Thursday, May 29th, 2014
By Chelsea P. Gladden, BreezyMama.com
When it comes to the live action Maleficent, Disney is pulling out all the marketing stops. My kids and I will pause from fast forwarding through commercials on TV to watch the preview– every time it airs. And that has been a lot!
When it was time to actually see the film starring Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning, my 10 year old and I were beside ourselves with excitement. So did it live up to all the non-stop hype?
The short answer is: Stop reading this now and head to a theater near you.
My daughter and I absolutely loved it. The film is a retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairytale “The Sleeping Beauty,” and the later Disney animated classic Sleeping Beauty, though this time from the perspective of the evil queen Maleficent, played by Jolie.
I’m a little surprised that it scored a PG rating as I felt it might be a bit more on the PG-13 side due to some violent scenes. Though my daughter was fine throughout, we did cuddle up during some very scary moments watching one of the greatest Disney villains ever.
Starting with Maleficent as a rambunctious young fairy you can’t help but root for, her innocence is ripped from her through a heart-breaking betrayal. Though she turns dark and seeks revenge on the king by cursing his first-born daughter (A.K.A. Aurora), you actually, in many ways, don’t blame her. Except for the cursing of the baby, of course!
From the start, the neighboring kingdom was bent on invading the moors she protects. With soldiers willing to stop at nothing to take her down, she relies on the nature around her, including some of the most frightening looking trees and a fire-breathing dragon made from the roots. Flying through the opposing army, she violently knocks them down one by one with her powerful wings protecting the land she grew up enchanting. The inability to bring her down further fuels the original king to encourage her demise, offering his throne to anyone who can exact revenge upon her.
My daughter and I decided those scenes and the epic-though-violent finale would be far too scary for my 5 year old.
With all the press surrounding the film, you probably know by now that Angelina Jolie’s 5-year-old daughter plays a young Princess Aurora. As Jolie previously mentioned, all other kids her age were too afraid of Jolie in costume. It was a bit stunt casting, but when I actually saw the scene, I found it very touching. Vivienne and her mommy have a tender chemistry that ends up being quite essential to the plot.
Jolie as Maleficent is wickedly wonderful, which adds to the fun. Appearing from the shadows, her silhouette often looks just like the cartoon version, which is a treat for fans of the 1959 version.
Speaking of the original, the three fairies – Flora, Fauna and Merryweather – have always been favorites of mine, and the live-action versions definitely add some humor to the plot. Though Jolie is dark, she too has some fun playing tricks on the trio as well as some great one-liners.
Some may find one of the twists as taking too much liberty with the traditional fairy tale (hint: another twist with true love’s kiss). There are some slow-moving moments while waiting for the cursed Aurora to turn 16, prick her finger on the spindle from the spinning wheel and fall into the infamous deep sleep, but overall I found the film a lot of fun to take my own little “Beastie,” as Aurora is affectionately called, to see.
Grade on a scale of kid’s live action films: B+
Rated PG, Violent battle scenes; Slightly graphic; Scary moments; 97 minutes
Watch a sneak peek here:
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Wednesday, April 30th, 2014
I may be the food editor at Parents, but like other moms and dads I read the magazine for parenting advice and product tips. When I opened the March issue a couple of months ago I devoured every word of Beach Bliss, my colleague Karen Cicero’s story featuring the 10 best Caribbean destinations for families. It was cold—really cold—here in New York, and I was ready to daydream about a warm holiday. But, one thing led to another, and before I knew it my family and I had booked a long Easter weekend at The Somerset on Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos, the magazine’s top recommendation.
We’ve been home over a week now and I can confidently say that Karen had it right when she recommended Turks and Caicos. Here’s why:
The Sand and the Water: That sounds obvious, right? The beach should be a highlight of any tropical vacation, but Grace Bay is truly special. The sand is fine, white, and oh-so-soft. The sea was as turquoise as a swimming pool and just as clear. Most days it was also very calm, making it perfect for little ones to splash around in.
Family-Friendly Resorts: While numerous accommodations catering to a variety of budgets dot Grace Bay, we loved the beachfront Somerset. The suites were spacious (at least as big as our Brooklyn apartment, which I guess isn’t saying much…), with a well-stocked kitchen and washer and dryer. Water toys were available at the resort’s three pools; snorkels and flippers were free to borrow at the beach. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful, and the pool-side pina coladas were pretty spectacular. Bonus: The resort offers a free Kids Club on weekdays.
Kids Can Play With Dogs: If your kids are anything like my kid, a dog is a big draw. About a 15 minute walk from the Somerset is Potcake Place, a charity that rehabs the island’s many stray dogs for eventual adoption. Visitors can play with the dogs and even take them out for walks on the beach. We played a couple of times with Happy, a sweet butterscotch-colored puppy. American families frequently adopt dogs they meet at Potcake Place, and not a day has gone by that my daughter hasn’t lamented the fact we didn’t bring home Happy. (Truth be told, I feel the same way.)
Easy Adventures: For older kids like my eight year-old, a boat tour is an exciting way to experience sun, surf, and sand. Top on our agenda was snorkeling, and we booked a half-day trip with Island Vibes Tours. Since Turks and Caicos is near the world’s third-largest coral reef, we saw tons of colorful fish and even a cool-looking lobster lurking in a small underwater cave. After snorkeling, we sped towards a deserted island nearby where small lemon sharks circled in the surf and endangered rock iguanas posed for pictures.
My daughter with the dog we actually bought her.
Fun Food: As you would expect, fresh seafood is everywhere on the island, especially conch. Fried into fritters or chopped into a salad, this mild-tasting shellfish is surprisingly kid-friendly. For a full-on island meal, a staff-member at the Somerset suggested we check out Da Conch Shack, a relaxed restaurant literally on the beach. We sat at picnic tables with sand under our toes watching the sun set and inhaling conch hush puppies, jerk chicken wings, and fried plantains. We bought my daughter a small painted conch shell there, which is now her favorite souvenir from the trip, especially since we didn’t come home with a (real) dog. We’ll save that for our next trip to Turks and Caicos, which I hope will be very soon.
The Somerset is offering Parents readers a 25% discount on lodging and free continental breakfast on stays of three nights or more through August 31. Use the promo code PARENTS.
Images provided by The Somerset on Grace Bay
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