Suicide Squad – Great Soundtrack, Unbelievable Acting, Intriguing Storyline, Super Cast!

August 25th, 2016

SuicideSquad.poster.jpgRounding out the summer comic-book based films comes Suicide Squad based on the DC comic. The government gives a team of super-villains - the world’s most dangerous, incarcerated super villains with next to nothing to lose, provides them with the most powerful arsenal at the government’s disposal and sends them off on a mission to defeat an enigmatic, insuperable entity. However, once they realize they weren’t picked to succeed but chosen for their patent culpability when they inevitably fail, will the Suicide Squad resolve to die trying, or decide it’s every man for himself? KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Harmony M. comments, “With the awesome soundtrack, unbelievable acting, intriguing storyline and perfect cast members, this film is one I definitely recommend seeing.”  Morgan B. adds, “One of the many exhilarating things about this movie is the giant cast. There are so many characters and actors and I love that.” And, Nathaniel B. wraps it up with, “This is a very well written movie with very good special effects and it some good humor. But, it is scary and pretty violent and there are some parts that are not really appropriate for young kids. The story is fast paced and I admit that I did not understand some parts.” See their full reviews below.

Suicide Squad
By Harmony M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Red, white and blue with sparkles and she chews pink bubble gum, which sounds all American. What could go wrong? Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is adorable, cute, funny and deadly. The Joker’ new suicide.c.jpggirlfriend is all kinds of Kray Kray and I love her. She is the heart and soul of this movie. Without her quirky, quick witted one liners it would just be a dark movie about a bunch of bad guys trying to kill another bunch of bad guy.

Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is her awesome, take control kind of girl we love. This movie has great female characters that have depth and intelligence. That has me giving it thumbs up. I enjoyed this movie and hope that it becomes a franchise that I can see for years to come. It left me wanting more movies just like this.

One of the many exhilarating things about this movie is the giant cast. There are suicide.d.jpgso many characters and actors and I love that. In recent years, we have seen so many movies with only a handful of people in them. This movie spared nothing - big cast, action, drama, scares, comedy and graphics. This is the kind of movie we love to see on the big screen.

The graphics are top notch. The stunt work is impressive. Harley Quinn has some great aerial acrobatics. Swan drives take a lot of trust and she pulled it all off with style. Deadshot (Will Smith) gives his best performance in years. I certainly would not want to be on the other end of his firepower.

Not much scares me, but The Joker (Jared Leto) is frightening. Jared Leto is usually unique and quirky and funny but he goes all out to the other side and is terrifyingly crazy. He transforms into something night mares are made of and his acting is too creepy for words.

The concept of this movie is fabulous. Everyone deserves a second chance, right? The idea of microchipping Super villains with bombs like my dog so I can find him if he gets lost is a good idea. Villains fighting other villains makes sense. They think alike. It gives the villains a chance to see that there is another way. They can fight for good instead of evil.

The Enchantress /June Moone (Cara Delevingne) is a big surprise. The one thing I wish they added is more of a back story for her and her brother.

Depending on kind of movies your kids like, if they like being scared to death and can follow a complicated story line, then you are good to go and see this. It is not a cute kid’s movie. I recommend for ages 13 to 18.

I give this film 5 out of 5 sledge hammers with red, white and blue sparkling stares. It is different, fun and scary all in one movie.

Suicide Squad
By Nathaniel B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

This is a very well written movie with very good special effects and it some good humor. But, it is scary and pretty violent and there are some parts that are not really appropriate for young kids. The story is fast paced and I admit that I did not understand some parts. Overall though, it was great and funny.suicide.e.jpg

The film starts as Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) shows someone a file about multiple villains: Deadshot (the amazing Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney ), Diablo (Jay Hernandez ), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and last, but definitely not least, June Moone/Enchantress (Cara Delevingne). As she describes each villain you see clips of how each of them ended up in prison. In June’s case, you learn how she became the Enchantress.

June Moone is a human who finds a little statue in an old tomb. It opens and the Enchantress possesses her. She switches between being June and the Enchantress. June falls in love with a soldier, Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and Amanda Waller gets the Enchantress’/June’s heart. Amanda has the Enchantress’ heart and June has Rick’s, so Amanda has Rick in her control.suicide.f.jpg

Rick Flag gathers up The Suicide Squad, plants a bomb in each of their necks and tells them if they disobey they die. They all put on their costumes and get their weapons. They are joined by the Enchantress and Katana (Karen Fukuyama) and are ready to be bad guys fighting even worse guys.I love the costumes, makeup and special effects used to make the characters look not exactly like their comic counterparts, but still extremely awesome. For example, I love Killer Croc’s costume, makeup and special effects. I love that he looks nothing like the person who plays him. Another example is the Enchantress whose special effects may be my favorite of this film. It looks like there is a shroud of death around her. Even though it is scary, it is also very cool. The cinematography is also great. It stays focused on the characters while they fight and run around. It is outstandingly clear and you can see everything.

I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars for its great effects, costumes and storyline, not 5 because it is scary and a bit too fast paced. I recommend this for ages 12 to 18 unless, of course, you think you can handle the violence.

