Ricki and the Flash – Two Thumbs Up

Ricki and the Flash

Ricki and the Flash

When I saw that Meryl Streep was going to be starring in the film Rick and the Flash, my initial reaction was not a good one.  I wondered why on Earth this Oscar award winning actress would take on a role that didn’t seem to measure up to her level of stardom.  The saying goes you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The same concept applies to this film, too.  I was dead wrong about Streep’s performance and the plot.

Ricki and the Flash tells the story of a washed up musician who attempts to rekindle the relationships with her three children.  Rick, played by Streep, left her kiddos behind after she divorced their father, played by Kevin Klein, and sets off to chase her dreams in Los Angeles.

Rick Springfield is Streep’s on screen love interest and side kick in her band.  I was a big fan of Springfield’s growing up and was happy to see this multi-talented 65-year-old Aussie carried his own in the film. As did Streep’s real life daughter, Mamie Gummer, who plays along side her Mom in the film.  The acting gene is clearly strong in the family.

Together Streep and Springfield nailed the live band scenes with their vocal talents coupled with Springfield’s guitar skills.  As a kid who grew up in the 80s, the music of that era resonated with me from the very first scene.  Audra McDonald plays stepmother to Streep’s children and carries her role remarkably well.

Springfield answered questions after a screening this week hosted by The Moms Denise Albert.  He talked about his early stardom and his decision to step out of the spotlight and take an active role in raising his children. Springfield said leaving at the top of his career was a tough call. But getting back into the scene was very difficult as anyone can tell you when trying to resuscitate a career.

Rick Springfield talks to Denise Albert

Rick Springfield talks to Denise Albert

The only bad thing I have to say about the film is this.  Streep has the WORST hair extensions I’ve ever scene on the big screen.  Ricki’s braids are atrocious.  Same goes for her heavy blue eye shadow and eyeliner that never seems to quite get removed at night.  Clearly someone needs to introduce her to Almay’s make-up remover pads.  It’s rocker chic.  But hard to look at when I keep seeing Streep as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady or in the Anna Wintour inspired role as Miranda Priestly she nailed in the Devil Wears Prada.  Both of those characters went to bed at night with squeaky clean skin I’m sure!

I was a guest of The Moms and my opinions are my own.  I liked the film and think you should go see it if you want to be entertained. It’s playing in theaters now.

 

 

Ant-Man – Don’t Call The Exterminator

 

heroes

Summer time and super hero movies go hand in hand. This summer you are going to want to reach out and grab Ant-Man’s hand or whatever you can find to hang onto when Marvel’s tiniest super hero crawls onto the big screen today. Funny man, Paul Rudd, who was part of the screen writing team, proves he can still bring the laughs and kick some serious super hero butt at the same time. I wasn’t so sure how the This Is 40 star was going to pull off this role, but he did and proves he’s got what it takes to wear the Ant-Man suit.

Rudd introduced the film at The Regal Theater in New York City on Thursday night. As I’d hoped, he was funny, charming, handsome and fit as ever. The shrinking Super Hero says he basically didn’t eat for a year in order to fit into the Ant Man costume.

Paul Rudd talks "Ant Man" photo by Adam Cohen @dadarocks

Paul Rudd talks “Ant-Man”
photo by Adam Cohen @dadarocks

He answered a few questions about the film. But not before he shook hands with a couple who’d just arrived late and walked right in front of where he was standing to take their seats. Rudd assured them they didn’t miss a thing and any number of Moms in the audience could share their video clips they’d captured on their iPhones.

Corbin loved the film and so did I. If you’ve ever owned a Thomas the Train set, you’ll get a kick out of one of the films best scenes between Ant-Man and Yellow Jacket played by House of Cards star Corey Stoll. The two battle it out in “real insect” size on a moving train set. Corbin laughed his head off watching some of his old time favorite cars whiz thru the air as the super hero insects battled to save/destroy the human race as we know it.

Word of caution here – not long into the movie someone gets called a pussy! As you might suspect, a theater full of kids quickly picked up on it. Corbin said, “Did he just call him a pussy?”. Actually, just about every kid in the audience said the exact same thing at the same time! I remember the first spoken work in Avengers: Age of Ultron was “shit” which garnered the same response from Corbin. Both films are rated PG-13 so keep this in mind.

