Category Archives: News & Events

Seminole Towne Center hosts Summer Camp Expo March 4th

More than 40 companies representing unique classes, outdoor adventure programs, sports leagues, and family-friendly destinations and attractions throughout Central Florida will showcase unique summer camp and adventure program opportunities for your family March 4, 2017 from 10am – 4pm at Seminole Towne Center Mall.

This free expo will feature exhibitors from more than 40 companies representing unique classes, outdoor adventure programs, sports leagues, special needs providers and family-friendly destinations and attractions throughout Central Florida. During the expo, attendees will:

  • Receive exclusive camp discounts and travel deals
  • Learn about unique destinations and experiences for all ages
  • Interact one-on-one with camp counselors and destination representatives
  • Enjoy live entertainment and kids’ activities
  • Have fun while creating summer plans for your family

We are excited to offer families the opportunity to explore unique destinations and experiences for children age three to 18, all under one roof,” says Sarah Bain, Orlando Sentinel Media Group events manager. “Expo guests will also find exclusive discounts, giveaways and travel deals while they enjoy live entertainment and kid-friendly activities. It’s truly the fastest and easiest way to choose the best summer options for your family.

SeaWorld Summer Camp 2016. That’s SeaWorld Mommy’s smiling camper!

While looking over the list of camp options available, I saw some favorites (like SeaWorld that my son LOVED last year), and some that I didn’t know about. Attending: Another family fave— Skeletons. My son was wide-eyed for the osteology class we took there not too long ago.

While some may be partial to experiences involving animals and science (like my family!), there are lots of choices for whatever your kids are into. Parents and families will find sports activities, theater, music, filmmaking, just to name a few. Special Needs families will find camps that their kids will enjoy, too. There’s never been an easier way to compare summer camps in the Orlando area.

Come on out Saturday, March 4, 2017 from 10am – 4pm at Seminole Towne Center Mall, 200 Towne Center Circle, Sanford, FL. It’s located right off of I-4 Exit 101C.

Insider tip: Get there early! The first 50 families* will receive two tickets
to Medieval Times! Read full details on the Orlando Sentinel website.

Check out the full list of camps and read more at www.orlandosentinel.com/summercampexpo.

*After 10 am ET on 3/4/17 at the Orlando Sentinel Information Booth at the Summer Camp & Adventure Expo at Seminole Towne Center Mall. Full details here.

REVIEW | #Logan: “And what I do isn’t very nice”

Seventeen years ago a relative unknown actor by the name of Hugh Jackman took on the pivotal role of Wolverine in first X-Men film. In the years since he has played the character in nine subsequent films.

Hugh Jackman stars as Logan/Wolverine in LOGAN. Photo Credit: Ben Rothstein.

We’ve seen the character of Logan/Wolverine in all stages of his life from his youth in nineteenth century Canada to World War 2 to him saving the future in both the 1970s and 2020s. With a somewhat complete story of Wolverine’s life out there, the next logical step had to include putting a bow on, both, his story and the original X-Men franchise.

I’ll start by emphasizing that this movie is cool. It’s a completely different kind of X-Men movie than we’re used to. Its measured, emotional, and has a level of gravitas brought by the performances of young newcomer Dafne Keen, and of course Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. Both reprise their roles one last time to take the audience home.

– New York, NY – 12/8/16 – 20th Century Fox New Year Presentation – Logan
-Pictured: Dave Karger, James Mangold
-Photo by: Patrick Lewis/Starpix
-Loctaion: Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center

The director, James Mangold, delivers a film with strong ties to both the western genre and samurai films. In many ways the character of Wolverine has always had the feel of a masterless samurai (Ronin). In keeping with that, the direction invokes the work of acclaimed samurai film auteur Kenji Misumi.

The film portrays tranquility in the face of the inevitable. Many of the characters are at peace resigning to their fates. The zen-like storytelling of James Mangold accentuates this and the performances put a sharp punctuation it. This movie, though comic based as it may be, is handled artfully and with reverence to the characters.

Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and Logan (Hugh Jackman) face off. Photo Credit: Ben Rothstein.

The writing is everything I wanted a Wolverine movie to be. Harking back to the Chanbara (Samurai film) aspects of the film, there’re parts that echo the ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’ series of films.

Logan is entrusted to care for a child, which is reminiscent of the film Zatoichi Challenged where the titular character promises to escort a small boy to his father after his mother is stricken with illness and passes. He shares some of these classic tropes while bringing something new to the table. Mortality. Our main characters are aging and vulnerable, yet they are far from feeble. It’s a great balance of character dynamics.

Shishogan Productions

“Man, we don’t have time for this sh*t.” – Wolverine Custom ACBA Image by: Jay De Los Santos

With all these ties to Days of Cinema’s past, it’s no wonder that Logan delivered a poignant end to an entire franchise. Knowing we’re taking one last ride with Logan and Charles Xavier is comforting. Their chemistry has always been a highlight to the X-Men films, but seeing them both as old men trying to carve out a life for themselves in a seemingly indifferent world is absolutely heart warming.

Go see this film. It’ll show you a whole new side of the X-Men franchise. Get tickets online at LoganTickets.com.

Military Vehicles and Demos at Renninger’s this weekend

Guest Post by: Matt Sharkey, Florida Warbirds

This weekend, February 25–26, 2017, the First Florida Chapter Military Vehicle Preservation Association (MVPA) will be hosting their yearly vehicle rally, vendor event and World War 2 battle re-enactment known the “Southern Outpost” at the Renninger’s Antique Center in Mount Dora. The club will judge military vehicles in many different categories during the course of the weekend.

Special guests at this year’s event are members of the WW2 Armor group, based in Central Florida. They’re planning on bringing some of their WW2-era tanks and vehicles to the show. In addition, the plan is to do near-dusk firing of the guns on the tanks for photo opportunities. WW2 Armor has a M4A1 Sherman Grizzly, 2 M18 Hellcats, M5A1 Stuart, 2 M20 Armored Cars and long list of others. What may be at the show is subject to change, but visitors can expect a nice variety. In its three years at Renningers, vehicle attendance has steadily risen from all groups.

On Saturday, at 1pm and on Sunday at 11am, the WW2 Battle Reenactment and Weapons Demonstration will take place. This is usually a battle between Allies and Axis, with weapons, cannons and tanks. They shoot blanks and/or have staged pyrotechnics in a designated area, so the noise during this time could be loud. If you are bringing a child, consider ear protection for them.

Speaking of children, they may be called forward by the Officer-in-Command (OIC), aka “The Colonel,” for an inspection and possible PT. My son stood in formation last year and had fun. Don’t tell the Colonel he had “fun.” (PT isn’t supposed to be fun!)

Food and drinks are available on-site, whether at the rally grounds or in the main flea market. Sunblock and comfortable shoes are suggested as there is plenty of walking outdoors. Vendors will be on hand selling military surplus and related items throughout the event, as well.

The weekend activities are part of the Winter Rally and Swap Meet that runs February 22–26 at Renninger’s. Come out and support these dedicated individuals as they pay respect to America’s Greatest Generation.

35th Annual Antiques Vintage and Garden Show at Orlando Museum of Art Feb 17-19

On the hunt for the perfect mid-century modern piece for your entryway? How about that Weiss broach? Antique lovers rejoice! The 35th annual Antiques Vintage & Garden Show combines fine antiques, art, jewelry, vintage and unique collectibles, garden blooms and more into one outstanding three-day show at the Orlando Museum of Art. The event will feature more than two dozen antiques and vintage dealers from around the country and is this weekend, February 17 — 19, 2017.
Show Dates and Times

Friday, February 17 from 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday, February 18 from 10 am – 5 pm
Sunday, February 19 from 11 am – 4 pm

Speaker: Eddie Ross, Author of Modern Mix

Eddie Ross, a self-proclaimed “extreme hoarder of beautiful things” is a designer, editor, author of Modern Mix: Curating Personal Style with Chic & Accessible Finds. His work has been featured in House Beautiful, Southern Living, InStyle, Vanity Fair, Country Living, the New York Times and more. He will share his secrets to find items at thrift shops, yard sales and flea markets and incorporate them into a warm and inviting décor. Ross will be speaking and signing copies of Modern Mix on Friday, February 17 at 11a. Tickets are $45, which includes show admission.

Special Events
  • Thursday, Feb. 16: Opening Night Preview Party — Jackets Jeans & Jewels! $95 per person, includes show admission, 6:30–10p.
  • Friday, Feb. 17: The Art of the Cocktail $50 per person, includes show admission, 6–8:30p.
  • Saturday, Feb. 18: Mystery Home Tour — tour a local home filled with flawless design and exceptional taste; the location remains a mystery until the arrival. $35 per person, includes show admission. Tours depart at 11a12p and 1p.
  • Saturday, Feb. 18 & Sunday, Feb. 19: What’s It Worth? Appraisal Days — antiques expert and show manager Charlie Miller gives a professional appraisal of family heirlooms and treasured items. $15 general admission plus $10 per item, two item limit, 12–2:30p. Reservations taken at the door and begin at 11a on both days.
 
Tickets to the Antiques Vintage & Garden Show include admission to Orlando Museum of Art exhibitions, including The Wyeths and American Artists in Maine.
The Antiques Vintage & Garden Show is a longstanding fundraiser event benefiting the Orlando Museum of Art and promoting the museum’s mission to advance the positive impact of art and creativity. This and other Council of 101 events have raised more than $6.8 million for the museum’s educational programs.
Admission is $15 and tickets can be purchased online, in person, or by calling 407-896-4231 ext. 254.

Central Florida Top 5’s 2017 Soccer Preview

We are just days away from 2017 and The City Beautiful is already filling the calendar with the Beautiful Game! If you are a fan of soccer and you live in the Central Florida area, you will not be disappointed with this line up.

Florida Cup 2017

There will be two separate competitions in the Florida Cup this year.  The Florida Cup Challenge, will feature six international club sides from four countries (Argentina, Brazil, Germany, and USA).  The competition will take place from January 8-15, with each club playing two matches.  The club with the most points at the end of the competition, wins!

The Florida Cup Playoff, is a single elimination tournament where only one club is left standing. There are six clubs from four countries (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador) all fighting to lift the cup at the end of the tournament.  This leg of the competition runs from January 15-21.  For more information on both Florida Cup competitions including clubs, venues, and fixtures, visit http://www.floridacup.com.

