My Chat with Jack Black, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee and Dylan Minnette from Goosebumps

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I had the chance to meet with Jack Black along with the other lead actors in Goosebumps (Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee and Dylan Minnette) while they were in Houston promoting the film.


Be cool, Jenn. Be cool.

For a detailed movie review (in summary – it’s great!) check out my previous Goosebumps post.

I wanted to share some of the other highlights I learned during our visit. First, let me just tell you – Jack Black is awesome and  just as cool off-screen as he is on. He makes you feel like you are friends and you could really just hang out. He walked into the room singing and then said he was excited about the Tex Mex (“a delicious blend of Texas and Mexican cuisines” he explained to actor Minnette who plays Zach Cooper in the movie) waiting for them on the jet.

I was kind of surprised he didn’t invite me to join them after the interview, but it was probably because it was a small jet. And maybe they didn’t get enough food for another person. Anyway, that’s how down to earth he is…you think he might actually invite you to hang with them.

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Rush (who plays his daughter, Hannah, in the movie) said that she was initially nervous about acting with Black because she’s a big fan of his work, but “he puts everyone at ease immediately because he’s so approachable,” she said. “He makes fun of himself and made us feel so comfortable every single day, that you kind of forget what a huge star he is, because he’s so down to earth.”

Lee agreed, saying he grew up watching Black’s movies so when he met him during a Super 8 press junket, “it was so cool.  I never thought I’d get to work with him!”

Black’s natural ability to spin a yarn might be one of the reasons why he is so authentic in his movies and so likable to so many people. I posted about meeting with him on my personal Facebook page and 200 family and friends immediately commented about how much they love him!

Black said his sons (who are seven and nine years old) don’t want him to tell them his stories now because they just want to go to straight to sleep, but for a long time he would make up adventures to share with them before bedtime. “I would tell them ‘this is the story of the Lord of the Rings’ and then I would just make up stories about hobbits and dragons and adventures and I’d leave it with a cliff hanger – ‘and tomorrow you’ll find out what happened with the Dragon of Algernon,’ ” Black said, pronouncing”Algernon” in that rocker way that he often does with regular words.

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Black’s sons loved the movie after screening it at their school in L.A. with their friends (which is not the School of Rock, by the way). Black knew when he read the script that they would “dig” the movie (even though they have not yet started to read the Goosebumps books) because they like “scary stuff”.

Black has a drum set in his basement for his sons, but has not yet pushed formal music lessons because he doesn’t want to demand – “You have to be a rocker!” or else they might rebel. He’s just going to let it happen naturally. Black is obviously a natural musician himself and in the band, Tenacious D, but did you know that Minnette is a rockstar as well?

Minnette is singer/guitarist for The Narwhals, a classic rock band that plays frequently in L.A. venues. During breaks while filming for Goosebumps, Black and Minnette had guitars on set and played together in Black’s trailer. And when The Narwhals played a show in Atlanta last year during filming, Minnette said “Black did an epic introduction and sang a song on stage from Nacho Libre…a very proud moment for me.”

“I love talking music with (Minnette) because he’s super knowledgable about music happening today and I have an encylopedic mind of old school rockers, said Black. “It was interesting to find what bands we both liked… we came together on The Strokes, Arcade Fire and RadioHead.”

Black spoke highly of working with Rush, Lee and Minnette in the movie, referring to them as “the most talented kids in town” to work with. “They are real…they are really good actors and you don’t get that hot blast of cheese,” said Black. “If there’s even a whiff of insincerity with these scenes the whole movie collapses. The relationship here is powerful. It hooks you in and you root for them…you might even shed a tear at the end because it really works…it resonates,” he said. “And they are fun to hang out with. Goofing off on set…translated to great stuff on camera.”

The end of the movie is set up nicely for a sequel, but will there be one? Black said, “It all depends on how this movie does and how well the script turns out for the next one. There should have been a School of Rock 2, but that never happened.”



I had the opportunity to visit with Jack Black, Odeya Rush, Dylan Minnette and Ryan Lee in order to gain perspective in the making of the movie Goosebumps but did not receive any compensation for this post (Tex Mex on the jet would have been nice, though). All opinions expressed are my own. Except that Jack Black is awesome. Because that’s a fact.


