The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 - A Sure Hit With Teens and Tweens

November 23rd, 2014

HungerGames.Mockingjay.1.jpgThe latest installment of The Hunger Games trilogy, based on the best-selling books by Suzanne Collins was released this weekend to an eager youth adult crowd. With the Games now destroyed and in pieces, Katniss Everdeen, along with Gale, Finnick and Beetee, now end up in the so-thought “destroyed” District 13. Under the leadership of President Coin and the advice of her friends, Katniss becomes the “Mockingjay” and the symbol of rebellion for the people. KIDS FIRST! Critics Brianna Hope Beaton comments, “I completely love this film and the overall production. It’s intense and has such a grand feel to it. With scene after scene, it gets bigger and bigger and you see just how powerful one voice can be.” See her full review below.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
by  Brianna Hope Beaton, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

This much anticipated film is absolutely fantastic with some action and a stellar cast that will blow your mind!

This epic story continues with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peetar Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) who both play a big part in the lives of District 13′ers, each in their own way. They want to unite and save an entire nation. In order to do this, they need the help of their friends and new alliances.

I completely love this film and the overall production. It’s intense and has such a grand feel to it. With scene after scene, it gets bigger and bigger and you see just how powerful one voice can be. The aerial shots, emotions, excitement and the anticipation of what’s happening next basically keeps your eyes glued to the screen. I’ve read all the books and this adaption is very true to the original stories. Jennifer Lawrence’s performance is incredible.  She becomes her character completely with a range of emotions -  anger, doubt, disbelief and feeling sorry. She is so convincing. My favorite character is Peetar. Although he is not on-screen time as much as the other characters, he plays a big part in the film. Peeta is what drives Katniss throughout the film as she struggles to get to him. Almost everything she does is a result of her wanting to save Peeta. I also like Peeta because, every time he is on screen, he seems to change and intensify the situation. My favorite scene is when Katniss sees Peeta for the very first time. She is shocked and, at the same time, grateful that he is alive. It is nice to see all of the questions that go though her mind through her own eyes. Katniss’ eyes reveal how she feels about Peeta.

I recommend this film for ages 13 to 18 and I give it 4 out of 5 stars. It is a little slow in the beginning, but I understand why. They have to bring you up to speed with what happened in the previous film. I cannot wait to see Part 2!

Satisfy your excitement and see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, It opens in theaters on November 21st, so please check it out.

Calling all Indie Filmmakers! Submit Your Films Now for a KIDS FIRST! Endorsement.

November 22nd, 2014

Submit.Nov.2014.Horiz.jpgFor all indie filmmakers, you have until November 30 to submit your films for a KIDS FIRST! Endorsement. To get your endorsement before the end of 2014, send it in today.

The sooner you get it to us, the quicker you get your endorsement.KIDS FIRST! has been supporting quality children’s media for 23 years and is the most highly respected media endorsement program in the country. Unlike an awards program which limits the number of winners, every title that meets our criteria and is approved by our kids’ juries receives an endorsement. Our base-line criteria includes:

NO gratuitous violence or abuse
NO inappropriate sexual behavior
NO bias in terms of race, gender, culture or religion
NO condescension toward children
NO replicable unsafe behavior

KIDS FIRST! Endorsed Titles Receive

  • The right to use the KIDS FIRST! endorsement seal and rating on all promotional and packaging materials..
  • A unique title landing page on the KIDS FIRST! website featuring reviews by our jurors, your trailer or sample clip, cover art and link to your website to purchase.
  • Consideration for a KIDS FIRST! Best Award
  • Coverage on the KIDS FIRST! Radio Show, KIDS FIRST! Coming Attractions (100,000 listeners)
  • Promoted in KIDS FIRST! News (45,000 readers/mo)
  • Promoted on KIDS FIRST! Social media (450,000 reach)

For more information, go to http://www.kidsfirst.org/submit-a-title/ KF_logo.JPG

This the Season to Enjoy Music!

November 14th, 2014

As the holiday season approaches, we have something special to share with you - some of the fabulous music CDs that we’ve recently endorsed. This music will surely be enjoyed by your children but, like most wonderful music, adults will find it equally pleasing. In 2014, the knowledgeable music critic John Wood joined our ranks as a music judge and, of course, our KIDS FIRST! Critics added their two cents in addition. Take a look below. I’m sure you will find some fabulous choices to share with the youth in your universe this holiday season.

