Friday, April 14, 2017

A Good Birthday on Good Friday

It was still cloudy and a bit chilly when I got up this morning. Began my birthday with two American Girl stories. In Happy Birthday, Felicity, Lissie is excited to celebrate her big day with her grandfather, who is visiting for a few weeks. As much as she loves her dear old granddad, there's some friction in the household. Grandfather remains loyal to the king and governor. Her father and his apprentice are staunch patriots who believe the colonies should rule themselves. Meanwhile, Felicity loses her family's trust when she borrows a priceless heirloom without asking permission and breaks part of it. Her parents won't listen to her when she tells them she overheard the govener's men plotting to steal the colonists' gunpowder stores. She, her father's apprentice, and a drummer boy take it upon themselves to sound the alarm.

Molly McEntyre's birthday is less action-packed but equally frustrating. Happy Birthday, Molly has her trying to organize a genuine English tea with British refugee Emily Bennett. Molly's idea of a typical birthday party, with cake and ice cream and games, clashes with Emily's sedate lemon tart and watercress sandwiches. The girls end up arguing and insulting one another. It takes a surprise from Molly's mom to make the duo realize just how important compromise can be.

Ran a quick Disney short while doing dishes and getting organized. "Mickey's Birthday Party" is one of the last "everyone dances and sings" shorts. Here, the gang celebrates Mickey's big day with a conga and a boogie-woogie number to Mick's new organ. Meanwhile, Goofy tries to make a cake, without success.

I wanted to get an early start today to catch the first showing of Beauty and the Beast at the Cinemark Theater in Somerdale. Ran a quick special during breakfast. The original 1981 World of Strawberry Shortcake was set on the title character's birthday. Strawberry is upset when she thinks everyone's forgotten her special day. The nasty Peculiar Purple Pieman tricks the kids into giving Strawberry a gift that destroys their home. The kids are upset, but they won't go down without a fight.

Headed out around 9 to catch the bus down the White Horse Pike to Somerdale. It's the same bus I use to get to Voorhees Town Center and the Lindenwald Bus and Train Terminal, the one that picks up at the Oaklyn City Hall. No problems traveling. The bus was on time and not really full, and there was no traffic.

Got into Somerdale about 15 or so minutes later. The Cinemark Theater is in a small shopping center set off the road behind a Pizza Hut, a Taco Bell, and a massive Wal Mart. Went straight there first. They've done some remodeling since I saw The Force Awakens there early last year. The biggest addition was very soft and comfortable recliner seats. Lots of legroom, too. The remodeling was so fresh, the floor wasn't sticky yet.

The movie was even more enjoyable. If you've seen the animated Beauty and the Beast, or are familiar with the original French fairy tale, you know what happens here. Belle (Emma Watson) is shunned by the citizens of her tiny village not only for her love of reading, but for teaching little girls to read. Gaston (Luke Evans) may be handsome, but he's also vain, obnoxious, and has the intellect of a block of wood. Despite his boorish behavior, he's beloved by the townspeople, including his buddy LeFou (Josh Gad). One night, Belle's learns that her adored Father Maurice (Kevin Kline) was imprisoned by an hideous Beast (Dan Stevens) for trying to take a rose for Belle. Belle takes her father's place in the Beast's castle. But all is not what it seems. The longer Belle remains at the castle, the more she peels back the Beast's layers to discover he can be charming and intelligent as well as gruff. Now she just has to convince the town that the real Beast isn't the one with the fur, but the one with the selfish heart.

Oooh, Mom was totally right. This was amazing. Special kudos to the wonderful casting. Along with a pitch-perfect Watson and Kline, we have Ewan MacGregor as Lumiere, Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, Broadway star Audra Ann MacDonald as the wardrobe, and Stanley Tucci as her husband, a court musician-turned-harpsichord.  Lovely costumes and special effects, too. And the numbers were a blast. While the Busby Berkley-inspired "Be Our Guest" was fun, my favorite was the music hall pub romp to "Gaston." Glad to see some elements from the original fairy tale added back in, notably Maurice being imprisoned for trying to pick a rose.

Despite the additions of deeper back stories for Belle and the Beast and some darker elements, there's still no denying that this story's been told before. Also, I really wish they'd retained some of the songs from the stage version. "Home" and "No Matter What" might have been especially welcome. We only hear the music from the original film and a few new songs.

If you've got kids, especially little girls, you've probably already seen it. Even if you don't, I still recommend it, especially if you love musicals or the original Beauty and the Beast film or fairy tale.

I was glad to see that the Pac Man arcade game was still in the lobby at the theater. I played a few rounds of that before heading out to explore the rest of the shopping center. There wasn't really much to see. I browsed through Game Stop and Dollar General. There was also a YoGo Factory, an LA Fitness, and a pet shop. Considered some Lego games at Game Stop but finally decided I'd wait on those until next month when Lauren visits.

Settled down for lunch at the Applebee's next-door to the Cinemark around quarter of 1. The place wasn't too busy, despite it being the tail-end of the lunch hour and a day many people have off. I had the Fire Roasted Chicken Salad Wrap and their tasty French onion soup. The Fire-Roasted Chicken Salad Wrap lived up to the fire part of its name. It was mildly spicy and rather small, but still delicious. I wasn't really looking for a huge lunch, anyway. I ate a whole bag of popcorn at the movie.

