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March 2011 Archives

DVD Review: "Tangled"
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Do you have a parent who you feel is unfair? Too strict? Just plain overprotective?

IML'ers have written in to our "You Said It" section, complaining about what you feel is unjust parental treatment. Many of you wish the rule-happy adults in your life would let you date, or have a cell phone, or wear makeup, or at least hang out with friends at the mall without being followed around by a smothering, paranoid guardian who watches your every move. Sheesh!

But what if the freedom you longed for was, actually, freedom? What if your parent sheltered you by, y'know, sheltering you?

Tangled Blu-ray art sm.pngIn "Tangled," Walt Disney's latest animated adaptation of a classic fairytale which was released this week on DVD and Blu-ray, a teenage girl named Rapunzel faces this exact situation, having been literally locked up in a tower by the most overprotective mother in the world. Only the woman, Gothel, isn't really her mother, and she isn't really protecting Rapunzel so much as the girl's amazing secret. Rapunzel's incredibly long and flowing blonde hair isn't just nice to look at...it's magic. In fact, the mystic healing powers of the hair have been keeping Gothel alive for hundreds of years.

But Rapunzel, on permament lockdown, dreams of seeing the wider world, and when a rogueish thief named Flynn Rider decides to hide from the law in her secluded tower, she hatches a daring escape plan. Will it work? Will she find out more about the mysterious floating lights she watches from her tower window? Will she finally "get a real life"?

When "Tangled" was released in theatres last fall, it was a big hit with filmgoers of all ages thanks to the updated story, beautiful animation, catchy music, and voice acting talents of Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi, among others. Now that fans can add the movie to their home entertainment library, it's fun to look at what may or may not help make it a lasting favorite.

Here's what we like about "Tangled":

A complex relationship. Gothel keeps control over Rapunzel by using the power of Fear against her; from an early age, she brainwashes her that the outside world is dangerous and filled with people who will do her harm. She'll yell at Rapunzel, then tell her how much she loves her (unconvincingly, at least to all of us). Gothel adds a touch of belittling and teasing, too. Rapunzel can't resist the urge to rebel, but she also can't shake the need to please her "mother" despite being treated this way. It's a dynamic that we think many viewers can relate to. Have you ever felt controlled or belittled by someone you love? Is there someone who treats you not-so-nice, which makes you want their approval even more? If not a parent or relative, then maybe a friend? It's one of the most complicated relationships we've ever seen in a Disney movie.

tangled-disney.jpgA good bad guy. Or is he a bad good guy? It doesn't matter.  Everyone loves a "bad boy," as long as he's secretly good at heart, and Flynn Rider is just such a boy... er, man. Guy. Whatever.  Handsome and vain, and just a bit rugged, he's an outlaw who has a better sense of right and wrong than most good guys. And he knows how to smolder, which is cool...er, hot. Whatever.

A hairy problem, solved. You can't really do a cartoon of the Rapunzel story if you don't get the girl's hair right, and the animators working on Tangled did exactly that: they got it right. Rapunzel's hair is like a character all its own in this movie, moving and flowing and trailing behind her in a beautiful ribbon of gold. A "making-of" featurette included on the disc includes some early work-in-progress animations that show just how hard it was to get all that hair to behave properly while Rapunzel walked, danced, and leaped around in her tower. No wonder this was the most expensive cartoon ever made! (See the video below for a sneak peek.)

Pretty paper. One of the most visually stunning moments in the film involves a boat, our two main characters, and thousands of floating, drifting paper candle lanterns. Impossible to adequately describe with words, the sequence is lovely to watch.

Maximus to the max. There have been a lot of horses in animated fairy tales, but Maximus, the big, noble Roman-inspired white steed in Tangled, is special. He's got personality (horsinality?) to spare, and he's one of the funniest things about the whole film. His relationship with the thief Flynn Rider is complicated, and particularly hilarious. We haven't liked a cartoon horse this much since Pegasus helped the hero save the day in "Hercules."

