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It’s a band class on wheels! Read on to learn more about this fascinating new performing arts business that helps underserved youth in the community.

Cincy Chic: What is Band In a Bus?
Nick Rose-Stamey, Executive Director at Band In a Bus: Band In A Bus, made possible through a partnership with Elementz, aims to bus the performing arts to communities in need. 

You read that right. We’re building a band class on wheels! Music plays a big part inside, and outside of the classroom. According to new research, on average students who participate in music and arts related programs score higher on standardized tests and develop positive social emotional skills that can point them towards a promising future. 

Even though these results are overwhelmingly positive, a significant number of music and performing arts classes are being removed from the average student’s school day. Our hope is that by removing barriers for students to access the arts—providing the classroom, instruments, a hip, modernized performing arts curriculum, and staffing–Band In A Bus can offer a mobile, 21st century band class experience that can bridge the performing arts gap facing today’s communities. 

Band In A Bus currently provides music programs to 7 schools throughout Cincinnati Public Schools and helps around 70 students a week channel their inner rockstar.

Cincy Chic: What’s the inspiration behind the program?
Rose-Stamey: All of the kids that I’ve seen give up on the arts because of things outside of their control. I’ve spent years helping nonprofit organizations develop music programming in lower-income communities. These places are full of the best, most well-meaning people. But the day-to-day struggles these communities face develops a number of creative challenges—like schools unable to provide adequate teaching space, arts instructors being forced to fundraise for their own classes, and so many cardboard boxes, overflowing with broken instruments. 

Speaking from experience, there is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing a student throw in the towel because of a broken instrument. So when I would pack for these programs, everyday I’d think about how much more effective, and life changing this could be for the students if you built them the ideal classroom. Like Ms. Frizzle and her magic school bus, why shouldn’t we have a place where students can hop on and learn about music regardless of their socio-economic standing?  And as it turns out—with a big enough bus and a few instruments, you absolutely can. 

Cincy Chic: Who’s behind it?
Rose-Stamey: Band In A Bus receives operating support from our partners at Elementz, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. The guy behind the wheel is me. I’m a performing artist with a passion for music education. I have developed music programs that’s impacted hundreds of students all over the Cincinnati region with organizations like Elementz, Music Resource Center-Cincinnati and ABC Arts. 

Cincy Chic: What types of events do you perform at?
Rose-Stamey: We’re currently planning our first student ‘jam session’ with some friends at The Hilton Netherland in downtown Cincinnati. More details on this event coming soon! Band In A Bus has a lot of students who can jam, perform and rock with the best of them. Let us know how we can help you make some noise for your event! 

Cincy Chic: What makes Band In a Bus unique?
Rose-Stamey: Beyond making the world’s best mobile band class, this is the first mobile. Music program built by the community for the community. Music is an art form designed to bring people together, and we want every program to feel well-informed and customized to fit the needs of each community we serve. 

Cincy Chic: What do you love the most about Band In a Bus?
Rose-Stamey: I love that in only 6 months of starting this business, we’re in 7 schools and covering everything from rock band repertoire, to podcasting and so much more! Who knows what next semester will bring! 

Cincy Chic: Is there anything new on the horizon?
Rose-Stamey: Band In A Bus just formally launched a fundraising campaign for our first mobile classroom. If you want to support the band, please share this donation link

Cincy Chic: Where can readers go to learn more and follow along?
Rose-Stamey: You can follow along as this band class gets rolling at www.bandinabus.org or on the following social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram. If you or your readers want to learn more, feel free to reach out anytime to Nick, nick@bandinabus.org.

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Martin Lawrence and Will Smith reunite for entertaining nostalgia in this new flick but is it worth the watch in theaters? Read on to see.

 

“Over here, partner – I think I see the dude who convinced me to do Gemini Man! Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) proceed with caution in a scene from co-directors Adil & Bilall’s addition to the Bad Boys franchise, BAD BOYS FOR LIFE. Credit: Ben Rothstein ™ 2019 CTMG, Inc. All rights reserved. 


WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Joe Pantoliano, Paola Nuñez, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Nicky Jam, Jacob Scipio and Kate del CastilloDIRECTOR(S): Adil & Bilall

 
THE BACK STORY: Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) has never needed the money. He has that thanks to his inheritance. He’s also apparently never needed love; sure he’s had “love” but nothing like what his partner Marcus Burnet (Martin Lawrence) and their always embattled leader, Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano), have in their lives. Sure, he had a thing with Rita (Paola Nuñez) in the past, but that’s in the past. 

So, when his partner to make good on his threat to retire upon becoming a grandfather, Mike makes a bet with Marcus and wins – only he doesn’t get the chance to collect on that bet due to a ghost from his past: Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo), a.k.a. the Witch. It seems Isabel has an old score to settle with Mike from a very long time ago and has no problem using her willing son Armando (Jacob Scipio) to collect the debt. 

Now, as the body count starts piling up, Mike is going to need Marcus, Rita, Captain Howard and all the help he can get if he’s going to survive.

THE REVIEW: One key component of HBO’s acclaimed Watchmen television series revolved around the idea of one of the main characters being able to experience another a person’s memories via the ingestion of a pill dubbed “Nostalgia.” And while they had an adverse affect on Regina King’s character at first, they ultimately led to revelations that eventually proven to be essential to her and the overall ending of the first (and only?) season of the series.Watching Bad Boys for Life, one might have a similar take – for while the beginning of the film may start off a tad slower and/or more mundane than one might expect, once it gets going, all the fond memories fans of the first two films had will come quickly back to life.

Whereas the first two films relied inordinately upon the chemistry between Smith and Lawrence to carry them in Michael Bay’s explosion-filled paradise, Bad Boys for Life adds small bits of nuance to the mix to dive deeper into Smith’s and Lawrence’s characters personal lives. Smith’s rockstar cowboy realizes he’s fading into the twilight if he doesn’t change his ways in a way that doesn’t feel terribly contrived, all while Lawrence, Pantoliano and the film’s supporting players add strong punches of humor into the mix. (It’s kind of what last year’s already forgotten Shaft movie was hoping for but didn’t quite get right.) The ideas of growing old and growing up are at dual play in the film, Lawrence and Smith luckily handle both with enough flair and finesse to not make the film too dry or too frivolous for its own good.

Of course, the nostalgia of watching 90s comedy icons Smith and Lawrence is likely going to be more than enough for most audiences as the duo hasn’t any of their timing. Likewise, the action sequences under the eye of co-directors Adil & Bilall have all the usual buddy cop/action comedy panache you’d expect yet feel more fresh than familiarly overblown (for the most part). Throw in some strong female representation from Hudgens, Nuñez and del Castillo and the film has the entertainment value to make casual and die-hard fans happy.

If nothing else, Inner Circle will be just as pleased to take home all those residual checks for his best known song once again.

OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

 
 

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Learn how a local couple is helping refugees and immigrants find their place in the community, to not only acclimate but thrive in their new world.

Cincy Chic: What is Heartfelt Tidbits? 
Sheryl Rajbhandari, Executive Director of Heartfelt Tidbits: Heartfelt Tidbits began in 2008. It is a grassroots organization that provides a long welcome to local refugees and immigrants.

Cincy Chic: Who’s behind it? 
Rajbhandari: Myself and my husband Amsu were introduced to our first refugee family from Bhutan in May 2008. After meeting the Tamang family we clearly understood that people need so much more than 90 days to acclimate to their new residence and with a community and love surrounding them, anything is possible. I have served as the volunteer Executive Director of Heartfelt Tidbits ever since.

Cincy Chic: When did you launch?  
Rajbhandari: We began supporting persons in 2008 and became an official 501c3 in 2016.

