Who Would You Have Play the Genie in Disney’s Upcoming Aladdin Movie?

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Disney’s reboot sub-genre might have been just a two-hit wonder (2015’s Cinderella, and 2016’s The Jungle Book). True, many people loved the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, but even the most die-hard fans have to admit it focused more on gender politics than it did on improving upon the 1991 original.

But really, the filmmakers charged themselves with a virtually impossible task.

So now, I’m more reserved than ever about Disney selecting Will Smith, of all people, to play The Genie in the upcoming Aladdin adaption.

Granted, no one can beat Robin Williams’ brilliant and iconic voice work, but I’ve got to credit Disney for trying. But the way I see it, Will Smith had his chance years ago and he chose to side with the competition (Dreamworks), and delivered an annoying and forgettable performance of a clown/fish/talking fruit in the abhorrent Shark Tale.

Remember that movie? Neither do I. And seeing that Will Smith hasn’t really done anything worth watching since I Am Legend (2007) ten years ago, maybe Disney decided to take pity on him and wants to (ahem) free Willie from the lamp that’s kept him in Hollywood lockdown.

Now, to be honest, I’d prefer an unknown actor to fill the role, like Mowgli and Cinderella, but seeing as Disney wants to cash in on star value now, I’ll sadly rule that option out.

So! I’ve compiled a list of better candidates whom Disney should have chosen to fill the big read shoes (I saved our favorite for the end). Also, I’ve included a poll to allow you the chance to vote for your own preference! Just click the link and voice your opinion:

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True Love at the Movies

There are many movies that claim to be romantic comedies – and that’s just what they are – romantic jokes. So on this Valentine’s Day, I want to pay tribute to those few movies that actually speak about true love.

Never mind the endless list of movies where the couple met yesterday and are forced into some silly circumstance outside their comfort zones and now 90 minutes later they’re sharing that “long-awaited” kiss as the sun sets behind them. (Thank you, Frozen, for addressing this.)

Here is a list of movies (and shows) that feature a more old-fashioned type of love. A love that is selfless and undying. A love that overcomes all odds to keep on living.

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A Beautiful Mind

To some, this may just be a movie about a brilliant man with a psychological disorder. To others, it’s a really fascinating biography. Either way, it’s a movie not to be missed by anyone for any reason. But when I watch this movie, I see a love story at its finest. Watch it from the wife’s point of view. By the world’s standards, she had every reason to leave him, and few would have blamed her. But for a woman to choose to stay married to a man as impulsive and potentially dangerous as John Nash, simply out of love – that speaks volumes to me that Ron Howard and the makers of this film, not to mention the real life couple this movie portrays, really understand what true love can be.

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Cinderella Man

Another Russell Crow and Ron Howard team effort. James Braddock, a real-life boxer who was forced to survive the Great Depression while protecting and providing for his wife and three kids, is a role model for every man everywhere. The way he lets his kids have the last bite of dinner. The way he gets himself beat bloody to provide extra change to pay the electric bill. The way he loves his wife through it all, through the absolute worst of times in the twentieth century. James Braddock is an incredible role model for us all. His message is that nothing – not poverty, brokenness, sickness – should ever come between you and the family you vowed to protect through sickness and in health.

Life is Beautiful

Life is Beautiful

This classic foreign film about the gradual oppression of the Jews during the rise of Hitler will make you laugh (no joke) and cry at the same time. This film really does show that life really can be beautiful even in the midst of pure evil and ugliness all around. And the Beatles (for once) were right – that sometimes, all you need is love. The first part is classic Abbot-and-Costello-type comedy and the second half is pure tragedy. But through it all, it’s love that keeps this family alive and hopeful during one of the worst eras in our modern history.

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My Life

This is the fourth saddest movie in the world (just behind Toy Story 3 and My Dog Skip, and The Cure). Michael Keaton stars as a terminal cancer patient who only has a short amount of time to live. The catcher is that his wife is pregnant and, according to the doctors, he won’t live to see his son be born. His wife’s dedication and love for him shouts volumes through this film as a call out to all wives to be that help-mate you were called to be when you stood under that alter with your groom. It’s a worthy movie to watch to make you feel closer to your loved ones.

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The Man in the Box

I’m going to cheat here, for a moment. This isn’t a movie (yet). However, the roles are reversed from My Life. In this fantasy/adventure book, the wife has cancer. And it takes the husband nearly until the end of the book to rediscover his love for her. I would highly recommend adding it to your Amazon wish list or Good Reads to-read list, as the author is in the process of revising it, tweaking it, adding to it, in hopes of boosting his book’s 4.3 Amazon rating to a perfect 5. (Oh, and you really ought to Like it on Facebook for a chance to win a free autographed copy.)