Goosebumps Movie Review & The Inside Scoop from Lead Actors Jack Black, Odeya Rush, Dylan Minnette and Ryan Lee

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As a huge* Jack Black fan, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to screen Goosebumps as well as interview Black and the other lead actors from the movie, which will be released nationwide in 3D on October 16, 2015….just in time for Halloween.

Goosebumps (rated PG) stars Jack Black as author R.L. Stine, Dylan Minnette as Zach (who also appeared in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), Odeya Rush as Hannah (The Giver and The Odd Life of Timothy Green) and Ryan Lee as Champ (This is Forty and Super 8).

The movie is about teenager Zach Cooper who is upset about moving from NYC to a small town in Delaware. Shortly after moving in, Zach meets his beautiful neighbor, Hannah and her father who he later finds out is Goosebumps series writer, R.L. Stine. Stine is a prisoner of his own imagination because the monsters from his books come to life if not kept locked within their pages. When Zach unintentionally unleashes the monsters from their manuscripts and they begin to terrorize the town, it’s up to Stine, Zach, and Hannah along with Champ (Zach’s likable but easily frightened new friend) to get all of them back in the books.

Since 1992, author R.L. Stine has written nearly 200 Goosebumps books featuring monsters of all shapes, sizes and varying degrees of scariness. I read books from the Goosebumps series to my son when he was younger and we’d both liked the stories that struck a balance between fear and funny that made the books enjoyable for both kids and adults.

According to Black, that was the main thing R.L. Stine wanted to come across in the movie as well. “R.L. told me to be conscientious of his audience,” said Black. “There are a lot of kids that will come to the movie so don’t go too terrifying. You can scare, but don’t traumatize. Keep the laughs and the scares coming and make it more like a thrill ride then a nightmare inducing horror fest,” said Black. “Like there’s no blood in the movie….we rode that line.”

It’s this balance that director Rob Letterman (who also produced and worked with Black on Gulliver’s Travels) and the actors worked to create in the movie and they definitely nailed it.

“I sat next to him (Stine) when we watched it (the movie) in New York and he was super stoked,” said Black. “That was the most important audience member to me, more than any of the critics, it was ‘What does R.L. think?’ – the fact that he loved it was gold to me.”

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One example when humor breaks up the intensity of a scary scene is when they are in the middle of a car chase and Lee (whose character, Champ, is a big fan of the author Stine) tries to take a selfie with him to post on Instagram. Black (as Stine) throws his smartphone out the car window and Lee is crushed.

The struggle is real, Lee! I tried to control any possible Black fangirling in an effort to act professional during our meeting, but couldn’t resist getting a selfie with him and the rest of the gang which immediately (obviously) went up on Instagram!

Goosebumps the movie is based on the books written by R.L. Stine but not adapted from any one story. In fact, you’ll be happy to see dozens of the monsters you loved to hate from the series including the infamous Slappy the Dummy who leads the monster’s revolt against Stine. “He’s like the Hannibel Lecter or Darth Vador of all the characters because he’s the mastermind, he’s the smartest and the most sinister, he represents the darkest part of R.L.’s psyche,” said Black.

Black is the voice of Slappy and Avery Lee Jones was the puppeteer.


In the beginning of the movie, Jack Black is downright mean…but after the monsters are released and he begins to work with Minnette, Rush and Lee to save the world, he’s very funny and extremely likable.

Black visited the real R.L. Stine while preparing for the role; however, the movie’s character does not depict the real R.L. Stein’s personality who is actually very funny and down to earth. “He’s an amazing guy,”  said Black. “He’s a brilliant writer so I kept that in mind while I was playing him. But the character in the movie is a lot darker…he has this sinister quality about him and is an antisocial guy who has locked out the outside world and that couldn’t be further from the case with the real R.L. Stine,” he said.

Stine didn’t mind the major departure. “He understood that’s the way we needed to play it,” said Black. “And he loved the movie.”  Black gave the character a bit of an Orson Wells type accent with a taste for the finer things and a bit of vanity and pride about his writing track record. There are several funny mentions of a rivalry between him and Stephen King.

Look for the real R.L. Stine who appears at the very end of the movie, albeit very briefly, as the new drama teacher named Mr. Black.