Cincy Chic: Why is your work important to the community?  
Rajbhandari: My prior corporate background used data to help corporations do short and long term strategic planning. I approached my work with refugees in the same capacity and quickly understood that most refugees were spending long periods of time in public housing and feeling hopeless. The groups that had community support and a team of champions cheering them on were showing tremendous success and acclimating to their new environment. I decided at that point that each person I met would have this support around them and be integrated with their community.  This approach changed the dynamics of neighborhoods. As people were introduced, I took it upon myself to introduce neighbors, churches, and businesses on who was moving in, where they were from, and educate them on refugees. Quickly neighbors, local libraries, business owners, and others relayed the story of the refugee to their own or their ancestors, and were more than happy to assist. There was a hunger to learn more about their newest neighbors and understand their culture. This created a ripple effect. Local Presbyterian church pews were suddenly filled with Buddhists and Hindu’s eager to sit in a spiritual place each week. The local produce store started carrying watercress and buckwheat to meet the demands. Franciscan Sisters opened up land to allow their neighbors to grow familiar food in a community garden. Hesitant employers began begging for more of the new neighbors to join their company and found ways to allow Heartfelt Tidbits to offer ESL and life skill training between shifts.   

Cincy Chic: Can you tell us more about your 2020 block party?
Rajbhandari: Our International Block Party is May 2, 2020 at 6:30 pm at the Wyoming Civic Center. Sponsorship opportunities opened up Jan. 6th and tickets will be available after Jan. 20th at https://www.heartfelttidbits.com/2020-block-party.  Attendees can expect a fantastic time, a chance to meet our newest neighbors and to hear their stories. Local12’s Brad Underwood is the MC, LaSoupe will be cooking Paella along with local ethnic restaurants, there will be an amazing silent auction.

Cincy Chic: What makes Heartfelt Tidbits unique?  
Rajbhandari: Heartfelt Tidbits is the only local organization that supports everyone at anypoint in their journey. We recognize that needs change as time goes on. In 2019, we became an inaugural member of the Hello Neighbor Network with 7 other similar organizations across the nation.   

Cincy Chic: Is there anything new on the horizon?  
Rajbhandari: In 2019 we added our first staff. One of our asylum seekers, Lourdes Santos Martinez, became our first full-time employee and in the fall we added a part-time ESL lead, Judy Geringer. We also launched Welcome Alliance to coordinate transportation to/from medical and legal appointments. This has been so popular, the volunteer lead, Jennifer Watson, became another part-time employee the first of January 2020. We would love to add a mental health specialist and another full-time person if finances allow it. We’re also working with UC DAAP interns on developing a new and innovative way of communicating with our donors, clients and volunteers.

Cincy Chic: Where can readers go to learn more and follow along? 
Rajbhandari: Visit our website at www.heartfelttidbits.com to learn more and sign up for our newsletter to be part of future communications.

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See how a local Cincinnati family has turned their passion for plants into a community full of succulents, workshops and love.

There’s something gratifying about growing a plant. After a little time and love, you see it grow, thrive and maybe even blossom.

That’s the idea behind The Hearty Leaf, a family-operated and community-focused business, founded by Mike and Janet Grueter, hosting private and public succulent workshops, as well as arrangements for gifts, home décor, party favors, and table arrangements. 

“The Hearty Leaf started with a small cactus that was maybe six inches tall. Twenty five years later, and it sits in our house over seven feet tall,” says Janet. “There’s a sense of satisfaction and happiness watching your sweet plant grow and thrive through the years. With the right care and the right love, we know everyone will be able to enjoy a succulent arrangement that makes their life a little sweeter.” 

 

Today, The Grueter’s house has grown since its humble beginning of a cactus and Jade plant party favor to 160 arrangements and 23 single potted plants. The family’s memories of “Succulent Sundays” with their daughter Olivia and connecting with one another by making living pieces of art are the inspiration behind The Hearty Leaf.