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The Office

In the Toy house, this is the pinnacle of the greatest shows ever made. (We’re constantly watching it in cycles because I can only stand so much of HGTV.) But Jim and Pam have one of those relationships that you just can’t help but root for from the very beginning. They’re the kind of couple that just… work – no pun intended. You just don’t get much better romantic character connections than this.

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Shrek the Fourth

Wha-?? Am I really recommending a Dreamworks movie? Well, after the absolute train wreck of the third installment of the Shrek franchise, I don’t know why or how I bothered to watch this at all. The only explanation is that Sarabeth must have talked me into it, and since I love her (theme of today’s post), I gave in. And though it’s not as good as the second Shrek, this fourth installment actually surprised me in an unexpected way. The first good thing the filmmakers did was exterminate any potential tributes to its predecessor (Shrek 3) that they could. In a way, they started fresh, picking right up from the second movie and gave it a better conclusion by reaffirming Shrek and Fiona’s everlasting love for one another. It’s the story most men at some point wish to find themselves in – a chance to return to bachelorhood. Shrek the Fourth is a cautionary tale about why it’s best to appreciate what you have sitting around your dinner table.

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And how could I overlook one of the most remarkably romantic couples to hit the big screen since…. well, ever? In ten minutes the filmmakers meticulously stitch together a romantic life worth living as Carl and Ellie fall in love, get married, plan a family, and grow old together through the mundane occurrences of everyday life – yet, they somehow make every day an adventure. Even in her passing, Carl can’t seem to let her go. If only everyone can find this kind of romance, as I did with Sarabeth.

Have a safe and happy Valentine’s Day, everyone, and feel free to list your favorite true-love movies.

Oh, and keep praying for us. We’re hoping to bring Baby A. home from the hospital today… 🙂

Just a Few Reasons to Buy My Book

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So my book The Man in the Box has been selected to go to the Kentucky Book Fair.  That makes me pretty excited, and also eager for all of you to pick up a copy. Here are a few reasons why I think you should get it here on Amazon or wherever else books are sold.

1. First and foremost, it’d help establish my career as an author and better prepare our home and future for a child. We’re getting closer and closer to getting approved by the state, so any help and support will be greatly appreciated.

2. The themes are universal. Every man will relate to the protagonist Robbie and every woman will relate to his wife.

3. Dinosaurs, monster centipedes,  giant panthers, and more (really).

4. Every parent can identify with the pain of seeing their kids grow up and apart from you.

5. Anyone who’s ever wished they could revert back to their childhood fantasies will absolutely find Robbie’s world exciting, thrilling, and enjoyable.

6. If you like intense, gripping books that dabbles a little bit in fantasy worlds (more akin to Jurassic Park than Battle Star Galactica), then this book is for you.

Please consider purchasing a copy of The Man in the Box, and help make it a big seller. To my knowledge, I’ve only met one person who wrote the reviews on Amazon, so no one is biased, nor was anyone paid to review it.

A head’s up before you dive into it, though. There are a few editorial mistakes that made it into the book, which I fully accept as my own fault. (It’s my first book, show me a little grace.) I’m more than ready to push for a second, fresher edition, but this edition’s got to sell first.

So buy it, read it, and spread the word by sharing it with friends and family, reviewing it on Amazon, BN.com, Goodreads, etc. I’m glad that it’s been selected to appear in the Kentucky Book Fair, but I’d like to see it go higher, with your help. (And if you want to go above and beyond, call your local Barnes and Noble repeatedly and keep requesting that they carry it in their store.)

Also, consider liking it on Facebook for updates on my future projects. Here are what some people have said about The Man in the Box:

“This was a heart-stopping suspense adventure like I haven’t read in a long time.”

-Cherese Vines, author and blogger

“… Toy’s debut novel will leave readers talking and will make them instant fans of his storytelling abilities.”

-Nicole McManus, reviewer and blogger

“The suspense had me on the edge of my seat with worry about how everyone was going to get out of this, heart thumping out of control the whole time, except for that one minute where it almost stopped.”

-Danielle E. Shipley, author and blogger

“I was not disappointed—I finished it in a day. I had a hard time putting it down … There is more universality here. Robbie comes close to being an archetypal figure. He is Everyman, and his box is everyone’s “box.”’

