Category Archives: World In My Eyes

Fifty Shades Darker Premiere Event Recap & Movie Review!

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In celebration of the release of the highly anticipated Fifty Shades Darker, I’m posting pictures of the premiere event that I attended with my best friend, Janice!  I feel I should tell the story of what led up to this dream-come-true opportunity:  I follow a few social media accounts featuring Fifty Shades, including all of the official ones.  Those fan based social media accounts and blogs who have supported the books and movies since the beginning are a part of a select group called the “Official Fifty”.  I had read in one of the accounts that there would be a premiere party and masquerade ball where fans and those involved with the Fifty Shades franchise would be able to celebrate together then watch the actual movie.  The Official Fifty then started to let other fans know that we could also sign up to receive a special invite to join them at the event.  I took a risk and signed up, and then let my friend, Zach , know that I would take him if I were to be invited (I watched the original Fifty Shades of Grey movie with him in 2015).

As the time for the release of Darker drew closer, I started to see more and more of the Official Fifty post pictures of their invites, so I felt I was out of luck.  To my surprise, I received an email last Monday entitled “Your Invitation to Fifty Shades Darker Premiere”.  I opened the email and read the following:

Dear Cyrillynn Chen,

You and a guest are invited to the Fifty Shades Darker Premiere Event, and your RSVP IS REQUIRED to confirm your attendance.

Please RSVP no later than Wednesday, February 1st

Sincerely,

Universal Pictures

Stunned, I read the email over and over and just couldn’t believe my eyes.  I replied to ensure I would get into the event no matter what, then contacted Zach to let him know I received the tickets to the event!  Due to work and health reasons, Zach couldn’t make it, but Janice was more than happy to step in!  I made arrangements with my new job to leave early that day, and off we went to take part in an event to remember!

Janice and I made the trek from San Diego to Los Angeles and arrived just in time to get a quick bite to eat and change.  Thankfully, valet parking was provided for all guests free of charge!  The party itself started at 5:00 pm and was held at Vibiana, a wedding, events and performing arts venue.  The event was a beautiful masquerade ball made to emulate the one in the movie.  We were treated to delicious food, entertainment and lots of activities to participate in where we could take home souvenirs to prove it wasn’t all just a dream.  To our surprise, Eric Johnson (“Jack Hyde”) and Dana Brunetti (producer) made their way through the crowd and caused quite the stir.  I got the chance to say to Dana Brunetti how excited we were to see the movie, to which he replied “You will love it!”  Jose James, who appears in the movie in the masquerade ball scene, also entertained us for the evening.  The highlight was obviously when director James Foley and author EL James were joined on stage by the main stars Jamie Dornan (“Christian Grey”) and Dakota Johnson (“Anastasia Steele”).  They briefly thanked everyone for being there and headed to the theater to greet everyone and introduce the movie.  Right around 7:30 pm, fans were transported by shuttle bus to the gorgeous Theatre at Ace Hotel.


My Review of Fifty Shades Darker

(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD, AND REMEMBER TO STAY THROUGH THE CREDITS!)

What can I say about the movie other than Oh. My. God!  In hindsight, I see the initial movie of Fifty Shades of Grey was definitely a teaser or maybe a really well executed college project.  I have seen the first movie more times than I care to count, and I now see a bit of awkwardness between Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson that I had not noticed before, or maybe denied to myself because I wanted to defend my precious Fifty Shades.  But I attribute the awkwardness to being put in a situation where so much was asked of them physically as actors, before they really got to know each other as people.  I initially reviewed the intimate scenes as simply stylized to avoid being graphic, but I clearly was being too kind.  The more I think about it, the more I think the envelope could have been pushed in the first movie.  But again, being that Jamie and Dakota were “thrust” together and didn’t quite fully trust each other as actors and friends, they clearly made up for that fact in Darker.

