by Tyler Glover
All my life, I have wished upon a star. I have wanted to ride a magic carpet and swim with mermaids. Furthermore, I have dreamed of riding elephants with big ears, eating a dinner brought to me by a serenading candelabra, and flying thanks to a little bit of pixie dust. Disney has always encouraged me to dream big. It should come as no surprise then that Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Fla., lives up to its name. It truly is the most magical place on Earth.
After you arrive and board the ferry, you begin to feel the cool breeze on a hot Florida day. You sit down on a bench by an opening to see the beautiful blue lake. Music begins to play over the intercom. It is “A Whole New World” from “Aladdin.” The horn blows signaling it is time for departure. The ferry slowly begins to take off. Shortly, a very tall, ash grey castle with shiny gold trimming starts to come into view. You truly are going into a whole new world full of magic. When you see the beautiful Cinderella Castle come into view, you immediately feel a sense of peace. It is like going home. This home being your childhood where Disney dared you to dream.
I have been to Magic Kingdom five times in my lifetime. It was first a band trip, my honeymoon, and then three times with my family. I have gotten to experience every ride and been to almost every shop and now, I am here to tell you what the top 10 things are at Magic Kingdom.
10. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is one of those rides that as soon as it comes into view, you are amazed at how beautiful it is. You are truly transported into the frontier. It looks just like a mountain that would be in a Wild, Wild West film. This ride is a rollercoaster that is all around a mountain. You are on top of the mountain, you are going through the mountain, and you even begin the ride inside the mountain. The ride goes so fast that it is hard for you to even know where you are. It is a top-notch roller coaster but not the best roller coaster Magic Kingdom has to offer. If this awesome ride is not even the best, imagine how great the roller coasters at Magic Kingdom are!
“Barnstormer” is a rollercoaster that puts the legendary Goofy front and center. “The Great Goofini” has been operating airplanes and it doesn’t seem like it has been very successful. When you are standing in line, you see holes through signs that make it seem Goofy has been thrown from one of these airplanes. On this ride, you are riding on a “stunt plane” all around the barnyard. This ride is one of the few roller coasters that even kids of a younger age can experience. It obviously depends on the child but my youngest really enjoyed this. It was really her only shot at riding a rollercoaster at her age so if this is your circumstance, this ride is 100 percent perfect for you to make sure you storm.
8. Magic Carpets of Aladdin
“Aladdin” holds a special place in my heart. It is the first film that I went to see in movie theaters. Aside from the amazing experience of the film, I also got to experience the big screen for the first time. While the “Magic Carpets of Aladdin” ride is one that goes around in a circle like any kids’ ride at a carnival, this one is top notch. You get to ride on a magic carpet that you can navigate how high you go up. You can pull the lever all the way to the top if you want or even go up and down to truly feel the experience of riding a magic carpet. As you ride, different “Aladdin” songs play every time truly transporting you into Agrabah and elevating the experience. Riding Aladdin’s magic carpet, moving up and down, while listening and of course singing to “A Whole New World,” ranks up there with one of the most magical times of my life.
7. Mad Tea Party
There is no doubt that when you are in Wonderland, you are in a surreal, different, crazy and somewhat mad world. One of the things Alice does while she is in Wonderland is have a tea party with the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse. This, of course, makes the idea of a Mad Tea Party perfect for Magic Kingdom. This ride is a typical sit down ride where the guests can turn a wheel and spin in circles as much as they want as the ride goes. However, this time, you are sitting in a teacup. As the ride goes, you look around and see tons of teacups all going around in a circle making this experience feel crazy, mad, and wonderful to be a part of the magic of Wonderland.
6. Under The Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid
If you are looking for a moment to escape the hot summer sun, “Under The Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid” is a great option. In this indoor and air-conditioned ride, you get to experience the story of “The Little Mermaid” as you sit in a clamshell. The coolest part about this ride is when you are turned backwards and all around you, it looks like you are going underwater to be with the mermaids. As you enter each section, you get to experience not only the story but the Academy Award winning music from Alan Menken: “Part Of Your World,” “Under The Sea,” “Kiss The Girl” and “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” Disney uses animatronics that represent the characters bringing the experience alive right before your eyes. When you exit this ride, you are not only cooled off but happy to see once again that dreams can come true and happily ever afters do exist.