Pup Star – A Fun, Fantastic, Family-Friendly Film With Talking And Singing Dogs

August 23rd, 2016

pupstar.e.jpgFrom Air Bud Entertainment comes the new film Pup Star about an adorable Yorkshire terrier competing in a televised singing competition who is separated from her owner by an opportunist dog pound worker and goes on a huge adventure to get back. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “To make a perfect family-friendly adventure film is a difficult task to achieve. You have to make it both entertaining and kid-friendly while including a positive, preferably inspirational messages. Pup Star, the latest installment in the Air Bud series, succeeds in this goal with assistance of wonderful music and fantastic acting.” Abigail Zoe L. adds, “Pup Star is a fun, fantastic, family-friendly film! It really is an amazing and inspiring movie with talking and singing dogs. I found myself cheering for the super talented Tiny and booing the bad guys, or should I say bad dogs!” See their full reviews below.

PUP STAR will release in select US theaters and Digital HD exclusively on Fandango’s premium on-demand video service, FandangoNOW ( - August 30, 2016.

Pup Star
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

To make a perfect family-friendly adventure film is a difficult task to achieve. You have to make it both entertaining and kid-friendly while including a positive, preferably  inspirational message. Pup Star, the latest installment in the Air Bud series,  succeeds in this goal with assistance of wonderful music and fantastic acting.

The adventurous feel of the movie appeals to the audience. This film has more than tAir_Bud_Ent_Pup_Star_TINY___LOU__1_.jpghat to offer though with its comedy, positive messages and a slight bit of drama. There is even some romance to keep the viewer entertained and at the edge of their seat .

The story starts when a young puppy named Tiny goes on a dog singing show and does quite well. She receives a golden ticket from the judge which allows her to go straight to the finals. Everything changes when Tiny gets captured by animal control and must go on a huge adventure to get back to her owner and also to the competition finals.Air_Bud_Ent_Pup_Star_BARK_3.jpg

Pup Star has a wonderful story line and great acting by Tom Everett Scott, Kaitlyn Maher and Jed Rees. The voice over cast for the animals matches their characters and feels quite authentic. They each make their characters truly come to life. But, the best part of this film is that the story which is entertaining, suitable for young kids and easy to follow.

My favorite scene is when we first meet Tiny. She gets on stage and starts singing. Her song is beautiful and serves to introduce the style and the feel of the film. I also love this scene because, although the talking dogs are animated, it looks very realistic, as if the dogs are actually talking.

Pup Star would appeal to families and younger kids. I recommend it for kids ages 4 to 13 and rate it 5 out of 5 stars for its excellent acting that truly makes the characters come alive, its realistic animation, beautiful music and its fantastic story.

Pup Star
By Abigail Zoe Lewis, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9

Along Tiny’s journey, she is dog napped, meets colorful companions and becomes a more inspipupstar.d.jpgred singer with the help of Charlie, who is on his own journey. Tiny is encouraged by everyone she meets to keep going and not give up on her dreams. My favorite part is when Tiny sings. Kaitlyn Maher’s voice over and singing of Tiny is outstanding and all 13 original songs are so strong melodically that I found myself humming along to the song Blue Skies after watching it. Additionally, the various voice over and singing talents for all the other dogs are equally impressive.

The message of this film is never give up and follow your dreams. Tiny faces many challenges and tries her hardest to persevere and reconnect with her loving family.

The talking and singing dogs are created with amazing special effects. Their mouths mAir_Bud_Ent_Pup_Star_STILLS_JUDGES.jpgove in perfect harmony with the words and lyrics. Also, I love the rich and emotional music composed by Brahm Wenger which draws you in from the get go. I recently had the privilege to interview the writer and producer of Pup Star, Anna McRoberts and she mentioned that this is the biggest cast of talking and singing dogs ever in one movie -  31 total. Bow Wow!!!

Out of all the Air Bud Entertainment movies, this is my favorite. We can all relate to following our dreams no matter what they are and cheering for the underdog. I recommend this film to kids age 5 to 18 as well as anyone who loves dogs – kids and adults alike. With so many wonderful things to love about this family friendly film movie, I give it 5 out of 5 pup stars! I want to share one more thing: throughout this entire film, I actually forgot that dogs don’t really talk… or do they?

Ben-Hur – Spectacular, Action-Packed Version, Best Suited for Older Teens and Adults

August 19th, 2016

BenHur_1.jpgThis epic story follows Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother, an officer in the Roman army. After years at sea, Judah returns to his homeland to seek revenge, but finds redemption. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “The famous story of Ben-Hur has been done in film multiple times throughout the years, but none has reached this level of excitement and beautiful special effects. And none has ever been this action packed and intense.” Ryan R. adds, “Although it is two hours long, it does not drag. Morgan Freeman gives a very regal performance as Ilderim. His voice makes you want to pay attention when he narrates the story. I love this character because he helps Judah and they make a fantastic team!” See their full reviews below.

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

The famous story of Ben-Hur has been done in film multiple times throughout the years, but none has reached this level of excitement and beautiful special effects. And none has ever been this action packed and intense.

