Directed by: Greta Gerwig
Run time: 1 hour 34 minutes
Going to the movies is often a means of escape. You leave your typical life behind and travel to another country or even another universe and nothing has to be realistic. Animals can talk or gravity doesn’t exist or magic is alive and people can fly. There is an inciting incident that sets the hero on a certain path with a story arc that builds to a climactic ending and it all falls into place. That’s a classic movie experience.
Sometimes though a movie comes along that just invites you to live in someone’s life for a little while. That’s what happens in Lady Bird, where first-time director Greta Gerwig presents you with a year in the life of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan). In this fascinating semi-autobiographical story, we get to be voyeurs in the tumultuous senior year of Christine, who calls herself Lady Bird. It’s 2003 and Lady Bird lives in Sacramento on the wrong side of the tracks with her mom Marion (Laurie Metcalf), out of work father Larry (Tracy Letts), older brother Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues) and his girlfriend. Lady Bird attends a Catholic school to spare her from the less than stellar neighborhood school. While the artistic Lady Bird aspires to attend a fancy liberal east coast school, her finances and grades don’t quite match up to that lofty goal. This leads to a long simmering feud between mother and daughter.
Eager to make her mark in her senior year, Lady Bird and best friend Julie (the adorable Beanie Feldstein) successfully try out for the school play and embrace their theatrical sides. Lady Bird falls for fellow actor Danny (Lucas Hedges) and the pair begin a sweet all-encompassing romance that perfectly captures that feeling of first love. Of course the romance doesn’t last, and soon Lady Bird decides to win over the hipster outsider Kyle (Timothee Chalamet). To do this, she must befriend the popular girl, pretend she’s rich, and ditch her best friend. As you can imagine this plan also doesn’t go well for Lady Bird. Her trials and tribulations continue as she heads toward graduation and makes her big decision about where to attend college. Again, this story isn’t told in a traditional way, but we definitely see the development of Lady Bird’s character in her senior year. Read More →
Directed by: Stephen Chbosky
Run Time: 1 hour 53 minutes
While volunteering at the school book fair a few years ago, one book consistently sold out and every day we would scramble to restock it. It was a bright blue book with a simple cartoon picture on the front called Wonder and it was all these kids could talk about! I was eager to find out what all the fuss was about, so my son and I both read and loved the book. I was completely astonished by how beautiful, honest and impactful the story was. When I learned that Hollywood had caught on to this gem of a story and planned to make a film, my first thought was complete dismay. If they butchered this perfect tale I would never forgive them. It was with great trepidation that my son and I headed to the theater—we were both feeling extremely protective of the story and I kept wishing to myself as the lights dimmed “please don’t screw this up” repeatedly. I am thrilled to say my wish came true.
If you haven’t yet read the book (and why haven’t you? Go get a copy right now!) Wonder tells the story of Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a ten year old born with severe facial differences. Auggie has endured dozens of surgeries over his short life and has been home-schooled by his loving mom Isabel (Julia Roberts) when not in the hospital. Now that he’s healthy and old enough, Isabel and her husband Nate (Owen Wilson) have decided it’s time for Auggie to attend real school. While Nate is hesitant—even comparing sending Auggie to sending a lamb to the slaughter—Isabel is determined. The first day of school is nerve wracking for everyone—including big sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) and they all give Auggie a pep talk before he walks into school for the first time. Mom Isabel quietly prays that the children will be nice to her son—a prayer familiar to so many moms as they throw their children into the unprotected wilderness of school. Read More →
Same Kind of Different as Me
Directed by: Michael Carney
Run Time: 1 hour 59 minutes
My journey to discovering Same Kind of Different as Me started not by reading the successful book that inspired the film, but by reading the true story of a woman who read the bestseller and was so moved by it that she went on to do great things herself. Tasked with selecting a book for my fantastic book club, a tennis teammate recommended The Hundred Story Home (thanks Kay!) a memoir by Charlotte resident Kathy Izard. Kathy was so inspired by the story of the wonderful friendship that developed between a Texas art dealer and a homeless man in Same Kind of Different as Me that she invited the pair to speak at a fundraiser for the Urban Ministry Center in Charlotte where she regularly volunteered. Her encounter with the formerly homeless Denver Moore sent her on a life-changing quest to help with homelessness in the Queen City. Kathy’s efforts culminated in the opening of Moore Place, which houses over one hundred formerly homeless Charlotte residents. Although reading about the homeless problem in my city isn’t normally what I would consider an engrossing read, I could not put this amazing book down until I’d finished every last page. Many can relate to Kathy’s story of being a busy yet happy mom who comes to a crossroads as she wonders if she is meant to do more with her life. I highly recommend this beautiful book to anyone who hopes to reach their full potential in life (which should be everybody!) Read More →
I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend Julie Jackson. It has been such a treat getting to know Julie and her terrific family over the past year, and I’m so grateful for her friendship. Like many moms, after several years of full-time mom duty she’s decided to ease back into the working world with a part-time job at The Produce Box. If you haven’t heard of The Produce Box, it’s a fantastic service that delivers local, in-season produce to your door. It’s like having the farmer’s market come to you! Since so many moms grapple with the issue of returning to work once kids head off to school, I knew that Julie would be the perfect person to chat with!
