June 29, 2009

Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie

Trailer's up!

Looks kind of dark, right? The whole reason I watch/love Wizards of Waverly Place is because it's really cute and funny without being too cliche - I hope some of those qualities make it into the film.

Do We Really Need a Pirates 4?

A couple weeks ago, Jerry Bruckheimer let the news slip that getting a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie made was high priority on Disney's to-do list. He told HitFix:

"I think for Disney it will mostly be 'Pirates,' obviously," Bruckheimer says. "That's a great franchise for them and for us too. Beloved, with a great character and Johnny's really excited about coming back to Captain Jack."

I love the Pirates franchise as much as anybody, but do I want to see Jack and the gang return a fourth time? No. Because the punchlines are now stale, the happy surprise of Johnny Depp's performance is now gone, and there's no story left to tell. What now? Captain Jack sails to America to partake in the Boston Tea Party?

Pirates 3 was a near-disaster with no discernable plot than meandered on for nearly three hours (if anyone can explain the sequence with the crabs to me, please get in touch). Granted, it also made a damn lot of booty, so of course Disney execs would want to keep milking their cash cow. Except that to make a fourth film feels cheap. And kind of desperate. And would taint the legacy of the first three films.

But finally, Jerry Bruckheimer is an awesome producer who's created plenty of great, entertaining, financially successful movies thus far - and many that I would count among my favorite films of all time. And I'm sure the upcoming "Prince of Persia: Sands of Time" and "Sorcerer's Apprentice" will make plenty of money. So instead of going back to the well, why not keep creating these new movies/franchises we can all be excited about? It would certainly be better than tarnishing the Pirates franchise with an unnecessary fourth-quel.

June 28, 2009

WDW Update: Space Mountain Gets a New Track, Downtown Disney Gets Depressing, and Mexico Gets a Lot More Fun

Happy Sunday! My next trip to WDW is a month away (cannot. wait.), and here's a quick recap of some WDW news that's been making the rounds:

Murky details are coming out about Space Mountain's refurbishment. All that seems certain is the ride will get a new track, a new ceiling, and an audio-visual upgrade - presumably for the queue. Further speculation is welcome, although I still haven't gotten over the fact the attraction will be closed for our trip. Whyyy Disney gods whyyy?

For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, "Diana - The People's Princess" exhibit will be opening at Downtown Disney this July. The exhibit will be at the site of the former Virgin Megastore on Downtown Disney's West Side and will feature a collection of Diana's dresses and royal artifacts to pay tribute to her life and work. Tickets are $14.50 for ages 10+, $5 for kids 5-9. Now, I've seen this exhibit at Kensington Palace in London, and it is very nice/interesting, but does anyone else see a disconnect here? Moving from virtual fun at DisneyQuest to paying tribute to Princess Diana before stopping by Wetzel's Pretzels for some yum-yums? Princess Diana's life certainly deserves to be celebrated, but I don't think Downtown Disney is the appropriate outlet for it.

Meanwhile, Epcot's Mexico pavillion (which I've complained about before) just got a lot more interesting - a tequila bar is coming soon! No word on when this magical oasis will be open for my business, but I wonder if Epcot is planning to add additional staff out front, since having a tequila bar there will likely lead to more incidents like this.

June 21, 2009

Honey Coriander Chicken Wings - Ohana, Polynesian Resort

I have a confession to make: this might be my favorite WDW recipe I'd made to date. Why? Because it only took a half hour for this dish to be just a pile of ingredients to being on the plate and in my belly. And these guys are delicious.


5 lbs chicken wings and drumettes (I used 2 lbs, but I'm also cooking for one)
2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

Wing seasoning:
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground paprika
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Coriander wing sauce:
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Let's Cook!

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

2. Mix wing seasoning indredients in a small bowl and using a whisk.
Before ...


3. Put the chicken and 2 tablespoons of wing seasoning in a large bowl. Add enough oil to coat the chicken evenly and mix well. I didn't really measure the oil (I'm a rebel like that), but use enough so that it creates a proper marinade:

4. Spread the seasoned chicken in a single layer on prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until the thickest part of the chicken reaches 165 degrees.

(After I took this photo, my camera ran out of battery power. Thus, there are no photos to document the rest of this recipe. You'll have to take my word on things from here on out ...)

5. Place all wing sauce ingredients in a large saute pan, and bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Cook and stir until thickened - the sauce will get sticky and thick within a few minutes.

6. Transfer the cooked wings into the sauce and serve. Or if you prefer less mess, put the sauce into a small dish for dipping.

Can someone say Superbowl party? Yum!

June 15, 2009

Grapefruit Cake: Hollywood Brown Derby

Because all my TV shows are over (except for my favorite show ever) and I now have all this time on my hands, I made a layer cake. For one. Welcome to my Monday nights.

I decided to try my hand at the grapefruit cake from The Brown Derby at Disney Hollywood Studios. This was my first time making this recipe, so bear with me. All in all, it came out pretty darn good. It's not a super sweet cake, but if you're into tart things, you'll probably like it.

The Cast of Characters (Cake):
1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs (separated)
3 tablespoons grapefruit juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

And ... action!

1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into mixing bowl. Make a well in center of dry ingredients.

Well, hello.

