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11 March 2015

Unfortunate film title of the week

Secondhotel300l
(Fox Searchlight Pictures)

It doesn't matter how entertaining The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is, it has already proclaimed itself second best with a most unfortunate movie title.

Sequel or not, what are the geniuses behind the follow-up to the 2011 delightful, poignant tale of British retirees finding adventure in a semi-restored hotel in India thinking?

"How was it?" someone is bound to ask as movie-goers head back out into the daylight after seeing The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

"Oh, you know, really semi-top notch, second rate."

What else can they possibly say?

Unfortunate movie titles are nothing new.  The action-comic Western Straight to Hell didn't set the bar very high in 1986.  And there actually was a short film titled The Bad Movie in 2004.

Some of you might remember Really Bad Movie! on TV a couple of years back.  Me?  I can't wait for The Extra Bad Movie, supposedly coming to your neighborhood bijou sometime later this year.

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(Paramount Pictures)

Back in 2007, I interviewed Jerry Seinfeld when he stopped off in Dallas to stir up a little buzz, if you will, for Bee Movie.  The legendary TV sitcom star told me he came up with the idea for the computer-animated tale of a bee with a mind of his own during a lull in dinner conversation with Steven Spielberg.

You may remember that Seinfeld voiced the lead character, Barry B. Benson, himself.  It was a labor of love for Seinfeld, who spent about four years getting the project to the screen.

But I remember thinking there was something unfortunate about that title:  Bee Movie.

So I took a deep breath, decided why not challenge one of the great comic minds of our generation and said something like, "You know, to some people that term B-movie means second rate or low budget."

Seinfeld looked at me a little funny and said, "You're the first person who has brought that up."

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

09 March 2015

Rainy days and Mondays ...

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Rainy days didn't seem to bother Gene Kelly much in the 1952 classic "Singin' in the Rain" (MGM)

Always get me down.

Well, isn't this a drippy start to spring break week?  At least it is in much of Texas.

So to cheer me -- and, perhaps, you -- up, I came across this montage of romantic scenes from movies that took place in the rain.

It's an exercise in Movie Memories.  See how many of the movie titles you can name. 

And remember what "Annie" said, "The sun'll come out ..."

Ah, shut up, "Annie."

02 March 2015

It's civic duty time

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(Image courtesy: stuffwriterslike.com)

Things we forget.  Things we remember.

It's too bad we don't get to choose.

I still remember vividly, for instance, the only real fight I had as a kid.  The elementary school bully pushed me too far one day, and I snapped.  With a fury I had never experienced before, I got the best of him.  And when I let him go, got up and dusted myself off, I said, "If you want some more of me, I'll be around."

I haven't seen anyone spring to life as fast before or since.  Without going into gory details, let's just say the bully -- Mr. Bully, now -- found his second wind and knocked what little I had left out of me.

That said, I have a gut feeling we, as a society, may be sitting idly by and letting a potential injustice we can do something about snowball out of control.

You probably recall the startling news of about a month ago that Harper Lee, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, had another "novel" stashed away in a bank safety deposit box for six decades.

Now Ms. Lee, who reportedly resides in an assisted living facility, has suddenly altered her 60-year stance that Mockingbird was her one and only novel and is delighted that the new book will be published in July, if we can believe what others, but never the lady herself, have said.

This news still gnaws at me and refuses to move farther back in my memory bank.  That's why I used my Getting Reel column space in the March-April issue of The Senior Voice newspaper to voice my concern.

Please click here to read my column titled To Revive a Mockingbird? 

Things we forget.  Things we remember.

It's too bad we don't get to choose.

23 February 2015

The Academy of Yawns & Staleness

Mama Ratliff told me two things while I was growing up that have always stuck with me:

  • Always keep a $20 bill in your wallet in case of emergencies, and
  • If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

I've never had much luck with that first one.  Every time I have folding money at the ready, there's always an irresistible temptation lurking within arm's reach.  Like a half gallon of Blue Bell for $4.99 or Girl Scouts armed with cookies setting up tables at the entrance of grocery stores.  Luckily, the Girl Scout thing is only seasonal.

