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From Ireland to Illinois: Introducing Sheehan Cider Co.

I’ve always been a cider fan.

Whether it was the kiddy kind I’d have at orchards growing up like Eckert’s (Belleville, Grafton & Millstadt, Illinois) to the hard cider I enjoy now.

Ciders come in all different kinds and flavors. At first, I’d try the fruity kinds like Angry Orchard, Redd’s and Ciderboys, which I really enjoyed. More recently, I’ve gotten into more dry ciders like Magner’s and Northman. Northman has an awesome Beer and Cider Garden on the Chicago Riverwalk that I really enjoyed. Check it out if you’re ever in the Windy City!

The Northman
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Now, I’m excited to announce I am beginning to home brew my own hard cider!

Introducing: Sheehan Cider Co.

This past summer, my wife and I took a beautiful trip to Western Michigan for a babymoon. While driving up to Holland, I noticed a ton of signs along the interstate for cideries. This was foreign territory for me. I’ve lived in Illinois nearly the last 5 years, and Missouri for 22 before that.

I tried Crane’s Hard Cider at a restaurant in downtown Holland and loved it (See main photo in article).

Missouri is really attempting to be the “Napa Valley of the Midwest,” and is greatly succeeding. But Illinois? There’s plenty of orchards, but not a lot of wineries or cideries.

Check out this article by Food & Wine about Missouri’s winery growth!

This inspired me to try my own home brew. After trying Magner’s for the first time at the Peoria Irish Fest, I have been able to find it in the store at Hy-Vee and have enjoyed it from time to time with dinner. The Irish Cider also motivated me to pay homage to my Irish roots, that’s why I’m naming my cider company “Sheehan Cider Co.”

*Note* No LLC. or any official company filings have been made. This is currently an at-home hobby and I’m just enjoying the learning experience!

Magner’s Irish Cider

I was at a local restaurant recently, and I asked the waitress if they had any cider. She told me “No, but we have Sangria!” I responded, “I’ll just have a water.”

I’ve created an Instagram page, @sheehanciderco, and have been working nonstop the last few days to connect with like minded individuals in the cider and beer industry. In 20 hours, the page has gathered over 130 followers!

I’ve gotten many encouraging messages and comments cheering me on in this endeavor, and I’ve been asking everyone for advice! This is so new to me, so I’ll take any and all guidance that those in the business are gracious enough to offer.

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The Sheehan family name has deep roots in Ireland, specifically County Limerick. My father and I plan to take a trip to Ireland next April to see the sights, experience our homeland, and dive into our Irish family history.

I begin the home brew process next week. Stay tuned to the process, and follow the journey on Instagram!

If you are a brewery, cidery, or winery owner and have any tips for me, please email me at mattsheehannews@gmail.com or reach out to me on Instagram!

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Exclusive Interview: Meet Writer, Producer Bryan Edward Hill

Next month, one of my top shows returns to streaming.

Season 4 of TITANS hits HBO Max in November, and fans are raving about what the season could be like.

Viewers have just gotten first-looks at Brother Blood, Mother Mayhem, and Jinx, the villains of the show. And many hope for a potential love story between Brenton Thwaites’ Dick Grayson, and Anna Diop’s Starfire, two of the shows’ main protagonists.

Credit: HBO Max

I was honored to interview one of the TITANS writers, Bryan Edward Hill, and get a closer look into the creative process he goes through to bring these characters to life. Hill has tons of comics under his belt, along with live-action projects he’s been a part of. You can learn more about his work on his Twitter page, @bryanedwardhill

Here’s a behind-the-scenes image Bryan shared with me.

Brenton Thwaites (Nightwing) next to Iain Glen (Bruce Wayne)
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Below you’ll see the questions and answers between us. Enjoy!

1: What projects are you working on right now?  

My business is a world of secrets, but I can say that in addition to TITANS, I’m working on some theatrical projects I’m VERY passionate about, working with people I’ve admired as a fan, and people can expect to read work of mine in comic book stores in the near future. The gears are grinding, for sure. I’m grateful,” Hill said.

2: What drew you into doing what you’re doing today? To what do you credit your passion for comics, film, etc? 

Someone wise once told me that we go to films, to stories, to escape the difficulties of reality. That was certainly true for me. I didn’t have the worst childhood, but I had issues with parental loss. Finding my place in the world. A lot of fear of the future that I turned into adolescent anger. Stories were solace for me. The clean lines between hero and villain. Stories of overcoming adversity. Fiction has always been a great comfort for me. Now, of course, as I’ve grown I tend to make the lines between hero and villain a little blurrier, but that love of what stories can do has remained. I guess, silly as it may sound, I wanted to get into a position that helped others the way stories helped me. I don’t think there’s any inherent meaning in suffering, but I think we can find meaning by taking our experiences and trying to help others who might be going through the same,” Hill said.

Michael Mann is my favorite filmmaker. As I grew up, I think he’s probably my single, greatest influence. I’m all over the place from French New Wave to John Carpenter. Hard to pin the passion down to one thing, one “reason.” I think we come to art, to make art, for a collection of reasons that funnel into a form that speaks to us. Film and Television spoke to me,” Hill continued.

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3: Oftentimes, it can be difficult to navigate taking a comic book story and bringing it to life in live-action. What has helped you effectively do this in projects such as Titans? 

TITANS is such a group effort, a collection of these amazing people I’m lucky to work with, led by our showrunner, Greg Walker.  We all bring our own perspective to the work, but my focus is preservation of what I find essential about these characters. Just my opinion, but I believe there should be a ‘continuity of essence’ in adaptation. The DNA should be there, no matter the format. The rest is just grammar and personal interest. How you do it,” Hill said.

4: Do you have a favorite medium of entertainment to create? What is it and why? 

Not really. To be honest I’m REALLY lucky. There are people much more talented than me who deserve to have opportunities as much as I do. Maybe more. Fate smiled on me, so all I feel is gratitude to be able to work in any form and make a living,” Hill added.

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5: Let’s talk Batman. There’s a lot of questions surrounding the Caped Crusader right now. Will Ben Affleck return, and how will he return. Will Robert Pattinson fully take the mantle as Batman. Is Michael Keaton’s Batman retuning. Heck, will Christian Bale return one more time? Fans across the globe have been asking these questions especially the last few years. Let’s give you the keys and creative freedoms to bring Batman’s character to life the next 5-10 years. What would you do? 

Sheehan asked

I’m afraid the answer to that question would be very expensive, hahahahaha. I like Batman a lot. That’s all I’ll say,” Hill laughed.

I do think Matt Reeves’ THE BATMAN was fantastic. I’ve dreamed of a “David Fincher” feel in a Batman movie and Reeves gave us that. Beautiful casting as well. Very excited to see where they take that interpretation of the character,” he added.

Photo I took while seeing The Batman opening night

6: Same question above except for Superman. Should Henry Cavill return? Will The Rock’s Black Adam bring him back? What are your thoughts on that? 

“Should” is a loaded word, so I won’t speak in those terms. Just speaking of Cavill’s performance, I liked him a great deal. As Superman he had strength and vulnerability always working in his performance, sometimes simultaneously,” Hill said. 

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7: Let’s discuss Titans. What’s something the fans don’t know about the creative process, or the cast, that you can tell them? It can be the smallest of details, to a funny story, etc. whatever comes to mind. 

Matt Sheehan asked

Whenever you see a scene and it looks cold? I promise it was colder than you think. LOL,” Hill laughed.

A lot of Titans is shot in Toronto

The production has a real “family” feel. I’ve known these people for years, at this point, IMPORTANT years in my own personal growth. There are a lot of good people  working on TITANS, many who you never see, but know that it’s all done with deep focus and attention paid.

8: What is your hope for Titans? How long do you want it to? 

That viewers enjoy it.” This is something showrunner Greg Walker told me as well in an interview we did in 2021. You can find that interview on YouTube here.

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9: Fans suspected a Red Hood spinoff was in the works. Do you think this project should be green lit, and are you working on this anytime soon? 

Each of our characters have their own awesome fan bases, and people love seeing their characters get more focus. Being a comic nerd myself, I’m so humbled by the fan communication around the show. I’m grateful for their interest and support in TITANS. This life is a gift that many don’t receive. It really is,” Hill said.

10: I want to talk about Iain Glen’s Bruce Wayne. A totally different take on the character, one which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. Do you think Titans needs to show Iain’s Batman fully before it’s over? Are there plans for Iain to return in future Titans episodes? 

Iain is a joy to be around. One of those actors where all you want to do is order a chilled bottle of something and listen to stories all night. Just a wonderful guy to work with, and his performance brings experience and elegance to the world of TITANS.

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11: What projects do you have planned for the next 1-2 years? 

Hmmm. The best laid plans of professional storytellers. I have a lot of things in the works, things I’m very excited about, changes coming for me that I’ve wanted for a long, long time. Let’s see what the future holds.

12: Are you excited for Black Adam? Would love to hear your thoughts on The Rock’s approach to the film. 

Sure! I don’t know Dwayne personally. Have some mutuals and all they talk about is how dedicated he is, and how generous he is. Whatever his approach was, I’m sure it’ll be fantastic to watch him bring it all to life. Such respect for that guy. A testament to dedication.

Black Adam is in theaters October 21st, TITANS season 4 hits HBO Max in November.

Many fans are excited to hear from some of the cast at NYCC 2022. There will be a TITANS panel on Sunday, October 9th.

“join us for a kick-ass panel, our S.T.A.R. Labs booth and a few more surprises as we get ready for season 4! #NYCC#DCTitans” the DC Titans Twitter account recently posted.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Thank you to Bryan Edward Hill for sharing his time and insight with me during this interview. Good luck to the cast and crew of all of these projects! I’m excited to learn more. To my fellow TITANS fans, below I will post links to past interviews I’ve had with cast members. Get all caught up before season 4 premieres!

Brenton Thwaites (round 1) — Video here!

Curran Walters interview

Curran Walters shows off Red Hood mask

Damaris Lewis Interview

Joshua Orpin Interview

Jay Lycurgo Interview

Brenton Thwaites interview (round 2) — Video here!

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Exclusive interview: Shark Side of the Moon Writer Ryan Ebert

Cheesy. Fun. Sharksonthemoon.

That’s Shark Side of the Moon writer Ryan Ebert’s three words to describe his new film on Fox’s free streaming service, Tubi.

I was able to interview Ebert about this project after watching the film this past weekend. I hope you enjoy our conversation!

Sheehan: Nearly everyone has heard of Sharknado. Two-part question here… 1: How much inspiration did you gain from those movies? And 2: Do you hope for more Shark Side of the Moon stories? 

Ebert: “1. Sharknado will always loom large over any crazy shark movie, especially at The Asylum. Tubi literally asked for “Sharknado” pitches, and Shark Side of the Moon was born from that request. In a way, we would not exist without it. Additionally, the director of all the Sharknado’s – Anthony Ferrante – is a good friend of ours (mine and my wife, Anna Rasmussen, co-writer of Shark Side). He was always happy to offer advice and pitched a couple ideas that made it in the script. While not connected in any way (for now…), making something with Sharknado-level insanity was definitely on our mind from day one of the screenwriting process,” Ebert said.

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Ebert: “2. We set it up for a sequel, so the hope was always there. We’ll see how it all goes with this one, but it’s every writer’s dream to get a franchise, so to be able to continue with any surviving character’s journey (no spoilers) would be a dream come true. Personally, I am pulling for a trilogy, but again, we will see how it goes,” Ebert continued. 

Ebert mentioned “The Asylum,” a movie studio that’s created films like Sharknado, Ape vs. Monster, Insect, Jungle Run, and many more. I’ve provided background on the studio below.

The Asylum is one of the world’s leading brand-oriented motion picture and television studios. With a focus on high-concept, market-driven entertainment, like the SHARKNADO franchise and the popular BLACK SUMMER and Z NATION TV series, The Asylum finances, produces and releases 25 films per year through its direct pipeline to the nation’s top platforms and its network of international partners. Since its founding in 1997, The Asylum has released more than 500 films and has built a library of over 300 original productions, including top-rated programs for Netflix, Tubi, SYFY, Lifetime, Ion Television, Animal Planet, as well as Hallmark Channel, Sony Television, BET, and Universal TV. The Asylum’s apocalyptic thriller BLACK SUMMER was the #1 scripted series on its Netflix release. And its critically acclaimed action-horror series, Z NATION, is one of SYFY’s longest-running and highest-rated. Now THE ASYLUM MOVIE CHANNEL – a Free Ad-supported Streaming TV entertainment network, with over two million hours watched per month, is one of the top-rated OTT entertainment networks,” The Asylum’s website reads.

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Sheehan: Walk me through your writing process. Where’d these ideas come from? How’d it feel seeing them come to life on screen?

Shark Side of the Moon poster

My wife (the head of development at The Asylum and one of the most talented writers I know) was tasked with coming up with a bunch of shark-related pitches for Tubi. Half need to be “Sharknado”, half need to be “Jaws” (or something like that). She asked for some help and we put our heads together. She was the one who came up with the title, and once she said it out loud, I was so inspired I immediately spat out the logline. It felt like a club SNL’s Stefan would say “had everything”: Cold War KGB Scientists, talking half-human half-shark hybrids, a lady Shark leading a lunar colony, a guy who lived on the moon for 40 years and raised a daughter there. We submitted it, and once Tubi gave us the okay, it was off to the races. We had a lot of back-and-forth with the producers (18 drafts of the script over a two-month period), but we were often told to “make it crazier”, so we kept pushing until finally, it was all approved and we started getting a cast and crew together to make it happen,” Ebert said.

Seeing it come to life was wild. I was actually on set almost every second of the week and a half or so shoot, and I learned so much. I’d hear the actors say my words and sometimes I’d cringe thinking “I definitely wish we could do a 19th draft about now…” but then I’d see them pull of something amazing and fun and I remembered what a joy and privilege it is to get this chance. Not everything could realistically get shot the way it is in the script (again, it was a very short shoot), but when I saw those absolutely jacked hybrids ripping people open on the screen for the first time, let me tell you. That was special,” Ebert continued.

Crew photo

Sheehan: What would you tell my readers on why they should watch the movie? 

Because some movies are just supposed to be fun. If you are looking at this to be a gritty, dark exploration of terror, Hulu just put out an incredible movie called PREY, and you should really enjoy that (I know I sure did). But if you need a fun movie that knows exactly what it is and you and your friends need something ridiculous and insane to laugh at, SHARK SIDE OF THE MOON is only on Tubi,” Ebert said.

(I’ve also watched Prey, I agree that it was an incredible movie. Check out it for a lot of hard-hitting action and a great story. Okay, back to the interview).

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Sheehan: What’s your favorite part of the story/movie?

Officially, I love the father-daughter relationship between Sergei and Akula. I love non-traditional father-daughter relationships in media (KICK ASS, THE LAST OF US, just to name a couple). That, and watching Commander Nicole take control of the insane situation she finds herself in. Maxi Witrak is a star and seeing her command the screen (no pun intended) was such a delight.  

Unofficially, my favorite thing in the whole movie was getting to be the first casualty and watching myself get punched in half by a shark. (Spoiler alert!),” Ebert said.

Sheehan: What are your hopes & dreams for the movie? 

Inside the space rocket in Shark Side of the Moon

In a perfect world, Sharknado 2.0. That was never a likely scenario, but if we can nestle ourselves into “cult-classic” territory and become staples in a handful of households, that would be wonderful. Also, I WANT MERCH! If I ever see someone wearing a SHARK SIDE OF THE MOON t-shirt, I’ll do a backflip. Probably immediately die afterwards, but it will be worth it,” Ebert said.

Sheehan: Any future projects you’re currently working on you’d like to share? 

Green screen of cast running “on the moon”

Hopefully hearing about a potential sequel (fingers crossed!). For now, I’m just making my own sketches and comedy short films, so if anyone is interested in seeing those as they become available, you can follow me on Twitter or IG (@TheRyanEbert). I also have an ongoing series of old-school comedy “radio plays” where I write every episode and voice every character called ROWDY BUNTER: BOUNTY HUNTER on YouTube. It’s quite dumb, and some of my favorite work,” he said.

Behind the scenes

Sheehan: Any topics I didn’t ask about you’d like to discuss?

I just wanted to give a shout out to the directors of SHARK SIDE OF THE MOON, Glenn Campbell and Tammy Klein. They not only directed one of the most ambitious scripts in Asylum history, but Glenn is also the VFX lead (and an absolute legend to boot). There are some VFX in this film that could go toe-to-toe with movies 100x the budget and given years to make. What they accomplished on the VFX side of things in only a few weeks is remarkable. I owe them everything,” Ebert said.

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You can watch Shark Side of the Moon right now on Fox’s free streaming service, Tubi.

For more information on Shark Side of the Moon, click here for the IMDB page.

Before you do, I want you all to realize this film isn’t going for all of the Academy Awards next year. As Ebert said, it is meant to be fun and cheesy. If you are familiar at all with the Sharknado movies, you know what he’s talking about. And after watching it, I can attest this movie achieves those goals.

Did I have fun watching the movie and enjoy it? Yes, absolutely. I laughed quite a lot and had a good experience with it. I want to thank Ryan for agreeing to this interview, and we’ll see if there’s going to be a sequel to Shark Side of the Moon. If you need someone to go fighting some hybrid sharks, Ryan, you know where to reach me!

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The return of Albert Pujols: A dream come to life

The City of St. Louis has had some tough losses when it comes to break-ups in sports.

In 2011, just after winning a World Series with the Cardinals, superstar Albert Pujols announces he’s heading to California. Can you blame him? $240 million over 10 years with the Angels. But his team in sunny California didn’t turn out so rainbows & butterflies for the slugger.

Of course the St. Louis Rams leaving for LA was also a major blow to the City, but I’m not going to dive into that today.

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In May of 2021, the Angels released him. He just wasn’t performing like the Albert we knew and loved did “back in the day.” ESPN reports he was picked up by the LA Dodgers within the week, giving him new life.

I had a quick ray of hope, thinking maybe after the Angels released him he’d return to STL. Who knew that one year later, that dream would be coming true.

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Pujols was always my favorite player growing up. My batting stance was based off of his. He was a man of faith, had great sportsmanship, and is a remarkable baseball player.

