Summer Blockbusters Coming Soon

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Summertime is made for blockbusters!

With the long holiday weekend upon us, there’s always a chance that Mother Nature will rain on our parade and send us running indoors, either seeking shelter from the rain or to escape the heat. Some of us don’t even need a reason to duck into the theater for a matinee and be transported to another world. Plus, it’s always the right time for a big bucket of popcorn, a box of Milk Duds and a super-sized, lemon-lime slushie.

Thought I’d share a list of the new movies in theaters now, and some coming very soon.

July 4th. Image of july 4 wooden color calendar on blue background. Summer day. Empty space for text. Independence Day Of America

These include the amazing Finding Dory, which has been dominating the box office since it’s release, grossing $285 million in its first 10 days. And The BFG, (The Big Friendly Giant) which reteams E.T. screenwriter, Melissa Mathison and the legendary Steven Spielberg, his first time directing a Disney movie.

If you’re looking for epic adventure this holiday weekend, here comes The Legend of Tarzan, starring eye-candy for everybody, Alexander Skarsgard and Margot Robbie (who will appear in the DC Comics blockbuster, The Suicide Squad, with Jared Leto as The Joker, later this summer).

Which summer movie are you dying to see? We’d love to hear your reviews.

On behalf of all of us at Smart Perks, we hope you have a fabulous and safe 4th of July weekend.

 

Blogger Melanie Bisson, who is pet-obsessed, has seen every trailer for The Secret Life of Pets at least a dozen times.

TisTheSeason

The presents are opened, Santa has come and gone. The feasting is over, but the fun’s just begun! This is it…the movie lovers’ most wonderful time of year when the build-up to the Golden Globes® and Oscars® meets holiday blockbusters head on.

I’m personally excited for the first onscreen re-teaming of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg since The Other Guys, in the highly anticipated Daddy’s Home. I kid, I kid. I think I’ll wait for that one to show up at The Red Box. It’s rated PG. But I have a feeling the teenagers in your household would much rather see something about “a galaxy far, far away.”

I asked a few of my colleagues around the office to share the movies they’re most looking forward to. I think there’s something for just about everyone here.

Damien Q.  Web Designer, Guest Blogger

Three movies I’m excited to see this holiday season are Krampus, The Hateful Eight and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Krampus

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Krampus – Universal Studios

Krampus is a comedy-horror based on old German folklore that goes back to pre-Christian alpine traditions. Krampus is a horned anthropomorphic figure who punishes misbehaving children, the shadow of Santa Claus. Adam Scott, known for Parks & Rec, and David Koechner, known from SNL and Anchor Man star in this creepy comedy, a throwback to ‘80s horror.

Also stars: Toni Collette, Conchatta Ferrell

The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight is Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, and, as usual, is expected to be a masterpiece – currently holding a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Hateful Eight takes place in post-Civil War Wyoming, as bounty hunters (Tarantino assembles many of his favorite actors once again) try to find shelter during a blizzard, but get involved in a plot of betrayal and deception. Mayhem ensues. Because Tarantino.

Who’s in it: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This is the next film in a series of endless Star Wars films from Disney, but the first directed by J.J. Abrams. After the whole Jar Jar Binks debacle and other prequels, Abrams is hoping to redeem the franchise after those horrible films (IMHO) released by George Lucas from 1999 to 2005. What else can I say? Star Wars! Plot points are to be kept a secret, don’t ruin it for yourself.

Who’s in it: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver

Catherine B. Copy Writer, Blogger

Joy

Why I want to see it: First of all, I loved Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, so if they’re teaming up again for this one, I’m there! I believe this is the fourth film featuring these two talented actors together – I’m sure it’s because they have great chemistry and are fun to watch. Secondly, I enjoy movies about real people who overcome hardships and obstacles to fulfill their dreams. I’m also drawn to emotionally-driven comedies with interesting characters. This seems to cover all the bases.

Plot: Joy is the story of a family across four generations centered on the girl who becomes the woman who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right. Betrayal, treachery, the loss of innocence and the scars of love, pave the road in this intense emotional and human comedy about becoming a true boss of family and enterprise facing a world of unforgiving commerce.

Who else is in it: Robert DeNiro, Dianne Ladd, Virginia Madsen, and Isabella Rossellini.

