Dr. Nekros: Book Two Is Live and Available On the Kindle and Nook!

In this second book of the Dr. Nekros trilogy, you will learn the fate of Zetta Southerland, the origin of the demon Xaphan, how the Packard came to be haunted, and witness yet another confrontation between Dr. Nekros and the evil beings working to destroy every aspect of his life. Dr. Nekros: Book Two delivers nonstop action, fascinating characters, and an intricate plot that will leave you stunned.

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Dr Nekros Book Two Cover

Get Wild At Animal Kingdom: Family 2018 Disney World Vacation (Part 5)

Animal Kingdom tends to get the short end of the stick compared to the other parks, but if you know what you want to get out of it, it can be a fantastic day.  Be aware, though, there is very little to do indoors.  You won’t have as much opportunity to duck into air-conditioning as you do at the other parks.  We visited in mid-June, and the heat was intense.

Okay!  Here we go!

Shows

As you already know, my family is very big on seeing shows and meeting characters.  (In fact, I’m going to later devote a whole article to the characters we visited.)  All set?  Here we go!

Festival Of the Lion King — We saw this show previously in the summer of 2017 and we could not wait to see it again!  When you enter the showroom, you’ll sit in a round air-conditioned area full of benches.  Don’t worry, there won’t be a bad seat in the house.  When the show starts, giant automated animals take their positions in four opposite spots along the room.  One of those enormous animals is Simba himself!  You will next have four people in traditional African garb leading the show, two men and two women.  I think the actors and actresses were different this time around from 2017, but all of them were amazing singers.  Dozens of dancers will next appear dressed as animals, some of whom are even on stilts!  These are not realistic costumes.  Rather, they are very artistic and interpretive; however, you will easily be able to figure out what animal each dancer is supposed to be.  At that point, the festival begins!  There is an amazing acrobatics display, a fire dancer that will blow your mind, a mesmerizing wire/aerial performance, and plenty of rousing singing, dancing, and jokes throughout.  This show is incredibly entertaining and performed with such precision–it’s impressive to behold.

Finding Nemo: The Musical — I had no idea what we were getting into with this one.  But, my wife really wanted to try it out, and so we did.  Let me tell you–I loved it!  This air-conditioned show essentially recreates the story of Finding Nemo, but it’s set to live, original music.  The singers hold large puppets representing Nemo, Marlin, Dory, and the rest.  These are not stationary actors–far from it!  They are running, dancing, and even lifting off the ground at times thanks to wires.  The puppets are exquisitely made, and some of them are absolutely enormous.  This is a full-scale production and really something to witness.  Even if you’re not a fan of the movie, I think you’ll still enjoy it immensely.

Rivers of Light — We saw this show back in the summer of 2017 on our first trip.  We liked it, but not enough to endure the heat and stay until nightfall this second trip.  Definitely worth seeing at least once, though.  You will sit in a large outdoor amphitheater facing a lake similar to Fantasmic.  When the show begins, two boats float out which precedes a giant laser show displayed on water shooting up and out of the lake.  It’s a story depicting the importance of animals and conservationism, but with a mythical slant.  Between the water and the lasers, it’s quite an experience!

Rides

Kilimanjaro Safaris — As a family, this is our favorite Animal Kingdom ride.  You board a large safari truck that holds about six rows of people.  (We were fortunate enough to always be in the first or second row.)  We’ve done this 20 minute ride several times, and it’s never the same because you are viewing actual living animals throughout.  We’ve seen crocodiles, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, cheetahs, zebras, elephants, and more!  Some of the docile animals, like giraffes, are allowed to roam free and have been very near our truck.  Be aware, though, this is meant to approximate an actual safari, so it’s a bit of a rough ride as you drive over uneven terrain, through water, and over dubious bridges.