Ant-Man will not be nominated for an Oscar – shocker I realize – even with heavy weight Michael Douglas in the cast. The movie was entertaining, funny and even pokes fun at the other super hero team, the Avengers, which I found to be hilarious. Corbin was worried he’d feel like ants were crawling all over him while sitting in the dark watching the film. Instead, he laughed more than he scratched at bug bites that didn’t exist. Make sure to stay for the credits and watch the extra scenes in the credits.

I was on assignment with @luxurytravelmom. Corbin and I enjoyed some free popcorn and a coke. The opinions are my own. I liked the film. If I didn’t, I’d tell you to keep your money and get a mani/pedi because that’s how I roll.

Meet Me There – New York

Our first episode of Meet Me There – New York is live! You can see some of my favorite off the beaten path things to do in New York City.    Me and the crew at Exclusive Resorts are taking you to some of our favorite luxury destinations in this travel show.  Of course, New York City is one of my very favorite places on the planet and it is where we kick off the show.

A little note about this episode – If you find yourself on Crosby Street in SoHo, make sure you stop into Saturdays Surf.  They’ve got great coffee and some really cool things for the gents.  And if just you want to LOOK at some cool gents, stop in Saturdays Surf!  Just sayin’!

If you haven’t subscribed to my blog post, I’d love for you to do so!  The “subscribe” link is on the right hand side.  This will ensure you get a little joie de vivre in your inbox!

Hidden Gems on the Upper West Side

I love being able to share my favorite New York spots with you on “Meet Me There“.  Of course, showing you all of my favorites would have made the episode about two hours long! But here are some Upper West Side gems for your next visit:

  • As I said in the episode, Milo’s is my favorite restaurant in New York City. But my favorite neighborhood bistro is Cafe Luxembourg. It’s just around the corner from me, and it’s been a local favorite for more than three decades. The menu is wonderful and the bartender is top notch!

    Cafe Luxembourg New York City

    Cafe Luxembourg

  • I love the bright lights of Broadway, but I’ve discovered and even become a part of some amazing live entertainment at the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre. UCB was founded by some very funny folks—including Amy Poehler of Saturday Night Live fame—and is the training ground for many of the cast members on that show, The Daily Show, and others. I started taking improv classes at UCB and fell in love with it. The shows are hilarious and, unlike some Broadway productions,don’t require you to take money out of your 401k to pay for tickets! If you like to laugh, you won’t be disappointed.

    UCB Theatre Chelsea

    UCB Theatre Chelsea

  • To my great relief, Corbin found a neighborhood toy store that has cut down on our trips to the Times Square Toys R Us! Now we hit Stationery and Toy on West 72nd Street. Despite the conspicuous lack of an indoor Ferris wheel, he is happy as can be, and so am I.

    Stationery and Toy David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

    Stationery and Toy
    David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

  • Some big name brand stores have moved onto my main drag, Columbus Avenue, but I still prefer to pop into A Tempo for a new dress or Cafe Margot in the historic Ansonia building for a hot cup of coffee after grocery shopping at my local Fairway grocery store.

    Cafe Margot

    Cafe Margot

  • I’m OVER the cupcake craze, aren’t you? When I’m hungry for a baked treat, I head over to Levain bakery on West 74th. The $4 cookies are as big as softballs. They’re meant to be shared – but don’t ask me to share with you. I won’t. They are that good! Get the chocolate-peanut butter chip cookie. You’re welcome!

    levain-bakery-cookies

    Cookies are THAT big!

Living the Dream in New York City

Living the Dream

When I was anchoring the morning news cast at KTAL-TV in Shreveport, Louisiana, my dream was to move to New York City and take over for Katie Couric. I thought I’d look fantastic alongside Matt and Al. (Some days, I still think that!) But sometimes life takes you on the scenic route. That’s what happened to me.  Fast forward—A few years later, I was no longer in television news.  I was married and soon after nursing a baby and changing diapers. Fast forward to now…

sheep's meadow in Central Park

All Smiles from the Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park

I am living in New York City and loving every minute of it. So half of my dream came true. But Katie, you can sleep easy. I’m no longer gunning for your job! So how did I get here? I would have never in a million years thought that my repeat vacation destination would later become my home town, thanks in part to our Exclusive Resorts Concierge in New York.

From Arkansas to the Apple

One day, at our home in Jonesboro, Arkansas, my husband and I had a serious discussion about moving to New York City. It went like this:

“DJ, what do you think about moving to New York City?”, said Mark.

