Perdido Key, FL

While you’re stuck inside for now, many of you may be starting to make summer (or even fall) plans. One great spot you may not have heard of is the tiny beach town of Perdido Key. Within an hour of Pensacola, FL and Gulf Shores, AL, it’s convenient yet distanced far enough to avoid many crowds. Below is all you need to know to plan a weekend or three-day getaway.

Stay.

Molokai Villas.

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southernresorts.com

Nestled between two towering condo buildings, you will find a cute strip of townhomes is right on the main road, connecting Perdido Key to Orange Beach and eventually Gulf Shores. Very convenient location, with great access to convenience stores, restaurants, and activities. If you manage to get a townhouse in the A or B section (Villas 1-7), you will be on the side of the road with direct beach access; you even have a private boardwalk to your private strip of beach. We were lucky enough to stay in Villa #3, so this was the very from our (very large) back deck:

Dine.

Islander Food Shack.

Islander Food Shack

Just five minutes from Molokai Villas is this sweet little bar and grill, which seems very popular with the locals. There is indoor seating as well as the outdoor patio complete with string lights. The menu has plenty of options, even for vegetarians, and they have both bushwhackers and frozen margaritas “on tap” in Icee machines inside. Their fries are delicious, and the atmosphere was very welcoming!

Veggie Skewers with a Rum Glaze.

Safari Club.

A feature of the newly-reopened zoo is this delicious restaurant! The décor is phenomenal; they clearly spent lots of time and money choosing pieces to adorn the walls. Vintage photographs line the walls, ceramic monkeys hang from the lamps, and elephant tusks (faux, of course) jut out from the wall behind the bar. The menu is extensive, with lots of options that you cannot find anywhere else in town. You don’t even have to pay the zoo entrance fee to eat here; it has a separate door. It even has a large balcony so you can look out over the zoo while you dine. They have a brunch menu for Saturday and Sundays.

Vegan “BBQ” sandwich with beer battered onion rings.

Jellyfish.

This restaurant can be found in this adorable little strip mall, on the top floor so you get a great view of the ocean. It features a unique menu: half Japanese, half typical beach fare. You can get a catch of the day platter, along with sushi or miso soup. The restaurant also features a bar, and several aquariums to look at while you dine.

Veggie roll.

Play.

Pelican’s Snowballs.

Pelican’s Menu

This easily could have fit into the “Dine” category, however I will list it here as it serves no true meals. These are classic New Orleans style snowballs. Since I have never been to New Orleans, I cannot vouch for their authenticity, however they are fabulous! They boast over 100 flavors of snow cones, and they even have some special combinations with add ins as well. Each location has signature flavors, too. If you’re unsure which to true (it’s a tough choice!) they will give you a tiny cup with a sample of the flavors you want to try. I went with a flavor I’d never heard of in snow cones before- Tamarind- and I was not disappointed. I also list this under play because once you enjoy your icy treat, they have giant yard games to play, as well as this giant snow cone cut out to take a picture with. Pretty far from the main part of town, but definitely worth the trip. Fairly close to the zoo, which I detail below, in case you want to combine the two activities into one day.

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.

Just 30 minutes away from Molokai Villas is the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, which just opened at its new location in March 2020. Gorgeous décor is scattered throughout this 100 acre property, and there are lots of unique options for animal encounters. You can pet a baby kangaroo, a sloth, an anteater. There is a petting zoo in which you can feed several different farm animals. My personal favorite was the giraffe feeding, where you get to feed lettuce to two of the giraffes. The gift shop offers some typical wares, but some unique ones as well. The zoo was the subject of an Animal Planet docuseries ten-or-so years ago, and copies of that are for sale along with painted prints created by animals throughout the park. There is even a brand new restaurant on location, which I talked about above. Wonderful experience!

BONUS!

Coming home on I-65 North? Stop by Priester’s Pecans, a general store/candy factory at exit 142. You can go upstairs to view the candy being made, or shop downstairs for freshly made candy and pies. They even have lots of boutique items as well, in case you forgot to grab a special someone a souvenir. Don’t pass up the Fiddlesticks, they are lifechanging!

This Month in Review: March 2020

What a wild ride this month has been! If you are anything like me, you’re running out of ideas on what to watch. Below are all of the movies I have watched throughout the month, along with the rating I would give each one. I’ve put a * next to all of the ones that are actually worth watching, and I’ve listed where you can find each one. Let me know what you think of them!