Harris250r
Neil Patrick Harris, working the Oscar crowd.

Saying something nice or keeping my big trap shut has been problematic as well.  I'm going to try really hard to find something nice to say about last night's sluggish, basically non-eventful, overlong, boring telecast of "The 87th Academy Awards" on ABC.  (In case you missed it, here's a link to CNN's list of Oscar winners.)

I'm not even going to mention that first-time Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris, a veteran of working tough pat-each-other-on-the-back-rooms  hosting the Tony Awards and television's Emmys, appeared overwhelmed either by an audience of about a billion worldwide or the sea of bright lights and serious Academy voting members (or both) he faced -- at least once dressed only in his tidy whities -- for what seemed like about half my life.  (And not the good half, either.)

See, I told you I have trouble saying nice things.  So this Academy Awards wrap-up is for you, Mama Ratliff:

I really enjoyed the musical numbers, with one exception:  Lady Gaga.

Gagatats325l
Lady Gaga gets classy, sort of.

Before you look for the comment button to rave on about how wonderful the often-outlandish Gaga was singing a tribute to Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music in honor of the Best Picture Oscar-winning musical's 50th anniversary, let me state my case.  

And Mama Ratliff, forgive me for whipping this out:

Lady Gaga's tats (Read carefully; that's tats) took me completely out of what could have been a lovely, moving tribute both to the movie that took five Oscar wins in 1965 and to Andrews.

I have no problem with the gifted singer who until fairly recently liked to sing while a performance artist threw up all over her doing a 180-degree turn going semi-legit.

Gaga can really warble.  But when she rolled into the finale of Climb Every Mountain and thrust out her sleeveless arms to reveal an inked rendering of a trumpet on her right arm and inspirational script in German on the left, let's just say those were not two of my favorite things.

I'm no prude and I have nothing against tattoos on sailors, especially Popeye the Sailor Man, but Ms. Lady should have worn some elegant sleeves to kept her tats under wrap last night.

Now, for the untarnished good stuff:

Tim McGraw's rendition of Glen Campbell's I'm Not Gonna Miss You from Campbell's autobiographical documentary Glen Campbell:  I'll Be Me froze me to my recliner.  So much so, in fact, that I had a little trouble catching my breath when McGraw calmly, beautifully sang the lyrics inspired by Campbell's ongoing losing battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Anyone who has a history of Alzheimer's disease in their family, as we do, can appreciate the power of words that cut right to the frightening graphic honesty of the brutal disease so much that it rips one's heart in two.

 

 The other powerful musical moment came from gifted singers and performers John Legend and Common.

Legend320r
Common, left, and John Legend bring down the house.

Glory, the emotional anthem from Selma, the best picture nominee about the civil rights struggles to secure equal voting rights in 1965, brought the Oscar crowd to its feet.

In a perplexing Academy Awards year when no non-white men or women were nominated, it was a befitting tribute that brought tears to the eyes of some, including British actor David Oyelowo, who portrayed Martin Luther King Jr., but who was not nominated.

The heart-melting title tune ends with the word "glory" repeated several times.

Glory hallelujah.

 

11 February 2015

Oh snap: I don't get 'West Side Story'

West350r
Watch out, the Jets are getting very angry. (United Artists)

Those who have questioned my comic ability over the years, including me, must at least admit I am in complete harmony in one area with George Carlin, the brilliant late comic uncanny in his ability to observe life.

When it comes to the classic Hollywood musical West Side Story, the 1961 musical that won 10 Academy Awards including best picture, Carlin didn't and I just don't get it.

What Carlin expressed in the past and what I feel right now is the notion of two bitter rival New York street gangs who hate each other so much that they ... they ... snap their fingers angrily at each other.

Oh the humanity!

Of course the lily white Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks eventually get around to whipping out their switchblades in this crowd-pleasing rehash of Shakespeare's classic Romeo and Juliet yarn.  But after all the finger-snapping and high-jumping choreography, though, I share Carlin's take 100 percent:

"I'll cut you, man!  But first, let's dance!"