2. Add water, oil, egg yolks, grapefruit juice, and lemon rind. Beat until smooth.

Not going to lie, my egg seperator is probably my favorite thing in the kitchen. How did I ever live without one?

3. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar separately, until whites are stiff but not dry.

Frothy egg whites, meet smooth batter.

4. Gradually fold egg whites into the cake batter, folding gently with a rubber spatula until just blended. Do not stir the mixture.

5. Pour into an ungreased 10-inch cake pan. Bake at 350º degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly touched with a finger. Invert pan on cake rack until cool.

Mmmm ...
Run spatula around edge of cake. Carefully remove from pan. With a serrated knife, gently cut layer in half. And while this is cooling ... let's make the cream cheese frosting!

The Cast of Characters: Grapefruit Cream Cheese

2 six-ounce packages of cream cheese
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
3/4 cup powdered sugar (sifted)
6 to 8 drops yellow food coloring
1 one-pound can grapefruit sections (well-drained), reserving 2 tablespoons of juice OR 3 fresh grapefruits, peeled, sectioned, and drained, reserving 2 tablespoons of juice.

And .... action!

1. Let cream cheese soften at room temperature. Beat cheese until fluffy. If you are using actual grapefruits (as in, not canned), now is a good time to prepare them.

Some people can chop food so it's pretty. I am not one of those people. My grapefruit wedges look more like tuna tartare.

2. Add lemon juice and rind.

3. Gradually blend in sugar. Beat until well blended. Add food coloring.

Before ...

... and after. The food coloring I used was super potent - only use a teensy bit!

4. Add reserved grapefruit and blend into frosting.

5. Divide the frosting evenly into two bowls. Roughly chop 2/3 of the grapefruit sections and add them to half the frosting. Spread this mixture on the bottom half of cake. Top with several grapefruit sections.

Another thing I am not great at: frosting a cake.

6. Cover with second layer of cake. Frost top and sides. Garnish with remaining grapefruit sections.

Strange yellow color (partly from my camera, partly from weird food coloring) and shoddy fruit chopping techniques aside, the cake came out tasting great. A great summer cake to take to a picnic or a block party!

June 10, 2009

Up, Up, and Away - Movie Review

I was out of town the weekend Up was released, and I had always planned I would review the film upon returning. And its been several days since I saw the film and I couldn't bring myself to write anything on it until now - I think, in part, because I was so affected and so moved by Pixar's 10th feature film that it took me some time to process my thoughts on it.

Simply put, Up is wonderful. And I cried my face off.

Up doesn't have the flash of some of Pixar's other work - the intricate details of Finding Nemo, the vibrancy of Ratatouille, or the quiet loneliness of Wall-E - but it does possess a sweetness and grace that heralds a new wave of maturity in Pixar's work. Like Wall-E, Up begins with a mostly silent montage, and as in Wall-E, the opening sequence is the film's crowning achievement. In both films, I was bawling before the 20-minute mark.

Is Up a "funny" film? Not really. Will your kids like it? Meh. In a way, Up proves that neither of those things matter, and to call either of one a shortcoming is to miss the point completely. Unlike their contemporaries at Dreamworks, Fox, and - yes - even Disney, Pixar no longer panders to their film's ratings and perceived audience. With Wall-E and now, more definitively, Up, Pixar has broken out of its own genre constraints and rather than produce movies for "the kid in all of us," made that important step forward to create art that speaks to the person in all of us.

There are no toys that come to life in Up. No bugs, or superheroes, or monsters, or talking cars. We're given a world that has very little escapist fantasy at all - it's a place where tragedy happens, parents disappoint, and heroes don't measure up. Even Dug and the talking guard dogs - the film's one genre convention - are more of a commentary on the dangers of not questioning our leaders than they are your typical cute, cuddly animated pets.

Up is a film that slaps you sideways and breaks your heart with how unflinchingly identifiable it is. The beauty of Up is in the details - the soda cap pin Carl wears every day, the bird that sits on the mantle, a jar of coins, the painting over the fireplace. Like Carl, we all have objects we attach meaning to for one reason or another, and through these possessions, the house brings Ellie to life and becomes a character in its own right. Despite what the marketing materials may imply, Up is, at its core, a love story - between Carl and Ellie, between the past we can't leave behind and the present we have to face. It's a film about letting go, and moving on - and realizing you're never too old to have one last adventure.

Toy Story 3 Trailer

This has been making the rounds for a few weeks now, but I'm posting it here anyway - because it's wednesday, and because it still makes me laugh, no matter how many times I see it:

June 9, 2009

Bay Lake Tower, Birthdays, Box Office

Before I start, a zillion apologies for being so behind on my blogging. If you follow me on twitter, you'll know I was in Ireland for a week, then it took me another week to get back into the swing of things. But I'm here, swinging, and ready to get down to business:

First off, how lame was this week's box office back and forth? Preliminary estimates had The Hangover as the top grosser, then UP edged it out, then - whoopsie just kidding - The Hangover photo-finished at the top.

Secondly, Happy Birthday Donald Duck - you're looking good for 75.

And thirdly, I was super excited to come back and see these pics of the new Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort. I've never been the hugest fan of the Contemporary, but how can you say no to this view (photo via @attractions):

Oh, the "Wishes" karaoke that would take place ....