Anne Hathaway Helps Bring Movies to Kids in Hospitals Through Lollipop Theater

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Guest Post by Stephanie Houfek

Non-Profit Raises Funds to Bring Movies to Kids in Hospitals
Everyone enjoys an escape to the movies, but for children who are confined to a hospital, a trip to the local multiplex is not possible. Lollipop Theater Network wants these children not to miss out on experiencing the joy of movies and has made it their mission to bring movies to kids at their bedside or in hospital playrooms .

To raise funds for their work, the entertainment industry charity hosted A Night Under the Stars, an outdoor movie night hosted by Anne Hathaway, held April 26 at the Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank.


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The evening featured a musical performance by dnk who got the crowd of children singing and dancing, with Anne Hathaway leading them, followed by a special screening of Rio 2.

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The event drew a variety of supporters and their families from the movie business and health care organizations, including Reimagine, Creative Artists Agency, Dolby, Christie and Real D. Food for the event was donated by vendors including Suncafe Organic Cuisine, PastaChips, Juiceology, Smari Organic Icelandic Yogurt, Babycakes, Popcornopolis, and Inside the Scoops.

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Airbrush tattoos were part of the festivities at A Night Under the Stars

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Founded in 2001, The Lollipop Theatre Network has screened more than 290 films at pediatric hospitals in 18 states where they bring current film releases to chronically ill children or those with life-threatening illnesses. The organization brings these special children a feeling of having their own premiere by rolling out the red carpet, handing out movie tickets and proving refreshments and promotional items along with guest appearances by the stars of the films.

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Frozen at El Capitan – A Winter Wonderland in Hollywood

Falling Snow and Ice Carving Usher in Cool Characters of New Disney Movie

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As an East Coaster missing white Christmases, I was refreshed by and reminded of my cold, crisp carefree days of childhood in Virginia on my recent outing to the animated feature Frozen, showing in 3D at El Capitan.  The theatre is decorated complete with an indoor winter wonderland of snow drifts and sparkling curtains of icicles and real falling snowflakes.

Living up to its legendary reputation at the best movie palace anywhere to see a Disney movie, El Capitan delivers a wondrous wintery experience in the theatre with its pre-show ice sculpting exhibit featuring former Ms. America Dominique Colell, bundled up stylishly in a dazzling white parka, along with her fellow blond-beauty accomplice, wielding chain saws and chisels.  The pair transform a block of ice into one of the film’s beloved characters, the clownish snowman Olaf, whose blissfully ignorant song, “In Summer,” his lament for warmer days, is one of the early highlights of the movie.

Olaf (Josh Gad) is the sidekick of Anna (Kristen Bell), who rolled him into a playmate as a young girl, and whom her princess sister Elsa Idina Menzel), brought to life with a wave of her hand when they played as children.  That was before Elsa learned that her powers to create Olaf, along with all sorts of frozen creations of snow and ice, were not just fun and games but a curse that could doom her and her kingdom.

A local witchdoctor of sorts tells Elsa’s royal parents to hide their daughter’s gift, and he removes the memories of Elsa’s powers from her sister’s memory.  In the Disney moment, as I have come to call it, the parents perish at sea; and so the two girls are left orphaned, with Elsa retreating to her room to keep her secret hidden, and her sister is left lonely, albeit safe.

Enter a handsome prince, an oafish ice salesman and his reindeer companion, and an conniving, greedy tradesman from a neighboring city, and chaos is unleashed and the charming kingdom of Arendell turned to a winter wasteland.

As with all Disney stories, all is resolved with a happy, happy ending.  With a delightful soundtrack of songs and an exciting array of 3D visuals, including a spectacular ice fight and one scary abominable- iceman-type monster, the forecast for Frozen is lots of fun for the whole family .  Playing at El Capitan through Jan. 5, 2014.

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Disney Releases Classics and Favorites on Blu-ray: What’s Old is New Again

New Restored Releases of Disney Classics and Favorites Now Available on Blu-Ray 

The spate of kids’ summer movie releases is over, but chances are there are still some movies your kids have not seen – because they were not born, and maybe you were not either — when these classics hit the theatres. Disney has just released a treasure trove of animated classic movies that will provide hours of delightful entertainment for families and bring back memories for parents and grandparents.

 Peter Pan: Return to Neverland

Kids can let their  imaginations soar as their favorite characters from Peter Pan, Disney’s classic adventure, return to Never Land. Debuting for the first time on Blu-ray, families can experience all the thrilling action with digitally restored picture and high-definition sound.