James Foley is known for movies like At Close Range, Fear and the series House of Cards.  He definitely brought forth a different style and directorial maturity than Sam Taylor-Johnson, the director of the first movie.  I felt this was more of a suspenseful movie with a plot that revealed Christian Grey’s complicated life behind his alternative lifestyle.  I could feel the desire and love between Christian and Anastasia, despite having to navigate through all of the craziness in his life.  With Niall Leonard, EL James’ husband, as screen writer, James’ vision was more clear in Darker, and this movie catered to what the fans wanted, which was lacking a bit in Fifty Shades.  At the premiere, I could tell that there was more of a partnership and trust between James and Foley, which ultimately made this sequel far better than the first.

When I compare Darker to Fifty Shades, Darker is paced more quickly, which allows time for more of the scenes we as fans wanted to see from the book.  Fifty Shades had longer scenes, but not necessarily of the ones I wanted to see.  For instance, quite a bit of time was spent on the interview scene, but not enough time in Georgia.  Christian seemed to be more aloof in the Fifty Shades movie than in the book, which is where I think Jamie was criticized for being a bit stiff in his initial portrayal.  Again, I think the chemistry is a bit off in the first movie because Jamie and Dakota did not know each other well enough to be as comfortable with the more intimate scenes.  In Fifty Shades, Jamie skimmed Dakota’s body rather than ravage it as Christian does in the books.  In Darker, all that has gone away and I do recall Jamie saying in an interview that he and Dakota decided to just go for it, since they had time to build up a true friendship which created the trust needed to go as far as they did.  To me, that’s what shows in this movie, a definite closeness between the two main characters, which makes for hotter scenes that pleasantly shocked me.

I also noticed gaps in Fifty Shades that I filled in myself because I know the books so well.  For instance, Christian says in the elevator right after their first kiss, “What is it about elevators?”  Although that’s a line straight out of the book, what’s missing is seeing a couple who was giggling in an elevator after also getting caught kissing prior to them going in.  Later, when Christian and Ana are getting ready to go to dinner at his parents, he asks Ana “Do you got everything you need?”  She remarks knowingly “Yeah”.  Well, what movie-goers don’t know that fans do, is that Ana’s panties are missing, which means she is going to meet his parents sans underwear, which drives him crazy throughout the evening.  Darker is more of a complete movie that can actually stand alone if needed.  Christian’s horrifying childhood is more fleshed out with flashbacks and they refer back to the original movie by mentioning why Christian was so eager to get out of Georgia (Leila), why he can’t bear to be touched, and the actual introduction of Elena.

I also found more humor and lightness amid the drama in Christian’s life.  Jamie mentioned in another interview that the funnier moments are now evenly dispersed between the two, and I find myself so drawn to their cuteness as a couple.  In one scene, Anastasia wanders into The Red Room and Christian catches her there.  He said that Ms. Jones must have left the door unlocked and Anastasia says something to the effect of “What does she do in here…dust?”  In another funny scene where a certain piece of sexual paraphernalia is finally introduced (true fans will know what I’m talking about), Christian gives Anastasia the “second chance” Cartier earrings he meant to give to her previously, prior to the masquerade ball.  Christian then says “Don’t worry, these are for your ears,” much to Ana’s relief!

Still apparent in Darker is Anastasia’s strength.  Despite all that happens with her boss Jack Hyde, meeting Elena Lincoln and her run-in with Christian’s ex-sub Leila Williams, Anastasia provides the emotional stability Christian needs and desires.  Most of the scenes that we love from the book showing their developing emotional intimacy come alive on film: the “road-map” scenes, Christian as submissive, their confrontation with Elena and the proposal scenes are all present and accounted for.  In all of those instances, it is Ana who is the most honest because this is her first real relationship, where Christian’s relationships were always premeditated and outlined in contracts that eventually terminated.  Ana knows that does not a relationship make, and Christian eventually comes to that realization as well.  What Foley does well in this film is marry all of Christian’s past with their sexual and emotional discovery, creating a nicely packaged erotic thriller.

