ABC’s “The Toy Box” announced the mentors and judges who will select the winning toy to be made by Mattel and sold exclusively at Toys “R” Us after the series finale. In each episode, inventors present their toy concepts to a group of mentors that include Dylan’s Candy Bar owner Dylan Lauren, toy guru Jim Silver and Pixar Creative Director of Consumer Products Jen Tan. If the toy maker gets past the mentors, they will move on to The Toy Box where a panel of young, no-holds-barred judges that include Sophia Grace Brownlee (“The Ellen Degeneres Show”), Aalyrah Caldwell (“Uncle Buck”), Toby Grey (“The Unexpected John Cena Prank”) and Noah Ritter (“The Ellen Degeneres Show”) decide which toy moves on to the finals and eventually crowned the winner. The eight-episode series hosted by Eric Stonestreet (“Modern Family”) premieres on FRIDAY, APRIL 7 (8:00-9:00 p.m. EST), on the ABC Television Network.
Eric Stonestreet, Host
Eric Stonestreet currently stars as Cameron Tucker on ABC’s comedy series “Modern Family,” a role in which he earned two Emmy Awards in the Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series category, in 2010 and 2012. Stonestreet also garnered a 2011 Emmy nomination, Golden Globe nominations in 2011, 2012 and 2013, Screen Actors Guild nominations in 2012, 2013 and 2015, and a TCA Award nomination for his portrayal. Stonestreet’s credits also include HBO’s “Confirmation,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” “The Loft,” “Identity Thief,” “Bad Teacher” and “American Horror Story.”
Dylan Lauren, Mentor
Known to many as the “Candy Queen”, Dylan Lauren is the founder and CEO of Dylan’s Candy Bar. She is the face of the brand as well as the creative and strategic force behind it. In 2001, her childhood dream of opening the world’s largest candy store that merges fashion, art and pop culture with candy was realized. Since then, Dylan has opened 16 locations and plans to expand her candy empire worldwide. Dylan has been credited with changing the face of the candy industry and the way people view candy. Her stores are considered “the most original candy emporiums on the planet” and “must-see American cultural icons.” Dylan is also the author of “Dylan’s Candy Bar: Unwrap Your Sweet Life.” Her book shares candy-centric tips for entertaining, decorating and gift-giving for every occasion—along with her chic and colorful, signature style. As the daughter of legendary fashion icon Ralph Lauren and author Ricky Lauren, Dylan was immersed at an early age in design, art and fashion. After graduating from Duke University with a major in Art History, she traveled the globe in search of the world’s most exciting confectionery creations.
Jim Silver, Mentor
Jim Silver is an energetic and dynamic innovator in the Toy and Children’s Entertainment industries, and is nationally recognized as one of the preeminent experts in play. Silver is the CEO/editor-in-chief of TTPM (Toys, Tots, Pets & more), the only website that combines expert third-party reviews (video and written) with live price comparison, sales notifications, one-click purchasing, and product availability information at major retailers. TTPM was the first site to review toys online and currently reviews more than 5,000 products every year.
Jen Tan, Mentor
Jen Tan is the creative director of Consumer Products at Pixar Animation Studios. In this position, her mission is to uphold and protect the integrity and legacy of Pixar films by enhancing and extending the consumer experience through the design and execution of all types of consumer products around the globe. Tan works side by side with studio executives and filmmakers to ensure that any product – including action figures, play-sets, games, ride-ons, journals, plush, etc. – is made to be appealing and authentic to the studio’s designs and stories of the films. Since beginning with the studio, Tan has worked on the consumer product lines for “Inside Out” and “The Good Dinosaur,” as well the studio’s most recent feature film release “Finding Dory.” In addition, she continues merchandise lines for several franchise properties like “Toy Story,” “Cars,” “Monsters,” and a Disney•Pixar Collection for “The Incredibles,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Up,” “WALL•E” and “Finding Nemo.” Tan is currently developing the merchandise lines for the studio’s upcoming films including “Cars 3” and “Coco.”