The two options customers have with workshops are public and private. Each month, several public workshops are held all over the Cincinnati area. “We partner with local businesses and venues for public workshops. Our next one will be held on January 12 at the Gorman Heritage Farm. Guests will not only make a fun barnyard succulent, but also receive a tour of the farm,” says Janet. “On January 21, we are continuing our partnership with Branch and Bone and hosting a succulent workshop with a complimentary beer and brewery tour.” 

The Hearty Leaf’s public and private workshops are unique, just like their succulents. The Hearty Leaf also specializes in party favors. “Weddings, showers, birthdays, baptisms, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, or a corporate gift, we will make your event unforgettable with succulent favors and table arrangements,” says Janet. 

“People tell us all the time all they do is kill their plants. We hope that providing a workshop or even best care suggestions when they purchase an arrangement that will utilize the provided proper sol and light so when a little leaf falls off, a new baby can propagate from it. Afterall, our tagline is ‘We love succulents, and so will you,’” Janet says.

For more information on The Hearty Leaf or those interested in partnering to host a public succulent workshop, visit their website and follow on Facebook and Instagram.

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Two entrepreneurs passionate about helping the community plan to open the doors to a new coffeehouse that encourages guests to come together, eat well and feel like family.

Cincy Chic: What is Cream + Sugar Coffeehouse?
Taren Kinebrew, Co-Owner of Cream + Sugar Coffeehouse: Cream + Sugar Coffeehouse is a local coffee shop that offers breakfast and lunch. Once we open, will hope to be a hub that brings together the Evanston community, Xavier community, and surrounding neighborhoods. 

Cincy Chic: Who’s behind Cream + Sugar Coffeehouse?
Kinebrew: Myself and Crystal Grace of Grace + Grit Spa in Silverton are behind Cream + Sugar Coffeehouse. I am the founded of Sweet Petit Desserts located in Over-the-Rhine that focuses on bite-sized desserts while Crystal’s spa focuses on self care. Crystal also has a non profit called What Love Does that offers free self care services to cancer patients and their caregivers. I also have a nonprofit called Junior Baking Series that focuses on youth who aspire to have a career in baking.

Cincy Chic: What’s the inspiration behind the coffee shop?
Kinebrew: With backgrounds in self-care, baking, and nonprofits, we wanted to offer our community something that not only spoke to our passion for great food and coffee but also empowers others and future entrepreneurs. 

Cincy Chic: What will readers find on the menu?
Kinebrew: Our menu will include organic coffee and teas. We will have mostly plant-based breakfast and lunch items that will all be locally sourced.

Cincy Chic: What makes Cream + Sugar Coffeehouse unique?
Kinebrew: We are two African American women who recognize that heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes run rapid in our culture and we want to offer an alternative to combat those sometimes fatal diseases. We chose the plant-based route for most of the menu to educate people that you can eat great food without high amounts of bad fats.

Cincy Chic: When will you open the doors to Cream + Sugar Coffeehouse?
Kinebrew: We plan to open our doors in February or March 2020. 

Cincy Chic: Is there anything new on the horizon?
Kinebrew: We both are excited to work with and support the Evanston community and Xavier University. More importantly we are looking forward to the partnerships we will build while also implementing a mentor program for children 7-10 years of age. 

Cincy Chic: Where can readers go to learn more and follow along?
Kinebrew: Follow us on our Facebook and Instagram pages. 

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She leads a local organization that removes barriers to learning for adults seeking to re-engage in education. Read on to learn her secrets to success.

“Education Matters exists to remove barriers to learning for adults seeking to re-engage in education,” says Mary Delaney, Executive Director of Education Matters.

Cincy Chic: What is Education Matters?
Mary Delaney, Executive Director of Education Matters: Education Matters exists to remove barriers to learning for adults seeking to re-engage in education. We provide personal instruction at any level, from basic literacy all the way through college.

Cincy Chic: What’s the inspiration behind it?
Delaney: Education Matters has always been rooted in responding to the ideas and will of the community. We were founded in 1971 by mothers and grandmothers in Lower Price Hill seeking to address the dropout crisis in our community. They gathered around kitchen tables to tutor each other and their neighbors. This philosophy of community driven education is at the core of our work to this day.