In Theaters (But probably streaming at this point)

“Invisible Man” – 9/10 *

“Sonic the Hedgehog” – 7/10 *

“Call of the Wild” – 6/10

“Emma” – 6/10

“Beneath Us” – 8/10 *

“Greed” – 3/10

Streaming and Home Release

“Dodgeball” – 4/10 (HBO Go)

“Along Came Polly” – 7/10 * (HBO Go)

“The Manchurian Candidate” – 6/10 (HBO Go)

“SnowPiercer” – 6.5/10 * (Netflix)

“The Last Thing He Wanted” – 3/10 (Netflix)

“Troop Zero” – 5/10 * (Amazon Prime)

“The Adjustment Bureau” – 8/10 * (HBO Go)

“Extinction” – 7/10 * (Netflix)

“Beware the Slenderman” – 6.5/10 * (HBO Go)

“Luce” – 4/10 (Hulu)

“Honey Boy” – 6.5/10 * (Amazon Prime)

“The Farewell” – 6.5/10 * (Amazon Prime)

“The Tourist” – 6/10 * (Netflix)

“Juliet, Naked” – 5/10 (Amazon Prime)

“The Wilde Wedding” – 2/10 (Amazon Prime)

“Dear Zachary” – 6.5/10 * (Amazon Prime)

“The Shining” – 5/10 (Rent through Amazon Prime)

“Doctor Sleep” – 8.5/10 * (Rent through Amazon Prime)

“The Invitation” – 5/10 * (Netflix)

“Message from the King” – 6.5/10 * (Netflix)

“Blow the Man Down” – 4/10 (Amazon Prime)

“I See You” (2019) – 5/10 * (Amazon Prime)

“Finding Dory” – 7/10 * (Disney+)

“Just Go With It” – 7.5/10 * (STARZ)

“The Female Brain” – 7/10 * (Hulu)

“Half Magic” – 6/10 (Hulu)

“Killer Joe” – 5/10 (Hulu)

“Where’d You Go Bernadette?” – 7/10 (Amazon Prime)

“Chloe” – 7.5/10 (Netflix)

One Thing I’ve Loved: Kim’s Convenience on Netflix. A sweet Canadian sitcom about a Korean family running a bodega in Toronto. Four seasons are now streaming.

One Thing I’ve Hated: My body no longer has an internal clock. Dinner at 10 p.m.? Pajamas all day? It’s not like you can leave, no one will know.

One Thing I’m Looking Forward To: Reuniting with my favorite Indian buffet when this is all over.

Yearly Movie Total: 70

Beneath Us

Wow. Not many movies leave me speechless. But wow. What a take on our society today.

If you’ve ever seen Blackkklansman, you know how powerful that ending is. It leaves the entire movie theater silent, processing what they’ve just seen and how it relates to modern society. The ending of this movie had the same effect on me. There was a lot of meaning packed into this little-hyped, 90-minute thriller.

Overall, it is very similar to Get Out, but rather than black vs. white, it is undocumented immigrants vs. natural-born Americans.

The movie opens with Memo, one of the main characters, crossing the border from Mexico and showing up at his brother’s house in California. His brother takes him under his wing, and they go out to find construction work together. They, along with two fellow workers, get picked up by a buxom auburn-haired woman who needs some work done on her house. Once they arrive at her property, it’s quick to take a sinister turn.

Forcing them to work all hours of the night, using racial slurs, holding them at gunpoint, she quickly strips them of all their dignity (figuratively and literally) and reminds them of their status: beneath her. The situation becomes deadly soon after.

The crew does their best to complete the job, but you’ll have to see the movie to see who all surives. I wouldn’t call it horror; it’s more of a haunting take on society today, with a couple jump scares thrown in (nothing too terrifying, though). It will leave you creeped out, disappointed in our country, and (hopefully) empowered to help undocumented peoples in your community.

This movie is a limited release; it was showing at my local AMC theater, so check Fandango to see if it’s available nearby you! It’s definitely worth seeing!

Sonic the Hedgehog

I’m going to start this one off by letting you know that I had zero expectations for this movie; my fiancé was the one who even made me go.  This was one that I was going to skip altogether.  While I found the original drama over the initial trailer hilarious, it didn’t make me want to see it.  Have no idea what I’m talking about?  Look how bad the movie could have been:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXDa8i75PpM.