Dreamy songs. "Tangled" is a musical, and while it can't quite compare with classics like "The Little Mermaid," the songs are some of the best to be featured in a Disney movie in many, many years. Our favorite show-stopper is the hilarious "I've Got A Dream," which stars a gang of underworld thugs and killers who, deep down, long for different sorts of lives. It's wacky and wonderful, and kept us singing long after the movie was over.

Modern heroine, timeless themes. Disney princesses have come a long way from characterized as simply "beautiful," with a nice singing voice, kindness to animals, and ability to get a dwarf's house really, really clean. The Rapunzel of "Tangled" is strong and determined and brave. She has a dream and she's focused on making it happen. All good. Very, very good! Big like! 

Here's what we didn't like so much:

Barbie-esque Rapunzel. Okay, so we know she's got to have long blonde hair. But did they have to give her ginormous, Littlest Pet Shop eyes? A tiny waist and stereotypically "princess" body? Of course, Rapunzel dolls and other merchandising must appeal to little girls, but we're still waiting for Disney to create a princess who looks even a tiny bit like a real person.

"Tangled" is rated PG for brief, mild violence.

IML's Rating: A

Here's a cool look at how they animated all that hair:

 


Celeb Scoop: Peyton List, star of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules"
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Peyton List as Holly Hills.jpgThis weekend in movie theatres, Greg Heffley is back, along with big bro Rodrick, in "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules." We're always psyched about films made for tweens, starring tweens. We're even more psyched when we get to chat with one of them, like 12-year-old Peyton List, who plays Holly Hills in the new flick.

IML: Tell us a little about the new "Wimpy Kid" movie and the character you play
.

Peyton: "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules" is about Greg Heffley entering 7th grade, his second year in middle school. I play Holly Hills...the girl that all the boys have a crush on.

IML: Have you read the "Wimpy Kid" books yourself?

Peyton: My twin brother really loved the books and he was always telling me that I should read them, but I thought the books would be more geared toward boys.  After I found out that I'd be playing Holly Hills, I read the books and I ended up loving them! Turns out my brother was right!

IML: Why do you think this book series is so popular with kids and tweens?

Peyton: I feel like it's such an entertaining series and in a lot of Greg Heffley's situations, kids and tweens can relate to what he is going through.

IML: What was the funniest, or at least most memorable, thing that happened while you were shooting?

Peyton: The funniest moment on set was when we were shooting a soccer scene where everyone runs over to see one of the characters Chirag, who got hurt and is laying on the ground.  We had been doing the scene over and over again but one take everyone runs in and we hear this loud fart!  No one could help themselves and just burst out laughing!  Turns out it was Zach, who plays Greg Heffley!

IML: How did you get started in acting?

Peyton: I got started in acting when I was 4 years old and my family had just moved to New York from Florida. That summer, my mom had taken me to see about 6 Broadway plays and I remember just loving them. I could not get enough of them and that is when I told my mom that I knew I wanted to act.

IML: Tell us about an acting experience where you feel like you really learned something about yourself.

Peyton: I did a Lifetime TV movie called "Secrets in the Walls" with Jeri Ryan and Kay Panabaker and I really feel like I learned who I was as an actress. I also learned that I love doing all kinds of different characters.

IML: What would be your dream role as an actor?

Peyton: A role that I would love to do would be an action film where I am a super hero or a girl who starts out normal and then discovers a power. I would love to get to do stunts in a film!
 
IML: Do you go to regular school? How do you balance school with your work commitments?

Peyton: I don't go to a regular school. I go to a charter school that's online. I can balance school while I'm shooting because they have a tutor on set who I have to work with at least 3 hours a day.  On the set of "Diary" I loved tutoring, because we had this big school trailer that we could decorate and we all got to work in there together.
 
IML: How do you keep up friendships with a crazy schedule?

Peyton: I find it easy to keep up with friends whether it's through Facebook or Twitter (@PeytonList). I also love iChat so wherever I am, I can keep in touch with my friends
 
IML: What's your favorite way to hang out and just have fun?