Na’vi River Journey — We experienced this calm, floating ride in the summer of 2017.  We didn’t have a fast pass and got in line right before Animal Kingdom closed.  Even so, we still waited thirty minutes!  The Pandora–World of Avatar is a very popular area in Animal Kingdom so plan ahead and use those fast passes!  We didn’t opt to do the Na’vi River Journey again this latest trip because it’s basically a stroll through the underground world of Avatar.  It’s cool at night because of all the black lights and artistry involved, but if you’re not a huge fan of the franchise, you might find it underwhelming.  Even so, the architecture, fabricated plant life, and automated Na’vi figures are pretty extraordinary.  At the time, my youngest daughter was five years old, and she did not appreciate the Na’vi.  She was ready for that ride to be over!

Avatar Flight Of Passage — Staying in the world of Pandora, I had to ride Avatar Flight Of Passage on my own during this latest trip.  It’s similar to Soarin’ in that you literally feel like you’re flying through the sky.  For Flight of Passage, you sit on something like a motorcycle without wheels.  Braces pop up behind your calves and lower back which is meant to keep you from bucking off once the ride begins.  I’m a little claustrophobic, but these braces didn’t bother me at all.  Soon enough you are flying through the world of Avatar!  The device you’re straddling is meant to be one of the winged dragons the Na’vi ride (called ikran in their culture).  They make it as real as they can, even going so far as to have cushions expanding in and out between your legs to make it feel like the creature’s breathing!  The device tilts up and down and from side to side and that, coupled with your 3D glasses, creates a thrilling experience.  I absolutely loved this ride.  It’s incredibly realistic and electrifying.  With Soarin’, you actually lift up off the ground and move over a pit.  I’m not sure if that happened with Flight of Passage or not.  I feel like my device stayed put, but I was so engrossed in the adventure that I didn’t notice one way or the other.  The lines for this ride are always crazy long, so be sure to sign up for it with your fast pass.

Expedition Everest — This is my brother and his family’s favorite ride at Animal Kingdom, so in the summer of 2017 I rode it with them while my family looked on.  This summer of 2018 I had to ride it by myself, and I honestly feel like it would probably have been too intense for my nine year old.  I agree with my brother, by the way–it’s an awesome ride!  The idea is that you are in a carriage riding the rails through the Everest mountains in search of the Yeti.  From the beginning, it’s a very high, fast ride, but when you reach the peak of the tracks to see them bent up and broken, your heart will skip a beat.  The ride comes to a complete stop and they will keep you there just long enough to make you think something has gone terribly wrong.  Then the real fun begins.  I first rode this at night with my brother, and that was a surreal experience.  I almost think it might have been even more intense during the day, though.  You can see a lot more in the daylight, trust me.  In fact, when you reach the broken tracks and get stuck, if you look down, you’ll see thousands of hair ties strewn about.  I don’t know if that’s a thing to do, like throwing coins in a fountain, but I couldn’t believe how many were on the cliff face below us.  I absolutely recommend this ride, but you have to love roller coasters and have a high tolerance for abrupt twists, turns, and heights.

Other Things

Rafiki’s Planet Watch — We visited Rafiki in the summer of 2017.  You hop on a train and ride on it for a few minutes before arriving at Rifiki’s own little part of Animal Kingdom.  While there, we learned a bit about conservationism and met Doc McStuffins!  We didn’t stay long, and they had several activities we didn’t try out.  We even saw Rafiki himself wandering around!  This area typically isn’t very crowded, so it might be a nice place to go, learn a little, meet some characters, and get away from all the people.

The Boneyard — My kids really wanted to try out this play area.  It’s got lots of high slides, nets to climb, and mazes to explore–all centered around a dinosaur theme.  It’s outside, so they tuckered out quickly in the heat, but it’s a nice area for them to run and climb.  There were lots of kids, but it’s fairly spread out and didn’t feel overly crowded at all.

We didn’t do everything there is to do at Animal Kingdom, but we tried!  Thanks again for reading.  I hope you’re enjoying our perspective on Walt Disney World and that it’s helping to inform a possible trip of your own.  (By the way, all of the above photographs were taken on my wife’s phone camera.  Some of them are blurry because the focus of the picture never stopped moving!)

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

Ant-Man and the Wasp – A Movie Review

You may remember that I kind of liked the first Ant-Man.  (Read that review HERE.)  I’m not going to spoil Ant-Man and the Wasp for you, but I’ll say this–I liked it even better than the first one!