 

Orlando City SC

It has been two years in the making but the wait is almost over! We recently found out when Orlando City Soccer Club will finally play in the new Soccer Specific Stadium (SSS) located in Downtown Orlando.  The date for the first ever match in what will be Orlando City’s forever home, is March 5, 2017.  The Lions will face New York City FC in the opening match of the season for the second time in three years. If you enter LionNation’s 12 Days of Christmas you can win tickets to this opener! [Linkhttp://orlan.do/LN12days] The match is scheduled to kick-off at 5 pm and will be televised on ESPN.  For tickets and more information, visit http://www.orlandocitysc.com.

ProTip: Sign up for LionNation and get single game ticket priority! Info here: http://orlan.do/2hg9wfA

 

Orlando Pride

News broke earlier this week that Alex Morgan would be temporarily leaving the Orlando Pride to play in France. Morgan has agreed to a six month deal to play with Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon in the Division 1 Feminine. Not to worry too much Pride fans, Alex is scheduled to be back stateside in May 2017.  The Orlando Pride kick off their season in April in the new SSS downtown. The schedule has not been released yet, but updated information (and some great gift ideas!) can be found at http://www.orlandocitysc.com/pride.

 

Orlando City B

Orlando City B (OCB) will be making the move to Orlando after only one season in Melbourne. With the new SSS opening, OCB will be one of three clubs playing their home matches in Downtown Orlando in 2017.  OCB will also attempt to resurrect the I-4 Derby with cross state rivals the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

The Rowdies made the move from the North American Soccer League (NASL) to United Soccer League (USL) at the end of the 2016 season.  If you have never attended one of the original derby matches, this is a can’t miss.  More information regarding Orlando City B’s  upcoming schedule can be found at http://www.orlandocitysc.com/ocb.

 

International Champions Cup and Visit Orlando

The International Champions Cup (ICC) is the premier preseason competition for European football clubs. The friendly competition will take place in July, just one month before most of the domestic leagues across Europe begin play. The ICC brings some of the biggest clubs and stars in the world of football together for a tour of the United States, Australia and China. Past clubs in the tournament have included, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Chelsea, AC Milan, and Bayern Munich to name a few.

 

Welcome to Orlando @IntChampionsCup! ⚽️💜 #ICC2017 #VisitOrlando

A photo posted by Jen (@jenvargas) on

The ICC and Visit Orlando have partnered up to bring this competition to Orlando’s Camping World Stadium in the summers of 2017 and 2018.  Imagine the possibility of stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi playing right here in our backyard! More schedule and ticket information will come in the new year, and this is sure to be the hottest ticket in town this coming summer.  Stay tuned for updates as they become available. For more info regarding the ICC, go to http://www.internationalchampionscup.com.

David in Peru Orlando City

Me sharing love of Orlando City in Peru!

Next year is shaping up to be the best year for world class soccer The City Beautiful has ever seen. I look forward to being there with Central Florida Top 5 every step of the way!

Vamos Orlando!

A guide to Central Florida Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday

Here’s to the small and smaller ones. The odd ones. The unexpected ones.

Listed below are a few Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals you may have missed – or didn’t even realize were out there. Take advantage of them! Shop local, shop small, and get some truly amazing deals for you and the family…

#ProTip from our friends at Better Business Bureau of Central Florida: Stay safe and informed this holiday season! Protect yourself offline and online.

(Did we miss a good deal? Let us know about it in the comments!)

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

Get 25% off of shows using promo code HOLIDAYS25!

Website

Orlando Ballet

Black Friday & Cyber Monday: Purchase tickets for The Nutcracker, Masterworks or Cinderella this weekend and enjoy 25% off on select seats! Promo code: CYBER.

Purchase tickets here: https://www.drphillipscenter.org/shows-and-events/Shows-Events/dance/201278-orlando-ballet-the-nutcracker.stml

Orlando Shakespeare Theater

Small Business Saturday: receive a buy one, get one $10 off discount on tickets for The Great Gatsby and Love’s Labour’s Lost. Only valid for regularly priced performances. Patrons must buy at least one ticket to each production to receive discount. Offer valid only on Saturday, November 26. Promo code: LOVEGATSBY.

Cyber Monday: $35 Stocking Stuffer certificate ($50 value) which can be redeemed for tickets to any remaining production in Orlando Shakes’ 28th Season. Certificates will be mailed out within 5 business days and may not be redeemed on date of purchase. Certificate expires on April 30, 2017. Offer valid only on Monday, November 28. Not valid for previously purchased tickets. Limit 6 per person.

Orlando Shakes also offers $50 Gift Admissions that can be redeemed for one ticket to a Signature Series production. Gift Admissions cannot be redeemed for cash and never expire.

Website: orlandoshakes.org

Mad Cow Theatre

Black Friday: All seats for ‘It Was A Very Good Yule’ are $15.00. Use the promo code YULE15 when purchasing online or calling the box office at (407) 297-8788, ext 1.

Website: madcowtheatre.com

DRIP Orlando

Black Friday: 50% off gift certificates!

Purchase herehttp://ilovedrip.com/drip-tickets


Orlando City Soccer Club and Orlando Pride

PURPLE Friday: 50% off of City and Pride merchandise at Camping World Stadium. Free parking!

11am – 7pm on Friday: Season Ticket Members only.

11am – 7pm on Saturday & Sunday: Open to the public.

(Looking for more MLS gear? Save 20% on orders over $50 on mlssoccer.com using promo code: MLSBF!)

Orlando Solar Bears

Black Friday: Ticket BOGO! Use promo code: BLACKFRIDAY. Starting on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 24) fans will be able to purchase Buy One, Get One tickets for the following Solar Bears home games:

  • Saturday, Nov. 26 vs. Brampton Beast – 7 p.m.
  • Monday, Nov. 28 vs. Brampton Beast – 7 p.m.
  • Friday, Dec. 2 vs. Florida Everblades – 7 p.m.

Purchase tickets herehttp://orlandosolarbearshockey.com/blackfriday/

Orlando Magic

Black Friday: In store deal – 40% off entire purchase between 10am – 1pm. $10 Hardwood Classic t-shirt. Spend $20, get 25% off. Spend $75, get 30% off. Spend $100, get 35% off. Use promo code: PUREMAGIC.

2 Tickets, 2 Games – $20! Choose from:

  • Friday, Nov. 25 vs. Washington Wizards – 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, Nov. 27 vs. Milwaukee Bucks – 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 10 vs. Denver Nuggets – 7 p.m.
  • Friday, Dec. 16 vs. Brooklyn Nets – 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, Dec. 18 vs. Toronto Raptors – 7 p.m.

Purchase herehttp://www.nba.com/magic/blackfriday


Boardwalk Bown & Aloma Bowl

Black Friday: Boardwalk Bowl: Guests can enjoy two games of bowling and shoe rental, a $10 game card and a round of play at the brand new Zombie Boardwalk attraction for only $13.99 Mondaythrough Thursday and $16.99 Friday through SundayAloma Bowl: Guests can save with two games of bowling and shoe rental and a $10 game card for only $12.99 Monday through Thursday and $14.99 Friday through Sunday.

Orlando Science Center

Cyber Monday: Orlando Science Center is offering 15% off of Gift Memberships ON MONDAY ONLY, 12am to midnight! Give a gift stuffed with VALUE this holiday season and don’t miss the deepest discount of the year! It offers all of the same benfefits of a regular Membership with full access to exhibits, free parking and many other perks! This Cyber Monday deal is more than the discount current members receive when they renew, so take advantage of this limited time offer to SAVE ON SCIENCE!

Purchase memberships here: www.osc.org/cybermonday

The District at Mills 50

Small Business Saturday Market and Bazaar: Hosted by The District At Mills 50Vita Luna Cafe & Mills 50 District. Get all your holiday shopping done in one day! Vintage/Handmade/Unique/Reto/Upcycled/Antiques, Food Trucks (La Empanada & Dixieland Diner), Pop-Up Shops, Drinks, and more!

Make sure to say hi to Biggie and Deli Fresh Threads while you’re there! He’s debuting the new BLT shirt, and he’ll have FREE Cuban Sandwiches from Black Bean Deli (while supplies last)!

Event infohttps://www.facebook.com/events/174122179660439/

Lake Nona

Small Business Saturday: Shop small this holiday season! Support local vendors, artisans and craftsmen at the Lake Nona Holiday Market. Lake Nona Town Center, 6900 Tavistock Lakes Boulevard | Orlando, FL 32827, 8:00am – 4:00pm.

Food Trucks: Little Blue Donut Co. & The Local Chef LLC

Vendors include:
Chloe+Isabel by Jenny Lynn
Lularoe Katie Wu
Ruthie’s Market (Ruth + Olly)
Younique by Chelsea
Magical Moments Vacations – Kristina Herndon
Jewels by La’Zarr
Aries Designs
Smart Racks – Edwin Rivera
Nona Image
Nona Brew Crew
Global Ocean Center
Ancient Language Inc.
Gina Alexander Made with Love by Fab Divas
Melissa Divine Rodriguez-Orlando/Lake Nona FL, Independent Scentsy Director
Badspade
All Four Paws Design
YogaKid Orlando
Plexus by Jeni
The Fold Agency
Celebration Lane
Jody’s let me Pamper you with POSH
Caroline Randall Made
Young Living by Amanda Brindamour
Jennifer’s Usbourne Books
The O’dea Collection
Felt Too Fun
Bonjour Nona
Nerium International by Danielle
Bob’s Hobby Center
Simply Maurita
Raw Threads Orlando
Gourmet Coquito
Lemongrass Spa by SandyA
Matilda Jane Clothing
Southwestern and Native American Pottery
Indulgences
My Nona’s Garden
Stampin’ Up! with Linda

Seminole Towne Center

Black Friday: The first 250 shoppers to visit Seminole Towne Center’s Guest Service Booth on Black Friday will receive a free Black Friday Fanatic bag filled with goodies (while supplies last). Also, complimentary coffee and refreshments will be provided at the seating area behind the Guest Service Booth. Extended hours (6 a.m. – 10 p.m.) will continue throughout the holiday shopping season.

