Jury Coordination and Notes

Black Panther – One Of The Best Marvel Films Within The Ever Expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe

February 22nd, 2018

After the events of Captain America: Civil War, King T’Challa returns home to the reclusive, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to serve as his country’s new leader. However, T’Challa soon finds that he is challenged for the throne from factions within his own country. When two foes conspire to destroy Wakanda, the hero known as Black Panther must team up with C.I.A. agent Everett K. Ross and members of the Dora Milaje, Wakandan Special Forces, to prevent Wakanda from being dragged into a world war. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Willie Jones comments, “Strong black women drive this movie and give young black girls true heroes. And, they never need a cape.  To top this all off, it’s one of the best Marvel films released within the ever expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe.” See his full review below.

Black Panther
By Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 18

Has a superhero film, in the history of cinema, ever been so socially involved? While Wonder Woman was an important film in the blockbuster cannon, the social context about Black Panther feels a little more amped.

At a point in time in which race-relations are still tumultuous, and women’s rights are being re-evaluated and improved, this movie contains themes and content that satisfy and challenge the changes we all wish for Hollywood to make, and the changes we all wish for the world to undergo. Black on black violence is subtly yet powerfully addressed. Strong black women drive this movie and give young black girls true hereos. And, they never need a cape.  To top this all off, it’s one of the best Marvel films released within the ever expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s well paced, well acted, well written and is very nearly flawless.

The pace of this film is exceptional. Kudos to director Ryan Coolger and editors Michael P. Shawver and Claudia Castello. No scene lingers too long, no sequence halts the forward momentum. The 134 minute run time goes by in a breeze. Ryan Coolger and Joe Robert Cole write a tightly constructed screenplay that includes all the Marvel cinematic conventions without ever compromising the story.

The screenplay is expertly and smartly written. It is filled with dialogue that never gets unattractively melodramatic, and every so often says something that goes beyond the screen. The issues and debates brought up in the film, particularly about sharing resources within the black community and the fine line between conflict avoidance and complacency, are brilliantly implemented. They are themes and ideas that aren’t just dumped into the movie to give it a faux social relevance, but are instead used as motivations to advance character development and feed the plot with stakes. The movie is also laced with genuine comic moments that aren’t used as relief or brought about forcefully, henceforth interrupting the flow of the movie. Any and every comic moment within the film is very much natural and stems from well timed writing and acting.

Leading man Chadwick Boseman is known for being typecast in biopics (a bit of an oxymoron). He’s known for playing Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall. Here, he brings the charisma needed to do a biopic, and graces the screen with it. He doesn’t miss a single beat, whether it be dramatic or comic. He’s all at once suave, funny, likeable, questionable, dangerous and frankly, cool. He has swagger. Supporting him is a cast made up of Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Michael B. Jordan, Forest Whitaker, and Angela Bassett. There’s no overacting. There’s nothing but an incredible chemistry. Each cast member performs with a sense of urgency. Their passion for this project is apparent and it feeds into their performances. A special shout out to Michael B. Jordan, who plays a villain and doesn’t completely overdo it. Often times, we find ourselves wondering whether his intentions as the villain are actually malicious. Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira serve as the backbone of this movie. Their gentle ferocity is strongly alluring and their stillness accentuates their beauty while simultaneously exuding great power. Your eyes will be glued to their performances.

Ryan Coolger directs this film with confidence and gives it an indelible flavor. Every directorial choice is warranted, thought through, and well executed. His use of fluidity with the cinematography gives the movie its suave feeling, which makes the moments of stillness so powerful. And there are some very striking images in this movie. Coolger makes full use of the beautiful art direction and costume design without glamorizing the aesthetic. Some of the costumes in the movie are destined to be iconic, and I mean more than just Black Panther’s suit. Lupita Nyong’o is given costumes that could make her the Audrey Hepburn of the Marvel Universe. She wears her costumes with more than beauty and grace, but with total confidence. The sets and environments in the movie are more than attractive, they’re unique. The production design firmly sets us in Wakanda, and we don’t want to leave. Marry that with Marvel’s greatest costume designed movie, and the pure attractiveness of the movie is almost in itself worth the price of admission.       

The soundtrack is fantastic and helps push the film along. As a matter fact, to get back to the cultural impact the film has already made, the marketing campaign was brilliant. Kendrick Lamar, a major musician, produced and wrote an album inspired by and used in the film as a sort of companion piece – kind of like an opening act to a concert. It can be heard on Spotify and I highly recommend it, just as I highly recommend this movie. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18. It can be seen at a local theater near you.