5. Peter Pan’s Flight
“Peter Pan’s Flight” is also an indoor and air-conditioned ride that tells the story with the use of animatronics. On this ride, you board a ship that will guide you through the story of the Disney film, “Peter Pan.” The ride begins in the Darling kids’ room and then you begin to fly. You are flying into the sky, past Big Ben, over Neverland, into Neverland where you see the mermaids, Captain Hook’s ship, the Lost Boys, and the Indian tribe. It is like a tour of the land that also tells the story at the same time. While “The Little Mermaid” makes you feel under the sea, “Peter Pan” makes us feel that we can fly, we can fly, we can fly!
Philarmagic was truly an awesome experience. This is the kind of ride that just seeing the sign does not really tell you what it is, but you will not regret checking it out. Philarmagic is a 3D concert experience where you put on your “opera glasses” and sit back to enjoy the fun. Donald Duck is here to put on a concert, but mayhem ensues when he puts on Mickey’s Sorcerer Hat. We are transported into the worlds of “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King” and “Peter Pan.” Of course, it would not be a 3D experience without objects feeling like they are right there for you to touch. There are not many things that are as exhilarating than having dishes singing “Be Our Guest” to you dancing what appears to be literally right before your eyes. Philarmagic is magic at its best.
3. Be Our Guest Restaurant
“Beauty and the Beast” is one of my favorite Disney films of all time. Upon hearing that there was a restaurant named Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom, I knew this was something I HAD to experience. I feel this way for every “Beauty and the Beast” fan out there. This is not an experience to be missed! Outside of the restaurant, you see the beautiful architecture of the Beast’s castle. As you walk in, you are transported into the beautiful ballroom that Beauty and the Beast dance in. You can also be seated to eat in the West Wing where the beautiful, enchanted rose is located, shining brightly for all to see no matter where you are seated. The Beast even comes out and makes appearances welcoming you to his castle. The food is very upscale and first rate but there is something for everyone. I had Filet Mignon and it was delicious. However, the thing I was the most interested in trying was of course, the Grey Stuff. Let me tell you: it is delicious!
2. Seven Dwarves Mine Train
The Seven Dwarves Mine Train would be my favorite roller coaster at Magic Kingdom if it wasn’t for my number one choice. It was hard to pick between these two. Seven Dwarves Mine Train at first glance may appear to be very similar to the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad but it has a story to tell on top of it. At the beginning of the ride, you begin slowly but start picking up speed. You feel that the pace of the ride is about to begin picking up but then you are pleasantly surprised to be in the mine with the dwarves. You are looking around at beautiful glistening diamonds and they are singing the “Dig, dig, dig” song. However, the bell rings and it is time to go home. So, they begin singing “Heigh Ho” and let me tell you. “Heigh ho, home from work is where you are going and at a speed that you feel they were just told about the Evil Queen getting to Snow White. From there, it is just pure joy and thrills. This is a can’t-miss attraction at Magic Kingdom!
1. Space Mountain
“Space Mountain” is the coolest ride in Magic Kingdom. If you are someone who loves thrills and rollercoasters, this is the ride for you. “Space Mountain” is an indoor roller coaster that transports you into space. When the ride begins, you are launched up into the stars. Everywhere you look, it is nothing but darkness and stars. It takes a moment to let you view the beauty before taking off spinning you all around the track (a track you cannot see). You cannot tell which direction you will be going next. It could be left, right, up, or down. The only direction it doesn’t take you is upside down. Even though the ride accelerates very quickly, the ride does not end abruptly. You really feel like you are in space, and this just adds to another magical day at Magic Kingdom. At Magic Kingdom, Disney transports you to all kinds of different worlds but space, by far, feels like the coolest place to go.
by Julian Spivey
Director: Trent O'Donnell
Starring: Jake Johnson, D'Arcy Carden & Susan Sarandon
Rated: Not Rated (But Would Be 'R')
Runtime: 1 hour & 28 minutes
Most people probably know Jake Johnson from his role as the hilarious Nick Miller on the Fox sitcom “New Girl” from 2011-2018, but he’s become quite the indie film actor over the last decade. However, it’s been a bit since his best indie work in 2012’s “Safety Not Guaranteed” and 2013’s “Drinking Buddies.”