Although the plot seems confusing, it actually is easy to follow. Towards the beginning it may be a bit confusing, but by ten minutes into the film pieces snap into place. This film not only packs a lot of action, but it is also very historical and truly makes it look as if we are watching these scenes take place in ancient Rome and Jerusalem from the boats, to warfare, to their attire. Throughout the film, I felt transported back 2000 years to the large Roman Empire. Most of the special effects portray the chariot racing and the outcome is nothing short of spectacular, detailed and very realistic. It is exciting and intense, but also easy to follow. The acting in this film exceeded my expectations with many known actors such as Jack Huston and Morgan Freeman (Ilderim), but the entire cast delivers spectacular performances and really make their characters come to life and shine, as well as make the viewer think they actually are seeing life 2000 years ago.

My favorite scene is the galley slave scenes. In a way, these are also my least favorite scenes because ibenhur.3.jpgt shows how terrible Romans treated these slaves. In one scene, you see Judah changing over the six years from a handsome and healthy prince to a depressed, skinny and beaten slave. Another factor of these scenes that impressed me were the visual effects. Judah escapes when the ship sinks in a battle. The scene is very dramatic, scary and intense. It is full of action and everything from soundtrack to acting makes it a heart-thumping moment.

Ben-Hur is intense with many adult references, but the mature aspect that concerns me most is the gore. Since this takes place in Ancient Rome, there are many violent acts that are unsuitable for young children. I recommend it for ages 14 to 18 and give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. The acting, special effects and soundtrack are all fantastic but the story is slightly confusing at the beginning which makes it a bit annoying for the viewer.

By Ryan R., KIDS First! Film Critic, age 12

I did not exactly love the 2016 remake of the 1959 movie Ben-Hur, but I didn’t hate it either. This film takes place around 26 A.D. when Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) appears as the wealthy Jerusalem prince who is falsely accused of treason and is stripped of everything that he has and taken away. Judah’s adopted brother, Messala Severus (Toby Kebbell) betrays him and allows the Romans to make Judah a galley slave for five years. Judah escapes, returns home and seeks revenge. The question is: will Judah get his revenge?

Although it is two hours long, it does not drag. Morgan Freeman gives a very regal performance asbenhur.6.jpg Ilderim. His voice makes you want to pay attention when he narrates the story. I love this character because he helps Judah and they make a fantastic team! I think Jack Huston should have been cast as Jesus because his demeanor is very soft and peaceful.  He doesn’t project the strong, angry character that he should have as Judah Ben-Hur.  Rodrigo Santoro, who plays the role of Jesus should have played Judah Ben-Hur.  Don’t get me wrong, I love how Rodrigo Santoro portrays Jesus. His performance is stellar.  But the way he looks and carries himself would have made Rodrigo a more believable Judah.  Toby Kebbell’s Messala is the one casting that they got right. He acts and looks mean enough to make you to dislike him.

The setting looks epic and visually appealing.  The battle scene with the ships in the water is pretty intense but entertaining. However, some scenes are boring and a few scenes didn’t need to be there. The chariot race is a bit sloppy and roughly edited.

I give this film 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it to kids ages 11 to 18. Younger kids might not understand what is going on and may be frightened by a few intense and grotesque scenes. There is also some bloody and gory violence. I also recommend this to adults who like action, adventure, remakes and Biblical films. This film opens Friday, August 19 so, put it on your radar screen.

Kubo and the Two Strings – One of the Best Films of the Year!

August 17th, 2016

kubo.jpgLAIKA has done it again! This stop motion animation film follows the life of Kubo who lives a quiet, normal life in a small shoreside village until a spirit from the past turns his life upside down by re-igniting an age-old vendetta. This causes all sorts of havoc as gods and monsters chase Kubo who, in order to survive, must locate a magical suit of armor once worn by his late father, a legendary Samurai warrior. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Morgan B. comments, “I loved this movie. It is original, beautiful to watch and has heart and soul. The quirkiness of this movie only adds to its lovability.” See her full review below.

Kubo And The Two Strings
By Morgan Bertsch, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

I love this movie. It is original, beautiful to watch and has heart and soul. The quirkiness of this movie only adds to its lovability. It is hard to find an original movie and using origami as the base of this movie is simply genius.

kubo.1.jpgKubo’s grandfather has stolen his eye and now is after the other and he will do whatever he has to, to get the other eye. His two aunts are frighten witches. His mother has lost all her memories and many dangers await Kubo and his only helpers are a monkey and a silly half man, half beetle and an endless supply of paper. I know this all sounds totally crazy, but it all works together quite nicely to make this incredible movie.

I struggled once trying to make an origami swan so I appreciate the origami in this film which has a mind of its own. Kubo plays a two-stringed instrument which transforms simple paper into magnificent, magical shapes and forms. kubo.2.jpg

The voice-overs in this film are stupendous and really bring it to life. My favorite character is Kubo (Art Parkinson) who is just so adorable yet strong, independent and goodhearted. My other favorite is Monkey (Charlize Theron) who is brave, funny, clever and very stubborn. I love her character because of all these traits. Even though she is tough, she has a kind, sweet side that she shows how much she loves her son. There is also the beetle (Matthew McConaughey) who is hysterical, dangerous and a straight shooter or, at least according to him he is. I love his character becaukubo.3.jpgse its funny and had me belly laughing. His affection for Monkey is adorable. Of course, there are villains of this film. The sisters, both played by Rooney Mara portrays them as crazy, wacko witches and her voice is perfectly scary. The other villain, The Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) is the weird Grandfather who wants Kubo’s other eye and he is super creepy.