APPETITE FOR CONSTRUCTION  (AGES 2-5).  These songs provide an active participation point for whole-family engagement, celebrating imaginative play, building, dance, puppet making and more.  “We wanted to make something that wasn’t only about listening, but could actually be recreated and re-imagined at home,” explains Stein. “The Pop Ups are all about making things,” adds Rabinowitz.  “We want our fans to be able to engage in that experience for themselves and really take part in the record, and to experience The Pop Ups world.”  THE POP UPS.

  • Adult Juror Comments: Stop the presses! Late breaking news: The Pop Ups have done it again! Their latest album ‘Appetite For Construction’ is a fanciful, danceable explosion of ideas and get-down rhymes and rhythms. The group is in touch with its musical lineage and producer/arranger Jason Rabinowitz does a masterful job of paying/playing homage to a myriad of pop culture voicing and styles. The group has a special spark and presents a moving target of attention grabbing hip nouveau vaudeville. Oh, and by the way, I liked the album. This is a finely constructed and produced album from the first downbeat. Nothing unappealing unlike a banana.  Each song segues into the next seamlessly with a myriad of pop culture styles.  Their liner notes hit it on the head, “This album is dedicated to the simple joy of making things with family & friends!” The group knows how to integrate terrific music with creative voice work that they perform live with the puppet portion of their shows. They always present a moving target of attention-grabbing modern vaudeville. Top rate sound quality has layers of harmonies, excellent musicianship and masterful recording technique. Reviewed by John Wood.

Kid Juror Comments: The kids absolutely loved this CD, especially the upbeat music that made them dance. They liked the vocalist, the instruments and the fun music. The kids that reviewed the CD were ages 2-7. The slower songs were not as enthusiastically enjoyed as much as the faster paced ones but. overall they really enjoyed this. One 2-year-old came running in from another room dancing along to it. Their favorite song is “Getting the Job Done” and they repeatedly said, “give it a 5″ (rating). Audio. 40 min.; $12; Age: 2-5.

AS THE CROW FLIES  (AGES 2-5).  Family recording artist Dan Crow offers a brand new collection of original songs that celebrate his fun with travels around the world.  ALLS HOUSE FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT.

Adult Juror Comments: Dan Crow’s “As the Crow Flies” boasts the talents of a seasoned, much-traveled performer who knows his audience. The album is packed with outright fun and danceable hits that will have its audience on their feet and moving right along. Some of the highlights, supported by a band of all-stars, are the surf-inspired “Stevie’s Got a Maui Owie,” the multitude of fun available on the “Playground” and the timeless log of a little dog in “Greyfriar’s Bobby” complete with authentic Scottish instrumentation. A fun, inspired album the whole family will enjoy. There are lots of opportunities for participation, out and out fun, and movement. The children’s chorus is particularly appealing. The artist recalls growing up in his first house, the love of eating mac n’ cheese, the fun of traveling, anti-bullying and something we can all remember - waiting for the Tooth Fairy. The recording quality is terrific and the guest musicians and youth singers are all top notch. We love this one! `

Kid Juror Comments: This CD has a lot of fun and catchy songs. The lyrics don’t always make sense and are sometimes just silly but they will make kids want to laugh out loud and dance around the room. The instrumental part is a very strong part of the CD. It is what will make you want to get up and dance around. Even when the words are a bit too silly the instrumental section holds your attention. Although, young kids may not learn a lot from listening to the CD, they will enjoy the music and sometimes that is just as important as learning something new. I did learn something from the song “Bully Girl and Bully Boy.” The music styles are pretty similar throughout the CD. There is some rhyming and the songs touch on topics such as the tooth fairy and the playground, things kids can relate to.  I recommend this for kids ages 4 to 8. Audio. 40 min.; $12.99; Age: 5-8.

COOL KIND KID  (AGES 3-8).  Winner of more than 15 national awards, including Parents’ Choice and Teachers’ Choice. 17 original songs, each teaching a different social skill. The fun way for kids 2 to 9 to learn social skills to reject bullying. Kids are engaged as they learn “the kind kid is a COOL kid, not the bully.”  COOL KIND KID

Adult Juror Comments: This CD is a 17 set of character-affirming songs that present children with options to make positive choices in their daily existence of life, school and home with special attention paid t peer pressure. The songs are well produced and performed with a mix of adult and child performers. An array of musical styles from rock to pop to folk infuse the messages of manners, respect and making a stand with an accessible immediacy. The collection is a valuable teaching tool for parents and educators to integrate into their bag of tricks. The structure is sound. Every song has a behavior that ideally should be modeled - manners, standing up for what is right, following rules, kindness and similar. The content is age appropriate and, of course, emphasizes that it is “cool to be kind.”

