Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Meeting Jennifer Lopez at 'American Idol' + 'Home' Special Screening

Meeting Jennifer Lopez (center) at a taping of "American Idol," which also aired a performance of her song "Feel the Light" from "Home"
So that happened!

Yes, last week was extremely busy and extremely amazing, as CC and I watched a live taping of "American Idol" at CBS Studios.

Jennifer Lopez, who's a multitasker in a major way -- mom, actress, singer, "American Idol" judge -- was spotlighting a performance of her new song, "Feel the Light," from the animated movie "Home" from DreamWorks Animation.

(You can read about that in my article on mom.me.)

Catching a special screening of "Home" in Westwood
The fam and I also caught an extra-special screening of "Home," which opens in theaters March 27.

DreamWorks Animation rolled out the purple carpet for the star-studded event in Westwood.

The kiddos had fun watching the film -- Will even donned the 3D glasses for the entire screening(!) -- and loved sneaking a peek at the Boov representatives on the carpet.

CC and Will on the "Home" purple carpet with the Boov
Be sure to check out more pics on my Instagram feed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

'Into the Woods' Hits DVD Shelves Today


That famous Stephen Sondheim musical "Into the Woods", which ran on Broadway from 1987-89, has gotten a modern makeover, and CC has been counting the days until the film arrived.

The "fairy tales with a twist" film re-imagined by Disney and director Rob Marshall ("Chicago") hits DVD shelves, digital download and Disney Movies Anywhere today ($14.99-$19.99), and it really is a must-see. (Even if you're not the biggest Sondheim fan.)

"Into the Woods" weaves together the stories of Cinderella (played by Anna Kendrick), Jack and the Beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) and Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy) into a musical that centers on a modest baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt), who are longing to have children.

When the baker and his wife discover that a witch (the amazing Meryl Streep) has placed a curse on them because of something the baker's father did, it is up to them to gather items from these famous fairy tale characters in order to reverse the curse.

There's something extra-colorful and fresh about this version of "Into the Woods," and the actors infuse such fun life into their roles. Streep is her usual inventive self, and Blunt's voice is just so lovely. Johnny Depp as the Wolf is a perfect choice.

We received a review copy and had to watch the movie in installments. CC couldn't wait to rush home from school each day to catch half an hour at a time.

While Sondheim is an unconventional composer, his tunes more cerebral than catchy, I did find myself humming "Into the woods to grandmother's house, into the woods to grandmother's house" way more often than I'd like to admit. CC, even more so.

The film is a fun romp through a magical, musical forest.

DVD extras include a never-before-seen original Sondheim song performed by Meryl Streep, interviews with the cast, a look inside the design and costumes.

In the meantime, check out this interview with a few cast members. Love what Streep has to say about what happened when she turned 40:




Thursday, March 12, 2015

'Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast' Review


For kids who adore animals -- especially ones that are a little, let's say, unconventional -- "Tinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast" is definitely a movie they're going to want to see.

And CC is one of those kids.

The Blu-ray and DVD, which arrived on shelves and Digital HD last week, centers on a story about Fawn, the animal fairy who has a soft spot for all sorts of creatures.

When Fawn (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin of "Once Upon a Time") stumbles upon a mysterious creature that is at once imposing and gentle, with fascinating green eyes, she is immediately entranced by its movements and strange activity. It also seems to have a thing for dizzyingly high rock towers.

Growing closer and closer to this endearing creature, she becomes friends with the furry guy she calls Gruff.

However, not everyone in Pixie Hollow is happy about that.

According to an ancient myth, Gruff is exactly the kind of creature that's not allowed in the idyllic Pixie Hollow out of fear of him destroying it.

And the bizarrely shaped rock towers he's building aren't making anyone feel better, especially the scout fairies, led by Nyx (voiced by Rosario Dawson). She wants to protect Pixie Hollow from whatever destruction Gruff may bring.

So it's up to Fawn and her loyal friend Tinker Bell to protect Gruff while also making sure everyone in Pixie Hollow remains safe and unharmed.

The G-rated movie, complete with colorful animation, is a fun for kids who love adventure paired with animal love, compassion and friendship. Not to mention some serious girl power! The world in which the fairies live is vibrant and lush, and it's so nice to see friends who stick up for each other.


Gruff himself, without giving anything away, has the potential to be a scary figure -- what with the glowing eyes and sharp teeth -- but his puppy dog-like movements invite kids (and fairies) in for a closer look.

First impressions aren't always the correct ones, this movie seems to say.