Now he’s back to his indie ways in “Ride the Eagle,” a film he co-wrote with director Trent O’Donnell, in which he plays Leif, a struggling musician who finds out his estranged mother Honey (played by Susan Sarandon) has died and has bequeathed him her lovely mountainous cabin with one major catch – he must complete a list left by her via videotape.
It’s a quaint film, mostly following Leif through his quest to get through this list – that he begins reluctantly because he honestly has nothing better to do. If Johnson didn’t know this character so well via co-writing the film and if he weren’t so likable at playing aimless adults in their late 30s it might not be so interesting, but as a fan of Johnson I was willing to follow him along on this journey to develop a relationship with his deceased mom.
Where “Ride the Eagle,” which gets its title from a truly horrid piece of art painted by Leif’s late mother, is at its best is when the mom instructs Leif to make things right with “the one that got away” and Leif calls up an ex he hasn’t spoken to in about a decade named Audrey (played by D’Arcy Carden). Johnson and Carden have so much chemistry that there are times I found myself thinking maybe Johnson and O’Donnell should’ve stripped everything else away and re-wrote the film as a rom-com between the two. The banter between Johnson and Carden, done completely via phone calls and texts as they’re never in the same room together (which is truly amazing due to the chemistry), is the highlight of the film.
There’s a bit of mysterious thrown into “Ride the Eagle,” as well, when Leif arrives at his late mother’s cabin and gets a threatening call from a man assuming he’s Honey’s lover. It’s drawn out a bit until a face-to-face confrontation between Leif and the man, Carl (played by Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons), in which the two realize it’s all a misunderstanding. Carl is a role type Simmons has played often, in fact it’s very similar to his performance in last year’s indie darling “Palm Springs.”
At an hour and 28 minutes, “Ride the Eagle” doesn’t overstay its welcome and truly only works because Johnson is such an affable performer.
“Ride the Eagle” is currently available to rent on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and other streaming apps for $6.99.
by Aprille Hanson-Spivey
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Reid Miller & Connie Britton
Runtime: 1 hour & 34 minutes
“Joe Bell” is a roller coaster of emotions, with deep highs and lows knowing that it’s based on a true story. The drama stars Mark Walberg as Joe Bell, a working class father who treks across the United States from his home in La Grande, Ore., to New York City sharing the story of his son and promoting anti-bullying for LGBTQ youth.
Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, the film packs in as much heartache and mild redemption in its hour and 34-minute run time.
The story is a mix of flashbacks of the relationship between Joe Bell and his gay teenage son Jadin Bell (masterfully portrayed by Reid Miller). It’s a tale likely familiar to too many LGBTQ youth in America in that his father doesn’t disown his son but tries his best to ignore the fact that he’s gay. One of several heartbreaking scenes happens when Bell yells at his son to practice his cheerleading routine with his friend in the backyard because he can’t hear the TV inside the house with all the cheers and shouting. It’s a profound moment in that Jadin feels the shame and embarrassment his father feels for him.
Bell is already walking across America when the film opens, his son Jadin by his side. And the two share special father-son moments, but the audience learns (if they didn’t already know going into the movie) that these moments are all in Bell’s mind.
In the film and in real life, 15-year-old Jadin Bell hanged himself Jan. 19, 2013, from a play set at a local elementary school. His death is revealed about midway into the movie when Joe Bell goes to a gay bar and drag queen show on one of his stops across the country. The suicide, not seen, occurs later in the film.
The true tragedy of the film is watching this happy teenager, who tells his brother he’s “stronger than he looks,” get repeatedly bullied and attacked, eventually finding suicide as his only way out. Miller’s performance and his desperation at the end of Bell’s life is raw, honest and an important portrayal for anyone who has an LGBTQ child or who doesn’t understand what kind of impact bullying can have on a teenager.