Ever since he left for California, I always wished he’d come back to St. Louis. I believed in the bottom of my heart he would end his career here. Whether it was a 1-game appearance just to retire as a Cardinal, or for one season, I knew he’d come back (and he did!).

His return has been “Amazing, remarkable, incredible” just like Dan McLaughlin said after Pujols’ 692nd home run in Arizona Saturday night. His second of the night while going 4-for-4!

I also remember the moments Albert & the Cards DIDN’T win. We may have 11 World Series Championships (2nd most all-time next to the Yankees), but we have plenty of heart-breaking losses we’ve had to endure. Years and years of frustration. “This is the year!” When really it wasn’t. Who remembers when the Boston Red Sox swept us?

Seeing him laughing with Yadi & Waino takes me back to my childhood. I remember clear as day watching the 2006 World Series in my West County, St. Louis home. We had some family friends over and we’d watch every game, every single night. The Cardinals won it all, we ran outside hooting and hollering, getting in our backyard hot tub and losing our minds. For some reason I remember eating Rocky Road ice-cream while watching the game. This was strange for me because I usually stuck to my Cookie Dough, but I digress.

Fast forward 16 years.

“IS THIS REAL?!” Yes, Dan, this is real. A historic finale to one of the greatest careers in Major League Baseball. A fairytale ending for one of the GOATs, in one of the greatest baseball cities in the world.

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But the journey isn’t done yet. Albert is now reaching for 700 career home runs. With 42 games left in the season, it’s very likely he will reach that goal. With 5 more home runs, Pujols will pass A-Rod to hop into the 4th all-time.

It was an incredible sight to see Albert in-person at Busch Stadium on June 12, 2022. Embedded here is a link to my video I posted on Twitter, of Pujols hitting a ground-rule double to center field… right in front of where I was sitting!

Each time he stepped up to the plate, I took my phone out because *if* anything were to happen, I wanted to have it on my phone forever. Luck was on my side that day.

As a baseball fan, you have to love this story. As a Cardinals fan, this may be the best tale we could ask for.

Thank you, Albert.

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Interview: Nightwing cosplayer Masked Mateo

Nightwing/Dick Grayson is one of fans’ favorite comic book characters.

Whether it’s the slick suit, the wittiness and mischievous attitude, or the acrobatic stunts, fans have all kinds of reasons why they love him. About 9 months ago I interviewed DC Titans’ Nightwing/Dick Grayson, Brenton Thwaites. I’ll link the YouTube video below!

Brenton Thwaites/Matt Sheehan Interview

I interviewed “Masked Mateo,” a Nightwing/Dick Grayson cosplayer who told me all about his journey into cosplay and why he loves the character! I was very impressed with Mateo’s cosplay that I saw on social media. Comic Book Resources even did an article on him, saying it looked just like the upcoming video game “Gotham Knights.” After seeing the photos I’ll share in the article, I think you’ll agree! Hope you all enjoy our interview below.

Credit: Ryan Simms
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Sheehan: What made you want to begin cosplay? 

Masked Mateo: “To be honest, I woke up one day and decided to do it. I thought the concept of portraying my favorite character(s) and seeing what they could be in the real world would be awesome. I wanted to give a better experience for the other fans out there, not just at comic conventions but on social media. The idea of bringing a character(s) that others wanted to see come to life inspired me as well. Best part is seeing other fans’ faces light up when they see their comic hero walk up and interact with them.”

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Sheehan: Why Nightwing? What about the character draws you to him? 

Credit: Jeff Jenkins Photography

Masked Mateo: “Nightwing aka Dick Grayson, has always been my favorite DC Comics hero. Growing up my older brother and I would pretend we were Batman and Robin fighting crime in the backyard. As I got older and dove into the comics even more, I followed the journey of my favorite hero. Depending on which comic run you follow, Dick Grayson (Robin) eventually leaves Batman’s so that he could become his own hero and find out what that meant to him. He moved out of Gotham City and into Bludhaven, where he faced his own trial and tribulations, this without Batman to help. He took the new name/mantle/costume of Nightwing. Over time, Nightwing’s charismatic personality and witty quips made me like him even more. He faces danger and his enemies with a smirk. I enjoy the fact that he constantly goes through the worst of it with his day-to-day challenges as Dick Grayson, as well as his crime fighting vigilante challenges as Nightwing and yet, always looks on the brighter side of things. He’s very adept in martial arts, acrobatic combat, and has genius level intellect to top it off. What makes all of this really stand out more, is that he is still a man behind a mask. He is a great leader and always shows compassion to others. I resonated with him because, as much as I love my big brother, I eventually wanted to see what I was capable of when I made my own decision based on what I felt and not because I wanted to copy or feel like a sidekick to my brother. Fast forward to today and seeing Nightwing and Batman team ups is awesome. It shows that they can be cohesive when working together while being their own individuals. The latest run by Tom Taylor of Nightwing, is by far my favorite ever. I cannot recommend it enough.”

Sheehan: What are your top 3 comic book characters to cosplay?

Masked Mateo: “My top 3 comic book characters to cosplay would have to be Nightwing/Dick Grayson, Cyclops/Scott Summers and Moon Knight/Marc Spector.”

Credit: Ghosts_Shoots
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Sheehan: Let’s talk about future Nightwing projects coming up. On TV, we’ve got Titans. Video games, we’ve got Gotham Knights. Are you a fan of Titans and the Nightwing adaptation? What do you think about what we’ve seen so far about GK’s Nightwing? 

Masked Mateo: “Lets! I am definitely a fan of Titans! The costumes for the characters are incredible. Laura Jean Shannon absolutely nails these suit designs for each character. We finally have live adaptations of the Teen Titans. How cool is that? Honestly, the Nightwing suit is so unique. Took a second for it to grow on me since it was revealed on a live feed first but then after I saw it on the show, I loved it. Definitely an awesome suit and I loved the character development behind it to lead Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites) and I thought about cosplaying that same version but I went a different route just to be different.”

“Gotham Knights: I can not tell you how excited I am for this game! I’ve been a fan since the announcement a few years ago and the first trailer we received on DCFandome. From what we’ve seen so far, I think we’ve barely scratched the surface on it. From the customization of suits, to fighting style of each character and the co-op play and the lore that’s coming with it….I have 1000% faith that this will be an amazing game. I’ve gained recognition from DC Comics, Gotham Knights and WB Games in a lot of my Nightwing content that was inspired from the game itself. I am just waiting to reveal my next Nightwing suit from the Gotham Knights game so that I can share with everyone to bring Dick Grayson to life again.”

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Sheehan: Is playing Nightwing in a show, movie, game a dream of yours? 

Masked Mateo: “Absolutely! Given the opportunity, I would take it within a millisecond. I try to portray the character in all aspects as much as I can. I train in the gym constantly and volunteer in the community and although I am not a police officer as he once was, I am a firefighter so that’s got to be just as great. I love watching movies and shows/series, I would easily rise to the opportunity of a casting call.  To be Nightwing in a video game would be incredible. I’m a gamer and being able to see myself in a video game would be so surreal.”

Sheehan: Do you hope we eventually get a Nightwing movie or series? 

Credit: Amy K Photography

Masked Mateo: “As fans, we are owed a movie. haha. I would be happy with either as long as the writing and direction for both were done correctly. Nightwing is an A lister hero, now more than ever thanks to Tom Taylor (current writer for Nightwing). It’s time for people to start giving him his flowers.”

Sheehan: What tips do you have for those wanting to get into cosplay on how to put together the best costume? 

Masked Mateo: “I held a panel discussing this at FanExpo Boston this past weekend and I’ll gladly stand by what I say. Cosplay is subjective. There is no right or wrong way to do it. You just have to do it. Create your own character, build a prop using items around the house. Some of the best cosplay that I have seen, have come from people using what they have around them at the time. A great place to start is drawing on a piece of paper of either a character you love or your very own. As I said before, there is no right or wrong way to do it. That’s the beauty of it. But if there is still an interest in purchasing fabric or looking for props, creating props/suits/costumes, head over to my page and I always recommend other creators as well as prop and suit makers for people who are new to it.”

You can find Masked Mateo on social media! Linking his Twitter & Instagram below.

Twitter: masked_mateo

Instagram: @masked_mateo

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37 WEEKS: Preparing for the big fella to arrive

There’s a Brad Paisley song called “Anything Like Me,” and woo boy if that ain’t the truth.

I’m already apologizing to my wife Rachel about the things our son is going to do. He’ll raise some hell and get into some trouble, but he’ll love his mama that’s for sure.

A great example

When I first learned the news, I wrote an article about how I was feeling (I’ll link that below this paragraph). In it, I outlined how I didn’t know how to feel. It wasn’t this rushing excitement or 100% joy you may see all over the internet. We were barely 3 months into our marriage! What happened to “Yeah, we’re gonna wait for two years or so!” That was some bull, haha.

Click here for the link

We decided a month or two into our marriage we wanted to trust God with when we would have a baby. I trust God way more than I trust myself when it comes to life events and planning anyway. I didn’t share this at the time, but here I am in quarantine AGAIN with COVID, so who cares. I got COVID right after New Year’s. I was quarantined in the bedroom for 5 days away from a wife who loves her snuggles, neck massages, and foot rubs. Don’t let her fool ya, she missed me (and I missed her, too). I came out of quarantine on Saturday, and Ray told me “Come look at this shirt I made you for our upcoming trip to Disney!”

I walked out and into the guest bedroom, where I saw a little baby onesie with the words “Hello Daddy” stitched into them. Alongside it was a Darth Vader long-sleeve dry-fit that said “I Am Your Father.” A day I’ll never forget.

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So now, fast forward about 7 months. Rachel is 37 weeks pregnant. We’re 3 weeks away from the finish line. At 35 weeks, the big fella was measuring at 7.6 pounds. I was a 9.3 pound baby, so we’ll see if he beats his daddy.

Months and months went by, and Rachel kept asking me “Can you believe it?” Or the classic “We’re having a baby!” out of absolutely nowhere. I always said “Yeah, I can believe it,” playing it off cool.

But let me tell you what folks, for some reason during our 36 week appointment at the OBGYN, it finally hit me. I was sitting in the chair listening to his little heart beat 140 times a minute. The doctor had Rachel sign some paperwork that had to do with the delivery, and I realized “holy **** this is happening.” My eyes got real big and I about felt my heart hop out of my chest.

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This isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and it won’t be the last. I’ve found myself getting emotional during movies where there’s a father/son moment. Or in any Disney movie where they kill off the dad, it hits different.

We chose the name in classic Sheehan fashion. Over a half-rack of barbecue ribs alongside many other BBQ classics. We were in Kansas City for a family wedding (shoutout Patrick & McKinna) and we had lunch out that day. I’m going to write a separate article about that once the name is released, so stay tuned!

I pray my son loves his mama as much as I do. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, she’s got a soft heart. I hope he realizes that, protects it, and protects her. If he’s “Anything Like Me,” he will.

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I hope I can teach him to do the right thing. I hope he doesn’t make the same mistakes I did. But I do hope he makes *some* mistakes, within reason, to learn and grow as a person. We aren’t perfect, and sometimes in our lowest moments is when we truly define ourselves and improve upon who we are.

I pray he has a sense of humor. I want him to make his mama laugh until she cries. I want to throw the baseball with him in the backyard and have him laugh at my stupid jokes. I hope he loves barbecue as much as I do. I want to make him the best pork steaks he’s ever had!

I want him to experience traveling like I have. To see the beaches in Florida and California, the mountains in Colorado, the deserts of Texas, and the Great Lakes in Michigan.

Link to trip in Michigan HERE!

Am I ready? Hell if I know! What does being ready for a tiny human being look like? I’d pay a million bucks to the person who can perfectly teach me that answer. Pretty soon we’ll be feeding you and wiping your butt at all hours of the day!

I do know one thing, I am ready to meet him. I’m ready to hold him, care for him, and to love him. I’m ready for him to meet his grandparents (and great grandparents!) His aunts, uncles, cousins… he is already so loved.

With much love from your daddy, we’ll see you soon.

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Explore Holland, Michigan: The perfect family vacation

One of my favorite getaways is Western Michigan.

My family has history in the State, dating back to when my great-grandparents lived in Traverse City. Now, we’ve made our own memories all across Pure Michigan.

Recently, my wife and I took a babymoon to Holland. This is the perfect spot for a 4-7 day vacation. I’ll dive into the things we loved most about the area, and hopefully you can get some inspiration for your next summer, spring, or fall vacation!

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Sunsets:

Nestled against the beautiful Lake Michigan, Holland and surrounding towns have incredible sunsets. Each night, I made it a priority to get us to a different spot to see the views. Even though multiple days were a bit cloudy, the sunset did not disappoint. Below you will find a few locations to check out the sights.

1: Tunnel Park

Tunnel Park | Holland, Michigan

Lets begin with Tunnel Park. The view so nice, we had to see it twice! The sandy beach laying against Lake Michigan costs $10 to get in during the day. It’s a pretty popular beach, and there’s good reason why. We’ll get back to the beach part of Tunnel Park later in the article. This spot is perfect for sightseeing because of the overlook above the Lake. As you can see in my photo, you can walk down these stairs to get to the beach, but I’d argue the view up above is much more serene. For those of you who like to learn your history, there are some displays up above that you can learn about Tunnel Park. There is another flight of stairs before you get to the overlook, but they are fairly doable. If you need to take your time, there are a few spots going up the staircase where you can take a break. We found that if you only go at night (say after 8:00 p.m.) you don’t have to pay the $10 to get in.

Tunnel Park

2: Grand Haven State Park Beach

While we did stay in Holland, our favorite area of the trip was Grand Haven. Take I-31 north about 30 minutes, and you’ll be there. The walkway out around the lighthouse is beautiful. You’ll see a good amount of boats on the waters, which as you’ll see below, make for great photos. Grand Haven’s beach was our #1 beach of the trip, I’ll share more details about that shortly.

Grand Haven Lighthouse
Boat at Grand Haven

3: Holland State Park

Another beautiful beach with a wonderful lighthouse. Holland State Park is one of the prize gems of the City. You can watch the sun turn red over the Lake from the beach, or walk out on a pathway farther into the water where you get the best views.

4: Laketown Beach

If you’re looking for a secluded spot, Laketown Beach is for you. The walk up the dunes is a bit more difficult than your other sunset spots, but if you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, check this out! Once you get to the top, it’s a beautiful view.

Laketown Beach
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Beaches

When you think of going to the beach, you might think of Florida, California, or South Carolina. While all of these States offer amazing beach getaways, I’d recommend trying to get up to Michigan once and seeing if you prefer this. Yes, the water is colder than if you were to go to the States I just named. But for the most part, the beaches are less crowded, the sand is still soft, and the temperatures are much more bearable. Honestly, after sitting in the sun for an hour, getting into the chilly water actually felt pretty awesome.

Our favorite beach was Grand Haven’s. We got there about 9:00 o’clock in the morning. I’m not sure what vacationers are up to at 9 a.m. in Michigan, but nobody is up and at the beach. We had a ton of space to ourselves right by the lighthouse, which was a beautiful shot (see below).

If you get tired of sitting on the sand, take a walk down the walkway up to the lighthouse and get some great views. Some people were even jumping off the path into the water (I did this once).

Holland State Park’s Beach is also a great option. We showed up at about 9 o’clock, and it was a little more busy than Grand Haven. But we really enjoyed a relaxing morning on the beach. If you get hungry, they’ve got a snack shop up the beach where you can get some (mostly fried) food. We packed picnics everyday for lunch, so we were set there, but I definitely got some ice-cream the night we came for sunset. One really nice thing about Holland State Park’s beach were these padded paths they put down for visitors. Instead of walking a long ways down the sand, you can walk down the path they’ve placed for you and get to your seats faster (and less sandy).

Tunnel Park was a beautiful beach, and a different experience than the others. You can either walk up the stairs I mentioned earlier in the article, or you can walk through the tunnel at the lower section of the park. Hence the name, Tunnel Park. Once you get through the tunnel, you have to walk down a staircase anyway to get to the beach. This beach was much more crowded, similar to Holland State Park, but it also was a thinner beach. The sand was still soft, just as it was at Holland State Park & Grand Haven, but there were a lot more people for sure.

The day we went to Grand Haven’s beach, we stopped at a coffee shop called Jumpin’ Java beforehand. There, I asked the barista some food recommendations. She told me about The Deck in Muskegon (about another half hour north). We went there for lunch that day, and it was one of the best decisions we made that trip. I’ll have to dedicate another paragraph to The Deck later on in the article. After we had lunch, we chilled at Muskegon’s beach. It was pretty busy, but still very nice and relaxing.

The final beach we went to was also a bit out of town from Holland. We headed out to Saugatuck’s Oval Beach. Again, showed up around 9 o’clock, everyone else must’ve been sleeping! We were one of the first ones there. The sand here was a little more coarse once you got to the water. There were pebbles in the water which didn’t feel the best on your feet, but the rest of the experience was great! Pretty secluded, very relaxing.

Food

I’m going to list out the places we went for food below with a quick description. This was another highlight of our trip.

1: Seventy-Six (Holland) — Feels fancy, but is a bit hipster. Really good food. I tried Virtue Cider (made in Michigan nearby) and it was the best cider I’ve ever had. Good vibes, plus it’s right downtown.

2: Captain Sundae — the classic ice-cream spot in Holland. Lots of options, super tasty.

3: Boatwerks (Holland) — Fan-favorite spot in Holland right by the harbor. Really good view, awesome outdoor seating. Inside of the restaurant is kind of designed like a ship. Highly recommend.

4: Long Road Distillers (Grand Haven) — Nice place downtown. Good burgers & Nashville hot chicken sandwiches.

5: Crazy Horse Steakhouse (Holland) — A more relaxed steakhouse. I wish I would’ve known because I showed up rocking a dress shirt and nice pants, but it’s all good, no judgment here. Really good steaks and sides.

6: The Deck (Muskegon) — Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Listen folks, I’m a barbecue snob. This was some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had. You smell the grill as soon as you walk up to the restaurant. There’s indoor seating, but if you come to The Deck, get a table outside. I’ll put a photo below to show you why.

