy references? I have no idea.) I want to get this blog standing on its own two feet--do blogs have feet?--and make a brand worth recognizing and working with.

In the meantime, here are some neat things you may have missed in the entertainment world, beginning with my favorite, Zach Braff's new film, Wish I Was Here. I was a part of the Kickstarter, so a special treat to me was my very own copy of the new full trailer showed up in my email this morning. Check it out here, and be sure to imagine me fanning myself like a southern belle when he points at my name!

Next, check out this neat poster for the upcoming Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy!

Image courtesy Marvel.

Heads up on August 19th when "Toy Story of Terror" hits store shelves on Blu-ray combo pack/DVD/Digital HD/Disney Movies Anywhere! The combo pack includes "never before seen bonus features, including parody vintage toy commercials, deleted scenes, audio commentary, and more!" If you happened to catch this cute little short last halloween, you know you won't want to miss owning it!

Image courtesy Disney/Pixar.

And finally, in celebration of the new upcoming Focus Features/LAIKA stop-animation film, The Boxtrolls, kids and families are encouraged to visit and build their very own Boxtroll for a chance to have their personal Boxtroll be brought to life as a real puppet by LAIKA artists and other Box-tastic prizes! Check out the video below and see the site for more information and complete rules!

That's all I have for now. Please be sure to check in at my Facebook page to see more fun stuff worth sharing and liking. Thanks, readers, for sticking with me, and here's to all the fun that is yet to come!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

#MLPseason4 What's The Hubbub with Tara Strong and Megan McCarthy!

Last night I had THE BEST What's the Hubbub chat to date! You know I'm an old hat at these by now, so this time I got to ask the first question! However, it was not before they revealed....

That's right! Coming in 2015, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic SEASON 5! From what I gathered during the chat, they are already in production for the new season. What they did not mention, however, was exactly when in 2015 we can expect our pony friends to return to our televisions. At the very minimum, we're waiting seven months. I guess we have Equestria Girls 2 to tide us over?

Anyway, there were SO many bloggers on the chat last night, so it's a long one, but I promise it's worth the entire watch through! Tara Strong is too adorable for words, and Megan McCarthy has her writers wit... and Ted Biaselli was wearing a Doctor Whooves shirt and TARDIS earrings. Yeah, these are my people!

 Tune in Saturday at 10am!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

My Little Pony Season 4 Finale! #MLPSeason4

I've been teasing this for my past couple entries... this weekend is the Season 4 finale of My Little Pony on Hub Network! Leading up to the two part finale itself, Hub Network will be airing a marathon of pony awesomeness from the entire season beginning at 7:30am Eastern/4:30am Pacific (yikes, sorry West Coast-ers! Set your DVRs perhaps?) with the finale itself airing at 10am Eastern/7am Pacific.

"Twilight's Kingdom - Part 1"

To answer the question my Pony loving friends are asking: Yes, I have seen the finale. Yes, it is pretty rad. I don't want to give too much away, because there is no fun in spoilers! However, this year they have done something entirely different and the season finale is cumulative over the season, whereas before they have been stand-alone adventures. If you've read my Season 4 Wrap Up you might have an idea of HOW that all happens. Hint hint!

Here's what I can say without spoiling much: Twilight is disillusioned with her role as princess, being that she doesn't have a kingdom to protect or an important job like raising the sun or moon. She feels like the only reason she's a princess is to be a figurehead, and that's not something she jives with. When Equestria is threatened from a *new villain*, she offers to come to the rescue, but Celestia has someone else in mind for the task. Twilight, frustrated, turns her attentions to figuring out how to open the chest at the Tree of Harmony, hoping it contains some clues as to what her calling as royalty is. What happens is nothing short of fantastic!

I'm not giving you anything else! I want you all to tune in on Saturday morning, so I have to leave it up to time to share the rest!

However, tonight I will be joining another "What's the Hubbub?" chat with voice actress Tara Strong and head writer Megan McCarthy! This time I will only get to ask two questions, but I'm so excited! You can tune in to watch live tonight at 8pm Eastern by clicking this link. You can also follow all the talent and crew on Twitter using #MLPSeason4 or their individual accounts:

  • Tara Strong @tarastrong
  • Andrea Libman @AndreaLibman
  • Tabitha St. Germain @StTabitha
  • Cathy Weseluck @CathyWeseluck
  • Ashleigh Ball @ash_leigh_ball
  • Meghan McCarthy @MMeghanMcCarthy
  • Jayson Thiesen @goldenrussett
  • Daniel Ingram @dannyimusic
I will also post the whole interview video here at when it's in the can! I can't wait! Stay tuned TV Fans! It's about to get 20% cooler in here!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Our Trip to Build-A-Bear Workshop #MLP

To celebrate the season 4 finale of My Little Pony with Hub Network (which airs next Saturday at 10am Eastern), I and TV Boy were offered a trip to Build-A-Bear Workshop to make our very own pony friend!*

Our closest location is Easton Town Center in Columbus, OH. We were greeted by our Bear Specialist Amy and began our journey to making TV Boy a stuffed version of his favorite pony, Rainbow Dash.

This kid isn't happy or anything.

After we picked out our friend, we headed over to the heart station. All Build-A-Bear animals have a special heart inside that kids can choose attributes they want their new friend to have.

Making our heart

After that, you are offered the opportunity to add sounds and scents to your friend. We decided against a scent (TV Boy's room is smelly enough as it is! Ha!) but we did choose a sound: Rainbow Dash phrases. It includes "This needs to be about 20% cooler", which made me super happy. For the My Little Pony animals (or really any animal, I guess!) there is also an option to add the theme song.

Adding sounds.

After the sounds and smells, it's time to STUFF! We headed over to the big stuffing station!

Rainbow Dash takes shape!

Before the friend is stitched shut, you have to add the heart. If you haven't been to Build-A-Bear and plan to go, wear something comfy... adding the heart is a workout! You have to jump, spin, warm the heart, tap into a heartbeat, touch it to your nose, your heart, your head...

Making ponies is hard work!

And then you make a wish! For the first time ever, TV Boy made his wish silently, so I don't know what he wished for. Then you give it a kiss, and in the heart goes!

Now she has heart!

Once your pal is stuffed just the way you like it (kids can choose how soft their animal is or isn't), you head over to the bath station, where your animal gets a brush and blowout.

Taking a bath!

Then it's time to accessorize! The My Little Pony line has all the pony dresses from the show that are made for each specific character, along with some MLP themed outfits that any animal can sport. TV Boy went with the Rainbow Dash dress from the series and some sparkly pink sneakers.

All cool ponies need accessories!

Finally, you head to the birth certificate station, where you can name your new friend (we stuck with Rainbow Dash, of course) and fill out some information about yourself. Every pet has an individual identification tag that is stuffed into the animal so in case it is lost, it can be returned to any Build-A-Bear Workshop where they can get the tag out, scan it, and return the pal to its rightful owner. (I wish our loyal thrift store best buddy Doggie had the same feature!)

Filling out our information

Then it's time to head home in your awesome Build-A-Bear carrier, complete with personalized birth certificate, suitable for framing!

Going home with Rainbow!

The My Little Pony line currently in stores only features some of the characters: Rainbow Dash, Twilight (in Alicorn form!), Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Rarity. Each pony is $25 and clothing and accessories are sold separately. Scents and sound options are also an additional fee.

Build-A-Bear at Easton

Right now, there are also mini friends to go with the ponies, featuring Sweetie Belle, Scootaloo, and Spike the dragon. We ended up buying a Scootaloo to join Rainbow Dash, because of course you need a friend!

Pony friends!

I want to extend a special THANK YOU to our new friend Amy at the Easton Columbus Build-A-Bear location. If you're local, be sure to stop in and tell them The TV Mom sent you!

Thanks Amy!

Be sure to tune in to My Little Pony on Hub Network Saturdays at 10am Eastern, especially next week for the season finale!

*Disclosure: We were given a free trip to Build-A-Bear with a free friend in exchange for promotion for Hub Network. Please see the Disclosure tab for more information.