They Had It Comin’: 2022 Stratford’s Chicago Review

Stratford's Festival Theatre

Directed and choreographed by Donna Feore, along with Music Director Franklin Brasz, Chicago is set in the Roaring Twenties era and checks off all the boxes of showcasing a crime-inspired musical that’s full of corruption, murder and chaos. So take your seat because you’re in for the time of your life here at the Stratford Festival Theatre, with the dazzling production of Chicago.

Many of the dance numbers were very catchy, almost to the point where you could sing along if you didn’t already know the tunes, and then combined with the dynamic choreography performed by many of the cast of talented Gangsters all the way to the Razzle Dazzle Dancers, it’s perfection. Songs like, Razzle Dazzle, All That Jazz and Cell Block Tango exploded on stage.

Let’s not forget the gorgeous costume designs as well by Dana Osborne, from well-crafted suits to sultry and sparkly vaudeville outfits. The set design by Michael Gianfrancesco oozed smokey jazz bar days, where prohibition went well with a cup of coffee and a bit of mayhem.

In this story, two of the lead prison inmates and fame-seekers, Chelsea Preston as Roxie Hart and Jennifer Rider-Shaw as Velma Kelly were deeply committed to their performances and engaging. Their characters were both trigger-happy (thus being jailed for crimes of passion), seemingly coming across as rivals, as one never likes to share the spotlight. However, by intermission, it’s a sure thing that the commonalities of bringing down their scuzzy lawyer, Billy Flynn, (played brilliantly by Dan Chameroy) is paramount to their freedom and success to overthrow the constraints of societal expectations.

With many surprises along the way that I won’t spoil, a few things really stood out:

👉The shocking and stunning operatic vocals of reporter, Mary Sunshine, played by Robert Markus.

👉Dan Chameroy ignited the stage as sleazy lawyer, Billy Flynn, with a sheer spectacular performance from start to finish in the song “All I Care About.” Commanding a stage is very hard to do, many try, few succeed, yet Dan succeeds every time I have seen him perform. The most recent one before the pandemic struck was in the cult-favourite, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

👉Then we have Steve Ross (I loved him in HMS Pinafore). This role was made for him, as Steve gives one most touching performances as Amos Hart, Roxie’s rather clueless, gullible yet lonesome husband. Mr. Cellophane was clearly made for this man to perform. As we hear the entire audience let out an “awww” as he exits the stage, we need a minute to take in a breath to appreciate what we just experienced in our thoughts and collectively as audience members.

👉Again, all the dancers who complemented so many scenes. Incredible stamina, flexibility, precision and energy.

After 2 years of not being able to see any performances due to the pandemic, walking through the Festival Theatre doors again was an utter joy for myself and my husband. Seeing Chicago was a perfect way to not only celebrate our 14th anniversary together, but to enjoy world-class entertainment and you know... all that jazz. 


Check out the link below for current productions and what's happening for the exciting 2023 season!

💜Official website: https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/

No Late Fees: The Last Blockbuster


The Last Blockbuster is a wonderful documentary, directed by Taylor Morden and written by Zeke Kamm, with charming narration by actress/comedian, Lauren Lapkus  all about the history of Blockbuster video. Included are loads of nostalgic memories from some celebrity faces like comedians Kevin Smith, Jamie Kennedy, and Doug Benson.

So what would happen if Netflix and chill never existed, and we never became accustomed to streaming tv shows and movies?  The old saying “you don’t really know what you’ve got till it’s gone” definitely has some truth here.

Blockbuster went from an outstanding 9000 video rental stores to 1.  Yes, 1 store in the whole world!  Spoiler, as of writing this blog in 2022, only ONE Blockbuster store remains, headed by manager, Sandi Harding in Bend, Oregon, who is well-known as the “blockbuster mom”.  Throughout the doc, we see Sandy's dedication to Blockbuster and the countless hours of personal sacrifices that she makes for the company. It's all really quite remarkable.

A single Blockbuster card was the ticket to watching old favourites, new releases, and anything your heart desired. I know that I could spend a good hour there or more, just going up and down the aisles.  It wasn’t just another trip to the video store. It was an experience. 