 

A lady at one of my Movie Memories presentations suggested recently that maybe West Side Story is a "chick flick" and guys just don't get it. 

WSSposter250That may be the case for some, but I really enjoyed plenty of potentially "chick flickish" musicals.  The Sound of Music comes to mind, and so does Oklahoma!  And my disdain for West Side Story has nothing to do with all the fighting and hatred.  

And I can prove it.  My two favorite musicals of all time are Cabaret (1972) and Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001), a little ditty about a transsexual punk rocker tormented by the fact that a certain life-altering operation didn't quite work out as planned.

Sorry, but West Side Story, the movie many consider to be one of the best -- if not the greatest -- musicals of all time just doesn't cut it for me, if you'll excuse the pun. 

I wouldn't suggest that you think ill of me for weak puns like that, either, I might just snap my fingers at you with that killer look in my eyes.

Making Movie Memories in San Antonio

Thanks to activity director Mario Garcia and all the fine folks over at Madison Estates for inviting us to spread a little cinematic (almost) Valentine's Day cheer Tuesday evening.

We had a great turnout of folks who really got into our Hollywood's Great Romantic Scenes presentation, even to the point of snapping their fingers right along with the Jets and the Sharks during the West Side Story portion of the presentation.

I can't wait to return to Madison Estates on March 22 for our Savor Those Tunes -- Great Movie Music Movie Memories presentation.  It's one of my personal favorites.

Among many others, we'll be Puttin on the Ritz from Young Frankenstein in that one.

 

If you haven't already, call 214-364-7364 to book a Movie Memories presentation for your event, group or senior community.

28 January 2015

Ready for Buddy Holly live-ish?

Holly240I'm all for free enterprise, even when it comes to making a few bucks off dearly departed spouses to pay the rent and have a little left over for other essentials such as facelifts, body lowerings, tummy tucks, plastic breasts and, of course, lip-and-hip enhancement.

Heck, I hope when I'm gone my wife Suellen writes the book I've never had the guts to write (so far) about the bizarre path of a film critic trying to maintain his journalistic dignity while tip-toeing through the vague and veiled world of celebrity entertainment.

That said, I'm having more than a little trouble understanding why Maria Elena Holly, the Texas music icon's widow, has signed off on a virtual Buddy Holly stage tour set to kick off next year, according to a story in the Hollywood Reporter.

That's right, a hologram of Holly will likely sing -- sort of -- all the hits from Peggy Sue to That'll Be the Day.  Who knows?  In this age of social media and anything-goes-don't bother-to-check-your-sources reporting, a flickering image of Holly might just sell a ton of tickets.

According to the Hollywood Reporter article:

"Hologram USA is already working on the hologram-like performance of the rock and roll icon, as well as on a similar show around Liberace, which will debut in Las Vegas. Through  the partnership with Buddy Holly Licensing, the company has access to music and images of Holly. Interactive elements involving the audience and back up band members are also being created."

Surely, Holly's widow is fighting this sort of tales-from-the-crypt nonsense to sell tickets.  That's what you and me and any sane person who respects what the guy in glasses from West Texas accomplished in such a short time in the spotlight would think.  Right?

We would be wrong about that.

"I am so excited that my partnership with Hologram USA on the Buddy Holly concert project will allow a new generation of fans to experience the thrill of seeing Buddy ‘live’ and in concert for the first time in many decades," Maria Elena Holly told the Hollywood Reporter.

So sorry, Mrs. Holly, but no one is going to see your late, great -- let's just go ahead and say legendary -- husband again live or even, as you put it, 'live.'

The music genius from Lubbock died along with The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens in a tragic plane crash between Clear Lake, Iowa and Moorhead, Minn. almost exactly 56 years ago.  Holly was only 22 years old.

In American Pie, Don McLean's meandering 1971 folk-rock anthem with almost hypnotic lyrics, McLean referred to Feb. 3, 1959 as "the day the music died."