More info: For a complete list of holiday hours, retailers and special events, call (407) 323-1843 or visit www.seminoletownecenter.com. Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/SeminoleTowneCenter and follow us on Twitter @SeminoleTC and on Instagram @seminoletc

Light Up UCF

Black Friday: Come out to ice skate before 5pm for only $5. After 5pm, skating is only $10, or you can purchase a $17 Ultimate Pass all day long! Share on social using #LightUpUCF!

Purchase tickets herehttp://www.ticketmaster.com/event/2200514BA825804F?camefrom=EMCL_1373998_52737713

Gods and Monsters (Artegon Marketplace)

Black Friday: Join us at Gods & Monsters for 20% off storewide and 20% off at the bar 11am-12am. PLUS, roll our big D20 at checkout, and if you roll a 20, you get an extra 20% off the highest priced item in your purchases! (Sale excludes consignment items)

More infofacebook.com/godmonsters/

A Comic Shop

Black Friday (and technically Saturday): Everything in the shop is Buy 2, Get 1 FREE! The 1st 25 people through the door get a FREE Paper Girls #1 1st print comic! The 1st 50 people get a FREE Power Rangers Pink #1, Faith #1, and either Grizzly Shark or SSB based on age. The 1st 100 people get a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #1!

Everyone who purchases using our buy 2, get 1 FREE sale gets another FREE new comic! Spend $50 and you get a FREE Walking Dead or Marvel Minimates 2 pack! Hundreds of graphic novels are marked 50% off and thousands of new comics are marked $1 or $2! The Geek Easy will open at noon with beer and movies, and at 8pm Nerdy Karaoke starts!

Event info: https://www.facebook.com/events/248129892271159/

Park Ave CDs

Black Friday: Extended hours, 9am – 11pm! Special vinyl and CD releases (plus a few extras!) are made exclusively for RSDBF; if it is a US RECORD STORE DAY BLACK FRIDAY BRANDED RELEASE, WE WILL BE STOCKING IT (please keep in mind, quantities will vary greatly)!! For complete descriptions, track listings, notes and pressing info, please visit the official Record Store Day site by clicking here!

20% OFF ALL CD/LP BOX SETS! ALL $3/5/7 USED LPS BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE! Give the gift of music this year by shopping at and supporting your local independent record store!

Small Business Saturday: The first 100 customers who make a purchase on Saturday, November 26th, will receive a FREE CD GRAB BAG ($5 value)! Each grab bag contains 10 random CDs, the perfect conversation-starter for the long holiday weekend with extended family!

Not familiar with our popular assortment of grab bags?  We also stock LP (10 LPs for $7), 7″ vinyl (14 7″s for $7), DVD (5 DVDs for $7), Toy (5 blind-box toys for $10), Greeting Card (6 cards for $5), and Sticker (10 stickers for $5) grab bags, perfect for stocking stuffers and gifting!

Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival 2017

Black Friday & Cyber Monday: Receive 25% off all merchandise when using promo code: OKEE25!

Shop nowhttp://okeechobeefest.shop.redstarmerch.com


Attractions, Parks, and more…

Fun Spot America

Celebrate your #BestYearEver with a 2 park Fun Spot America annual pass for only $74.50 with NO blackout dates! This includes; admission to both parks (Kissimmee & Orlando), all day riding privileges on the Go-Kart tracks, roller coasters, thrill rides, and Kid Spot rides, admission to Gator Spot (Orlando), member perks, and free parking! [Kissimmee’s Bull Ride, SkyCoaster and Arcade are not included]

Single Day and Combo Ticket specials are available online for $40.95 and $55.95, respectively.

Purchase tickets here: http://fun-spot.com/affordable-theme-park/

Gatorland

Our friends at Gatorland have a great Black Friday deal on annual passes! $29.99 for adults ($45.99) and $21.99 for kids ($31.99). (Screaming Gator Zip Line is an additional cost.) You can purchase this deal online or at the park, but wait for it…

They will also have a Cyber Monday deal which includes the Screaming Gator Zip Line for $29.99. (Normally $69.99)

Purchase tickets here: http://www.gatorland.com/public/annual-passes.cfm

Crayola Experience (Florida Mall)

Black Friday 50% off and BOGO specials on merchandise, coloring kits, and more! [Link]

Buy a kid’s Annual Pass and get a Big Kid Annual Pass (55+) FREE now through December 31. Also, get $5 off admission when you bring a food donation in for Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida thru November 30.

Get 4 annual passes for only $99, December 1 – 31!

Purchase passes herehttps://tickets.visitcrayolaorlando.com/webstore/shop/viewitems.aspx?CG=TKTS&C=ADM&_ga=1.142916661.1878678142.1480052456

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Black Friday: Make a reservation to visit before December 29, 2016 and receive a discounted Atlantis Crew Package. Atlantis Crew Package valid Nov 25 through Dec 29, 2016. Available only by calling 877.634.0720 November 25, 2016 from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm EST. Must be redeemed by December 29, 2016. Call for more details.

A sliding scale discount off daily admission is based on the number of tickets with a minimum purchase of 2 tickets. [Ex: Two tickets: 10% discount, three tickets = 15% discount, four tickets = 20% discount]. $10 discount on each additional ticket for more than four.

LEGOLAND Orlando

Legoland’s version of Black Friday is, appropriately, Brick Friday! Buy a day pass in December for $71 and get a pass to use in January through April – FOR FREE! Current Annual Passholders can save 30% off a stay at LEGOLAND Hotel (Jan 1 – April 6, 2017) & Beach Retreat (June 1 – Sept 3, 2017)! Non-passholders can save 20% on room-and-ticket package stays.

The Awesomer Annual Pass is reduced to $99 plus tax ($50 savings), which is a GREAT deal for families. This annual pass will LEGOLAND Orlando as well as unlimited admission to the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye, Madame Tussauds, SEA LIFE Aquarium and Atlanta’s Legoland Discovery Center!

More info: Sign up on the website to qualify: http://www.legoland.com/brickfriday.


Rosen Hotels & Resorts

Black Friday & Cyber MondayRosen Inn closest to UniversalRosen Inn InternationalRosen Inn at Pointe Orlando and Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista are serving up the lowest rates of the year, starting at $49.99 plus tax, per night, when booked on Black Friday, Nov. 25, or Cyber Monday, Nov. 28, only for travel through Dec. 23, 2017 (based on availability). The Bed and Breakfast package includes breakfast buffet for two adults daily, complimentary Wi-Fi in guestrooms and public areas and shuttle transport to area theme parks. Shuttle transport is based on availability and must be reserved in advance.

To book: Call 877-224-5377 or visit http://orlandohotels4less.com/blkfricymon/.

AAA Four Diamond Rosen Shingle Creek is offering one of its lowest rates of the year in a special $199 two-night package for two when booked Black Friday through midnight Cyber Monday. Guests can book one night in one of the award-winning hotel’s recently enhanced, plush guestrooms at $199 plus tax and receive one night free for the consecutive night Dec. 9-24, 2016 (based on availability). The package includes a breakfast buffet for two each morning at Café Osceola, complimentary self-parking, complimentary Wi-Fi, 25% off treatments at The Spa at Shingle Creek (excluding packages and couple’s treatments) and 25% off green fees at Shingle Creek Golf Club, the newly-redesigned course by Arnold Palmer Design Company. Individual complimentary transportation to Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando and Orlando Premium Outlets is offered, based on availability, reservations required. Additional nights can be booked at the best available rate, but are not subject to exclusive package offers.
To book: Call 407-996-9939 or visit rosenshinglecreek.com.
Save 10% off best available rates at Rosen Plaza and Rosen Centre overnight stays from Dec. 19-25, 2016 (based on availability) when booked from Nov. 25 through Nov. 28, or take advantage of a special two-night package at Rosen Shingle Creek. Rosen Plaza features stylish, contemporary guestrooms, discounted self-parking, 25% off Smoooth Java and BOGO buffet dining in Café Matisse. Rosen Centre guests enjoy luxurious accommodations, complimentary self-parking and two I-Ride Trolley tickets, as well as 10% off the breakfast buffet at Café Gauguin and The Spa at Rosen Centre.
To book: Call 407-996-9700 or visit rosenplaza.com, or call 407-996-9840 or visit rosencentre.com.

Visit Orlando is offering free shipping and 5% off of already discounted tickets to area theme parks, hotels, water parks, dinner shows, tours, and sporting events, and their list is LONG. Use promo code: GIFT. 

More info: http://www.visitorlando.com/blog/index.cfm/2016/11/16/Save-in-Orlando-with-Black-Friday-and-Cyber-Monday-Deals/

Sea World Parks: Blue Friday Sales! Fans MUST register online to receive SeaWorld Orlando’s e-mail updates or already be subscribed. To do so, fans can visit SeaWorldOrlando.com/BlueFriday.

More infohttps://seaworldparks.com/en/seaworld-orlando/promotions/blue-friday/FL-res

Universal Orlando: Various Florida Resident specials!

More infohttps://www.universalorlando.com/Theme-Park-Tickets/Florida-Resident-Tickets/Hotel-Offers.aspx

Disney Springs: Over 40 deals at retailers within Disney Springs!

More infohttps://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2016/11/disney-springs-two-day-black-friday-event-starts-friday/

Central Florida Votes: My Election Day 2016 Experience

The day is finally here, and like a kid at Christmas, most of us couldn’t be more excited to cast our ballots and be COMPLETELY DONE with the 2016 Election!

The last year and a half has been exhausting in many ways. Between having to decide between two candidates I either don’t like 0r trust in the Presidential election, to the barrage of mudslinging in our local elections… oy!

I certainly don’t mind putting in the work to research each candidate in order to make an informed vote at the polls, but wading through all the garbage? No thanks.

What I am done with are the crazy commercial spots, sponsored posts, wasteful mailers which immediately go from my mailbox to the trash, and repetitive robocalls at home, the flood of political text messages and emails asking for donations – DONE.

The Bright Side is…

People are talking about and debating civics! They’re getting involved in their own communities in record numbers, making the effort to research both National and Local candidates, and sharing easy-to-use research tools with everyone!

People who barely voted in the past are now phonebanking for the candidate they support. Citizens are not just inheriting their political choices from family, friends, or social circles but they’re actually owning them! We are indeed living in changing times, and that alone is something to get excited about, nevermind the divisive trash.

Vote! Please, vote!