Sophia Grace Brownlee, Judge
Sophia Grace Brownlee and her cousin Rosie McClelland, both from Essex, England, make up the duo Sophia Grace & Rosie. They quickly gained popularity by making regular appearances on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” after posting a cover version of the Nicki Minaj song “Super Bass“ that went viral on YouTube. Sophia Grace debuted music videos on her official YouTube Channel like her Billboard Hot 100 charting single “Best Friends” and “Girls Just Gotta Have Fun.” After signing a recording deal with Capitol Records France, she has released her third single, “Girl in the Mirror,” featuring Silentó, in June 2016.
Aalyrah Caldwell, Judge
Aalyrah Caldwell hails from San Diego, California, and was a series regular on the ABC show Uncle Buck with Mike Epps and Nia Long. Other TV credits include a guest-starring role on “Code Black,” “The Fosters” and “Key and Peele,” and a leading role in the dramatic film “Cardinal X.”
Toby Grey, Judge
At seven years old, Toby Grey became recognizable for his comedic work on Fandango’s “Reel Kids,” commenting and reviewing family films. He continued to make us laugh with videos for “Buzzfeed,” “Funny or Die,” “College Humor” and “A Little Advice.” Earlier this year, his video “The Unexpected John Cena Prank” went viral, with over 30 million views on YouTube. Toby also has several TV/film/commercial credits. In his short career he’s been fortunate enough to work with James Franco, Kevin Hart and John Cena. He will appear in the upcoming feature film “Airplane Mode,” starring social-media influencer Logan Paul, and make an unforgettable appearance on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.”
Noah Ritter, Judge
Noah Borowski Ritter was discovered at the age of five while attending the Wayne County Annual Fair in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, with his grandparents John and Kathy Borowski. Local Newswatch 16 reporter Sofia Ojeda was reporting on opening day. She was interviewing attendees about the food, rides and activities of the annual fair. During his interview, Noah took the microphone from Ms. Ojeda and continued talking, saying the word “apparently” several times in course of the interview. The clip aired on the local news that evening and went viral. Ritter has appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” from 2014 thru 2015 and in commercials for Liberty Mutual Insurance and Visa that appeared on Ellentube 2016. He co-hosted the 2014 Viral Videos segment with NFL star Michael Strahan for ABC’s “The Year.”
“The Toy Box” is produced by Mattel, Hudsun Media and Electus. Michael Rourke, Chris Grant, Drew Buckley, Richard Dickson, Catherine Balsam-Schwaber, Julia Pistor, Susan House and Hamilton South are executive producers.
About Toys ”R” Us, Inc.
Toys ”R” Us, Inc. is the world’s leading dedicated toy and baby products retailer, offering a differentiated shopping experience through its family of brands. Merchandise is sold in 875 Toys ”R” Us and Babies ”R” Us stores in the United States, Puerto Rico and Guam, and in more than 765 international stores and over 245 licensed stores in 37 countries and jurisdictions. With its strong portfolio of e-commerce sites including Toysrus.com and Babiesrus.com, the company provides shoppers with a broad online selection of distinctive toy and baby products. Toys ”R” Us, Inc. is headquartered in Wayne, NJ, and has an annual workforce of approximately 62,000 employees worldwide. The company is committed to serving its communities as a caring and reputable neighbor through programs dedicated to keeping kids safe and helping them in times of need. Since 1992, the Toys ”R” Us Children’s Fund, a public charity affiliated with Toys ”R” Us, Inc., has donated more than $125 million in grants to children’s charities. For more information, visit Toysrusinc.com or follow @ToysRUsNews on Twitter. Follow Toys ”R” Us and Babies ”R” Us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Toysrus and Facebook.com/Babiesrus and on Twitter at Twitter.com/Toysrus and Twitter.com/Babiesrus.
Midnight Mass: The Blood of Life
The isolated island community of Crockett receives a mysterious new head priest, full of secrets and a brand new testament under a very unusual Messenger of God.
Meet poor Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford), freshly released from prison and wracked with guilt over what got him there, a stupid drinking accident that caused the death of his ex-girlfriend. The last thing he wants to do is go back to Crockett and the judgment of the mostly religious community there, his disappointed family, and the nightmares of his ex’s death that plague him. But where else would have him? Resignedly on the ferry, he goes.
