Monday, October 24, 2016

Halloween Horror Nights 26 Review and Guide

I'm back! After a little hiatus I'm so excited to share my experience from Halloween Horror Nights 26! By now you know I love Orlando (wassup Annual Passholders!) and Halloween so this is the perfect match! I have gone in previous years but I think this was one of the best especially coming off a stellar anniversary year. Since all the houses seemed legit we decided to purchase the R.I.P Tour (so spooky sounding.) This guided tour takes you through all nine houses (no waiting in line), all five scare zones, special seating for Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure show, two attractions (plus express passes for the rest of the night on participating attractions) and snacks/beverage stations (some are free but alcohol is not). Let me say the experience was AMAZING!

Our tour was scheduled at 7:00pm (it last about 4 1/2 hours) so we got to the park around 6:15 and since we were staying at a on site hotel it was a breeze since we went thru security checks before entering the park.

TIP: There are ways to enter the park and event early through special "holding areas" designated in the park. This is available to ALL attendees of Horror Nights you just have to have your ticket to the event. Read about how to do so here!

We checked in for the tour to be permitted inside and were told to meet at Café La Bamba at 6:30 for food and drinks before our tour departed. It was starting to be a real..."scream" lol I know I'm funny guys! Jk.

Dress: Unique Vintage
TIP:  Ok, so for those of you not doing the tour this is for you. Look at the above map and get yourself familiar with the houses and locations, I will give you a big tip...start at the back of the park (unless you are doing early access in that case go to whichever houses are open at that time). This means when you enter go to the right!

As we waited to go into La Bamba's we realized it was the perfect time to take some pics since it was still light out. The closest scare zone was Vamp 55 and wow I loved this zone!! The actors were so into their roles as 1950's style greasers, football players, cheerleaders and prom queens but with some umm bite. It was like homecoming gone way wrong!
It was finally time to check in and as we waited inside there was food like chicken masala, cupcakes, specialty desserts as well as a cash bar and even some characters from the houses for photo ops! The tour got started right on time and Jerod our guide was the BEST! Our group was also really fun and it felt like we had made new friends by the end of the night but I know you guys want to know about the houses!

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 8/10

I was the most apprehensive about this one. I love scary movies but Leatherface (the Texas wielding maniac who wears people's skin over his face) has always terrified me. Leatherface is front and center along with his whole family. The actors playing Leatherface are some BIG dudes they are super intimidating and scary. Overall I really liked this house and the décor was set up just like the film, you felt like you were there! Watch out at the end as you exit...

American Horror Story: 10/10

Obsessed. That's really all I can say. It is one of the longest houses in history with 29 scenes and it is amazing. Talk about stepping into TV, this is a perfect example. The house takes you through Season 1 with Murder House (latex man!), Season 3 with Freak Show (Twisty!) and Season 5 Hotel (Lady Gaga!). If you are fan of the show you will recognize so many cool details and scenes from the show and even if you aren't it delivers the scares! Twisty makes numerous appearances. You've been warned.

The Walking Dead: 9/10

I know some HHN fans are a little apprehensive about this maze since this is pretty much a mainstay now each year. This house was great! I also really love the show (last night's episode had me stressed) but what was done for the house this year is kind of like a "best of" from the past few years. So a lot of favorite moments from the last few years of Walking Dead houses are in here. I really enjoyed it and my friend who doesn't like the show even said it was a really cool house and unlike last year it delivers some big scares!

The Exorcist: 8/10

Creepy, creepy, creepy! This house is unique because the film itself essentially take's place in a room so Universal did a great job at navigating you through the famous scenes in a house but is designed like a room (hope that makes sense!). The house is uncomfortable it's warm, you smell things (hello vomit scene), you can feel things as you walk through, and the actresses playing possessed Reagan are dead on. Cool animatronics and a good house but it felt good to get out!

Halloween: Hell Comes to Haddonfield: 10/10

This may be my favorite house! There are so many Michael Myers!! Like one at every corner. This house is a direct sequel to the first film and house in fact you start the maze by entering Laurie's closet from the first film and end at the hospital in the second one. This house was amazing, the props, actors, detailing, all of it was there! Perfect house in my opinion!