Regardless of who you’re voting for, I have to admit I’m incredibly excited, not to mention encouraged, to see so many people across the state are getting out there to vote in this year’s 2016 General Election.

Today, lines could be shorter in your polling place, they could be A LOT longer. Bring your ID and some patience when voting today.

Before You Leave Home or Work…

Check your voter status and locate your precinct. Be aware of your rights and responsibilities. Help a friend or neighbor vote by carpooling. Make sure your address is correct (This can be changed over the phone in Orange County by calling 407-836-2070). Call the Florida Voter Assistance Hotline at 1-866-308-6739 for any other questions you may not be able to find answers to, or locate your local Supervisor of Elections Office here [Link].

Top 5 Voting Tips

  1. 1. Always have your valid photo ID (with signature) in hand. If you don’t have a valid photo ID, ask for a provisional ballot.
  2. 2. Utilize your sample ballot for a faster time at the polls.
  3. 3. Allow extra time – travel, wait, vote.
  4. 4. Physically able folks: Park further out to allow closer parking for those who may need extra assistance. (Your kindness will also help you get in and out more quickly.)
  5. 5. Once in line, DO NOT LEAVE. As long as you are in line before 7pm, you will still be allowed to vote. If you are told otherwise, call the Voter Protection Hotline at 1-888-525-8683.

Bonus tip: Once you’ve voted, leave the last 1.5 years of political stress and frustration BEHIND. No need to take it with you. You’ve done your part, it’s done.

My (Early) Voting Experience

I live in Orange County, Florida and voted last Friday, November 4th. Arriving at the South Creek Branch of Orange County Library, I thought Friday, in the middle of an afternoon, wouldn’t be terribly crowded considering it was right before rush hour. Boy, was I wrong!

In fact, a poll worker told me that the crowds were consistent and there was always a line. All 14 days – even in the middle of the work day!

Just how long did it take me to vote? 64 minutes total. Mind you, this was during last week’s early voting period but even still, it took a lot less time than I originally assumed. All in the plan.

With over 52% of the voters having already voted, we’ve got some precincts in this county that are well over 60% or 50% of their voters have already voted.” said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles. “That was the goal of early voting was to take the pressure off the polling places on Election Day.

Via Instagram, here’s how my experience went…

(Please note: I received permission to take the images below. It is illegal in Florida to take photos in the actual polling room or of your voting ballot. Don’t risk not being counted. If you’re not sure, DON’T post it.)

 

 

 

Out of the @oclslibrary grass now, into shade. Weather is nice! #ivoted #election

A post shared by Jen (@jenvargas) on

 

Up to the front of @oclslibrary now. >30 mins at this point. #EarlyVoting #ivoted #election

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Actual #earlyvoting time (with sample ballot): 7 minutes. #ivoted #election

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Ballot, dropping off mom's absentee ballot to #earlyvoting: 5:21pm (55 minutes) #ivoted #election

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Time out: 5:30pm. Total time for #EarlyVoting: 64 minutes. #ivoted #election (Thanks @ocls!)

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As I wrote in my weekly Central Florida 100 column for the Orlando Sentinel, “The sacrifices of many gave us all this privilege, and I sincerely hope people realize the importance of this right. I also hope that our nationwide conversation will encourage Central Florida citizens to stay involved in their communities long after November 8th.”  So far, so good…

Orlando City Soccer Club: The End of an Era

With the close of the season just a few days away, the Lions are looking to finish strong in their final match at Camping World Stadium (CWS). Over the past six seasons, Orlando City has played 93 matches at CWS, and there have been a lot of memories made here.

Orlando City Supporters

A view from the supporter section!

From the first ever preseason match against the Philadelphia Union… to the championship matches in 2011 and 2013… To the first ever MLS match in 2015. From playing in front of a few thousand people every week, to playing in a packed house of 65,000 fans…This is where the dream was realized.

Orlando City Soccer #FillTheBowl

Orlando City Soccer Inaugural effort to #FillTheBowl

The final game has been dubbed a “throwback game” by the club, and will have a “where we came from” theme. A look back at the short, yet rich history and intoxicating embrace this club has put on The City Beautiful.

It will be a chance for all fans to reflect on the past and look forward to the new soccer specific stadium (SSS) on Church St. Out with the old, and in with the new, but maintaining that sense of knowing where it all began. Kick off is set for 4 pm this Sunday.

Join me at the match! I’ll be where I always am… doing my part to “Man the Wall“.  Let’s get the place rockin’ and send the Lions out with a bang one last time at CWS!

Photo by Jen Vargas

Photo by Jen Vargas

There will also be a renewal of the I-4 Derby of sorts this Saturday at the Seminole Soccer Complex in Sanford.  Tickets are just $10 and kick off is set for 7pm.

I highly recommended attending this match if you were not around during the club’s United Soccer League (USL) days. This will be a throwback for the supporters as well as the players. The Orlando City SC alumni players will take on alumni players from the Tampa Bay Rowdies (Tell me how it feels).  Supporters will have full smoke and pyro at this match so bring your bandanna enjoy the show!

If you attend the I-4 Derby, and you run into anyone from Ralph’s Mob (Tampa’s supporter group) make sure you ask them how they feel… you know, about losing 7 times in a row. They love that!

Get your tickets to the I-4 Derby and/or the final home game at CWS by visiting http://www.orlandocity.com/tickets

Vamos Orlando!

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Mad Cow Theatre’s 20th season like it’s 1776!

1776-1981776, Sherman Edwards’ beloved Tony Award-winning musical, celebrating a revolutionary moment in history has a bold new all-female voice! Truly an excellent choice this election year, 1776 is exact-LEE* the best way for Mad Cow Theatre to ring in their 20th season.

On Friday, September 22, join in on the 20th Birthday Celebration and Opening Night of 1776 (purchase tickets to this special event here). The cocktail party starts at 6pm with restaurant partner Ceviche, followed by the show and wrapping up opening night with a champagne toast with the cast. Tickets are $75 (and just $30 for Mad Cow Theatre subscribers).

I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace — two are called a law firm — and that three or more become a Congress.” So begins this patriotic musical depicting a contentious Continental Congress debating the pros and cons of ever agreeing “in the course of human events.”  If you thought bickering politicians was a new thing, you’ve got another thing coming. And this time the musical is presented with females in every role thanks to Mad Cow Theatre’s bold all-female casting.

Performances run Thursdays – Sundays, September 23 – October 23, 2016 in The Harriett Theatre. Save on special preview performances Wednesday, September 21 & Thursday, September 22 at 7:30pm. Visit Mad Cow’s website for additional specials or to purchase tickets.

Our Founding Fathers are seen in a whole new way. Should be one “mother” of a revolutionary tale.

*Enjoy “The Lees of Old Virginia” to get those patriotic juices flowing before the show.

 

One "Mother of a Cast" in a show about Our Founding Fathers

One “Mother of a Cast” in a show about Our Founding Fathers

 

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Review: ‘Snowden’ gives real Snowden story humility

 

Image: Open Road Films

Image: Open Road Films

Oliver Stone’s latest movie, “Snowden,” opens today and you should go see it.

Fathom Events invited Central Florida Top 5 to an advance screening of Snowden, followed by a live Q&A with Academy Award®-winning director,  Oliver Stone, actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley, and via satellite, the subject himself, Edward Snowden.

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[No story spoilers in this post.  Read freely.]

Snowden is a modern day thriller about Edward Snowden and how he became one of the most well known whistleblowers and privacy advocates. This telling of this story is based on the books The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena.

Stone presents the story without delving into the legality of Snowden’s actions. We, the audience, are allowed to learn more about who Snowden is before, during, and after he leaked information regarding various United States government surveillance programs. This film also shows how Snowden first got the media, in this case UK’s The Guardian, involved.



Stone’s casting selection feels authentic. Like many computer professionals I know, Joseph Gordon-Levitt appears intelligent and reserved as the character playing Edward Snowden. As a filmmaker and technology professional, I really appreciate that Snowden’s character wasn’t over popularized.

Many technology films lose the details which make computer programmer or hacker characters human.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt solidly performed the role of a cyber security professional without the usual Hollywood hipster hacker bells and whistles.

Image: Open Road Films

Image: Open Road Films

 

Snowden’s love interest is played by Shailene Woodley. Woodley, seems to just click with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Snowden. I have always appreciated each of Woodley’s film performances. Admittedly, when I first saw the pairing I thought Woodley was a bit Hollywood glitz. However, after researching Lindsay Mills, Edward Snowden’s actual girlfriend, I now see the pairing is quite good.

Image: Open Road Films

Image: Open Road Films

Snowden’s supporting characters, portrayed by the strong ensemble of Rhys Ifans, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Nicolas Cage, and LaKeith Lee Stanfield, were also believable in their roles. To me, they all felt like the technology and news professionals, or computer instructors I have known in the past. The details in this movie really give some humanity to the characters in the story, whether in the newsroom or hotel room, and allows the audience to sense some emotion of what may have been felt in the real life events.



Technically, the film stayed true to how computers work without the usual over the top hacker computer graphics displayed in previous computer films.  The fact that this was Stone’s first film shot digitally was both perfect and ironic. I really appreciate this approach. When I see Virtual Reality gloves or things flying in cyber space I usually am uprooted from the story immediately.  (Thank you Mr. Stone and art direction team.)



I have followed the actual news stories regarding Edward Snowden at arms length due to their content and a distinct understanding of what data may be present in its content. Much of the data is still considered sensitive or classified, including information presented in this film.

Snowden is a film to watch for anyone using the Internet or other connected computing device.  Watch with your opinions, and technology, put aside and emerge with new insight and a good story in the end.

Bonus: Check out Joseph Gordon Levitt’s short film, “Are you there, Democracy? It’s me, the Internet,” with Edward Snowden.

Orlando, you are #TRULYLoved

It’s been a heavy month for the world, and in Orlando specifically. Our local City and County government, as well as our LGBTQ and Latinx communities have been working through their grief non-stop since the tragedy at Pulse. People here are slowly healing but still, we can’t forget. But we can make it better, all of us.

#LocalLoveOrlando Map (Pulse Edition) by Macbeth Studio

#LocalLoveOrlando Map (Pulse Edition) by Macbeth Studio

As a citizen and resident, I knew I wanted to do something. More than just saying ‘thank you,’ more than just a friendly tweet of encouragement. Smiles were the first thing that came to mind. They’re free, and anyone can inspire one, anywhere and at any time.