Mary Delaney, Executive Director of Education Matters

Cincy Chic: Who’s behind it?
Delaney: We are a small team of 12 staff members (full-time and part-time), a crew of dedicated volunteers, and a fantastic board of directors. Many of our team members started at our organization as volunteers with AmeriCorps and have stayed with the organization. Several of our staff are also former students who re-engaged and advanced their education.

Cincy Chic: Can you share some of the projects and efforts of Education Matters around the city?
Delaney: One of our most recent efforts is the expansion of our English for Speakers of Other Languages, or English Connection, classes. We started a few years ago with 30 students in one small classroom and now we have over 300 students engaged at two locations. Just as our neighborhood mothers and grandmothers responded to community need in the 1970s with GED instruction, English classes and support for our immigrant neighbors is at a critical point in our city. We are working with Santa Maria Community Services to expand to reach many more immigrants in Price Hill and beyond.

Cincy Chic: What makes Education Matters such an important and unique organization?
Delaney: We do things a bit differently. We are an open door, flexible, work at your own pace type of place. We do not do large classes; we work with each student one-on-one to figure out what they need and where they are headed. We also know that life is complicated, so we offer students support with free onsite childcare, transportation help, a food pantry, and one-on-one support for employment. Why Education Matters? We know that education is not a magic wand that changes one’s life overnight, but it is the most essential link to more opportunity in the United States.

Cincy Chic: What inspires your personally in your everyday life?
Delaney: My daily inspiration is our students. There are not too many places in the city where you can walk in and hear 20+ languages spoken, chat with your neighbor about getting a new home, meet someone who just arrived in the U.S., and put your high school math skills to the test. Education is such an important part of my journey and I get to spend each day being a small part in that journey with so many others.

Cincy Chic: Can you share some of the journey that got you to where you are today?
Delaney: I grew up in a small town in what I jokingly call a tiny home, but most refer to as a trailer. Growing up I didn’t realize we were poor until I got to college and had exposure to a bigger world. I felt shame for my roots and I was afraid of being discovered as a “hick.” I let that shame follow me for many years. I practiced to get rid of my country accent, I studied anything I thought would make me seem more worldly, I hid myself. In 2010, I decided to volunteer for one year with AmeriCorps at Education Matters. It was there, through the wisdom of my students, that I truly found myself and learned that my history is my strength. I’ve been at EM ever since and eventually grew into the role of Executive Director. Today, my personal mission is to elevate and celebrate the strengths of each person and to challenge what society labels as faults to show that they are truly strengths.

Cincy Chic: Where can readers go to learn more and follow along with Education Matters?
Delaney: You can learn more about our work and find ways to get engaged at emcincy.org or follow us on Facebook and Instagram

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Adam Sandler is back for a new film. Is it a diamond in the rough or a frustrating piece of fool's gold? Our movie critic tells all.

“OK, OK – I won’t ask you anymore questions about LeBron if you agree to not ask me anymore about Rob Schneider!” Kevin Garnett, left, listens as Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) tries to make a deal as their mutual acquaintance Demany (LaKeith Stanfield) looks on in a scene from the Safdie Brothers’ latest drama UNCUT GEMS. Credit: © and ™ A24 Films. All rights reserved.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:

 


 



KEY CAST MEMBERS: Adam Sandler, Idina Menzel, LaKeith Stanfield, Kevin Garnett, Eric Bogosian, Julia Fox, Keith Williams Richards, Tommy Kominik and Judd HirschDIRECTOR(S): Josh and Benny Safdie

 
THE BACK STORY: Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is a jeweler in New York City’s famed “Diamond District.” He’s got healthy children with his estranged wife Dinah (Idina Menzel), a wealthy father-in-law in Gooey (Judd Hirsch) and a streetwise business partner in Demany (LaKeith Stanfield) to help him get clientele like Boston Celtics power forward and future NBA champion Kevin Garnett (yes, played by Kevin Garnett). 