Peyton: I love to go outside and ride my bike, just hang out with my friends, swim, and go to the movies.
 
IML: Good luck with everything, and thanks for chatting!

Peyton: Thank you so much!

Next up for Peyton in May is a role opposite Kate Hudson in the romantic comedy "Something Borrowed." Go Peyton!





Meet tween entrepreneur Lily Sandler
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Blamtastic Melanie and Lily Sandler.jpgTwelve-year-old Lily Sandler (pictured, right) doesn't shop the way she used to. A few years ago, she thought that things just popped up in stores, like magic. Now she knows how much work and decision-making goes into every single product available for sale, and how many people help it get there. That's because she and her sister, 10-year-old Melanie (pictured, left), along with help from their parents, are the founders and owners of Blamtastic Luscious Lip Balm, which makes natural lip balms especially for young people.

IML spoke with Lily and her mom Renee about Blamtastic and their journey from a random idea to a successful, growing business. 

IML: How did Blamtastic first come about?

Renee: It all started when I was reading in the Wall Street Journal about how few female CEO's there were in Fortune 500 companies. At that time there were only 12. I know women make up 50% of the workforce, so that didn't square up with me very well! I thought about my two girls, these girls who are going to go out into that workforce. I read the article to them and they said, that really stinks. I told them, "If you ever decide that you'd like to start a business of your own, I will support you, because I think that's the key to controlling your own destiny.

Lily: The idea for Blamtastic was kind of an accident. I was looking for my lip balm one day, and I said, "Mom, where's my lip blam...I mean balm!" And she said, "Wow, that would be a really good name for a lip balm company."

IML: So you had a cool idea. What was the first step from there?

Lily: We started by ordering a bunch of lip balm bases and we cooked them up in our kitchen. We saw what we liked and what we didn't like, then sent what we liked to a manufacturer and they made it for us. It was a really fun process.

Renee: At first, it was really just an experiment. As we started to play around with the product and get it out there to the community, we realized we had a good product to sell. Then the girls and I got together with their dad and decided, are we going to go for this and take it to the next level? Because if we are, we've got to get a business plan together and get funding, and get serious. So we decided to go for it.

IML: How did you first get the lip balms out there to...you know...lips?

Lily: At first we did a test run at the mall. We saw what people were more fond of, what they didn't like so much, and in the end it really did sell pretty well. We saw that this was something that people want and need on the market: a natural lip balm. A product that's been done over and over, but making it even better and taking it to the next level.

IML: How did you put together the lip balm flavors?

Lily: We ordered different scents and sweeteners, and we tried out what we liked out of certain smells. We narrowed it down to five flavors for boys and five flavors for girls. In the end, we had ten flavors we were going to launch in the first run.

IML: Did you invite your friends to try things out?

Lily: In the beginning, we would make a flavor and I would take it to school and see what my friends liked and what they didn't really go for as much. If they didn't like it, then we trashed it. If they did like it, then we gave it a try!

Renee: I think every neighbor on our street has participated in our testing!

IML: So nowadays, who does what in the company?

Renee:
This is the girls' business; they started it, but they can't run it at the level we're at now. I work 60-80 hours a week and the girls participate when they can. Melanie is kind of the creative force behind things; she'll come up with ideas and flavors. Lily is the mouthpiece of Blamtastic...she likes to participate in promoting the company.

IML: Lily, do you and your sister get into disagreements about the business?

Lily:
Well, aside from me and my sister fighting about normal sibling stuff all the time, we do have disagreements about the business. Whenever we have something we're not so sure about, we'll all talk about it as a family. By the end we always seem to come to a decision about what we've been wondering about and what we can do to solve our problem.

IML: It sounds like you make sure everyone's ideas get taken seriously.

Renee: The biggest conflicts we have about developing the product line is if I come up with a concept that's just not "cool"! Lily will say, "That is just not cool enough and nobody will ever buy that." They pull me back. They know what the customers want because as tweens, they basically are the customers.

IML: You give a portion of your company's profits to causes that you care about. Why do you feel it's important to do that?