Lost and grieving, Bell leaves his wife Lola (played by talented Connie Britton) and younger son Joseph Bell (Maxwell Jenkins) at home to walk to New York City, a place his son always wanted to go. By the film’s end, it turns out to be somewhat of a redemption story for Joe Bell. But it takes a long time to get there. Bell’s personality did not suddenly change just because his son died and his journey starts out as a way to work past his own guilt without having to change. A key moment in a diner shows two men spouting anti-gay slurs. The figment of Jadin tells his father to go talk to them, but the most he can muster is sharing his name and a business card about his mission. He’s not ready to confront the hatred, and Jadin lets him know it.
It’s an interesting choice by the filmmakers to really never show much of his talks at these different towns and organizations he stops at. They also do not show the bullies again after Jadin’s death, other than Lola telling Bell that a note was left on Jadin’s grave apologizing, which pushes Bell into a fit of rage.
Wahlberg’s portrayal of Bell is one many men could likely relate to. Yes, the film is titled for him and most of it is centered on his own guilt. But more than that, the story is about the importance of change and if even one parent with an LGBTQ youth or any viewer sees this and readjusts their attitude from adversary to advocate, it’s a story worth telling.
by Julian Spivey
Director: Juame Collet-Serra
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt & Jack Whitehall
Runtime: 2 hours & 7 minutes
Who knew a movie based off a ride at Disney World could be so much fun?
Just hearing a movie is based off an amusement park ride makes me skeptical from the start but watching the promos for Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” had me intrigued enough to want to watch it thinking it could be something of a modern day “The African Queen.”
Well, Dwayne Johnson certainly isn’t Humphrey Bogart, but “Jungle Cruise” is a lot of fun and isn’t that ultimately what we want from a Disney adventure film?
The film begins in the mid-1500s when Don Aguirre (played by Edgar Ramirez) leads a group of Spanish conquistadors to the Amazon of South America in search of a mythical tree which blooms flowers that can cure illness and heal injuries among other things.
We’re quickly brought forward to 1916 London where Dr. Lily Houghton (played by Emily Blunt) is having her research of this mythical tree being presented by her brother MacGregor (played by Jack Whitehall) to an elite society because he’s male and she’s not, but they basically laugh him out of the room. This leads her to stealing an important artifact she believes will help her find the mythical tree from under the nose of a German Prince (played by Jesse Plemons), who wants it to help his country win World War I and rule the world.
Lily and MacGregor end up in Brazil where the meet Frank (played by Johnson), the steamboat captain of a jungle cruise ship on the Amazon River that has some similarities personality wise to Bogart’s Charlie Allnut from John Huston’s classic 1951 film “The African Queen,” but with the physique of a professional wrestler.
I must admit this is the first movie I’ve ever seen featuring Johnson (other than a quick cameo in the comedy “The Other Ones,” because most of his films seem like mindless action flicks or comedies), but I was rather pleased with his performance – though it doesn’t ask a whole lot of him but to crack some corny jokes and be a masculine figure. The character building in “Jungle Cruise” isn’t really what this film is about. It’s the adventure that matters and the flick, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, does a fine job at keeping your attention for its two hour run-time.
There’s a nice little twist to “Jungle Cruise” a bit past halfway through that I won’t spoil for viewers, but I did not see coming. I don’t know that the twist truly adds a whole lot to the plot or the overall enjoyment of the film, but props for having me not see it coming.
The chemistry between Johnson and Blunt is nice in a buddy film kind of way, but, of course, the film adds a romantic element to it – kind of late in the film, though you pretty much always expect it, especially from Disney. This element wasn’t necessary, but again doesn’t really hurt anything.
It’s a fun film to watch with your family and I truly don’t think Disney does a whole lot of that these days that isn’t in the animation variety, so it’s a welcome addition. You can see “Jungle Cruise” in theaters or through Disney+’s premiere access via $29.99.
by Philip Price
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Vicky Krieps, Gael Garcia Bernal & Thomasin McKenzie
Runtime: 1 hour & 48 minutes
“Old” is both very much an M. Night Shyamalan film in that it telegraphs the film's themes and intentions clearly and almost immediately with it's plain and unaffected dialogue while at the same time possessing something of an unidentifiable spirit that's never been detected in one of his pictures before. There are hints of the same tonality and graveness the filmmaker employed in films like “Unbreakable” and “The Village,” while also sporting just enough of a zany edge to draw comparisons to “The Happening.”