Everything the first one did really well got executed even better this time around.  The character dynamics are stronger, the family bonds tighter, the plot is way more interesting, and the conflicts are more complicated.  (Notice I didn’t say logical or even believable,  but hey, you’re watching a sci-fi super hero movie–don’t get persnickety.)

Best of all?  The comedy is faster, looser, and infinitely more genuine.

The heart and soul of this movie is Paul Rudd, to be sure.  He’s got amazing chemistry with everyone, but especially Michael Pena (his business partner), Abby Rider Fortson (his daughter), and Randall Park (his [redacted]).

Don’t get me wrong, he’s so fun to watch with Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly as well, but those three mentioned above just jump off the screen when together.

Speaking of Evangeline Lilly, seeing her as the Wasp has been well worth the wait.  While Rudd is the heart and soul of the film, Lilly is the muscle.  She’s got some fantastic action sequences and definitely gets top billing as the “action star” in my book.  I love her and Ant-Man fighting side by side, especially because she is by far the more capable of the two.  I both hope and want to see a lot more of the Wasp in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Michael Douglas is also far more likable in this sequel.  He’s got a lot of skin in the game this time around.  He’s still cranky as Hank Pym, but the central conflict allows us to connect with him in ways we couldn’t before.  We get to see Pym as an actual father and husband this time around, not just as a grieving shut-in.

I’d also like to mention that I loved the villain–Ghost.  I mostly appreciated that she is her own thing, not just a derivative of Ant-Man.  She’s also got actual motive and, by movie’s end, I dare you not to sympathize with her a little.  This is not a crazed business tycoon or an inter-dimensional despot seeking to take over reality.  This is a real person with a very real problem.

Laurence Fishburne had a far meatier role than I anticipated, and his role actually surprised me.  I ended up really liking his character and would love to see more of him.  I can’t get too much into it for fear of spoiling the plot, but I’m anxious to see how others liked him.  He’s not just a throw-away supporting actor, trust me.

Finally, it is SO great to see Michelle Pfeiffer on the big screen again.  Her charisma just oozes onto the audience.  Again, I won’t reveal too much, but I instantly loved her character and can’t wait to see more of her as well.  I could watch Pfeiffer in every Marvel movie from here on out.

The Ant-Man world is slowly growing (no pun intended), and they are making fantastic choices with the actors they are electing to cast in this franchise.  They are all either very funny, very charismatic, or very likable–in most cases all three!

But again, Paul Rudd is the key to making these movies work.  Has there ever been a more lovable “regular dude?”  His character, Scott Lang, is brave but not too brave.  Smart but not too smart.  Tough, but not too tough.  What he is, though, is a great friend and an even better father.  I won’t lie–there were a few scenes with his daughter that made me tear-up.

These scenes weren’t heart-breakers, though, just the opposite.  The scenes with his daughter were touching, uplifting, and positive.

In fact, I think I like the Ant-Man movies so much because they are light-hearted, action-packed comedies.  I was either laughing or marveling (again, no pun intended) through the entirety of Ant-Man and the Wasp.

There’s much to marvel at, by the way.  The special effects are unreal in this movie.  First of all, they pulled their de-aging trick again, and it’s flawless.  Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Laurence Fishburne all get the treatment for flashback scenes, and I swear I felt like I’d entered a time machine.  It was astounding.  Rudd and Lilly are shrinking and growing, shrinking and growing nonstop!  Cars, houses, buildings, even PEZ dispensers are shrinking and growing, too!  The Wasp’s aerial combat is mesmerizing, and Ghost’s phasing is phenomenal.  Even the giant ants look perfect.

All in all, Ant-Man and the Wasp is just plain fun, and in an era of very heavy super hero movies, this action-comedy is really a breath of fresh air.  Imagine that?  A fun super hero movie that celebrates the bonds between friends, partners, and family.

There are two post-credits scenes, by the way.  The first one comes pretty quick after the credits start rolling.  It’s fairly important to the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline.  The other one is not important at all, but worth seeing if you don’t have anywhere to be.  You could skip the second one and be fine.