Of course, after choosing a few videos and piling them on the counter, you awaited the employee to scan your card. There was excitement mixed with a bit of dread each time, maybe a bit of sweat too, as you didn’t want them to utter those four words “you have late fees.”  I never had any, but that sigh of relief always felt good hearing it straight from the Blockbuster staff. 

If we’re going to rewind here, I remember a lot of fond memories going to Blockbuster here in Windsor, Ontario.  I was only a few blocks away from one when I was living at home, so many weekends would be spent renting movies. There was something cool about whipping out that little plastic card out of your wallet and flashing it to the employee before they could ask you whether you were part of the membership club. It held much responsibility.  

Did anyone collect movie posters that Blockbuster intended to throw out?  If you asked, ye shall receive. They were always more than willing to give out a few after they didn’t have any use for them in the store anymore, including some of the cardboard cut-outs.  Our basement was filled with them! 

Although we have really evolved with technology and soon enough I’m sure we’ll be able to just think of a movie and it will randomly appear on our devices to watch, heading out for that weekly trip to the movie store to find what treasures await me will never go out of style.

💜Do you have any memories of Blockbuster video? I'd love to hear them! Leave me a comment below or send me an e-mail via my contact form. 

Grab Your Passport: 2022 Movie Reviews




Happy almost Autumn! I'm back with another set of movies! 🍿🎥 This time I ended up going on a little travel excursion with films and so you'll enjoy some reviews from our neighbours across the border in The United States, all the way to Ireland and Australia! 


Directed by Julius Avery and written by Bragi F. Schut, we’re not just entering a good vs evil superhero story in Samaritan, although it may seem like it at first. A young boy named Sam (played by Javon Walton) is convinced that his neighbour Joe, played by action-star Sylvester Stallone, is in fact Samaritan – a forgotten superhero that went missing 25 years ago.

The relationship between Sam and Joe is what really stood out the most. The interactions between them felt genuine, and I loved the curiousity of Sam’s character. I also like the restoring of humanity aspect that does wax and wane a bit but in the end, we know that one act of kindness can have a domino effect in life.

The movie is predictable in some ways, but surprising in others. I never read any of the comics so I am just basing my judgment solely on this film. We can’t forget the action of course, as there were some pretty amazing fight scenes, especially the warehouse battle and also the unexpected twist. The villain, Cyrus, was lame though, so that was a bit of disappointment as I think a stronger one would have really helped the movie along. He was like a watered-down version of Bane from the Dark Knight mixed with a little Keifer Sutherland appearance-wise.  He was rather forgettable.

Despite some of the flaws, the acts of heroism always hold up. The fact that Stallone has not aged as gracefully as others in the Hollywood spotlight and people might criticize that element, I didn’t really mind as his performance was heartfelt and highly entertaining overall. 



I’m not really into sports, although I don’t mind seeing a live game every now, but I do love a good sports movie and this one just blew me away.  When Adam Sandler is not bleeding my ears with his annoying baby voice act (I got through 15 minutes of the film; Going Overboard and had to shut it off) his other abilities are so impressive.

Hustle is directed by Jeremiah Zagar and produced by basketball legend, LeBron James, Adam Sandler, and others.

Sandler plays a Philadelphia 76ers scout named Stanley Sugerman, who lives and breathes basketball. His job sends him travelling all the time, which clearly has an impact on his family life, but he is determined to find his next talent and prove he can rise up to be more than just a coach. While in Spain, Stanley comes across Bo Cruz, played by Juancho Hernangomez who is a phenomenal streetplayer (and is a pro Spanish b-ball player in real life too! ) who doesn’t back down from anyone or anything. Stanley believes he can mold him into the next superstar basketball player with some tough love and mentoring. Bo has what it takes but carries a lot of skeletons in his closet that will test the limits of how far he’ll go with or without Stanley by his side. 

The movie is so impactful on many levels, as we see the struggles of Stanley on and off the court especially his desperation to be somebody. It’s heartbreaking but we’ve all been in his shoes in some way or another, so it’s relatable and his performance hits straight to the heart.  The friendship between him and Bo is so genuine with real tender moments and shows how trust is the foundation to build upon anything else. 

Hustle is one of the best movies of 2022 for me and a total slam dunk!