 

 

 

Directors Close Up: Storytellers: Writers and Directors

February 19th, 2018

Week two of Directors Close Up: Storytellers: Writers and Directors featured writers Mike White and David Branson talking about their methodology for writing scripts. It’s common knowledge that writing a feature-length movie script or a season of TV series is no easy feat. Mike White talked about different events that influenced his thinking. One specific scene from a film he wrote, Beatriz at Dinner, features a man talking rather proudly at a dinner party about being an animal poacher. Mike talked about how he imagined what might happen at a dinner party where someone spoke about doing something like that? What would happen? David also spoke about how scenes with little dialogue may seem easy, but are in fact the hardest of all to write. Having a character talk to themselves or to try to create a natural awkward conversation presents many challenges to writers. ­­­­­

Something I found particularly interesting was the different writing styles these two have. Mike has the need to write early in the day and have a sense of accomplishment. If he doesn’t write anything before noon, his day is wasted. David’s style involves a rhythm and discipline. To help him write, he likes to do the same thing every day, at the same time, in the same location. It may range from going to a coffee shop every morning, to swimming in the ocean every day.

The two also talked about the relationship between director and writer. The writer creates this story and it’s the director’s job to be able to interpret and project it in a way that will be enjoyed and understood by viewers. Both talked about how they see their scripts as their children. Giving away something they love is rather difficult. And, seeing it transformed into something unrecognizable causes a mix of emotions, just like seeing your child grow into adulthood.

The take away for me is that a film’s writer has the biggest influence on the story. But in many ways, the smallest influence on the audience. Looking into a writer’s world can truly reveal a new side of watching films.

From left to right: Moderator Jennifer Cochis,
Writer Mike White, and Writer David Branson Smith
Images courtesy of WireImage and Film Independent

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

 

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – Vibrant Visuals and Brilliant Musical Score Make The Story Come to Life!

February 12th, 2018

Based on the bestselling bedtime story book written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, which has sold over 11 million copies globally, the film follows siblings Stan, Katie, Rosie, Max, the baby, and Rufus the dog,  who decide one day to go on an adventure through whirling snowstorms, oozing mud, and dark forests in search of bears! Featuring the voices of Olivia Colman (The Night ManagerBroadchurch), Pam Ferris (MatildaCall The Midwife), and Mark Williams (Harry Potter), this animated story is filled with stunning visuals sure to enchant viewers along with its story of perseverance, optimism, and love of nature. KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror Terry Solowey comments, “The vibrant visuals and brilliant musical score add a special quality to telling the story of a group of five siblings and their dog Rufus who decide to go on a bear hunt while their parents go to aid Grandma and her broken down car.” See her full review below.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
By Terry Solowey, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

This animated film, based on the best-selling storybook We’re Going on a Bear Hunt written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, brings the story to life! The vibrant visuals and brilliant musical score add a special quality to telling the story of a group of five siblings and their dog Rufus who decide to go on a bear hunt while their parents go to aid Grandma and her broken down car.

Their big brother Peter leads them on their quest over the countryside, lakes, oceans, and mountains and through a treacherous snowstorm. Throughout, they sing the famous chant: “We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one. What a beautiful day! We’re not scared.”

I love the children’s positive outlook and excitement as they never give up, continue and approach their various destinations.  As they encounter “long, wavy grass”, “a deep cold river”, “thick, oozy mud”, “a big dark forest”, “a swirling, whirling snowstorm” and “a narrow, gloomy cave”, they also sing their other chant:  “We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh, no! We’ve go to go through it.”

When one of the siblings, Rosie and their dog Rufus become separated from the rest of the family, their adventure takes an interesting turn, delivering more than they ever expected. I really enjoyed the suspense the additional storyline adds to the film.  It brings an extra excitement to the story. Do the paw prints add up to anything? You will have to see this film to find out!

I have fond memories of reading this story in my early teaching days as well as singing the chants with the children.  Currently I read to children in the schools and look forward to sharing this film with them in addition to reading the story. The accompanying Adventure Field Guide is a perfect addition for children, teachers and families as a supplement to explore their own great outdoor adventures!

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 9 as well as parents, caregivers and  teachers.  It will be available on DVD February 13, 2018, so be sure to check it out.