There are Easter Eggs throughout the movie including during the kitchen scene when the garden gnomes attack Black. They tie him up much like what was done to him in Gullivers Travels. There’s also a nod to the Cuckoo Clock of Doom in Stine’s basement. “Every monster that was ever in a Goosebumps book is in the movie somewhere,” said Black. “Sometimes they’re way in the back ground, so it’s fun to look for them – like a Where’s Waldo!”

You’ll see characters like The Ghouls from Attack of the Graveyard Ghouls, Snake Lady from Escape from the Carnival of Horrors, Bog Monster from You Can’t Scare Me! and others such as Cronby the cave troll, The Evil Clown, Vampires, The Witch Doctor, The Werewolf and The Abominable Snowman (who is the first to be accidentally released).

The Bug-Eyed Aliens, Praying Mantis and Blob were key monsters in the movie and the visual effects were cool. “The blob was entirely computer generated, so it was all imagination and the director painting the picture for us,” said Black. When it sucks Black into his body in the movie, Black was actually just standing on a table pretending like he was in jello.

Given the film’s rating and how comedy offsets the darker side, I do recommend the film to families with children. Yet, Slappy can be a little disturbing. Dolls that come to life and want to destroy the world can be a little creepy, so know your kids and what they can handle. I won’t have a problem taking my 9 year-old daughter and 14 year-old son. But I’ll probably cover my eyes when Slappy is on screen. He gives me (wait for it) goosebumps!

Check back on Still Living The Dream for a post about other fun things I learned during my visit with Jack Black and the other cast members!

*For clarification, when I say “huge” I’m referring to the amount of admiration I have for Jack Black not my actual size. I mean, I do have some weight to take off – but I’m only 4’10” which is actually quite small!

Disclosure: I was invited to a movie screening and given the opportunity to interview the actors as a member of the press for review purposes. I did not receive any compensation and all thoughts and opinions and fear of ventriloquist dummies are my own!


Escape From Planet Earth on Valentine’s Day! ($25 Visa Gift Card and Prize Pack Giveaway)

My family and I LOVE seeing movies together at the theatre. On Valentine’s Day this year I might surprise my kids after they get home from school with opening day tickets to see Escape From Planet Earth. Opening February 14, The Weinstein Company’s Escape From Planet Earth looks like it will be a good family adventure film. While seeing a movie on a school-night might make getting up the next morning a little hard, I’m not sure we can wait to see this one until the weekend!

About The Movie

The 3D animated family comedy catapults moviegoers to planet Baab where admired astronaut Scorch Supernova (Brendan Fraser) is a national hero to the blue alien population.  A master of daring rescues, Scorch pulls off astonishing feats with the quiet aid of his nerdy, by-the-rules brother, Gary (Rob Corddry), head of mission control at BASA.  When BASA’s no-nonsense chief Lena (Jessica Alba) informs the brothers of an SOS from a notoriously dangerous planet, Scorch rejects Gary’s warnings and bounds off for yet another exciting mission.  But when Scorch finds himself caught in a fiendish trap set by the evil Shanker (William Shatner) it’s up to scrawny, risk-averse Gary to do the real rescuing.  As the interplanetary stakes rise to new heights, Gary is left to save his brother, his planet, his beloved wife Kira (Sarah Jessica Parker) and their adventure-hungry son Kip (Jonathan Morgan Heit).

For more information about the movie including photos, videos and games, check out You can also download the free “Escape From Planet Earth” iOS Movie App as well as one for Android.

A Giveaway!

One lucky Still Living The Dream reader (open to those in the U.S. only) will win a $25 Visa Gift Card & Escape from Earth Prize Pack which includes a Tattoo Sheet, activity book & crayons and a backpack clip!

To enter, just leave a comment about what you like to do on Valentine’s Day. Do you make a special breakfast for your kids? Go out to dinner with your spouse? Make gifts for neighbors and friends? Let us know what makes the day special.

More chances to win? Absolutely. As is usually the case, Still Living The Dream social media followers get more opportunities to win! Just leave a separate comment for each that you do below! A winner will be selected a random on Monday, February 4th at 11:59 p.m. CST.