               I’m sure the production company is breathing a sigh of relief over the reception of this movie.  It was sure to be a flop with the original CGI; pushing it back a few months for them to redesign the main character was definitely the right choice!  With the new animation, Sonic himself was pretty adorable, which made it easier to watch.  James Marsden also did a great job, as did Tika Sumpter as his wife.  Jim Carrey, we’ll get to in a moment. . .

               Given that I saw it nearly a month after opening weekend, there were no children in my screening, so it’s hard to tell how the jokes will play out with their intended audience.  However, I was one of about 8 adults in my theater, and there were many giggles throughout the whole screening.  Lots of inappropriate comments, a twenty-minute chunk of the movie filmed in a bar, and one awkward villain were the cause of much o the laughter.  Whether that plays out well with children, I’m not so sure, but it sure was enjoyable for us grown-ups.

               I honestly cannot decide how I feel about Jim Carrey in this film.  He was an arrogant, evil, quirky bad guy contracted by the government to find the little blue alien (did you know Sonic was an alien?  I did not…).  He has many lines that are supposed to come off funny, but are actually pretty cringeworthy.  However, he also has several scenes that are absolutely hilarious.  Overall, he played his role well, but I think some of his dialogue could have been written better.

Surprisingly, I thought it was a cute movie!  I’m not against live action with CGI characters; if you are, you probably won’t like this.  But even besides my positive review, it’s gotten some decent reviews elsewhere too:  all the kids at my school loved it, and it also has a 93% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.  If you have a movie theater subscription (like AMC A-List or Regal Unlimited), then definitely go see it!  You can even go see it at your local AMC for $5 on Tuesdays.  If you don’t have access to any of that, wait for it to stream.  It’ll be worth a few bucks to rent, but I wouldn’t waste $12-$15 on it in theaters.

Brahms: The Boy 2

               When I first saw the preview for this movie, I was both surprised and confused.  The original, The Boy, was one of my favorite horror films of 2016, in part because of how nicely it ended and how it did not leave much room for a sequel.  I also enjoyed it because (spoiler alert):  the doll was not actually haunted.  (If you haven’t seen the original by now, sorry about it…).

               So when I first saw this preview, in which the doll is very much haunted, it left me curious:  how can they seemingly change the plotline? 

               Before I get into the actual movie, kudos to the casting director for landing Katie Holmes in a sequel:  she was fabulous.  The actual story, however. . . left something to be desired.

               Apparently, the doll has been haunted the entire time, by some demonic energy that takes control of whichever child is in possession of the doll.  This go-around, the doll is in possession of Katie Holmes’ son, Jude.  He quickly turns from a sweet boy to a crazed one, torn between consenting to what the doll wants and trying to protect his family. 

               I’m all for a cheesy horror movie; this one even has some decent jump scares towards the beginning, but as it progresses it just gets worse and worse.  The climax at the end actually made me chuckle—it was that absurd and poorly written.  The production company is seemingly trying to take advantage of the success of the Annabelle franchise by creating a boy doll version, but they don’t seem to care to spend the necessary money on a quality writing staff.

               If you’ve seen the first movie and want to see how the story progresses, then go for it.  But please don’t waste your money in theaters, wait til it’s streaming for free in a few months.  If this movie is your first venture into The Boy’s storyline, you’re better off not seeing any of them in the first place.  This disappointing installment taints the originality of the first one.

Walkin’ in Memphis

Another great weekend trip is only 3 hours to our west:  Memphis!  There are plenty of obvious activities to do, like check out Beale Street, go to the Civil Rights Museum, or head to a Memphis Grizzlies game.  But if you want to experience what locals experience, here are some tips:

Eat.

Pho Binh.

This Vietnamese restaurant is a local hotspot; ask any local about the best Asian food nearby, and the majority of people will point you here.  Their claim to fame:  Lemongrass Tofu.  Even if you are not a devout tofu worshipper as I am, you can still give it a shot.  It is the most incredible flavor I’ve ever experienced.  Even non-vegetarians who (think that they) don’t like tofu come here just to taste it.  I crave this dish quite often, but I have yet to perfect it in my own kitchen.  https://www.facebook.com/Pho-Binh-104336099611112/

Babalu.

               This is a favorite of my best friend who lives in Memphis, and I can definitely see why!  With many different menu offerings, its hard to nail down exactly what cuisine this is.  They have some Spanish-inspired dishes and a short tapas menu, burgers and sandwiches, as well as guacamole and queso.  A little bit of everything, and it’s all spectacular.  They also have a $10 sangria flight, which I highly recommend.  There’s some cute little boutiques next door, too!  The whole area is very similar to Nashville’s Hillsboro Village.  https://eatbabalu.com/menus

Imagine.