I wholly recommend that you see Ant-Man and the Wasp.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

Be a Star At Hollywood Studios: Family 2018 Disney World Vacation (Part 4)

We started our Walt Disney World vacation at my favorite park — Hollywood Studios.  If you know me, it’s probably not hard to guess why I love this park so much.

Two words: Star. Wars.

Before we go there, though, I’d like to give you an overview of Hollywood Studios in terms of shows, rides, and restaurants.

Let’s start, shall we?

Shows

My wife and kids are not huge fans of rides, so we take in a lot of shows, which is totally fine by me because the shows are always amazing.  Allow me to briefly run through them.

For the First Time In Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration — I must admit that I wasn’t quite excited to see this one again after seeing it in the summer of 2017.  Boy, was I wrong.  The premise is that two Arendelle historians run through the story of Frozen with appearances by men and women dressed as Elsa, Kristoff, and Anna.  They also show scenes from the movie in the background on a huge screen.  The stage is made to appear as though you are inside Arendelle’s walls.  Make no mistake, however–the historians are the real stars of this show.  The historians are part story tellers, part singers, and part comedians.  They sing each and every major song while encouraging the audience to join along.  But they are also hilarious.  As I said, I wasn’t quite so excited to see this show again, but the historians were so funny that I actually enjoyed it more this second round.  A man fell asleep in the front row who also happened to have very shiny knees (yes, you read that right) and they started improvising the heck out of that situation.  They had the Kristoff actor laughing so hard that he had to turn his back to the audience in order to collect himself.  They absolutely had me rolling.  Of course, Elsa makes a grand entrance at the end and the kids will love it when fake snow begins to fall from the ceiling in the air-conditioned theater.  Even if you’re not especially into Frozen, the ad libs and improvisation will more than entertain you.

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular — This was a first-time experience for us.  Though we loved it, it might have been a little too intense for my six-year-old.  As an avid Indiana Jones fan, I insisted that we take this one in.  While you sit in a large outdoor amphitheater, you watch a director and his stunt crew recreate epic scenes from the Raiders Of the Lost Ark film–yes, they are epic.  It’s not just recreating the scenes, though, it’s almost like watching a story of the director actually filming it.  There are some incredible falls from atop buildings, lots of jumps and flips, and even some extremely large explosions.  These explosions caught us off guard.  They were fireball big, loud, and we could very easily feel the heat from them from where we sat.  I loved it, but it frightened my youngest to the point of tears.  If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t take her to it.  It’s incredible, but far more intense than I expected.

Beauty and the Beast: Live On Stage — Again, you sit in an outdoor amphitheater for this one.  This show is about 30 minutes and features live actors creating an abbreviated version of the movie.  The character costumes are really impressive, but a little on the cartoonish side.  The singing is wonderful and the dancing is really something to behold.  There is always a lot to take in on stage, so I don’t see the young or old getting bored during this one.  I have no idea how the dancers in the character costumes could stand the heat, but they gave no signs of fatigue.

Voyage Of the Little Mermaid — Parents, this is another air-conditioned theater, so put it on your list!  This short, 15 minute show features puppets standing in for the fish and a live actress as Ariel.  Some of the show takes place in the pitch black with the puppets lit up by black lights as they sing and dance–it’s very cool.  The actress then appears as Ariel as she runs through many of her songs while clips of the movie play in the background.  The stage and theater are designed to give you the sense of an underwater cave.  An enormous Ursula appears at the end.  She’s a neon puppet and literally takes up half of the stage–very impressive.  It’s especially cool when water lightly drizzles from the ceiling during a fabricated lightning storm.

Disney Junior: Live On Stage! — My nine-year-old was not quite as excited to see this again after seeing it last year, but my six-year-old still loved it.  If your child loves Disney Junior, this is the show for them.  You enter a giant (air-conditioned) room with the stage set up to look like the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  An actor or actress (we’ve had each) leads the crowd in song and dance as puppet versions of Jake the Pirate, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, and Minnie appear.  You sit on the floor and the crowd is mainly comprised of small children, so be ready to dial your patience up to full-throttle.  I had a baby next to me intent on feeling my knee as I sat cross-legged.  Didn’t bother me, but you may encounter something similar.  Again, items fall from the ceiling at various points during the show, which the kids love.