  1. Follow Still Living The Dream on Pinterest
  2. Follow Still Living The Dream on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Tweet this: “I want to win a $25 Visa Gift Card and Escape From Planet Earth prize pack! @jpatrickcomm”

I was compensated for this sponsored post made possible by Mom Spark Media. Thoughts are my own. All prizing for MSM giveaways is handled by a third party unless otherwise noted. For this reason prize fulfillment can take up to 90 days after the winners information is received.


The Heart Of Christmas: Movie Review, Interview and Giveaway

Before I became a freelance writer and blogger, I worked for a national, non-profit organization for children with cancer and then later for the cancer center of a children’s hospital in Houston. I was inspired daily by the strength and love I witnessed from families faced with the illness and the doctors, nurses and other professionals who cared for them.

When I heard about the inspirational movie, The Heart of Christmas, which premiered last year and was released recently on DVD October 16, 2012, I knew I wanted to see it.

Starring Candace Cameron Bure (Make It or Break It, Full House), Burgess Jenkins (Remember the Titans, The Reaping), Kelsey Kingsbury, George Newbern (Father of the Bride, Justice League), Dendrie Taylor (The Fighter, Sons of Anarchy, True Blood), and GRAMMY®-nominated recording artist Matthew West, the movie tells the story of Austin and Julie Locke, who are devastated to learn that their one-year-old son, Dax, had been diagnosed with AML M7 leukemia.

After several failed treatments and experimental therapy, The Lockes were faced with the fact that their son would most likely die before Christmas. So in October 2009, they decorated their home for the holiday so Dax could enjoy the lights. When their neighbors saw their holiday decorations and learned about the reason why they set them out early, they rallied behind the family. As their story spread, soon the town of Washington was lit for Dax. His story appeared on CNN and captured the hearts of people around the world. Dax did live to see Christmas day but passed away soon after… on December 30, 2009.

You can watch the trailer here.

I had the opportunity to visit with Julie Locke to visit with her about the film and her experience. The movie, while certainly sad, is also incredibly uplifting. The message of hope and peace of God’s love is woven throughout the entire film…displayed through the relationships that the Lockes developed with other families fighting cancer at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the medical staff that never gave up on them.

Julie Locke

When I talked to Julie, she said that one of the greatest results from the movie so far is how it has positively impacted people’s lives.

“Many people have reached out to me after seeing the film to tell me how it made a difference in their own lives,” said Julie. “People have shared with me that they cherish their families more and most importantly, that they have built a relationship with God. I see clearly now that this movie was part of God’s plan,” she said.

The Lockes were approached by singer, Matthew West who wanted to write a song about their story. “I didn’t know who Matthew was at the time, but I just believe that you have to put yourself out there and let God work through others,” said Julie. “We’re not strong enough to do this on our own.” (West was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Original Music and Lyrics for his song about The Lockes “The Heart of Christmas” this year.)

As a mother, I know the fear that comes with every cold, fever or broken bone. To have your child  faced with an illness like cancer is unimaginable. When I worked at the hospital here in Houston, I remember asking my friend whose son was fighting the disease how she did it. She told me – you do it because you have to. You wake up each morning and you put your feet on the floor and you move forward because your child needs you.

But most parents at the hospital would tell me that you don’t have to (and really can’t) do it alone. For Julie, it was the strength and support of the families she met at the hospital, the caring doctors and staff at St. Jude…and God, that gave her the power and peace to move forward.

“I never had experienced that before Dax was sick…the true love of God. It really started when I met Elizabeth’s mom (a patient at St. Jude). I found God through the experience and learned that even when I wasn’t trusting Him, He trusted me,” said Julie.

The Lockes, like many others who have lost a loved one, miss Dax daily and struggle with his loss especially at the holidays. “I live for Dax by taking care of other people,” said Julie. “But during the holidays we really try to spend time together as a family, just us. Especially on the day he died…. taking time to cherish every moment we have together. It’s the most important thing.”

For those that are struggling with loss this Christmas, she says – “Lean on God. He loves you. Allow Him in your heart and surround yourself with His spirit. I did that in Memphis. Before that I had my walls up, but His love is so powerful.”

Julie and Austin Locke with their daughter, Madeline, on the set of The Heart of Christmas.