Unfortunately, Howard also has a lot of personal problems caused by his demons. That’s why he has an apartment in the city where his employee/girlfriend Julia (Julia Fox) and he can enjoy their rendezvous and he is a massive gambler, which is why his in-law Arno (Eric Bogosian) wants him to pay him the money he is owed ASAP. That’s also why Arno’s two “business associates” Phil (Keith William Richards) and Nico (Tommy Kominik) are ready to beat Howard any chance they get. 


So, what happens when Howard receives a rare gem that ends up tying his future with Garnett, Arno and Julia all together? Let’s just say you can bet on it changing all of their lives forever. 

THE REVIEW: Sometimes you see a movie that features actors turning in fine performances with characters that are realistic in a story that makes perfect sense given the world in which they exist. Likewise, the direction is tight, the camera work draws you into those characters’ respective worlds and the pacing (for the most part) makes sense. But, for whatever reason, you just aren’t captivated by it, it lacks something that makes many (outside of those into artistic endeavors and/or laud “cinema” or “movies”).Unfortunately in the case of Uncut Gems, this factor works against the film and turns what one would hope could be a diamond into a rather frustrating piece of fool’s gold.

Other than the surreal joy of watching Kevin Garnett playing Kevin Garnett without acting like he is Kevin Garnett, Uncut Gems features a protagonist who is the textbook definition of a sad sack due to his own inability to get out of his own way. Sandler’s Howard Ratner is manic, fast-talking, obsessive and unappreciative of his own fortunes, always driven by his next big hit. Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley once famously coined the phrase “the disease of more,” saying “Success is often the first step towards disaster” – meaning that once one has a little bit of it, the compulsion for more of it often leads to one’s own undoing. Perhaps the Safdie brothers, like Sandler himself, are really big basketball fans, hence their need to create a character Riley himself might deem uncoachable. Thus, Uncut Gems is much like being a fan of a popular sports team that the rest of the league hates – only built for die-hard Sandler fans only (for the most part) who will support “their guy” no matter what.

Unlike Robert Pattinson in the Safdie brothers’ previous effort, the stellar Good Time, Ratner has zero redeeming qualities to the point you almost – almost – enjoy watching him fail. This is a self-destructive man doing self-destructive things: That may be the point, but while it’s a point well-taken, it is also one that isn’t exactly (for lack of a better word) fun point to watch.

Whereas Pattinson’s character was trying to do something wrong to provide a better life for he and his mentally challenged brother, Sandler’s character is a pure narcissist who treats everything and everyone – Julia especially – like just another trophy. (Given that he is a jeweler and what gems represent in both the film and in American society, of course, the metaphors abound aplenty.) Sandler’s character is King Midas … And anyone who’s paid attention to any basic Greek mythology in a social studies class knows how well that worked out for him.

Which is a shame, because Uncut Gems had a lot more potential to be a good Christmas present for someone outside of just hardcore Sandler and Garnett fans.

OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

 
 
 
 

 

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Running a business but looking for even more ways to be successful? Read about a local accountant who wants to help your finances thrive in the new year.

Cincy Chic: What is BE Virtual Solutions?
Kysondra Elliott, Founder of BE Virtual Solutions: BE Virtual Solutions is a business that wants to help service-based companies gain control of their business. 

Cincy Chic: What’s the inspiration behind it?
Elliott: My passion is helping others, and we want to help other businesses create a profit while gaining freedom. We want to teach others the secret to having a truly successful business. And we know that the solution to success from comes in the form of delegation. Your business will not grow without delegating – we will help you through the stages of delegation.