One of my favorite scenes is when Kubo, Monkey and Beetle are trying to defeat a giant skeleton and find the sword of unbreakablity. It is adventurous and funny. The graphics are incredible, especially the way they created the skeleton. This is the biggest clay animation character ever made. I thought this action scene was intricate and believable.kubo.9.jpg

I recommend this film for ages 7 to 18. Adults will like it too. I do want to suggest that if your child is younger than 7, they might get scared with the darkness and the villains, but if they can accept that it is all fake then they will be okay. I rate this film 5 out of 5 magical origami stars.

Pete’s Dragon - Blends Emotion and Action with Friendship and Bravery

August 12th, 2016

This remake of Pete’s Dragon follows the adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon. Starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley and more, this film truly appeals to a youth and family audience and makes a perfect family movie. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “Pete’s Dragon is a great film that perfectly blends emotion and action in a heartwarming adventure of friendship and bravery.” Gerry O. adds, “Over the years, special effects have gotten better, acting more emotional, camera techniques more unique, and stories so much more exciting. Pete’s Dragon is a perfect example of the progress in the world of filmmaking.” Ryan R. sums it up with, “What I enjoy about this film is the animation of Elliot. The CGI’s are very realistic, for example the look of the fur and the detail of his chipped tooth ate perfect.” See their full reviews below.

Pete’s Dragon
By Benjamin P, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

Pete’s Dragon is a great film that perfectly blends emotion and action in a heartwarming adventure of friendship and bravery. Directed by David Lowery, Pete’s Dragon follows Pete (Oakes Fegley), a young boy who after a car accident survives in the woods for six years with the help of his friend Elliot, a dragon. When a park ranger named Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) finds Pete, he reenters society and must try to find a way to fit in while also trying to protect Elliot.

I like most of the characters in this film, but my favorite character is Elliot the dragon because he always looks after Pete and always does what’s best for him. The film and the visual effects make Elliot into a character I really do care about. He’s also funny and makes me laugh several times throughout the movie.

I love the cinematography in Pete’s Dragon. There are some breathtaking, massive shots of the forest where Elliot and Pete live.  The special effects in this film are fantastic, too. Instead of using animation to create Elliot like in the original, he is entirely in CGI and the results look fantastically life-like. I recommend you see this in 3D, especially for the flight sequences. Seeing Pete and Elliot glide through the mountains is very cool.

This film really surprised me because, as a remake, it borrows almost nothing from its source material. I have to give credit to director David Lowery for creating this new story and world.

Most of the cast deliver great performances. Oakes Fegley excels in his role as Pete, especially considering this is one of his first roles and his co-star wasn’t really there during filming. The excellent Robert Redford is in the film as Grace’s dad. He tells how he once saw a dragon in the woods but Grace never believed him. I really like his character. He is kind and reminds his daughter of the importance of seeing more magic in life.

I like this film because, unlike some other recent Disney remakes, it doesn’t try to be darker than the original but creates a new story for a younger generation that the whole family can enjoy.

I give Pete’s Dragon an age rating of 5 to 12 for scenes of peril. There are two or three that could scare younger viewers. Pete’s Dragon will take you on an emotional journey filled with humor, adventure, and magic. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars.

Pete’s Dragon
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

Over the years, special effects have gotten better, acting more emotional, camera techniques more unique, and stories so much more exciting. Pete’s Dragon is a perfect example of the progress in the world of filmmaking.

This film, at its core, is an adventure of two friends - a boy and his dragon. There is much more to offer though. Pete’s Dragon offers exciting and spectacular action, yet includes some comedy to keep things bright and highlight the complex relationship between a child and his big friend.

The story begins when a young boy named Pete (Oakes Fegly), age five, gets into a car accident and sadly, both his parents pass away. Pete is now stranded in the woods and everything changes when he meets a green dragon he names Elliot. They live happily together for six years until Pete is discovered by other people and now must make a huge decision. Should he live with Elliot in the woods or go live with humans?

Pete’s Dragon truly makes Elliot come to life. Not only is his skin and fur deeply detailed, his expressions look natural and the way he moves is very realistic. It makes you want to get a dragon of your own! The creators made it so we see the actors interacting with Elliot and hugging him, despite the fact that his image was added in post production. The CGI is seamless and makes you truly believe he is a real life dragon. The actors interacted with Elliot emotionally even though he isn’t actually there when they shot their scenes. What is equally impressive is that the young kids deliver a level of talent equal to adult actors. I also greatly enjoyed the cinematography. The scenes of Elliot flying through the clouds with Pete on his back and seeing the town, woods and mountains below are simply  spectacular.

My favorite scene is when Pete and Elliot play in the woods and are having a blast. I love this scene because it truly shows that no matter the difference of age, height or even species, they are best friends. I also enjoyed this scene because it shows the peaceful beauty of the forest and represents the fantastic visual effects they created for Elliot moving around the forest.