Kid Juror Comments: This is a very cool music CD which includes 17 songs that demonstrate how to be polite and Well mannered, with a catchy beat! I honestly thought it may be a little cheesy but the CD pleasantly surprised me. The irst song of the album, “Cool Kind Kid,” is simply perfect for teaching younger kids about proper behavior.

All songs in the album not only send positive message but lead kids with an example. Music ranges from rock and roll to slow and soothing, to upbeat and modern. Each song is completely different from the last and concentrates on one
specific item. For example, one of my favorites, “When the Telephone Rings” talks about how to pick up and answer telephone correctly.

There are 17 songs in total. Each of the songs is about two to three minutes long. All somewhat tell a story and even though you may not realize, all teach you a lesson as well. Most of the songs are catchy. However, there are a couple that feel a bit forced and probably would have benefited from a better singer. But those are an exception and I do like the fact that the majority of the songs are sung by kids. Since I’m 12, the songs were a bit childish for me but I could see a class of preschoolers enjoying it and singing along. I also found it very smart to make this for such little kids, so when they grow up, they have good manners and a clear understanding between right and wrong.

My favorite song is “When the Telephone Rings.” The song is about being polite during a call, and I like it the most because the voice is very impressive and the lyrics are catchy. It all wraps up nicely as the song explores three different situations with a good sense of humor. These songs are for little kids, so I think the best age rating is 2 to 6. I don’t believe older kids would enjoy it or benefit from the message as much. Younger kids would not understand the purpose of it. I also give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. Reviewed By Gerry Orz, age 12, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

LOVE BUG BY RAFFI  (AGES 2-5).  This 16 song collection embodies all of the qualities that have already established Raffi as a beloved and trusted icon for young listeners. These are songs about love (”Love Bug,” “Seeing the Heart”), nature (”In the Real World,” “Blue White Planet”), play (”Free to Play,” “To the Park”), chores (”Mama Loves It”), teamwork (”On Hockey Days”), imagination (”Magic Wand”) and the need to slow down and catch one’s breath amidst the accelerated pace of modern life (”Cool Down Reggae”).  ROUNDER RECORDS/CONCORD MUSIC GROUP

Adult Juror Comments: Let’s start with the obvious, ‘Love Bug’ is a terrific album filled with lovely and entrancing songs. I could say, ridiculously, where have you been for twelve years? And the answer might be, doing lots of fun and satisfying stuff. It’s like we never missed you, Raffi. The soothing voice and positive artistic sensibilities are sharper than ever. The love for the individual child and family, care for our world and the simple joys of playing ice hockey, and enjoying the park are just a sampling of this splendidly produced and performed 16-song set. And a nod to the updated lyrics to ‘This Land is Your Land.’ Beautiful guitar work. engaging production and that voice that makes a stadium performance sound like a personal concert in your living room. Pick this up, you won’t put it down.

I really like the choice of mainly acoustic instruments (guitars, banjo, fiddle, drums, bass piano and dulcimer). This music breathes. Raffi is one of the foundations of children’s music - a national treasure that generations have grown up with. There are terrific songs, exceptionally performed and spot-on for the target audience. The structure and continuity are near-perfect.

The title says it all: Love Bug! Raffi is all about love, respect, our planet and the power children have to change their surroundings for the better. Like Fred Rogers, he is true to himself, respectful of his audience and always in a gentle, loving way. He is a seeker of good intentions for the World we live in. Raffi’s voice is an instrument that soothes and draws the audience to scoot just a little bit closer. The kid choruses are lovely. The production fabulous. The musicians add so much energy and propulsion. I hope that children will see a bigger picture of their involvement and heir apparent to a smaller, brighter and more loving world.