Krampus: 9/10

I was actually super pumped about this house since the film was so creepy fun! Krampus is no Santa and resembles more of a large goat creature (Google it) and he is always lurking in this house (don't forget to look up!) as well as an army of evil toys, creepy large dolls, and other sinister holiday elves trying to ruin the holiday. Please look at the little gingerbread men on the kitchen table! Unique house!

Lunatic's Playground 3D- You Won't Stand a Chance: 6/10

The icon of this year's event is Chance, a demented female clown (think Harley Quinn) who's boyfriend Jack the Clown (another famous icon in previous years) has gone away and left Chance to run the show on her own. She has gained lots of followers, her maniacs, (they are in a mental institute) have taken over the asylum. Guards are strung up, clown faces are everywhere and Chance is at the center of it all. It's not a bad house and it's not really a good house in my opinion. I also hate 3D. Very loud and neon. I was expecting a lot more since she is the icon of the event and was disappointed. Could have been really cool but not enough storyline. Again, not bad just not on par with the rest of the houses!

Ghost Town: The Curse of Lightning Gulch: 9/10

I was not expecting to get the most scares here! I was genuinely spooked several times in this house! Basically this house takes place in the old west during the gold rush. These ghosts of the past dressed in western gear and warning you not to take their gold get more violent and scary as you get closer to the gold. It's a really cool and unique house! Great original!

Tomb of the Ancients: 9/10

The past has come back in these ancient ruins and you come face to face with some pretty scary creatures. Think mutants. Really awesome jungle set and such a well designed details! You are so busy looking around at everything the actors know how to get your attention. The creature at the end is must-see!

Also, not a house but don't miss Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure show! It was great this year and you will love all the pop culture references plus it's an election year!

Even if you don't do any of the houses you aren't safe from creepy fisherman, banshees, anarchists, and Chance herself. There are designated scare zones in the park, five to be exact, and you must walk through them to get to other areas of the park. There are also chainsaws everywhere! Check out all the scare zone themes here! Vamp '55 and Survive or Die Apocalypse were my personal favorites!

Tip: There will be long lines at all of the houses especially this weekend and on Halloween. If you want to experience all of the houses I highly recommend the RIP Tour or if that is out of your budget then try to purchase the Express Pass which should help you see all the houses. Now if you are going without either one, which is very do-able, you should go on a Wednesday (least crowded) or Thursday (second least crowded) or even go next weekend (November 4th or 5th). They have extended due to popularity and the hurricane.

Pick the houses that are your must-do's, a top three if you will, lines reach up to 100-120 minutes and sometimes more depending on the house/date so plan accordingly! When planning a trip we always look at what to spend money on and we think it's better to do things like the RIP tour, express passes and a covenant hotel. Others prefer to spend on expensive dinners, first class tickets and so on. I say go with what will get the most bang for your buck and that was experiencing all that Halloween Horror Nights had to offer. Again just our personal preference!
To find out how you can buy your tickets to the event check here and to find scheduling, info and anything else you might need to know then go to the official website!

I highly recommend the event and yes, it is for mature audiences  so think twice about taking the kiddos. Also, be respectful of the actors, don't hit, touch, do anything to harm them, this is all for fun. If you don't like scary movies, gore or anything horror related then this may not be the event for you. However, if you get in the mindset that it's all just part of the event and a show, you will have a fantastic time! Go ahead and take a Chance! **evil laughter** ...see what I did there?

Happy Travels!



Thursday, September 29, 2016

New Posts Coming Soon and Revamp!

Hey everyone!

I know it's been a hot minute since I've posted but I've just been so busy with work and school that I haven't had the time to devote to writing posts but don't worry I'm catching up soon and I'm doing a little revamp! Expect to see some new video content...aka I'm about to start "Vlogging"! Be on the lookout for new details and while I'll still be doing written pieces expect a lot more videos!