This movie is recommended for kids, but not too young kids. I recommend it to ages 6 to 18. Adults will enjoy it as well, but very young kids may find it a bit too intense at times. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars for its beautiful cinematography, spectacular acting and very realistic special effects. It’s in theaters now so, go check it out.

Pete’s Dragon
By: Ryan R, KIDS FIRST! Film Critics age 12

I liked watching Pete’s Dragon. I enjoyed watching this film because of its fantastic animations and great pacing. After a terrible car crash, Pete (Oakes Fegley) is the only survivor. He is found and raised by a dragon named Elliot in the woods. Elliot is a huge, green, compassionate and joyful dragon.  Six years later Pete is discovered by Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) a forest ranger who wonders how is he the woods by himself.  He says that he lives in the woods with a dragon. Grace sets out to investigate if  his story can be true. To find out what happens, you have to go see the movie.

What I enjoy about this film is the animation of Elliot. The CGI’s are very realistic, for example the look of the fur and the detail of his chipped tooth ate perfect.  This film makes it look like there is a real dragon in the woods.  The pacing of this film is great, it isn’t rushed, choppy or slow. I didn’t feel like I was watching a movie for an hour and a half.  This movie didn’t make me feel empty like other films I have seen. I additionally like the sets, the town looks beautiful.  Another thing, the cast performances are fantastic.  Robert Redford’s performance is superb, I enjoy his performance as Grace’s father. He is a great character and Oakes Fegley is amazing as Pete.  His performance shows a new side of this character that is different when compared to the original version.

The directing is well done. The director and writer (David Lowery) turned this remake into a fantastic piece.  The entire art department made the CGI’s great and I give them props for all their hard work.

However, one thing I didn’t like is that some scenes were predictable.  I knew how some scenes were going to turn out. I didn’t feel surprised when certain things happened in the film.  Besides that this film is great.

The moral of the film is just because someone or something is different, doesn’t make them a monster. When people see Elliot they immediately are afraid, they want to hunt him down and eventually want to use him.   Even though Elliot is very friendly, and compassionate dragon.

I give this film 4.5 out of 5 stars. I recommend this to kids ages 6 to 18 and I think adults might like this as well. I also recommend this to people who like children, family, action and adventure movies. Make sure to see this film on Friday, August 12.   Coming to a theater near you, this movie won’t disappoint you.

Jason Bourne – The Perfect Action Thriller!

July 29th, 2016

JasonBourne216213_2.jpgThe latest installment of the Bourne franchise features Matt Damon once again who is now well aware of who he is and determined to expose the government’s secrets. The most dangerous former operative of the CIA is drawn out of hiding to uncover hidden truths about his past. “Why would he come back now?” CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones). KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “What happens when you are impressed by emotional acting, an exciting soundtrack and heart-thumping stunts? You get the perfect action thriller.” See his full review below.Jason Bourne
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

What happens when you are impressed by emotional acting, an exciting soundtrack and heart-thumping stunts? You get the perfect action thriller -  next installment in the Jason Bourne series.

This dramatic action film doesn’t contain one single joke and it is not a romance flick either. The cJasonB.d.jpgharacters experience multiple adventures and is a non-stop action-filled film  with an exciting scene at least every three minutes, keeping the viewer engaged the whole way through.

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has taken to boxing matches for money, but everything changes when a friend of his, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) comes to him with a flash drive filled with top-secret CIA information. Jason goes on a dangerous adventure where he loses friends, makes new enemies, finds old ones and more all to uncover his past when he was part of the CIA and what happened to him.

This story may sound confusing if the viewer is unfamiliar with previous Bourne stories. Although you can guess what happened in previous events as the film attempts to explain JasonB.a_1.jpgwhat Matt’s character is trying to achieve, if you know who Jason Bourne is and what the series are about, it’s easier to follow. The good thing is that you do not need to read every book of the series or watch all the previous films since the flashbacks and conversation mostly explains what happened before.

Throughout the film there is a very intense soundtrack that adds tension to the dramatic scenes. However, the soundtrack is always intense, including several scenes which contain dialogue and would be great without any of this intrusive music. The action scenes in this film are wonderful with car chases, jumping off buildings and fights in parking lots. Each action scene is epic and clearly shows a lot of work went in to make it perfect. One major problem with the action scenes is that the cinematography is very shaJasonB.b.jpgky and rapid. Although it helps put you “inside” the fight, it makes it very difficult to understand what is going on when it’s used extensively. Unfortunately, this is the case here and since this film is compiled of lots of shaky and rapid shots, it makes you feel slightly dizzy. The acting in this film is legendary, with returning cast from the previous Bourne films like Matt Damon and Julie Stiles. There are also many new characters such as Alicia Vikander who plays Heather Lee. Each member of the cast excels in their roles and I give them credit for such believable performances.

My favorite scene is one of the first action scenes when James Bourne and Nicky Parsons are trying to escape from Greece. One major problem is that the city is full of protests and riots coupled by the fact that the CIA is right on their tail. An epic motorcycle chase ensues as well as fighting sequences and more. It is exciting with perfect staging and the soundtrack adds a lot of intensity as well.

I do not recommend this film for young kids due to the language, violence, gore and more. I recommend it for ages 13 to 18. Younger kids would find it too intense and dramatic. I give it four out of five stars because, although it has minor problems such as dizzy cinematography and a relentless soundtrack, it is an entertaining and epic thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Gibby – Heartwarming, entertaining, funny and adorable

July 29th, 2016

Gibby_1.jpgA young girl finds an unlikely and uplifting friendship with an adorable monkey in this charming, light hearted film. Katie has lost interest in her school, her friends, and gymnastics following the loss of her mother, but her outlook changes in the summer when she is asked to monkey sit Gibby, her science teacher’s Capuchin monkey. Taking care of the monkey challenges Katie and reorders her life in a big way, and Gibby’s happy-go-lucky personality renews Katie’s zest for life. Gibby helps her with gymnastics, renewing friendships (including finding a potential boyfriend) and overcoming her nemesis, a mean girl who is out to beat Katie at everything. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Morgan B. comments, “This film is heartwarming, entertaining, funny and adorable all wrapped up into one great movie.” See her full review below.

By Morgan Bertsch, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

Bananas!!! This little monkey will keep you smiling as you watch my favorite actress Crystal, use her natural monkey talents to help a young girl find her true heart’s desire. This film is heartwarming, entertaining, funny, and adorable all wrapped up into one great movie.

Ice Age: Collision Course is a good film with excellent animation, laugh-out-loud comedy and iceage.a.jpgincludes all your fun and favorite characters from the past movies. The film follows Manny (Ray Romano), Sid (John Leguizamo), Diego (Denis Leary) and the rest of the Ice Age gang as they must divert an asteroid from flinging them into a new age called extinction.

My favorite character in Ice Age: Collision Course is Scrat (Chris Wedge) who started out as a small character in the first Ice Age film and slowly became a fan favorite and the mascot of the franchise. Scrat lights up the screen every scene he is in. His brand of slapstick humor is more present here than in any other Ice Age film. I even kind of sympathize with this character because he goes through all this trouble just for an acorn.iceage.c.jpg

Another character I like is Buck. Simon Pegg’s talent really shines in his voice over work here. Buck has a big personality and, just like Scrat, has some of the movie’s most memorable laughs. He is in a lot of my favorite sequences. My favorite part of this film is when Buck tries to find a strategy to save the mammals from disaster. He seeks help from personalities in his mind including Neil deBuck Weasel. I’m a big fan of a television show Neil deGrasse Tyson did called Cosmos, so it was funny to see his foray into voice acting.

This movie is a pleasant surprise considering this is the fifth film in the franchise. I thoiceage.b.jpgught by now the series had run dry, but this one excels on several fronts in terms of how it looks and how much it will make you laugh. I recommend you see this in 3D. It was cool seeing asteroids barreling towards me. The effects are very polished. The computer animation in this film excels and mixes lush backgrounds with great character design. The film has good comedy, most of the time. There are one or two scenes in this film that take the joke one step too far or where it is just plain gross.

I give Ice Age: Collision Course an age rating of 5 to 18 because of some crude humor and sequences that could be scary to younger viewers. I give Ice Age: Collision Course 3 out of 5 stars.

Ice Age: Collision Course
by Kamhai Beard, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

I really enjoyed this movie because it is hilarious and action packed. One of the funny parts of the movie is when Sid’s grandma (Wanda Skyes) says “that plan is so dumb I wish it had a face so I could slap it.” An example of the action packed part is when Buck (Simon Peg) retrieves an egg from a group of dino birds who stole the egg. Another example is when the comet almost crashes into earth but Manny (Ray Romano) stops it from crashiniceage.d.jpgg into earth.

This movie is about a meteor that crashes into Earth every thousand years. So it is up to Sid (John Leguizamo), Manny and the other animals to stop the comet and save the day in only a matter of minutes. A side plot is about Peaches (Keke Palmer) who is getting married and moving far away from her parents. When her parents hear this, they try to stop her from doing it.

The graphics in this movie are great. I’ve seen other 3D movies, but this takes the cake. For example, when you see the 3D comets, they look as if they are real. So I think the graphics team excelled because the graphics are colorful, believable and bright. I also liked the part where they make everyone look old. I liked this part because it is just so realistic. I also like the storyline of the movie. It is so good, it had me at the edge of my seat. I think Ice Age: Collision Course is a great movie and recommend it to ages 5 through 13. I say 5-year-olds only because it will captivate and hold their attention. And I chose 13-year-olds because they will laugh and understand the hilarious humor in the movie. I the film 5 out of 5 stars because it is funny, entertaining, colorful and bright. You can find this movie at your local movie theater July 22, 2016. Thanks for reading, I’ll ice you later.

Ice Age: Collision Course
By Brandon Cela, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 18

Going into this movie, I realized that I had not seen an Ice Age movie since I was a kid. While I still knew the main characters and the type of film I was in for, nothing prepared me for Ice Age: Collision Course. The movie follows the gang in their quest to survive and possibly stop an asteroid from hitting Earth. With the help of their new acquaintance Buck (Sean Penn), the original gang and their families band together through a big adventure in a very kid-friendly movie.