Riley’s dad Ed (Henry Thomas) isn’t the kind of man who talks very much at all, much less about his feelings, or his very real disappointment in his elder son. Riley’s teen brother Warren (Igby Rigney) has no idea what to say to him either, and just generally keeps mum. Riley’s mom Annie (Kristin Lehman) is accepting and loving, hesitant in how to help her eldest son but never wavering in her faith in the help of our lord Jesus. Mom seems to think a good heaping dose of the Church would set Riley right but is surprised to learn that the old priest of the Parish, Pruitt, has taken an extended leave of absence from the island, and his newcomer replacement Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) is young, charismatic, and bursting at the seams to tell the whole island about the gifts he brought them, most especially what he claims as a new testament under a messenger of God.
We’ll get back to that whole ball of issues in a moment, the other interesting characters of Crockett Island. Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan) is the nightmarish overly polite and gently, almost lovingly condescending neighbor Christian woman you’ve ever loathed, the kind of person who explains away every last thing her Church may do wrong or contradictory because, after all, God works in mysterious ways. Pfft. Of course, Bev immediately ingratiates herself as the second to the new Father Paul in their services and is the first to start covering up his transgressions as they become more rampant.
Newcomers to Crockett Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Kohli) and his son Ali (Rahul Abburi) present a burgeoning problem to the plans of Father Paul and his shadowy companion, for they are both practicing Muslims. The practical side of investigating these so-called ‘miracles’ and strange happenings falls on Hassan’s shoulders, as he already struggles with barely-concealed racism and suspicion from his fellow islanders, and of course his son is being wooed away from him by the promise of actual, tangible miracles, but from a different whole faith and God. Father Paul definitely does not practice a traditional Christian faith and relies far too much on making use of the eucharist, the ceremony of the blood and flesh of Jesus Christ turning into bread and wine and, well, consumed.
Wade (Michael Trucco) and his wife Dolly (Crystal Balint) are lifers of the island and both in general interested in one thing, the advancement of their own family, specifically their daughter Leeza (Annarah Cymone), who happens to be in a wheelchair. And that happens to be the canny Father Paul’s first real miracle-with-a-cost that he demonstrates to the astonishment of the parishioners, after a heartfelt and rousing sermon, Father Paul commands Leeza to rise, to stand, and to walk. And lo, she does. What parents wouldn’t wholly dedicate themselves to a cause after seeing this happen to their beloved precious daughter? The fringe benefits of healing, and power, the ones that come at a mighty, currently unnamed, cost, are simply a nice bonus.
Joe Collie (Robert Longstreet) is the town drunk, and while his reasons for drowning his sorrows in the sauce might be understandable, absolution wears a very different face when it comes from Father Paul. While Leeza might be willing to forgive Joe, and even as Joe begins attending the newly-formed Al-Anon meetings on the island of course hosted by Father Paul, redemption might’ve been better sought from medical professionals, and not this newfound method of religious worship.
Dr. Sarah Gunning (Annabeth Gish) is the islands’ kind of all-around medic, and this is how she and Riley’s old friend Erin (Kate Siegel), also newly returned to the island, a few months pregnant but traveling quietly alone, met when Erin comes to the Doc for obstetrics. Sarah’s older mother Mildred Gunning (Alexandra Essoe) has many medical and mental issues, and Sarah struggles in their shared home, to take care of her addled mom and balance her own life. Then Father Paul takes it upon himself to visit one of his oldest parishioners, bringing the sacred host and wine with him to give directly to Mildred, who starts looking and acting so much better under his loving care.
The show is very much a slow slow burn, with a lot of the actual action taking place in the last two episodes. Much of the beginning and middle episodes feature two people just sitting alone, having quiet and seriously in-depth conversations about heavy subjects – grief and repentance, what happens when we die, the disasters that come as a result of addictions, how our actions’ consequences reverberate to those we love around us, faith and the foibles of man, and of course, the giving of oneself over to a higher power, for strength, and guidance, and love.
Except, for the higher power that Father Paul brought back with him, to share with his beloved flock of Crockett Island, while it may be extremely powerful and full of what could be considered miraculous magic, everything comes at some kind of a cost. And when the Messenger of God is finally revealed to the shocked denizens of Crockett at Easter Mass, with Father Paul rapturing on about rebirth as the bloody massacre begins in earnest, it’s faith, not in any kind of God or religion, but faith in each other, that may save a few hardy souls.
Question the wisdom of your religious leaders along with the rest of us in a fine slow-burn addition to the Flanaverse, Midnight Mass is on Netflix now!
Saw X: It ain’t brain surgery!
