Exciting News! #ThanksButImOkay

I’ve been holding this close to my chest (except not really, because I’ve been telling everyone about it) for a while now, but I have BIG news! A while ago my friend, Jax, suggested the idea that she and I do a pop culture vlog together. I loved the idea and we slowly moved forward, excitedly discussing what our vlog would feature and what types of segments we’d film. Around Thanksgiving, we decided a podcast would be better than a vlog because people would be able to listen in their cars and while running errands, etc (also, we can record in our pjs with no makeup which we both considered a huge plus). So, we’re starting a podcast!

Podcast LogoOnce we decided on format, we needed a name. Fortunately, that came fairly easily. Jax and I are both involved in National Novel Writing Month and an incident occurred during this past NaNo that gave us the perfect name. I was super tired at a write-in and laid my head down for a moment. The person sitting next to me began rubbing my shoulders (unprompted by me and without asking). I lifted my head, said “Thanks, but I’m okay,” and laid my head back down. Our friend, Jeremy, later told me that he had been considering saying something when he saw what was happening, but then I handled things on my own just fine. Since then, we’ve used the #ThanksButImOkay as a joke when tweeting each other. It seemed perfect for a pop culture podcast, where you can be sure they’ll be plenty of issues/people/movies/etc that both Jax and I will be completely over.

Our website went live last night, so please check it out when you have a moment: www.thanksbutimokay.com. We’ll be publishing episodes every Tuesday, starting this coming Tuesday, February 3rd. We’re also having a Facebook Launch Party on February 3rd and you’re all invited! Go HERE to join the fun.  We’ll be encouraging everyone to download the first three episodes, we’ll play games, and there’ll be prizes!  Seriously, it’s going to be amazing so check it out.

I watched “Up” for the first time tonight

So, I watched Disney/Pixar’s Up for the first time tonight and I live-tweeted it.


You are so riveted at this point, right? Don’t worry the best is yet to come:

The End. If you want to see everything I tweeted, follow me @RLHammAuthor or search for #WatchingUp.

I’m *Literally* Both So Sad and So Happy Right Now: Parks & Recreation Recap

Tonight was the premiere of the seventh and final season of my absolute favorite television show, Parks and Recreation.  Two half-hour episodes filled my heart with more emotions than I can probably put into words.  I was amused, angered, happy, saddened.  The magic of the series and the cast did not let me down. Parks and Rec Season 7   In the first episode, we pick up with the time jump from last season’s finale.  The year is 2017 and Leslie & Ben are on their way to a Gala for Pawnee’s Bicentennial, where Ben is being honored as Pawnee’s Man of the Year.  Unfortunately for him, his wife is a little distracted when she finds out the Newports (Pawnee’s wealthiest family) are selling a huge piece of land that would be perfect for a new National Park. Obviously, this is the perfect project for Leslie to latch on to.  Unfortunately, her former boss/mentor (the amazing) Ron I’ll-take-all-the-bacon-and-eggs-you-have Swanson is also looking to develop the land for the Grizzl corporation, which seems to have brought new life and lots of money and technology to the simple town of Pawnee in the three-year time jump.

At this point, I have to say to the writers, “How Dare You!”  Leslie and Ron fighting like this is not what I signed on for!  Also, it was hilarious and I understand why you did it.

Our other characters spent this first episode dealing with the success the past three years has brought them.  Donna is engaged.  (Jerry/Garry) Larry has become Terry. April is an Executive Director of something at the National Parks Service and Andy has his own children’s television show with his character Johnny Karate.  April is also super freaked out by the fact that she and Andy have grown into responsible adults who now do boring responsible adult things, leading to one of my favorite moments of the episode – Andy, standing naked from the waist down, waiting to go streaking in front of the entire gala, but unable to because feuding Leslie and Ron have fallen into the cake.  I gotta say, I agree with Leslie that it was a travesty there was no backup cake. Finally, Tom’s career as a restauranteur is so successful that he even has a “Chopper Copter” that sells chopped salads from a former military helicopter (this is now on my bucket list to eat a meal from before I die), so when he hijacks Ben’s introduction speech by talking about himself, it would seem he’s just being classic Tom.  Luckily, the character has grown, and he apologizes to Ben by reading the speech he had intended to give.  They both begin crying and hugging, in what quickly became my favorite funny moment from the episode.

Episode two continued Leslie and Ron’s feud, but upped the ante by throwing Councilman Jamm (still a Grade D Douche) and Tammy 2 (still a Psychopath) into the mix. Tammy’s still trying to get Ron back and since she’s had no luck, has been using Jamm as a placeholder, forcing him to grow a mustache, wear replicas of Ron’s favorite shirt, and only eat steak and whiskey, which has been hell on his poor digestive system. Leslie and Ron team up to separate this hellacious pair – it starts out as Leslie needing Jamm to agree to vote not to zone the Newports’ land for commercial use, but her big heart overtakes her ambition when she sees how miserable Tammy is making Jamm. This of course leads to hilarity with Leslie using negative reinforcement on Jamm (spritzs of Tammy’s perfume followed by hard slaps to Jamm’s face) and Ron and Leslie playing out various scenarios in which Tammy might try to keep Jamm from ending their relationship. Leslie’s Tammy impression was pretty damn impressive. And of course, it ends with Tammy getting naked in the library where she works.