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The Revenant – Mammoth Studios

The Revenant

Why I want to see it:
After watching the trailer and learning that this film is inspired by true events about survival against unspeakable odds, I’m really anxious to see this movie on the big screen. Other reasons it’s on my must-see list – it’s being touted as one of the most anticipated films of 2016 and it stars one of my favorite actors, Leonardo DiCaprio. I’ve been a big fan of his since I first saw him in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and I heard he’s spectacular in this movie. Maybe this will be the year he finally wins that elusive Oscar!

Plot:
The Revenant is an immersive and visceral cinematic experience capturing one man’s epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit. In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness in the 1800s, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. In a quest to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption.

Who else is in it: Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Kristoffer Jones

Batman V Superman: The Dawn of Justice

Why I want to see it: Also listed as one of the most anticipated films of 2016, but you’ll have to wait until March to see it! When my kids were young I’d take them to see every kind of superhero movie there was and I admit I enjoyed them as much as they did – the cool getups, the stunts, the special effects… it was pure entertainment and a great escape from our everyday lives. I’m still drawn to this genre and this particular movie piques my interest because it has two of the most popular DC comic heroes battling each other. I mean, who do you root for Superman or Batman? It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Plot: Fearing the actions of Superman (Henry Cavill) left unchecked, Gotham City’s own formidable, forceful vigilante Batman (Ben Affleck) takes on Metropolis’ most revered, modern-day savior, while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs. And with Batman and Superman at war with one another, a new threat Doomsday quickly arises, putting mankind in greater danger than it’s ever known before.

Who else is in it: Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Jeremy Irons, Michael Shannon

Katie U. Copy Editor, Blogger

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Sisters – Universal Studios

Sisters

Plot: Two sisters, one very loose and childish (Tina Fey), and the other uptight and divorced (Amy Poehler), throw one last party at their childhood home, which their parents are about to sell.

Why I want to see it: I’ve been waiting months to see this movie, and although it came out this past weekend, I was too busy to go see it! Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s are nothing less than national treasures, both for their comedic abilities as well as their social activism, so I’d watch paint dry if they were the painters. This duo is truly dynamic, and getting to see them on screen again after their amazing job hosting The Golden Globes, I’m all about it.

Other stars: Maya Rudolph, John Cena, Ike Barinholtz, James Brolin

Hail Caesar

Plot: Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a Hollywood “fixer” helping the production of the upcoming film entitled Hail Caesar starring famous actor Baird Whitlock (George Clooney). When a hungover Whitlock is kidnapped by a group named The Future, Mannix is the one in charge of collecting $100,000 and rescuing him.

Why I want to see it: I mean, hello! A film directed and written by the Coen brothers with a crazy talented cast (I will see any movie ScarJo is in), but the plot itself sounds fascinating. It’s categorized as a comedy, drama and a musical, and that fact alone makes it seem like it will be nonstop entertaining. I’m also somewhat of a Coen brother fanatic, so altogether, it’s pretty much a can’t-miss for me.

Other stars: Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Emily Beecham, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand

Trumbo

Plot: Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was a Hollywood screenwriter who, in 1947, was blacklisted along with other artists for refusing to testify to the United States Congress regarding alleged Communist propaganda in Hollywood films. He spent eleven months in federal prison in 1950.

Why I want to see it: Doesn’t this movie just seem to scream Give Me All of The Oscars? Personally, I’m excited to see Trumbo more for the historical aspect. I love biographical dramas, and although I had never heard of Dalton Trumbo specifically, I did know the history of the Hollywood Ten and found it fascinating. Though this movie seems like it might be dryer and less purely entertaining than the other two, I have the highest hopes for it.

Other stars: Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Louis C.K., Elle Fanning, John Goodman

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Have fun at the Movies, Your Friends at Smart Perks!

So there you have it…nine great flicks. At my house, we’ll probably see something funny, like Sisters. Although if The Revenant were out on Christmas (not released until January 6th nationwide) I would see that for sure. I love a good man against nature survival story.

My other dark horse, if I can convince my husband to go, would be The Danish Girl. Eddie Redmayne is one of my favorite actors. He was AMAZING in The Theory of Everything, Les Miz, and My Week With Marilyn. If you’re staying home, Netflix these.

On behalf of all of us at Smart Perks, we hope your holidays are just like the movies, full of laughs and entertainment, with more love, joy and music than drama.