Today, Julie spends time fundraising for St. Jude and raising her two-year-old daughter, Madeline who was born after Dax passed away. It is the Lockes’ goal to raise $1.8 million dollars in Dax’s memory, the cost of running the hospital for one day. “I lived there for a year and never paid anything,” said Julie. “I remain so touched by what St. Jude does for patients and their families. They gave me 1 1/2 years with Dax.”

For more information about the film, visit The Heart of Christmas on the web. To learn more about the Lockes, their true story of hope and compassion and how you can get involved, visit the Dax Locke Foundation.

A Giveaway!

The Heart of Christmas is available at Target and Walmart and online at However, two readers of Still Living The Dream will win a copy of the DVD. It’s my hope that you will watch the movie and share the story and the Lockes’ message “Cherish Every Moment” with as many people as you can. Just leave a comment telling me what you cherish the most. Two winners will be selected at random on December 5, 2012, at 11:59 p.m. CST.

Help spread the word about this important film and get another chance to win! I would love for Julie to get tons of tweets from people sharing her message of love.

  • Tweet this: “I will cherish every moment this Christmas in memory of Dax Locke @jpatrickcomm @JulieALocke #TheHeartofChristmas”
You can get even more chances to win by leaving a separate comment for each additional item you do below.
  1. Follow me on Pinterest
  2. Follow me on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Like The Heart of Christmas on Facebook
I was given a copy of movie, The Heart of Christmas to review as well as the opportunity to visit with Julie Locke. No compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Disney’s Wreck It Ralph Movie Review and Kids Activity Sheets

My kids and I attended the media preview for Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph last night.

We loved it!

This animated movie, which comes out today, features the voice cast of talented folks including John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch. Rated PG, the film was directed by Rich Moore with John Lasseter as Executive Producer and is about a video game “bad guy” who leaves his own game to earn a medal to prove he’s a hero in order to move from sleeping in a brick pile to the penthouse with the other characters in his game.

Even with a somewhat predictable story-line, the film is very entertaining with both laugh out loud and tender moments. I loved the “bad guy” affirmation:

“I’m bad and that’s good. I will never be good and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be then me.”

Of course, we learn through a special friendship he forms with another video game outcast, that Ralph (John C. Reilly) is indeed a good guy. But we kinda knew that all along. The gems in this film come at moments along the journey (with a few poop jokes thrown in for good measure).

Check out the trailer here:

I’ve also included some fun activity sheets for the kids which you can download here. Enjoy!

I attended a movie premiere for the media at no-charge in order to provide a review to my readers. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 


Disney/Pixar Brave Movie Review and Giveaway

Yesterday the highly anticipated animated film, Brave, opened in theatres. With trailers running for months (my six-year-old daughter has been heard saying “I’ll be shooting for my own hand” for weeks at odd times!) we were ready to see it for ourselves. We weren’t disappointed.

Brave is about a teenager, Merida (Kelly Macdonald), a skilled archer and head-strong daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). From Disney and Pixar, the story takes place in the Highlands of Scotland and is about Merida’s defiance of her role as princess and an age-old custom held dear to her mother. Merida turns to a witch (Julie Walters) for help but realizes that she made a terrible mistake and must find the bravery within to make things right.

Besides the Scotland setting, witches spells, fights with bears and the main character’s long flowing fire-red hair, the story is something almost all daughters go through as they  begin to find their independence. “It’s about a teenager’s struggle with finding herself, with creating her own destiny,” said director Mark Andrews. But it’s also filled with laughs, especially from the hijinks of Merida’s three little brothers and her father.

We had the privilage of attending the press screening before the film opened and I also had the remarkable opportunity to sit down and chat with the very funny director Mark Andrews. Mark was story supervisor for features including Iron Giant, Ratatoille and The Incredibles as well as screen writer for the live action film, John Carter.

Here are 7 things I wanted to share with you about the movie!

