In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Find out about the major update that will knock Spaceship Earth out of commission for 2½ years.
  • Disneyland Resort will not restart its new hotel project … which is awkward for Downtown Disney.
  • Get a look at some creepy cotton candy themed to Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.
  • Learn where you can screen 12 minutes of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms before its release.
  • Calling all pirate fans: Captain Jack Sparrow is now available to meet at the Magic Kingdom.
  • And more!

Read More »

I can pinpoint the exact moment I became a fan of Quentin Tarantino’s work. It wasn’t in the 1990s, though Tarantino’s influence reigned hard that decade and I had an appreciation for his films, if not an outright love for them. No, my conversion came at a theater on opening day, October 10, 2003, when I watched something completely unexpected happened in an early scene of Kill Bill, Vol. 1, starring Uma Thurman.

Being a fan of a celebrity and a fan of his or her work are two different things. That’s an important distinction to make in 2018. This time last year, the Harvey Weinstein scandal was just beginning to unfold. As the effect of it spread through Hollywood and the culture at large, Thurman herself would become the subject of a New York Times article revealing a “dark undercurrent that twisted the triangle” of her, Tarantino, and Weinstein. In the midst of a societal paradigm shift, it would renew the debate about separating art from the artist and whether or not that’s possible or even appropriate.

Fifteen years later, the character of The Bride, “created by Q & U,” or Quentin and Uma, has taken on new meaning as an icon of what Thurman called “survival energy.” From the opening shot of Kill Bill, Vol. 1, she’s a woman subjected to rough treatment, forced to run a gauntlet of victimizers in an attempt to endure and prevail.

Read More »

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • See the first concept for the Harry Potter coaster that’s set to open in Islands of Adventure next year.
  • Watch 4K video of SeaWorld Orlando’s new raft ride, which contains the world’s tallest water drop.
  • Infinity Gauntlet Sippers are back in supply at Disneyland. Note to eBay buyers: the gems aren’t real.
  • Guess which two totally random, non-Disney movies have Easter eggs at Disneyland Resort.
  • Rafiki has received a stay of execution but Stitch’s Great Escape is officially kaput at Disney World.
  • And more!

Read More »

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Watch 32,000 dominos fall in an elaborate maze themed to Walt Disney World’s Toy Story Land.
  • Say goodbye to Rafiki’s Planet Watch and live actors in Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
  • Who needs math? People calculating guest turnaround in the Millennium Falcon ride, that’s who.
  • Disney World is about to implement a new ticket pricing plan based on the date of your park visit.
  • The award for “theme park fan of the week” goes to the guy recreating Fantasyland in his basement.
  • Guess which Florida theme park is rated number one for the fourth year in a row on TripAdvisor.
  • And more!

Read More »

Stephen King recently celebrated his 71st birthday and if you tuned into Castle Rock — Hulu’s streaming television series based on characters and settings from the world of King — you might have been going through withdrawals since the show’s finale. For fans eager to get caught up in the mania of another mystery-driven show like Lost or Twin PeaksCastle Rock scratched a very specific itch, getting its hooks into Redditors and inspiring articles likening King to the Charles Dickens of the 21st century.

The effect that Castle Rock had on me is that it made me want to go back and rediscover King’s stories across all forms of media, including but not limited to movies. This ranking of the many movies adapted from King’s books is a good guide for those who want to go down that particular rabbit hole; but in the same way that Castle Rock teased the existence of other realities beyond the one its characters inhabited, there’s a wide world of King content out there and it doesn’t look to be letting up its expansion anytime soon.

As it turns out, the Stephen King renaissance extends well beyond movies to a vast multiverse of multimedia, everything from books to audiobooks to comic books and other streaming TV shows and streaming movies. Most of these stories work as standalone narratives but taken as parts of a whole, they also further enrich and enhance each other. Let’s venture off the beaten path of theatrical releases and dive deep into eight other corners of the Stephen King multiverse.