Many individuals and Orlando agencies have had to work through their grief, non-stop, over the past month including; City of Orlando and Mayor Buddy Dyer‘s office and communications teams, City of Orlando District 4 Commissioner Patty Sheehan, Orange County and Mayor Teresa Jacobs‘ office and communications teams, Orlando Police Department and Chief John Mina, Orlando Fire Department and Chief Williams, The Center, Orlando’s LGBT Community Center of Central Florida, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Metro Orlando.

So… what’s the plan?

First things first – the smiles. I don’t know about you, but when I see one of Truly Nolen’s Volkswagen Bugs driving down the road, I immediately smile. From the ears on the roof to the tail on the back, I could be sitting in the worst traffic ever, see that mouse car, and smile. Did you know that Truly Nolen also has a Mouse Limo? It’s true! If seeing a huge, yellow Mouse Limo roll down the road doesn’t make you smile, I’m not sure what else will.

Truly Nolen Limo Side

Another thing that makes me smile? CUPCAKES. Win! Little cups of cake and icing, and enough joy to fit in the palm of your hand. Who doesn’t love a good cupcake? Even when they’re bad, they’re good. (Note: I have never had a bad cupcake, even ones I’ve baked myself. And I don’t cook.) 

So… I decided to combine the two, and thanks to Truly Nolen and Sprinkles Disney Springs, tomorrow’s JOYride will be a little sweeter!

How did I come to cupcakes and Mouse Limos?

At last month’s Mascot Games at the Amway Center, Jack Martin, who drives Truly Nolen’s Southeast U.S. Mouse Limo all over the country, offered to take me for a ride in the limo – and of course I said yes! After the attack on Pulse happened on June 12th, I knew I wanted to do more than just take a joyride around town in an unusual, but really cool limo.

Wait. JOY… ride. JOYride!! Makes PERFECT sense. 

Luckily Truly Nolen is as active in their communities (all over the United States) as Central Florida Top 5 and I are here in Orlando. In fact, we’ve teamed up a few times before. We received a not-as-scary-as-it-sounds bug education at Truly Nolen University and they also introduced us to a young quilting expert named Faith-Christina Duncan and her friends at the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida.

After brainstorming with Truly Nolen’s Community Events, Social Media, and PR Manager, Toby Srebnik, we came up with a plan. Why not share smiles with everyone in Orlando (including those on the road) on our Mouse Limo JOYride through Orlando?

Next, I needed to locate cupcakes… dozens of delicious, colorful cupcakes. The first company that came to mind, who was equally as community-minded, was Sprinkles Bakery.  Sure, they have an amazing new Cupcake ATM at Disney Springs, but could they fill a very tall order of 5 dozen cupcakes? A quick call to Sprinkles Los Angeles and Sprinkles Disney Springs sealed the deal! The answer was an immediate YES!

The answer is always YES to cupcakes. Especially Sprinkles cupcakes!

The answer is always YES to cupcakes. Especially Sprinkles cupcakes!

[To learn more about them, read our 5 Things You Never Knew About Sprinkles Bakery post!]

So, tomorrow, I will be hand delivering smiles and Sprinkles cupcakes, via Truly Nolen’s Mouse Limo (the Official JOYride Vehicle!) to – just a few – of the people who have tirelessly kept our Orlando community safe and loved; City of Orlando, Orange County, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and The LGBT Center of Central Florida!

Does all of this sound goofy or sweet? I’m okay with either. As long as smiles are smiled tomorrow, it’s a good day. We’ll have to play it by… ear. (Ha! Mouse… Ear.)

I will also make a small delivery of wheelchair afghans and cuddly stuffed frogs for an out-of-state friend to Give Kids the World at some point on Wednesday! Please, I-4, be kind to us!

Picking up a special #TRULYLoved donation for @gktwvillage from @MariposaX & her mom.

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You can follow my Orlando JOYride on Google Maps! I will also post a link tomorrow beginning at 1pm from the app Glympse, so you can follow our JOYride in REAL TIME, and maybe catch a glimpse of Truly Nolen’s Mouse Limo. (More puns! Okay, I’ll stop.)

Want to join in on the fun? When you’re out tomorrow, if you see us on the road or at one of our ‘sweet’ stops, snap a picture of Truly Nolen’s Mouse Limo and hashtag it #TRULYLoved!

Not in Central Florida? No problem! Snap a picture of you and your friends smiling or forming a heart (with your hands, arms, pencils, a drawing – anything you like) and share it on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or Facebook using #TRULYLoved! We’ll be sure to share them all!

Also, be sure to follow @TrulyNolen, @CentralFLTop5, and me, @jenvargas on Twitter for live, on the road and inside the Mouse Limo updates!

 

About Truly Nolen
Founded in 1938, Tucson, Arizona-based Truly Nolen of America is the largest family-owned pest control company in the United States. Our East Coast Operations Office is proudly headquartered in Orlando and is visible off Interstate 4. Truly Nolen has over 80 branch offices in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah. The company also has independently owned and operated franchises in an ever-growing number of territories including Kentucky, Georgia, New Jersey, Canada, Puerto Rico and over 60 countries. To learn more about Truly Nolen, visit www.trulynolen.com or follow us on Facebook(www.facebook.com/TrulyNolenand Twitter (www.twitter.com/TrulyNolen).

About Sprinkles Cupcakes
Sprinkles Cupcakes opened “the world’s first cupcake bakery” in Beverly Hills, as reported by the Food Network, and is credited by the Los Angeles Times as “the progenitor of the haute cupcake craze.”  Founded by Candace Nelson, judge on Food Network’s hit show “Cupcake Wars,” and husband Charles, Sprinkles has inspired long lines of devoted Hollywood stars and serious epicureans alike.  From Tom Cruise to Oprah Winfrey, Blake Lively to Ryan Seacrest, celebrities are abuzz about Sprinkles!  Baked fresh in small batches throughout the day, Sprinkles Cupcakes are handcrafted from the finest ingredients and contain no preservatives, trans fats or artificial flavors.  Sprinkles has 20 locations nationwide, a traveling Sprinklesmobile – the world’s first cupcake truck, and sells its cupcake mixes at over 250 Williams-Sonoma stores throughout the US and Canada.  In 2012, Sprinkles debuted the world’s first Cupcake ATM and continued its foray into classic American desserts with the launch of Sprinkles Ice Cream. For additional information and a list of future locations, please visit www.sprinkles.com.

REVIEW: Ghostbusters (2016)

Deepest apologies to all the haters, but this year’s reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise wasn’t the catastrophe that they all professed it to be. It was not a catastrophe at all. This new Ghostbuster movie was wildly entertaining and maintained the spirit of the original while still carving out its own place in the franchise.

The Ghostbusters Abby (Melissa McCarthy), Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), Erin (Kristen Wiig) and Patty (Leslie Jones) in Columbia Pictures' GHOSTBUSTERS.

The Ghostbusters Abby (Melissa McCarthy), Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), Erin (Kristen Wiig) and Patty (Leslie Jones) in Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS.

Here are a few things I enjoyed about this movie. [Spoiler free, of course];

1) The humor, pacing, and even the subtlety of some of the jokes definitely fall in line with the style of the original Ghostbusters. Some of the laughs were so solid that the laughter from the audience drowned out the succeeding jokes. Anytime your laughs overlap each other; you can call that joke a win.

2) The characters are all extremely likable. The dynamics between them work well considering they aren’t even a team at the beginning. There’s some evolution before they become any sort of team.

3) Cameos, cameos everywhere. Keep your eyes peeled because everybody (and I mean everybody) gets one. You’ll find them in some unexpected places. A question many have asked themselves – how do these characters connect to their 1984 counterparts? You’ll have to watch the film to find out. It’s a fun kind of video scavenger hunt.

Director Paul Feig and DP Robert Yeoman on the set of Columbia Pictures' GHOSTBUSTERS.

Director Paul Feig and DP Robert Yeoman on the set of Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS.

4) Callbacks are plentiful. They aren’t afraid to remind the audience that there are roots shared between this movie and 1984’s Ghostbusters. Some reboots are a little ham-fisted with their callbacks, while this rendition of Ghostbusters balances honoring the source material while not particularly pandering to the existing fanbase.

5) There are no Mary Sues in this movie. In the quest for writing a screenplay with strong female leads, or in this case, an ensemble of strong female leads; writers can sometimes make the characters infallible, untouchable, and in many cases too good to be true. While on paper it may seem to work, the end result is often detrimental to the characters. As they are many times portrayed as immortal superwomen who can handle any situation they’re thrown into.

Ghostbuster's Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) in Columbia Pictures' GHOSTBUSTERS.

Ghostbuster’s Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) in Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS.

In the case of this iteration of Ghostbusters, I actually was concerned for the safety of the characters. Several parts had me guessing as to whether we were going to lose a member of the team. That, in itself, is the antithesis of a Mary Sue. I’m very glad they found their balance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is merely a handful of elements that I enjoyed about Ghostbusters. Overall, I can’t recommend this movie enough. It’s smart, clever, and very funny. All the elements that made the original film a darling amongst many of us 80s babies – it’s definitely worth watching.

Subscribe here for Ghostbusters exclusives: http://bit.ly/SonyPicsSubscribeYT

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Follow Ghostbusters on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Ghostbusters
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#OrlandoUnited: Five images of hope from the aftermath of hell

The Pulse nightclub slaughter has given Orlando the hellish distinction of being the site of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. Early morning at the club on Sunday, June 12, [shooter’s name omitted] killed 49 people and wounded more than 50 people in a gory shooting rampage.

While the city — and the world — grapples with shell-shocked grief, mourning and bewilderment, many people from widely diverse backgrounds are calmly coming together to comfort one another, clean up the mess, and perhaps forge a stronger community for the long term. (Photos by Top 5’s Joe Thoma)

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Thousands gathered Monday night in downtown Orlando to grieve together and console one another.

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Former State Rep. Linda Stewart with Tim Vargas, executive director of the LGBT Center, Orlando, on Monday.

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Counseling volunteer the Rev. Frank Faine with Lt. James Young of the Orlando Police Department, and Galen Hentzell of The Center.

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Impromptu vigil at Lake Eola just hours after the shooting.