  1.  Their are scary and rather dark moments in this movie. While my six-year-old daughter and my 10-year-old son both LOVED the film and laughed out loud throughout the movie, they also both admitted to being somewhat scared at times. There are dark moments in the forest and scenes with bears and men fighting. Mark said they went “there” on purpose and didn’t pull the dark moments back because they served a purpose in the story. “You can’t pretend their are stakes and a lesson to be learned if there’s no real consequences,” he said. “During Merida’s transformation from child to adult she needs to realize she made a mistake that she needed to fix. We could easily have gone PG-13 but instead we balanced it with humor, action and heart.”
  2. Brave took seven years to make. So basically, it was conceived about the same time my daughter was! Mark replaced Brenda Chapman, the movie’s original director and writer, in the fall of 2010. Creative differences had stalled production and with only 18 months until the movie was due to be released, Mark, who was already involved with the project as a consultant and expert on Scotland, stepped in. Mark said that Brenda, who is his friend, loved the outcome of the film.
  3. The conversation between mother and daughter. One of the greatest moments in the movie is when Queen Elinor is talking to King Fergus and Marida is talking to her horse. In the cross-cutting scenes, mother and daughter have the discussion they should be having with each other but don’t because they lack the courage. “It was difficult to depict the dynamic between mom and daughter,” said Mark. “We wanted both to be relatable, but we really had to like and understand Marida because it’s her story.” When they are together in the next scene and have the chance to really talk to each other, they both start but stop. “You know what they want to do is heal – but that can’t,” said Mark. You can see a bit of this scene where King Fergus is role playing as Marida for Elinor in this trailer.
  4. Some critics say there aren’t any male role models in this film. I disagree. While Marida’s suitors are portrayed as shy, vacant and cocky, Mark said that’s real life. “Nobody has it together. When teenage boys are thrust into something they don’t want to be or do, it’s awkward. But they all come through at the end,” he said. “That was me when I was in high school. And remember, it’s Merida’s story – how SHE sees them.
  5. The sound track is beautiful. Filled with traditional Scottish dance rhythms and native instruments played by Scottish musicians, I felt like I was transported to another time and place. And the song, “Learn Me Right” was written by one of my favorite folk rock groups; Mumford & Sons.
  6. The Witch was awesome. Mark said she was one of the hardest characters and to get right. Her scene was the first one that went into production, they re-did it about 100 times and was the last scene they finished in December, 2011. “This scene was so important. It’s right in the middle of the film and a big turning point,” he said. “We wanted it to be entertaining, but not cliche.” Check out a clip from that part of the movie.
  7. Stay after the credits for a short clip about the witch. I am INFAMOUS for leaving as soon as the credits start rolling and almost always miss the little scenes that tie things together or tease you for the next film. This one has a good one and I missed it, just like I did at the Avengers not long ago. Don’t make the same mistake. I’m going back just for that clip alone!

 So how about a Brave Giveaway?!

One lucky Still Living The Dream reader will win an authentic leather covered Brave journal signed by Mark Andrews and pen and pencil set in a cool case! All you have to do is comment below to let me know if you’ll be seeing the movie. And if you already have, what you liked best.

Want more chances?

Ok, then. Leave another comment for each additional thing you do below! I will choose a winner at random on July 5, 2012, at 11:59 p.m. CST. Open to the US only.

  1. Follow me on Pinterest
  2. Follow me on twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on facebook
  4. Like Brave on facebook.
  5. Tweet this giveaway with this language “I want to win a @PixarBrave movie leather-bound journal and pen/pencil set with case @jpatrickcomm”

I was given tickets to see the movie Brave and giveaway items mentioned above by Disney/Pixar. No other compensation was received; only the opportunity to talk to a very cool director! All thoughts and opinions, as always, are my own. 


Avengers Prize Pack Winner and Movie Review

Marvel’s Avengers opens today and you won’t be disappointed. I took my 10-year-old son to preview it and we both enjoyed the film. It took me a while to get used to the new “Hulk” (Edward Norton was replaced by Mark Ruffalo) but I felt like the entire cast came together well.

Love Iron Man. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is hysterical in the movie and cuts up the fast-paced action with his quick wit and sarcasm. And he’s easy on the eyes.

Yes – I said it.

Without spoiling the movie, there is one casualty that made me so sad. Hated to see it happen. Wish it hadn’t! You’ll know what I mean.


Scarlett Johansson’s performance as The Black Widow was only so-so for me. But maybe it was because I was so familiar with the other heroes from their movies I just didn’t feel a connection with her.

At the screening there were people of all ages and it didn’t seem to matter how old they were or whether they were male or female – everyone liked the film. Cheering and laughter throughout and lots of clapping at the end. I’d say it was a success and Jackson, my son, is ready to see it again and will probably go this weekend!