The core family, led by Vicky Krieps and Gael Garcia Bernal, establish early on they too are of two opposite sides of the same coin as Bernal's Guy assesses risk for a living and constantly considers the possibilities of a what *could* happen Krieps' Prisca works in a museum placing her world firmly in the past at all times. Their two children, Maddox and Trent (as played by varying actors at different stages of their life, but largely by Thomasin McKenzie and Alex Wolff), obviously serving as the rim or edge of that coin that holds them together. While on a sweepstakes of a vacation they are whisked off to a private beach with a select few other guests which is where all the weirdness begins to occur.
With themes as overt as time, its passage, the cycle of life, the changing of the seasons, and so on it's not difficult to grasp what Shyamalan might be trying to say, but to believe that is all “Old” has up its sleeve would be to belittle it. This is where the core concept shows its strength as the basic premise - a group of people, each from different walks of life who all share an unknown bond, are abandoned in a remote location where they begin to age rapidly - is attention-grabbing enough; providing all the writer/director needs to convey those ideas. It is in the details of what unfolds though, where Shyamalan can go with this core concept, that exemplifies how good he is at putting his own spin on things while simultaneously illustrating how much potential he leaves unfulfilled. One could point to single shots littered throughout the film as examples of his cleverness that make it easy to appreciate the style and essence of the film and while the third act doesn't necessarily sport an earth-shattering twist it lands in such a way that is strangely satisfying not for its sense of surprise but for its attempt at breaking down the artifice that is good and evil.
While “Old” gives audiences a number of reasons to believe Shyamalan is back in the best way (truth is, he never really went away), it also offers plenty of proof that there are some things the director will never be able to shake ... chief among them being his inability to forego that open sensibility he gives to his characters and their dialogue for real, grounded personalities that might imbue us to them so that we might consider them as living, breathing human beings who we care about and care what happens to them under these crazy circumstances.
by Julian Spivey
Beckett (Netflix) – Friday, August 13
John David Washington has become quite the movie star over the last few years. His latest “Beckett,” premiering on Netflix on Friday, Aug. 13, is the story of an American tourist involved in a car accident in Greece who becomes the target of a manhunt when his girlfriend goes missing. As he rushes to get to the American embassy in Athens he falls further and further into a dangerous conspiracy in this thriller directed by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino.
Nine Perfect Strangers (Hulu) – Wednesday, August 18
Nicole Kidman has become the queen of the television limited series having starred in HBO’s “Big Little Lies” and “The Undoing” and now switching over to Hulu for “Nine Perfect Strangers,” premiering on Wednesday, Aug. 18. “Nine Perfect Strangers” has a stellar cast that also features Melissa McCarthy, Michael Shannon and Bobby Cannavale among others and features nine people all with mass amounts of stress in their lives who are chosen for a wellness resort that isn’t exactly what it seems.
Annette (Amazon Prime) – Friday, August 20
French director Leos Carax is known for making movies that can be explained as “batshit.” “Annette,” starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, seems no different. But Driver in something “batshit” is extremely interesting to me. The film, which is the director’s English-language debut, opened up the Cannes Film Festival last month to a lot of buzz and is about a stand-up comedian (Driver) and his opera singer wife (Cotillard) and how their lives are changed by their first child. It premieres on Friday, Aug. 20 on Amazon Prime Video.
The Courier (Amazon Prime) – Friday, August 27
Late August seems like a good time for prestige dramas dropping on Amazon Prime Video with “The Courier,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch, coming one week after “Annette.” “The Courier,” directed by Dominic Cooke, is based on the true story of British businessman Greville Wynne who was recruited by the British MI6 to sneak messages to a secret agent inside the Soviet Union. It looks like stories we’ve seen before, but also looks like an entertaining two hours.