 

 

 

2018 Directors Close-Up: Lady Bird: Adolescence, Angst and Acting by Gerry Orz

February 9th, 2018

 

The first event of the 2018 Director’s Close Up featured four crew members from the brand new phenomenal movie, Lady Bird. What makes this film unique is not its use of cutting edge technology, or appearance of noteworthy actors. Instead, the film shows something much more involved – reality.

Throughout the event, director Greta Gerwig describes the process of how she was able to accomplish this goal. Instead of simply telling a story, Greta was able to make it feel real, like something that could have happen to any of us. The eye-opening discussion also talked in detail about the costume design. Just like the film as a whole, it feels realistic and natural. April Napier, the costume designer of the film, talked about how they worked hard on every single detail to make the clothes look terrible on purpose.

Images courtesy of WireImage and Film Independent. From Left to Right, Moderator Jeff Duplass, Director/Writer Greta Gerwg, Marielle Scott (Shelly Yuhan), Jordan Rodrigues (Miguel Mcpherson

What can only be called incredible is the ability to combine stark realism with humor. This combination worked due to the Greta’s masterful writing and brilliant directing. She, along with the two of the film’s actors, Jordan Rodrigues (Miguel Mcpherson) and Marielle Scott (Shelly Yuhan), talked about how crucial timing is. Conversations are not slow, they are as quick as bullets going back and forth between the people as it would happen in any regular family. Lady Bird nails that with thirty-second long scenes that not only enhance the story but show amazing character development.  I found this Q & A truly an eye-opener to the fact that making a film that feels real has many challenges. However, a talented filmmaker can overcome them to produce a beautiful work of art just like Greta Gerwig did with Lady Bird.

By Gerry Orz, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

My Daddy’s In Heaven – A Bit Overly Dramatic

February 8th, 2018

Becca, Adam and their 5-year-old daughter Acie are a perfect family until a tragic accident during a 4th of July celebration kills Adam. Struggling with the grieving process, Becky decides she needs to step away from the family farm and all its reminders of the life she once had. She leaves Acie with her grandfather Ben and visits an old friend from school, June. With all the best intentions, June offers Becky plenty of distraction from her shattered family life. Fueled by her anger at God and loss of faith, Becky starts drinking heavily and making other self-destructive choices. After Becky is arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct, Ben threatens to keep Acie until Becky sets herself right. A chance encounter in a bus station with a guitar-toting traveler gives Becky the inspiration she needs to reignite her faith and reunite her family. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “The storyline of this film is a bit incoherent to me and lots of things don’t make sense. The writing is confusing and the acting rather mediocre.” See her full review below.

My Daddy’s In Heaven
By Calista Bess, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

The storyline of this film is a bit incoherent to me and lots of things don’t make sense. The writing is confusing and the acting rather mediocre. The story is about a Christian woman named Becca (Jenn Gotzon Chandler) who is trying to recover after her husband’s death, while also learning how to regain her faith.

Many things in this story are unclear. The death is quick and you don’t have much time to connect with the character. As a viewer, I would have appreciated more backstory on Adam and his life with Becca and his daughter, Acie (Riley St. John). Adam dies by falling off an ATV. He doesn’t crash into anything; he just falls off. He’s not drunk and he doesn’t seem to have any medical issues. The ATV doesn’t even fall on him. He just falls. Then, it appears as if he gains even more bruises at the hospital. Make-up is very important in a movie and should be consistent. After he officially dies, two weeks after the accident, Becca is visited by a man named, Jimmy Urban who gives her Adam’s Bible, which appears to be a message from her husband to believe in God. I’m not sure as that is unclear too.

Sometimes the acting feels either too over dramatic or too blunt. The characters are all rather bland. You automatically sympathize with Becca because we all know loss is hard. She’s definitely depressed and trying to drink her sorrows away. Her old high school best friend, June helps her through her grieving period. June is my favorite character in the movie. She reminds me a lot of the characters Rebel Wilson plays and she has the best lines in the film. Unfortunately, she has not yet been given credit on IMBd, but according to the movie credits, her name is Jill Morrison. It’s weird how she’s the only one not credited. I hope she is soon.

This movie is based on a book called “My Daddy is in Heaven with Jesus”. I have not read the book, but from what I know, the movie is not completely accurate to the source material. The movie is more about the wife experiencing the loss of her husband, while the book appears to focus more on the daughter’s grieving.

