The Blacklist Brings Excitement Back to NBC

1904164_455217901272739_1544250301_nNBC saves it’s 9PM spot with new show called, The Blacklist, featuring James Spader as Raymond “Red” Reddington. Red oozes felonious activity. His wardrobe (complete with black fedora) exudes fashionable evil. Even his nickname—Concierge of Crime—seems to channel comic book villainy.

So, why would Red work with the FBI?

Turns out he has a list (that’d be the blacklist, naturally) of the world’s most dangerous criminals—guys so good at being bad that the FBI doesn’t even know about them yet. He’ll only work with newbie criminal profiler Elizabeth Keen. He’s obsessed with Liz for some reason and seems to know an awful lot about her past.

The Blacklist is both a clever and contrived crime thriller. It seems predicated on the predator-prey dynamic between Red and Liz—a relationship built on mutual respect and distrust. If The Blacklist feels, at times, a little like Silence of the Lambs, with the interplay between the good-girl detective and the very bad-man criminal, it does not indulge that movie’s serial killer depravity. Red is a wicked white-collar criminal and agent of global terrorism, but he’s no up-close-and-personal serial killer. As such, we do not suffer the same level of grotesquery we do in Hannibal, Dexter or The Following.

I’d recommend The Blacklist for ages 14 years-old and older, as this is still a violent show, and sometimes extremely so—with none of the resulting pain and gore hidden from viewers.

Learn How They Make TV Magic

IMG_8001Did you ever watch a movie or television show and wonder what goes on behind the scenes? Well, this past week when I was in Atlanta for a conference, my good friend Dwan of MommaDJane suggested that we visit the Covington, Georgia, where they shoot The Vampire Diaries along with other TV shows and movies.

Dwan had found a Vampires Diaries tour offered, so on impulse, we paid for the tour, rented a car and headed 45 minutes south of Atlanta to a small town called Covington. Our tour started off at the Mystic Grill, which is now actually turning into a REAL restaurant for the public to enjoy. I mean, how cool is that?! The expected opening date for the Mystic grill is at the end of 2013 or early 2014.Mystic GrillOur tour guide also plays an extra for The Vampire Diaries, so she had many stories from the set. She also told us many little things about the actors, too.  We walked around the square with a dozen other fans, took lots of pictures and jumped in and out of the rental car many times to take pictures of the homes and locations.

Sheriff's OfficeMystic Falls Court House & Sheriff Forbes Office (2nd Floor)

Alaric's ApartmentAlaric’s Apartment (2nd Floor)

Dr Gilbert's OfficeDr. Gilbert’s Office

IMG_8037This is the Lockwood Manor from Flashback Episode. It is actually Twelve Oaks Bed & Breakfast Inn that I highly recommend you staying at if you are passing through Covington, Georgia.

Matt's HouseMatt & Vicki’s House

Gram's HouseSheila Bennett’s House, also known as Bonnie Bennett’s Grams
Isobel's HouseIsobel’s House (Elena’s birth mother)
Lockwood Mansion“Lockwood Mansion” is home to the real Worthington Manor. The front is gorgeous, BUT the backyard is breathless. It is the scene of many of the outdoor shots for the show. You truly have to see it to believe it.
Elena's HouseElena’s and Jeremy’s House

Caroline's HouseCaroline’s House

By the way, you do not need to pay for the tour to see all these sites, minus the grounds tour of the Lockwood Mansion also know as Worthington Manor. I have to say that the “backstage” tour of this house was truly AWE-mazing! If only we all have private ponds and grand gardens in our backyards. 😉 The Covington Visitor Center has a FREE map of all the locations plus other areas where TV and films have been shot there. The people of Covington are very friendly, so do not be afraid to ask them any question. Oh, and you should stop by Scoops in the town square for a sweet treat, where the stars go between shots. Also, you can head a block away from the town square to Bradley’s BBQ and have a “vamped out” burger. It is off-the-menu and completes the whole tour experience. 😉

Finally, The Originals (The Vampire Diaries spin-off) is shooting 15 minutes away in a town called Conyers, Georgia. Here are some final shots that I took when we drove through town in hopes to see them shooting. Oh, and on this trip I discovered one of my new favorite travel sites, On Location Vacations, where you can see where they are filming TV shows and movies. You can thank me later. 😉The Originals

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is a Punny Movie

cloudy-with-a-chance-of-meatballs-2-trailerPicking up where the first Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs left off, this sequel is nothing if not silly and wittingly cute. The food doesn’t just fall from the sky this time, it moves, breathes and develops its own ecosystem. The result is a film in which the environment, the “Foodimals,” end up more interesting than the characters or story.