The Deck | Muskegon

First of all, you’ve got plenty of options. You can sit below near the sand, or above as you see on the left side of the photo. And it all overlooks the beach. Now, back to the barbecue…

Barbecue | The Deck

Phew, I’m getting hungry just seeing this photo! BBQ ribs, mac n cheese, Mexican street corn, fries and chips. Meal probably cost me $20. That’s a steal! The BBQ sauce was incredible, the ribs were immaculate, but the Mexican street corn (bottom right of photo) was a show-stealer. If you’re in the Muskegon area, this is a must-go!

7: Crust 54 (Holland) — There are multiple locations of Crust 54, we went to the one on 8th Street downtown. We had the Srirancha pizza, it was seriously one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. I love ranch, and I’m a big sriracha fan, so it makes sense why I’d like this. We also got these things called Tim Wheels, basically rolled up pizza which was delicious.

8: Windmill Restaurant — Need some breakfast? Here’s your option. Windmill is located in downtown Holland. Be prepared, because you’ll probably have to wait a few minutes outside before getting in. The food was incredible and the vibe of the shop was really cool.

Enough about the food, lets talk about some activities you can do if you’re sick of the beach or if the weather gets a bit funky.

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1: Nelis’ Dutch Village — Got kids? Go to the Dutch Village. You can feed goats, ride rides, taste cheese, learn Dutch history, and much more. It’s $15 to get in for adults, and it’s definitely worth it. Spend an afternoon here and you’ll have some fond memories. Also, for you romance lovers, the Village has some great spots for photos which makes you look like you’re in Venice, Italy or something. Just an idea.

Dutch Village

2: Windmill Island Gardens — I’m a sucker for good views, you probably guessed that since I started off this article going on about sunsets. Head over to the Windmill Gardens where you can see flowers galore, and checkout an actual Dutch windmill. You can get up in it and walk up to the 5th floor. I’ll post a photo below.

Windmill Island Gardens

3: Holland Farmer’s Market — On Wednesdays and Saturdays, head downtown Holland and checkout the Farmer’s Market. It’s right next to the Civic Center. Here you can find plenty of produce, flowers, coffee, jams, salsa, you name it! It’s a fun thing to do for an hour before getting on with your day.

4: Downtown Holland shopping — My wife loves shopping (so do I, but mostly her). So we spent plenty of time walking up and down the streets of downtown Holland going into stores and checking out all they have to offer. My wife always jokes that she is the one who always wants to shop, but I’m the one who always buys more stuff. It’s true, I’ll admit it. A few spots we went… Cherry Republic. Here you can find cherry ANYTHING. I got my mom some sour cherry chewy candies (she loves those), and I got myself some cherry BBQ sauce (maybe I’ll use that on my pork steaks tomorrow…). They also have different counters where you can try out plenty of their cherry products, for free. Salsa, sauces, chips, etc. I’m a big wine guy, so of course I had to stop by Warner Vineyards downtown Holland as well. I had a wonderful time learning about Michigan wine and doing a wine tasting. I of course bought a bottle of cherry wine, which I’m actually about to go pour myself a glass as I finish this article.

Proof 🙂

5: Bowerman’s Blueberries — This place made me fall in love with blueberries. I’ve always been a blackberry or raspberry guy, now things are changing for me. Truly. They’ve got EVERYTHING blueberry here. Coffee, crisps, pies, wine. They’ve also got some really cute home decor, I definitely bought a drink coaster while my wife wasn’t looking. She likes it though, we’re good. Of course the best part about Bowerman’s is the U-Pick blueberry picking outside. Huge blueberries I tell you, huge! If you didn’t get enough of Bowerman’s, have no fear, there’s a Bowerman’s shop downtown Holland where you can get breakfast, coffee, jams, and more.

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This is just a taste of Holland and Western Michigan in general. There is so much more to do, but you’ll have to go find out for yourself and report back to me.

If you liked reading about Holland, subscribe to my blog! I’ll be posting more about my travel adventures. Also, send me any tips for places to checkout!

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Kingdom Hearts announces huge expansion, drops trailer for KH4

There’s not much that can get me out of bed at 7:00 a.m. on a Sunday. But when I learned Kingdom Hearts dropped a trailer on YouTube showcasing the future of the franchise, I got the coffee ready and here we are.

Celebrating 20 years of adventures, Kingdom Hearts just dropped trailers for multiple projects heading our way.

You can find the video on YouTube here: It’s a 7 minute video and you’ll want to watch it all.

Kingdom Hearts Union Dark Road Finale

First is the finale to Kingdom Hearts Union Dark Road. This is a game available on Android and IOS which dives into Master Xehanort’s past, and his path to becoming the villain in Kingdom Hearts. As you travel through the game, you arm yourself with cards and “engage in thrilling, strategic battles that test your skill and reflexes!” For those who have played this game since its inception, you’ll want to tune in for the finale. According to the trailer announcement, the finale will debut in August 2022.

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Kingdom Hearts Missing Link

Next is a brand new story with all-new characters. The graphics look stunning and the move set already catches my eye. This game seems very magic-centric, but also will allow you to form combo attacks like in the original trilogy. One scene from the trailer shows your character running up a building, you also see characters like Sora, Mickey, and Donald used in attack combos. It’s almost as if the OG characters are trophies on a pedestal and it allows you to use different magic strikes. There must be future announcements coming on Missing Link because it just said “Closed Beta Testing in 2022: for iOS/Android.”

Kingdom Hearts 4: The Lost Master Arc

The time all Kingdom Hearts fans have been waiting for. Where has Sora been? Will he ever come back? It seems all your questions and more will be answered in Kingdom Hearts 4. Cue the beautiful cinematography, calming music, and ominous yet optimistic quotes like “The heart resides in the soul, which in turn is guided by fate to its rightful place.”

“The choice is yours once more.” Then Sora appears, sleeping on a couch. Dazed and asleep in some random apartment, Sora is visited by a girl who tells him he’s been asleep “in this world” since he arrived seven days ago. “This world” is Quadratum. The girl tells Sora this world is an afterworld to them both.

If we’ve learned anything about Sora, no matter where he goes, Heartless follow. A “Darkside” Heartless shows up on this world and begins to wreak havoc. According to Kingdom Hearts Wiki, this creature has an Omega sign after “Darkside.” Of course Sora has to intervene.

Sidenote… for our Zack Snyder’s Justice League fans, the name is quite interesting, don’t you think? “For Darkseid.”

Anyways… This creature is much more menacing seeing the graphics Sora’s new world appears in. It’s not 2002 anymore, and this trailer looks more like a Godzilla movie than back when the trilogy first started. I was super impressed with the graphics and the attention to detail, both on the city and on Darkside.

Sora is just as BA as ever. You seemingly use a chain/rope accessory on his keyblade that allows you to basically swing like Spider-Man to get closer to Darkside. Also, running up buildings in KH4 seems to be a huge part of this initial battle, too. One of the coolest parts of the opening battle scene is when Darkside seemingly tosses part of a building towards Sora, and you have to maneuver it by gliding through an opening and sliding down the different walls before landing a strike on Darkside.

Hooded figures, similar to that of Organization 13, show up at the end of the battle. Will we finally get a closer look at the Master of Masters?!

The trailer ends with Donald and Goofy traversing through the Underworld. Reminds me of “The Further” in Insidious. A blue flame ignites behind them and a being says “Hey! Just where do you think you’re going?” Then in classic Donald and Goofy fashion, they scream and hold each other in agonizing fear.

It’s unknown when this game will be out, the end of the trailer just says “Magic in the Making.”

Let me know what you think about the trailer and what you’re most looking forward to!

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The tequila-infused seltzer ready to transport you to the beach

Spring’s here, folks. And that means it’s time to figure out what drinks we’ll be indulging in this summer.

I’ve dabbled in the seltzer world a bit. Some are very weak and have no flavor. Others hit the spot on a hot summer day.

So here’s one to add to your repertoire. “Mexi.”

It’s a Craft Tequila Seltzer made in Mexico. Have you ever had a tequila-infused seltzer? Because I haven’t.

Currently there are three flavors. Guava Spice, Tamarindo, and Aloe & Mint. Let’s break them down and get you ready for that summer vacation, pool party, or river float trip.

My favorite? It’s a close call, but I’ll have to give it to Guava Spice. Truly, it’s not too spicy at all actually. It’s extremely refreshing and sweet, but not too sweet. It has a good amount of flavor, but you can’t really tell there’s tequila in it. Give this one a try first to get the party going!

Next, Tamarindo. I’m a huge fan of the “spicy mango” margarita, and this gives me vibes of that. This one you can definitely taste the tequila, but not too much. Again, it’s just got the right amount of flavor.

Lastly, let’s discuss the Aloe & Mint. I still like this one, but it’s hard to beat the other two. At first, this flavor sounded strange to me. I was unsure if I’d like it, but I knew I’d give it a chance. I ended up being pleasantly surprised. The drink went down very smoothly and was very refreshing.

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The cans say this drink is filled with “Carbonated Well Water, Real Fruit Juice & Natural Flavors.” It’s 6% alcohol and a 12 oz. can is “low in sugar and calories” according to the website.

On the website, it says there’s a Mango y Chili. This is one I have not tried yet, but it sounds right up my alley.

All in all, I am a big fan of Mexi! It’s been snowing today here in Illinois, so you better believe I’m wishing I was back on the beach in Cancun like I was for my wife and I’s honeymoon.

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I hope the brand continues to expand. It just reached Illinois via shipping, which is how I was able to try it.

Let’s go through a couple of flavors I think would be great to explore!

Strawberry Daquiri. I think this would match well with the tequila vibe. Plus, it’s one of the most popular margarita/daquiri flavors.

Pineapple & lime. Sweet & sour drink that would pair well with the tequila. This seems “on brand” for Mexi and something I’d definitely try.

Let me know what you think about this review and if you plan on trying Mexi! I’ll plug the website below. Check it out!

Mexi Seltzer.

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Meet Darian Bengston: Up & coming pro wrestler looking to bring art into the ring

Darian Bengston and I first met at Missouri State University.

He lived with one of my best friends and was heavily involved in the theater program at MSU.

Now, he’s wrestling on the independent stage and performing in matches on AEW Dark. He’s currently living in Atlanta, Georgia and training at the Nightmare Factory.

First, he was studying abroad in England. He made some connections and pursued his education for Classical Acting at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

“While I was there, KofiMania was a thing. I found that inspiring and I felt in a way that I kind of became jaded to theater,” Bengston said. “A woman that was working on a show of mine was like ‘hey if you wanna get away from acting for awhile, I do lights and sound for a wrestling show in town.'”

Then the rest is history.

“That was for the London School of Lucha Libre. I told my acting agents about it,” Bengston said.

His acting agents also represent AEW’s Anthony Ogogo. Bengston and Ogogo became friends and that’s where his journey continued.

“When the Pandemic hit, I had to come back to America. He had to come to America to fulfill his contract,” Bengston said. “We ended up becoming roommates and starting this wrestling journey together.”

Darian and I spoke about his time in pro wrestling and how he’s bringing originality into the squared circle. A lot of times you hear about people who get into pro wrestling then get into acting. It was the opposite for Darian.

“I’ve come to really love and value wrestling as an art form, I think it’s really underrated. Getting my degree in Classical Acting, which was largely focused on Shakespeare. I’ve come to see wrestling is very similar in structure to the way modern theater was,” Bengston said. “There was a belief in Shakespeare that through crowd interaction, you could really help these characters on their way. It’s the same in wrestling. You feed off the energy of the crowd to make or break the situation that’s happening in the ring.”

“People are always talking about who’s going to be the next mainstream star in wrestling. How are we gonna get another Rock? Another John Cena? And we do things like bring in Brock Lesnars and Ronda Rouseys. Bringing people from the sports world to legitimize wrestling as a sport. Anthony Ogogo, my roommate, was an Olympic boxer. What I want to do is legitimize wrestling as an art form. Even though we do have John Cenas and Rocks, they’re not winning an Oscar or an Emmy anytime soon,” Bengston said.

Darian said this could be largely due to wrestling being stigmatized.

“Me coming from the arts, coming from a Classical Acting School, you’re not going to be able to tell me I’m not an artist. You’re not going to be able to tell me I’m not actor,” Bengston said.

Bengston said he is a mix between a high-flyer and technician. He said the training at the London School of Lucha Libre helped influence his move set today.

“That school is a hybrid of British technical style and Lucha Libre aerial offense,” Bengston said. “I’ve been able to take the Lucha and British style and mash it up with the style that comes from Nightmare Factory. Which is very much like the exciting, American style.”

Bengston faced off against Ricky Starks on March 15th in AEW Dark. Now he’s looking for his next chance.

“I just need the right set of eyes to see I have something special,” Bengston said. “My in-ring gear is very different to what other people wear. My style is very different.”

Bengston and Sheehan had many mutual friends in college at Missouri State University. Bengston roomed with one of Sheehan’s best friends, Zack Russell, when Matt and Zack first met.

“The good ole’ Normal House, Missouri State legend. That house was very fond of wrestling. Chance Nichols, an MSU alum, and Caleb Doyle were both very into wrestling,” Bengston said. “They got my eyes back on the product and back into it. Kurt, who is the head of the acting department at MSU, had a big emphasis on stage combat and the importance of certification. When I traveled to England, I got certified in combat.”

Bengston said physical combat helps add another dimension of storytelling to the product.

“Missouri State, alone in giving me my artistic foundation, also got me inspired to think about how we can use those different, unconventional types of storytelling to reach somebody,” Bengston said.

Darian said AEW is attracting a lot of new fans because it’s taking public opinion that’s been gathered over the last few years and is implementing it into their product.

“It’s capitalized on its own sense of history, and is opening new windows for new stars,” he said. “I do think they’re willing to take more risks. With that comes innovation, and with that comes new fans.”

Bengston also said he loves how AEW showcases international talent.

“I love getting to see Japanese wrestlers get their shine,” Bengston said. “I think the fact you have Pentagon and Rey Fenix there, all these different styles from all over the world, is what makes this art form beautiful. Taking things from all different cultures and combine one story. I think that’s beautiful and is one story that is a message that isn’t looked at that closely, because it’s wrestling.”

You can see Bengston and Sheehan’s full interview on YouTube here.

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Beloved Playa Mujeres: Paradise is waiting

My new favorite trip of all time came in the form of my honeymoon.

Not only was it a joyful occasion getting to celebrate my wife and I’s marriage, but we sure got spoiled in Cancun, Mexico at the Beloved Playa Mujeres.

Beloved is part of the Excellence Collection, which has resorts all over Mexico and throughout the Caribbean.

Our resort was an adults-only all-inclusive with four restaurants, a swim-up bar, food & drink service on the beach, a spa, free water sports, and room service whenever we wanted among many other things.

Our room was one of the biggest on the resort. We had a wraparound patio that had three different beds throughout. I also ordered the plunge pool for the room, which was a surprise to my wife.

There was a rainforest shower in the room, as well as a very large tub in the corner of the room that was very peaceful. The bed and pillows were extremely comfortable as well.

The staff was incredibly kind and helpful. Anything you needed, they were right there.

I remember one time I heard a knock on our door in the afternoon. I opened it, and it was an employee standing there with fancy chocolates on a plate. The service was above and beyond.

We enjoyed dinner at a steakhouse, breakfast at a French restaurant, Mexican food on the beach, Italian food overlooking the pool, and plenty of drinks and nachos on the beach. There was never a question if we would have a good meal. And if you weren’t a huge fan of what you ate, you could order more. Or order dessert and call it good. Don’t forget the taco stand! Yum.

There was also the Cafeto. It was a place to get coffee, pastries, cakes and more. It was very quaint and cute and was a perfect place to stop on the way back to the room or when you get up in the morning.

There was a fully stacked bar in the resort with candy, chips, soda, and alcohol. If you drank one drink or had one of the candies, it was replenished the next day.

Aside from the resort, you could go down to the lobby and sign up for excursions. They do cost extra, but we were able to snorkel in caves, go zip-lining across the jungle, see ruins, and take a catamaran tour to Isla Mujeres.

The ruins in Tulum were immaculate. It was so cool to learn about the history of the ruins and see the sights. Once in a lifetime chance.

I’d recommend at least doing 1-2 excursions during your stay. But if they aren’t for you, there’s still plenty to do during your stay back at the resort.

Back to the spa.

This was one of my absolute favorite parts of the trip. Because we were on our honeymoon, we were treated to one “Agua Viva” treatment. It was a 45 minute experience where you go in steam rooms, saunas, a pool with massaging jets and streams, and get a temple massage at the end.

I remember being in the steam room where the masseuse gave us a bowl of cold water filled with ice and two rags. You would get so warm in the steam room you’d want to put the cold rag over your face. It was an incredible feeling.

I also surprised my wife with a one hour couples massage. I had bought it before the trip, before I knew we were getting a free Agua Viva. But I’m glad we did both.

We also got a free “special meal” brought into our room for breakfast one day. We could also choose one special dinner at our favorite restaurant, we chose the Steakhouse.

Then at the very end of the trip, we had a beachside dinner which was incredible. I had surf and turf, which consisted of steak and lobster. It was a beautiful night and they set up the scene so perfectly. Thanks Uncle Tom & Mark! Tomark, as we call them, also helped plan our trip. Check them out at Air/Sea International Travel.

The worst part of the trip was having to leave. We went during COVID so we needed to show proof of a negative test before we left for the U.S. It was also just sad to leave paradise.

But after this trip, I know we will be back. Beloved also did special things for people on their anniversary trip, so we would like to do that one day.

I hope you enjoyed my review of the Beloved Playa Mujeres. I hope you can get there one day and experience paradise like we did. If you have any questions, comment them below and I’ll get back to you!

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You can like ‘The Batman’ and still want to Restore the Snyderverse

You wouldn’t believe it if you went onto Twitter, but it is indeed possible to like Matt Reeve’s ‘The Batman,’ and want to restore Zack Snyder’s “Snyderverse.”

I just saw ‘The Batman,’ starring Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz, for the second time today in theaters. It’s a beautiful investigative movie where Robert and Zoe really shine as actors. Not to mention Paul Dano plays an incredible Riddler and Colin Farrell is awesome as the Penguin.

I caught myself not wanting the movie to end, even though it was nearly 3 hours long. The story was so rich and Gotham City was so mesmerizing.

But then I went home and decided to turn on Zack Snyder’s Justice League on HBO Max. Today also marks the one year anniversary since ZSJL was released.