Lily: When we started our business, that was always one of our top priorities: To give back to the community and help others in need. To be able to donate something out of your business really does make it more worthwhile and gives you that warm fuzzy feeling inside.

IML: Lily, what have you learned about yourself during this whole experience?

Lily: It's been a great way to help me get in touch with my family. We've had a lot of disagreements and in the end we've been able to come through for each other, and it all comes down to the family and what we've been doing to support our business.

IML: What's your advice to other tweens who would love to start their own business?

Lily: First of all, I would like to say that starting a business is a huge commitment. But if you want to commitment to it and are really devoted, you should go for it. Do what you can to make what you're selling better and more well known to people. Make sure that you are really committing to your product and that you stick by it!

IML: Thanks, Lily and Renee! We can't wait to watch Blamtastic grow!

Lily:
Thanks!

Renee: Thank you!

For more information about Lily's company Blamtastic, whose lip balms are cruelty-free, all natural, and feature flavors for boys as well as girls, visit www.blamtastic.com.

Tell us: How do you go about Making Money? If you've ever dreamed of starting a biz, check out our Be Your Own Boss game and see if you have what it takes.


Help "Glee" star Lauren Potter disable bullying
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A boy with cerebral palsy gets tripped, pinned down, and dog food forced into his mouth by other kids at school. Another boy, who has developmental delays from being born prematurely, gets taken to the hospital with a dangerously high blood alcohol level because his classmates have been "spiking" his lunch drink with alcohol. A girl who has trouble walking gets teased, knocked off her crutches, and hit in the head by some fellow students.

Did we get your attention? Good! These are all stories that we recently read in a report called "Walk A Mile In Their Shoes," which studied the types of bullying experienced by kids with special needs. These stories shocked and saddened us, along with some of the statistics:

  • 60% of students with special needs or disabilities report being bullied, compared to 25% of the general student population.

  • 40% of young people with autism, and 60% of those with Asperger's syndrome, are bullied on a regular basis.

  • 85% of kids who witness this kind of bullying walk away and do nothing about it.
laurenpotter.jpgAsk 19-year-old actress Lauren Potter about all this, and she'll tell you about how a group of boys used to force her to eat sand and walk behind her, calling her names, because she has Down syndrome. And even though she appears on TV's "Glee" as Becky Jackson, Sue Sylvester's loyal sidekick, sometimes she still hears other teens mutter the word "retard" when she passes by and has had people post cruel comments on her Facebook fan page. 

That's why Lauren has gotten involved with a new campaign called "Disable Bullying" from AbilityPath.org, which aims to make people aware of what these kids deal with and what we can all do to help change that. IML spoke with Lauren and her mom, Robin, about the campaign and why it's so important that tweens educate themselves about this type of bullying.

IML: Lauren, what's your advice for kids with special needs who experience bullying?

Lauren: I just encourage kids to speak up! Telling our stories is the only way people will know what we've had to go through. Believe in yourself. Someone once told me that being different isn't bad...different is just different.

IML: Why are young people with special needs so often the targets of bullying?

Robin: I think people bully out of fear. We fear things we don't understand, such as a person who's different in some way. With Lauren being on "Glee" right now, a whole world that didn't really understand people with Down syndrome are seeing it in a new light, saying, "Hey, this is a kid. This is a girl who can be tough and be funny, she can be whatever." It is educating and letting people see that kids with special needs are just kids. The more people understand and learn that we're all different in one way or another, the more they'll be kind...and realize there's a problem. The gay community has had a big voice in this but the disabled community hasn't so much yet, and we all need to bring it to light.

IML: What should you do if you see someone with special needs or a disability getting bullied?

Lauren: Say, "Stop! Enough is enough!"

Robin: You can also tell somebody about it. That's why we made the video for the AbilityPath website. We would love it everyone reading this would share the video and visit the site, because it has so many tools for everybody to use -- kids who are witnessing, kids who are being bullied, parents, educators, siblings, friends.