Hollystory230I suggest we celebrate Holly best by just listening to his almost unbelievable collection of hits.  And if you simply must see a semi-image of the man, seek out "The Buddy Holly Story," the 1978 biopic starring Gary Busey.

Yes, that Gary Busey; the human hologram who's pushing the Amazon Fire TV Stick in commercials and can't tell the difference between a Fire Stick and a seashell.  Busey was on fire as Holly, by the way.

I know an Elvis Presley hologram concert is in the works as well.  So why not go all the way?  Bring back The Possum, the late, great George Jones, who died in April 2013.  He could sing his signature hit, although it would have to be adjusted time wise.

You know, He Stopped Loving Her Almost Two Years Ago Today.

But Buddy Holly in a hologram concert?  Line up and enjoy yourself if you must.  A word of advice:  Don't bother waiting around for an autograph.

As for me, that'll be the day-ay-ay when I ... when I ... don't know.

I've got nothing.  Rave On, indeed.

 

13 January 2015

'Globes' trotting: Hanks but no Hanks

 What is the second toughest job in Hollywood?

Clooney260l
George Clooney at the Golden Globes. (yahoo.com)

That would be deciding which aging or not-so-hot anymore celebrity gets left off the invite list of public self-congratulatory parties like Sunday night's Golden Globes that are basically seen around the world.

The absolute worst job in Hollywood?

Being a celebrity's publicist or manager and having to find a way to tell a client that no invite came in this year for The Golden Globes or The Academy Awards. That means once-revered A-list celebrities like Jack Nicholson, Kathleen Turner and more will most likely watch on the tube like us mere mortals.

I get that.  I understand that major movie stars and celebrities age like the rest of us, albeit often under semi-effective and often-atrocious facades of plastic surgery.  I suppose we age as well.  I have a mirror.  Mine appears to be playing games with me these days; showing images of my dad, but I get it.

Still, we live in a what-have-you-done-for-me-in-the-last-second age that appears to skew acceptable age downward faster than the price of U.S. oil.  And that's especially the case when it comes to aging in Hollywood.

Think about it.  George Clooney was 53 when he sprang to the Golden Globes podium to accept -- with a sheepish grin -- his Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award Sunday night.  53.  I'm surprised the poor guy was able to make it up those five or six stage steps without a walker.

On the contrary, Woody Allen was 78 when he was awarded the DeMille honor last year.  Woody passed on showing up.   Warren Beatty was 69 in 2007.  And in 1973, legendary film producer Samuel Goldwyn was 90 when his time came to make it to the podium for his Lifetime Achievement Award.

53.  Some guys still have paper routes when they're that age.  Granted, that might have more to do with a sluggish, recovering economy than choice of occupation.

So, discarding the fact that some famous faces like Meryl Streep (a Golden Globes nominee) and Clint Eastwood, whose American Sniper was snubbed by the Globes and who may have snubbed the Globes because of it, will always be around.  It saddened me to notice who wasn't sipping champagne or another adult beverage and wobbling around the room of the Beverly Hilton Hotel ballroom Sunday eve.

Where were A-list, or once A-list celebs like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie?  Where were Sandra Bullock and, for that matter, Tommy Lee Jones, Sean Penn and Michael Douglas?  What was up with major celebrities like Jodie Foster, Helen Hunt and Meg Ryan MIA.

Tom Hanks didn't appear to be in the building, but his son Colin (a nominee for the TV version of Fargo) was.

Renee-Zellweger250
Renée Zellweger, left, and, I suppose, Renée Zellweger.

Honestly, I can't tell you if Renée Zellweger was in attendance or not.  I don't recognize her anymore.

Even that won't stop me from watching, though.  I'll keep tuning in to The Golden Globes and The Academy Awards (nominees announced Thursday), airing Feb. 22 on ABC.

Why?  For rare snippets of live television brilliance, like Ricky Gervais, a former Golden Globes emcee, stealing the show with some seemingly off-the-cuff, but I'm guessing carefully prepared "ad-libs" during his introduction of the Best Actress -- Comedy or Musical nominees. 