Be sure to stay past the credits. There’s a brief scene (of course) teasing what’s to come next. It’s not over, ya’ll!

Avengers Prize Pack Winner!

Speaking of what’s to come….I’ve got good news for one Avengers fan (and Still Living The Dream reader).

The winner of the prize pack is….insert drum roll here….Sara P. Congratulations!





Attend a New Movie Press Screening in Houston…Bully.

We love going to the movies and I love reviewing what’s new out there on Still Living The Dream. As you know, I attended The Hunger Games premiere in Houston and loved it (you can read about my thoughts here). Last night, my family and I attended a screening of Mirror, Mirror and I’ll tell you all about that tomorrow.

Being the first to see a film in Houston is exciting – it’s one of my favorite parts of my job.

How would YOU like to get the opportunity to be the first to see a film in Houston? I have a special deal for Still Living The Dream readers for a very powerful film that is coming out soon.

The first 50 people who respond to this post will get special passes to attend a screening (and bring a friend!)

The film is Bully; a documentary that takes an unflinching and emotional look into the world of juvenile bullying. What are the remedies? Can this epidemic be stopped? Why do kids bully others? These are just a few of the questions that BULLY attempts to examine in a thought-provoking and enriching manner.

Running Time: 98 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for some language

I’m excited to provide this opportunity to my readers in Houston because I feel like we need to be talking more about this issue and helping our kids and our schools in any way we can so that tragedies can be avoided.

Directed by Sundance and Emmy-Award winning filmmaker Lee Hirsch, the film offers an intimate look at how bullying has touched the lives of five kids and their families.

This film is not for young children. Two of the stories included in the film are about children; a 17-year-old and an 11-year-old, who killed themselves from being bullied. 

I think it would be a great film to see if you are a parent or an educator and I urge you to attend if you are passionate about this issue. As a mother with two young children, I know I am.

The premiere is Thursday, April 5th at 7:00 p.m. in Central Houston. If you would like to attend, please respond to this post and I will give you the exact location and code to download your tickets. The first 50 people who respond will get two passes to see this special screening….but you will need to arrive at the theatre early in order to get a seat!


Over 13 million American kids will be bullied this year, making it the most common form of violence experienced by young people in the nation. BULLY is a beautifully cinematic, character-driven documentary. At its heart are those with huge stakes in this issue whose stories each represent a different facet of America’s bullying crisis. Filmed over the course of the 2009/2010 school year, BULLY opens a window onto the pained and often endangered lives of bullied kids, revealing a problem that transcends geographic, racial, ethnic and economic borders. It documents the responses of teachers and administrators to aggressive behaviors that defy “kids will be kids” clichés, and it captures a growing movement among parents and youths to change how bullying is handled in schools, in communities and in society as a whole.

For more information about this movie, visit


Movie Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games: Rated PG-13 – Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth.

Directed by Gary Ross. Opens March 23, 2012.

 Let me start by saying that I read the entire Hunger Games trilogy in about five minutes. Well – maybe 10. Written for the tween/teen age set (Scholastic recommends the series for ages 12 and up), many of my adult friends devoured each book and passed along their dog-earred, tattered copies to others while they read the next one in the series as feverishly as I did.

When my ten-year-old son asked to read The Hunger Games, I let him….despite the pretty unsettling premise of the book (12 poverty-stricken “districts” (cities in a postapocalyptic  world) select two 12-18 year-olds, a girl and a boy, to serve as tributes in an annual event (Survivor reality show-style) where they fight to the death to the delight of the privilaged people who reside in the Capitol.)

Suzanne Collins wrote the books without use of profanity, there isn’t any excessive sexuality and (odd for the fact that you know going in to it that 23 people will “probably” die) the book does not “dwell” on the violence.  We actually had a couple of really cool conversations about abuse of power and how someone can stand up against what is wrong, even if they are young they can make a difference and that hope in a grime situation is pretty powerful.

And Thursday night, together, we went to the press screening. And I don’t regret my decision to take him.

Our verdict of the movie? They did well.

I had high expectations for this film and I didn’t walk away disappointed. As with any film  that comes out with this much hype, there are always going to be a  couple of misses. And I’ll get to those.

But first, the best…..

