Archives for April 10, 2017

Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que Teams Up With Autism Speaks To Increase Acceptance and Understanding of Autism

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Family-owned, award-winning barbeque destination Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que is teaming up with Autism Speaks to help increase understanding and acceptance of autism. The April campaign marks World Autism Month.

During April, Lucille’s will donate to Autism Speaks the Round It Up America contributions – in which guests “round up” their purchases to the nearest dollar – at 22 participating locations throughout Arizona, California and Nevada. Team members at Lucille’s restaurants will wear buttons and blue beads, the color of Autism Speaks, to show their support. Tabletop signage will share information about autism and Autism Speaks.

To kick off the promotion, on Sunday, April 2, for each donation of $5 or more, Lucille’s will give guests a $10 bonus card good for a return visit. (One per table, please.) Lucille’s will also be serving up a ‘Blueberry and Basil Margarita,’ a blue drink inspired by the color of Autism speaks, that combines El Jimador Reposado Tequila, fresh basil, vibrant blueberries and is then hand-shaken with agave nectar and fresh lime juice. For each drink sold, Lucille’s will donate an additional $1 towards their final donation to Autism Speaks.

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People with autism spectrum disorder may have challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech or nonverbal communication, but they also may have unique strengths. An estimated 1 in 68 children is on the autism spectrum.

“Autism hits close to home for the Lucille’s family,” said Brad Hofman, president of Hofman Hospitality Group, parent company of Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que. “This year, we are expanding our support to include all of our restaurants. Together with our guests we can make difference in the lives of those affected by autism.”

Last year, Lucille’s two Las Vegas restaurants raised about $2,000 for Autism Speaks. This year, Lucille’s hopes to raise more than $30,000 to help the nonprofit organization support research into the causes and better interventions for autism.

“We’re thrilled to work with Lucille’s on a larger scale this April,” said Autism Speaks Vice President of Corporate Development Peter Morton. “This fundraising campaign helps us ensure that children and adults with autism have access to reliable information and services throughout their lives.”

Lucille’s restaurants are reminiscent of a Southern roadhouse with a distinctive Southern décor that features reclaimed wood outline doors and windows for a rustic yet contemporary look. Lucille’s features blues-inspired art throughout the restaurant and the Flying Pig lounge.  Lucille’s has been participating in Round It Up America, a platform that encourages restaurant guests to donate change; over the past ten years, Round It Up America has collectively raised millions of dollars for charitable organizations and programs across the country.

My husband and I had the opportunity to visit Lucille’s and the food is simply fabulous! The service is great and we both highly recommend! Here are a few of our favorites:

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They have the best BBQ and my personal favorite is the Fried Chicken with gravy, mashed potatoes, and veggies! It is soooo good! They have a great selection of appetizers too! And, you simply can’t leave without having dessert!

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They have the best Banana Pudding! 

 

ABOUT AUTISM

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, most caused by a combination of genetic and environmental influences. An estimated 1 in 68 children is on the autism spectrum.

ABOUT AUTISM SPEAKS

Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. We do this through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions. We empower people with autism and their families with resources, online tools and information covering the life span. To find resources, join a fundraising walk or make a donation, go to www.AutismSpeaks.org.

 

About Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que

Signal Hill, Calif.-based Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que (lucillesbbq.com) offers award-winning, savory, Southern-style food in 22 full-service, high-energy restaurants throughout California, Arizona and Nevada. Signature slow-smoked barbeque, flavorful appetizers, soups, salads, burgers, sides and desserts are served with a large helping of down-home, friendly service. Lucille’s restaurants are reminiscent of a Southern roadhouse replete with its distinctive front Southern decor, and select locations offer live blues entertainment at the Flying Pig Lounges. Family-owned, Lucille’s has plans to expand its unique brand of Southern hospitality to more locations in the future.

 

For more information, visit lucillesbbq.comfacebook.com/LucillesSmokehouseBBQ or twitter.com/Lucilles_BBQ.

Self Disclosure: I was able to review Lucille’s prior to posting. No other compensation was received. 

Smurfs: The Lost Village – Full of Creativity and Good Animation but the Story Falls Short

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In this fully animated, all-new take on the Smurfs, a mysterious map sets Smurfette and her best friends Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty on an exciting and thrilling race through the Forbidden Forest filled with magical creatures to find a mysterious lost village before the evil wizard Gargamel does. Embarking on a roller-coaster journey full of action and danger, the Smurfs are on a course that leads to the discovery of the biggest secret in Smurf history! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “Smurfs: The Lost Village is a fun family film full of creativity and good animation. The movie takes kids into a vibrant new world with a new crew of Smurfs. Unfortunately, some bland characters and stale laughs don’t live up to the visual achievement of this movie.” See his full review below.