– Ho! Ho! Ho! from The Holly Jolly Blogger, Melanie B., a Smart Perks employee.

 

NewYear

“Cheers to a New Year and another chance to get it right.”
– Oprah Winfrey

It’s time to uncork the champagne and bid adieu to 2015! We all know New Year’s Eve is a big deal and people all over the globe will be celebrating in a big way. You’ll find everything from extravagant, black-tie galas at high-class hotels to Karaoke contests in small town bars. If you’re not out carousing with friends you’re probably glued to your TV watching millions of spirited revelers take over Times Square.

Back in my single days, my friends and I would get all decked out and pay a month’s worth of wages to attend some lavish soiree, hoping to meet a rich bachelor (a girl’s gotta dream, right?).

Other years we’d go bar hopping and spend half the night fending off inebriated admirers and the other half waiting in line for drinks. Of course, we could always count on a few brawls and plenty of PDA to keep us entertained. Ah, good times.

If you’ve ever been out on New Year’s Eve you know how crazy (and expensive) it can be. So, if you want to take a break from the outlandish parties and crowded bars, I have some ideas for a fun evening with friends or family at (or close to) home.

Neighborhood Block Party. My sister-in-law and her husband live in Florida and every New Year’s Eve they get together with their neighbors for a barbecue. They’re on a cul-de-sac so they’re able to set up grills and tables right on the street and roam around with drinks in hand. At midnight they shoot off fireworks. The best part is everyone can walk home afterwards.

Progressive Dinner. Another great way to celebrate the New Year with your neighbors is to have a progressive dinner – appetizers at one house, the main course at another and dessert at a third. Everyone contributes something for each course.

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Theme Party/Potluck. Get the gang together at someone’s house and have everyone bring a snack or appetizers and their beverage of choice. To add a fun twist to your gathering, have it revolve around a specific theme. We do this every year and so far we’ve had pirates, hippies, the Old West, famous TV characters, a Hawaiian Luau, and a Mexican Fiesta. Often times the food, decorations and party favors are tied to the theme.

For entertainment, you could play games, watch movies and tune into one of those New Year’s Eve extravaganzas on TV. Don’t forget the party hats, foil horns and champagne!

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Girls’ Night In. Watch romantic comedies or episodes of TV shows like Sex and the City, Downton Abbey and Desperate Housewives, maybe play some board games or even a little Truth or Dare! Forget the diet for one night (it’s the holidays after all) and indulge in your favorite comfort foods. For beverages, how ‘bout mixing up some delicious “girly” drinks, like cosmos, sparkling sangrias, or lemon drop martinis. Check out mygirlishwhims.com for easy and tasty drink recipes.

Dinner for Two. No reservations, no problem! You can always have a romantic dinner at home. Some menu ideas: Filet Mignon with baked potatoes & tossed salad, a pasta dish like Fettucine Alfredo or Spaghetti alla Carbonara with Caesar salad & French bread, or seafood with steamed asparagus and rice pilaf. Not sure what kind of wine to serve with your meal? Click here for a wine & food pairing chart  Create a romantic mood with lighted candles and soft music. Or, make it more casual and have pizza and beer. Hey, whatever floats your boat!

Happy new year card on table set for party

Family Movie/Game Night. When our kids were young, we’d rent movies or watch them on VHS tapes (remember those?). Now that there’s Blu-ray the picture and sound is so much better. Or, make it easy and stream movies directly to your TV. Enjoy a few “concessions” like popcorn, candy and beverages while you’re at it. As for games, you can play board games, cards, or build a puzzle together.

Click here for a list of the top 100 movies for kids & families from Rotten Tomatoes.

Click here for a list of the best board games for families.

Click here for fun New Year’s Eve games for kids and adults.
Of course, every New Year’s celebration needs some good eats. So, I’ve included a few of my favorite appetizer recipes:

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Artichoke Dip from marthastewartliving.com

Buffalo Chicken Dip
Sweet ‘n Tangy Meatballs
Bacon-Wrapped Smokies
Artichoke Dip
Fiesta Pinwheels

Here’s to a happy, safe and healthy new year!

Catherine B., a Smart Perks employee, enjoys celebrating the New Year with good friends, good food and good wine (in this case a sparkling Asti Spumante).

May your troubles be less,
And your blessings be more.
And nothing but happiness come through your door.
– Irish Toast