Wendy’s very practical and no-nonsense daughter, Jane, begins the adventure of a lifetime when the infamous Captain Hook whisks her away to the enchanted island of Never Land. It’s up to Peter Pan, Tinker Bell and the Lost Boys to help Jane believe in faith, trust and pixie dust. Available on Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy).

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Robin Hood   

To commemorate its 40th anniversary, Disney has released the unforgettable animated classic Robin Hood on Blu-ray for the first time ever.

In this legendary adventure, Robin Hood, his trusted companion Little John and his band of Merry Men outfox greedy Prince John to save the good people of Nottingham. Dashing from one daring deed to the next, Robin won’t rest until he wins the hand of Maid Marian and restores King Richard to the throne.

Included in the collection are various bonus features, which embrace deleted storyline “Love Letters”, an alternate ending, “Oo-de-lally” Disney Sing-Along Song, Disney Song Selection, Robin Hood Storybook, Robin Hood Art Gallery, and “Ye Olden Days” Bonus Short & Sing Along with the Movie. The soundtrack features the song “Love,” nominated in 1973for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.  Available on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack with Digital Copy.

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The Sword in the Stone

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Disney’s animated classic The Sword in the Stone brings together magic, humor and adventure as a young orphan named “Wart” encounters the extraordinary wizard Merlin. According to legend, only someone with the purest character and inner strength can pull the enchanted sword from the stone and claim the throne of England. Armed with newfound confidence and the power of friendship, Wart discovers his destiny and learns the best magic is the kind you find inside yourself.

The digitally restored feature includes an Academy Award-nominated music score (Best Score – Adaptation or Treatment, 1963) and a new alternative opening: “Where Wart Meets Merlin” plus all the original classic DVD release bonus features, including “Music and Magic: The Sherman Brothers,” Sing-along with The Movie, “All About Magic,” “A Knight for a Day”  and  “Brave Little Tailor.”  Available in Blu-ray Combo Pack.

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Oliver and Company

Featuring the music of Billy Joel, Bette Midler and Huey Lewis, the animated Disney classic Oliver and Company celebrates its 25th anniversary with its Blu-ray debut.  The story takes place

in the heart of New York City, where Oliver, a mischievous orphaned kitten, is befriended by Dodger, a carefree pooch and his ragtag family of misfit mutts. Life gets even better for Oliver when he is adopted by a lonely little girl named Jenny. But when tough guy Sykes and his Doberman sidekicks try to keep Jenny and Oliver apart, the spirited kitten and his newfound friends discover the meaning of courage and find a home where they truly belong.  The 25th Anniversary Edition pack includes Blu-Ray and DVD discs.

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The Muppet Movie

See how the Muppets began, with the nearly 35th Anniversary Special Edition of the original, classic that started it all—The Muppet Movie, produced by the cultural icon and Muppet creator himself, Jim Henson.  Witness the hilarious origins of everyone’s favorite Muppets–Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Animal, and the rest—as they embark on an inspirational and laugh-filled road trip to follow their Hollywood dreams.  Now for the first time, you and your family can see the Muppets make the “rainbow connection” in vibrant Blu-ray HD.

Complete with never-before-seen bonus features and the never ending entertainment of Disney Intermission (press pause and see what happens).  Experience the beloved Muppet classic that has been praised for decades.

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 Seeing Double – Disney Two-Fers

Disney knows that kids can’t get enough of some movies, so they recently released two-title special packages of family favorites for a double feature of fun.  These 2-Movie Collections come in a 3-Disc Blu-ray™ Combo Pack (Blu-ray + 2 DVDs) for $29.99.

Lilo and Stitch and Lilo and Stick 1: Stitch Has a Glitch Two-Movie Collection

Lilo and Stitch is the story of Lilo, a lonely little girl, and Stitch the mischievous little creature from outer space. When Stitch crash-lands in Hawaii, Lilo adopts him as her pet, but he soon turns her world upside down. Stitch takes Hawaii by storm, wreaking havoc and hanging ten while he evades the alien bounty hunters who are after him, and also learning about loyalty and friendship. Featuring six original Elvis Presley songs, Lilo and Stitch is fun for the entire family.

The laughter continues in the sequel Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch. As Stitch settles into life with his human family it appears his molecular makeup is out of whack and his friendship with Lilo is threatened as a result. Lilo and her friends must find a way to restore his “goodness” level before he ruins everything, including Lilo’s big hula competition – the same competition her mother won years before.