It was a long, hard fought battle to even get the movie released. Fans were ecstatic once they finally got the chance to feast their eyes on the 4 hour long movie. I remember getting off work and immediately sitting down to watch the whole thing.

Now I just watch it in bits and pieces, but I still really enjoy the film. It gave Cyborg and Flash a much better back story, while also not making Ben Affleck’s Batman seem like an absolute joke. I remember originally watching the 2017 Justice League and being pissed off by how the director made Batman appear.

Are the movies entirely different? Absolutely. But there’s no reason we can’t enjoy both universes.

I have to point out though, that people were really hoping to see Ben Affleck’s solo Batman movie before Pattinson took on the role. I understand how fans could be disappointed, but it doesn’t mean we need to trash an epic movie because plans changed.

I was originally extremely disappointed too, but I gave Pattinson a chance, and it paid off. He is now one of my favorite versions of the Caped Crusader. My other top two are Christian Bale and Ben Affleck. I hope to see a full trilogy with Pattinson at the helm, but I also want the Snyderverse to be restored.

Why can’t we have both? With the Warner Media/Discovery merger happening later this year, and The Rock joining the fold, I believe it’s entirely possible.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, The Rock is very aware of what the fans think/want and has the power to make change happen. If The Rock wanted the Snyderverse to be restored, I think it could happen. Plus, he’s friends with Henry Cavill. I think one day we could see an epic showdown between Johnson & Cavill.

Many articles are floating around now from various entertainment outlets citing the Warner Media/Discovery merger. Many of the post admins are choosing to use Zack Snyder’s Justice League as the featured image for the post. Is there a reason for that? We’ll see.

To me, The Batman and ZSJL are both in my top 5 movies all-time (Along with Revenge of the Sith, The Revenant, and I Am Legend). There are other movies that could interchange with some of those, but there’s my tentative top 5.

I hope as time goes on, fans can learn to appreciate both films and support the actors and directors who brought these characters to life.

The Batman premieres on HBO Max April 19th, 45 days after it debuted in theaters.

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I’m going to be a father. What in the world?!

Holy cow, Batman! You’re gonna be a dad!

2022’s been a heck of a year. Got COVID on day 2, found out we’re having a baby 1 week later.

When people ask me how I felt when my wife Rachel told me, I never really know what to say. Stating I was excited is true. Telling them I was overjoyed is true. Also saying my life flashed before my eyes is true.

This moment was the thing I’ve been dreaming of for a long, long time. It was always such a far away idea that I’d always say “one day.” Well, that day came.

We found out on February 9th that our little “nugget” was excited to be alive, and we heard its heartbeat. I had a clear view of the screen while my wife was undergoing a sonogram (which did not seem like a comfortable experience…), yet I still cocked my neck and squinted my eyes at the screen like I was gonna miss something. Dad moves.

That little guy or gal was buggin’. Heart beat was up because the little thing doesn’t even know how to control that yet, but they will, one day.

I thanked God for blessing us this far. The two of us realize this kind of situation is one of joy for many, but also one of sorrow for others. We recognize this and want to be as respectful to everyone going through a pregnancy, good or bad.

I put a Facebook status that “I love chicken nuggets. How bout you?” I love confusing people and making them think. I hope a lot of my Facebook friends said “what the hell is he talking about?” In a few weeks when we officially announce our little nugget, it will all make sense. Shoot, I’m not even going to publish this article for a couple more weeks, if I even post it at all (Obviously, it’s March 2nd and I’m finally getting around to it).

This might just be a way for me to remember this moment. A way that I can go back when things get foggy, and remember the way I felt.

I haven’t been nervous through this process, yet.

If it’s anything like my wedding day, I’ll be extremely confident and calm until the last minute when everything rushes to my brain and I’m just a mess, crying like a baby.

I guess now would be a good time to write my little nugget a note from this day, maybe I’ll give it to them one day, or maybe they’ll read it on the interwebs.

Little one, I’ve prayed for you everyday, even since before you were created. I asked God for a wife to love, and he gave me the one I cannot live without. I asked God to soften my heart, as oftentimes I can be stern and “stoic,” but here I am holding back tears while writing this to you. Your mom and I love you with everything we have. We won’t be perfect parents, but we will try to be the best parents we can be. We’ve both learned different lessons through this thing called life, I just hope everything we’ve gone through has prepared us to love you unconditionally. I want you to know that I am proud of you, I am always there for you, and even when I’m gone, I will still love you with all my heart. Be nice to your mother, because she’s got a soft heart. Take your anger out on me, and let her be the one to hold you when you think your dad is being annoying or mean. I will always protect the two of you (and hopefully your future siblings). We are so excited for you to be here!

Since I began this article, we have publicly announced our baby, and we have hit the 12 week mark.

It’s been a true joy to see Rachel embrace motherhood. She’s so excited for our little one, but there are fears that come with that excitement. I pray I can be a calming place for her to turn to, and that God can anchor us both as we embark on this new journey.

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‘Reacher’ review: The Amazon Prime show to watch right now

Most of the headlines regarding Prime Video have to deal with the Lord of the Ring series (The Rings of Power) premiering in September 2022.

While I am also very excited for this show, there’s a really great series on Amazon Prime Video RIGHT NOW that both action and crime show fans should check out.

That’s Reacher, starring Alan Ritchson. I know Ritchson mainly from DC Titans, where he plays Hank/Hawk. Many of you might know him from Blue Mountain State as Thad Castle.

Ritchson plays a rogue wanderer with a combat background like no other. The retired Military Police Officer, Jack Reacher, heads to the small Georgia town of Margrave. It’s about an hour outside of Atlanta and two hours away from any other good-sized town, but right now it’s full of dirty cops and corruption.

The main reason Reacher headed to Margrave was to find his brother. For a few episodes he just claims he’s there to learn history about one of his favorite blues artists, Blind Blake. In the show, he was buried in Margrave. From what I’ve read online, Blake was actually buried north of Milwaukee. But hey, this is a fictional show based on the bestselling novels by Lee Child, who actually made a cameo in the final episode of the first season.

Reacher, which is what even his mother called him from a young age, finds himself arrested for a murder he didn’t commit. He actually heads to prison alongside another man, Paul Hubble (Marc Bendavid) who admitted to the murders even though everyone knows he didn’t do it.

After a brief stint in jail, both Hubble and Reacher get released and head back to Margrave.

The police department realizes Reacher didn’t do it, but he’s got a somewhat unsettling knowledge of investigations and death that Chief Detective Oscar Finley (Malcolm Goodwin) decides to keep him around.

And this is where the story opens up. The little ole’ town is the center for an international counterfeit money ring. The town is practically owned by the Kliner family at this point. Reacher, Finlay, and Reacher’s somewhat love interest Roscoe Conklin (Willa Fitzgerald) lead an investigation into what’s really going on in this town.

Just a disclaimer, but the show is definitely not appropriate for most kids. There’s violence which can get pretty graphic, a little bit of nudity, and plenty of cussing to go around. Just something to keep in mind when deciding if the family wants to start a new show or not, maybe leave this one to the grown-ups.

All in all I was super impressed with Ritchson’s performance as Reacher and thought the story was very compelling. I love stories about small towns and the drama that ensues. I also like getting to see through the eyes of an extremely intelligent character who investigates crimes. I think it helps me see through another lense when it comes to doing an investigation in the journalism industry.

I’d give this show an 8.5/10. I think the character development was great, the acting was solid, and the action was awesome. I will say, while the end of the story was predictable, the “how we got there” was not. There are twists and turns you won’t expect from the get-go.

I was glad to hear Reacher has been renewed for season 2. The series was spun off the 2012 film starring Tom Cruise, ‘Jack Reacher.’

IMDB says Ritchson read all 24 Jack Reacher novels preparing for his role. That’s dedication right there!

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‘Ghosts of War’ review: Underrated horror film with compelling story

I first became a fan of actor Brenton Thwaites’ work from DC Titans.

I worked with Warner Bros. 7 cast & crew interviews where I interview Brenton twice.

So when I saw a film pop up on my Netflix titled ‘Ghosts of War’ and he starred in it, I decided to check it out.

It was cool to see him acting alongside Alan Ritchson, who plays Hank in Titans while Brenton plays Dick Grayson (Robin, Nightwing).

It’s quite the confusing story, but as the film goes on and the puzzle pieces fall into place, it’s very intriguing.

Brenton is part of a small batch of soldiers in France during WWII. They’re assigned to hold a French chateau until reinforcements come to take their place, but backup never arrives.

Instead, a haunting presence makes life very difficult for the group, and they begin to see, hear, and feel things in the supernatural.

What’s beautiful about this film is that it really seems like a war movie turned into a supernatural thriller. But really it’s much more than that.

Nazis do surround the home and you see battle ensue, but the ghosts who haunt the house end up being the bigger threat.

You find out the family of ghosts, the Helwigs, who originally owned the home were tortured and killed by the nazis after hiding fugitives in their home.

Throughout the movie there are cues that tell you “all is not as it seems.” Butchie (Ritchson) gets wounded and is near death on the couch when he wakes up and begins to scream “this isn’t real.” He then dies in the Chateau, but was he ever really there in the first place?

The twist is that the whole movie is a simulation. The characters are actually soldiers, except in a different war.

Instead of WWII, they’re an American squad fighting in Afghanistan where they had all been badly wounded. The Helwigs weren’t completely fake, either. Instead of a French family who was tortured by the nazis, they were an Afghan family who took the soldiers in to hide them from ISIS.

The squad was haunted by the Helwigs because when the family was killed by ISIS, they did nothing. Because of their lack of action, the mother of the family placed a curse of the soldiers.

Quickly after, the soldiers were all badly wounded from a bomb, but were somehow still alive. This is where the simulation comes in.

Each soldier is under a simulation to combat PTSD and amputation, but because Helwig cursed the group, the simulation becomes haunted.

Chris (Thwaites) goes back into the simulation to try and make amends with the family, but the movie ends before we learn if he was able to.

All in all the big twist from this movie is very interesting and makes for a compelling story. It really dives into regret & how the actions we do or do not take can impact our lives.

The group’s inability to act and protect the family turned out to haunt them. Other than a very rich story, the acting is pretty solid and the cinematography was high-quality as well.

While I don’t think this will end up being you’d favorite movie of all-time, I do think most horror, thriller, and wartime movie fans will enjoy this one.

It’s on Netflix right now. If you watch it, let me know your thoughts!

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Warner Bros. Announces ‘Elvis,’ drops trailer

I expected a snowstorm to hit Illinois today, but what I DIDN’T expect was a movie about Elvis to be made.

Luckily for me, I received an email just before noon attached with the plot, background info, and a never seen before trailer.

Starring Austin Butler as Elvis, the film follows his career and the complicated business partnership he has with his manager (Tom Hanks).

And can I say, Tom Hanks is unrecognizable! You’ll have to watch the trailer to see why.

The film covers about 20 years of Elvis’ life, too. You’ll get to see him as a young child to when he finally achieves stardom, and what comes next.

‘Elvis’ is out in theaters June 24th. The film is directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Baz Luhrmann.

See the trailer here: https://youtu.be/wBDLRvjHVOY

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2022: The year of DC

For years, DC has been dominated in the cinemas by Marvel.

Fans fell in love with characters on TV shows, but it seemed the movies continued to fall short.

Marvel established a wide fan base that went further than just comic book readers and superhero lovers. It mastered the combination of action and comedy that only certain storytellers can do.

But as The Rock says… “Finally, DC has COME BACK to…” wherever it is you’re reading from. And it just so happens The Rock has a whole lot to do with this DC push, too.

The Batman: I’m betting Matt Reeve’s ‘The Batman’ is going to be the biggest movie of the year. From COVID shut-down delays, the build up to finally see Robert Pattinson’s Batman in action is almost here. Not to mention the cast is stacked, and Zoe Kravitz is already having people say she’s the best Catwoman we’ve ever seen. The Penguin, The Riddler, and maybe, just maybe… The Joker? The suspense is high for The Batman to finally hit theaters. When I heard the film was going to be “horror film-esque,” I immediately got excited. As Samuel L. Jackson said, “hold onto your butts!” Because this is going to be epic. Debuting in theaters March 4th, but some lucky fans (like myself) get to see it in IMAX on March 1st.

Black Adam: Now to The Rock. One of the most popular and beloved men on planet Earth. The Rock is a doer. If he puts his mind to something, there’s a good chance it’s going to happen. He’s also a man of the People. That’s why in WWE he became “The People’s Champ.” Now we get to see Dwayne Johnson shine as Black Adam. The film’s set to premiere on July 29th. But I think Dwayne’s impact on the DC Universe goes much further than just this film. Yes, I do believe Black Adam will get a sequel, and maybe even a trilogy. But it’s other characters fans hope The Rock summons out, that makes me hopeful. There have been major calls to #RestoretheSnyderverse. Like I said, The Rock listens to the people. If he wants the Snyderverse to be restored, there’s a good chance it could happen. I also think Dwayne’s Black Adam could somehow conjure up Henry Cavill’s Superman. No other superhero in the DC Universe right now could match up against Cavill’s Superman. Yes, Ben Affleck’s Batman almost defeated Superman in Batman V. Superman, but Black Adam would definitely provide us with incredible matchups between the two goliaths.

The Flash: This is where things get really interested. DC is going to try and pull their “multiverse” just the same way as Marvel has been doing in recent projects (Loki, Spider-Man No Way Home.. just to name a few). Now we’re set to see multiple Flashes, multiple Batmen, and Supergirl. And holy cow, Batman! We’re gonna see Michael Keaton don his famous cowl. This also is set to lead Keaton to appear in future appearances, like Batgirl. While inspired by the ‘Flashpoint’ arc, the question remains. How will this change the DCU? Affleck said that this movie puts a good finish to his rendition of Batman, but what does this mean for super projects? Rumors are spiraling about a brand new Justice League. At this point, I don’t know what to believe. So I’m just going to ignore the social media rumors and wait for the actual movie to come out.

Aquaman & the Lost Kingdom: Last but not least (well, maybe least), Jason Momoa is set to return once again as Aquaman. The hilarious and yet brutal Aquaman did pretty well in the box office in the first movie, grossing over $1 billion globally. While Aquaman is in no way my favorite DC film, nor is he my favorite DC character, it still propels the franchise forward. And while I say this might be the “least” film, that doesn’t mean it will be the worst film. I believe the impact Aquaman will have will be lesser than the three aforementioned.

You have to admit the future of Pattinson’s Batman is extremely exciting. Whether we see a trilogy, or any sort of TV series based in his universe, there are so many options. I don’t just think the movie will do successfully in the box office, but I think fans will truly be blown away. The imagery coming out so far has looked impeccable. The storyline of Batman vs. the Riddler is one I’m really looking forward to. Tie that in with Collin Farrell as the Penguin, and the SUSPENSE that Barry Keoghan may show up as the Joker sets up a successful movie.

Let me know what you are most excited about in the DC Universe moving forward. Obviously you have to thrown in the success of Peacemaker, and the fact that Batgirl is currently under production.

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Peacemaker renewed for Season 2; let’s go!

It comes as no surprise that Peacemaker, starring John Cena and directed by Creator James Gunn, has been renewed for Season 2.

The heart behind the comedic-driven show is what really wrapped me into it. It took me a few episodes to really connect with the story, but once I did, I was hooked.

It’s a story with a message that all things aren’t always as they seem. Maybe Peacemaker isn’t such a d-bag, maybe Murn (Chukwudi Iwuji) isn’t just an emotionless man, maybe Harcourt (Jennifer Holland) is actually a pretty rad & kind human being.

The finale drops tomorrow (Thursday). The squad is set to go up against a huge alien cow-thing that the Butterflies are receiving their food from. I think we’ll get a lot of answers tomorrow and a good idea of where Season 2 will go. We saw the huge, nasty thing in episode 7, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the team going head-to-head with these alien fools.

The team has really come together well since starting off. They’re like a dysfunctional family. Each serves their own purpose, and even the least likely to do something completely BA, may just pull off some awesome stunts (Economos).

Let me know what you’ve thought of Peacemaker and what you’re hoping for in Season 2!

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Visit the beautiful, quiet town of Cuchara, Colorado

Nestled in one of the southernmost counties of Colorado lays the town of Cuchara.

Spanish Peaks

With just a few hundred people who actually live there, the town thrives off tourism and the beautiful nature all around it.

My family has come to Cuchara for generations. My father tells me stories about when his parents would take him there, and I’m hoping to one day pass stories along to my children.

We always stay at Yellow Pines Ranch. It’s log cabin-livin’ and surrounded by forests, streams, and mountains. It’s a beautiful place to hike and ride horses.

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The picturesque scenery makes for perfect family photos down by the lake during the day, but just wait until it gets to be night time.

Another beautiful part about Cuchara is looking up at the mountains and seeing where the ski resort used to be. Part of me really wants that ski resort to open back up, because that would give me just another thing to do when I come to town. But we’ll see!

Never in my life have I seen the stars like I have in Cuchara. We take a drive up to Cuchara Pass where it’s quiet and there’s no people or lights. I swear, you can see the whole Milky Way. You’ll also see a bunch of confident cows standing near the road as you drive by. You just slowly drive on by and wave em’ hello.

The business owners are always friendly and welcome you in with open arms. We love going to the Dog Bar & Grill for a nice burger, wings, and pizza. Google says the restaurant is currently “temporarily closed,” but if you’re heading to Cuchara I’d recommend giving them a call at (719) 742-6366 or messaging them on Facebook.

My most recent trip in August of 2020 was different than all the others. We finally decided to hike the West Spanish Peak. This was one of those monumental moments for me. I used to tell my dad as a kid, “Dad, one day you and I are going to climb that mountain.” I made sure to fulfill that promise.

For months and months, my sister and I trained to climb the mountain. We’d go on hikes with my nieces strapped in to backpacks, and carry them up for extra resistance. We went fairly often, and couple that with regular walks and plenty of workouts in the gym, we thought we were good.

We were wrong.

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I don’t have a ton of experience climbing mountains. I’d consider myself a moderate hiker and did some mountain climbing on high-school summer trips, but nothing like this. In total, the trip probably took us 7-8 hours. For roughly 1-2 hours, you’re walking through pastures, woods, and eventually a windy path up a hill to the tree line. That’s the easy part.