I give this movie 2 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18. This is definitely more of a movie that Christians would enjoy. It also reminds me of Hallmark Channel movies. If you like those, you might enjoy this. It comes out March 13, 2018.

Sundance Film Festival 2018 by Nancy Kenney

January 31st, 2018

Have you ever been to Sundance Film Festival?  The festival that movie star Robert Redford created? The festival where every actor and filmmaker wants their film premiered? Well, I’m here at Sundance and here’s a peek at why you may want to attend someday!

First of all, I came with my daughter, Conci Althouse, KIDS FIRST! ‘s very first film critic and now, a 28-year-old cinematographer, DP. We wanted to make connections with other filmmakers to see how we might fit in with the cream of the crop. Coming to Sundance is more than seeing what films are trending, it is about meeting people who work in the magical world of film.

As we walked up the snowy streets of Park City, Utah we could feel the thrill of accomplishment. Most of these people are at the cutting edge of their creative endeavors. In their search for connection, they are being treated to schmooze parties with yummy food, drinks and music by hosts like WMEntertainment Agency, CNN, IMDb, Sundance Institute, PBS, Netflix, New York Times and a zillion other businesses that thrive on the talents of good story ideas and production people.

For example, our first day we went to five such parties, invitation only. Luckily, Conci’s hard work as a cinematographer and KIDS FIRST! Film Critic paid off! She has friends from college, the American Film Institute, who screened their films at the fest and, hey! we were on their  guest lists. Almost immediately, I was offered a camera package for my urbanism project and Conci had an opportunity to promote her Director of Photography skills as seen in her award winning film, Land of the Free!

At the base of Park Street, skiers would shoosh down the hills and place their skies right outside the theaters. I kept waiting and watching for celebrities to walk past. Movies and skiing – what a combination. It doesn’t get any better than that. No. Wait. It does!

There were interesting panels – actors, writers, directors and this year, even Supreme Court Judge – Ruth Bader Ginsberg – who dug into the deeper issues of society and morality. Each inspired moment was a discussion about finding the story behind the story.

It is the hidden meaning that makes a story rich. Getting to the ‘bottom of things.’ And this is important in every way in our lives. It’s why I became involved with KIDS FIRST! twenty years ago. It isn’t enough to be entertained. It is important to understand the hidden agendas behind stories we see. Who is behind the camera is just as important as who is in front of it. I learned that sometimes it is risky to tell the truth, but with the support of such an amazing community as Sundance, you realize that the world ultimately honors all of us who speak out about the injustices and the glories of being human on this precious planet.  Next year I hope to see you there at the amazing Sundance Film Festival!

 

Forever My Girl – Beautiful Setting, Sappy Story

January 19th, 2018

After being gone for a decade a country star returns home to the love he left behind. KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror, Kimbirly O. comments, “The setting is beautiful, a fictitious city in the south where everyone knows each other. The southern charm is palpable and warm. I was hoping for a solid romantic story about young love. What was delivered is the very element of sap, much like what is broadcast on the Hallmark Channel, complete with a happy ending.” See her full review below.

Forever My Girl
By Kimbirly Orr, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

If you love a love story, especially in the vein of a Nicolas Sparks novel, this film is for you. The film is based on a novel written by a woman, Heidi McLaughlin and the screenplay is written and directed by a woman, Bethany Ashton Wolf.

 

Forever My Girl depicts a man who left his bride at the altar. This does not seem like a story any woman wants to tell. Given the marketing mentions Nicholas Sparks and seeking to attract his audiences, it tells me a lot about the studio’s lack of faith in the film.

I cannot lie, Forever My Girl did not set the bar high for a committed relationship, nor the reality of parenting. Liam (Alex Roe), the lead male character, left his beloved fiancé Josie (Jessica Rothe), at the altar to seek fame and fortune as a country singer. His success as a musician is colored with drug and alcohol abuse. After a decade on the road, a funeral in the quaint hometown of the country star brings him back in time to a life he led and seemed to love. The ease with which the lead actors fall back into rhythm with each other appears far-fetched, maximized by Liam learning he has an 8-year-old child he was never told of, Billy (Abby Ryder Fortson), who is by far the star of this film. Her sweetness and snarky delivery of lines mix to deliver a fantastic performance by a child actor.