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Emperor’s New Groove and Kronk’s New Groove Two-Movie Collection

The fun begins with The Emperor’s New Groove, featuring an all-star cast and Academy Award-nominated music by Sting (Best Music, Original Song, Sting, 2000). When the young and spoiled Emperor Kuzco (voice of David Spade) is transformed into a llama by his sinister advisor Yzma (voice of Eartha Kitt) and her henchman Kronk (voice of Patrick Warburton), it takes a thoughtful peasant named Pasha (voice of John Goodman) to restore the kingdom and show Kuzco just how much fun it is to be true to yourself.

Continue the fun with Kronk’s New Groove. The sequel stars Yzma’s henchman Kronk in a riotous adventure that’s filled with hysterical mayhem and mishaps. Kronk cooks up a get-rich quick scheme to impress his Dad. But when things go wrong, Kronk kicks into comical high gear and discovers that the true riches in life are his friends and being “true to your groove.”

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 Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Atlantis: Milo’s Return Two-Movie Collection

In this animated action adventure combo set, Milo Thatch and his fearless crew dive into the mysteries of the sea.  The group’s underwater expedition brings them face-to-face with gigantic sea monsters, spectacular spirits and the mythical land of Atlantis while they discover the power of friendship and teamwork.

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A Fight Movie with Heart – CHAVEZ: Cage of Glory

Martial Arts Star Hector Echavarria Brings Family Values to a Cage Fighting Film

Hector and posterI had never heard of cage fighting before I saw a sneak preview of Hector Echavarria’s new movie, CHAVEZ:  Cage of Glory, opening in theatres nationwide September 13.  I expected blood and sweat, but not the tears, mine that is.  On the outside it may be rippling with muscle, but inside, CHAVEZ is a whole lot of heart. 

Through the frighteningly realistic, gritty teeth-gnashing, hard-hitting, bare-knuckle punches and body slams against the rattling chain link enclosure, there’s a story that anyone with a family can relate to.  Echavarria, a real-life martial arts megastar in Argentina, plays Hector Chavez, a small-time cage fighter who is desperate to get the funds to pay for an operation to save his dying son.  Steven Bauer plays his brother, a priest, who stands by his brother against all odds.

Chavez gets knocked down and takes a beating, not just by his opponents but by the likes villainous gang leader, Mondo, played with evil zest by Danny Trejo, and the cut-throat promoter John Stone, portrayed by Patrick Kilpatrick.  Despite the fact that all bets are against him, Hector stays true to his conviction that perseverance and faith will win out.

“The mantra of the movie is, ‘Never give up,’” says Echavarria.  “If you always try your best, you will eventually succeed.   You find this in every great person the world has to offer.  It is okay to suffer and go through obstacles.  Eventually you will succeed.”

While not a true story, the film’s message is one Echavarria has lived.  A sickly child, his mother enrolled him in martial arts school to defend himself against bullies in the mean alleys of Corrientes, Argentina.  His prowess made him a martial arts champion, and his celebrity grew into a starring role in the ultra-popular Latin American TV series Brigada, followed by the three-film series Los Exterminators, and a multi-picture action films deal with Lionsgate.  His life exploits were developed into a children’s comic strip, along with a line of merchandise including cards, posters, clothing and action figures.  In November 2013, he will host the first-ever Hector Echavarria’s World Martial Arts Championship and Expo in Buenos Aires, drawing more than 3000 competitors from 30 countries.

With his growing stardom as an actor, director, producer and Latino brand in the US, it is easy to see why Echavarria is often called the Hispanic Tyler Perry, a comparison which Echavarria accepts humbly as “a great honor.”

“We both are promoting the best that our culture has to offer.  He never forgets who he is and where he came from.  He stays connected,” says Echavarria.

His connectedness has earned Echavarria props from his fellow actors, whom he allows to shine under his direction.

“He’s not selfish,” says CHAVEZ co-star Steven Bauer.  “He’s very respectful of other actors.  He allows an actor to get to the scene, to work it out, to get to what the scene is about.  He shows trust, and he’s also a lot of fun and always has a great sense of humor.”

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At the preview screening of CHAVEZ, a gracious Echavarria smiled and signed autographs for fans and posed for photos, always finishing each interaction with a sincere, “Thank you.”