               I have to include one vegan recommendation, so here you go:  Imagine Vegan Café.  With an entire menu just full of vegan options, they’ve got a little something for everyone.  This is more of your casual, junk food vegan menu.  Fried mozzarella and potato skins are offered as appetizers, with lots of “Chicken” as entrees—the Chicken Bacon Melt is great.  The atmosphere is rustic and casual, with some cool animal paintings on the walls.  The wait tends to be on the longer side, but my little vegan heart is perfectly fine with that.  If you’re looking for a quick(er) bite, go for the Tofu at Pho Binh.  https://www.imaginevegancafe.com/

Explore.

Ghost Tours.

               While I did not do this on my most recent trip to Memphis, this is one of my favorite memories from visiting the area.  Historical Haunts puts on a great tour, and they have several to choose from.  Bus tours, walking tours, even a haunted pub crawl; if you have any interest in the supernatural or even in local history, then this is a great activity for you!  You’ll stop by many local businesses with a sinister past and get to hear ghost stories both modern and antiquated from the area.  Check out their schedule here:  https://www.historicalhauntsmemphis.com/.

Loflin Yard.

               This bar/restaurant/community space has tons of different events!  From Karaoke, to Grizz watch parties, to a community market, this is a must stop.  Check out their Facebook to see what they’re offering while you’re in town.  The Memphis Modern Market happens a couple Saturdays a month and features vendors from throughout the city.  Art, handpoured candles, jewelry, and some vintage clothing retailers all set up booths so you can shop to your heart’s content.  http://www.loflinyard.com/

Netflix’s Locke and Key

There’s been lots of hype lately about “Locke and Key,” one of Netflix’s newest thriller series. Especially given Netflix’s new Top 10 feature, it seems like lots of people are watching it.

At first, I understood the hype. The first episode is creepy, and introduces a seemingly-complex story that is sure to be exciting and thrilling. It opens with a man setting himself on fire with a key, and goes on to introduce the main family moving into a (haunted?) house, a woman living at the bottom of a well, and a murder in said family. I had high hopes after episode one. It was giving me Supernatural vibes, which few shows have been able to match.

However, after the first two episodes, I was greatly disappointed. It all of a sudden took a turn and became very Vampire Diaries-esqe. Lots of high school drama, charming magic, and a lot less jump scares. Given that it is indeed based on a Young Adult series of books, I should not have been surprised, but here we are.

It took me nearly a month to watch episodes 3 – 8. They were that bad. The final two episodes brought me back to why I began watching it in the first place. The creepy scenes and genuinely good plot writing were back. It leaves off wrapping everything up well enough, but leaves enough open that there very well could be a second season. The ending, while decent, did not make it worth it to have watched the whole entire season. . . at least to me.

If you are a fan of Young Adult fiction, Stranger Things and Vampire Diaries, high school drama, and cheesy magic, then this show may be for you! If you don’t like at least three of the aforementioned things, then you need to pass on this one.

One great thing that did come out of this show, however, is the soundtrack. Usually the songs in shows blend in well enough that they add to the story without really drawing your attention, but nearly every song that played I found surprisingly good. You can find it on Spotify.

The Lodge

If you are a horror fan, you NEED to catch “The Lodge” while it’s still in theaters. It’s still on at Regal Opry and Regal Green Hills for the remainder of the week if you’re in Nashville.

“The Lodge” is the same raw, haunting style that you see in “Hereditary” and “Midsommar,” and I’d rank it in between the two. If you’ve seen “Goodnight, Mommy,” you will likely recognize that this movie is the same style; the same director worked on both. If you haven’t seen “Goodnight, Mommy,” look it up now you will not be disappointed.

Anyway, back to “The Lodge”. . . The story deals with a recently separated family trying to deal with their new home life. The father finds a new girlfriend a little too fast for the liking of the children, but he tries to force a bond between them all anyway. For Christmas, he brings the children and his girlfriend to his lodge in the middle of nowhere to celebrate all together. However, he gets called back into work and leaves the children in the care of his girlfriend.

The father is a professor dealing with the history and effects of cults. His son and daughter quickly figure out that the new girlfriend actually has a past in a cult. As the viewer, you are trying to figure out exactly what’s happening: Is it a haunted house? Is it a crazy cult ritual? Is it a simple accident that has left them dead?