It may just be my getting older, but I felt slightly bored throughout the movie. Don’t get me wrong, Scrat (Chris Wedge) is comedy gold and Sid (John Leguizamo) commands any scene he is in. At the same time though, I just got annoyed by the other characters. The comedy feels a bit forced and I did not care for the characters. Also, I did not hear any great lines from Manny (Ray Romano) or Diego (Dennis Leary) for that matter.

Like I said, this movie is not meant for me. There is a great amount of kid-friendly comedy and the film has a Zootopia sort of tone of teaching the audience morals and life lessons. From a technical standpoint, I saw no flaws as everything is sound, from the editing to graphics to audio.

That being said, Ice Age: Collision Course lacks in entertainment value. When you have Ray Romano and Dennis Leary - two great comedic talents - at your disposal and you give them little to nothing to work with, you are not utilizing your talent properly. It would be the equivalent of the New England Patriots not starting Tom Brady as their quarterback. It makes no sense. In conclusion, while the film as a whole is not as appealing as I thought it would be, there are still some great moments throughout the film including some sneaky references and a few Neil deGrasse Tyson appearances. I give Ice Age: Collision Course 3 out of 5 stars for the great technical aspects but lackluster entertainment value.

Endgame – Based on a true story that will bring a multitude of emotions out

July 21st, 2016

endgame_1.jpgChess doesn’t gather nearly the audience that head bashing sports do, but every now and then the film industry turns to this highly intellectual sport for inspiration. Endgame follows 5-year-old Jose (Rico Rodriguez, Modern Family) who has learned how to play chess like his grandfather and joins the Brownsville school team where he has the chance to use his skills and, for once in his life, find himself in the spotlight. Based on a true story, this film will touch your heart and perhaps inspire you to indulge in the game. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Morgan B. comments, “This film is a wonderful combination of emotions - one minute you are sad and crying, then the next you are happy and laughing.” Benjamin P. adds, “Endgame is an interesting film with some good characters and memorable performances, but the plot could use a little work.” See their full reviews below.

Reviewed by Morgan B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Chess, the game that is so simple, yet so complex and difficult is coming to your TV screen in this great film called Endgame on Blu-ray. This film is a wonderful combination of emotions - one minute you are sad and crying, then the next you are happy and laughing. I love that the film does this and that it really makes you feel like you are there.

The acting in this film is very well executed, but my favorite character is Jose (Rico Rodriguez) whEndgame.a.jpgo is one of the stars of Modern Family. He is goodhearted and loves to play chess just like his grandmother or Abuelita in Spanish (Ivonne Coll) who starts teaching him the game of chess at the age five. Jose is going through a tough time. We see him stumble and fall but friends, family, chess and determination come to the rescue. Karla (Justina Machade), Jose’s mother is depressed and sad for many reasons and she is mad because her mother has taught her son how to play chess even though she doesn’t approve. The principle (Jon Gries) doesn’t think that there should be a chess club and that it is a useless cause. Mr. Alvarado (Efren Ramirez), a teacher at Jose’s school thinks that all children should know chess and that it can change their world for the better. Sandy (Cassie Brennan) is adorable and very funny. I like that she tries to help Jose (Rico Rodriguez) when he is playing chess with other competitors by distracting them with her flirtations. She uses her girly charms to her advantage.

Movies that show women as strong mother and grandmother figures are so important to our youth. I love all the women in this film. They have many complex aspects to them. There is always a fine line between grandparents’ and parents’ roles which is funny because they all want the same thing - for their children to be happy and healthy.

My favorite scenes are those when Mr. Alvarado (Efren Ramirez) have the children play chess on a life size chess board and they are the chess pieces. I love these scenes because they are hysterical and this is great idea for children to learn how to play chess. I will be trying this with my friends and family now because it looks like so much fun.endgame.b.jpg

The fact that it is based on true events is astonishing. I like that it is so real and well portrayed as it makes you become really engaged in the characters and the out-come of this true story. Hurray! I love the end of a movie when they have captions that tell you what happened to the real characters after this event in their timeline.

I wish that this film included just a bit more about chess and explained it a bit better. I have played chess many times and enjoy the game. Although you do not need to know how the play chess to enjoy the drama and family struggles, basic knowledge of the game helps you to better understand what is going on especially when they show scenes regarding competitions. I liked that they showed it as a game of strategy and that you need to know your opponents next move and never lose focus.

I recommend this film for ages 9 to 18 and think adults will also like this film because it is about chess and they might even learn a new chess move or two. Children will learn from this film because they will be able to see Jose struggles and see how he deals with issues such as anger, frustration and hurt.  I give this film 4 ½ out of 5 chess piece stars.

By Benjamin P, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

Endgame is an interesting film with some good characters and memorable performances, but the plot could use a little work. Although, at the end of the movie, I had a smile on my face.

At a very young age, Jose (Rico Rodriguez) starts to learn chess from his Abuelita (Ivoendgame.f.jpgnne Coll) but he has always been in his brother’s shadow. When tragedy strikes, Jose receives a calling to become a chess champion. The movie is inspired by the true story about a school in Texas that built an champion chess team.