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The Florida-Georgia District of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, invited the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs to work through Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Orlando. Trinity has a ministry of outreach to the LGBT community that surrounds their congregation.

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Historic #CopaAmerica Centenario matches play this week in Orlando #Copa100

We’ve been counting down since last year, and the months of anticipation are finally over. Copa America Centenario is finally here! This weekend, the tournament will kick off for the first time in history right here in the United States. This is hands down the biggest international soccer event in the United States since the 1994 World Cup!

Copa America 2016 stats

In the words of Central Florida’s own John Arie Jr. (the Fun Spot America guy), IT’S HUUUUUGE! The City Beautiful will host three matches during the group stage of the tournament. Here’s how the matches will play out:

Copa America Groupings

The Copa America Centenario will run from June 3rd thru June 26th, with the final being played at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey. The tournament will consist of four, 4 team groups, with the top 2 teams advancing to the knock out stage of the tournament. The groups are as follows:

Group A – United States, Colombia, Costa Rica, Paraguay

Group B – Brazil, Ecuador, Haiti, Peru

Group C – Jamaica, Mexico, Venezuela, Uruguay

Group D – Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Panama

 

Copa America Trophy

The Copa America trophy has toured all over the United States in 2016! It was here in Orlando in March during Orlando City Soccer’s opening game!

Copa America matches played in Orlando

Copa America tease

Saturday June 4th, Costa Rica vs Paraguay 

This will be the opening match here in Orlando.  These countries do not have a deep history against each other. In fact, they have only played eight times since 1965.  The only time the two countries faced off in Copa America was back in 2004, where Paraguay defeated Costa Rica 1-0. With the United States playing against Colombia in the opening match on June 3rd, the result of this match could play a huge role in the final group standings. The United States, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Paraguay make up Group A in this tournament.

Monday June 6th, Panama vs Bolivia 

The second match in Orlando will put Panama against Bolivia.  Since 1970, these two countries have also only played each other eight times, and Bolivia holds the advantage with 4 wins, 3 losses, and 1 draw. This will be their first meeting in Copa America.

Wednesday June 8th, Brazil v Haiti 

Since 1974, these two countries have only played each other twice, both matches won by Brazil. This will be the first time Brazil and Haiti will face off in Copa America.  There was talk of Orlando City’s Kaká playing for Brazil this year in Copa America but, as of the writing of this post, he is out with a muscle injury. However, Orlando City fans may recognize the name Mechack Jerome from their inaugural season back in 2011.  He has been called up to play for Haiti, and should get the start against Brazil.

Orlando City is on break until June 18th but fear not, there will be plenty of soccer to keep you entertained here in The City Beautiful; from Copa America to the Orlando Pride, we are the Soccer Capital of the South!

ProTip(s): The I-4 Ultimate project’s lane and ramp closures will be suspended on June 4, 6 and 8 from Kirkman Road (State Road 435) to Colonial Drive (State Road 50). Closure restrictions are due to anticipated crowds traveling to hotels in the attractions area and to Downtown Orlando. Download the Florida Department of Transportation’s FL511 app before you go, or sign up for route specific updates via texts HERE. Also great news, SunRail WILL BE RUNNING on game nights!

Copa America events in Orlando

Copa America Fan HQ

Register for Copa America’s FanHQ Presented by Sprint events here: 

Friday, June 3: 7-11pm, Wall St. Plaza (Downtown Orlando)

Sunday, June 5: 2-6pm, Wall St. Plaza (Downtown Orlando)

Tuesday, June 7: 6-10pm, Wall St. Plaza (Downtown Orlando)

Florida Mall Celebrates Copa America! 

FloridaMall

Where: The Florida Mall – Macy’s Court, 8001 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32809 (Directions)

When: Saturday, June 4, 12-3pm

What: Free family friendly activities, live entertainment, giveaways, interactive games, a photo booth, activations and promotions in Florida Mall participating stores (Macy’s, United World of Soccer, Microsoft, M&M World)

Miller’s Ale House Orlando

Watch all 32 matches on Ale House’s huge flat screen televisions and enjoy all day drink specials!

Copa America Ale House

Church Street Bars

Copa Americana Church Street Bars

Florida Hospital’s Gourmet Soiree with Food Network’s Chef Robert Irvine on June 5

Have you ever watched shows like Top Chef, Master Chef, Iron Chef and any other food contests with chef in the title and thought “I could do that”? This weekend at the Florida Hospital Gourmet Soiree, you can!

On June 5th at Rosen Shingle Creek, Food Network’s Chef Robert Irvine will host over 70 of Central Florida’s top chefs as they compete for the coveted Gourmet Soiree Silver Fork Award.  Your ticket to the event qualifies you as their sous chef!

So proud of my #fhgourmetsoiree apron

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Your table of 10 and assigned Chef will conceptualize a healthy dish from a pantry of ingredients provided by Whole Foods. A presentation plate will then be judged by four celebrity guest judges prior to being judged on taste by Robert Irvine himself.

I had an opportunity to participate in a sneak preview event that gave me a small taste, an amuse bouche, if you will, of the big night.13221615_10154067972262707_4698264850060514429_n

To sum it up, the experience was thrilling, exciting, educational, harder than it looks on tv, and so much more delicious too.

My small group was assigned to Chef Jose Gonzalez from Cuba Libre at Pointe Orlando and we were to prepare a dish using tofu. Chef wasted no time in delegating assignments. He gave us an overall plan and it was up to us to fetch the ingredients, prepare, cook and assemble.  What followed was the shortest 45 mins of my life and a retraction of my tofu dislike.

Our team created a BBQ tofu dish with an accompanying salad that won over the judges and secured our win against the other team’s chicken risotto.

When you attend the Florida Hospital Gourmet Soiree, not only will you have a good time, but you’ll be doing good as well.  The event will support Florida Hospital for Children’s vital Health and Wellness Initiatives – Community programs like Mission: fit Possible in our Central Florida Schools, CREATION U in surrounding churches, Dr. Angela Fals’ weight management program and the patient focused CREATION Kids Kamp — all teach children good eating habits and healthy life choices in fun, kid friendly ways.

Team Tofu! Chef Gonzales and I after our team won the #fhgourmetsoiree preview event

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For more information including tickets and pricing, visit http://fhgourmetsoiree.com.

ProTip: To get a sneak peek at the wonderful live and silent auction items, and register ahead of time, go to https://qtego.net/qlink/gourmetsoiree and download the Qtego app!

NFL Pro Bowl comes to Orlando’s Camping World Stadium in 2017!

The National Football League made a very important announcement this week in a press conference at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World – Pro Bowl and Pro Bowl Week are both coming to Orlando and will be hosted here for the next three years beginning January 29, 2017!

The NFL’s Pro Bowl game is an annual all star game that dates back to 1939, where pro all-star players from the 1939 season played in Los Angeles. World War II forced the game to be discontinued until 1950 where teams from both league conferences (winning teams and non) played. The Pro Bowl was played for a long time in Los Angeles, California until it moved to Aloha Stadium in Hawaii in 1980 where it was played every year until 2009.

Next year’s host city was rumored to be Rio de Janeiro, Brazil but instead will be played here in Orlando at Camping World Stadium on January 29th, 2017. Florida has hosted only one Pro Bowl game which was played at Sun Life Stadium in Miami in 2009. Now it’s back and in Orlando!

We are thrilled to bring, not only the Pro Bowl Game here, but also to create a weeklong Pro Bowl experience for fans from across the country and around the world right here in Orlando,” said Peter O’Reilly, the NFL’s Senior Vice President of Events. “We can only do that with incredible partners, all of whom are represented here today; Florida Citrus Sports, Orange County, City of Orlando, Disney, ESPN, Visit Orlando, and Visit Florida, a great set of partners who have all made this come to fruition,” he said.

Edgewater Eagles Pro Bowl

Central Florida’s own Edgewater Eagles scrimmage with Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Mickey Mouse at ESPN Wide World of Sports! [Image credit: Melinda Sparks]

Going from Hawaii to Orlando is a bit of a change, right? We thought so too. Why Orlando? O’Reilly responds, “We had a lot of very interested cities and markets, both domestically and around the world, who were interested in hosting the Pro Bowl but when it came down to it, there’s no more natural home for the Pro Bowl in a time where we want to bring together youth and families in a unique way and celebrate our 88 biggest stars than coming to the City of Orlando, and coming to Orlando, Florida.”

Here are my Top 5 reasons why Pro Bowl in Orlando is VERY COOL thing!

  1. Fans will get the chance to meet their favorite NFL players up close and personal during the Pro Bowl week before the game
  2. Fans can also participate in the NFL FAN EXPERIENCE where you can pass, receive, and kick in various NFL fan based games.
  3. Orlando can demonstrate to the NFL, and the world, that we deserve and would support a local NFL franchise.
  4. Orlando could now become host to USA Football’s Regional Development Camps and provide a great opportunity for young athletes to hone their craft.
  5. The Pro Bowl would provide an economic boost to the surrounding Orlando communities.

Pro Bowl fans can sign up for exclusive presale and pregame info HERE! Tickets will go on sale to the general public this November.

25 by 10: The 2016 Florida Film Festival Wrap-Up

If there is one thing that I would like you know about me, it is this; I am a writer. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m a “blogger” or a “journalist“. It simply means that I consider myself to be a storyteller. My job is to create worlds for my characters to inhabit, and then place these characters in unique and interesting situations.

So when you are asked, as I was, to discuss my time during the Florida Film Festival, I was presented with a very unique challenge: how do I tell a story that has already been told 24 times before? How do my “characters” react to situations that are out of my control? How do I, a real person, tell a story that is always changing with every passing year?
Most writers…heck, most people I know…would love to presented with such a challenge.

I accepted that challenge.

Have you been following the @FloridaFilmFest adventures of Top 5 writer @_Extra_CHRISpy? You should! #FFF2016

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve always compared the Florida Film Festival to a giant maze, with me as the mouse trying to get to the cheese. To accomplish this, I have worn many hats throughout the years; a volunteer. A bystander. A distant observer. However, at no point was I able to fully motivate myself to obtain said “cheese”. There were many reasons for this, but in the end, it all came down to two things; time and money. That all changed this year. I was finally able to purchase the most coveted of items; a Producer Pass. With this pass, I was able to get in to every event there was, including certain events that were invite-only.