Muppet Vision 3-D — My kids aren’t terribly familiar with the muppets, but that didn’t seem to bother them one bit.  In fact, they loved this little show so much we saw it two or three times!  Kermit is desperately trying to put a show together when Beaker unleashes Waldo, a 3-D character who takes everything up a notch.  This show has excellent 3-D and is very funny to boot.  You even have the two old guys sitting up in the balcony!  I recommend this show no matter what, but if you’re looking to sit down in the air-conditioning, this is a fantastic option.

Fantasmic — A nighttime show, Fantasmic makes use of fireworks, music, lasers, actors, automated creatures, and fire.  It’s an extraordinary thing to behold, but if I’m being honest it was far more intense than we anticipated.  The audience sat in an outdoor amphitheater with a moat between us and a mountain.  Mickey Mouse appears at the top of the mountain and that’s when the show starts.  At one point, a giant dragon appears which frightened my youngest.  It was absolutely huge.  At another point, they literally lit the moat on fire.  It was so hot that we could feel it from where we sat.  My oldest did not care for that aspect.  The fireworks, while amazing, are right on top of you and pretty tumultuous.  My wife and I were quite impressed by the whole thing, but neither of our kids particularly enjoyed it.  They honestly found it a little scary.

Star Wars: Path Of the Jedi — This short film creatively summarizes everything that takes place leading up to The Last Jedi.  It even includes a few scenes from The Last Jedi that really sets up Kylo Ren and Rey’s evolving dynamic.  My nine-year-old and I are very big Star Wars fans, and we loved this refresher.  We thought they were very clever how they weaved in and out of the seven films.  It doesn’t move chronologically, yet it somehow still covers all of the most important bases.  I’m not sure how much the casual person would enjoy this, but Star Wars fans will really get a kick out of it.

Star Wars Launch Bay Characters — By far my favorite place in the park, the Launch Bay houses several props and models from the Star Wars movies.  You’ll see replica lightsaber handles, helmets, blasters, models of vehicles, and even some full-sized vehicles!  Best of all, you’ll have the chance to meet BB-8, a very fun Chewbacca, and an unsettling Kylo Ren.  BB-8 is just a model on a platform, but still cute as can be and full of sounds.  Chewbacca is an actor in costume, and he loves to play around with people.  Kylo Ren is another actor in costume reciting lines from the movie.  He will get right in your face and try to intimidate you, so be ready!

Rides

As I said earlier, my family is not big on rides, so this section will be much, much shorter!

Star Tours: The Adventures Continue — Last year I had to ride this one by myself, but this year I managed to get my wife and kids on-board with me!  Though this ride doesn’t actually go anywhere, you feel like you’ve traversed the galaxy by the time it’s over.  The premise is that you’ve loaded onto a freighter in order to travel to your destination.  A life-size automated version of C3PO is piloting your ship when it’s discovered that a rebel spy sits among you.  The First Order or Empire (depending) come after your ship, and that’s when it blazes across the galaxy trying to escape.  A giant screen looms before you–a view out the cockpit–and with your 3D glasses you’ll feel like you’re zooming through several popular planets from the film.  Again, you don’t actually go anywhere, but the “freighter” pitches up, down, and side to side in conjunction with the screen to give the illusion that you are actually zipping through space.  Apparently there are many different adventures, so you can keep riding it and experience something new every time!

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror — Needless to say, I rode this one by myself.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into with this, but I’m so glad I did it!  With this ride, you load onto an elevator car.  It has about four rows in it for people to sit down.  You then begin moving up, and out, then up, then out.  As it’s moving you along, you’ll have to deal with all kinds of trippy optical illusions.  Finally … the car shoots straight up into the air, then plummets, then shoots up again, then plummets again.  This went on for several moments.  I’m not sure how high we went, but at the peak of our climb I could easily see the whole park.  Be prepared, though the fall did not feel out of control, it was so hard and fast that my arms were lifting over my head on their own volition.  It was a thrilling ride that left me breathless!

