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October 27th, 2021

muppets haunted mansion spotlight pageThe Great Gonzo and Pepe the king prawn meet the caretaker (Darren Criss) of the Haunted Mansion in a scene from “Muppets Haunted Mansion.” Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


The Halloween season is upon everyone, and for a lot of families, Halloween traditions include the viewing of Halloween-themed specials and movies together. 

With that in mind, I thought it would be good to put together a list of some good Halloween specials for the family to enjoy as Halloween inches closer and closer.


“Muppets Haunted Mansion”

This is one of the newer entries on the list, having just been released earlier this month exclusively on the Disney+ streaming site, and follows The Great Gonzo and Pepe the king prawn as they take on an old challenge to spend an evening in a haunted mansion. They encounter a lot of spooks throughout the hourlong special (including a slight existential crisis on Gonzo’s end) in order to complete the challenge. All the favorite Muppet characters are involved in the special, and the humans involved (including Darren Criss, Will Arnett and Taraji P. Henson) seem to be having a lot of fun. Overall, it’s a spooky yet fun watch that should keep the family entertained.

no time to die spotlight pageDaniel Craig and Ana De Armas in a scene from “No Time To Die.” Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


Back in 2006, the world was officially introduced to Daniel Craig as he followed in the footsteps of fellow actors Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan in the role of the world’s most famous superspy James Bond (a.k.a. 007) with his debut in “Casino Royale.” 

I became a fan of Craig’s Bond portrayal pretty much immediately after watching “Casino Royale” and that’s only grown in his subsequent Bond films. When I heard Craig was officially stepping away from the role not too long before the movie’s original release date, I was majorly bummed. 

This past weekend, I made my way to the movie theater in town to watch Craig’s Bond swan song “No Time To Die,” (after SEVERAL COVID-19-related delays( after which I came away with some definite thoughts. In the movie, Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life with his girlfriend, Dr. Madeleine Swan (Léa Seydoux, first introduced in “Spectre”). However, his retirement is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright, introduced in “Casino Royale”) turns up asking for help to rescue a kidnapped scientist. The mission ultimately turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain, Safin (Rami Malek) armed with some VERY dangerous new technology.

Right off the bat, I very much enjoyed the performances throughout the movie. Craig does a great job in his last outing as Bond and is able to convey a lot of emotion throughout, which is one of the reasons why I’m such a big fan of his portrayal, BECAUSE he actually portrays Bond as an actual human being instead of just another pretty boy. His moments with Madeleine, along with his final moments as Bond at the end of the movie, are extremely good to watch. Léa Seydoux was also very good – she showed a slightly more fierce side or Madeleine, and like in “Spectre,” she has very good chemistry with Craig. She has some really good moments in the movie, and I liked seeing her character again. 

diana musical spotlight pageJeanna de Waal as Lady Diana Spencer in a scene from the recently released “Diana” musical on Netflix. Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


The life of Lady Diana Spencer has always been interesting to me  not only because of what she went through as a member of the British royal family, but also because of everything she was able to accomplish before her sudden death. So when I heard some time ago about there being a Broadway musical about her life, I wasn’t quite how to feel about it – on one hand, I thought it was somewhat vulgar to do a biographical musical about someone whose death is still quite fresh in the minds of family and friends. But on the other hand, biographical Broadway musicals have been a bit of a rage lately (thanks to “Hamilton,” “The Cher Show,” and “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” among others), so why wouldn’t this turn out well?

Netflix released a pro shot of the yet-to-open “Diana” Broadway musical Oct. 1, and I decided to see for myself whether it would be decent or a complete misfire. As it would turn out, there was some of both throughout the show, which follows Lady Diana (Jeanna de Waal) from her first meeting with Prince Charles (Roe Hartrampf) through her divorce and death. Also talked about in the show are her affair with James Hewitt (Gareth Keegan) and her work with AIDS  and cancer patients. 

One of the few aspects the show ultimately ended up getting right was the costuming, which was done very well by William Ivey Long. Much like when I watched Elton John’s “Rocketman” biopic, I have to wonder how much time and sweat and labor went into creating some of Diana’s most well-known fashion looks, because every costume is quite stunning and looks great on leading lady Jeanna de Waal, particularly the black cocktail “revenge” dress (dubbed in the show as Diana’s F-you dress). I was also left rather stunned with some of the quick changes done in the show, and I would like to very much know how they were able to be accomplished, because they are done in literally a snap. The only complaint I would have about the costuming is de Waal’s Diana wigs, because they look EXTREMELY cheap and unflattering, so I feel like more effort could have been done there. 

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