Keep tuning in :)



Monday, August 29, 2016

Sidewalk Film Festival 2016

This past weekend was one for the books! I actually think I need a weekend to recover from this one. Not only did I get to see Drake in ATL on Friday night (amazing!) but Atlanta was only a short visit and it was back to Bham since Saturday and Sunday were booked up for the 18th annual Sidewalk Film Festival! As you may know I love movies and this is the perfect way to see indies, local and even some I probably would never check out if they weren't at the festival!

This was my second year at Sidewalk and like last year I opted for the VIP Pass, it can get pricy as the festival gets closer so I recommend purchasing yours earlier rather than later. They also have weekend passes as well as single day passes you can purchase as well. I like VIP because it guarantees you get into each film, front of the line access, free snacks, VIP lounge and is an overall good deal.  For the least expensive price on any tickets be sure to buy early!
Getting Around
Everything is pretty much within walking distance of each other, there are several venues to watch each film so check your program and see which spots you will be in. I always like to park in the lot across from the Alabama Theater, it cost $10 but it is very convenient plus safe! There are signs along the way to direct you and if you don't feel like walking to the venues there are trams and bicycles for you free of charge. We felt safe the entire weekend and there was a good amount of security but as with any bigger city or any event for that matter be aware of your surroundings, pay attention and be smart.
VIP Lounge

One cool thing that is included with the VIP pass is the lounge. This year's was really well done! Light snacks since it was super hot outside, drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and you got to be in the air condition for a bit if you needed a break from the walking!

Oh and they even had massages! The lovely ladies from the Aveda Institutes South were giving free neck, back and hand massages. Let me tell you the neck massage was a God-send after craning my neck for a few hours at films (I know such a hard life #firstworldproblems) but I have such a bad neck and back from my former cheerleading days that it was heavenly! You also got a card for a free massage at their spa for the future which will definitely be put to use.

Films, Food and More
When you get your event guide be sure to look it over and start selecting which films are your "must-see" now when you are in a group things can get a bit more complicated. Odds are that not everyone is going to like the same things so I think it's best to compromise and have each person pick at least one film that is their "must". Or you can always split up and meet up before another film, it's up to you! And if all of your group wants to see the same films then snaps to you because you've made you life easy (yay).
Film festivals like Sidewalk are the perfect way to see some great documentaries (Chicken People, it's legit a thing), beautiful cinematography (The Love Witch), brilliant style pieces (Cheerleader, maybe my favorite film of the fest), and fantastic indies (the terrific Morris Comes to America). I also love the short films! Especially the horror shorts, it's great seeing lots of film styles in a short time and you get more than one story so you feel like you are experiencing more.
If you get hungry there are tons of food trucks (shout out to Big Spoon Creamery and Mimi's Soda) as well as your standard movie theater snacks in each venue! I would recommend brining cash since a lot of the theaters are older so it's easier to pay cash plus with food trucks, theaters, etc. you never know if the system might go down so keep cash handy!

What to Wear
You will be sitting down. A lot. You will be walking in the heat a lot of the time in between films so dress comfortably! This is not the time for that form fitting bodycon dress (save that for next weekend) but breezy sundresses, sandals, tees and tennis are my go to! Guys if you are reading just stick with shorts, jeans and tees. Everyone just needs to be comfortable so they can enjoy the movies! And so you can eat your popcorn and milk duds with no remorse or shame.

Final Thoughts

Birmingham has come such a long way in the past couple of years and events like Sidewalk are drawing in more people than ever. The event is well priced, unique, and fun for those that live here and those that are traveling just for the festival. Trust me you won't be disappointed! Very well organized, safe, and it offers a bit of a break on an otherwise monotonous August weekend. I highly recommend Sidewalk!

For more information on next year's event click here! Start making your preparations now!

Are there any film festivals in your area? Which ones do I need to visit? Let me know!

Happy Film Watching!