The DVD also offers nice bonus features, such as "5 Essential Ingredients to Getting Gruff," "Jeff Corwin's Guide to Real-World Neverbeasts" and deleted scenes with director intros.

CC loved getting a closer look at Gruff and finding out just what kind of animal he was. The story itself is full of thrills and, with its mystery and tenacious characters, makes sure kids are along for the ride as well.

'Cinderella' + 'Insurgent': Two Films That Show Different Sides of Girl Power

"Cinderella," starring Lily James (photo credit: Disney)
While we might not readily associate the fairy tale "Cinderella" with "girl power" exactly, director Kenneth Branagh and producers Allison Shearmur (who's also a mom) and David Barron wanted to update the story with a strong female character who wasn't sitting around, waiting on a prince.

Not only that, but as Shearmur said at a press conference earlier this month, the live-action film's creators wanted to show that "kindness is cool."

Lily James talked to me over at mom.me at the same press conference about her portrayal of "Cinderella" and what she thinks little girls can take from it.

"Cinderella" hits theaters March 13.


"Insurgent" is the follow-up film to the dystopian book-turned-movie "Divergent," starring Shailene Woodley as a kick-ass rebel who is trying to just stay alive while finding out a secret that her parents took to their graves.

At a recent press conference, I had the chance to speak with actress-mom Naomi Watts, who plays Evelyn in "Insurgent." Her character is a mother, too, but she's made a decision Watts can't imagine ever making.

Check out what she had to say at mom.me.

"Insurgent" hits theaters March 20.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Coming Attraction: Early 'Cinderella' Screening Raises Funds for 10-Year-Old's Foundation


If you and your kids are looking to catch a sneak peek of Disney's live-action version of "Cinderella" -- and the new "Frozen Fever" short -- here's your chance to check out the movie and do good at the same time.

On Sunday, March 8, there will be a screening of the film at the Vista Theatre in Los Feliz at 9:45 a.m. to benefit I Dream of Fish, a foundation to combat world hunger created by 10-year-old Miles Lin.

I Dream of Fish provides food production systems called Aquaponics to developing communities around the world. The system features fish in a tank on the bottom and plants on the top -- both of which go toward feeding malnourished families.

Amazing, right?!

Miles Lin (photo credit: I Dream of Fish)
Miles writes on his site that he fell in love with fish when he was 3 years old, and his parents taught him that he should share his passion with others -- not just keep it to himself. He wanted to use fish to help the rest of the world, and so he founded I Dream of Fish when he was 9 years old.

His first fundraiser pulled in more than $37,000!

So if you would like to attend the screening -- and help out developing communities -- visit the "Cinderella/"I Dream of Fish Eventbrite page to buy tickets and donate. You can even make a donation without attending the screening.

Way to go, Miles!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Solvang: A SoCal Weekend Getaway

One of many windmills in Solvang, Calif.
If you're ever looking for a getaway that's not too far from Los Angeles but still feels like you're far away from the city, take the 2-1/2 hour (128 mile) drive to Solvang, the small Danish-themed town in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Believe me, it's worth it.

We took a weekend trip up to the adorably quaint town a few weeks ago, and I can't believe we hadn't visited sooner. Danish for "sunny field," Solvang was founded in 1911 by a group of Danish teachers, and it has a population now of just over 5,000. Solvang has gone all out to maintain a Danish charm, complete with lots of little shops offering everything from pastries to Christmas ornaments and books.



We stayed at the Royal Copenhagen Inn, a hotel whose architecture is meant to evoke a little village in Denmark. Because there were four of us, we booked one of their bigger spaces, complete with an upstairs bedroom loft. You can imagine how much the kiddos loved that! I can't tell you how many times CC and Will went up and down the stairs just because they could.

Our little cottage at the Royal Copenhagen Inn
It was so easy to walk around the town and lazily take in all of the cute shops and restaurants. One place we kept going back to was The Book Loft, which also had a coffee shop and a small Hans Christian Andersen museum. Forget Amazon, it was so nice to browse through bookshelves at a unique independent bookstore.

We also took a drive around the countryside, which is covered in rolling green hills and vineyards. We wound our way over to Los Olivos, a tiny town that seemed to have a wine-tasting shop everywhere you turned.

It was such a relaxing trip, and I already can't wait to go back!

The Royal Copenhagen Inn in Solvang

Saturday, February 28, 2015

'The Wiggles,' 'Pocoyo,' 'Octonauts' and 'Wibbly Pig' DVD Giveaway


2nd Update: Didn't hear from Elizabeth so I'm moving on to the next winner. Congrats to Joseph Wallace, who won the DVD pack. 