This movie is full of terror tension, as well as a few jump scares. There is one jump scare in the first ten minutes that I still think about from time to time, two weeks later. It definitely has a shock factor. The movie ends while the terror tension is at a high, and you breathe a sigh of relief as you see credits roll as it spares you one final shot of violence. It will haunt you anyway, though, as one of the main characters sings a song in the final minutes of the movie, which will definitely get stuck in your head.

If you do get a chance to catch it in theaters, then bring a blanket or a coat; all the snow in the background will make you cold, and *BONUS* you can hide your eyes if you need to. If you don’t get a chance to see it in theaters, watch for a streaming release, because this is one film you do not want to miss!

Onward

This preview just did not really speak to me, but I couldn’t figure out why…. I’m not a huge fan of mythological adventure, the characters aren’t as cute as Pixar’s normal characters, maybe something else, I wasn’t too sure.  But when I got the chance to attend an advance screening of the film, I took it and I’m so glad I went.

This movie has a phenomenal story.  You NEED to see it, whether you have kids or not.

              The plot line is pretty simple:  Two boys who lost their father to cancer long ago try to bring him back, but they mess up the magic spell and only end up bringing his bottom half back.  So they have to trek around their city to try and get one last piece to perform the magic spell again to bring the rest of him back. The first half of the movie was cute as they were adventuring around, but the back half of the movie delved deeper into the characters’ emotions, which is what really made me a fan of the film.   But the plot line isn’t even the greatest part of the movie.

               The setting of the movie is brilliant—lots of punny similarities between the magic world and our world. Feral unicorns eating the trash instead of raccoons.  A mom in the living room doing a workout tape, while their pet dragon sleeps in its bed by the door.  There were many audible chuckles from the adults in the room as it panned to a new scene and the next pun was revealed. 

               The relationships and emotions built in the story were the best part.  This movie deals with grief, loss of a parent, and brotherly love.  My fiancé has since dubbed it “Frozen, but with Boys,” (with less singing, I might add…). Since the father died while the boys were at such a young age (the younger brother doesn’t even remember him at all), the boys had to rely on each other a whole lot more and an unbreakable bond is formed.  While I know all Pixar movies tug at your heartstrings, this one is just so fiercely emotional in nature, even some of the children in the audience were weeping with empathy towards the characters.

               You’ll leave this movie (probably) crying, but with so much love toward your own family, as well as for Pixar, for telling such a beautiful story.  

               Sidenote:  I don’t go see movies often with such a huge kid audience, and the amount of times children have to get up during a movie was so distracting (personal problem, I know).  But if you don’t like people getting up during the movie, you may want to wait a week or two before the crowds die down to go see it. 

Downhill

               I’m not sure you can find this movie in theaters anymore, but that’s okay.  You aren’t missing anything.  With Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as lead characters, I (at first) thought it was very strange that this movie did not get much press.  Quirky preview, (pretty) big names, why aren’t they advertising this as a new winter hit comedy?

               Well, after seeing it I definitely understand why.

               I can see why production companies created it in the first place; the gist of the movie seemed like it’d be good.  A 90-minute film featuring two 21st century comedy greats, with a quirky plot line, what could go wrong?  After the movie was created, I think they realized the answer to their question, which led to its pretty hushed release.

               In case you haven’t seen the preview (and if you haven’t, don’t bother), this movie is about a family on a skiing trip who goes through an avalanche; the husband grabs his phone and runs, while the wife is left huddled with the two kids, hoping to survive.  The rest of the movie is him dealing with the aftermath of his decision.

               This movie is NOT a comedy, despite its cast.  It is an awkward, uncomfortable family drama, with some (bad) comedic characters added in to (attempt) to break up the dramatic parts.  In reality, this is a 89 minute fight between a married couple on vacation, with a 1 minute semi-resolution at the end of the film. 

               After watching the movie, I thought that Will Ferrell was trying to pull an Adam Sandler and do a complete 180 with a drama film.  Unfortunately, he was unable to pull it off.  He and Julia had some very realistic fights, but it was a very unsettling movie to watch.  Giving you an inside glimpse at someone’s struggling marriage, it will make you feel like you shouldn’t be there watching it. 

The seasoned cast nor the comedy from the minor characters were not enough to save this movie, or even enough to make it watchable.  It definitely deserves its 13% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Don’t bother.