-Ken Stewart, blogger

“Be prepared for the peaks and valleys of adventure, fantasy, real life, and war.”

-Sam Williamson, Founding Director, Beliefsoftheheart.com

Read the full reviews here.

My Top 10 Favorite Movies: No. 4

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We generally think of epics as being set in a certain era of our world’s history. We are drawn to them, in part, because we like to believe we would act in the same manner as the protagonists under such afflicting conditions. We all like to believe that we have it in us to be a William Wallace, or a Maximus.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is certainly an epic in every sense of the definition, except it takes place in a different world, and the protagonist does not stand strong in the end – in fact, he falls and fails at his mission. And honestly, I think, story-wise, that’s just as beautiful as the epics where the heroes withstand the torture or sacrifice themselves in the name of love.

Why? Because Frodo shows us that there’s a big chance we’re going to fail in the end, and we need to constantly be reminded of that haunting possibility. But despite our efforts, evil will be conquered in the end, and in the end we have to to look inside ourselves and face the ugly truth that we all have a little Frodo in us (pun intended). King Solomon, the writer of many of the Proverbs, would have identified with Frodo.

It’s hard to identify with anyone in Star Wars. Worse yet, it’s hard to get past the terrible acting. But Lord of the Rings is something anyone from any walk of life can relate to.

I’ll be honest. I don’t have much patience or respect for people who complain that the movies are too long or that they just don’t like them for some reason or another. To me, that reflects shallowness and a sense of immaturity. That sounds rash, I know. And yes, they’re just movies. But there is a depth in Peter Jackson’s adaptations and in Tolkein’s stories that dive much, much deeper than just mere entertainment and frilly thrills.

In Lord of the Rings there is good – solid, pure, sacrificial, selfless good – and evil – sadistic, monstrous, dark, sinister. There is the love of power, the depravity of man, the weakness of mortals, and the purity of friendship and sacrificial love.

In those last several minutes of The Return of the King, I’m usually a sobby mess, because it’s taken so long to get to this redemption, and the sun is finally out, and there are finally smiles and hugs and happiness all around. And redemption.

Sarabeth and I own the extended versions of the movies, and we’ve sat through the several-hour-long commentaries and behind-the-scenes documentaries (we don’t do that for many movies outside of Pixar films, so you know that’s true dedication). But let me tell you, those extra features and behind-the-scenes documentaries are every bit as interesting and exciting as the movies themselves. They’re funny, they’re educational, they’re emotional… the documentaries themselves deserve a multitude of awards and honors.

And you know, I’ll even have to throw Jackson’s latest, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on the same tier as the original trilogy as far as greatness and near-movie-perfection goes. And I expect the next two Hobbit movies will fit just fine right next to them.

So that’s number 3 in my list of top ten favorite movies of all time. To list the Lord of the Rings movies in order from least favorite to favorite is difficult because they’re all a part of the same story. But if forced, I would say, The Two Towers, Fellowship of the Ring, The Hobbit, and Return of the King (comparable only to Toy Story 3). 

What about you? Share your thoughts on these movies. What makes you return to them over and over again?

A Sneak Peek at The Man in the Box

As most of you know, I’ve written a novel called, The Man in the Box. If all goes according to schedule, it should be released by the end of the year. I have been quite secretive with the plot, until now.

I am looking for a dozen or so people to review my book in order to help generate hype. Who doesn’t like recommending great books to friends and family members? If, after reading the brief synopsis, you are interested in reading an electronic advanced copy, please join The Man in the Box facebook page for your chance to win.

What would you give up to be a god?

Weary of the mundane day-to-day life as a husband and father of two, Robbie Lake longs to get away from it all. Being fired from his job of eleven years shakes him up and through a set of circumstances he inadvertently climbs inside a cardboard box, which mentally transports him to his childhood fantasy world long since evolving into something darker in his absence, waiting for him to return. Some want to worship him, and others want to kill him. 

Both the adoration and the thrill keeps him going back inside the box for more, but at the expense of his family. At a time when his wife needs him most, Robbie chooses to live a double life. But soon, murderous creatures follow Robbie home from the box and threaten his loved ones. They will continue to be terrorized until he decides to remain in the world that turns out to be filled with his deepest horrors.

Follow The Man in the Box on Facebook for updates and contests to increase your chances of winning a free advanced copy.

Not recommended for children under 13. Contains prolonged sequences of fantasy terror and violence.

Image Credits: Jungle, green eye