Now you’ve got an uphill battle on the mountainside. The hardest part isn’t even the steepness of the mountain, but the rocks shifting underneath your feet. If you’re going to climb the mountain, with an elevation of 13,631, you better have really good hiking boots. We also had a set of walking sticks each that came in handy. There comes a point where you wonder if you’re ever gonna make it. You don’t really know how close you are, but you just have to keep trudging on. You have to trust the hikers before you, who have kindly put together rock formations that guide you on the path to take.

Finally, you’ve made it to the top. Take a look around. Breathe it in.

Look down upon the East Spanish Peak and say “I’m higher than you.” Take a panorama photo on your cell phone. At this point, you’re even with the beautiful blue skies and the clouds. Enjoy the victory. But don’t forget, you have to walk back down.

At this point, your legs are sore and your ankles feel weak, but the trek down the mountain is much easier than the trip up it.

Also remember to bring plenty of water on your hike, snacks for along the way, and at least one “lunch.” We thought we brought enough water, which was 5 bottles each, we were wrong once again.

Funny story; my dad thought my mom packed him a lunch. He was ALSO wrong. That definitely caused the hangry bear to come out, but he survived, so that’s good at least.

I’d definitely train for months before attempting a hike like this. Spend the extra money on some legitimate hiking boots, and dress accordingly. When we left for the mountain around 5:30 in the morning, it was pretty cold. By the time I got up the mountain, I was hot and sweaty and wanted to take my jacket off. But then of course the wind picked up while we were hiking and caused us to cool back down. It’s truly a back and forth of warming up and cooling down.

All in all, I’d highly recommend anyone to travel to Cuchara, Colorado at least once in your life. It’s different than your typical Vale, Denver, Colorado Springs, Steamboat Springs, etc. It’s a great place to free your mind and truly take some time to relax. Once you leave, you’ll already be ready to come back.

Let me know about some of your 2022 travel goals, good luck to you, and Godspeed.

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‘The Dinner Party’ movie review: Fun, unpredictable chaos ensues over dinner

Something I’ve been told lately by professionals in the media industry is to be “unpredictable.”

This is one of the highlights of ‘The Dinner Party,’ directed by Jenna Ushkowitz and written by Penelope Lawson.

The film is centered around a dinner table, just like your usual family gathering. Except your family is crazy. Not just one of your family members, but all of them.

The film follows Serena (Kate Easton) and Steve (Eric Nelsen), a somewhat new couple. Steve is introducing Serena to his family for the very first time. Serena has no idea what she’s getting herself into, and she probably wishes she would have dated another guy named Steve. But alas, she finds herself wrapped up in this party.

Each person is weirder than the next. The only “normal” ones are Serena and Malcolm (played by Carl McDowell).

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Right now, the film has begun hitting the festival circuit. It’s played at the Mammoth Film Festival and Berlin Short Film Festival this month. The hope is to have it stream in some capacity, Producer Brock Kingsland tells me.

My ties to Peoria, Illinois is how I heard of this roughly 13-minute film. Kingsland is from the River City.

For being a short film, I felt like The Dinner Party did a good job being comedic. Really nailing comedy is a tough thing to do, but I think the crew made the film very funny.

Like I said, the unpredictable aspect of the film is what kept me laughing. You feel so uncomfortable watching things progress, but you also just have to sit back and laugh. Because maybe these family members aren’t yours, but it does take you back to those “crazy” moments you’ve had at a dinner party. The cast is also splendid.

I recognized McDowell from Ballers (HBO). Star Trek fans will be pleased to see Nana Visitor as Steve’s mother in the film.

Good luck to the cast and crew as this film continues on the film festival trip. And who knows, maybe we’ll see the story get expanded in the near future. Stay tuned!

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‘The Cursed’ Movie Review: See the haunting thriller this week

A lot of times horror films either go all out on the supernatural or all out on the gore.

Directed by Sean Ellis, ‘The Cursed’ gives viewers a good amount of both. Starring Boyd Holbrook, Kelly Reilly and Alistair Petrie, ‘The Cursed’ is set in France during the late 1800s.

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“A once-peaceful remote country village is under attack — but by who or what, no one knows. Villagers spread rumors of a cursed land, supernatural forces, and even demonic creatures, as the disappearances and killings continue. Pathologist John McBride (Boyd Holbrook) arrives to investigate the danger, only to discover something much deeper and more sinister than he ever could have imagined.” This was the excerpt sent to me in the press release.

The remote country village is also haunted by the decisions of those who live on the land. But was the land actually theirs to begin with? The patriarch of the main family has some dark secrets he’s kept hidden from his family.

The timeline of the movie jumps around a bit. It starts 35 years in the future, and jumps back in time about 5 minutes into the movie.

I mentioned above that the film is back supernatural and gory. That gore starts in the first few minutes. Soldiers get mowed down by enemy bullets on the battlefield, and you’re taken to a medical tent which shows limbs chopped off, blood spewing out of bodies, and more.

You then get introduced to one of the main characters in the film, Charlotte, who at this time is a grown woman. It appears she’s visiting a dying man, but you’re unsure who he is. Quickly after, Charlotte seems to drift back in time to when she was a child, and then comes practically the rest of the movie.

The story is set in France, but everyone speaks in plain English. There are French undertones, like the main family’s last name being the Laurents.

The village is on solid farm land, or so it seems. It’s a quiet community, and the main family appears to have a lot of money. With barns filled with horses and the main home filled with servants, it seems the harrowing tales of slaughter have come to past.

To keep the land, Seamus Laurent, the father, orders his men to kill a group of gypsies. The gypsies have legitimate claims to the land and the men figure the only way to defeat those claims…. is to brutally murder them all. It’s a horrific scene of burning, shooting, and screaming but it ends even creepier than it began.

The crew decides to take an interesting artistic decision by not showing the close-ups of the killing, but instead showing it from the fields above the campground and letting the scene play out.

After the murderous ransack, some of the men find the leaders of the gypsy group. It’s an older woman and a younger man. They drag the man off, tie him to posts, cut off his limbs, and literally make him a scarecrow. Remember, I said this would be gory. They then put a sack over his head and raise him into the sky. This scarecrow will end up haunting every single character for the rest of the movie, but we’ll get back to that.

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They also decide to bury the woman, who is seen as a witch. She has a mysterious box filled with silver fangs. These fangs, when put in someone’s mouth, possess them and make them blood thirsty. The gypsies claim the silver in the fangs came from the 30 silver coins given to Judas to betray Jesus.

Later in the film, the village children end up finding the scarecrow and the buried fangs. Once you open the box, it’s like a spell. It draws you in, and similarly to the Ring in Lord of the Rings, you want to put the fangs on. One of the boys does so, and then chaos ensues. He attacks the Laurent’s son, Edward, and bites him on the neck. You see part of his skin rip off, which was honestly startling and surprising to me. We’ll get back to that later.

After all the kids run away, Edward comes home and is badly injured/sick. He gets help from a doctor, but never gets better. Turns out, that night, Edward runs out of the home and isn’t seen again (until the end of the film).

Soon after, you find the child who attacked Edward in a field. He gets attacked by some “animal” and runs into the woods to safety. He finds himself an abandoned cabin and hides in there. The “animal” finds him and mauls him. Later on in the film, you see his mauled body and it is very gruesome.

This animal turns out to be some sort of demonic “werewolf,” but it’s not the kind of werewolf you’d imagine. It has no hair at all. It’s silver, similar to the coins, but is pretty terrifying. The werewolfs don’t go down too easily, except with a bullet to the head. But there is one other way, but we’ll save that tidbit of info for the ending.

The hardest part about defeating the werewolves is that they spread like a virus. If one attacks you and injures you, you become infected, and then turn into one.

The middle of the film is all about different people being attacked and going missing. There are creepy scenes in the woods and in fields where the crew uses fog to their advantage to make the scene that much scarier.

McBride has some pretty good luck killing these things, and he has a good reason to want them dead. Before he came to this village to help find the missing children, his wife & kid were killed by (what’s eluded to be) one of these creatures in another town. So vengeance is on his mind.

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Fast forward to about 2/3 of the way through the movie. One of the servant girls is outside the home doing laundry.

One thing about horror films, if there’s ever a clothesline, something creepy is going to happen.

And that’s just what The Cursed delivered. The servant was attacked by one of these monsters, but the build up of the attack is what made the scene so good. She is able to escape, which looking back at the movie now, I think is actually the plan of these werewolves. Sure, they could kill you pretty easily, but the whole purpose of them is to curse the town. They want to give payback to the people who stole the land from the gypsies. So increasing their numbers is the strategic decision that gets made.

The family notices something is off about the girl, but she plays it off that she’s okay. That night, you see her feeling very ill in her bedroom, and then you notice she soon will be cursed.

How you know someone is becoming possessed/cursed, or whatever you want to call it, is that things start to come out of their bodies. It starts by the neck, and it almost looks like tree branches are coming out. But I think it’s more like werewolf skin than anything else.

One of the greatest scenes in the movie is towards the end, when the fight gets brought to the Laurents’ home. Not only do the werewolves infiltrate the house, but a fire also gets started, causing smoke to spread through.

In these scenes, you see a few of the main characters die. While this is a review, I don’t want to ruin that for you, so I’ll let you watch the movie to find out.

You do find out more about the biology of the werewolves, too. McBride seems to have killed a werewolf, so they put the creature on a table to examine it. Cue the gore once again. He cuts into the insides of the beast, and in there he finds the servant girl, still breathing and moving. But she’s not the same anymore.

She’s still possessed and out to kill. Sadly, her father is the one to put a bullet in her head, and it’s a very emotional scene.

Another great scene comes minutes later.

Imagine the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones. This time, in a French church filled with villagers scared for their lives. Earlier on, the McBride the pathologist told everyone to barricade in the church while he attempted to hunt the werewolves.

Just like what happens in many other horror movies, when you keep everyone in one place, all hell breaks loose. And this time it’s in the holiest place in the town.

They keep the werewolves out for awhile, but then the Laurents’ mother hears her son Edward’s voice. He calls to her outside of the church to let him in.

You think, how in the world is this possible? This kid should be dead or a werewolf by now. Well, he is. And his werewolf body tears through the church, mauling people left and right and tossing people around like rag dolls.

Before the big hunt, McBride learns the history of the gypsies and their land and how the fangs came to be. He was told the story about Judas getting the 30 silver coins and that they were turned into fangs. He asked for a blacksmith, and melted the silver fangs into silver bullets.

One shot was all it took to take Edward’s werewolf body down, sadly, his mother was attempting to hug him while all of this was happening. She believed her son was still alive in there, and she wanted to bring him out. This was very foolish of her, because her son’s werewolf ended up tearing into her neck. The silver bullet went through the mother’s back and into the werewolf, killing her but cleansing him.

While the regular bullets kill the werewolf, the silver bullets turn them back into humans. You get a touching scene of Edward coming back to life and hugging his mother while she dies.

The story ends back where it begins. The last scene of the “35 years before” timeline is John McBride telling Edward and Charlotte they are going to come live with him and be his children. Then it switches back to “present-day” and showcases an older Charlotte next to what appears to be a dying John McBride.

You also have to remember the beginning of the movie to understand the end. In the beginning, you see the man get a silver bullet taken out of his stomach. At the end of the movie, I realized that man was Edward. Also look closely at the beginning and you’ll see Edward, Charlotte, and John in a picture frame on the mantle. This gets shown at the end as a “gotcha” moment.

If you’re a horror fan with a strong stomach, I would highly recommend seeing this movie. I think the movie SHOULD do very well in theaters and streaming, but we will see how marketing played out over the past year or so to get the word out there.

The acting is strong and I love the creepiness the 1800s village provides.

The crew did a great job at utilizing the environment around them to bring the scenes to life. Fire, smoke, fog, and the woods are main ways you’ll notice this point.

As I said, it is very gory, and I was a little taken aback that we saw one child get brutally attacked and another dead in the cabin. I always thought there was an unwritten rule of not showing that kind of thing, but who knows. The supernatural aspect is also a strong part of the film, but if supernatural horror films really bother you, I don’t think this one will do that. I think the fact the beasts are werewolves help out with that thinking. Instead of being a ghost or a demonic presence, the in-person threat seems more acceptable for those movie watchers who get really spooked out by the supernatural.

I’d give the movie a solid 7.5 out of 10. The only things that weren’t perfect for me was that the werewolves didn’t seem as menacing as they could have been. Sure, they were scary, but they were also pretty killable. But the terrifying aspect of gore and supernatural in the Cursed proved for it to be a great start to the horror film genre in 2022. The film featured a good mix of jump scares and built suspense scenes.

Deadline reports the film debuted at the Sunland Film Festival in 2021.

The movie is set in the late 1800s. So you’ll have the farmland vibe and weapons will be knives, muskets, and torches.

I received the Screener link courtesy of LD Entertainment. It opens theatrically February 18th.

The first showing at AMC Grand Prairie in Peoria is actually Thursday, 2/17 at 7:00 p.m. As of 2/9/2022, the movie has a 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. This seems fitting to me.

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The magic of Estes Park, why you need to travel here

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It’s one of those “get to know you” questions. “Beaches or mountains?” My answer is “both.”

While I love the beaches of Florida and South Carolina, that’s nothing like being in the mountains of Colorado. Specifically, Estes Park.

As a kid, my family and I traveled to Estes Park fairly often. We’d all pack up in our big, green Winstar van and make the long trek from Missouri to Colorado. Now it’s much more simple. Hop on a plane from STL to Denver that takes roughly 2 hours and then drive an hour and a half to Estes Park.

Every time we’d stay in Whispering Pines Cottages right by the Big Thompson River. You’d walk outside and be next to calming, running water that you knew was really cold but you wanted to wade in anyway.

So let’s break down some of the main reasons you should visit Estes Park, Colorado.

Rocky Mountain National Park: The main attraction was always Rocky Mountain National Park, and for good reason. While the National Park is a fan-favorite for many Americans, I’ve never felt crowded when I’ve visited and we’ve always had enough space to do what we want without being bothered. If you want to hike, bike, or walk, you can do that here. If you just want to sight-see, you can drive Trail Ridge Road and get out when you want to take photos or breathe in the fresh, crisp air.

As the altitude is higher here, make sure to give yourself all the time you need to catch your breath, relax, and have a good time. Always have snacks and stay hydrated, and I’d recommend bringing both headache medicine and Tums. The road can be windy and you don’t want anyone getting sick during this incredible trip.

If you want souvenirs they’ve got plenty at the RMNP gift shop. Right outside you can also climb up stairs to get to the top of the park, which provides for a great photo-op.

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My parents and I

But the Park has much more to offer than just mountain views and uphill walks. If you want to going chasing waterfalls, it’s completely acceptable here, no matter what TLC tries to tell you.

Alberta Falls

After a nice hike, my family and I finally arrived to Alberta Falls. A beautiful waterfall where you can either view from a distance, or get up close and personal. This is just one of the waterfalls you can view here in Rocky Mountain National Park. Definitely remember to pack a lunch and plenty of water during this trip.

Bear Lake

For an easier, shorter walk, check out the abundance of lakes Rocky Mountain National Park has to offer. We chose to walk around Bear Lake, pretty much just because my family loves bears, but also because the distance was fairly short. As you can see, the lake is surrounded by woods and mountains. It’s a picturesque scene that’s perfect for taking photos. I guess I was also feeling extra adventurous this go round and decided to get on a rock in the lake for the perfect photo. Wouldn’t recommend it for all, but if you’re feeling like living on the edge, you’ve got the chance to do it.

There’s so much more to do in RMNP, but let’s move on to some of the other great things the Town has to offer.

The Stanley Hotel: Ever seen ‘The Shining’? Come see the hotel that inspired the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s story.

It’s now one of my travel bucket list goals to stay here. The beautiful hotel is quite the view itself, but if you turn around from where I’m at in the picture above, you’ll look out to see the mountains surrounding Estes Park and the town itself. We went there just when sunset was happening, and the view was amazing.

The wildlife: It’s safe to say Colorado is one of the greatest places in the country to see wildlife. I remember as a kid driving through Estes Park and having to stop in the middle of the street just to let the elk walk by. Now, with the help of an IPhone, I’m able to capture these moments a little better.

The Big Thompson runs right through downtown Estes Park, and the elk love to gather here in some of the Town’s green spaces. It’s a perfect moment to grab a photo of these stunning animals. You’re encouraged not to feed the elk or get close to them. While they are quite peaceful animals, they’re also very large and I definitely don’t want to go head to head with a full rack of antlers. There are also many baby elk in the area, so the parents could get defensive if you get too close.

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Lake Estes

One of the first things you’ll come across in downtown Estes Park is Lake Estes. It’s a beautiful place to come walk, swim, and eat at the restaurants right when you get into town. There’s also boats, paddle boards, and kayaks you can rent. You can also go fishing.

The housing options in Estes Park are also very diverse. You can stay in something fancy like the Stanley, or you can stay in a regular hotel like the Best Western. There’s also cabins and cottages like Whispering Pines, or you can grab an Airbnb like my family and I did back in 2020.

You also can’t miss out on the shopping and eateries. Stop by any of the local restaurants and you’ll be sure to find something you like. There’s also plenty of candy stores, souvenir shops, and ice-cream for dessert. One of my family’s favorite things to do is stop by the taffy shops and fill up a bag.

While there’s so much more to do and see in Estes Park, I hope this gives you some options if you ever choose to go there. If you’ve been there, please let me know what your favorite activities are to do!

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Funny, heart-warming rom-com ‘Marry Me’ premieres in theaters, Peacock

Well folks it’s Valentine’s Day weekend, and with that comes the “need” to watch some sort of romantic comedy.

My wife and I saw ‘Redeeming Love’ in theaters a couple of months ago, and one of the previews that popped up on the big screen was for Jennifer Lopez & Owen Wilson’s newest movie, ‘Marry Me.’

She immediately said “We gotta see that,” and I totally agreed.

The movie follows two completely different people, mega-star Kat Valdez (Lopez) and elementary school math teacher Charlie Gilbert (Wilson). In a social media-driven world, Valdez is set to marry the “love of her life” Bastian (Maluma). Bastian is also a pop sensation heart-throb, and they seem like one of Hollywood’s “match made in Heaven” couples. So what do you do when you’re the biggest stars in the world? You debut your new single “Marry Me” in front of an audience where it will also be streamed in front of 20 million people. Oh yeah, and you’re also going to recite your vows on stage and get married. Talk about quite the show.