First things first; make peace with the fact that you are not going to see every single film in the entire festival. Even if you attend every single press screening, there is absolutely no way that you could possibly see the 180+ film lineup over 10 days. Not only is it impossible, but if you’re not careful, your body may not be able to take the strain.

My advice? First, get a hotel near the theater and plan on staying there the entire time. Your body will thank you. Second, don’t hesitate to take a break. Third, don’t’ forget to eat. You’re going to use up a lot of energy going back and forth from the Enzian & Winter Park Village, so be sure to plan ahead for snacking.

Most of my time throughout the festival was spent hopping from film to film, or from film to event I attended the Producer Pass Holder exclusive Programmer’s Luncheon in March. Matthew Curtis, the Programming Director, went over the entire program long before it was announced to the public. The festival had not even started, and I was already way ahead of the curve.

There was also another luncheon hosted by Programming Coordinator Tim Anderson, so if you weren’t able to attend the one with Matthew Curtis, you could still get an idea of what to expect from this year’s selection of films. A number of pre-festival press screenings were made available to the higher level pass holders, so I was able to knock out whatever films Enzian happened to screen on that day.

The press screenings, as it turned out, were arguably one of the best parts of the festival. This is because you have a healthy mix of press members and regular people who wanted to see movies. The films were always shown on time, which was something that did not happen during the festival. Some of my favorite moments were just relaxing at the Eden Bar and chatting about the films we just watched. I will not attempt to review every film I saw, but I will highlight certain films that are worth your time, as well as those that are NOT worth your time. However, the question remains; is paying for the most expensive pass available for a 10-day film festival really worth it? This is a question that I intended to answer for myself.

 

DAY 1: “Let’s Dance”

  The Opening Night Film was a movie called The Lobster. Henry Maldonado, President of Enzian Theater, was on hand to introduce the film, as well as declare that the festival had officially begun. Orange County Mayor Theresa Jacobs was also in attendance. She made a proclamation that April 8, 2016 was to be “Florida Film Festival Day”.

The Lobster

The Lobster

  The Lobster (the Opening Night Film of the festival) is one half of a great film, and one half of an OK film. The premise alone is so compelling, that you will remained engaged with the movie throughout its entire runtime. However, once you start to think about the film and discuss it with others, the movie falls apart like wet tissue paper.

The party that took place immediately after was awesome, with tasty treats being served all night, and a live band playing inside the theater. The party ended with the patrons of Eden Bar dancing to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”, and it was absolutely hilarious.

DAY 2: “Under Pressure”

  The Festival Block Party, which took place at Winter Park Village, was essentially a toned down version of the previous night’s festivities. The shorts showing on this day were very strong, both those that were screened before feature-length films, and the multiple shorts programs spread out throughout the festival.

King Georges FFF

King Georges is a documentary about a French chef so abrasive, he would make Gordon Ramsay blush. Hunky Dory is a film that I enjoyed quite a bit, but I wish more people saw. I cannot speak to the film’s 2nd screening, but the one I attended had so few people in attendance, that I wondered if it was due to the film’s story (about a bisexual drag queen taking care of his young son). Of the two main shorts programs screening that day, I thought that Shorts #2 provided the much stronger crop of shorts, with Black Swell & Other People’s People being the standouts.
Speaking of shorts, the Midnight Shorts were playing that night. The Midnight Shorts have always been a favorite among festival goers, and this year was no exception. The great thing about the Producer Pass is that if you arrive early enough (usually around 30 minutes or so), you’re guaranteed a seat inside the heater, even if tickets for that film are sold out. So if you going to the Midnight Shorts and they’re sold out, all you have to do is get there early, show the volunteer your badge, and find your seat. No fuss, no muss.

Q&A post German Shorts. #FFF2016 #CentralFLTop5

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After a brief introduction by Tim Anderson, a huge advocate for the Midnight Shorts, we were treated to some of the most vile, disgusting, and downright insane short films that I’ve seen in a long time. This is not something that I can accurately describe to you; you literally had to see it in order to believe it.

                        DAY 3: “Rebel Rebel”

This was the first of two Sunday Brunches that took place during the festival. The food was amazing; pancakes, eggs, fresh fruit, and a whole lot more were being served. I’ve never eaten so well in all of my life. I wish I ate like this all the time. It was on this day that I hit a snag in regards to my Producer status.

I attended the “An Evening with Mark Duplass”, featuring a screening of The Puffy Chair and Q&A. Everything with off without a hitch: I arrived early, got a really good seat, and enjoyed my time there. I wanted to attend the meet and greet that was to take place after the festival, but I was denied entry. My producer pass was not enough to attend the meet and greet. My name wasn’t on a list, and I am certain that there was a list.

It turns out that in order to attend the meet and greet, you had to purchase a “backstage pass”, something that I was not aware of until of course it was too late. The backstage pass ticket was something that was not available when tickets were initially available. The fact that a pass holder like myself would have to pay $150 on top of the $1,500 that I paid for Producer status is absurd. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it did make fir a bittersweet end to the day.

             DAY 4: “Never Let Me Down”

 This was the first of two days in which the festival activities started later than usual. Considering that there are so many films programmed into the festival, it seemed strange that no films were shown during the day. The first film did not screen until 4:15pm, which was awkward given how early the programs from the past two days had started.

I only saw three films that day, one of which was a block of German short films affectionately titled “Let’s Deutsche”, named after the late David Bowie’s song “Let’s Dance”. Of the 6 that were screened, only 3 of them managed to catch my attention: 90 Degrees North, Dissonance & Pitter Patter Goes My Heart. I had a huge issue with the subtitles for Hausbesuche (Visiting), as the film suffered from extremely poor subtitles, complete with misspelled words & poor grammar.

Man VS Snake FFF

 Man vs. Snake was a film that I had viewed during the press screening, but I had decided to watch a 2nd time, if for no other reason than to see how it played in front of a larger crowd. It played very well, and as long as you don’t go into the film expecting The King of Kong 2, you will have a great time.

                    DAY 5: “China Girl”

Another late start. By the fifth day people were starting to recognize me. I had moved back and forth between the Enzian & Regal Winter Park, so I was easily recognized by most of the volunteers & staff. I have it admit it was a great feeling. There were even people who had bought the Film Lover pass that allowed me to get in front of them. Those were some genuinely amusing moments. I have volunteered in the past for the Florida Film Festival, so I know what these individuals have to go through just to make sure that things run smoothly over the course of 10 days.

Unfortunately, due to the short day, I only saw 2 films; Louder Than Bombs, & Newman. Other than Pickle, the short documentary that preceded Newman, I was not impressed by any of them, even in the slightest. Newman has a fascinating subject at its core, but it suffers from way too much secondhand information from people who may or have not known things that either the filmmakers couldn’t get access to, or were unable to get certain people to talk. The final 10 minutes are worth checking out, but it is a bit of a slog to get there. Louder Than Bombs has some excellent performances, but the 21 Grams out-of-order type of storytelling keeps you from fully engaging on an emotional level. A disappointing day all around.

                    DAY 6: “Life on Mars?”

1st panel of the festival #FFF2016 #CentralFLTop5

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After the excellent “Perseverance: Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves” panel ended, it was time to check out the documentary Left On Purpose. Without spoiling anything, I believe that you should see this film knowing as little about it as possible, as the film presents a major moral dilemma/conflict of interest that I feel is best experienced untainted by other people’s opinions.

Every short in the Animated Shorts was excellent, some of which were on par with the quality of the live-action shorts.

I finished the evening with Slash, the new film from director Clay Liford. Despite the unconventional nature of the story of the film being told in a very conventional way, Slash ended up being one of my favorite films of the festival.

             DAY 7: ”We Could Be Heroes”

We were in for a treat for today’s festivities; not only were Billy Mitchell & Walter Day, who were featured the “King of Kong”, going to be in attendance for the ‘Man vs. Snake’ documentary’s 2nd screening, but the NIBBLER* arcade game (one of only 2 available in the state of Florida) would be available to play at the festival. I missed the Q&A with Billy & Walter in order to watch the mature-rated Shorts #4 program, which I regret. None of the shorts were particularly memorable in my mind, and only one of the shorts (Bad At Dancing) contained some form of nudity.

I enjoyed my time at the Filmmaker Party, although I found it hilarious that I kept getting mistaken for a film producer. I was confused as to why it took place in Longwood (which was a 15 minute drive from the Enzian), and not somewhere in the Winter Park/Maitland area. Why was there no shuttle? It was clear that some filmmakers were missing the party in order to do Q&A’s, so I feel that some adjustments need to be made in the future so that filmmakers will be able to do both.

The "Secret Screening" is a secret no more; THE GREASY STRANGER plays tonight @EnzianTheater #FFF2016 #CentralFLTop5

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Later that night, I attended the Secret Screening. It was for a film called The Greasy Strangler, which had its world premiere at South by Southwest. It was interesting to note that most of the crowd was made up of Full Sail students. My first thought was; is this some type of twisted homework assignment?

Having said that, I wish I could say that I enjoyed The Greasy Strangler, but I can’t. The gross out humor in this fim is so unnecesarily pervasive that it wears out it welcome LONG before the credits roll. If you are interested at all in checking out this film, I would suggest getting a large group of friends together and riff on it MST3K-style. Otherwise, do not waste your time.

There are only 2 of these in the entire state, and one of them is right here @EnzianTheater

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*And now, a moment of silence for all those quarters that were sacrificed to the NIBBLER machine…

DAY 8: “Starman”

  I was impressed with the selection of documentary films this year. From Man vs. Snake & Newman, to Presenting Princess Shaw, there were certainly a very diverse group of individuals being profiled. The standout for me was without a doubt the ‘fictumentary’ The Other Kids. Directed by Chris Brown, the documentary is framed more like a narrative; there are no talking head interviews, no narration over certain scenes, or the like. This matter-of-fact approach to storytelling is, while not a new approach by any means, still made for very compelling cinema.
I was able to, for the first time ever, attend an annual event known as the “Founder’s Dinner”. This dinner is not advertised in the program, except for a little blurb that I saw when I purchased the pass. The only way to get an invite is if you buy a Producer pass. I mingled with guests that I never thought I would mingle with, while enjoying the catered dinner from Black Bean Deli.