IML: Since Lauren's been on "Glee," what kind of feedback have you received from other young people with special needs?

Robin: Kids we talked to said they loved seeing Lauren on there because it made them feel like they could stand up and say, "I have Down syndrome too, just like her." It gives them a voice they may not have had before, and people are starting to see them in a new light. People say, "Oh, you have Down syndrome, just like Becky Jackson on 'Glee.'" It's almost cool! It gives them somebody to look at and think, "That person's like me, and look what she's doing."

IML: We love "Glee" and we're always thinking, we'd like Becky's character to be fleshed out a bit. She seems like she has an interesting story. Do you think that will happen?

Renee: We always hope so! That's where the fans come in. They need to make their voices heard if they want to see that. I think from the very first time they put Lauren on the show as Becky, her character has evolved so much. We'd love to see her have a relationship at school, maybe even address this whole bullying issue. They addressed it with Kurt, but maybe they can address it with Becky, and have the glee club stand up and come to her aid and show other kids that you can stand up. We would love to see something like that!

IML: Lauren, we're so happy you and your mom could talk to us about this!

Lauren:
I just really want people to watch the video and share it...and help disable bullying!

Sounds good to us! Here's the video:




Celeb Scoop: Jennette McCurdy
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bestplayer_02HR.jpgOne of the reasons why Nickelodeon's "iCarly" is a gigantic hit is because of its supporting characters: the bold, acid-tongued Sam and the adorably wacky Spencer. Who doesn't want a Sam and Spencer in their life, even if they do make trouble? Starting this weekend, these two get reincarnated, sort of, when the actors who play them, Jennette McCurdy and Jerry Trainor, star in a new Nickelodeon film called "Best Player."

We were excited to get the chance to talk to Jennette about the new movie, videogames, acting in general, and her upcoming single. It's no surprise that this down-to-earth, thoughtful, intelligent performer has become a role model to so many tweens.

IML: So tell us about the plot of "Best Player" -- it looks awesome!

Jennette: The whole movie is about these two "cyberathletes," which are people who are avid video game players. One of the cyberathletes is named Quincy; he's a guy in his thirties and he still lives with his parents. His parents decide to sell their house and he wants to buy it from them, but he has no money. So he goes online to find a way to make some money doing what he does best, playing videogames. He finds this new game called Black Hole that's offering a competition, and the grand prize is enough money for him to buy his parents' house. He's such a good gamer and can do anything, but with this new game he meets his match in this one player, whose gamer tag is "Prodigy." "Prodigy" is actually a 15-year-old girl named Chris, my character. Towards the end of the film, he finds out that maybe real life is just as exciting as the virtual world.

IML: It does seem like there's a great message in there about videogames and how they relate to reality.

Jennette: Definitely. The Quincy character and the Chris character are entirely consumed by video games, and obsesses to the point where they think that all their worldly problems can be resolved in virtual reality. Then they realize that if they just address their problems and meet them face-to-face, it's not so difficult after all. That's not to say videogames don't have their benefits. That's where the character that I play comes in. She's a misfit. She always feels out of place and is quiet and shy. But when she's playing the game, her confidence level is just through the roof. She feels unbeatable. That's why she plays the game so much, because she doesn't have that feeling in real life.

IML: How is Chris different from Sam on "iCarly"?

Jennette: Well, first of all, Sam's been to juvey! Chris is not good with school and Sam isn't either, but Sam's not good at school because she disregards it and thinks it's pointless; she has street smarts and she thinks that's all she needs. Chris is just so internal about everything, and she really keeps a lot bottled up. You don't really know what's going on in Chris's head. She was a very fun character to play because it was a different channel for me to access, and I had to work a lot with the eyes. Because Chris doesn't always speak in a way you can understand, you have to pay attention to her facial expressions.

IML: What's the hardest part about playing a different character than the one you're known for?