“I’ll be ready in five minutes!”, DJ exclaimed.

It was one of the most decisive conversations we’d ever had.

We’d lived the majority of our lives in Arkansas, but from the first Exclusive Resorts trip to Manhattan, we were in love with the Big Apple. There wasn’t just one thing about the city that drew us here. There were a lot of different things. From the people and food, to the museums and lights of Broadway, the city captivated us in a way like no other city in the country.

After a few weekend getaways, we found ourselves scouting out apartments instead of sightseeing. Our ER concierge encouraged our curiosity. On her days off, she would go to real estate open houses and then call us with the scoop.(Talk about service that goes above and beyond!)

“It was awful. Total fixer-upper.”

“Those on-line photos have been photoshopped to death”

“It was AMAZING, D.J., you’d love the kitchen! But it’s under contract.”

It was a process. But finally, we found the right place for the whole family. We moved on August 10, 2010, and it was a day I will never forget. We walked into our beautiful new apartment on the Upper West Side with just a few suitcases and Leo, our dachshund.

living room

My Living Room featured in Lonny October 2011

I knew I was no longer just a visitor in New York City. There would not be a car waiting to pick me up in a few days to catch a return flight to Arkansas. Or a packed schedule of things to see and do. All I had to do was put down my bags, kick off my shoes and exhale! I was home and I was over the moon excited about this new chapter in our lives.

Settling In

When we moved, I knew New York pretty well—for a visitor. But as you can probably imagine, living in New York City is a totally different experience. I moved from Jonesboro, Arkansas, a town of roughly 60,000 people, to one of the largest cities in the world in a matter of hours. Everything was different. You can’t just zip across town to the grocery store and park your car in the lot. I learned to love the subway, which is hands down the fastest and easiest way to get around NYC, other than walking!

All-weather gear was not anything I spent much time worrying about before I moved. Proper outwear is essential every day of the year in New York. It is a walking city and you need to be dressed appropriately all the time. Rain, sleet, snow or sun, I don’t want to be stuck in midtown without the proper gear in the event of a downpour or a blizzard in January. Or caught in the sweltering heat of July without my sunglasses and a hat! Without the sanctuary of a car to duck into, it’s just me and the elements most days. Although a taxi or the subway isn’t usually too far away.

Full Contact Shopping

About that grocery store, and shopping in general? It’s not easy to trek four blocks from the grocery store with heavy bags in tow! I learned to shop for a few days at a time so I could carry the bags home—or better yet, have them delivered. I can even order groceries on-line and have them delivered….all from the comfort of my bed! Grocery delivery definitely comes in handy when snow is piled high on the side walks and the temperature drops below freezing.

Maneuvering in a Manhattan grocery store is like living in a bad video game. The aisles are tiny and so are the grocery carts. The energy in my local store, Fairway, is similar at times to what you’d feel at a boxing match. You can feel the anticipation of someone about to take out a shopper with a one-two punch at any given moment, for no reason other than they aren’t moving fast enough!

School Next Door—And Everywhere

Some things are more convenient in New York than they were in Jonesboro. Corbin started kindergarten in the public school right next door to our apartment – no morning commute for us. In Jonesboro, I’d have to get Corbin in his car seat and make the drive across town to his school every day. But now it was just a short three-minute walk to the front of the school! Reading, writing, and arithmetic just steps away from home.

Corbin at Bronx Zoo

Corbin and the Hairy Creature at the Zoo

And let’s talk about the field trips! Corbin and his class have visited the Central Park Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, the Natural History Museum, and Ellis Island. He even has an upcoming trip to Washington, D.C., and a trip to London in his elementary school future. Growing up in Carlisle, Arkansas, I remember one time we checked out a local dairy farm and once even made a trip to the state capitol and the Little Rock Zoo! New York City itself is a classroom for Corbin and the rest of us, too.

Do Not Enter

What’s not part of my New York Experience? Two words: Times Square. Sure, I’ve done the touristy things in the city, and still do on occasion. But I only venture into Times Square if I’m on the losing end of a bet with Corbin and have to take him to the indoor Ferris wheel at Toys R Us to settle up. Other than that? Forget it. Even if I have theater tickets I’ll sidestep the whole area to avoid the chaos. (We did shoot ONE scene of the NYC episode of “Meet Me There” in Times Square. It was NUTS, even more so than usual. After we wrapped the episode, we found out that there had been a crash involving some tour busses a block away from where we were shooting!)