The setting is beautiful, a fictitious city in the south where everyone knows each other. The southern charm is palpable and warm. I was hoping for a solid romantic story about young love. What was delivered is the very element of sap, much like what is broadcast on the Hallmark Channel, complete with a happy ending.

I give this film 3 of 5 stars for the casting of rising stars, charming location and music. This film will appeal to tween and teen audiences, ages 10 to 18. I caution younger viewing due to drug and alcohol use and abuse. It opens in theaters January 19, 2018 so, check it out.

Vermeer, Beyond Time – Rich in detail and history of Vermeer’s work and the time in which he lived.

December 20th, 2017

Vermeer, Beyond Time explores the life and work of one of the most loved, influential, and well-known artists, Johannes Vermeer. Images from his paintings have become part of our collective imagination and are instantly recognizable. KIDS FIRST! Juror Terry S. comments, “Those who are into art and art history and who want to know more about Vermeer’s technique and the time he lived in will particularly enjoy it.” See her full review below.

Vermeer, Beyond Time
By Terry S., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

I enjoyed the juxtaposition of seeing Vermeer’s paintings and scenes of modern day Holland, as well as museum goers viewing and admiring his works in the museums of Europe today.

Vermeer, Beyond Time is a documentary film portraying the interesting life and work  of the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. Today he is admired and loved for well- known paintings such as “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” “The Lacemaker,” “Girl by an Open Window” and others.

Narrated by well-known actor, comedian and musician Steve Martin who weaves a story of the trials and tribulations that Vermeer experienced in his short life. He died in 1672 at the age of 40, destitute and desperate.

What I found extremely interesting and was unaware of, is that after his death, twenty years later, in 1696, twenty-one of his works were sold and then disappeared for 150 years. They were discovered later, in the middle of the 19th century. Admired by masters of his time such as Rembrandt, Peter de Hooch as well as the writer Marcel Proust, he never got to see the fruits of his creative labor.

Born in 1645, Vermeer came from humble beginnings. At the age of 21, he married into wealth and his marriage changed the course of his life.  He fell in love with an older woman very different from him, had 15 children and a mother-in-law who was instrumental in his career. His life was imbued with his family of women.

Yet in his paintings, there is an element of mystery as he was known for silence, solitude and thought in his approach. When one looks at his paintings, it’s as if time disappears. Historians wonder why he painted so few pictures and yet for those known today, people are extremely passionate. His paintings tell stories and represent symbols of a society in Delft, which had a leading economy and was the richest city in Europe at that time. This is known as the golden age in Holland, as people were creating their own culture.

Vermeer had an intense engagement and admiration for women, and his paintings portray them in a refined manner. He painted elegant women and men of learning, and  introduced musical instruments into many of his paintings.

The film explores his techniques and approach in great detail.  One of his paintings created in the golden age of 1657-8, called “Little Street” is discussed as an exercise of the mind. It is suggested that perhaps the artist reinvented reality by imagining and creating a house as the central character, with a woman doing needlework, a servant girl cleaning the yard and a small boy and girl at play.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 15 to 18 as well as adults. Those who are into art and art history and who want to know more about Vermeer’s technique and the time he lived in will particularly enjoy it. It is rich in detail and history of that time. This film is available now on DVD so be sure to check it out.

The MeshugaNutcracker – Fantastic Musical Comedy for the Holiday Seasona

December 16th, 2017

Fathom events and Guggenheim Entertainment present The MeshugaNutcracker! This Chanukah musical will play in select cinemas nationwide for a special one-night event on Tuesday, December 19, 2017. This musical comedy features the wonderfully silly sensibilities of the folklore of Chelm (a fictional town of fools) underscored by an invigorating Klezmer-ized orchestration of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” including original lyrics that celebrate Chanukah. Add in dancing dreidels, singing sufganiot, and surprise guest stars and you have the perfect recipe for a holiday outing! Jews and non-Jews alike will delight in this original musical celebrating all things Chanukah. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Maria G. comments, “This full-length musical comedy is not afraid of getting a bit silly with its several stories and performances. It is fantastic musical to experience during this holiday season, filled with amazing performances, beautiful costumes and songs that will motivate you to sing along.” See her full review below.

The MeshugaNutcracker
By Maria G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 18

The MeshugaNutratcker is not your average Christmas musical.This full-length musical comedy is not afraid of getting a bit silly with its several stories and performances. It is fantastic musical to experience during this holiday season, filled with amazing performances, beautiful costumes and songs that will motivate you to sing along. This is a must see family musical that you, like me are sure to enjoy watching.