My favorite character is Mr. Alvarado (Efren Ramirez) because he never gives up on the kids and even spends his rent money to get them to a tournament. Another character I like is Jose’s grandmother because she is always giving him good advice, encouraging him to do the right thing and she teaches him to play chess. There are other performances that stand out for me. Rico Rodriguez puts a lot of effort into his role and he is very believable. So does newcomer Alina Hererra who plays Jose’s friend and is the person who gets him interested in playing chess for the school.

As much as I like the characters and the actors, the plot is uneven and I feel as if I’ve seeendgame.d.jpgn parts of it in other films. Some scenes are pretty inspiring, but others just feel cheesy and stylized. When the plot tries to take an emotional turn, sometimes it ends up going flat and didn’t resonate with me. I enjoyed the ending of this movie anyway because it is a pleasant surprise.

Compared to films about baseball or football, chess doesn’t get much attention in the film industry, so it is nice to see it recognized in this film. I am also surprised how deep the film delves into social issues. The ending also managed to surprise me in spite of the plot problems in how it was executed. I like some of the music in this film and it really signals the right tone in some scenes.

I recommend this film for ages 12 to 16 due to some language and some crude humor. I give it 2 out of 5 stars. It’s not perfect but if you like Rico Rodriguez from the TV series Modern Family or chess, you’ll probably enjoy Endgame.

The Secret Life of Pets - Wonderfully woven plot, dynamic characters and strong jokes

July 8th, 2016

TheSecretLifePets_1.jpgFrom the producers of Despicable Me, The Lorax and Minions comes another family-friendly animated film in this story about a terrier named Max whose quiet life is upended when his owner takes in Duke, a stray mutt whom Max instantly dislikes. With vibrant animation and a great cast, this is one you can share with your entire family. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Willie J. comments, “This film will not dazzle you with a wonderfully woven plot, but it will undoubtedly entertain you with dynamic characters and strong jokes that land more often than not.” See his full review below.

The Secret Life of Pets
By Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Let the debates begin and if they haven’t begun, allow me to start: Zootopia or The Secret Life of Pets? - two acclaimed comedic animated movies featuring talking animals. Well, I’d like to throw in my opinion – The Secret Life of Pets, while less cleverly plotted, is much better written and animated. This film will not dazzle you with a wonderfully woven plot, but it will undoubtedly entertain you with dynamic characters and strong jokes that land more often than not.

The day of New York City misadventures for Max and the newly picked up Duke, is reminiscent of those zany 50s and 60s comedies. Without coincidence, those decades were very popular for films set in the “City that Never Sleeps”, partiSecretPets.g.jpgcularly for comedies. Jokes about hipsters moving to Brooklyn and New York City alleyways are featured in the film, paying homage to the city. But even better than that, are the beautiful shots of New York City in this film. It would give the opening scene in Manhattan a run for its money. The cinematography in this film is absolutely gorgeous, worthy of being full sized paintings to hang on your wall. Master shots include New York City at night with the lights from the moon and the buildings illuminating the city, aerial shots of the city in the daytime with beautiful weather and an air of inspiration. The images captured in this film are among some of the best of any animated feature ever and I’ve no issue saying that.

But, the imagery isn’t the best part of the movie. Naturally, its the characters of the film. For a comedy of this nature to be successful, the writer/s must come up with strong characters who make strong choices. So the jokes end up bolder and have a higher probability of landiSecretPets.d.jpgng. This movie is filled with those. Archetypes pervade the movie  such as the longing ingénue, the idiotic gang leader, the fearless elder and the neurotic straight man (the main character). These familiar characters were popular in comedies during the 50s and 60s and further highlight the style of film this is, which is quite refreshing. As a matter of fact, the relationship between Duke and Max is reminiscent of Walter Matthau (Duke) and Max (Jack Lemmon), who were a successful duo in cinema in the 50s and 60s. This film is so much like others of that era, I can see Billy Wilder directing this.

Lastly, and what impressed me most, is the score. It is an up tempo, lighthearted score. But, what makes it so impressive is how often it is used. In today’s comedies, a score isn’t used often. Because we’re in an age of off-beat, dry comedy, an accompanying score ruins the tone and wipes away the awkwardness. This film uses the score like those comedies of the 50s and 60s, which creates a more lighthearted comedic tone and gives comedic rhythm to the scene. It also makes scene transitions less awkward and SecretPets.a.jpghelps with pace. The score itself is a wonderful, having been scored by the great Alexandre Desplat (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 & 2). I’d love to see it in contention for the Best Score Oscar (although seeing the fate of Inside Out’s beautiful score, it may not happen).

So with all of this nostalgia, the movie really impressed me. It’s not easy to go against the grain and pay homage to classic Hollywood. Speaking of which, I am loving this trend in animated films today that reference older movies. Inside Out referenced Chinatown, this movie referenced Some Like it Hot (a cat says to a dog trying to date her, Willie1.jpg“I’m a cat” and the dog says “Well, nobody’s perfect”), The Birds, and Grease (even singing a song from the musical). It’s very satisfying for movie fans.

With all of that said, I give this movie 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. The reason it misses out on perfection for me is because I feel the plot could have been tighter and I wish the film had a little bit more to say, or at least say it meant to say a little louder. But nonetheless, I know your kids will enjoy this film and you will too. I recommend it for ages 6 to 18 and it can be seen at a local theater near you when it opens July 8.

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