DJ in front of Juniors in Times Square

Escaping the Times Square Bus Crash Insanity

It’s been four years since we moved to New York City but it feels like I’ve been here much longer. I may be Southern by the grace of God, but I’m a big city girl at heart. As for the other half of my dream? I’m living it right now with Exclusive Resorts, getting to create “Meet Me There.” Sharing my adventures with you and introducing you to new people and places is also something my 22-year-old self would have never thought possible! See, dreams do come true, and sometimes turn out even better than you expected.

Exclusive Resorts Meet Me There debuts!

Thrilled does not quite describe how I feel about the release of my new web series “Meet Me There”.  I have teamed up with Exclusive Resorts and together we are taking you to some of my favorite travel destinations and few new ones, too! Real del Mar, anyone?  We will show you the highlights in each location and trek off the beaten path to unearth the real travel treasures.

Check out the first video here.  Like it, share it and make sure you subscribe to my YouTube channel I Am DJ Duckworth to catch the upcoming episode of Meet Me There!

Norwegian Getaway on the Hudson River

 

All aboard!

All aboard!

Travel is a big part of my family’s life.  Ever since Corbin was born, Mark, Corbin and I have logged some serious miles traveling across the world.  However, in all of those trips to some really amazing places, none of them have ever been on board a massive commercial cruise ship.  While cruises are one of the best ways to see a lot of places in the Caribbean, we have never spent any time on one.  So when I was invited to get a first hand look at the brand new Norwegian Getaway while it is docked in New York City, I was very curious to see what the fuss is all about when it comes to cruise ships.

Within minutes of being on board, Corbin said, “Mom, I wanna spend two weeks on the ship this summer with some friends! Can we do that?” We hadn’t even sat down for lunch or taken a tour and this kid knew he wanted to hang out on the Norwegian Getaway.  The feeling for him was obviously a welcoming one! He became even more smitten with the idea of a floating vacation after finding out from Julie, the cruise director, that he could play on water slides, ropes courses, a rock climbing wall and various sports courts.  We didn’t get to do any of that on Sunday because of the arctic temperatures in New York City.

Over lunch in the Illusionarium Room, we got a first hand look at snip-its from four of the fantastic family friendly shows.  The dance group Burn the Floor kicked it off with an over the top energetic dance number followed my an illusionist who really wowed the kids with a levitating table.  The cast of Legally Blonde The Musical performed and the cast of some of Nickelodeon’s most popular shows like Spongebob, Dora and Diego wrapped up our lunchtime entertainment. Speaking of lunch, it was delicious!

Burn the Floor, baby!

Burn the Floor, baby!

Nickelodeon Red Carpet royalty

Nickelodeon Red Carpet royalty

While I was touring the ship, Corbin was whisked away to Splash Academy.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any personal photos to show you what he got to experience.  Why?  Because it is a parent free zone!  That’s right!  No parents allowed except in the area to drop off and pick up your little munchkins! What I can tell you is that Splash Academy takes two floors on board and divides the kids into age groups. The Getaway also offers childcare for parents with infants, too. Corbin tells me he played Wii, GaGa and made some new friends – GIRLfriends that is!  He’s quite the Casanova!  Oh and in his own words, he said, “I had a blast!”

Splash Academy - parents not allowed

Splash Academy – parents not allowed

I was blown away by the size of the ship.  It is massive and has just about everything you could ever want to have on a floating city.  There were more restaurants than I could have ever imagined.  One highlight is Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian’s Ocean Blue.  Another fun place to hang out, if only for a maximum of 30 minutes is the Svedka Ice Bar.  It’s about 17 degrees inside the ice bar which means you gotta wear a coat of some sort and sip on your vodka really fast or risk freezing while you float!  There is even a multistory social hub that has everything from a disco bar, casino and a comedy club.

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The maximum capacity on the ship is 4700 passengers.  Our tour guide mentioned that the ship is usually never fully booked though. Hopping on board the Norwegian Getaway in New York City makes for an easy start to a vacation.  All you have to do is take a cab to the pier along the West Side highway and set sail.

Denise Albert and Melissa Gerstein from The Moms were out hosts for the fun event. Ladies, thanks for making my first experience on a Norwegian cruise ship a memorable one.

Here’s to happy travels on the high seas! It is the #ultimategetaway

All smiles on Norwegian Getaway

All smiles on Norwegian Getaway