My Little Pony: The Movie
Directed by: Jayson Thiessen
Rated: PG (I can’t even fathom why this was not rated G)
Run time: 1 hour and 39 sugary sweet minutes
Because I take my love of movies extremely seriously, I sometimes venture out to films that aren’t exactly in my wheelhouse in order to broaden my horizons. I didn’t really want to walk into the theater of My Little Pony all by myself, so I coerced my 12 year old daughter to join me by promising a nice lunch date afterwards. Besides, she loves horses and once upon a time watched the TV series about these sparkly high-pitched voiced magical creatures so why not? After all friendship is magic!
Ponyville is preparing for their first ever Friendship Festival hosted by Princess Twilight Sparkle. She is joined by her besties Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy and Rarity. Together, these are the “Mane 6” (get it? horse humor!) that are featured in the TV series. The ponies work together to finalize the details for the big event, even booking the famous Songbird Serenade (voiced by singer Sia) for the evening. Unfortunately, things go horribly awry with the arrival of the villainous Tempest Shadow, a bitter unicorn who turned to the dark side when her horn was broken. Tempest Shadow (voiced by Emily Blunt) freezes Ponyville’s leaders Princess Celestia and Princess Luna and attempts to also freeze Twilight Sparkle, but Twilight manages to escape in the nick of time. She then begins a long (and I mean long!) journey with her fellow ponies to find help and save the day. Read More →
Directed by: Hallie Meyers-Shyer
Run time: 1 hour 37 minutes
What happens when the director of classic romantic comedies like The Parent Trap, Baby Boom and Father of the Bride (Charles Shyer) has a child with the writer and director of hits including It’s Complicated, Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday (Nancy Meyers)? That child goes into the family business and directs her own romantic comedy starring the always winsome Reese Witherspoon. With a pedigree like that and a terrific cast, I was really looking forward to enjoying this new film.
The film begins with Alice Kinney (Reese Witherspoon) telling the story of her youth through lovely sepia-toned photographs and old film clips. Her father was a revered filmmaker and her mother Lillian (Candice Bergen) his muse. While not the best husband, her father was a loving dad and when he died he left Alice a beautiful (and I mean beautiful!) Spanish-style home in Los Angeles. Fast forward to the present day and this dreamy home becomes the place that Alice and her two daughters retreat to when Alice separates from her husband and leaves New York. Read More →
The Glass Castle
Directed by: Destin Daniel Cretton
Run Time: 2 hours 7 minutes
When Jeannette Walls’ best selling memoir was released in 2005, I was completely absorbed by the unbelievable true story of the author’s bleak and disturbing childhood. The beautifully written account of Walls’ astonishing family history is riveting. So I was more than eager to see the story being told on the big screen by such a fantastic cast of actors.