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This pre-release press junket was just the beginning of a long schedule of appearances Echavarria will make as CHAVEZ: Cage of Glory rolls out in 70 Los Angeles area theatres and nationwide.  As the crowd lingered and interviews and press photos dragged on, Echavarria’s energy never waned.  As he was escorted into round 10 of interviews, it was clear:  this champ is just getting started.

Greasing Up for Summer Fun at Hollywood Bowl

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Los Angeles’ favorite outdoor concert venue will transform into the world’s largest movie theatre on July 13 when the Hollywood Bowl hosts a Grease sing-a-long, along with a live musical performance by rock ‘n roll doo-wop legends Sha Na Na.

The event has become a tradition at the Bowl and this year coincides with the 35th anniversary of the Paramount Pictures movie which is the highest grossing musical film of all time.  Sha Na Na, who appear in the fil as Johnny Casio and the Gamblers, will lead off the event at 7:30 with a live set. Didi Conn, who played “Frenchy” in the film, will then lead the audience in singing warm-ups.  The film will be projected with subtitles so that everyone can sing along.  The movie is scheduled to begin at dark at 8:30 pm.

The concert is sponsored Hubert’s Lemonade, official lemonade of the Hollywood Bowl.  K-EARTH (101) is the event’s media sponsor.

Grease was released in 1978 by Paramount Pictures to tremendous critical and popular acclaim. The film was nominated for five Golden Globes and an Oscar, and was the winner of the People’s Choice Award for Best Musical. Grease stars John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway, and Didi Conn.

For more information please visit:  www.hollywoodbowl.com.


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Rise of the Guardians – Where Else Can You Find Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, etc., all in One Fantasy World?

DreamWorks’s animated film Rise of the Guardians is out just in time for the pre-holidays, which evidentially begins just after Halloween now.  From the billboards around town it might seem like a Christmas movie, but the story actually takes place around Easter.  Along with Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), nicknamed “North” in the movie, the main characters include “Bunny,” (Hugh Jackman) the Easter Bunny, “Tooth,” the Tooth Fairy, just about every persona of childhood fables; and the plot centers on the lesser-known of these “Guardians,” Jack Frost (Chris Pine).

Seems everyone knows about the legendary Guardians, whose job it is to look after the children of the world, but nobody knows that Jack Frost is real.  Frustrated by his invisible existence, Jack stirs up trouble everywhere his staff touches, much like the Mayhem man of the Allstate commercials, freezing up sidewalks and streets and conjures up blizzards while trying to stave off his loneliness.

When the Boogey Man, “Pitch,” (Jude Law) cages up all the Tooth Fairy’s helpers and steals the vials of lost teeth that store every child’s childhood memories, children stop believing in the Guardians.  If Pitch succeeds, the world will go dark – a world without wonder, without which the Guardians cannot exist, and fear will rule.

Pitch’s dark force of scary black horses, or Night Mares, are truly frightening.  When the Night Mares began stampeding and screeching across the screen, pawing and snorting furiously, my five-year-old grabbed my arm and said he wanted to leave.  I explained to him that the Guardians were very powerful and they were going to protect all the children from Pitch and his Night Mares.  This was DreamWorks after all, and I had to assume this was going to be a happy ending.  So my son decided to give it a few minutes longer, and we stayed for the rest of the movie, though he still tugged on my arm every time the horses made an appearance.

Besides the ominous steeds, another element of the movie that was perhaps a bit too intense for young children – and for me – was Jack Frost’s path to becoming a Guardian (Spoiler alert!  Skip to the last paragraph if you don’t want to know what happens).  A la “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jack was playing on a frozen pond with his sibling, a younger sister, when the ice began to crack.  Jack saves his sister, but he plunges into the icy water, drifting to the bottom, and passing into the Guardian world.  Though I suppose the story is intended to comfort those who contemplate the question of the “why” when the life of a child is lost, it only caused me to ponder the reality of such an unfathomable tragedy.  It was the one scene in the film that actually moved me emotionally, to tears.

The overall plot was a little intricate for young children to follow, but the action and 3D effects will keep them engaged — my son actually reached out several times to try to catch snowflakes!  The characters and accents were entertaining, and the renderings of the North Pole, Tooth Fairy land, the Easter Bunny’s lair and other other-worldly places were fantastical and imaginative.  To perhaps inspire a little creativity and get the kids of the house, Rise of the Guardians will make a good diversion from the busy holidays, even if kids in Southern California have never heard of Jack Frost.