Read More »

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • “The bare necessities of life” … like an India pavilion and Jungle Book ride … could come to Epcot.
  • Prepare to have your butts baked in the high-flying “oven” gondolas of the Disney Skyliner system.
  • Guess which two TV superheroes dropped in like grizzly bears on a couple of Pandora glampers.
  • Oswald the Lucky Rabbit’s luck has taken a turn for the worse at Disney California Adventure.
  • Learn who invented the sandwich and how that relates to Downtown Disney’s restaurant scene.
  • And more!

Read More »

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Get the lowdown on Stranger-Things-inspired dishes and other food at Halloween Horror Nights.
  • See concept art of the Jurassic World area at Universal Studios Beijing.
  • “The hips don’t lie:” Shakira made an appearance at Disneyland Resort this week.
  • Watch a life-size puppet of Miguel from Coco get in on the mariachi fun at California Adventure.
  • Who’s ready for Mary Poppins Returns … and a Mary Poppins ride at Epcot?
  • And more!

Read More »

What do you get when you mix an invisible hunter-alien with thermal vision, two future U.S. governors, the man who played Apollo Creed in Rocky, and a band of other hypermasculine types in the jungle? To paraphrase Carl Weathers (as himself) in Arrested Development: “Baby, you got a stew going.”

It’s a stew of meatheads and monster menace. The word “testosterone” is one you’ll hear tossed around a lot in reference to Predator, the original 1987 movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. With the way the camera luxuriates in Schwarzenegger’s bulging bicep as he clasps hands with Weathers and flexes, it’s easy to see why. His character, Dutch, is the last we see disembark the chopper at the beginning of the movie. One by one, Dutch’s men have come filing out of the chopper until the hero is revealed kicking back in his seat, sporting aviator sunglasses and chomping on a cigar. Predator exudes machismo right from the get-go. There’s more to this movie, however, than off-color jokes and muscle-bound men on a mission.

One of the men in Dutch’s elite unit is, of course, played by a young Shane Black, whose screenwriting career had gotten off to a big start that year with Lethal Weapon. Now Black is back as the director of The Predator, the sixth overall movie in the franchise (counting crossovers with Aliens). As this newest installment hits theaters, let’s take a look back at what made the first Predator so great.

Read More »

Lost in Translation Legacy

I used to work in the same building as the hotel where Lost in Translation was filmed.

The Park Hyatt Tokyo occupies the upper 14 floors of the 52-story Shinjuku Park Tower. Even before staying at the hotel last month as part of my honeymoon, I had taught a business English course on one of the office floors. On more than one occasion, I had visited the New York Bar and Grill, the famous real-life venue on the hotel’s top floor where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson’s characters, Bob and Charlotte, first meet in the movie. The place attracts a lot of tourists. At the beginning of the “Tokyo Nights” episode of his CNN show Parts Unknown, it’s where the late Anthony Bourdain sat, sipping a beer, talking directly to the camera about the “transformative experience” of visiting Japan’s capital for the first time.

It’s an old line but in this case, one that holds true: the place itself is a character in the movie (if not, alas, the people). Beginning its stateside run with a limited release in Los Angeles on September 12, 2003, Lost in Translation came along fifteen years ago and showed the Western world the ultimate cinematic vision of Tokyo. No other modern Hollywood film is as strongly identified with this place as Sofia Coppola’s. Yet on a broader level, the movie could be set almost anywhere. Strip away the named setting and Lost in Translation endures as a timeless film that evokes a mood of loneliness, romance, and ennui against the backdrop of a big city. Despite its underrepresentation of the Japanese and the multi-layered invocation in the film’s title about something being “lost,” that feeling does translate and indeed resonate profoundly, speaking to anyone who’s ever been away from home or felt alienated in any new environment.

Read More »

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

Disneyland - A Bug's Land Construction - Marvel

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Florida is gearing up for Halloween Horror Nights with some last-minute haunted house previews.
  • Jurassic Park: The Ride and A Bug’s Land have both permanently closed in California.
  • Feast your eyes on this year’s Haunted Mansion Holiday gingerbread house at Disneyland.
  • Better start brushing up on Star Wars trivia if you want to work at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
  • Starbucks has its fingers in a lot of pies and now those pies include Hong Kong Disneyland.
  • And more!

Read More »