Jeannette (Brie Larson) begins her story as a successful gossip columnist in New York City in the ‘80s. She is engaged to a successful financial advisor, lives on Park Avenue and wears designer clothes (shoulder pads and big hair being the rage). Yet as she drives home from a fancy dinner one night, she spots her homeless parents picking through a city dumpster. Jeannette realizes that she can no longer deny her painful family past that she has kept hidden since she first moved to the city. We then flash back to Jeannette’s childhood where a very young and hungry Jeannette asks her mother Rose Mary (Naomi Watts) to fix her some lunch. Rose Mary, an aspiring artist, is too busy painting to deal with something as insignificant as food so she instructs the young child to cook her own meal. This attempt goes horribly awry and the child gets seriously burned when her dress catches on fire. When Jeannette is visited by her family in the hospital, it becomes obvious very quickly that this family is not well. Her father Rex (Woody Harrelson) fights with the staff and eventually sneaks Jeannette out of the hospital to avoid paying the bill. The family then hits the road and they continue to move every time Rex loses a job or they need to skip out on paying their rent. The family of six finally ends up in Rex’s hometown of Walsh, West Virginia where they settle into a dilapidated house without electricity or running water. Rex insists that he will build his family an amazing home on the property with stunning glass walls—a glass castle. Read More →
Directed by: Jon Watts
Run time: 2 hours 13 minutes
Spider-Man: Homecoming is the latest effort to reboot the story of the popular teenage web slinger also known as Peter Parker. Our friendly neighborhood wall crawler first appeared on the big screen in 2002 with Tobey Maguire playing the lead opposite Kirsten Dunst as love interest Mary Jane (remember that epic upside-down kiss in the rain?) After three successful movies, the series ended in 2007. The Spidey story was brought back to life again in 2012 when Andrew Garfield donned the red and blue spandex suit as he fought the bad guys with girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone—his real life gal at the time) by his side. But the second Amazing Spider Man series only lasted for two films, ending in 2014. Behind the scenes, Sony Pictures (which owns the rights to Spider-Man) negotiated a very complicated deal with Marvel Films (which produces the Avengers superhero movies) to rebrand Spider-Man into the Avengers Universe (which includes Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, etc…). This new version of Spidey is nothing like the previous two series. Confused yet?
If you saw Captain America: Civil War (2016) you’ve already met our newest Spider-Man, played by the winsome Tom Holland. In that film, Spider-Man was recruited by Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man/Robert Downey Jr.) to help in an epic battle between the superheroes. Spider-Man: Homecoming begins with an over-eager Peter Parker filming his big trip to work with the Avengers on his cell phone. It’s a hilarious montage of scenes of exactly what you would expect a cheeky 15 year old teenager to film and it perfectly captures what it must have been like for this kid to be hand picked by Tony Stark to work with a bunch of famous superheroes. After the epic battle ends, Peter Parker is sent on his way by Tony Stark and told to lay low and keep in touch via Tony’s right-hand man Happy (Jon Favreau). After working with the Avengers, Peter doesn’t want to go back to his normal and boring high-school life and he seeks out ways to be a hero and use his powers. This leads him to an encounter with arms dealer Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton) who is selling extremely deadly weapons made with alien materials. Peter disregards his mentor Tony’s directive to steer clear of danger and embarks on a mission to take down Toomes and prove his worth to the Avengers team. Read More →
I met Susie several years ago when my sister was looking for a cottage to rent on Kiawah Island. She does a terrific job of ensuring that her clients have an amazing vacation and that dedication has quickly built her business to include 30 rental properties. She’s dealt with all sorts of unique challenges (like breaking up the squirrel party on the roof of my sunroom!) and loves to turn vacations into terrific family memories.
Married to: Joe Oringel for 22 years
Children: Jake, 17, Jules, 15, and Daniel, 12
Years in Charlotte: 14
Hometown: I was an Air Force brat and I went to 8 schools in 12 years
Occupation: Founder of Kiawah By Owner, LLC – a vacation rental agency
Joe and I moved to Charlotte in 2003 and started talking about getting a small beach cottage. We had visited several beaches and then went to Kiawah – it was the very best! We immediately fell in love with the island and quickly bought and began to renovate a 2-bedroom cottage. We love the natural vegetation on Kiawah with its old oak and magnolia trees. Riding our bikes on the hard packed beach sand and watching the dolphins are our favorites way to enjoy Kiawah. Read More →
Wonder Woman—it’s about time but it was worth the wait!
I grew up watching Wonder Woman. Whether it was the Super Friends cartoon on Saturday morning (where she had that fantastic invisible jet) or the live action Lynda Carter version on TV, I was completely hooked. I even had my very own Wonder Woman bathing suit (though it never occurred to me at the time that I couldn’t fill out the suit quite like Lynda could!) So I was thrilled to hear that Hollywood was finally making a movie about my favorite childhood superhero. We first met Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman in the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice where she had a relatively small role. This time around, we get her full origin story and it’s quite a tale. Read More →