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Bee Jays!

September 23rd, 2023

jumanji the next level spotlight pageThe Jumanji gang prepares for a new challenge in the game in this scene from the recently released “Jumanji: The Next Level.” Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


Many of us come to a point in our lives when we feel like we’re in a rut and rather unsure of what that next step in life should be. When that happens, there can be a variety of emotions experienced including fear, anxiety and even anger. 

New movie “Jumanji: The Next Level,” which I got to see with my brother, Alex, while I was home for Christmas last week, tackles this topic to a degree and surprisingly does a good job at it. The movie picks up three years after its predecessor “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” in which teenagers Spencer, Bethany, Martha and Anthony, along with an old friend and two unwitting additions, again become trapped in the video game “Jumanji,” where they must face new challenges with both old and new avatars while having to save the game from a new villain in order to win. 

One of the things I liked about this movie is how the chemistry between both the teenage actors and the chemistry between their “Jumanji” avatars remains from the “Welcome to the Jungle” installment. The younger actors work very well together and play off of each other in an awesome way, and their video game alter egos also work great together in the many scenes that take place in the game. I also really liked how the newer additions to the cast, including Danny Devito, Danny Glover and Awkwafina, fit in nicely and actually complemented the main cast instead of drawing attention to just themselves. Overall, everyone in the ensemble worked very well together and I enjoyed seeing them all come together onscreen. 

avengers endgame spotlight pageCaptain America and victims of Thanos’ “Avengers: Infinity War” snap return for battle in the final act of “Avengers: Endgame,” which was released earlier this year. Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


2019 was a great year in entertainment for me in terms of both what I’ve seen on Netflix and at the movies and with the live shows I’ve been able to see this year. So with it being basically the end of 2019, I thought it would be fun to recap some of my favorite entertaining moments from this year. This list will include favorite moments from TV shows, movies and live shows/performances I’ve been to see this year. 

So let’s take a look back!


Broadway fun

As those who read my column know, I’m a big Broadway and musical theater fan and there are so many shows on my list to see if I ever actually make it to New York. I actually got to see a couple Broadway-caliber shows this year, starting in January when I traveled to Oklahoma City to see “Phantom of the Opera.” I had a great time seeing this show and I was mesmerized by nearly every aspect of the show from the music to the set design and everything else in between. My favorite moment from the show was the “Music of the Night” number, it was very well performed and I loved it. 

My Broadway journey continued in August when I traveled to Oklahoma City again with my mom to see “Hamilton.” I had a great time seeing this show also and my mom and I were both absolutely blown away by the vocal performances and the choreography and everything else in the show. I can honestly say this was the coolest live musical I’ve seen, with my favorite moment in the show being the “My Shot” number near the beginning of the show. If everything ends up right, I’ll consider seeing it again if another tour comes nearby. So overall, not a bad year for musical theater for me. 

klaus spotlight pageJesper (voiced by Jason Schwartzman) and Klaus (voiced by J.K. Simmons) prepare to deliver some toys in this scene from Netflix’s “Klaus.” Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


Not very many letters are mailed nowadays through the post office, but there’s one letter everyone remembers sending from when they were young, the most important letter of the year – the wish list of Christmas presents from Santa Claus. Oddly enough, however, it’s rather unsure how the tradition of writing to Santa got started. 

A recent entry into the Netflix movie lineup, however, might just help answer that question. The recently released animated movie “Klaus” follows postman Jesper Johansson (voiced by Jason Schwartzman) stationed in a town in the North who befriends a reclusive toymaker named Klaus (voiced by J.K. Simmons) and together, they start many traditions associated with the Christmas season, including the use of reindeer and the mailing of Christmas gift lists to Santa Claus, all while making life in the community of Smeerensberg better. I’d had the movie suggested to me by Netflix back in November and was able to get around to watching it only recently, and I’m very glad I did. 

One of the main things I liked about the movie is the animation, and it is stunning. It’s a great  blend of hand-drawn 2D animation and more modern computer animation techniques that have been more prevalent in modern animated movies. The textures and colors and lighting used are so well done and all the characters and scenery truly pop and come to life onscreen. Overall, the animation is very well done and while I was watching it, I couldn’t help but compare it to some parts of last year’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (another animated movie that had mind-bogglingly amazing animation) because in some ways the animation techniques were kind of similar.