UPDATE: Congrats to Elizabeth Sanders Towns, who won the NCircle DVD four-pack! Please email me at losangelesstory@gmail.com with your shipping address. Thanks to everyone who participated (and to Random.org for helping me choose!)

While Angelenos haven't felt the brunt of the six additional weeks of winter that Punxsutawney Phil predicted earlier this month -- it's actually been really warm here! #sorrynotsorry -- parents in other parts of the country have been wondering how to entertain the kiddos while the snow keeps falling.

Enter hilarious and fun DVDs from NCircle Entertainment!

The family-friendly company's latest DVD collection, which I'm giving away here (see below), is full of entertaining songs and adventures that my kiddos have loved, and I'm sure yours will, too.

Octonauts: Pirate Adventures (SRP: $9.99) has the crew diving deep down into the Amazon River in search of a lost city. Not only that, but Kwazii gets the chance to meet his long-lost pirate grandfather, Calico Jack. He then battles a trio of swordfish and finds the perfect sidekick for a watery pirate adventure -- a parrotfish! CC said she loved the Brazil rainforest adventure the best!


In "The Wiggles: Wiggle House" (SRP: $9.99), Emma, Lachy, Simon and Anthony fill the Wiggle House with lots of songs and other fun skits. There's "The Laughing Doctor," "Pappadum" and "Do the Hawk," with Lee Hawkins (from the Wall Street Journal, no less!).


Will's new favorite animated character is Pocoyo. In "Pocoyo Fiesta" (SRP: $9.99), your kids can groove to 13 songs from Pocoyo and the gang. And, as a bonus, there are also karaoke videos. How fun is that?! Yes, Pato, Elly and the little guy Pocoyo himself will be rocking to the Big Race and celebrating Elly's birthday. Enjoy!


"Wibbly Pig!: Playtime!" (SRP: $6.99) is based on the best-selling books by the cleverly named Mick Inkpen. The preschool show turns everyday activities like going to bed, wrapping a present or climbing a tree into an amazing adventure for kids that's also funny. Don't be surprised if you find your kids wanting to take a trip to the moon after watching Wibbly Pig.

*** GIVEAWAY ***

I'm giving away all 4 of the above NCircle Entertainment DVDs for a fun family prize pack!

To enter, please:

1. Visit NCircle Entertainment and leave a comment below with your favorite DVD or franchise.

2. "Like" the NCircle Entertainment Facebook page.

For more chances to win, follow me on Twitter and retweet this giveaway. I'm at @la_story. Or you can "Like" the L.A. Story Facebook page and share the giveaway.

Just be sure to leave extra comments telling me you did so. 

Good luck, and I will announce the winner on Friday, March 6!

Friday, February 27, 2015

'Enchanted Sisters' Arrives on Bookshelves



A new "Girl Power" series has hit bookshelves, and CC is its newest fan!

"Enchanted Sisters," written by Elise Allen and Halle Stanford and illustrated by Paige Pooler, is a spunky, spirited and sparkly series from The Jim Henson Company that focuses on four sisters, who each represent a season -- and a different personality to boot.

Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter are "nature's royalty," and each of them is responsible for the magical changing of the seasons. While they're all definitely close, the girls also have to navigate sisterhood -- and some wily boys called the Weeds.

"Enchanted Sisters" on bookshelves at Vroman's Bookstore
Will and I had the chance to catch a reading event at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena. Both Elise and Halle were on hand to chat about the series, as well as Paige Pooler. Elise even read a selection from "Winter's Flurry Adventure" (SRP: $5.99 paperback).

Elise Allen reads from "Winter's Flurry Adventure."
While CC was bummed to have missed the event (she was running errands with Ian), we did receive a copy of "Spring's Sparkle Sleepover," which she's been reading each night before bed -- and loves, by the way.

In "Sleepover," Winter hosts a slumber party for all of her sisters, and the young Spring is finally old enough to go, but she's nervous. (This is a perfect topic for CC right now, as she's had some sleepover angst herself.) And things don't turn out so well when a storm scares Spring and makes her leave early. But when Bluster Tempest steals Mother Nature's scepter, it's Spring who must find the courage to lead her sisters on a quest to get it back.

While the story itself is entertaining and accessible to young readers, CC also loves the whimsical illustrations -- particularly the drawings of unicorns!

Will checks out the scenery at Vroman's.
I had the chance to chat with both Elise and Halle, who is also the executive vice president of children's entertainment at The Jim Henson Company.

Stay tuned for more next week! They talked to L.A. Story about how the concept of "Girl Power" was so important, as well as how they tackled common issues for girls in the books. They also reveal more about the writing process itself.

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