My kids could not stop talking about these imaginative creatures after seeing this movie. A number of large foodimals roar and chase after the good guys (in something of a Jurassic Park send-up), which results in lots of sprayed cheese, special sauce and scattered bits of lettuce. But ultimately we find out that the living food creatures are all friendly and relatively tame. In fact, the foodimals later team up with Flint and his pals to battle against a group of robot-suited attackers. (The robot-suits sport ray guns that freeze humans and foodimals in blocks of ice.)

The character development is very surfacy, but let’s be honest our kids are more wowed by colors and animation than looking for deeper meaning when they watch a movie. I enjoyed the message that these “foodimals, ” some scary looking were just misunderstood, just like some of our animals are too. There is some crude humor and LOTS of puns.

The world of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is a cleverly-conceived one, the design of the film is engaging on all levels, and the voice cast is great. Your kids will laugh along with you, and you will leave looking at your food differently. 😉

By the way, in going with the recent food truck rage, Cloudy 2 has created menu items to go with them all around the country. To find a Foodimobile near you, click here.

Rush Drives into Theatres

Ron Howard is no stranger to realistic, historical drama with movies such as Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Backdraft and Frost/Nixon. This time, he takes on the elegant cars of Formula One (F1) racing in the movie Rush. Rush attempts to combine Hollywood style with an independent film sensibility with mixed results. The Hollywood-style comes from director Ron Howard. He brings his usual glossy professionalism to this real-life rivalry between Austria’s Niki Lauda, played by Daniel Bruhl, and Britain’s James Hunt, played by Chris Hemsworth. These drivers hate each other from the first moment they meet.

The problem between these two isn’t just that both men are obsessively driven to win the racing title. It’s that they view life so completely differently that they can’t help but get on each other’s nerves. The flamboyant James Hunt has as much raw talent as any driver of his generation, but he’s hot-headed and averse to discipline. Lauda, by contrast, is a superb detail-centric technician with zero gift for people and a tendency to insult folks without even trying. Rush centers on the most famous race between these two, the 1976 German Grand Prix, but also takes time to show us their personal lives.

For those F1 or other racing fans, you may be wanting more detailed racing scenes and less drama in Rush, but for others who know nothing about this genre, you will understand the drive that put these people into a car going unknown speeds in any type of weather to win the prize.

Austenland is Made by Women, About Women, For Women

AustenlandCalling all Janeites, book clubbers and romantically-minded females, there’s a new movie in town that you need to see – Austenland! Sony Pictures Classics’ Austenland is a romantic comedy set in a fictional English theme park which recreates the Jane Austen’s Regency world, replete with bonnets, carriage rides, whist and needlepoint. Based on the 2007 novel by Shannon Hale, the film stars Keri Russell as Jane Hayes, a thirty-something American singleton who blows her savings to cross the Atlantic and stay at a plush country estate where she can channel her inner Austen and, perhaps, find a Darcy-esque Mr. Right.

Austenland is one of those movies I knew I wanted to see as soon as I heard the title. This movie is witty. You will be laughing out loud. The cast was magnificent in their silliness. It’s Jennifer Coolidge’s funniest role since Best in Show. If I had not known better, I would have thought that I had written this script. But, I don’t want to give anything away and spoil the experience; just go and enjoy.

I have a confession…I am obsessed with Jane Austen. My love affair started when I was 10 years-old, and I open the pages of Pride & Prejudice, and my life was forever changed. Later in life, I became of a lifetime member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Yes, there is such an organization. I have dressed in period clothing, danced and laughed with other Jane Austen fans. I have written about finding your Mr. Darcy, as I was lucky to find mine. What’s not to love about a girl gets the dashing guy that has the big castle, and they live happily ever after! “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife…”