Hiked back up the hill to Wal Mart after lunch. If the Wal Mart had nothing else going for it, its location on the side of the hill made for some spectacular views of the mall, theater, and apartment complexes below it. It was getting nicer by the minute too. The clouds that had been present all morning were starting to scuttle away.

My jaw nearly dropped when I stepped inside. The Wal Mart was enormous, the size of at least two or three warehouses, and probably about six times the size of the dinky little store in Audubon. One side of the store was all grocery items and food. This side was well-organized above the Wal Mart normal and fairly well-stocked. I found that Key Lime cake mix that is only seen around Easter, plus dark chocolate chips, cooking spray, and coconut for cheap.

The other side of the store wasn't nearly as well-organized. Everyone must have gone shopping in the morning. They already seemed rather picked-over, especially in the toy aisles. The prices still aren't as great as everyone claims. The lines were ridiculously long, too. I did find a present for my nephew Khai for his birthday on Wednesday, tan fitted sheets to replace the one that got a hole in it last fall, and the most adorable Beanie Baby-style BB-8 for me. (Also, the customers were unusually well-dressed and polite for people shopping in Wal Mart. The man in front of me who had a full cart let me go ahead of him.)

Since I had a little time before the bus arrived, I strolled down a block to the Magnolia Garden Center. I'd seen them on the bus many times, but never had a chance to check them out. In addition to seeds, bulbs, plants, flowers, giant watering cans, and other gardening items, they also sold Yankee Candles and country-style knick-knacks. Cute place and I enjoyed the quick look, but I'd really spent enough. I picked up the bus in front of the very modern Taco Bell, ignoring the squabbling family waiting with me. Other than the bus was a tad more full, I had no trouble getting back.

(At least the weather had gotten gorgeous by this point, sunny, breezy, and in the mid-60's. Perfectly normal for mid-April in Southern New Jersey.)

I originally rode to Dad and Jodie's first for the egg hunt, but I was too early. I just headed home instead. There was a call waiting for me when I got in. Mom had wished me a happy birthday. I called back. She was at work, but I did get to say "hi" to Dad before he headed out to work tomorrow.

Arrived at Dad and Jodie's house just as the kids were about to be let loose on the yard. Jodie, Dad, Rose, Craig, and some of the neighborhood parents had organized an egg hunt in Dad's front yard for their kids. They were so funny to watch as they scrambled around the grass, bushes, and fences around the pool area, searching for eggs. They all wanted to find Golden Eggs, the only ones with paper money in them. Poor Savannah got so upset when she didn't find a Golden Egg (and her brother Ryan did), she had to be briefly taken home to calm down.

The biggest hit among the non-money, non-candy items were tiny Pokemon figures that the kids all traded and the plastic bubbles. I remember these from when I was a kid. You squeeze some colorful liquid from a tube onto a straw, blow on the straw, and...voila! You produce a glue-smelling, pastel-colored bubble that can be played with usually for a few minutes before deflating. The kids loved them, chasing bubbles all over the front steps and porch.

Spent the rest of the evening at home. I had the second breaded tilapia fillet and roasted green beans and tomatoes in olive oil for dinner. The key lime cake mix and bag of coconut became Key Lime Coconut Cake with the addition of lime juice and a hand-made coconut buttercream icing.

Ran specials and cartoons while eating and working on my crocheting project for Lauren. "Pluto's Party" doesn't go as smoothly as Mickey's did. The young guests Mickey invited are unruly and obnoxious, trying to make Pluto pull them in a wagon and eating all his cake. But Mickey has a special surprise for his favorite pup at the end.

Max & Ruby did a three-party story involving Ruby's birthday. "Surprise Ruby" has the girl bunny following her brother, who has her tiara. She just wants to be home in time for her big surprise party. "Ruby's Birthday Party" has Ruby and her buddies enjoying typical party games like Red Light Green Light and Musical Chairs. Max just wants cake. "Ruby's Presents" are heartfelt and much-appreciated. Max has nothing for his sister, but the wrapping paper she's saved may give him an idea.

It's Yogi Bear's birthday in another three-part story, the series finale of The Yogi Bear Show. Ranger Smith has convinced Yogi that he's going to appear in one of the variety specials that were popular in the 50's and 60's. It's really a big birthday bash featuring all of the Hanna Barbara funny animals who had been created up to that point, including Huckleberry Hound and Quick-Draw McGraw.

Went further back in the series to dig up some spring-themed Yogi episodes. Yogi's "A Wooin' Bruin" when a circus bear courts Cindy. They compete to see who can bring her the most outrageous gifts. "Spring Has Hit a Snag" for the dramatic pink lion when a pretty female lion house guest turns out to be more of a demanding pest. "Duck Seasoning" is a more typical tale, pitting Yakky Doodle against a rather strange alligator based on Alfred Hitchcock.

Finished out the night before a shower with more Yogi. Yogi the Easter Bear is in a major jam. He ate all the candy for the big Easter Jamboree Ranger Smith is planning. The ridiculously tough commissioner and his grandchildren are going to be there and are expecting to have a great time. Yogi and Boo Boo set out to find the Easter Bunny, but his house has been ransacked. They end up rescuing him and the Easter Chicken from a pair of very weird plastic-obsessed goons.

And I must toss in a mention here of the best birthday present of all. Disney finally released the first trailer for this year's Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi. I don't care what anyone else thinks. I can't wait for this. It looks awesome.

The Last Jedi 1st Teaser Trailer


Just Jenny said...

Happy birthday from a longtime reader!

Jackie said...

Happy belated birthday!