But as I told my wife last night while watching this film, “There must be conflict for the story to progress!” She looked at me like I’m a crazy movie nerd and we just continued watching (she’s right though). Just before Valdez hits the stage in her elegant wedding dress, she’s shown a video where Bastian is making out with her assistant. It hits the internet and social media platforms by storm just as she’s coming up onto the stage.

Now she’s left with a choice. Does she go on and marry this man who seemingly cheated on her? Or does she do something sporadic?

Cue Charlie Gilbert. Gilbert’s been seen by his daughter Lou (Chloe Coleman) as uncool for so long. Divorced from his wife, he now pales in comparison to his ex’s new man, who his daughter thinks is “really cool and fun.” Sarah Silverman plays Parker Debbs, the guidance counselor at his school and Charlie’s best friend. She was supposed to take *both* her girlfriend, and her girlfriend’s ex-girlfriend to Kat Valdez’s concert. Well, after 17 days, Parker and her girlfriend break up and now she needs to take two people to the show. She invites Charlie and Chloe to the show, and begrudgingly, Charlie agrees to try and impress his daughter. Show her he’s still “cool.”

With ‘Marry Me’ being the hit song set to debut at this concert, Debbs brings a sign that reads the song title. At some point during the show, she has to run off and take a livestream of her at the concert and shove it in her ex’s face. Debbs was definitely a huge part in the movie’s comedic relief. So she hands the sign to Charlie.

Now Charlie is standing there with this ‘Marry Me’ sign, and Valdez begins to address the crowd. The speech probably could’ve been cut a little bit as we all knew where this was going. Valdez decides to take a leap of faith and do something spontaneous. She sees Charlie in the crowd and says “Yes, I’ll marry you.”

Well by Gawd Charlie is rushed to the stage and cheered on by many along the way. That poor man was probably in shock! But he gets up to the stage, meets Kat Valdez face to face, and they said “I do.” Well, she does. Charlie just says “okay.”

In the beginning, both just think this whole thing is a publicity stunt. But as time goes on, the pair begins to fall for each other. They realize they each have something to offer the other. It’s the classic “polar opposites” love story where they complete each other. Charlie helps Kat becoming more self-sustaining, and Kat helps Charlie open up to the beauty of life. And she gets him on social media, where he becomes an internet sensation in half an hour. If only.

You also see the compassion Kat possesses. She begins to show up to school functions and classes to help teach the kids with Charlie and also to have fun. I imagined myself as a 10-year-old student and having the biggest superstar in the world come to my class. That would’ve been pretty awesome.

As I mentioned earlier, I told my wife there needs to be conflict in the movie to really make the story compelling. I said about 2/3 of the way through this movie, there needs to be something “bad” that happens that throws this dream off-balance. Wow, I’m probably so fun to watch movies with. Sorry babe. But this is exactly what happens.

Bastian comes back into the picture and has his eyes completely set on Kat. But what will she choose? Does she forgive Bastian and return to the full-time megastar life? Or does she choose Charlie and settle for both simple and superstardom. Or is the question really, will Charlie choose her? You’ll have to find out!

The last thing I’ll say about this movie is the fact that Peoria, Illinois played a big part in the ending. Charlie and Lou head to Peoria for a “mathalon” tournament and J-Lo probably name drops Peoria five times in five minutes. Hey, I live here, so I’m not complaining. And my wife loved it! But I gotta know if somebody from the cast or crew is from P-Town.

It was comical though how when Kat lands in “Peoria,” the sign on the outside of the airport reads Champaign. Champaign is another medium-sized city about an hour and a half from Peoria… Also, the bus Kat rides also says “Champaign.” They should’ve called me and I could’ve hooked them up with the people at Peoria International Airport to do the shoots there. Honestly, the set would’ve looked way better at PIA than whatever backdrop they used for this scene. But I’ll digress.

Checkout the film if you’re looking for a Valentine’s Day rom-com! It’s showing in theaters and is available on Peacock! I would recommend this movie to romantic-comedy lovers. And this is coming from a guy who’s favorite genres are action, sci-fi and horror.

Also shoutout to J-Lo for acting, singing, and dancing throughout the whole movie. She basically gave a concert, while rehearsing her dances, while acting. Very impressive. Her songs were also very catchy. I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘On My Way’ starts trending on the charts here pretty quickly. Most of the songs are upbeat, pop songs. This one takes a step back and lets the story breathe. It’s a more melancholy, sad tune that coincides with where the story of the film is. Very nice song.

Owen Wilson was also… Owen Wilson. I’ve always enjoyed his characters and think he’s a very likeable guy. You want to root for him. Charlie’s a guy who’s really been down on his luck and he finally struck gold with Kat. You want to see this pair win, even though they’re nothing alike.

While ‘Marry Me’ has a 57% on Rotten Tomatoes, the Audience Score is 91%. I’m the type of guy who pays attention to the audience score a little more than “critics.” I’d give the movie a solid 7/10. I think it was funny, the characters were charming, and the story (while predictable) was something we hadn’t really seen before. My wife gives it a 10/10.

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‘Peacemaker’ takes internet, HBO Max by storm; Hear from star Chukwudi Iwuji on playing ‘Murn’

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Peacemaker has taken HBO Max, and the internet, by storm.

Starring John Cena as the antihero, the show follows a covert mission looking to stop an alien invasion. The aliens are known as “butterflies,” creatures who inhabit people’s brains and then live on earth in their bodies.

The leader of the group, Murn, is played by actor Chukwudi Iwuji.

Iwuji joined WMBD’s Matt Sheehan for an exclusive interview that aired on WMBD This Morning and Good Day Central Illinois.

At the end of episode 5 it is revealed that Iwuji’s character is actually a butterfly. Episode 6 fleshes out his backstory and leaves the door wide open for where the show can go.

While it hasn’t been confirmed yet, many sources say there’s a “good chance” Peacemaker will be renewed for season 2. Iwuji said he’d love if this happened, and that there is much more story to tell.

I was working with WB to interview the cast from Peacemaker, and was thrilled to learn that I’d be speaking with Chukwudi Iwuji. Starting as an emotionless leader of the group, Murn seemed to just be focused on getting the job done than. The goal is to exterminate the butterflies and make Earth a safer place to live.

At the end of episode 5, you find out Murn is actually a Butterfly himself. At the time I released the original article, episode 6 wasn’t out yet so I wasn’t able to dive into his back story, but only refer to the big reveal at the end of ep. 5.

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The episode leaves viewers on a cliffhanger, thinking he was about to kill Leota Adebayo (the crew just calls her Adebayo), played by Danielle Brooks.

In episode 6, you find out that Murn is really an outlier of his own species and was morally at odds with the Butterflies’ plans. You see Iwuji finally really start to show emotion in this episode. He begins to care for his team and you see his desire to make the world a better place, even though he’s not even from Earth to begin with.

Sadly, Murn’s story seems to come to an abrupt end. The Butterflies have now infiltrated the local police department. One of the characters being the Captain, who was Murn’s inside guy on the force to make sure anything that went awry with his team’s mission got covered up.

One of the things Butterflies can do when they possess someone, is know their memories. This is how the entire Butterfly brigade learned of Murn’s plans and how to find him. You also hear about who Murn was before taken over by the Butterfly. He tells the team that the man he overtook was a criminal.

In Episode 7, we see Murn be killed (twice) by the Butterfly brigade. First, he’s shot multiple times while still in his human form, but then is where the real tear-jerker moment comes in.

You see the real Murn. The Butterfly Murn. And he tries to fly away, but is caught by the Butterfly leader, Goff, and crushed in the palm of its hand.

This is the saddest part of the entire show, and it’s not even about a human. But it kind of is? James Gunn did an impeccable job by causing the audience to care so deeply about Murn, both human and Butterfly. The Butterfly was seen as Murn’s soul.

At one point, I also thought they were gonna kill of Eagly. Which is probably the one thing you cannot do. Don’t ever kill Eagly!

I hope you all are enjoying Peacemaker on HBO Max. The series finale drops next Thursday, Feb. 17th.

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An inside look at the one-take horror film, ‘Those Who Walk Away’

Most films I review, I have no personal connection to. ‘Those Who Walk Away’ is a different story.

In 2019, I heard that an “LA film crew” was in central Illinois, where I live & work. I always considered myself a film aficionado so I thought “this could be a news story.”

I got connected with director Robert Rippberger and Producer KT Kent. There we scheduled a Zoom call, as the COVID-19 pandemic had started to ramp up, and my article became the first story the movie received.

Now, about a year and a half later, the film is on the cusp of releasing to theaters. It’s an exciting time for Rippberger and star of the film, Booboo Stewart.

I just got off a follow-up interview with both Robert & Booboo, and they both tell me they’re thrilled the world will finally get to see the film.

This was the first film I’ve seen that was done as “one take.” There were edits made, but you follow Max (Stewart) from a sunny afternoon, through golden hour, and eventually into the night. The movie never stops. There’s never a time lapse to the next morning. It’s all just one night of betrayal and horror.

The movie begins with Stewart on the phone in a park. He’s talking to his friend about life, where you learn Stewart had just left from being his mother’s caretaker. There was trauma he experienced and he decided ‘enough was enough’ and he had to leave. You also figure out that Stewart is about to go on a date with a girl he starting talking to on a dating app.

He walks out of the park and meets Avery (Scarlett Sperduto). This is when you really start to realize the longevity of the one-take. You literally follow them away from the park, into downtown Chillicothe, and then in the car as they drive from Chillicothe to Dunlap, Illinois.

Max and Avery both seem to have things in their past they’re trying to “walk away” from. Max’s is the pain from his mother, but what is Avery’s?

The original plan was for Max and Avery to see a horror film at the town’s theater. Turns out there was a “bomb threat” called in and the movie was cancelled. This led the pair to stop by a local bar, take some shots, and then Avery gets an idea.

Since the horror film was cancelled, why don’t we go to an actual haunted house? (paraphrased) Avery asks him. Max seems not to be a big fan of the idea, but he also realizes ‘hey, I kinda like this girl,’ and he wants to see where the night goes.

Cue possibly the most difficult shot in the movie. Robert and Booboo told me one of the hardest parts of shooting this film was the scene where Max and Avery get in a car and drive from Chillicothe to Dunlap. And this was the perfect time to make the drive too. It was golden hour, and central Illinois has some pretty epic sunsets. Especially in this area, which is very rural, the countryside is very flat. So you’re able to see the entire sunset happen if you’re in the right spot. The drive takes about 25 minutes, so how can you show the whole thing without boring an audience? Time lapse. What took 25 minutes or so was condensed down into just a few brief minutes. It was quite the artistic scene and a different feel from the rest of the movie. You saw the pair laugh, kiss, talk, and go into a night Max would never forget.

Just to get into the car, the camera had to switch hands at least two times, Rippberger told me. You had to make it seem completely seamless to get the camera in the vehicle and still make the audience feel like they’re there with Max and Avery.

Then they get to the haunted house.

When I did my original coverage, I was able to connect with the local fire department, who gave me a walk-through tour of the house before they full burned it down. We’ll get to why the fire department was there later on.

They walk into the home and Max is unsure of what’s going to happen next. He likes Avery, but he’s starting to worry about her intentions. As he should. They walk upstairs and there’s a bedroom where Avery begins to tell Max a story. It’s about a haunted house that’s cursed by “Rotcreep,” a sinister being that rots your flesh and soul just by touching you. Fun fact, Rotcreep is also played by Booboo’s dad, Nils Allen Stewart.

Max begins to get freaked out by Avery’s story about the beast, when she drops the bomb on him that the story is about her. She eluded earlier in the film that she and her brother were running from “someone,” but she never said who. Rotcreep is her father. And the home Max and Avery are sitting in is her childhood home where they were abused as children.

Max said ‘forget this’ and tried to escape, just to be knocked out by Avery’s brother Phillip (Grant Morningstar) and then handcuffed to the bed. Turns out, Avery lured Max to the house so Rotcreep can feast on his flesh.

She tells Max that Rotcreep needs one soul a year to feed on for him to leave Phillip and Avery alone. Max became the next victim, but it turns out he’s not alone.

He finds a little boy, Rudy (Bryson JonSteele) hiding from Rotcreep in the home. Avery and Phillip also found Rudy recently and left him in the home to die, but somehow he was able to avoid Rotcreep.

Now it’s time for Max & Rudy to work together to try and get out of this hell hole. The next scene really shows the creepiness of the house. You get to see the halls, the stairwell, and finally the basement. When I walked through in broad daylight, I was even amazed at how freaky it was.

Sadly, Rudy dies along the way and Max is left to find his own way out.

Horror films are often most remembered by how the movie ends, so I don’t want to ruin all of that for you. But let’s just say it was a dark night that went up in flames, and the theme of betrayal came back into play.

This is why the fire department was involved in the film. The crew did a set burn on the front of the house and needed the firefighter’s supervision to do it safely. They were able to have an awesome looking fire at the end of the movie, and from what the fire chief told me in 2020, everybody was safe.

The film does a good job at being creepy and suspenseful, but still having those jump scares along the way.

The score was a nice touch. While this is no Avengers or Spider-Man No Way Home, Ripperberger and the crew did a nice job of picking the underlying tones that helped set the tone of the movie. Both Booboo Stewart and Scarlett Sperduto did a great job leading the cast, but Bryson JonSteele and Grant Morningstar were great supporting roles. While dissecting each actor’s performance, I thought to myself that each of them has a bright future in the industry.

The set also really helped tell the story. Chillicothe and Dunlap are both fairly small towns in central Illinois. Chillicothe has this classic small town downtown look that you just gotta love. I think I enjoy it so much because it reminds me of where my grand-parents lived, Higginsville, Missouri. You’ve got shops, restaurants, and the Town Theatre with the bright lights that make for picture perfect moments. And of course the home was perfect. It was a dilapidated farm home in the middle of nowhere. A couple months after the film, the firefighter’s actually burned the entire thing down during a training exercise. It was deemed unsafe to live in anyway, so there was a statewide training held right there where the firefighters got some hands-on experience.

The cast and crew told me the community was amazing. People pitched in to help, asked “what can I do for you?” and just wanted to watch the action happen! That’s the beauty of shooting outside of the usual Los Angeles or New York City. You get a lot of people who are just excited that you’re there, and want to do whatever they can to help you out.

All in all, I’d tell you to check the movie out. I really enjoyed the story, the videography, and the sound of the movie. It flowed nice and the actors showed strong performances. Now the film heads to theaters!

Director: Robert Rippberger

Writer: Robert Rippberger, Spencer Moleda

Starring: Booboo Stewart & Scarlett Sperduto

Theater release: February 11, 2022

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Obi-Wan Kenobi series debuting May 25 on Disney Plus

The time has finally come. Star Wars broke the news just before 4:00 p.m. (CT) Wednesday with a photo of Obi-Wan walking through the desert.

Ironically for me, I tweeted out earlier in the day that I was tired of seeing fan-made edits of the cover art, and Star Wars decides to drop this. Was it because of me? No, but we can pretend for now.

We know Hayden Christensen is returning as Darth Vader. The question is, how much will we see him and in what capacity? Rumors have gone around about force dreams, flash-backs, and an in-person duel between him and Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan. I’m hoping for all three.

I also hope we do see Ahsoka Tano at least for a little. I want there to be an emotional scene between her in Vader live-action. We saw in Rebels the duel they had, and it might’ve been the greatest scene in the entire series.

When it comes to flash-backs… How cool would it be to see Anakin and Obi-Wan in Clone Wars armor live-action like we saw them in Clone Wars, the animated series? Let it be brand new material we didn’t get to see in the show.

It sounds like we’re also going to see the Inquisitors play a role in this show. We’ve gotten a taste of what they’re like in both Rebels and Jedi: Fallen Order when you play as Cal Kestis.

Which also raises a good question. Will Cal be in the show? My assumption is, no. He did face off against Darth Vader in the video game, but I think Lucasfilm needs to be careful with how much they bring in other characters.

People want to see Obi-Wan, people want to see Hayden Christensen as Darth Vader. If you begin to add in too many characters, it will water down the product and disappoint the fans. I also can’t mention other characters without throwing in Darth Maul and Crimson Dawn. We saw him & the syndicate in the movie, Solo, but it’s unsure if they will return or in what capacity. This could be a good way to bring them back into the fold, but I also think they could take away from the conflict between Obi-Wan, Vader, and the Inquisitors.

This is also coming off a hit-or-miss Book of Boba Fett series. Some people loved it, some people were extremely disappointed. Episodes 5 & 6 were widely loved, but they were also referred to as “Mandalorian 2.5.” The finale just dropped today (2/9), and the majority of feedback I saw was… not good. I watched it myself, and can concur with that notion.

So I think Star Wars is at a fork in the road. The Mandalorian has brought back the greatness of the franchise, but it seems the Book of Boba Fett has caused some fans to worry. Not to mention the division the sequel trilogy caused for fans.

The Obi-Wan Kenobi show needs to blow people’s minds. Those are the expectations I have for the show, and I think most of the other Star Wars fans have a similar mindset.

The moment I see Ewan and Hayden back in the Star Wars universe, it will be a wonderful day. Since Attack of the Clones, Hayden Christensen has been one of my favorite actors. Anakin Skywalker has always been my favorite fictional character (tied with Bruce Wayne/Batman).

What are you most excited for in the Obi-Wan Kenobi show? Let me know your thoughts.

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Why St. Louis is not a ‘dying city’

Too many times I’ve heard people tell me “St. Louis is a dying city.”

Nearly every time it’s by people who have never even been there, or who have only passed through.

So I want you to hear it from someone born and raised in STL of what the city has to offer.

Historic Sports: The legacy of St. Louis sports is far from over, but we’ve laid a pretty solid foundation. The St. Louis Cardinals, housed at Busch Stadium, is the second-greatest team in all of baseball history (behind the New York Yankees). With 11 World Series championships, the Cardinals have a beloved fanbase known as some of the best fans in Major League Baseball. That’s because when you go to a game, you won’t see fans throwing things on the field at either team. If you’re a fan of the away team, you might get some heckling, but it’s all in good fun. Busch Stadium isn’t known for being a place to cause fights or scare anyone, but a family-fun atmosphere where you can make memories. I know I’ve made plenty at both the “new” and old Busch Stadium.