Jennette: I never feel an obligation to find something that's different about a character just to prove I can. You really have to be honest with your portrayal. It definitely was a challenge because the character of Chris in this movie was written in some ways very much like Sam, and in other ways very contradictory. Chris is more innocent in some regards and she has a really sweet side to her that Sam doesn't possess. The biggest challenge was finding that niche where she has some similarities but definitely a lot of different qualities.

bestplayer_03HR.jpgIML: It seems like you did a great job! So you're playing a different character and Jerry's playing a different character. How is your relationship in the movie different from the one between Spencer and Sam?

Jennette: On "iCarly," Spencer's of course very goofy and wacky, and Sam is brazen and sarcastic. She'll joke around and pick on him. In this movie, Chris and the Quincy character have this competitive relationship, but toward the middle of the film, Chris sees a friend in Quincy and really starts to trust, respect, and look up to him. Getting to have that relationship on screen with Jerry was really cool. It was a nice change for us, because I didn't have to be mean to him!

IML: You play videogames yourself, right? Did you have to do any special research or training to prepare to play "Prodigy"?

Jennette: It's interesting, because the game in "Best Player" is called Black Hole and it's on a console that's unnamed throughout the movie. It's obviously not a system or game that's already out there. Our director Damon Santostefano wanted the game to be more in the vein of a Wii or a Kinect where you include gestures and things to relay the movement on the screen. But since it wasn't an established game, there wasn't a template that we could base our body gestures on. He left a lot of that up to us and he told us that he really wanted us to make our own custom moves, so I thought about it a lot and I have probably four or five go-to "Prodigy moves" that I used throughout the film, and a bunch of other little gestures.

IML: It must have been fun to come up with these things!

Jennette: It was! I felt like I was making up some quasi-dance routine.

IML: We hear you also have a new single due out this spring. What can you tell us about that?

Jennette: My single is coming out in April. It's called "Generation Love." It's a song that means a lot to me, and I hope it connects with people who hear it as much as it connected with me when I first heard it. It's about looking at what past generations have done to contribute something to society, whatever that may be, and then wondering what our generation will be known for. I think a lot of times, my generation is thought of as being the "Me, Me, Me" generation or the Facebook generation or whatever. While these are definitely things our generation might be known for, I think there are going to much more substantial things we'll be known for down the road. I think there are a lot of people my age out there doing some great things. I hope that's what we'll be remembered for. This song is a hopeful take on that. The song was actually produced by Jay DeMarcus of Rascall Flatts, which has been one of my favorite bands for the longest time, and working with him was just incredible.

IML: What's next for you, acting-wise?

Jennette: Right now I'm really focusing on my music. I guess I'd love to audition for things and I think each audition is a new challenge, finding a new character is an awesome experience. I wouldn't be opposed to another series. I think series have a great routine to them and you really get to know your crew like a family. But if it were a series, I'd want to do something single-camera mockumentary style like "Arrested Development" or "30 Rock." For movies, if it were comedy, something really oddball. I'd like to do something unexpected. I'm particularly fascinated with really interesting roles. If there's a role that's wild and bizarre and seems difficult to connect with, I love playing those because they're the most fun.

IML: Is there a cause you're really passionate about?

Jennette: I'm really involved right now with St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. What they do for children is incredible. I had the opportunity to visit the hospital in Memphis a couple weeks ago, and found out that they pay for families and the patients to fly to St. Jude's, then put them up while they're there getting treatment. They don't turn any child away. Right now I'm doing a mall tour for the "Generation Love" single -- called Jennette McCurdy's Generation Love for St. Jude's. The concert is free but at the end, if you give a donation to St. Jude's, you get the single on a CD with another song, a signed picture, and a meet-and-greet pass.

IML: What a great idea...hopefully people will come out to help you support the hospital. Thanks for chatting with us, Jennette, and good luck with everything!

Jennette: Thanks!

"Best Player" premieres on Nickelodeon this Saturday, March 12, at 8pm. You can get more info about Jennette's Generation Love mall tour on her website at www.jennettemccurdy.com.