  

06 January 2015

New Year, new opportunity for ... you

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(Courtesy: www.thisismoney.co.uk)

Let's just say you're retired, semi-retired or, for some other reason, looking for a way to earn some income or added income in 2015.

Many members of the baby boomer generation tell me they're bored and looking for something fulfilling to do with their time.  Is that the case with you?  Why not generate some spending money or catch up on pesky bills during that spare time, especially when you never have to leave the comfort of your home to do it and there is no buy-in required?  It costs you nothing to begin the process and seize this opportunity.

Let's just say you enjoy speaking with people on the telephone or communicating through social media via the Internet and can spare 15 or 20 hours a week to join a fun-loving team to bring Movie Memories presentations to the public.

Let's just say, then, that you are a prime candidate to join the Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff team to set up Movie Memories speaking engagements.

LightbulbMoney260
(Courtesy: www.deregulatedelectricitynow.com)

Here's an idea that could very well pad your pocketbook, ease your boredom and give you a giggle or two along the way.  Movie Memories is looking to partner with select energetic, friendly people to make calls or send emails to senior residence facilities, clubs, organizations and corporations.  You'll be booking Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff speaking engagements primarily in your city, where you are most familiar, but perhaps all across Texas and beyond.

We're looking for a few key partners in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, San Antonio, Houston and the Austin area to spread the word about Larry Ratliff, the public speaker, veteran film critic and humorist who has already entertained thousands and is looking to bring his informative, entertaining message of Movie Memories to tens of thousands.

Let's just say you're not a big movie fan.  That is not a deal breaker.  If you can communicate a sales message to talent buyers, activity directors and decision-makers, we would like to speak to you.  And don't worry if you're not an experienced sales person.  We'll provide the know-how and leads to get you started.

Movie Memories offers a generous commission sales return on your time above the usual level.  And there are added incentives (bonuses and rapid-pay) we are excited to speak to you about.

Let's just say you'd like to start the new year off with an exciting project to restore a sense of accomplishment, or to earn some serious money, or just to have some fun and make new friends.  That's what the Movie Memories team offers.  Call 214-364-7364 to express your interest today.  Or send an email to lrratliff@verizon.net to reach Larry Ratliff.

That's lrratliff@verizon.net or 214-364-7364.  Only a few positions are available, so call today to join our team and launch a new opportunity for yourself.  We're ready when you are.

I'm just saying.

16 December 2014

Off the beaten Christmas movie path

Don't get me wrong.  Traditional Christmas movies like It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street and others are a glorious way to celebrate the holidays.

Sometimes, though, when the mood is just right -- and in some cases delightfully just wrong -- it's fun to venture off the beaten path and enjoy some, shall we say, unconventional holiday ho-ho-hos. 

Here are some of my favorites to watch out for, either on TV movie channels, available to order at movie websites or perhaps waiting to be discovered and rescued from the bottom of those giant bins of DVDs at discount stores.

Traditional but not widely seen

HolidayInn275lYou're probably familiar with White Christmas (1954), starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as song and dance men who put on a show to save a Vermont inn.  Turn back the clock a dozen years to 1942 and there was Crosby also crooning White Christmas in Holiday Inn, opposite Marjorie Reynolds and teaming up with Fred Astaire.

I'm not saying Holiday Inn is the better film.  Let's just say it's a different take on a similar theme.  But wait, there's more.  Holiday Inn spans a little more than a year in the lives and loves of its major characters.  What other holiday movie serves up two Christmas seasons and an Easter parade?

Angels275rTo venture even farther off the usual holiday path, see if you can get your hands on a copy of We're No Angels, circa 1955.

Humphrey Bogart, shortly after his best actor Academy Award for his performance as the river boat vagabond in The African Queen, gives comedy a go as one of three Devil's Island escapees hiding out in the home of a kind elderly man and his family at Christmas.

Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray play Bogart's partners in crime and comedy.  When the going gets tough, let's just say a pet in a box helps solve the situation.

Wicked and wacky

Looking for something Christmas themed and silly?  We can do silly.  Let's begin with Home Alone (1990) and add progressively hilarious doses of wickedness from there.