Cincy Chic: What types of services do you offer clients?
Elliott: We offer full-charge bookkeeping packages as well as add-ons. We are accountants that truly care about your personal growth and financial growth! We will work along side you to see that you are able to succeed in whatever it is that you decide to do! We take the Holistic Approach when it comes to finances. In addition to basic bookkeeping, we offer receipt management, budgeting, reports, accounts receivable, accounts payable, historical cleanups, and taxes. 

Cincy Chic: Can you tell us more about your virtual assistant service?
Elliott: We offer a virtual assistant for our clients who want to do more delegating with their business. We offer a general administrative virtual assistant services as well as a custom-built service. When you come to us needing a virtual assistant, we ask you to choose a plan so that we can match you with an assistant, and get started on the work. Ultimately the goal is to help you delegate more work out to your team so that you can be more successful.

Cincy Chic: Where is BE Virtual Solutions located?
Elliott: We’re at 143 Grange Hall Road in Beavercreek. We work to serve both the Dayton and Cincinnati areas!

Cincy Chic: Where can readers go to learn more?
Elliott: Visit our website at bevirtualsolutions.com.

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It’s the ninth and final chapter of an epic saga, but is it worth the watch in theaters? Our movie critic offers insight.

 

“Just think – in some other galaxy, people will actually go pay to throw axes indoors when they could just get lightsabers and fight people to their potential deaths!” Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) faces off against Rey (Daisy Ridley) in a scene from STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER. Credit: © 2019 Lucasfilm Ltd.  & ™. All rights reserved.

 

WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:


 


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Richard E. Grant, Domhnall Gleeson, Carrie Fisher, Ian McDiarmid and Keri Russell with Billy D. WilliamsDIRECTOR(S): J.J. Abrams

 
THE BACK STORY: The ninth and final installment of arguably the greatest science fiction franchise in history, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker finds Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and what’s left of The Resistance preparing to take a grand final strike against The First Order, now firmly in the grasp of its new supreme leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) a.k.a. Ben Solo (if you don’t know why, you’re probably NOT ready to see this movie and need to catch up to the previous episodes). After a series of revealing discoveries, the Resistance and the First Order are set to face an epic clash, Rey and Kylo Ren destined to be the ones who may determine the fate of the galaxy.

Then again, the presence of the previously thought to be deceased Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) may change both of their plans forever if he has his way.

THE REVIEW: You have four types of people when it comes to Star Wars: (1) The uninitiated/unconcerned, a.k.a. the people who have ever never seen a Star Wars movie, don’t care to see another Star Wars movie and/or don’t even know The Rise of Skywalker is here; (2) The relatively familiar – people who have seen one or two of the films, most likely the “original” three from the 1970s and 80s and are good with that; (3) the generally knowledgeable – they’ve seen all the films, but are not dedicated fans who can rattle of planet names or easter eggs from one film to the next; (4) the Comic Book Guys (or Girls). So named for The Simpsons-inspired character inspired in part by Star Wars-obsessive fans, they are protective of the franchise the way parents are a first-born child, love and hate different aspects of the series with the passion of a young Olympic boxer pursuing a gold medal and know so much Jedi/Sith trivia they would make Ken Jennings Jeopardy run look like child’s play.So, that all being said, as someone who falls into category 3 and knows plenty of people that fit into categories one, two and four, my spoiler free assessment of the last installment in the main Star Wars canon is this: Episode IX (nine for those who don’t remember their Roman numerals), while not perfect, contains enough positives to satisfy the people in the last two groups while perhaps making those in the first two groups curious enough to at least wonder what all the hype is about.

The previous Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, is a divisive issue among the hardcore fans as for as many people loved it, just as many seemingly did not – leading to it to serve as an “OK Boomer”-style case study in letting go of old things vs. embracing new possibilities. (You can read more about that here, here and here. Abrams has shared his thoughts on the matter extensively.) Whether that unconsciously (not likely) or consciously (most likely) played a factor in J.J. Abrams’ approach to the final installment may be up for debate, it won’t feel like it watching The Rise of Skywalker as the film tries to bridge a nostalgia gap for the old guard of fans while finishing the new work.