Some wants that didn’t come to life on-screen:  They didn’t use the “Put the chicken in the fridge” line prior to their first sexual encounter in Anastasia’s apartment; the pool table scene, which was filmed and cut from this version (I hope and pray there will be another “extended cut” with that scene added); and Hugh Dancy does not make any appearance, nor is there any mention of Dr. Flynn.  Despite those missing parts, Darker was more exciting, thrilling, sensual and emotional than Fifty Shades of Grey.  Foley’s tenure in film far exceeds Taylor-Johnson’s and although she gave it the good old college try, it just doesn’t stack up to Fifty Shades Darker.  I cannot wait to see it again tonight (with Zach)!


Photos from the Masquerade Ball Premiere Party

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Our bracelets for the event, as taken by Janice.

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Our first selfie inside the ball.  Doesn’t it look like Christian Grey is walking behind us?

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We received free masks, along with our ticket for the movie premiere.

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Earl Grey Tea and Macarons

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We had plenty of food and drinks, some of it served by mysterious gentlemen in masks!

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Lovely “Shades of Red” lipsticks provided by Sisley.

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From the top left: Myself with producer Dana Brunetti; Eric Johnson making his way through the uber-excited crowd; Jose James performing.

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I had to include this picture as taken by Instagram user @fiftydornan because that’s me behind Eric Johnson…looking shocked that he just walked through the crowd!

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EL James, Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson and James Foley.  What a treat for them to be there!

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Fun souvenirs from the magical evening!

I really loved the 360 camera.  We were in quite a line, but it was so worth the wait!

Star People

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Once in awhile, there is that outfit that makes you walk with a little more confidence, or is it a little more attitude?  Either way, this RENAMED jacket does it for me.  If one is going to wear a faux fur jacket covered in stars, then you’ve got to walk with a bit more swagger, like David Bowie or Lady Gaga.  I also agree very much with my Social Decay t-shirt: I have never ever said I own too much black clothing.  Since this outfit is quite monochromatic, I gave it a pop of color with this fantastic choker by GFASH.

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Outfit:  Faux fur jacket by RENAMED & t-shirt by Social Decay from The Beat Clothing; Flared jeans by Madewell (old); Distressed “Lita” platforms by Jeffrey Campbell; Choker c/o GFASH; “Keiko” prescription sunglasses in Roxy Noir by BonLook; @ and # rings by Wendy Brandes; Vintage London Map ring by Suki Bijoux; Unknown brand handcuff earrings 

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With Astrid, stylist at The Beat Clothing. We seriously did not plan on wearing practically the same thing (all black in our Social Decay t-shirts with furry jackets).  But, I guess great fashionable minds think alike!

(All photos by Rholnna Jiao. Post title from the song by George Michael.)

I Said Don’t Stop, to Punk Rock

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Happy New Year to you, and I’m starting off the new year with an outfit post!  I can’t recall exactly where, but I know I’ve mention that my style seems to lie somewhere between classic, chic and punk rock.  It’s kind of like those Reese’s commercials from the eighties when they would argue “Hey, you got your peanut butter in my chocolate/No, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter”; I always have to add a little punk to my classic outfit, or add a little chic to my rocker one.  I love this article from Complex called “Know Your Rights:  A Complex Guide to Punk Rock Style“.  I think I own every piece in that guide and wear them anywhere and everywhere, from the office to the concert hall.  Truth be told, I did not read the article prior to putting together my outfit for this post, and wore two of the mentioned pieces together: a bomber jacket and leopard print.  Now that I think about it, I want to take each of the pieces mentioned in the Complex article and create outfits around them, since I have them all!

I believe I own ten bomber jackets (and counting), and this one from Shimmer is one that I intend to do a DIY patch job on very soon, where I’ll be adding patches from my favorite bands to every inch the fabric real estate of the jacket will allow.  As an FYI, I bought that jacket because of the fact that two of the patches are indirectly tied to Depeche Mode: the Union Jack patch because they are British and the Route 66 one because they did a cover version of that song.  Before the additional adornments, I wore my jacket to a few concerts and this photo shoot with my sister at The Observatory North Park.