Smurfs: The Lost Village
By Benjamin P, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

 

Smurfs: The Lost Village is a fun family film full of creativity and good animation. The movie takes kids into a vibrant new world with a new crew of Smurfs. Unfortunately, some bland characters and stale laughs don’t live up to the visual achievement of this movie.

Based on the works of Belgian cartoonist Peyo, this film follows Smurfette as she struggles to discover her identity. Smurfette was a lump of clay created by the evil wizard, Gargamel, who is the Smurfs’ sworn foe. Whenever she tries to forget the terrible notion that she is not a true Smurf, something happens that reaffirms her of it. One day, while playing with a group of Smurfs, she sees something that may lead to the uncovering of a new faction of Smurfs. Smurfette, Hefty, Brainy and Clumsy set out on a journey together. With Gargamel on their heels, what they find could change the world around them forever.

The animation in this film is vibrant. The creatures in the forest surrounding the Lost Village are colorful and creative. The look and feel of the film overall pays homage to the original comics but also exploits the nuance and richness of modern computer animation techniques.

I don’t care for the story in this film. Other than the addition of the Lost Village and its inhabitants, it feels pretty formulaic. The story has a lot of the tropes of the original cartoon and that isn’t a bad thing, but the plot is predictable and the antics between Gargamel and the Smurfs in a full-length feature film grow old very fast. I would have liked to see this film take a different path than the adaptations before it, but it plays it safe.

The voice cast of this film includes a broad range of actors from Julia Roberts to Jack McBrayer. The film never really uses these actors to their full potential, sidelining many to bit cameos rather than real roles. Mandy Patinkin is a standout in this film as Papa Smurf, a wise guy who helps the Smurfs when they seek guidance. Patinkin is the perfect choice to play this role. His voice is both soothing and authoritative. Patinkin also has the right amount of charisma to voice this character.

The lesson of this film is that you will not be remembered for what you were good at, but the kindness in your heart. Smurfette has trouble finding a skill that will define her personality unlike her other Smurf pals. But that is not what is important in life. The way people will remember your legacy is by how you treated others. I recommend this film for ages 4 to 10 and you should be aware there is some crude humor. I give it 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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Credit: KIDS FIRST!

 

Power Rangers (2017) – Beats All Other Installments in the Series!

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High school outcasts stumble upon an old alien ship, where they acquire superpowers and are dubbed the Power Rangers. Learning that an old enemy of the previous generation has returned to exact vengeance, the group must harness their powers and use them to work together and save the world. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “There have been many movies, shows and stories related to the Power Rangers series, but by far, Power Rangers (2017) beats all other installments in the series.” Arjun N. adds, “Saban’s Power Rangers is a great romp of Power Rangers’ fan service. I found the acting and special effects to be incredible throughout this movie.” See their full reviews below.

 

Power Rangers (2017)

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

 

 

There have been many movies, shows and stories related to the Power Rangers series, but by far, Power Rangers (2017) beats all other installments in the series. This doesn’t mean Power Rangers (2017) is perfect. The film has a fair share of flaws that could have been fixed, but  for the most part, it leaves a pleasant and positive impression.

 

This film has plenty of action, with lots of comedic scenes to illicit frequent giggles from the viewers. Some romance blossoms between the characters and it is filled with a dramatic feel throughout the entire film. The story begins when five kids, despite having no previous connection with each other, all end up at a gold mine, where a strange rock with even stranger coins is revealed. Each of them take one coin and attempt to escape from the mine’s security. Sadly, while escaping, they get hit by a train in what would be a lethal crash. Yet, all five wake up the next day completely alive. More important, now they all share super hero strength, can jump really high and more. Soon the five learn that they are the Power Rangers and need to defend a crystal in Earth’s crust that allows life to exist on the planet, from an evil woman named Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks).

 

Power Rangers (2017) has entertainment value and fans of the brand will especially enjoy it. There are many aspects that come out perfectly. My favorite aspect, by far, is the cinematography. Every single shot in the 120 minute run time is wonderful, from twisting shots that give the viewer a first-person perspective, to shots flying through the air to give a sense of scale. Another aspect that the crew achieved successfully are the costumes. The Power Rangers look epic and the reveal of their costumes were cheered by viewers in the theater because of how iconic the designs are.  The plot also has many good aspects. They don’t give the characters’ super powers and super suits at the beginning. For most of the film, you have five teenagers who are clearly mortal. This gives the viewer time to bond and connect with the characters and allows a sense of realism.