About an hour into our time there, Sissy Spacek arrived. She shook hands and introduced herself. I went to shake her hand, but was denied by one of her handlers. While I can’t say that I shook Sissy Spacek’s hand, I can say that I ALMOST shook her hand.

I made my way back to the theater, but by that time the “An Evening With…” had already begun. I made a tough decision to not attend the evening with, and instead I made a brief appearance at the Copper Rocket Pub for the Industry Party. As much as I would’ve liked to have hung out for longer than I did, my true intention was to just kill time until the next film screening; a documentary called Danny Says. I would come to find out that the Sissy Spacek Q&A was cut short, although there are many rumors as to why.

  In Search of the Ultra-Sex (AKA What’s Up, Tiger Lily? as directed by Tinto Brass) was the final film I saw that night. The film was preceded by a gleeful introduction by Tim Anderson, who told a amusing story about the printing of the photo that is featured with the description of the film.

I remember 6 people walked over the course of the screening. I wonder to this day what those 6 people were expecting from a movie made up of over 2,000 clips from French porn movies. I mean, what did you think you were going to see?

                    DAY 9: “Space Oddity”

Wrestling Alligators made its world premier. James Billie, the subject off the film, received a standing ovation. I had to cut down on the number of films so that I could be at the Awards Bash on time.

Wrestling Alligators FFF

One hour and a truckload of pasta later, the Awards Show had begun. I loved the energy of the hostess. As for the awards themselves, I only had an issue with one film in particular, but I was glad that the filmmaker was recognized for their hard work. Like with most awards shows in general, sometimes a film that is the most popular with audiences doesn’t always win, but you’re happy that the filmmakers were recognized for all of their hard work.

Chris Brown breaking down in tears when he won the Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature is a sobering reminder of the time and effort that filmmakers like him put into their projects, and an award provides recognition of that hard work. The awards ceremony needs a few more awards so that more filmmakers like Chris can be rewarded. Lo & Behold, High Rise, & Belladonna of Sadness are all films that I’d consider to be polarizing, but I still would reccomend that you check them out.

                       DAY 10: “Blackstar”

This was the last day of the festival, and boy, was it a bittersweet one. I got up bright and early to take full advantage of the second Sunday Brunch. This time, I took seconds, thirds, and fourths! It’s safe to say that I ate like a pig that day, which is ironic given all the bacon and sausage that was being served. After I finished eating, I headed over to Regal Winter Park, where I stayed for the rest of the day.

I managed to check out Tickled, a film that I heard buzz about even before the festival had started. Tickled was a film that…is both what I expected and not what I expected, and that is all I will say about it. The final film I watched was the Raiders! documentary. A group of young kids spent most of their childhood filming a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark with hilarious results. Except for one harrowing incident involving explosives, the film had a wonderfully upbeat tone, and was a great way to end what was a very stressful week and a half.

So the question remains; is the Producer pass worth surgically removing $1,500 from your wallet? I would have to say yes, I’d highly recommend the Producer pass.

If you’re not going to any of the parties/special events and just wanted to check out the films, then I’d recommend the Film Lover badge. The main issue that I have with buying a pass (aside from a VERY disappointing “swag bag”) is that there’s no added value of being a pass holder other than during the festival. $1500 dollars is a lot to ask someone up front, especially when you don’t know what the movies are. There should be some sort of incentive for paying such an extravagant amount.

For instance, if you purchase the VIP pass for the upcoming 2016 MegaCon Convention, you’ll have first crack at buying VIP passes for the 2017 MegaCon. It may not sound like much, but what the organizers of the event are banking on is the fact that if you’re willing to pay $400 for VIP access this year, then it stands to reason that you’ll want to pay for it next year as well.

There was also a VIP pass, but this was not available for purchase. I only met one person who had this pass, but how did they obtain it? There weren’t any VIP’s standing in line to see movies, so was this only for special events? There should be a little more transparency involved when it comes to things of this nature.

One suggestion I have for this particular issue is to offer a discount for next year’s festival. As it stands now, if you purchase the Producer Pass, $500 of that $1,500 goes to Enzian as a tax-deductible donation, whereas discounts for passes are only offered to those who purchase either the ‘Film Lover’ or the ‘Ten Day’ passes.

Only hours remain of this year's @FloridaFilmFest?! Noooooo!! #FFF2016

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While is a good thing that Enzian is receiving a donation from you, outside from all of the perks it offers in the short term, you’re still paying $1,500 for what is essentially a $1,000 pass. With a $500 donation, why not offer those who purchase a Producer pass a membership to the Enzian Film Society? The benefits that come with being a Film Society Member last all year round, which would be an enticing offer for someone willing to spend that kind of money.

Now, remember at the beginning of this article when I compared the Florida Film Festival to a giant maze, and that I was the rat? Well, after so much time watching movies and spending so much with old friends (as well as making new ones) dissecting them, all in the service of attending a film festival, I came to this realization; that it’s NOT like a rat in a maze. I’m NOT the mouse trying to get the cheese. I’m an adrenaline junkie. A user whose drug of choice happens to be film. I get a contact high from chatting with other movie lovers, filmmakers, critics. For someone like myself, The Florida Film Festival is the mountain of cocaine that Al Pacino buries head in during the movie Scarface. When it’s over, you really miss that. Those ten days, more than any other time of the year, really drive home the motto of the Enzian; Film. Food. Friends.
I’d like to take this opportunity to break the 4th wall, a lá Deadpool; I don’t know how to end the article. You see…one of the hardest things about being a writer is coming up with a satisfying ending. Originally, I was going to end it with the whole “…Film. Food. Friends.” tag, but it just seemed so…expected.

My story is still being told, and it will be told again at the 2017 Florida Film Festival. How do I, the main character of this tale, leave my audience with a sense of satisfaction for joining me on this journey? The answer: I’ll just take a page out of the Deadpool playbook, and end the article referencing the final scene of a John Hughes film;

Dear Florida Film Festival,

I accept the fact that I had to sacrifice ten days of my life in Maitland for whatever movies that I wanted to watch. But I think you’re crazy to make me write an article telling you who I think you are. You see me as you want to see all of us: in the simplest terms and in the most convenient definitions…. But what we found out is that each one of us is a Producer. And a Film Lover. And a Filmmaker. An Aficionado. Does that answer your question?

Sincerely yours,

The Breakfast Club Christopher Collins

Free Wings of Victory Documentary Viewing in Daytona Beach May 23

“Wings of Victory: Keeping Our Warbirds Flying”

On May 23, 2016 at at 6:30pm at the News Journal Center in Daytona Beach, there will be a showing of the new 58-minute documentary featuring American Aero Services and a number of WWII veterans from the area. This free screening is open to the public.

wings of victory video opening

Click image to open video promo of Wings of Victory

“Wings of Victory: Keeping Our Warbirds Flying” takes a look inside American Aero Services, a New Smyrna Beach company whose mission is restoring and maintaining these treasures of American history. It will also introduce viewers to some of the brave men who flew these aircraft in battle. U.S. aircraft and their brave crews were pivotal in helping the allies win victory in World War II. Of the tens of thousands of military aircraft produced during the war, only a handful of “warbirds” remain flying today.

Viewers will get to experience the restoration of a TP-51 Mustang and ride along with the Collings Foundation crew in the iconic “Nine-O-Nine” B-17 and the B-24 Liberator “Witchcraft,” as they take to the skies at the start of their 2015 nationwide tour.

To view some of their work, click here. (Thanks to Orlando blogger Florida Warbirds.)

 

 

LEGOLAND Florida Resort Awesomer Annual Pass is Buy One Get One Free Today for Cinco de Mayo

Are you a fan of LEGOLAND® Florida Resort? What about The Orlando Eye? Then today is your lucky day! As a Cinco de Mayo special (today only and while supplies last), you can purchase a 12-month Awesomer Annual pass for the attractions listed below AND you’ll get free parking, discounts in the parks, discounts on LEGOLAND resorts, and more.

What do you get with the $149 Awesomer pass?

  • Unlimited Admission to LEGOLAND® Florida
  • Unlimited Admission to LEGOLAND Water Park
  • Unlimited Admission to The Orlando Eye
  • Unlimited Admission to Madame Tussauds Orlando
  • Unlimited Admission to SEA LIFE Aquarium Orlando
  • Unlimited Admission to LEGOLAND Discovery Center Atlanta
  • Collectors Edition Welcome Kit
  • Free Parking
  • 10% off Dining, Retail, LEGOLAND Hotel Stays, VIP Experiences and Premium Play Bands
  • Bonus Brick Time (9:30 am park entry)
  • LEGOLAND e-newsletter (exclusive invitations, previews and more)
  • $15 off Guest Tickets to LEGOLAND Florida (up to 6)

To purchase, click here and enter code 6043.

The Orlando Eye is celebrating their one-year birthday this week. What a great way to celebrate than with an annual pass. Make it your first visit of many!

You Got No Show, Without The Producers!

Todd Zimmerman and Brandon Roberts. The cast is great!

Todd Zimmerman and Brandon Roberts. The cast is great!

Osceola Arts, 2411 E Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee, FL 34744, presents The Producers, May 6 – 22, 2016.

In Mel Brooks’ Broadway hit, a down-on-his-luck producer and his mild-mannered accountant come up with a scheme to produce the most notorious flop in history by bilking their backers out of millions of dollars. One problem: the show is a smash hit! Featuring the gloriously
offensive “Springtime For Hitler,” this outrageous, laugh-a-minute comedy is a sure-fire winner.

Orlando funnymen Todd Zimmerman and Brandon Roberts star as Bialystock and Bloom. Featuring a stellar supporting cast including Michael Colavolpe as Roger De’Bris, Kevin Kriegel as Franz Liebkind, Moses Galarza as Carmen Ghia, and introducing Kalen Dennis as Ulla, The Producers once again sets the standard for modern, outrageous, in-your-face humor.

Directed by Adam Graham, with choreography by Michelle Alagna, the show runs at Osceola Arts Friday May 6th – Sunday May 22nd.

Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 PM. Sunday shows are at 2:00 PM with one Thursday show on May 12th, 2016 at 7:30 PM.

Tickets may be purchased online at www.OsceolaArts.org, or at the box office an hour before show. Ticket prices range from $15 – $22.

For information contact 407-846-6257 or visit www.OsceolaArts.org.