Although I know many bands have performed there, I’ve only seen Blondie at The Observatory (so far).  I’ll have to check out their concert calendar to see who else is playing.  Another FYI:  I saw George Clinton and Parliament in Los Angeles a few years ago, but I did not see them when the pictures were taken.  But I did include a couple of pictures when I ate at the West Coast Tavern (which is connected to The Observatory), prior to seeing Blondie live with my friend Angi.  Debbie Harry is definitely a style icon, and I featured an image of her in a post about my love for vintage rock t-shirts (here).  I mean, check her out in the picture I captured below, rocking fishnet stockings at age 71.  I only hope to be that cool in 30 years!

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Outfit: Distressed t-shirt by G Mini, Eunina Jeans and choker c/o Shimmer; C’Est Toi jacket purchased from Shimmer; CHARLES by Charles David over the knee boots (old); Kate Spade purse (old); “Keiko” Rx sunglasses in Roxy Noir by BonLook

(All outfit photos by Rholnna Jiao. West Coast Tavern and concert photos by moi.  Post title from the song “Rapture” by Blondie.)

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One More Day to Get Your Photo With Santa at Fashion Valley!

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Can you believe Christmas is already this weekend?  I received the last package today to complete our son’s Christmas present, in addition to finally sending out all of our holiday cards.  One last thing we also took care of this week was Dominic’s traditional photo with Santa at Fashion Valley’s Santa Photo Experience.  If you still need to take care of some last-minute shopping or get that photo with Santa, Fashion Valley will be open on Christmas Eve from 8am to 6pm.  Fashion Valley always look beautiful during the holiday season.  I’ve included some pictures of when Dominic and I attended their tree lighting ceremony last month.

Cheers and I wish you all a wonderful, healthy and safe holiday!

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Dominic gets a kick out of taking pictures with any cast of characters.  He was excited to learn that The Grinch knew about his favorite game, Fallout!

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There’s always wonderful free snacks available at Fashion Valley’s Tree Lighting event!

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Dominic thought long and hard about what he wanted to ask Santa for Christmas!

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Santa helped to countdown the lighting of the tree!

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After the tree was lit, everyone was invited for cookies and crafts!

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Wishing you a Happy Holidays!

Absolutely Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide 2016: The Carlsbad Edition!

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For the third year running, I humbly present again my last-minute holiday gift guide!  I am notorious for waiting until the last-minute, so for those of you who suffer from the same affliction, this is the guide for you.  For this year’s gift guide, I thought I would put a local spin on things and give those of you in the San Diego area places to actually go and grab some great last-minute holiday presents from some of my favorite shops in the Carlsbad area.

Happy Shopping!


Wysh Boutique

Wysh Boutique is one of my favorite boutiques in Carlsbad.   Located in the Village Faire at Carlsbad, they not only have fashionable clothing and accessories, but great gift ideas and gift certificates!

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Gaia Gelato

Also located at the Village Faire, Gaia Gelato has gift cards, but I wouldn’t mind getting gifted a box of their yummy French macarons!

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Sock District

Sock District is new to the Village Faire, so I welcomed them by immediately purchasing a couple of pairs to gift to my sister.  If you visit their site (link above), you can purchase electronic gift cards for your friends and family to shop in their store or online!

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The Beat Clothing

Another one of my Carlsbad favorites, The Beat Clothing has everything you could want for your edgy fashionista friends.  Astrid Montalvo is their on-site stylist and she can help you find the perfect outfit for that concert-goer in your life, or give the gift of rock inspired clothing, shoes and accessories through a gift certificate!

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Spin Records

Of course I need to include a place where you can give the gift of music, and my favorite place to do some digging in Carlsbad is at Spin Records.  I was just there and purchased a white vinyl 7-inch single of Johnny Cash’s The Man Comes Around with his cover of Personal Jesus (pictured below).  They also have t-shirts, buttons, patches and gift certificates for that crate digger in your life!