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Fantasy Football Draft 2016 Tips and Picks

So last year some guy friends asked if I wanted to be part of a Fantasy Football League and I had heard about it but never participated. I went into it not knowing anything about the draft, rankings,etc. All I mainly remember about the draft is that I chose two quarterbacks in my first rounds (I realized this was a faux pas) and asking one of my co-workers and his friend at weekly trivia who I should take. This was DURING the draft! I ended up getting some solid picks and the more I researched the more I knew who to play each game and guess what? I won my league! Let's talk tips!
Beginner Fantasy Football Tips
1. Quarterback is important. "Experts" say to go draft your QB last but I say pick a dual threat early (basic meaning: a QB that can run with the ball and throw) so you can get more points. I had Cam Newton last season and he was my leader in points almost every week.
2. Pick Wide Receivers and Running Backs first and second. You have to have points to win so it makes sense to choose the players who are scoring the touchdowns, right? It might be tempting to choose players who you recognize from college but if it's their first year I would go more with a proven veteran who's be in the league and has a record. Keep in mind just because a player was great last year in college or NFL even doesn't mean they will repeat success.
3. Look at the updates on injuries. Your fantasy app especially ESPN will send you updates whether a player is out for a game, not in practice, injured, etc. This is especially helpful for choosing your lineup for the games.
4. Remember to set your line-up. Doing a little research and being familiar with teams can go a long way when you are selecting. It's not about favorites, it's seeing who can give you the most points. If you don't set your line-up it will do it for you or keep it set from the week before, it is much better to choose your own or it may not set at all so no points (insert sad face).
5. Defense players are important too! You get points for sacks, loosing yards, etc. and don't discredit kickers. Kickers win games! It's best to have a well rounded team if you can draft that way.
6. HAVE FUN! This is all for fun so don't get discouraged if you lose every game or start to be too braggy if you win every game (maybe a little humble brag). It's a great way to connect with friends, co-workers, family or even just joining a league to see what all the talk is about!
Fantasy Picks for 2016
1. Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)
2. Aaron Rogers (Green Bay Packers)
3. Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts)
4. Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)
5. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)
6. Blake Bortles (Jacksonville Jaguars)
7. Carson Palmer (Arizona Cardinals)
8. Tom Brady (New England Patriots)** Will be suspended first four games so use back-up pick till he comes back
9. Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
10. Eli Manning (New York Giants)
Running Backs
1. Todd Gurley (LA Rams)
2. Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings)
3. Ezekiel Elliott (Dallas Cowboys)
4. David Johnson (Minnesota Vikings)
5. Lamar Miller (Houston Texans)
6.  Devontae Freeman (ATL Falcons)
7. LeSean McCoy (Buffalo Bills)
8. Le'Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers)
9. Eddie Lacey (Green Bay Packers)
10. Johnathon Stewart (Carolina Panthers)
Wide Receivers
1. Julio Jones (ATL Falcons)
2. Antonio Browns (Pittsburgh Steelers)
3. Odell Beckham Junior (NY Giants)
4. Dez Bryant (Dallas Cowboys)
5. A.J. Green (Cincy Bengals)
6. Deandre Hopkins (Houston Texans)
7. Allen Robinson (Jacksonville Jaguars)
8. Jordy Nelson (Green Bay Packers)
9. Keenan Allen (San Diego Chargers)
10. Mike Evans (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Tight Ends
1. Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots)
2. Greg Olsen (Carolina Panthers)
3. Delanie Walker (Tennessee Titans)
4. Jordan Reed (Washington Redskins)
5. Coby Fleener (New Orleans Saints)
6. Travis Kelce (Kansas City)
7. Tyler Elfert (Cincy Bengals)
8. Julius Thomas (Jacksonville Jags)
9. Zach Ertz (Philadelphia Eagles)
10. Gary Barnidge (Cleveland Browns)
1. Steven Hauschka (Seattle Seahawks)
2. Graham Gano (Carolina)
3. Stephen Gostkowski (New England)
4. Mason Crosby (Green Bay)
5. Justin Tucker (Baltimore)
6. Chandler Catanzaro (Arizona)
7. Chris Boswell (Pittsburgh)
8. Dan Bailey (Dallas)
9. Cairo Santos (Kansas City)
10. Brandon McManus (Denver)
Defense and Special Teams
1. Carolina
2. Arizona
3. Seattle
4. Denver
5. Houston
6. Kansas City
7. Los Angeles
8. Cincinnati
10. New York Jets
Sleepers (keep an eye on these)
1. Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago
2. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee
3. Clive Walford, TE, Oakland Raiders
4. Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati
5. Matt Jones, RB, Washington
6. RG3, Washington, QB
7. DeVante Parker, WR, Miami
8. Justin Hardy, WR, Atlanta
9. Paul Perkins, RB, NY Giants
10. C.J. Prosise, RB, Seattle Seahawks
There you have it! Hope these tips and picks help you out and let me know if you have any questions!
Happy Drafting!