Those who read the book will be happy that the events in the movie were pretty spot-on to the book. But even if you go see the film without first reading the story I believe you will both enjoy and understand it fully. With that said, I do think you’ll want to go home and read the book directly after you see the film.

I loved the way the capitol’s extravagance, exploitation and decadence was displayed through clothing (look for this movie to come home a winner in costume design during awards season) and characters such as a Effie Trinket (played by Elizabeth Banks) and Emcee Caesar Flickerman, played by Stanley Tucci (I just love his sparkly blue suit and wig and his big, fake teeth!). The contrast of the bright colors and over-done make-up on Capitol dwellers to the drabness of the clothing worn by those in the districts speaks volumes.

The settings were perfect. Again, the drabness of the districts showed the distress and poverty and the futuristic Capitol punctuated the abuse of the power and the descrepency between the haves and have-nots.

Character-wise – Jennifer Lawrence carried this film to the top….a great choice to play Katniss. Her ability to portray both the character’s toughness and tenderness was impressive. (Spoiler-alert) The scene where Katniss lays ally tribute Rue to rest, a very pivotal and emotional point in the film, was very well done. (Lots of tears shed from movie goers during this scene.)

Haymitch, District 12‘s mentor, was not a likeable character in the book but I found myself drawn to him in the movie. Played by Woody Harrelson, he was very kind to Katniss and Peeta, and at times even funny. Even with flask in hand, Harrelson didn’t seem to be the out-of-control, former Games winner depicted in the book.

Now, the not-so hot…..

The beginning of the film, which showed District 12 getting ready for the reaping (the day when the two people are selected each year for the Games) was shot in that artsy-fartsy “close-up and lots of camera movement” way that film critics love but just made me dizzy. I know it was meant to make the audience feel the chaos of the district and the distress of the day itself, but I was afraid if it continued, I’d have to ask my friend Stacey who was sitting by me for a peppermint to ease my queasy stomach.

Thankfully (spoiler alert) once Katniss volunteered to take her sister’s Prim’s place (who was initially selected) and got on the train to the capitol they widened up the camera angle and the jiggling settled down.

Cinna, District 12‘s appointed clothing designer for the Games and the pomp and circumstance that took place beforehand was played by Lenny Kravitz. This good guy from the Capitol was a favorite character of mine in the book and I liked him in the movie but his presence wasn’t as significant which disappointed me. And when he first met Katniss in the film I thought he went in for a hug with a little too much “I don’t just like you, I like-like you” zeal. I was so glad they didn’t go there!

I wasn’t  really impressed with Sienca Crane’s, the Gamemaker, performance. He didn’t appear menancing, even with his crazy beard and while I know he was supposed to be a flawed character, his performance for me was just luke warm throughout the entire film.

Donald Sutherland on the other hand, cast in the role of President Snow, made only brief appearances in this film but each time his quiet and calm  demeanor made me shiver. He’s all over the second book and so I look forward to his performance in the next movie (word on the street is that it is due to come out fall 2013… a long time to wait!)

Make no mistake. This film is violent. While some deaths are not shown or shot from a distance, some scenes are intense and a few disturbing. If you are taking some younger folks to the show, some head-turning points that I remember best are:

1. Before the Games when Katniss watched past Games footage in her hotel room.

2. At the beginning of the Games when several tributes are killed at once.

3. The death during the bee scene.

4. At the end of the Games.

But the important point to remember here is that there aren’t any real winners in the arena. There’s no evil vs. good war going on in the field, it’s in the Capitol and on the streets of the districts.  Each player is scared (even the career tributes from the more privilaged districts) and doesn’t really want to be there. And each player killed is a loss that is grieved. This movie does NOT glorify death nor does it encourage killing.

My son, who loved the book, said the movie was great but that is was “scary” (seeing the concept come to life).

Should you take your 10 or 11-year old? While I certainly stand by my decision to take mine…it’s a good one to make for yourself based on your child’s ability (and desire) to digest a story like this. There is a lot to be learned here and great opportunity for parents to have meaningful discussions with their tweens, but not worth the price if your child is not ready emotionally for a concept like this.

Should you go? Yes! And then come back here and tell me what you thought!

Disclaimer: I was given the opportunity to review this movie by attending a complimentary press screening. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own.