Celeb Scoop: Savanah Wiltfong, star of "Dear Lemon Lima"
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DearLemonLima_POSTER_FINAL.jpgIf you have cable TV, take a look this weekend at the Video On Demand offerings. Scroll past your familiar shows and recent movie releases, and hopefully you'll find one with an intriguing name. We think you're going to hear more of it in the near future.

"Dear Lemon Lima" (Lima pronounced like "Lime-a") is a quirky coming-of-age indie film set in Fairbanks, Alaska, written and directed by Suzi Yoonessi. Since it was shot in 2009, it's created a stir at various film festivals and among critics. One writer described it as "Juno meets Napoleon Dynamite." Hello! That got our attention, and we wanted to know more.

In "Dear Lemon Lima," 13-year-old Vanessa has just been dumped by her "true love," Philip. Determined to win him back, she follows him to an elite prep school where she's relegated to the bottom of the social ladder (while Philip becomes popular) and forced to lead a team of fellow outcasts in the local Snowstorm Survivor competition. In the process, she learns about love, friendship, and community, and gets in touch with her tribal roots as a half-Yu'pik (Western Eskimo).

We love calling attention to movies for tweens that are a little off the beaten track, and think this one has the makings of a future cult-classic -- the kind of flick you'll want to watch at a sleepover or memorize the funniest lines from. Recently we spoke to the film's star, 17-year-old Alaska native Savanah Wiltfong.

IML: Tell us a little bit about "Dear Lemon Lima." It looks awesome!

Savanah: Well, it's sort of a coming-of-age story about a girl named Vanessa who's 13 and has just had her first heartbreak. And she just...grows up in the movie. She finds who she is and who she wants to be.

IML: How old were you when you shot the movie?

Savanah: I was 14.

IML: So you were pretty much the same age as your character.

Savanah: Yes! I actually went through a similar experience right before I auditioned. I had my first teenage heartbreak, so I was able to really use that during the whole film.

IML: There are a lot of movies and TV shows out there for teens and tweens. What do you think sets this movie apart?

Savanah: I just know this movie has a lot of heart to it, especially from the director Suzi, who put so much of her personal experience into it. I think so many people young and old, and especially in the middle, can relate to this story. Especially kids and teens who don't fit in or don't know who they are, or are dealing with a bully.

IML: How did you get cast as Vanessa?

Savanah: There was an email about the movie that was forwarded to my mother, and she thought it would be great for me to audition, so I did. The first audition, we just used a camera and a ladder for a tripod and I read off a script that the director sent me. And then, the second audition was in person at the Native Heritage Center here in Alaska, and that tape was sent to Suzie too. Then the third audition was very surprising, because I went to Seattle for 2 days and got to meet almost everyone who was going to be working on it and got to walk all around Seattle with Suzie. We chatted, we read the script, and after we got back home we found out I got the part. And I was baffled, honestly! It was the first audition I'd done for anything in my life.

IML: Had you done any acting before "Dear Lemon Lima"?

Savanah: In 7th grade, I played a character in a play called Madame Cannoli. I think I had about five lines and that's it!

IML: How has the whole acting-in-a-movie experience changed you?

Savanah: It's given me a lot of life lessons and honestly, opened so many doors for me. It's wonderful, and with tax incentives here in Alaska now, there are so many projects up here. It's cool knowing that I can do what I love and still stay home too.

IML: Vanessa seems like a really great character. How are you and she alike, and how are you different?

Savanah: I think we're alike in our passion for love, most definitely. She kind of expresses herself through her diary and art. I do the same thing. I'll paint on my walls, I'll write myself little notes, I'll draw all the time. I think we're different in our styles. She wears really pastel and bright colors, and I prefer neutral colors. But I did enjoy all the costumes I got to wear while playing her!

IML: What's it like growing up in Alaska?

Savanah: Where my house is, I'm about ten miles from my town, but I love going downtown and walking around. I'll go to the coffee shop and study -- I'm homeschooled. I'll hang out with friends. You kind of have to get creative, living here. But I spend a lot of time doing outdoor stuff. I went on a hike yesterday. I love getting out. I'm part of a gymnastics team. I actually manage it, and my mom coaches it.