Swinging Safari is an Australian comedic and dramatic romp of craziness with a 70’s vibe, starring Guy Pearce, Kylie MinogueJulian McMahon (biggest crush from the series Nip/Tuck) and more. It was written and directed by Stephan Elliott, who is well-known for The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

The movie is funny, fast-paced, loud and bordering on obnoxious at times, showing the perspective of life through the lens of the adults and children in Australia during the 1970’s. Throw in a random beached whale that is really the most exciting thing to happen to the town of Wallaroo in a long time, maybe forever.

There are so many characters in this one, it is hard to keep track.  I loved the innocence and sweet relationship of Melly (it’s rare I can find a movie with a “Melissa” in it – so yaay!) played by Darcey Wilson and Jeff (Atticus Rob), as they had to both navigate dealing with their dysfunctional families.  I also appreciated Guy Pearce, who played Keith Hall, who was as eccentric as his fashion choices.

The narration helps to create some sort of cohesion of telling the stories of each of the families, including the sad stories of two pets specifically Doody the Dog and Tommy the Turtle, but a lot of scenes are disjointed and that’s probably intentional, to show what it was like to grow up in suburbia with cruel parental discipline and moral compasses tossed out onto the barbie.

Some scenes were so outrageous that I was thinking of giving up on the movie, but then it pulls you back in and you’re laughing awkwardly while tapping your feet to the great soundtrack with songs like Spirit in the Sky and Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep.  

So grab a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and have a swingin’ good time!


Directed by Tom Reeve, Hard Times (known prior with the title Holy Water), is a crazy, tushy-grabbing good time Irish comedy that pokes fun of all our insecurities, religion, sex, and it’s “fecking” bizarre. 

Set in the village of Killcoulin's Leap, what could possibly go wrong when you have a group of men who are desperate to make quick money and try and hijack a Viagra truck? Well you get the FBI after you and of course, with fear of now being caught, the only logical thing to do is dump all the pills into your local "Holy" well.  Unfortunately, all goes haywire as everyone from the town takes a sip, and another sip, and another, of the water, which leads to many residents “rising up” to these miraculous feelings thrusted upon them.

The movie is funny but a little long-winded at times. It was actually filmed in Devon, England, and the scenery is gorgeous throughout so that's a plus.  One thing that seems to be apparent is that Irish movies never shy away from nudity so you’ll be seeing a lot of anatomy in this one!


💜Have you seen any of these films?  Drop me a note in the comments, or send me an email using my webform on the side and also let me know what you've been watching!


Take It On The Run: Film Reviews


Hello readers! I've compiled another list of films that I've watched recently that I wanted to share with you.




Despite Tom Cruise’s continuous and cringe-worthy religious affiliation with Scientology, on-screen, there is no doubt that he is still top notch in his acting and Top Gun: Maverick adds even more accolades as we can see all his grueling flight training really paid off for this role.

I was a little worried that Top Gun: Maverick wouldn’t be quite as good, especially since the first one had Tony Scott directing. However, I have to say it was incredible in many ways and director, Joseph Kosinski gets a big applause for his talents.

The aviator flight scenes were mind-blowing. Just so visually stunning and I was really invested in Maverick’s friendship with Goose's son, Rooster, played by Miles Teller and of course, the dynamics with Ice Man, played by Val Kilmer.  There was so much emotion with these characters. 

I do have two criticisms of the movie and I think that just goes back to my dire love of the 1980’s because “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin  took my breath away hearing it in the original Top Gun and always will.  

Going to present day,  Lady Gaga took the seat this time around on the lead single for the soundtrack with her song “Hold My Hand”.  People seemed to literally go “gaga” for this song, and after giving it a listen multiple times, while I can appreciate Lady Gaga’s vocal talents and the essence of the song itself, I didn’t feel the same emotion.

The second issue was the love connection, or rather lack of,  between Tom Cruise as Pete Maverick and his romance with Penny, played by Jennifer Connelly.  It felt bland, almost as if they were acting from two very different places. The idea of having a co-pilot in life requires that desire, the romantic shiver that makes your heart beat a little faster and that spark. This felt like an awkward friendship, trying to convince the audience that they should try and be together because the storyline says so. 

In contrast to this pseudo-romance, in the original Top Gun film, Charlie (Kelly McGillis) who played Maverick’s love interest convinced me that they were the real deal and you could feel the chemistry between her and Cruise on-screen each and every time.  That's my take, it's okay if you feel differently.