Only Murders in the Building (Hulu) – Tuesday, August 31
I’ve been looking forward to this TV comedy for a while, as it was announced more than a year-and-a-half ago and delayed by COVID-19. I’ll watch anything with Steve Martin and Martin Short together. In “Only Murders in the Building” Martin, Short and Selena Gomez all shared an obsession for true crime and then find themselves in the middle of a crime in their apartment building. I’m sure it’ll be a laugh riot.
by Julian Spivey
One of the greatest months of every year for classic movie buffs is August when Turner Classic Movies (TCM) does Summer Under the Stars, where the network picks one actor/actress and programs the entire day’s schedule with their movies.
The network does a fantastic job at scheduling legendary movie stars like Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Gregory Peck and others who cycle in every so often for the event, with character actors or actors that don’t often get enough notice throughout film history.
Among this year’s first-time honorees are Robert Redford (which is truly surprising), Richard Burton, Abbott and Costello, Tony Randall and more. Many of the month’s honorees are being done on their birthdays like Redford on August 18, Robert Mitchum on August 6 and Fredric March on August 31.
Summer Under the Stars is currently underway on TCM with today’s first performer being Davis, a two-time Oscar winner, who’s second Oscar-winning performance in “Jezebel” airs at 7 p.m. (central standard time).
Below are five performers/days we recommend checking out the most, but if you have unlimited DVR space why not pick one film from all 31 days to add to your queue.
Robert Mitchum – Friday, Aug. 6
Robert Mitchum is one of the quintessential tough guys in cinema history. With performances often filled with cynicism and smarm he just feels like a more modern approach to acting than you’d often see from classics in the ‘40s and ‘50s. A couple of his greatest movie performances, as deliciously evil villains in “The Night of the Hunter” (1955) and “Cape Fear” (1962) aren’t on the schedule this year (though TCM does show them often), so if you can only check out one of his films on August 6 I recommend “Out of the Past” at 7 p.m., where Mitchum portrays one of the all-time great film noir characters in Jeff Bailey.
George Segal – Tuesday, Aug. 10
TCM is paying tribute to the late George Segal, who died on March 23 this year at 87, with his debut on Summer Under the Stars. Admittedly, I know Segal more as a television supporting actor, which he spent the last couple decades of his career doing, than a movie star but he was a leading man in many critically acclaimed films from the mid-‘60s through the mid-‘70s. I’ve never seen any of the films programmed on his day, but really look forward to checking out “California Split” (1974), which I’ve heard fantastic things about. Vulture called it the greatest gambling film ever made.
Robert Redford – Wednesday, Aug. 18
As I previously mentioned, I can’t believe this will be the debut for Robert Redford on Summer Under the Stars. I guess there’s no better time to make his debut on the annual event than his 85th birthday. His day is filled with essentially a “greatest hits” lineup of his films from “The Way We Were” to “The Natural” to “Out of Africa,” but if you can only catch one Redford movie that day, please make it “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid,” one of cinema’s greatest Westerns that features Redford and Paul Newman as maybe the greatest buddy matchup in film history.
Ingrid Bergman – Sunday, August 29
Oh Ingrid Bergman. My love. Few, if any, have ever been as good as Bergman. My DVR is going to be filled up on her Summer Under the Stars day that includes both of her Best Actress Oscar-winning performances in “Gaslight” (1944) at 2:45 p.m. and “Anastasia” (1956) at 7 p.m. If you’ve never seen “Casablanca,” which many consider the greatest movie ever made (what is wrong with you), WATCH IT! I’ll be making sure to finally catch “Gaslight,” which has been on my “must-see” list for a while.
James Cagney – Monday, August 30
James Cagney is one of the great tough guy actors of cinema, despite his diminutive size. If you’re going to catch his greatest gangster work definitely tune into, see “White Heat” (1949) at 3 p.m. But my favorite Cagney performance is a bit against type for him – and he absolutely kills it – in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (1942), the biopic of song and dance man George M. Cohan that won Cagney his Best Actor Oscar. You can check that out at 11:15 p.m. I’m also looking forward to the documentary “James Cagney: Top of the World,” which the network will be airing early Tuesday, Aug. 31 at 4 a.m.
To find out which stars and movies you’re most wanting to see you can check out the entire Summer Under the Stars schedule right HERE!