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Note:  This is not a sponsored post.  Although I mention specific shops, all suggestions are strictly my own. 

The Latest From LEGOLAND®: The 14th Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony!

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At the end of November, I took my sister, my niece and my son to celebrate the kick off of Holidays at LEGOLAND® California Resort with their 14th annual Tree Lighting Ceremony!   Along with General Manager of LEGOLAND® California, Peter Ronchetti, Santa Claus and Lego Brick Santa, Stana Katic from the hit TV series Castle and her niece, Sophia, joined in the festivities and pulled the switch to set off the amazing fireworks display right before lighting of the amazing Lego Brick tree.  To the delight of all of the children present, the ceremony concluded with snow falling over the crowd!

Holidays at LEGOLAND® California run from November 25, 2016 to January 1, 2017 and include events such as a holiday show at Heartlake City, special holiday treats (churros con chocolate, holiday cookies, peppermint milkshakes, apple cider and hot chocolate) and the opportunity to take your holiday photos with Lego Brick Santa and his reindeer.  Click here to get your tickets!

Legoland Holiday Tree lighting ceremony on Monday, November 28, 2016 in Calsbad, CA.(Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Legoland)

Official Legoland Picture (Legoland Holiday Tree lighting ceremony on Monday, November 28, 2016 in Calsbad, CA. Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Legoland)

Prior to the tree lighting, LEGOLAND® California Resort donated $10,000 on Stana Katic’s behalf to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.  

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“The LEGO Christmas tree stands 30-foot tall, is created out of more than 245,000 green DUPLO® bricks, features more than 400 LEGO ornaments and sparkles with more than 11,000 LED lights. In honor of the new Castle Hotel breaking ground in January, Master Model Builders created 15 new LEGO castle ornaments that hung from the enormous LEGO Christmas tree.”  – from the LEGOLAND® California Press Release

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Stana Katic with her niece Sophia

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Me with my sister, Rholnna, her daughter Mei-Lin and my son Dominic (taken by Suzanne Bartole).

(All photos by Rholnna Jiao except where otherwise noted)

Lunch With the Girls at Oggi’s in Rancho Carmel Plaza

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It’s not everyday that I get the chance to go out and spend an afternoon with my sister, Rholnna, and my niece, Mei-Lin, so it’s wonderful when that opportunity happens.  Since my sister’s family lives in Rancho Bernardo, I headed north a couple of weeks ago and we decided to eat at Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Co., located in Rancho Carmel Plaza in the Carmel Mountain Ranch area.  Oggi’s is a family spot that my husband, son and I like to frequent because of their delicious menu and sports bar surroundings.  I’ve watched quite a few San Diego Chargers games at Oggi’s!

I’ve always had their pizza, sticking with favorites like The Works or The Heavy Weight.  For this outing, I decided on the Prosciutto Mac & Cheese because I have this secret goal to try a “mac & cheese” dish at every restaurant that offers it!  I’m glad I strayed from my norm because this version was absolutely delicious.  The three-cheese blend elbow pasta, baked with crispy prosciutto, broccoli and crushed red peppers looked great in the menu description, and was even better on my plate.  I guess I’ve met my new favorite! My sister and niece both felt like pizza for lunch, but had different tastes in which ones they wanted, so it’s great that Oggi’s offers several sizes, including a personal size.  We had a fantastic time, but it’s easy when there’s great food in a fun atmosphere!

Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Co. is located at Rancho Carmel Plaza, 10155-10195 Rancho Carmel Drive, San Diego, CA 92128.

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Prosciutto Mac & Cheese

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Personal Size “Create Your Own” Pizza

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Kids’ Mini Cheese Pizza

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FTC Disclosure:  I received compensation to patronize a business at Rancho Carmel Plaza.  Although I did receive compensation, the opinions in this post are strictly my own.

(Photos by Rholnna Jiao and myself)