HomeAlone250lMacaulay Culkin was 10-playing-8 when he got his first starring role as Kevin McCallister, the son left at home by mistake when all the other McCallisters hopped a jet for the holidays.  So much for no child left behind.

Two of my favorite character actors, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, portray the bungling burglars who are no match for young Kevin on his home turf.  Be sure and put on your silly hat when you press "play."  Everyone in the movie will already have theirs on.

Mixed Nuts is another offbeat holiday gem.  Featuring a dandy ensemble cast led by Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Rita Wilson and Adam Sandler, this 1994 comic-drama directed by Nora Ephron and written by the Ephron sisters (Nora and Delia) never quite caught on at the box office.

If you're looking for some great lines, though, you could do a lot worse than this outlandish story about the crazies running a crisis hotline during the holidays.

Once the kids or grandkids are asleep, pop Bad Santa into the DVR and hang on for dear life.

From this aisle seat, the 2003 caustic comedy about an alcoholic, womanizing ne'er-do-well who takes a job as a department store Santa with robbing the place blind in mind constitutes Billy Bob Thornton's finest performance since his Oscar-nominated turn in Sling Blade in 1996.

You might want to turn the lights down low to match the low-down comedy in this one.  That way, no one can know for sure whether or not you're laughing.

11 December 2014

The Movie Memories road show

It's been a busy, but joyful week for Movie Memories.  Two "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays:  Great Holiday Movies" presentations in the Dallas area have, hopefully, spread a little cinematic Christmas cheer to folks in North Dallas and Garland.

Santa_Clause280lIt was a pleasure speaking to receptive groups at The Forum at Park Lane on Tuesday evening (Dec. 9) and at Garland's Central Library on Wednesday afternoon (Dec. 10).  Both groups were receptive to the idea of revisiting some Christmas movie classics such as Miracle on 34th Street, The Bishop's Wifeand White Christmas and having a little silly fun with more modern takes on the holiday season like The Family Stone and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

Both audiences got a big kick out of revisiting The Santa Clause, the 1994 comedy starring Tim Allen as an everyday dad magically transformed into what you might call an extremely reluctant Santa Claus.

So thanks to Ellis Paddack, the Forum's director of healthy generations, and Gina Lombardi, librarian at Garland's Nicholson Memorial Library System, for making the "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" presentations possible, fun and even a little inspirational.

 

There's still time to book your holiday event

Santa
Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn in "Miracle on 34th Street." (20th Century Fox)
Whether it's a corporate Christmas party, a country club holiday gathering or a retirement community seasonal celebration, the "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" Movie Memories presentation arrives bearing gifts of laughter, nostalgia and holiday joy.
 
In a presentation lasting a little over an hour, Larry combines Christmas classic movie clips with behind-the-scene Hollywood insight and tales of Christmases past sure to entertain your group and inspire and touch hearts along the way.
 
We'll begin by boarding The Polar Express, with stops along the way at everything from White Christmas to The Santa Clause.  Of course our final holiday stop simply must be ... Well, you just have to join us to find out.
 
Itsawonderfullife
James Stewart, Donna Reed and joyus family in "It's a Wonderful Life." (Courtesy: RKO Radio Pictures)
Or, maybe your group would prefer to go behind the scenes of one of the most beloved holiday films of all time, It's a Wonderful Life.

You’re probably aware that an angel gets his wings and grumpy old Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) tries to run everything in Bedford Falls.

But did you know that at least one film historian says Henry Fonda was considered for the role of reluctant small-town banker George Bailey?  Of course that became a signature role for James Stewart.

And just where is Bedford Falls?  Is it a real place?  There are lots of things to learn about film critic Larry Ratliff’s favorite holiday film of all time.

 
Call 214-364-7364 or email MovieMemories@verizon.net to book your one-of-a-kind  "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" or It's a Wonderful Life Movie Memories presentation.  We travel anywhere in Texas, especially the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, San Antonio, Austin and Houston, with special discounts for multiple corporate bookings.
 
Hurry, though, time is running out.  Call or email today to lock in prime holiday dates while they last.