 

The plot does have its downsides. Even to people who have no idea who Power Rangers are, the story is quite predictable. From the first time they give information about the conflict in the story, I knew exactly how the adventure would turn out. One aspect that surprised me was the special effects. The designs of the monsters and robots all look very real and impressive, but their placements in the real world look forced and somewhat fake, and there are many times where it’s especially obvious to the viewer. Despite all these flaws, the acting is quite phenomenal. I love the way every character comes to life, and how the actors are able to transform. One character that I thought could be improved is the villain, Rita. The back story in Power Rangers (2017) is very vague, and turns her into another “good guy turned evil and now she is insane” example. This has been overused in movies, especially when it comes to stories about super-heroes. I do appreciate how diverse the background stories of these characters are and how in tune with today’s world they are as well.

 

My favorite scene has to be the compilation of clips where the five realize their powers. Of course, they wake up thinking that the previous night’s deadly train crash was simply a bad dream, but they soon start realizing something is very wrong. Not only are the stones from the previous night still in their pockets, but throughout the day, it becomes very clear that their strength has exponentially grown, and they are now stronger and more fit then the strongest people on Earth. I chose this scene because the acting and cinematography work together very well in these clips to show the true confusion on the characters’ faces. You really feel like you are part of the scene, instead of simply watching it.

 

This film has one major change from the older films. It is no longer appropriate for younger kids. They portray Rita in an almost horror-like way (which comes out stunningly) and, there are some scenes with adult language and slightly adult references. I recommend it for ages 12 to 18 and give it 3.5 out of 5 stars because of its many flaws, like the special effects, storyline and some of the characters. However, Power Rangers (2017) is still enjoyable to watch and really does justice to the series. It is in theaters now so, go check it out.

 

Saban’s Power Rangers

By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

 

 

Saban’s Power Rangers is a great romp of Power Rangers’ fan service. I found the acting and special effects to be incredible throughout this movie. This will appeal to all Power Rangers’ fans.

This film is about five teenagers, Jason (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly (Naomi Scott), Billy (RJ Cyler), Zach (Ludi Lin) and Trini (Becky G.), who are all misfits. The five come across stones of the Power Rangers, an order of people who protect Earth, and they take these stones. The next day they wake up with superpowers. They go back to find an underground lair with a robot Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) and a former Power Ranger in the form of a talking wall, Zordon (Bryan Cranston). Zordon warns them of an imposing threat, Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), who has the power to destroy Earth. This group of misfits must learn to overcome their problems to become the Power Rangers and defeat Rita Repulsa.

Dacre Montgomery presents leadership yet also being a troublemaker in his role as Jason (Red Ranger), and instead of falling to the stereotypes of being the bland leader who gives rules, he presents a charisma in his character. Naomi Scott as Kimberly (Pink Ranger) is fantastic in presenting a fierce yet caring Power Ranger. RJ Cyler as Billy (Blue Ranger) is my favorite character in the movie due to his comic relief. Ludi Lin as Zach (Black Ranger) presents a careless, yet quick Power Ranger. Becky G as Trini (Yellow Ranger) completes the team of Power Rangers. Elizabeth Banks can be a little bit too over-the-top with her villainous Rita Repulsa, who is horrifying most of the time but funny in the most unintentional parts.

The direction of the movie by Dean Israelite is fast paced with every character and especially during the action scenes. The special effects by Zoilo Abad are exceptional with the details on the costumes taking the highlight. My favorite scene is the final battle with Rita Repulsa in the Power Rangers’ mech suits due to the breathtaking special effects.

The movie’s message is about teamwork being the solution to the problem because the team is only able to defeat Rita Repulsa by working together as a team and using tactics they learn together. I give this movie 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18 due to the intense action and language. This film opens is in theaters now, so go and check it out, if you want a mighty morphing time.

 

Credit: KIDS FIRST!

 

 

 

The Zookeeper’s Wife – Even In The Worst Of Times, People Are Kind-Hearted Beyond Belief

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The time is 1939 and the place is Poland, homeland of Antonina Zabinski and her husband, Dr. Jan Zabinski. The Warsaw Zoo flourishes under Jan’s stewardship and Antonina’s care. When their country is invaded by the Nazis, Jan and Antonina are forced to report to the Reich’s newly appointed chief zoologist, Lutz Heck. The Zabinskis covertly begin working with the Resistance and put into action plans to save the lives of hundreds from what has become the Warsaw Ghetto. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Samantha M. comments, “This film is truly incredible because it shows how kind hearted people are. Given that the movie takes place in Poland during World War II, there is a lot of tension among the Jewish and German residents because the Jewish Holocaust is occurring. But, the main characters, Antonina and Jan Zabinski, still manage to take care of their zoo and try to keep the animals safe.”Lucia F. adds, “I really enjoyed The Zookeeper’s Wife…This movie was moving and beautifully done, but there are some scenes that were a little too intense for me.” See their full reviews below.