Here’s what most of you will care to know in regards to the actual quality of the film: The action sequences work well, Ridley proves herself capable of earning the massive responsibility her character is thrust into, Driver makes his character more than a Darth Vader clone and the classic elements of good vs. evil – complete with dad jokes aplenty courtesy of C-3PO. There are sky battles, ground battles, journeys across the galaxy to find missing pieces of information, character revelations, homages to the past … It’s a basic 2-and-a-half hour blowout of the things most fans have come to enjoy about the franchise.

Yes, it would be nice if Fisher hadn’t passed away before the filming finished (luckily for Abrams the cut footage from previous films fits in nicely). Likewise, some people may take issue with the incorporation of past characters into the film and their usage and the Palpatine situation may serve as the stuff of blogs and YouTube videos for many eons to come. Then again, when you’ve got over 40 years’ worth of cinematic history coming to an end, there is no way you’re going to satisfy everyone.

But, much like everyone’s favorite little green friend re-invented as a child on Disney+ once famously said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Thus, if you don’t embrace some change over the course of nine films, you’ve probably missed what Abrams and company have attempted to do: Deliver a fitting end to a story with plenty of history while giving it some fresh life along the way. After all, one must “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Keeping that sage-like wisdom will likely send most longstanding fans home happy from this galaxy to the next.

OVERALL RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):

 
 

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While they’re known for artisanal wine curation, this local business is extending into the event space with the launch of Crush -- a new concept that will have you crushin’.

A Cincinnati-based concierge-style consulting service, Hart & Cru, is expanding into their latest evolution, Crush Events. Hart & Cru’s main focus is on bringing artisanal wines to avid drinkers through special events, wine tasting, cellar offerings, and wine classes. Hart & Cru was officially launched in 2015 by founder Kevin O. Hart after years of venturing and connecting within the world of wine. “The inspiration behind the company comes from Kevin’s love of telling stories, and belief that food and wine are central to building and sustaining communities, says Sarah Wilson, Hart & Cru’s Director of Client Relations and Logistics. “We champion incredible passion and talent of farmers and winemakers, giving them a voice in the wine world.”

Since curation and hospitality have been at the center of Hart & Cru’s philosophy since the beginning, on November 6, 2019, Crush was launched. Crush is an extension of the passion, wine curation and storytelling that serve as the foundation of Hart & Cru into your event experience. “Whether you are hosting a private dinner party or a large-scale event this style of hospitality, where attention is paid to every detail in the décor, the wine, and the food, is what inspired us to launch a new event planning service,” says Wilson. 

The term Crush goes deeper than just a name, it is also a vital part in the winemaking process. After the harvest, “Crushing” occurs during the “pressing” of the grapes to allow the juice to flow and the winemakers to officially experience the fruit of their labors.

The process of planning an event with Crush has 4 simple steps that are outlined on their website:

Introduction: An email, quick call, or a cup of coffee or wine with Crush’s team to gain a sense of the client’s vision. “Through the years, we have helped to host many events, large and small, and not one has been the same as the other – the evening should be catered to both the host and the guests’ unique experience,” says Wilson.

Inspiration: Ideas are shared for the experience, everything from design to proposed vendors to drink of choice.

Details: Approve budget and guest list to plan the logistics.

Event: Time to enjoy and become a guest at your own party!

Since they Crush is a new launch, the events are focused around only wine and food and the team is small-scale in size, but mighty in impact – seeing as they have support of several Cincinnati partners in the community and years of experience under their belt. Businesses and restaurants such as Dutch’s, Boca, Sotto, and The Budding Florist, just to name a few, work together with Crush to create a top-tier experience for clients and guests. As far as the future is concerned, Crush hopes to expand to larger events incorporating many elements, such as design, décor, and entertainment, on top of the best in class food and beverage and continue to make a positive impact in the Cincinnati community.

For more information or to contact them to plan your next event, visit Hart & Cru’s website or Crush’s website. You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram.