Sep 29, 2016

Movie Reviews: 2016



If you know me or have read this blog for a while, you'll know that I am a movie buff. Yes, I love  going to movies, the adventure of getting out, fresh warm popcorn, finding our favourite seats, always the ones with the footrest! Or I just love being at home, cozied up with a blanket, and choosing some new-to-me adventure right in my own living room. 

It's been a while since I've done any movie reviews (see the new Reviews tab above), so here is my take on the movies I've seen in 2016 so far and a few of the upcoming films I am excited to see.  

 

 

Family Movies:



Finding Dory

Best sequel I've seen in a long time. Excellent new characters, great backstory for Dory, funny jokes for the adults and lots of action. Loved the whales, the "sept"-apus and the sea lions! (Watch until mid-credits!) And gosh but isn't young Dory just the cutest creature ever!?!


The Jungle Book 

Beautiful movie, amazing effects, great acting by newcomer, Neel Sethi who plays Mowgli. Loved the voice acting from Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, and Scarlett Johansson to name a few.  


Zootopia 

Awesome movie for adults and kids. I took my 6 year old nephews and the scariest/jumpy bits (of animals acting like wild animals) weren't too bad for them. Amazing world, love reading all the little background city signs etc. Great story.

The Secret Life of Pets 

Okay animated movie. Again, my nephews enjoyed it and the scene that they kept talking about after was the crazy snake scene. Loved the bunny!


My Favourites:

Star Trek Beyond 

Good premise but similar to the new Star Wars...orphaned girl, mechanic, seeks help of people who crash landed...Good villain, interesting scenes with the "swarming" enemy ships. Best moment includes a favourite piece of Beastie Boyz music! Also really liked the new Starbase Yorktown and the gravity-defying scenes.

Deadpool

Totally brutal, harsh and violent...but also totally AWESOME! (#sorrynotsorry!) Ryan Reynolds is one of my favourite actors and he delivers a brilliantly creative and sarcastic role. I love how they poke fun at their own movie as well and the X-Men franchise.


X-Men: Apocalypse 

Good but not perfect as far as X-Men movies go. Some decent backstory for all of the main characters and we are introduced to a few new ones. There were a few eye-rolling moments from me when certain characters seem to get away without injury from extremely dangerous situations or explosions. I am also not a huge fan of movies that seem to use CG effects to totally demolish entire cities and innocent people on a grand scale just for dramatic effect. Loved seeing my favourites Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, and Evan Peters! Quicksilver is the best!!


Jason Bourne 

I'm a huge fan of all the Bourne movies and enjoyed this latest chapter in Jason's saga. I'm glad they included Julia Stiles' character, Nicky Parsons, and I thought newcomer to the Bourne family, Alicia Vikander, worked well as an adversary/ally for Jason. 


Fun and Interesting:

  • Bad Moms - You will laugh...a lot! Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn steal the show!
  • Mother's Day - Heartwarming, sweet, funny, ridiculous at times, but fun.
  • Love & Freindship - Based on a Jane Austen story about Lady Susan trying to find a husband for her daughter but taking one for herself instead. Of course I love Austen books and films but this one felt a little off since I didn't really like the main character. I did love all the intrigue around Lady Susan's manipulations but I also just love this era of society.
  • War Dogs - Interesting, eye-opening that it's based on a real story. You don't really realize the crazy deals the US Government makes to supply it's forces and how two young guys could get into such a mess just trying to make some money from those oportunities.
  • Snowden - You'll go home and cover your computers web-cam! A good look inside one of the biggest security leak...but wonder if you really wanted to know what Snowden wanted us to all know. Is the cost if security really giving away our rights and privacy? A deep thinking movie.

Don't Bother:

  • Hail, Caesar! - Bleh! I should've known I wouldn't like this movie full of convoluted, over-the-top, Hollywood sillyness. Josh Brolin was the only redeeming actor and the only amusing scene was seeing Channing Tatum tap dance with a room full of sailors.
  • The Legend of Tarzan - Action, CG, vine-swinging... and a pretty Alexander Skarsgård. Not much else. 
  • How to be Single - While I usually enjoy Rebel Wilson's comedy, in this she was a hint away from annoying and Dakota Johnson's character just made me plain sad. Don't go to this movie if you are actually single.
  • The Divergent Series: Allegiant - I liked the first two books in this series but hated the third, upon which this movie is based. And it certainly translated as such on screen. Apparently the Part 2 of this movie isn't even going to theatres. Shucks.
  • The Boss - A fun spin on Beverly Hills Troop, but Melissa McCarthy is not at all likeable. The only redeemable person is Kristen Bell's character. She's the best!
  • Suicide Squad - Awesome costumes, great characters, a good idea BUT....no/bad/silly/confusing plot or story line. Bad all around.
  • The Light Between Oceans - Emotional, yes, interesting, yes, but utterly predictable and not at all satisfying. 
 

Movies I'm excited to see:

  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - YES!! I can't wait for these new characters mixed with a few familiar faces to tell us more of the Star Wars story!
  • The Magnificent Seven - It's had mixed reviews, but I still like a good Western. Cris Pratt and Ethan Hawke? Yes!
  • Queen of Katwe - Looks like a great story!
  • Deepwater Horizon - Tragedy and heroism. and Marky Mark!
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Fantasy, powers, and kids.
  • The Accountant - Ben Affleck is a math savant who handles money for all sorts of miscreants. Plus guns.
  • Doctor Strange - Comic book mystic...looks like Inception meets Harry Potter!
  • Hacksaw Ridge - True story about a pacifist soldier who becomes a hero for saving the lives of the wounded.
  • Arrival - Sci-fi alien movie that looks more about the anticipation and social confusion of first contact than the actual contact. 


  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Continuation of the world of Harry Potter!
  • Passengers - Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, two of my favs, wake up early on a long mission to a new space colony...mysterious events ensue plus maybe a little romance? Fun!


What movies did YOU enjoy this past season and what are YOU looking forward to seeing?


Leave a comment. :)



Sep 23, 2016

Sun, Sand & Surf - Mexico!


In April I was off once again to a hot destination, this time to Mexico, with a group of friends to celebrate a birthday.

We stayed at the very grand Barcélo Maya Beach Resort, an all-inclusive, just an hour south of Cancun.

Our rooms were lovely, and the hotels (yes, hotels plural, there were 5 hotels on the resort property!) were huge! The grounds, numerous pools and white sandy beaches were well kept, clean, and superb!

We lounged in either the pools or ocean all day, slathering on sunscreen...no avail, since most of us get a little red or pink after a day or two.

We snorkeled with tropical fish and sea turtles, we drove ATVs on the beach and through some jungle trails, we swam in one small and dark and one big and lit up freshwater cenote caves.

We roamed the ruins of Tulum in stifling, almost-passing-out heat and tried to cool down with piña colodas under giant fans at the evening shows back at the resort.

From buffet meals to fancy restaurants to the pool-side grills, we always found some yummy food for every meal.

I loved our week on the beach but I'm not sure if I need to venture back to Mexico again. However, if I did, an all-inclusive sure is an amazing way to go! Everything you might need is taken care of and this resort in particular, had a lot to offer!

The front of one of the hotels, over looking the pools and ocean.

My lovely room. We even had a mini fridge stocked with cold drinks that would be replaced daily.

The resort had many wonderful and tranquil water features including a few of these sitting areas that feature furniture that lights up at night. We sat out in these mini seating islands a few different evenings.

Pools, shady palm trees or pergolas, hammocks, lounge chairs...sounds like a perfect day in Mexico to me!


Here are a few more snippets of my favourite parts of our days in Mexico:

  • Standing in the clear and clean, chest-high, blue-tiles pools, with a cold drink in one hand, laughing and chatting with my friends.
  • Sitting at the in-pool tiled bar seats to wait while our friendly resort bartender made up our cold slushy piña colodas. We met some interesting people in the pools, including some outspoken and funny Americans!


  • Swinging in a hammock in the shade of the pergolas above, overlooking the white beach
  • Exploring the buffets at breakfast or dinner and finding amazing displays of fresh fruits and veggies, some unrecognizable from the intricate carving into shapes or animals. Every meal had a different theme with a few different items, but we could always find some delicious to eat. The roasted chicken was always a favourite!


Biggest shrimp I've ever seen!

Yes, yes, that indeed IS a breakfast DONUT BUFFET!
  • The bathwater-warm waves we enjoyed standing and jumping in! Our beach had a nice smooth sandy bottom with a few areas or rocks for good snorkeling.
  • Snorkeling! I had never been snorkeling before and we spent hours in front of our resort getting up close and personal with the local tropical fish as well as going on a tour that included snorkeling with SEA TURTLES! I was super glad I'd brought my own mask and snorkel. It was used a lot!
My new friend, Hector the sea turtle. He and I spent a nice quiet half hour together at Akumel beach.

If you know me, you know I love fish! I've had numerous aquariums over the years.
Snorkeling with real tropical fish was amazing!  

Tulum ruins, excellent tour with our guide, but the HOTTEST day of our week!!
(Notice the iguana in the foreground soaking up the sun. They were everywhere!)

  • I also took advantage of the dolphin exhibit inside our resort to spend an hour actually swimming with a couple DOLPHINS! Dream come true! (Even if I don't agree with how small of an enclosure these beautiful animals are being kept.)
I'm the one petting the dolphin as it swam by.

  • Gecko spotting in the evenings—on walls, floors, ceilings, pathways
  • Iguanas everywhere! Yes, there were resident iguanas living on the resort, both small and large. Some came close to our table at lunch one day so we offered them a few small treats of banana or bread. 

  • At some point we wondered why we never saw any seagulls or sea birds on or near the beach. There wasn't any big bird mess on our lounge chairs or around the pool. Then one morning as we walked towards the beach we came across two bird handlers carrying two large trained hawks. We got a chance to pet them and ask some questions. They bring the hawks out to the beach a few times a day to fly over the resort and "claim" the airspace so no seagull or other messy birds make it their home.
  • The Entertainment—we only caught a few of the evening shows, but the Michael Jackson tribute show was pretty good, with excellent dancers. The best show I enjoyed was the Fiesta Mexicana with live music, dancers and singers. We also noticed a lot of the show dancers would instruct Pool Zumba earlier in the day, which was also a riot!

  • The exceptional homemade guacamole! We would wait for a fresh batch to be brought out and enjoy with some freshly made crispy tortilla chips. 
  • My lovely air-conditioned room with cool tile floors!
  • The market—our resort had it's own outdoor market and indoor mall, but we also had a chance to shop a bit on our tour day at some local touristy shops. We all found a few little souvenirs and mementos to take home.
  • The Japanese restaurant for my friend's birthday.  Out of all the "fancy" dining bookings we went to the Japanese was our favourite. The chef entertained us, flipping bits of cooked broccoli into our mouths and bouncing a raw egg from spatula to spatula finally cracking it in one last swipe. The food was excellent (I had the red snapper) and was cooked on the grill right in front of us. 
Birthday surprise napkin bow!

(Notice a few sunburns?)

  • Our waiters and guides. We had a few funny characters who served us over the week. Some of the waiters were quiet but our favourites were friendly and loud and kept us supplies with cool drinks. Our friendly guides on the short ATV & Cenote tour gave us a cool look inside the deep dark underwater cave by swimming down with a flashlight to shine around the dark corners. (He also saved one of our cameras by diving quickly to get it when it was dropped into the cenote!)

 
The small centoe - yes, that's a cave we climbed down into and swam through a tight crevasse into the dark pool beyond!
The larger cenote, very well-lit and HUGE! We wore flotation belts so we could just relax and snorkel around. On the way out our guide tossed fish food over us and hundreds of small black fish came up all around us to feed! Freaky but fun!



  • The best thing about being in Mexico with friends was...being with friends! We had such a great time, relaxing, chatting and laughing together! I'd love to do another trip with friends again someday.  
Our amazing 4 km beach! We walked the entire length one morning and saw the resort workers up early to groom and clean the beach.

Just one of the many pools around our resort!

After our ATV ride and small cenote swim. Amazing afternoon!

We went to the resort club one evening for another birthday and had a blast dancing and learning some fun line dances from the resort dance instructors.


Mexico 2016! A week to remember!!


Sep 15, 2016

#WestCoastBestCoast - Vancouver Island is a treasure!


I love where I live! Really, I do!
I know I've been reminiscing and writing a lot lately about my amazing international travels, but today I saw an amazing video that reminded me that I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world!

Whether you are surfing or watching storms in Tofino, soaking up some sun on the sandy beaches of Parksville or hiking along any one of thousands of excellent trails, Vancouver Island pretty much has it all.


Yes, this is a real photo from a real whale watching trip I went on with my cousin. Amazing experience!

I live in the city of Victoria, the capital city of the province of British Columbia, which is located on Vancouver Island, the most southwestern corner of Canada. See the map? Yep, way over there in the corner. We are actually right across the water from Port Angeles, Washington, US, and not too far from Seattle.


And yes, it truly IS and island. It's over 500 times the size of Manhattan, NY with only half of Manhattan's population! But we have trees, lots and lots of trees!

We have mountains, forests, waterfalls, adventure tourism, whale watching, beaches, rugged Pacific coastline and more.

Victoria is on the far bottom right of the island.

I've lived here since 1986 and it would be a very difficult decision to ever move away! I love the climate, quite mild and the summer usually don't get too hot. Winters are cool but barely any snow and no, we don't get as much rain as say, Vancouver or Seattle.

Here are a few of my favourite snapshots of places around where I live.


Here's the awesome video by a guy named Tyler Cave, another local Victorian, who spent the summer exploring the Island and all the amazingly beautiful scenery. So many times I thought, wow, I live there!

If anyone from my distant circle of friends ever wants to come visit, I'll be your tour guide...seriously.
Enjoy!