After attending Joan Callamezzo’s Walk-of-Fame ceremony (because Pawnee, Indiana apparently has a walk-of-fame), April feels discontent with her job. Does she really love what she’s doing or has she just been going along with things for the past ten years. Ben tries to help her find her passion, so naturally they visit a morgue. This is so suited to April that I can’t believe they haven’t done it before on the show (I’m also surprised her good pal Orin wasn’t creeping people out there). But, unfortunately, when April learns she’ll have to go to school for three years, this profession is wiped off the list of possibility. Donna helpfully tells her that the root of her problem is Saturn’s Return.

In other news, Tom and Andy go to Chicago so Tom can reunite with former girlfriend Lucy, who is still as cool as ever. She and Tom are getting along great, and Tom offers her a job as the manager at his restaurant when she drops the bomb that she has a boyfriend. He still gives her the job and Andy says what everyone at home is thinking: They’re going to fall in love. Also, spaghetti that has dropped on the floor is subject to the 5-second rule. Also, apparently in 2017, the Chicago Cubs win the World Series and people on twitter find that super unlikely.

So that’s it – the premiere of Season 7. Damn, if it’s not going to be sad when it’s over.

Movie Review: Into the Woods

Into-the-Woods-Movie-PosterLast weekend, two friends and I went to see Into the Woods.  It was Sunday night, cold, the theater was only mildly crowded, and we shared a large popcorn (with free refills!).  I had been wanting to see the movie since the first trailers were released, simply because the cast looked incredible, I love musicals, and I love all things Disney.  I was expecting a good show and I wasn’t disappointed.

I need to probably say that I really didn’t know a ton about the story before I saw the film.  While I participated in musical theater in high school and I love singing and dancing and acting, I don’t necessary obsess over musical theater as some do.  I’d never seen the stage show, but I knew people had strong feelings regarding Bernadette Peters playing the witch and how dare the producers cast Meryl Streep instead.  I knew the story was darker than what we normally expect when it comes to Disney movies.  I knew there’d be a lot of singing and I knew the cast featured some of my favorite actors (Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine) plus some living legends (Streep, Tracy Ulman, Christine Baranski), so though I was anticipating an enjoyable film, I didn’t have many expectations beyond that.

into the woods the bakers wifeThe film kicks off with a musical number – it doesn’t hold anything back.  The leads and supporting characters are all right there, up front, their melodies combining and their stories interweaving quite beautifully.  The actual look and style of the film is lovely, but dark.  The prologue shows the characters in the daytime, but then quickly transitions into the woods and darker locales.  The further into the movie, the darker the atmosphere seems to get – matching the events surrounding the characters.

The first half of the movie follows The Baker (James Cordon) and his Wife (Blunt) as they try and collect some rather unusual ingredients for a potion the Witch (Streep) plans on making in 3 days at the Blue Moon.  The supporting characters posses these ingredients and are blissfully unaware of their importance as they go about trying to find their happily ever afters.  The Baker’s Wife really steals this portion of the film.  She’s lovely and subtle and clever and every time she opens her mouth to sing the audience (i.e. me) were surprised by how beautiful a voice she has.  I really hope Blunt does more musicals in the future, as her singing voice was my favorite from the film.

into the woods the princeMy favorite musical number, however, was most definitely “Agony,” sung by Cinderella’s Prince (Pine) and Rapunzel’s Prince (Billy Magnussen).  It’s the kind of song you can’t get out of your head and I’ve found myself playing it over and over and over on youtube ever since getting home from watching the movie.  In fact, I’m listening to it right now as I type.  The song, already amazing, gets even better with the visuals from the film.  I was listening to the NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour’s podcast discussing this film and they mentioned how in the stage version of Into the Woods, there is very little set decoration and the actors are often playing on a bare stage, but the setting in the movie for this song was absolutely brilliant.  I don’t want to give it away, because it is incredibly funny and fitting and had the whole audience laughing throughout, so I’ll just say, go and watch it and come back and tell me how much you loved it.

Chris Pine is simply hysterical in this role – best casting award.

The second half of the movie shifts tone slightly drastically, as our cast of characters must now fight a giant who has begun “terrorizing” the countryside.  I’ve read in the stage version that there is a intermission in between the two acts, which I’m sure makes the transition seem less jarring, but I do think the movie did the best it could in making it.

The film ends with our characters all learning something about themselves and the nature of others.  Cinderella (Kendrick) and the Baker’s “No One is Alone” swan song is hauntingly beautiful (and another one I’ve listened to several times since seeing the movie) and gets a nice reprieve from the Baker’s Wife at the very end.

My biggest complaint with the film is that all of the music shares the same tone and musicality.  There are very few tempo changes and no variation in instruments – it’s all winds and strings complimenting the piano (at least, that’s what my untrained ears hear).  I’m not sure if this is a trademark of Stephen Sondheim’s musicals, but I found myself wishing the songs were more distinguishable from one another.

Final verdict – definitely a movie I’ll buy once it’s on dvd.  I’ll probably also buy the soundtrack in the meantime.  It makes me want to see the stage version, but I’m glad I saw the movie first, because hopefully that means I’ll be able to love both!