Building on the importance the Cardinals play in our City, you now have to mention Ballpark Village. It’s a sports fans paradise filled with ginormous flat-screen TVs and all the food & beer you could want. Plus, if the game gets over late at night, head upstairs to the different bars and keep the night going. Or walk across the street to the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark and go alllllll the way up to the Three-Sixty bar. This is probably the greatest view in all of St. Louis, next to being on top of the Arch. But we’ll get to that later.

St. Louis is not only known as a ‘baseball town,’ but also a hockey town. The St. Louis Blues have a strong fanbase who love the team no matter how many times we lose in the playoffs. So many years I remember growing up and watching the Blues be one of the top teams in the entire league… then they lose first or second round in the playoffs. But, finally! Gloria! The St. Louis Blues became Stanley Cup Champions in 2019. The first ever cup for the team, fans finally felt a sense of peace. The Blues impact goes much further than just their games on the ice and the fans in the stands. There are other teams based around the Blues. One is known as the Junior Blues, which is basically a “select” team filled with some of the youngest stars. I knew a lot of kids in high-school who went played on this team, some ended up in the NHL. There’s also the St. Louis Blues Warriors hockey team. It’s a team built of veterans who play hockey together to build community and combat PTSD. I learned about this team when I did a story on the Central Illinois Veteran Warriors. These teams have tournaments playing Veteran Warriors teams across the country.

Sadly, to talk about St. Louis’ sports history, you have to mention the St. Louis Rams. The NFL team taken out of the city and sent out to LA. Stan Kroenke didn’t think St. Louis was a “football town.” No, Stan, you just had a horrendous team shell out losing seasons over and over. Fans still showed up to your games, I was one of them, but your lack of care for the team and the City proved to be the downfall of the St. Louis Rams. And don’t try to tell me the fanbase in LA is any better. When 65% of the fans at Sofi Stadium are from the opposing team, you don’t really have a fanbase. Luckily, the STL Rams gave us some of the greatest stories in NFL history. Kurt Warner’s Super Bowl victory is one of those. Go check out American Underdog starring Zachary Levi, it’s a fantastic movie. It showcases the side of Kurt Warner fans never really got to see.

But after talking about St. Louis’ pro sports past, you also need to talk about the future. St. Louis is the home of the next MLS team, ‘St. Louis City SC.’ Not only is the soccer fanbase strong in St. Louis, but the youth soccer programs in the city are second to none. You have clubs like Scott Gallagher, Ajax, and Lou Fusz that are helping athletes become the next stars. If your kid isn’t ready for that high level of soccer, they can play in leagues at Vetta which has locations around town that offer camps and leagues. In high-school I went to an exhibition game (hosted at Busch Stadium) between Manchester City and Chelsea. Tens of thousands of fans flooded the stadium to watch two of the greatest soccer teams play. All the bars surrounding the stadium were also packed. This showed me the desire for professional soccer is there in St. Louis. One of the greatest parts about the soccer team coming to St. Louis, is the location of the stadium. Let’s talk about that next.

Union Station: As a kid, Union Station was a place I never went to. It wasn’t kept up well, it was known to have crime. Now if you go, it’s been completed reinvented. If you go, you’ll find a world-class aquarium, restaurants, shops, and activities for the kids like zip-lining and major jungle gyms. Not only that, but there’s a pond right in the middle of it that does light and fire shows to the beat of the music at night. And if you need a date night, the Wheel is the perfect place. It’s a ferris wheel that was brought to the Lou a couple of years ago. I’ve been up in it a few times, and each time I’m blown away. You get a great view of the City, and you can grab a beer at an Anheusur beer truck before you go up. One of the main things you can see while you’re up in the air, is the Arch.

The Arch: I’ve always appreciated the greatness of the Arch. But ever since WWE Royal Rumble came to the Enterprise Center this year, I realized just how awesome it is. It was the centerpiece for all merchandise being sold. And compared to most other cities, I think the Arch made the apparel so much better. The City has done some work around the Arch to make it a place you can come and look at it and walk around. Of course, you can go up in the Arch, if you’re not afraid of heights. There’s also a museum where you learn about the nation’s history.

“Trace the story of the Native Americans, explorers, pioneers, and rebels who made America possible. Featuring six themed exhibit areas, this innovative and interactive museum celebrates America’s pioneering spirit,” the website says.

Food: This is a tough one for me. STL is home to so much good food it’s hard to choose what to talk about first. One of my favorite foods of all-time has to be BBQ ribs, specifically St. Louis style ribs. The dish is served all across the country, and I think it’s safe to say ribs is one of the best barbecue dishes out there. The main place I’d say you gotta try is Pappy’s. It’s well-known and has amazing food. A good middle of the road chain BBQ restaurant is good ole’ Bandanas. Smell that Smoke, amiright?

St. Louis Style Pizza. This one is a controversial one, I’ll admit it. But to me, there’s no better pizza than St. Louis thin-crust pizza. My favorite is Imo’s, but St. Louis Pizza and Wings as well as Deweys and Racanellis are fan favorites. The provel cheese is the key to the pizza. If you like regular pizza, we’ve got plenty of that too, but I’d recommend at least trying Imo’s once and seeing what you think.

If you mention the city’s pizza you gotta mention the Italian food. Yes, you’ve got the Hill which is full of options, but here are a few of my favorites. Rich N Charlies. I’m both an Italian food and seafood lover. So when I tried the tutta mare from Rich N Charlies, I knew I found one of the best dishes out there. You pay $15 for the meal, and you can turn it into 5 meals. It’s a never-ending pile of noodles, sauce, crab and other seafood meat. It’s incredible. There’s also both Bill Gianino’s and Frankie Gianino’s. Yes, they’re owned by the same family. And of course you have to talk about toasted ravioli. Yeah, you’ve probably had regular ravioli before, but toasted ravioli dipped in marinara sauce is a game changer. Let’s head now to the dessert options.

Gooey butter cake. A sweet treat found at just about any St. Louis grocery store, this has to be my favorite dessert out there. It’s very rich, so you’ll want to just have a little at a time, but topped with powdered sugar and filled with ooey gooey goodness, you’ll love it.

Frozen custard. I know this is available elsewhere, but STL has a very strong frozen custard scene. Everyone will tell you to try Ted Drewe’s, which I’d agree, it is great. BUT, I’d tell you to go to Fritz’s. Get the cake batter with cookie dough concrete or shake and you’ll never want a different flavor of ice-cream again. There’s also Silky’s which is really good, too. There’s also Andy’s. Yeah, it’s a chain, but you can’t tell me it’s not good.

Forest Park: What I love about Forest Park is the variety of activities it offers you. You can paddle-board in the beautiful lake, you can just walk and take photos, you can sled down Art Hill when it’s snowing. There’s also plenty of places to just sight see, museums to check out like the Art & History Museums, and a Boathouse Restaurant to grab some food. And of course you have one of the greatest zoos in the country.

St. Louis Zoo: Why does the St. Louis Zoo land in the top 3 zoos in the country every single year? Well for starters, it’s free. You can see all kinds of wildlife in the zoo like lions, tigers, bears (oh my!), penguins, zebras, and more. There’s an ape exhibit you can walk through that I think I can still smell since the last time I visited. For all you reptile and amphibian fans, there’s also a total mansion dedicated to these species. The future of the zoo doesn’t just stop at this location either. Set to debut in 2026, the 425-acre expansion will be called the St. Louis Zoo Wildcare Park.

Lone Elk Park: It’s a place full of elk and bison. You drive through certain parks of the park and then you can stop and walk around. My family loves coming here because you can drive right past bison and they act like you just don’t exist. I’ve also got some great middle school memories coming here and chasing geese across a field, but that’s a story for another day.

Six Flags: It might not be the greatest Six Flags, but it’s our Six Flags. If you grew up in St. Louis, you probably took at least one field trip here, and maybe you came during the summer with your friends. I really got into roller coasters in sixth/seventh grade, so I started getting summer passes to go to Six Flags with friends whenever I wanted. Filled with great rides like The Boss, Screaming Eagle, Mr. Freeze, and The Batman… Six Flags is a good place for roller coaster lovers and people who might be a little timid. There’s Hurricane Harbor for the water park lovers and plenty of food around to keep yourself busy.

The Foundry: This is one of the newest hot spots in the City. The Foundry used to be Century Electric, which was… you guessed it, a foundry. Now it’s a hopping place for all kinds of food and drinks. The Foundry tries to be a place that offers foods from all over the world. Last time I went, which was early October 2021, they also announced they were bringing in more places like a pizza shop and fried chicken place. If you know me, you know I love both of those things, so I’m definitely going back.

Frozen alcoholic drink bars: In college, there was a place called “Trops,” or Tropical Liqueurs. I went to Missouri State University in Springfield, MO. While there is one of these in St. Louis as well, there’s also a place called Narwhals. Both establishments serve fruity frozen concoctions that are delicious. They go down smooth, but let me tell ya, they’ll get ya out of nowhere like an RKO. Had to give Randy Orton a shout-out, he is a St. Louis boy! If you don’t want to go that fruity, have no fear, the bar has regular beer, shots, and wells as well.

Livability: One thing I like the most about St. Louis are the variety of areas you can live in. I was born in South County, moved out to West County, and then later moved to Jefferson County for more affordable living. Instead of having the suburbs like Chicago, St. Louis is broken up into the City (Metropolitan) and the County. South County has a good mix of both new and older home neighborhoods. It’s full of good food and hard-working people who love where they live. Not to mention the parks they have there are a lot of fun, like Cliff Cave and Bee Tree. West County is definitely a more middle to upper class area in most parts. It has a lot of the private schools in town and the malls people can shop.

While these next two technically aren’t the “County,” there are outlying counties just outside of St. Louis County.

On one side, you have St. Charles. This is one of the most up and coming places the area has to offer. It’s very business-friendly and is an affordable place for people to live and raise a family. Centered on Historic Main Street, the brick roads there are filled with shops on each side that honestly… and I hate to say this… looks like it could be a Hallmark move. At Christmas, there are carolers out singing on the corners (pronounced carner in STL, by the way), decorating contests, treats galore, and so much more.

On the other side, you’ve got Jefferson County. Known as a more rural area, you can live in a decent home in Jeff Co. at an affordable price. What’s not talked about much out there is the outdoor activities it offers. You’ve got parks like Don Robinson and Mastodon State Parks. Don Robinson is great for hiking and when you’re done hiking at Mastodon you can check out the museum that has a mastodon skeleton replica. Also head over to Kimmswick and check out the cute, small-town shops and restaurants to have a good day. There’s a winery, bakeries, shops, and eateries.

What do I want for the future of St. Louis? I want it to thrive. I want it to be more and more business-friendly and a place that people want to travel to. I want the St. Louis City SC to really bring life to downtown and the surrounding areas. I got very excited when I heard there’s going to be another Top Golf near St. Louis University. This is an area that could really use the energy and be a nice connection between Union Station and the downtown area.

I’d also like to see Ballpark Village continue to grow. Recently, they’ve released brand new apartments. This is beneficial because the downtown area doesn’t really have a lot of living options that are attractive to young adults. This changes the game.

I hope the XFL Battlehawks come back. The team was the most successful team (in terms of fans) in the entire league, then COVID happened. I’m hoping the league brings the team back to St. Louis and professional football is back in the Lou.

St. Louis also offers some great options for college. You have Washington University, which houses some of the brightest students in the country. You also have SLU, which has a rich sports history and is great academically. Then, for more affordable college, you have University of Missouri St. Louis, commonly known as UMSL. This is also a good option for students to get their college degree. You also have Webster University where I know many people who studied theater and fine arts that went there. Not to mention St. Louis’ Community College options are plentiful.

I want to see crime go down. I’m tired of seeing St. Louis at the top of the list for “Most dangerous cities in the U.S.”

I think the city can get to this place, it will just take time.

I hope you enjoyed my review of a city that means the world to me. There are so many great areas of St. Louis, let me know what your favorites are!

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The calls to #RestoretheSnyderverse live on

I’ve never seen a fanbase so driven to make a movie happen.

In 2017, the original Justice League film was released. To be honest, I think we all know how that went.

Then came the legions of Zack Snyder’s Justice League fans making calls to the Super Hero movie gods to let Snyder release his cut of Justice League.

From trending on Twitter to online petitions, Snyder Cut fans used every platform possible to get the outcome they wanted.

In March of 2021, the army got its wish.

A wish that lasted 4 hours and 2 minutes.

Usually, I wouldn’t want to sit through a movie that’s over 3 hours long. But this film was the exception.

My older brother and I always bonded over DC, Star Wars, and Spider-Man. Batman was always the fan favorite for him and I.

I remember us talking for years about how we wanted a live-action Justice League movie to come out. There was rumors one would come out, and then finally there was word about the 2017 version. The amount of disappoint I felt from that movie was echoed by many other DC fans around the world.

So watching the Snyder Cut felt like redemption for me. A storyline, with characters that have meant a lot to me for so long, finally getting its due.

The return of Henry Cavill’s Superman. Ben Affleck’s Batman/Bruce Wayne getting the recognition he deserved. Everything felt right in the fandom.

The only thing left to do, is to finish the story.

The tale doesn’t end at the conclusion of the Justice League. More movies were originally planned to wrap up the Man of Steel story, as well as exploring the Knightmare future.

The end of Zack Snyder’s Justice League show the return of Jared Leto’s Joker and Batman leading a mix of heroes and villains on a mission through an apocalyptic-looking land.

We also see Superman return, but this time not as a friend.

What do you think? Should Warner Bros continue to #RestoretheSnyderverse? Or is it time to move on from this universe and start a new story?

The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz, comes out on March 4th in theaters.

Recently, reports came out that Ben Affleck said The Flash movie set to debut towards the end of 2022 would put a “nice finish” to his time as the Dark Knight.

Although Affleck said this, it hasn’t stopped the calls for him to have his own Batman movie, and to finish the story after Justice League.

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Top things to do in Chillicothe this weekend

If you’re sick and tired of the cold weather, and last week’s snow storm had you begging for spring, let’s list out a couple of the top things to do in Chillicothe this weekend.

First, you’ve got the Eagle Watch Breakfast. Chillicothe leaders have been working to revitalize eagle watching by the Illinois River. One of the ways is by launching an eagle watch tower. So, this event is definitely on brand with that mission, plus you can have breakfast.

Sadly, this next event is sold out. The Chillicothe Chocolate Tour sounds like my kind of party. You get to venture on the downtown strip and check out the local businesses, while eating chocolate. This is the perfect thing to do right after the Eagle Watch Breakfast.

After you’re done with the Chocolate Tour, head over to the Town Theatre to see Spider-Man No Way Home or Moonfall.

Moonfall just came out Friday (2/4), and Spider-Man has become one of the top grossing films of all time (one of my personal favorites). There’s a showtime at 2:00 for Spidey and 2:30 for Moonfall. Which means it’s now time for dinner.

Head on over to Grecian Gardens for steak or Castaways for sandwiches, burgers, pizzas and more.

After dinner, learn how to become your very own bartender. Dustin Crawford is hosting a mixology class at 7:00 p.m. at the Westcott Room. All the information can be found in the image.

Chillicothe is one of the many places throughout Central Illinois offering people fun activities for the family.

Reach out to me on Facebook at Matt Sheehan TV to let me know what local city you’d like to hear about next! Don’t forget to follow the blog for more posts.

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Star Wars: Filoni, Favreau are giving us the best SW content we’ve seen in years

Since the prequels were released, the Star Wars fan base has been divided.

So it’s no surprised the Sequel trilogy only fanned those flames. This time, prequel & original trilogy fans were bashing on Disney’s latest attempt to revive the Star Wars universe.

Complaints about Rey’s origin story, the return of Palpatine, and a lack of compelling characters were some of the main things echoed by upset fans. But lets focus on the positive now.

We are watching some of the best Star Wars we have seen in years.

The Mandalorian brought all generations of Star Wars fans together. The Force seemed to become balanced once again. After two hit seasons, Disney & Lucasfilm had to figure out what to do next.

While the Mandalorian is probably pretty tired of carrying the entire franchise on his back for the last couple of years, it’s time for new material.

That brings us to present day. Right now, fans are in awe from the Book of Boba Fett. While it started out slow, most of us realized it would take a couple of episodes to really get to the good stuff.

Cue episode 5 & 6. The greatest content of Star Wars we have witnessed since we saw Luke Skywalker in the Mandalorian Season 2. Ironically, we see Luke again in episode 6 of Boba Fett, too. We also finally get to see our little green friend, Grogu, again as well as Ahsoka Tano.

As a Star Wars fan, I am in a very content place right now. The sky is the limit. With the recent news of Obi-Wan supposed to release in May, followed by the Andor series, Star Wars fans will be feasting in 2022.

Let’s not forget about the Ahsoka Tano show supposed to come out in the near future. Oh yeah, and Mandalorian Season 3.

We’ll have to show some patience once The Book of Boba Fett wraps up in the next few weeks, but hopefully right around that time, Disney will release the trailer for Obi-Wan.

The return of Hayden Christensen to the franchise is enough for me to predict this show will be incredible. Ewan McGregor is the perfect Obi-Wan Kenobi, so yes, you can say my expectations are extremely high. I think with the use of “The Volume,” these stars will truly have all the essential materials to make something special.

I’m hoping we see Obi-Wan travel to different planets, return to Mustafar (where we could see Vader’s Castle), and have force dreams where we see Clone Wars era Anakin & Obi in action.

This rematch with Darth Vader needs to be epic. And my prediction is it will happen on Mustafar. Now with Ahsoka Tano finally being transferred over into live action (Rosario Dawson), I think there’s possibility we see her involved in the show.

Not to mention there’s always the possibility of the return of Darth Maul & Crimson Dawn. We saw Maul’s fate in Rebels, but this was a loss to a much older Obi-Wan.

What are your hopes & predictions for the Obi-Wan show? Comment below or let me know on social media!

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Archive 81 Review: Please give us Season 2… and 3!

Netflix came out swinging in 2022.

One of the trippiest, creepy, and mesmerizing shows debuted called Archive 81.