Restaurants

Hollywood & Vine — This was a really fun experience because, along with the buffet of everything you could ever want, you immediately got a picture with Donald Duck as you entered (see below).  Furthermore, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Daisy Duck were all wandering around as well.  All four stopped at our table and interacted with my daughters.  Goofy even attempted to floss with them–the dance, not the dental hygiene measure.  He was very confused at first.  They were a blast, and the food was very good.  This is a popular, busy place, so be sure to plan ahead and make your reservations.

50s Prime Time Cafe — Among my favorite restaurants at Walt Disney World!  Clearly one of my best meals, this restaurant is straight out of the 50s.  The wait staff refers to themselves as “Cousin” this or “Uncle” that, and they continuously remind you to behave, keep your elbows off the table, and chew with your mouth closed.  This is not the kind of place where they will berate you, though.  My daughters were on red-alert thinking that they were going to get in trouble.  It’s all done in good-nature.  Most of the food is diner style comfort food, so right up my alley!  Our waiter was particularly good, and he made the experience all the more pleasant.  Like with Hollywood & Vine, make your reservations ahead of time.  I heard them say the wait time was 90 minutes at one point!

Okay!  I hope that gives you an idea of Hollywood Studios.  Obviously, I loved it all.  We didn’t go into every shop, but I feel like we’ve covered most of it during the last two years.  As always, thanks for reading.  Magic Kingdom is up next!

daffy duck and family

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

The Beach by Alex Garland – A Book Review

Yes, it’s true, I’m reviewing a book that’s been on the market for over twenty years.  The truth is, I’ve grown to greatly appreciate Garland’s film directing and wanted to check out his written work.

The Beach, which you may remember was a film released back in 2000 which starred Leonardo DiCaprio, was based upon the book published just four years prior.

It features Richard, a young man who suffers from a seemingly permanent case of wanderlust.  He is constantly searching for the perfect destination–a place untouched by tourism, commercialism, or average people, really.  While in Bangkok, he happens across a man who gives him a map to just such a place.

The man cannot travel with Richard, and I won’t tell you why, but Richard does manage to befriend a French man and woman–a couple–to join him.  None are sure the map is real, but they chance it anyway.  After a courageous swim through the ocean itself … they find the beach.

The beach seems idyllic in the beginning.  There is a small group of people living in tandem with one another–all vested in the same interests.  Life is very good … until ill-timed tragedies strike.  The group could handle these adversities well, or they could … fall apart.  I’m sure can guess which occurs.

The Beach is a well-written book.  At almost 450 pages, it’s a long read, but it’s also a relatively fast one.  I would not describe it as a page-turner, but Richard’s psyche is particularly interesting and it’s fascinating to witness his development throughout the story.

The tale itself is rather complicated.  On one hand, the beach dwellers are in love with nature, independence, and a simple life.  They are perfectly happy to pull their weight, support one another, and waste the days away in paradise.  On the other hand, a certain selfishness resides in each of them, as does a touch of irresponsibility.  The beach is a total secret, one worth killing for, and everyone there has decided to turn their backs on their previous lives in order to enjoy their Eden.  It takes a bit of a misguided person to go to such an extreme, wouldn’t you say?

Garland executes perfect pacing in establishing Richard, logically delivering him to the beach, allowing us to see the beauty of the island, but then also in dissecting each character as catastrophe unfolds.

After all, when you think about it, if each one of these individuals was willing to turn their backs to their own flesh and blood, how much can they really depend upon one another when things go bad?

Some have compared it to Lord Of the Flies as well as Heart Of Darkness, and these are certainly appropriate comparisons.  I personally don’t feel it achieved that level of mastery, but it’s a solid read well worth your time.

As I said, Garland was a very good writer back then and has only gotten better.  His characters in The Beach are interesting from start to finish.  The story itself, while enjoyable, felt awfully derivative of the classics mentioned already.  I have to wonder if I’d feel differently had I read it back in 1996.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)