 


We all have those moments when we feel invisible in our own lives, maybe unheard, unappreciated, or lost.  Mrs Harris Goes to Paris has a way of renewing hope and although there is ugliness in the world, beauty still shines through when we least expect it to.

Directed by Anthony Fabian, the movie is set in the 1950’s, which I adore, plus the British-ness of the film is something I gravitate towards, so I'm already in love with it. 

The story involves a widowed housekeeper, Ada Harris, played by Lesley Manville, who works for the poshest of the posh. One day while cleaning a client's closet, she falls in love with a couture dress by Christian Dior.  Saving all her pennies and with the encouragement of her best friend Vi (Ellen Thomas), she goes to Paris in search of her perfect Dior dress.

I loved everything about this movie. It was so sentimental and joyful. Even the moments of sadness still had a way of making you feel connected to the story and love Ada just a bit more.  I adored the friendship between Ada and Vi too. Sassy together yet still so genuinely loving to each other through all the pains and sorrows of life. I loved the look of the film and the set designs. There were also a few scenes that had me reminisce of the glorious independent movie gem; Amelie.

Sure it’s a predictable story to an extent, but in no way does she ride off with any type of prince charming on a horse scenario.  Since the characters were so delightful and the movie itself just flowed so nicely with its dialogue and all the subtle reminders of how to be a good human, I think everyone wants Ada to get her dress and just be happy.


  

After watching the trailer of Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers, I was really hesitant about seeing this one. It looked like it could be a train wreck with the animation, but then I figured, why the heck not give it a go. My husband and I watch all sorts of movies and maybe we’ll be surprised.  Well, surprises galore! 

Directed by Akiva Schaffer, this live-action film was hilarious with voice-overs from Andy Samberg, Will Arnett, Kiki Layne, Seth Rogan, and so many more! Delving into a lot of internet meme culture, I can’t count how many times I laughed throughout the whole film. There was no lack of puns either. Throwbacks to my childhood (not going to spoil anything here) really made it fun.  Don’t kid yourself though, there are definitely some mature themes/scenes that may go above the young ones heads, but it really has something for everyone. 


Directed by Tom Gormican, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent has actor Nicolas Cage playing himself, Nick Cage, as well as his alter-ego, Nicky.  He’s down and out, just like a lot of celebs who fade out of the Hollywood scene. Double d’s hit; depression and drinking. Then comes an opportunity to make $1 million to show up to Javi’s birthday (played by Pedro Pascal) who turns out is a Cage “superfan” – anyone remember their super-fandom and shrine?  Little does he know though, Nick FU!KING CAGE is going to get roped into more than he had bargained for.

Here we get to see so many iconic characters that Nicolas Cage has played in his 40-year span career, so you may want to do a Nicolas Cage movie marathon prior to watching, if you haven’t seen any of his flicks Con Air, Face/ Off, Moonstruck etc... Otherwise, just go all in for the ride.

I also need to say that we need to start a petition to get Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal to be in more movies together because their banter on screen together is just priceless. They are really the milk and honey, the toast and jam and the Kraft dinner and ketchup of this film, hands down. I could watch them for hours.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a total must-see and probably one that you want to rent again or even own, so that you can share with your friends, and enjoy the absurdity of it all. 



Just in and had to mention it! 


Directed by Dan Trachtenberg, Prey is an origin story of the first Predator alien to appear on Earth. If you haven't seen any of the Predator franchises, that's ok, you're still going to be blown away by this one on its own merit. I was definitely awe-struck at how well this movie captured such suspense, a great story and held my full attention for some of the most intense battle scenes.  

Naru, played by Amber Midthunder is a perfect fit. She is a ferocious heroine, showing dedication and strength in her role as a Comanche skilled warrior and protector of her tribe.

Although some criticize saying that tossing in a female lead (as opposed to using someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger) was a bad choice, Amber didn't make me doubt her commitment to the role one bit. She held her own, wielding a tomahawk like a pro, and going head-to-head in a believable way with one terrifying alien that was on her radar.






💜Have you seen any of these films?  What were your thoughts? Drop me a note in the comments, or send me an email using my webform on the side and also let me know what you've been watching!