 

 

The Zookeeper’s Wife

By Samantha Marcus, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

 

 

 

 

This film is truly incredible because it shows how kind hearted people are. Given that the movie takes place in Poland during World War II, there is a lot of tension among the Jewish and German residents because the Jewish Holocaust is occurring. But, the main characters, Antonina and Jan Zabinski, still manage to take care of their zoo and try to keep the animals safe.

 

In the midst of World War II, Adolf Hitler’s power permeates in Poland, specifically in the Warsaw ghetto, where there are many Jewish inhabitants. Living in Warsaw is Antonina Zabinski (Jessica Chastain), her husband Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenbergh) and their son. They are in charge of the Warsaw Zoo, where any animal you can imagine lives. Bombs are hitting the Warsaw Zoo, killing many of the animals. The zoo is almost completely destroyed, and the Zabinski’s decide to use it as a Jewish sanctuary.

 

Jessica Chastain’s portrayal of Antonina is quite believable. Antonina is a beautiful woman who loves animals more than she loves herself and she does her best to ensure that everything goes as planned. Johan Heldenbergh, who plays Jan, is very brave. He acts as an assistant to a German soldier and looks for creative ways to transport the Jews to safety. They put their lives on the line to save others, which truly is remarkable.

 

The Warsaw Zoo looks astonishing. It is huge! There are so many beautiful trees, and there are animals walking around with Antonina. I want to now have my own zoo someday!

 

My favorite part of the movie is when Antonina is riding her bicycle and she calls her camel to walk alongside her. This camel is hilarious because he makes strange noises and he hops so quickly. He acts as a police patrol for the zoo, which I think is extremely funny.

 

The message of this film is to help others. Antonina and Jan Zabinski try to help hundreds of Jews stay safe and do not put themselves first. Antonina and Jan live in imminent danger themselves and all they can focus on is making a difference, which I admire greatly.

 

I rate this film 5 out of 5 stars. It is so inspiring and there are animals in it, for which I have a great soft spot. Given that there are many casualties among animals and people, I recommend this film to ages 18 to adult. This film is not afraid to depict historical reality, so it may be difficult to watch some scenes, but this movie is now one of my favorites. Watch this film if you enjoy history and films that are based on true stories. It comes out on March 31, 2017 in theaters so, make sure to keep your eyes open for it. It is a movie you certainly don’t want to miss.

 

The Zookeeper’s Wife

By Lucia Funaro KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 18

 

 

 

I really enjoyed The Zookeeper’s Wife. It is a real-life story about love and caring under extreme conditions in the midst of war. Antonina Zabinska and her husband, Dr. Jan Zabinski, are so brave and generous. They saved the lives of almost 300 Jewish people by hiding them in their basement under their zoo during the German invasion in Poland in WWII. This movie was moving and beautifully done, but there are some scenes that were a little too intense for me.

 

The plot is a true story that occurred during the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in 1939 to1945. The Warsaw Zoo, owned by the main characters, is bombed and so many animals unnecessarily slaughtered. The brave owners rescued and protected hundreds of local Jewish people from the Nazis. The main character is Antonina Zabinska (Jessica Chastain). She is the leader of this establishment and comes up with the idea to hide the Jewish people. The film tells a wonderful true story about this modest woman who accomplished an amazing feat.

 

The message is that an unassuming woman was able to save many human lives even though she would have been killed instantly by the Nazis if they knew she had sheltered these people. She does everything in her power to ensure almost everyone’s safety. I love how Jessica Chastain portrays Antonina. She remains calm about the situation and believes it is going to work out okay for everyone. Even though she is nervous about the advances of the Nazi zoologist Heck, she still tries to manage her nervousness when in front of the children. She has tremendous strength of character.

 

What really stood out for me was the opening scene when you see two cute lion cubs sleeping with a young child and her mother watching lovingly over them. Juxtaposed with that adorableness is a scene later where many of the animals are killed by the Nazis. It is extremely shocking and sad to see these beautiful animals so needlessly slaughtered. Another very intense, but effective scene is when two Nazi soldiers are flirting with a young teenage girl and then, you see the girl beaten up and blood running down her leg. Even though the attack on the girl is not shown, the aftermath of the rape shows the cruelty of the Nazis.

 

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars because it effectively tells a beautiful, true story about the power one woman’s loving heart. This movie contains intense scenes, so I recommended it for kids 13 to 18. This film is in theaters now so, check it out.

Credit: KIDS FIRST!