 

‘Tis the season for celebrating Chanukah in the first ever Jewish centered musical comedy, The MeshugaNutcracker which takes place in the small fictional town of Chelm where you will relive eight distinct stories, all relating to the story of Chanukah. The whole performance captures and compliments the essence of the original songs that celebrate the story of Chanukah. In the new state of Israel, The MeshugaNutcracker recounts the story of Judah Maccabee, the perseverance of the Holocaust and the celebration of the first Chanukah, all while being filled with silliness and glee.

The acting in this musical is Emmy Award worthy and is performed by a group of actors that came together to produce a grand piece. From the producers to the writers to the actors, we see the results of a team of talented individuals that bring this show to life. Written and directed by Scott Evan Guggenheim, Shannon Guggenheim and Stephen Guggenheim, the musical comedy features the silly sensibilities of the folklore of Chelm (a fictional town of fools), an invigorating orchestration of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” and eight talented actors including Jackson Davis, Lynda DiVito, Susan Gundunas, Jeremy Kreamer, Benjamin Pither, Krista Wigle.

Whether or not you partake in the celebration of Chanukah, this two-hour musical will capture your heart in so many amazing ways. My favorite parts are the costumes and production itself. The eye catching and distinct vibrant color of each character’s costume gives them a unique identity. The costume designs are particularly interesting with all the Jewish symbols that are used. The symbols help to embodying the Jewish culture throughout the film. Furthermore, I enjoyed watching the production aspects of the musical and seeing how they transition from different scenes in a matter of seconds. The production team switches from different sets and props in the blink of an eye.

From the phenomenal acting to the original songs, this is the perfect musical comedy to watch with your whole family during this holiday season, particularly if you are Jewish. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18. This film is being brought to select theaters through Fathom Events on December 19, 2017 so check your local theater for details.

 

Ferdinand – Delightful Animated Treasure

December 14th, 2017

Ferdinand is a young bull who escapes from a training camp in rural Spain after his father never returns from a showdown with a matador. Adopted by a girl who lives on a farm, Ferdinand’s peaceful existence comes crashing down when the authorities return him to his former captors. With help from a wisecracking goat and three hedgehogs, the giant but gentle bovine must find a way to break free before he squares off against El Primero, the famous bullfighter who never loses. KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror Kimbirly O. comments, “Along with the animation, the messages in this film are beautiful. Be yourself is the overall theme.” See her full review below.

By Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Juror

Ferdinand, a book published in 1936 as Ferdinand The Bull, is now a delightful animated major motion picture from 20th Century Fox. My favorite parts of this film are the animation, especially the rain scene, and the casting.

Ferdinand is voiced by John Cena, known as a WWE pro-wrestler! Selecting Mr. Cena for this role is brilliant. His soft and calm voice brings life to a bull who is not like the rest of the herd. He is peaceful, while all the other bulls in the pen long to fight “El Primo,” Spain’s best bullfighter.

Along with the animation, the messages in this film are beautiful. Be yourself is the overall theme. Ferdinand helps his friends along as they seek to find out who they are, beyond their furry exteriors and reputations as bulls, and sometimes, bullies.

Ferdinand, knowing he does not want to fight in the bullring, has an opportunity to run away from ‘Case de Toro’ and finds a new home with a family in a neighboring town. Not only is his new home filled with love and a loving little girl, but it is also a flower farm. Flowers are Ferdinand’s favorite things! The scenes of how he grows up with the little girl and her family are precious and laugh-out-loud funny!

The sweet story of a peaceful bull takes a turn after Ferdinand mistakenly creates a mishap and gets captured. He is mistaken for a beast and sadly, recaptured and sent back to Casa del Toro. As he ultimately gets selected for the ring, the lessons he shares with his pen mates are relatable to everyone.

Like most animated films, all the animals talk and delight with their comical antics. The hedgehogs made me laugh out loud! The most significant surprise, as the film credits rolled, is to learn that one character, Guapo, is voiced by NFL great, retired Denver Broncos quarterback, Peyton Manning! Is there anything he can’t do?

Ferdinand is a must-see for the whole family with humor throughout, great music, lessons for all and now, enjoying the adulation of awards season. Ferdinand is nominated for two Golden Globes and four Annie Awards.

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