Monday, August 22, 2016

10 Books to Read Now

Hello blogging world! Yes, I have been away for a few days but I'm alive! I've been so busy starting a new radio show, watching my first film come to life (and gearing up for two more), getting ready for classes to start (possibly applying to get my doctoral degree), working with the best guys on sports talk radio and life.  So the blog had to wait. Don't worry, I'm back!

If you follow along here or my Instagram, you know I love reading. It's one of the reasons why I love writing. Let's face it, if you don't read it's hard to write. Now what stories do I prefer? I love suspense, thrillers and horror! Stephen King is my all time favorite author and such a huge influence over my work. Now that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the classics or a good old love story (hello Nicholas Sparks, I know the ending will be tragic but I read anyway) or comedy like the fantastic Emily Giffin who penned the Something Borrow and Something Blue novels along with countless others. I also confess I love the Harry Potter series, I might have even gone to a few midnight release parties at the bookstore when I was younger.

I can always tell what books are going to be an instant hit with me and I have read some awesome one this summer, from suspense to love to horror to memoirs there is something for each of you! I even encourage you to try something you haven't before, a book might just surprise you!

1. The Girls by Emma Cline

The Girls

This might be my favorite of the summer! What happens when some young impressionable girls join a Charles Manson-esque cult? You know it can't be good but you have to see what happens.

2. First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

First Comes Love

A sweet but not sappy look at the lives of two southern sisters. The perfect match of humor, drama and storyline that will make you fall in love with Giffin's writing.

3. Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train

Go ahead and read this thriller before it hits theaters this fall. With a Gone Girl feeling this thriller will keep you wondering who to believe especially with such an unreliable narrator. This is going to be a big movie this fall so read it first!

4. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Truly Madly Guilty

I got this novel on one of my longer plane travels this summer and I could not put it down! It's fantastic! If you want suspense, who done it, thriller, comedy all in one book....this is it!

5. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Woman in Cabin 10

I just started this one but I can already tell it's going to be a good one! Ruth Ware did not disappoint with her first novel (In a Dark, Dark Wood) and her writing is so creepy it can give Stephen King a run for his money.

6. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

Unapologetic and uncensored might be the two words you see what is associated with Amy's name. Her first memoir dives into issues such as sexual abuse, relationships and more. I haven't read it yet (it was sold out at my bookstore) but I am interested to see the real Amy. I'm sure it handles difficult parts of her life along with happy moments with her trademark humor.

7. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale

Ok get your tissues ready. This beautiful story about two sisters in WWII era France is well done and perfectly written. Just a may cry.

8. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See

The Pulitzer Prize winning novel about a young German boy and a blind French girl who meet during WWII is one that you won't be able to put down and rest assured will surely become a major movie picture soon. Read it now!

9. I'm Glad About You by Theresa Rebeck

I'm Glad About You

A charming story about a successful actress and her on-again-off again boyfriend from high school who she's had a tumulus relationship with years unfolds in the pages of this breezy read that you will finish in a weekend.

10. Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Luckiest Girl Alive

Alright so this may have been the book of the summer last year but if you haven't read it yet...get to it! This thriller will make you stay up wanting to see what happens.

Have you read any of these? Any suggestions for me? Let me know!

Happy Reading!