Kid Juror Comments: The kids really enjoyed this CD. This is the first time I’ve heard a Raffi CD and, although the lyrics are very intelligent and often mature, the kids still were completely drawn in to the songs. They sang along almost immediately and they wanted to hear more. After the original review, I started playing it in the car when they were out of control and they would immediately calm down and start singing along. They especially love the first two songs. Based on the kids’ reactions, I recommend this CD to anyone. They particularly loved the Dogwood Song and Love Bug was their second favorite. Audio. 40 min.; $15; Age: 2-7.

Big Hero 6 - Suspenseful, Funny and Creative. Will This Be 2014’s “Frozen”?

November 5th, 2014

BigHero6.jpgFrom Walt Disney Animation Studios’ team that brought us Frozen, comes Big Hero 6, an action-packed comedy-adventure featuring Baymax, a plus-sized inflatable robot, and prodigy Hiro Hamada. When a devastating event befalls the city of San Fransokyo and catapults Hiro into the midst of danger, he turns to Baymax and his friends. Determined to uncover the mystery, Hiro transforms his friends into a band of high-tech heroes called Big Hero 6. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O comments, “This film is wonderful! The humor is unique and not boring, making the audience always roar with laughter.” Harmony M adds, “The unpredictable plot makes the movie very exciting and hilarious. The movie is funny within the first few minutes which is really delightful…” Jeremy, age 7, adds, “Another thing I like about this film is that it kept me guessing what would happen next throughout the whole movie.”

Big Hero 6
Reviewed by Jeremy B., age 7, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

Big Hero 6 is a really fun movie! It is suspenseful, funny and creative. The writers, Don Hall and Jordan Roberts, wrote an awesome script.  Each character has a different ability and a distinct personality. Yet, they all work very well together.  I really enjoyed learning about each character!

Big Hero 6 is an animated film about a boy genius named Hiro (Ryan Potter) whose parents have died and he spends all his time “bot” fighting with robots he creates. When Hiro’s brother, Tadashi, (Daniel Henney) dies, he discovers a robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit) that his brother designed as a personal health care assistant. When a villain steals one of Hiro’s inventions, Hiro must use his brain and technology to change Baymax into a robot superhero and, along with some friends, must stop the villain.

Big Hero 6 is a really incredible movie. It has a great mix of comedy, suspense and even a little bit of sadness. There is a lot of comedy from beginning to end.  All of the characters are funny and face some tough challenges. Another thing I like about this film is that it kept me guessing what would happen next throughout the whole movie. I was completely surprised by some of the things that happened because I had a different idea in my head of what to expect. The 3D effect is also great! The animation makes it seem as if I could reach out and touch objects and jump right in with them. My favorite part is when Baymax learns karate. It is so funny because he looks like a giant marshmallow and looks so cuddly you want to hug him instead of fight him.

Big Hero 6 has a really great message. It teaches us to make great friends and to always put your friends first! The characters have to trust in their friendship and stop arguing to defeat the villain.

I give this movie 5 out of 5 stars because it is funny, adventurous and really creative. Kids and adults will love it, especially those who like comedy and science experiments.  I recommend this film for children ages 4 to 18. This is a movie that the whole family will enjoy.

Big Hero 6
Reviewed by Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

This film is a fun and hilarious adventure with a very unique story that the whole family will love.

The story starts when a technology genius, Hiro, is accepted into a technology university but, at the same time, something bad happens to his older brother. While he grieves, he finds his brother’s medical robot, Baymax. Together they discover a deep and dark secret and they team up with four friends to get to the bottom of it.

This film is wonderful! The humor is unique and not boring, making the audience always roar with laughter. They don’t concentrate on one theme. Instead, they surprise us with many different things to spice up the story. However, in many ways, I feel the story is a bit too complicated. It takes the film about 30 minutes just to finish the back story which makes the climax and conflict a bit rushed. Otherwise, its a great film!

My favorite scene is when Hiro first discovers Baymax. Hiro stubs his toe which activates Baymax. First, Baymax squeezes around a bed and the way he does it makes the audience laugh to tears. Then Hiro trips, gets stuck and things fall on him. The entire scene is just pure comedy which makes it a very memorable scene and sets the tone for their relationship as the story unfolds.

I recommend this for ages 9 to 18 and give it 4.5 out 5 stars its amazing, unique animation, humor and interesting storyline.