IML: Who knows what will happen once people see this movie. Maybe it will become really popular. Are you worried about things changing for you?

Savanah: I've already had some people find me on Facebook, tell me how they're fans of the movie. It's great. I see it as more opportunities to meet new people, whether it's acting or even modeling or singing. I'm excited for all of it!

IML: Thanks so much for talking to us! Good luck with everything!

Savanah: Thank you!

"Dear Lemon Lima," released by Phase 4 films, releases today on iTunes and Video On Demand, as well as in theatres in Los Angeles. To learn more, visit www.dearlemonlimamovie.com or check out the trailer!





Toy Fair trend spotting
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As you hopefully know, IML is a non-commercial website; we don't directly sell or advertise anything. That doesn't mean we're not aware of what's out there for tweens and their families to buy. We like to watch what hits and what misses...and of course, what IML'ers will be talking about on our You Said It pages.

Last month, we attended the American International Toy Fair (just call it Toy Fair) in New York City -- the U.S.'s largest convention of toy manufacturers, sellers, designers, licensers -- to get a handle on what will be competing for your cash in the coming year. We walked around for hours checking out thousands of new (and classic) games, dolls, puzzles, action figures, collectibles...you name it. It was sorta like getting a guided tour of Santa's workshop, but instead of jolly elves hammering away on wooden horsies, we mostly saw lots of men and women in well-pressed business suits trading business cards and writing up sales orders.

So here's what we noticed:

IMG_3015.JPGWeird stuff. Sparkly rainbow unicorns and cuddly teddy bears are classics, and there were tons at the convention. These things will never go out of style; the names and brands may change, but the adorable, huggable heart of them remains the same. But if your taste in playthings is a little more dark or macabre, then there will be plenty aimed at you too. We liked the movie monster statues and creepy bobble-heads, the gorily wounded stuffed animals and collectible zombie/gothic kid dolls. There we also action figures based on unexpected movies, like "The Big Lebowski," and we like the trend of making products out of "cult" properties.

IMG_3021.JPGSuperheroes. Whether you're into characters from Marvel, DC or Indie companies, there will be lots of goodies to tempt you. Superheroes have ruled the movie box office for years now, and they're doing bang-up business in the toy world too. We especially loved the cutesy kid and baby versions of the comic heroes, like the plush Hulk, Wolverine, Iron Man and Thor. It's funny how toy manufacturers are always trying to find a new angle on something that's been around forever.

IMG_3024.jpgDécor. A number of companies were showcasing stuff to help decorate your favorite spaces. Two different booths offered cool removable locker stickers (basically big adhesive-backed posters) with groovy images, colors and patterns. It seems that more and more companies want to take advantage of the trend towards tricking out your locker.

The "next Silly Bandz." We saw one company hoping for that title: they make little plastic charms with loops that let you hang them on anything you want. Our prediction? Who knows! There are lots of cool products out there, but only some are lucky enough to get the right publicity and catch on.

Character domination. Branding is still the key to selling toys, so companies are eager to cover their products with pictures of the most popular characters from movies and TV. And hey, we like Spongebob and Buzz Lightyear as much as anybody, but do they have to be on EVERYTHING? We wish these toy makers would show a little variety within the brand and use more than one piece of artwork...we saw the same exact image of the same exact character on everything from puzzles and posters to furniture and tableware.

One thing that still surprised us was the sheer quantity of stuff out there to give young people the gimmees. As it gets cheaper and cheaper to make things, there are more and more things to be sold.

If none of this is earth-shattering, that's because there doesn't seem to be anything truly fresh and exciting on the horizon -- and maybe that's the point. While a new product may seem super cool and different at first, it's often similar to something that came before...maybe just with a twist to get you to buy it.

Does it sound like we're trying to get you to be savvy consumers of toys? Well, of course we are! We've got more tips on how to savvy up in our Spending Smarts section.

So what are your predictions? What will people be putting on their birthday and holiday wish lists in 2011?