Legendary executioner Jigsaw returns to exact revenge on a cadre of scam artists who promised him a bogus cure for his cancer!
First off, be aware, that this is what I call an interleaved sequel, a movie set between previous films in the franchise. In this case, Saw X occurs after the events of the very first Saw film, and before Saw II. Everybody got where we are? Good! Into the madness, we dive!
So, as we all know, John Kramer’s been diagnosed with cancer, very aggressive brain cancer, and likely doesn’t have much time left. And he’s tried everything under the sun, doing a ton of meticulous research, we’d expect nothing less from our master of the art of murder, and not one thing has worked. Yet one man from the support group for cancer sufferers, Henry (Michael Beach), offers an off-the-books supposed miracle cure, and John jumps at the chance.
Why does this nonsense always sound too good to be true? Because it is. Deleted scenes from the first Deadpool movie already told us why traveling to Mexico for any kind of medical cure is a sublimely stupid move, but Kramer is desperate. And while he might be sick and dying, John Kramer has never been what anyone could call stupid. So the villa out in the Mexican countryside, the affable cab driver Diego (Joshua Okamoto) professes surprise at Kramer being highjacked for his good, the nervous muttering from assistant Valentina (Paulette Hernandez), the side-eyeing from little housekeep Gabriela (Renata Vaca) and her tequila, and most especially the smooth and smarming reassurances of head “doctor” Cecilia Pederson (Synnove Macody Lund), all leave a kind of sour taste in John’s mouth.
The whole cluex4 scene is done in the style that the Saw films are known for, where we the audience are treated to cut-together explanatory scenes in a flip-flash fashion of usually about two minutes, for poor John when he realizes he’s been hoodwinked and just how badly, seems a little contrived. But then it’s entirely possible that we the audience truly expected our genius mastermind of the infamous Jigsaw murders to have realized what was happening sooner, and got enraged along with Kramer. And cheered as he prepared to take his bloody and ultra-violent revenge!
First up in our grand guignol of executions is the return of Jigsaw’s first protégé, Amanda (Shawnee Smith). And despite her avowed reverence for Jigsaw and his proven “therapy”, Amanda does waver a bit when the scammers are put through the paces of their specially-made Saw traps, and they shriek and blubber and bleed out. The appearance of the ringer of the bunch, Parker (Steven Brand), doesn’t even slow our beloved engineer of the damned down, because we knew Jigsaw would have his other apprentice waiting just off stage, the deliciously vicious Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Even the monkeywrench of involving little-boy soccer fan Carlos (Jorge Briseno) in the traps, is just another cog in the machine that is the brilliantly plotting mind of John Kramer.
A fine addition to the Saw legends, showcasing a return to the beloved style and panache of the original Tobin Bell-starring Jigsaw films, Saw X is splashing gore and gallons of blood in theaters now!
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off,” Netflix’s latest series, is a rollicking journey through the world of video game culture, blending nostalgic references with a fresh narrative twist. Centered around Scott Pilgrim, portrayed with magnetic charisma by Michael Cera, the show skillfully integrates gaming elements into its storytelling, creating a delightful homage to the video game subculture.
The series cleverly employs pixelated graphics, power-up animations, and game-like sound effects to bring the virtual world to life. These visual cues, reminiscent of classic video games, enhance the storytelling and resonate with audiences familiar with the gaming landscape. The attention to detail in recreating iconic gaming moments is commendable, creating a visual and auditory treat for enthusiasts.
The exploration of video game culture goes beyond mere aesthetics; it becomes an integral part of the characters’ identities and interactions. The script intelligently weaves gaming terminology and tropes into the dialogue, effectively blending the real and virtual worlds. The series navigates the challenges and triumphs of the characters through the lens of gaming, making it a unique and engaging experience for both gamers and general audiences.
The ensemble cast, including standout performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, and Chris Evans embraces the gaming theme with infectious enthusiasm. The chemistry between the characters is palpable, adding emotional depth to the series.
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” successfully taps into the zeitgeist of video game culture, offering a nostalgic yet contemporary take on the gaming phenomenon. It’s a must-watch for those who cherish the pixelated roots of the gaming world while providing an accessible and entertaining narrative for a broader audience. The series takes off not only in its title but also in its ability to soar within the ever-expanding realm of Netflix originals.