You follow Dan Turner (Mamoudou Athie) on one whirlwind of a journey. Turner restores video tapes for a living, and is contracted by a very large company (LMG) to work from a hidden campus outside of New York City to fix a set of tapes.

Dan has no idea what he’s getting into. He follows the story of Melody Pendras (Dina Shihabi) who is videotaping her journey in the 1970s. Melody is searching for her mom in an old NYC apartment called the Visser. She tells everyone else she’s doing a college project, but really she’s trying to speak with those who live at the Visser to find out who/where her mom is.

Melody was left at a church when she was a baby, so she never knew her mother. This left her hungry for answers, and potentially closure.

As Dan works through Melody’s old tapes, eerie things begin to happen. She hears chanting through the vent of her apartment. She walks in on what appears to be some sort of statue-worshipping service where all her neighbors seem to be in a trance. There’s also this music… this EXTREMELY creepy music that one of her neighbors plays for her that ends up making Melody very upset and unconscious. This melody (no pun intended) ends up being the “hymn” the cult members sing throughout the show.

So why has this company employed Dan to recover these tapes? What about them is so important to the owner of LMG? As the show goes on, you find out the owner, Virgil Davenport (Martin Donovan), is brothers with the head of the cult. He claims Melody murdered his brother Samuel (Evan Jonigkeit) and he “just wants to know what happened.” Likely story, Virgil.

Dan catches wind of Virgil’s plan and has to come to a decision on what to do. Does he continue to help Virgil with the tapes, or does he leave it all behind? So what is drawing Dan in to these tapes that keeps him going?

Throughout the season, Dan and Melody are somehow connected. They are able to speak to one another through some sort of supernatural vortex, but each wake up later on and think it’s a dream. But it feels so real… is it?

Turns out, the cult was trying to summon a god/demon creature, Kaelego, who is from another universe. They believe if they worship him enough and bring him to Earth, they will be a part of his kingdom. While doing the spell to bring him to Earth, we find out Melody was actually taken to Kaelego’s world. But somehow, through the tapes, Melody and Dan are able to communicate.

Does Dan ever find Melody? And does Kaelego end up being unleashed upon the Earth? You’ll just have to find out. It’s a pretty easy watch, but I’d recommend only watching 1-2 episodes a day. The episodes are deep and dark, plus they’re not very short. They average about 53 minutes an episode.

Let’s just say, the way the show ends leaves plenty of room for a Season 2, and 3! Plus it seemed that the show was doing very well as it was #Trending on Twitter. If you’re a fan of horror, sci/fi, cult, or thriller shows… this one’s for you.

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Prison Break Review: Bring on Season 6!

Cliffhangers, contingencies, and captivating.

That’s an alliteration I never thought I’d write. But then I watched Prison Break.

Starring Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell, and Sarah Wayne Callies, Prison Break is anchored in the story of two brothers, Michael Scofield (Miller) and Lincoln Burrows (Purcell).

Burrows becomes the pawn in a murder-for-hire set up in Chicago, Illinois. An all-powerful, all-knowing organization known as “The Company,” makes it appear that Burrows killed Caroline Reynolds, the Vice President of the United States’, brother.

The Company basically makes the world go round. It controls politics, economies, federal agents, and more. The staged murder was calculated by the Vice President, to send the VP’s brother away to a hidden mansion in Montana. Later in the show you find out the Vice President and her brother had a romantic relationship that the Company would take public if she did not follow their every order.

Back to the brothers.

Michael Scofield is nearly the smartest guy that ever lived. He has a condition that allows him to create maps out of tattoos. Literally, he tattooed almost all of his body so that he could read the blueprints of the Fox River Penitentiary in Illinois. To the normal human being, it would’ve just looked like gargoyles and demons. To Michael Scofield, it was he and his brother’s way to freedom.

As every good show does, the main characters pickup some friends… who can also be enemies… along the way. These friends are Fernando Sucre (Amaury Nolasco), Theodore ‘T-Bag’ Bagwell (Robert Knepper), Brad Bellick (Wade Williams), Benjamin ‘C-Note’ Miles Franklin (Rockmond Dunbar), and the love of Michael’s life, Dr. Sarah Tancredi (Sarah Wayne Callies).

Why’d I use the word contingency at the beginning of the article? Because each person is a contingency. They’re used for a specific purpose to try to achieve the end goal. Freedom. Normal life. That’s the whole goal of the show. And somehow, it takes 5 seasons of cliffhangers, contingencies, and captivating story-telling to achieve yet.

As the show goes on the acting gets better, the story gets better, and the stakes get higher.

Season 1 is all about getting out of Fox River (which is just a couple hours from where I live). After that, it’s all about trying to open a surf shop in Panama. I’m kidding, sort of.

Like I mentioned before, the whole goal is to obtain normal life. Michael & Lincoln’s idea of that is escaping the U.S., where now they’re both seen as criminals, to open a surf shop in South America. How will they get there, you ask? Well, Michael has a plan.

Michael meets a man in prison named Charles Westmoreland (Muse Watson). Charles is just his alias, his real identity is DB Cooper. A man who had a whole lot of money, but was on the run from the law and got caught. Westmoreland tells Michael about his secret stash of cash in Utah, which is how Michael and his brother would get out of the country.

As everything else goes in Prison Break, nothing ever goes to plan. The Company figures out Michael and Lincoln escaped, and now send their inside people at the F.B.I. after them. Cue Alex Mahone (William Fichtner). Mahone is practically a mercenary hired by the F.B.I. Then you find out The Company really just placed him in the F.B.I. to try and kill the brothers and have a “legal” way to cover the Company’s tracks.

While the brothers goal is to obtain freedom, the Company’s is to stay a secret.

Eventually, the group does get to Panama. But not how they originally planned. They find themselves in the worst prison you could imagine, referred to as ‘Sona.’ Except this time, Michael’s behind bars along with T-Bag, Bellick, and Mahone… and Lincoln’s on the other side.

While season 2 wasn’t actually about breaking out of prison, season 3 took us back to the show’s roots. Michael putting together a plan to get himself out of prison, and once again, picking up frenemies along the way.

Of course, they get out of prison, they always do! Now the group is in full battle-mode against the Company and coming for them.

Then comes Scylla.

Scylla is first known as the Company’s “black book,” but it turns out to be much more than that.

Scylla is how the Company was going to take over the world. It’s all surrounding futuristic intelligence that would let the organization control everything. A big part of that is energy. The research done by the Company puts everything they want to do nearly 50 years into the future of the rest of the world. And when you have that kind of power, money is the name of the game.

Now Michael is ready to go after the Company and its leader, General Kranz. He devises a plan to find Scylla and get it away from Kranz. What I learned from the show is to never bet against Michael.

If I went into every storyline in this show and what happened, you’d be reading for hours and I think I’d get sucked into the computer or something. So let me just tell you that there’s a whole lot more story left in this show, and you’ll just have to watch it on Hulu to find out what happens.

Prison Break might be one of top 3 favorite shows of all-time. It’s fresh in my mind, so that makes it my favorite right now, but I haven’t been as drawn into most of the other shows I’ve seen as I was with Prison Break.

The show ends after Season 5. What you should know, is that in 2009 Season 4 ended. Season 5 didn’t come until 2017. I think they could’ve left things were they ended at the end of Season 4, but I think the fans were blood-thirsty enough that they decided to revitalize it. Plus, let’s just say there’s one very big jaw-dropper at the end of Season 4, that if I were watching “back in the day,” I would’ve been very upset if the story didn’t continue.

So will there be a Season 6? Reports back in 2019 suggested a Fox executive said there would. A year later, and those reports stated the opposite. There has been rumors, as soon as fall of 2021, stating that many of the main cast want to keep the story going and that “if the story was right,” they’d return.

So let me give a couple of storylines I’ve thought up that could work for future seasons.

1: Russia. Who doesn’t love a good U.S. spy story in Russia? At the end of Season 5, the Director of the CIA tells Michael that he’d like to have him work in the Department. Michael declines, but later gives the Director a look that (to me) shows him pondering the decision. Tangle the spy story with modern day tension between the U.S. and Russia, and I think you could have a compelling story. Invite Alex Mahone back into the story, and the Americans head over to Russia on a rescue mission. There they’ll find Americans locked away in a prison and their goal is to break them free.

2: South Korea. In Season 5, Michael meets a man named “Ja” who is from South Korea. He says he just wants to get back to the safety of his own home, but at one point he decides to stay in a little port-side town in the Middle East while everyone else continues to escape. He says he wants to live a quiet life and living in the open land became appealing to him. My idea would be for Ja to be found by South Korean officials after another “Company-like” organization tried to awaken Michael Scofield. This new organization, let’s call them Rogue, somehow alerts Michael that Ja had been captured in hopes to lure him out of normal life. An insider of Rogue is at the CIA, and offers Michael the job for a large sum of cash. Michael accepts and heads out on the mission, but in turn gets captured in the South Korean prison. Now you’ve got another Prison Break on your hands.

3: Northern Europe. One thing Prison Break didn’t show much of (past Season 1) is snow. Alex Mahone is back at the F.B.I. as a Special Agent and is investigating potential conflict at the Finland/Russia border. There he is captured and the CIA alerts Michael they want him to go break him out. Michael agrees only if he can choose his crew to break Alex out, where then he chooses Lincoln, Sucre, Bagwell, and C-Note. I hesitate to put Bagwell on this list because of all the bad blood he has with the team, but at the end of Season 5 he is definitely redeemed and you almost feel bad for where he ends up. So since Robert Knepper did an excellence job acting as Theodore Bagwell and is a huge component of the rest of the show, I say the more the merrier.

Like my ideas? Take them to social media & let the writers know! Send them over to Fox. Start a petition, shoot I don’t know! I’m just letting the ideas flow and seeing what sticks.

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All in all, I give Prison Break a 4.9/5.0. The only reason I am not giving it a 5/5 is because I thought Season 4 drug on a bit. After awhile, the story felt like it just went on and on and on. But hey, I love the action and the missions make you think, so I was there for it.

I hope you liked my review of Prison Break, follow me on Twitter at @mattsheehantv and Instagram at @themattsheehan to read more!

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Cobra Kai, Ozark actor Dustin Lewis exclusive interview

From Canton, Illinois to screens across the globe, Dustin Lewis has landed roles in some of your favorite shows.

He plays Mr. Palmer in Cobra Kai and was also in Ozark season 2

He got his story in theater while in Fulton County. Now he lives in George owning a real estate business and auditioning for roles.

I interviewed him about his career and what’s next for him. He says he’s in a Chris Pine film that comes out this spring.

You can read the whole article here!

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Sometimes the worst movies can make the best nights

Mom and dad need a date night. Luckily for them, two of their daughters’ favorite people live ten minutes away. 


Cue Aunt Rachel and Unky Matt for babysitting duties. 


Now, the time has come. The candy and popcorn you bought for them at Christmas is about to show it’s true colors. There’s no turning back, and it’s all your fault. 
Don’t forget to mention the $1 movie you bought at Dollar Tree for an “all-inclusive movie night.” Now you have to sit through “Adventures of Petey and Friends,” the worst movie ever known to man. 


So the scene is set. Two lollipops, two popcorn bins filled, Sweet-Tarts candy, and “Mermaid Juice” (Green Hawaiian Punch mixed with some Skinny Syrup’s mermaid mixer). 

Little did you know, there would be a 5 minute montage smack dab in the middle of the movie where a nurse helicopter, Kylie, flies across the desert looking for Petey, a douche-bag fighter jet who has also been framed for murdering his best friend (yes, this is a kids movie). 


There’s no dialogue, just sad music as she goes through all of her memories with Petey… which of course, all happened in the last 12 hours. 


This calls for a time of song writing. 


As uncle, you have the opportunity to make up ridiculous things that your nieces just find hilarious. In this case, it was the “Petey Song.” Here’s a snippet below:


“Petey, where are you? Where’s your laser beam? I need it, oh Petey. Petey, I miss you. I’m thinking about when we met at the gas station, it was stinky.”


The context? Petey has a laser beam that he drags people with when they can’t fly. 
And the gas station? The chopper found Petey stealing the desert base’s gas supply at the beginning of the movie and all the planes proceeded to take Petey into custody. 


This is also an opportunity to really see the dynamic of personalities shine of your nieces.


The 5-year-old is very emotionally aware and feels very deeply. So she freestyles a heartbreaking love song from the perspective of Kylie the Helicopter. “All of my love, I was looking for you. You would look in my eyes, baby my eyes…” 


The 3-year-old is more of a free spirit. A bundle of sunshine and a ball of energy. “I love you, my Petey” she sang over… and over… and over…


Of course once the movie is done, what do the kids want to do? Watch another movie. This time, a much better film. Disney’s Encanto. 


Sadly, mom & dad’s date night ends in the middle of the movie. A true travesty (to the girls). 


Before leaving, the 5-year-old randomly walks into the kitchen and gently hits her mouth on a wooden chair. This turns into a major meltdown where popcorn is thrown across the floor, “I hate you guys” is said to everyone in the room, and crying proceeds underneath the coffee table. 


The meltdown ends with “I’m so tired.” And then a sweet apology filled with her tears and a hug for uncle & aunt. 


The night ends, and it’s time to go home. And after the whirlwind of emotions, the 5-year-old tells mom and dad “That was the best night of my life.”


Oh, and the best part about Petey? He’s not even the green plane on the cover. He’s the Orange fighter jet right behind him. Such a stupid movie, but such good memories.

Thanks, Petey. I pray my nieces never ask to watch you again. 

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The Unexpected, Magical story of ‘I Met a Girl’

You don’t need Hollywood or New York City to make an amazing movie.

You need a compelling story, a vibrant vision from the directorial team, and a cast who can really sell the story. That’s what you’ll find in Luke Eve’s I Met a Girl.

Starring Brenton Thwaites, Joel Jackson, and Lily Sullivan, I Met a Girl takes you on a magical cross-country road trip all in the search for love.

Thwaites shines in this film, playing a man with schizophrenia named Devon. When I interviewed Thwaites in April 2021, he told me he met with mental health groups about how to play a man with schizophrenia well, and respectfully.

You can view that interview here.

In this film, you follow Devon through a journey filled with hallucinations, heartbreak, and heartwarming moments.

I watched the movie on Amazon Prime Video (twice) when it first came out. Now it is available to rent or buy on the streaming service, and last I heard it was available to stream on Netflix in the UK.

After votes were compiled for the film on IMDB, I Met a Girl was given a 6/10.

But I’d have to agree with the viewers on Amazon Prime Video and give it a 4.5/5.0 or a 9/10. Give it a try! It might not be your mainstream Marvel film or the latest hit comedy, but I’d bet that you’ll come away from the movie feeling like you watched something meaningful.

Read Brenton and I’s whole article here!

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The beautiful message from Disney’s Encanto

Family. There’s not another topic in the film world that can match up to the story of family.

Disney’s Encanto was a perfect example of that. But Encanto took a different take on family than what we’re used to, all while staying true to the message Disney has shared all along.

Our families aren’t perfect. Sometimes, more than we’d like to admit.

It was a breath of fresh air to see Mirabel fight for the Family Madrigal (cue catchy song at the beginning of the movie). Her story, like many other Disney characters, starts off with her not having special powers like her family. She’s an underdog. But she doesn’t act like one. She holds her head high and loves her family all the same.

Disney Animation Studios Production Supervisor, Nick Ellingsworth, says the film is so successful because it resonates with everyone.

“You can pick a topic or character and find something you relate to,” Ellingsworth said. “It’s universally resonating right now.”

Ellingsworth has worked at Disney for over 10 years. He was a part of Moana, Wreck It Ralph, Frozen 2, Big Hero 6, and many more.

Ellingsworth said the film also dives into self-worth.

“How much do we know about our families? How much do our families know about us? Then there are all those questions about self-worth. Am I worth enough? Am I worth what I contribute? Am I only worth what I contribute?” Ellingsworth said.

These lines have stuck with me the last few days. “Am I only worth what I contribute?” That’s something most people don’t think of.

Society seems to measure your success by what you do. Your prestige, your salary, how many projects you land. But this movie says forget all that, you can save the world just by being you.

Be adventurous, take chances, and stand up for your family even when no one else seems to care. Even the strongest people need love and support.

Encanto is a beautiful movie filled with catchy songs, a colorful world, and a great story of family. “We Dont’ Talk About Bruno” is one of Billboard’s top hits right now, but don’t count out “Family Madrigal” and “Surface Pressure.”

If you’d like to watch the full interview with Ellingsworth and I, click here!

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DC Titans Coverage

Sheehan secured numerous cast interviews for HBO Max’s DC Titans. You can hear from Brenton Thwaites (Nightwing)Curran Walters (Jason Todd/Red Hood)Joshua Orpin (Superboy)Jay Lycurgo (Tim Drake)Damaris Lewis (Blackfire) and showrunner Greg Walker.

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Spend a day in beautiful Roatan, Honduras

5 years later and I’m still thinking about Roatan, Honduras.

From private beach, to snorkeling in a coral reef, to tasting iguana! Roatan was a day I was looking forward to, but I didn’t realize it would have made this kind of impact.

I was glad to write an article for Mike Wittry, the Roatan Real Estate expert, about my experience. We stopped in Roatan for a day on a cruise I was on with my friends. I wrote about my experience in hopes of inspiring other people to travel there one day.

You can find Mike’s website here!

Below you will see the paragraphs I wrote that have been shared on Mike’s “Articles” section on his Instagram pages. Enjoy!

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Timothy V. Murphy Interview

One of the joys I have is to interview actors doing great things in Hollywood.

The most recent was actor Timothy V. Murphy. Born in Ireland, he and I share similar family backgrounds. Both from similar parts of Ireland, Murphy told me he knew many Sheehans.

I was able to hear about his career and what’s next for him. He shed some light on some of his most note-worthy roles, but the cool thing was that some of his favorite roles were ones people don’t talk about as much.

He enjoys stories about being a farmer, a man in the wilderness, a man protecting his family. You’ve probably seen him in S.W.A.T., Criminal Minds, and Sons of Anarchy.

He has over 120 roles to his name. While he’s stayed busy in Hollywood, the Pandemic hasn’t been easy for him. He hasn’t be able to go home to Ireland to see his family, but he hopes to this year.

He trained at the Focus Theater in Dublin. It’s the same place Liam Neeson studied acting.

If you want to see our video interview, click here!

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