Big Hero 6
By Harmony M. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

The movie Big Hero 6 is adorable, funny, and downright enjoyable. The movie is about a young, intelligent, robotics fanatic named Hiro Hamada, voiced by Ryan Potter, who spends his days hustling adults in “bot fights” until his brother, Tadashi, voiced by Daniel Henney, introduces him to his college and friends. Hiro then spends his days trying to get accepted into his brother’s school to apply his knowledge of robotics to a greater cause. Hiro later develops a loveable bond between himself and an inflatable robot named Baymax, voiced by Scott Adsit. After Hiro encounters a dangerous force that threatens his future and safety of the city, he turns to Baymax and his friends to make a heroic group called “Big Hero 6″ to fight evil. The movie takes us through an action-packed adventure that provides laughter, tears, tension and relief.

The unpredictable plot makes the movie very exciting and hilarious. The movie is funny within the first few minutes which is really delightful because it avoids a slow beginning. Even though this movie is about superheroes fighting evil with intense superhero gear, it does not follow the typical superhero expectations because the heroes handle situations differently than expected. The movie provides realism and surprisingly does not sugar coat certain scenarios. There a certain times where one would think “wow, I’m surprised Disney did that” but that surprise is good because it makes the movie stand out from the rest in a new and different way.

The characters are so lovable, especially Baymax, an adorable robot whose only purpose is to make others feel better. Because of this, it is easy for the audience to get attached to the characters and engage with the movie emotionally. The movie is phenomenal and appeals to adults as much as children which is a very special aspect.
Not only does Big Hero 6 have clever dialogue, great special effects, lovable characters and nice music, but it also pays attention to little details and messages about education and friendship that contribute to an amazing movie as a whole. I will definitely watch this movie multiple times and recommend it ages 5 to 18. Be sure to check it out in theaters on November 7th.

Bronies and Fans, Take Note: My Little Pony: Equestria Girls - Rainbow Rocks Will Not Disappoint

October 27th, 2014

MLP_EG_RR_400x200_now_on_02.jpg

This movie Music rules and rainbows rock as Twilight Sparkle and her pals compete for the top spot in the Canterlot High “Mane Event” talent show. This latest installment of the My Little Pony franchise does not disappoint and is perfect for your younger set as well as the die hard Brony fans. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O, age 12 comments, “It is definitely a combination of adventure with a crème of comedy and a sprinkle of excitement all rapped up in a friendship sandwich.” Samantha A adds, “This movie teaches kids that friendship is stronger than any powers or spells. See their full review belows and catch Gerry and Haley’s interviews with Tara Strong, Andrea Libman, Will Anderson, Jamie Foxx and more at the premiere below.teaches kids that friendship is stronger than any powers or spells.

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls - Rainbow Rocks
Reviewed by Gerry O, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

What an addition to the “My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic” franchise! This film has references to the first movie, a bit of story from the last season of the show and even all the little extra characters that My Little Pony fans love!

It is definitely a combination of adventure with a crème of comedy and a sprinkle of excitement all rapped up in a friendship sandwich.

The adventure starts when a band performance is planned at Canterlot High where the kids can make bands and raise funds and three very unusual girls turn it into a super competitive battle of the bands. When they run out of things to do, Twilight’s friends from that world call to another world where Twilight is. Will they be able to come there and save them or will evil prevail?

This film is just fantastic! Hasbro was smart to include a lot of little fun things from the shows that fans adore including the beloved Derby Hooves pony who is really never part of the story, just in the background for fun. The songs are great as well. We hear not just the classic My Little Pony songs from the TV show. Instead, the music is very pop like which suits the story well. I imagine that sing-along coming to the fans shortly and being a smash hit. The show’s creators also connected to the first Equestria Girls movie which I thought was perfect.

My favorite scene is when girls are having a sleep-over at Pinkie Pie’s house. When Twilight gets out of bed and walks to the kitchen she finds Pinkie’s older sister feeding her pet boulder. I love this scene because, in the show, there is an episode where we meet this sister. So, I thought having her in the movie is a great idea and so unexpected.

This film does not have anything parents should be worried about and for extremely little kids who do not understand the ponies, they will enjoy the bright colors. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars for its original story, fantastic songs and those little characters that fans and Bronies love so much! If you want to see My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks, it comes out on DVD October 28.

My Little Pony, Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks
Samantha Alexander, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, 11-years-old

My Little Pony, Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks is a movie about a group of friends (Twilight Sparkle, Apple Jack, Rainbow Dash, Pinky Pie, Flutter Shy, and Rarity) who battle three girls (new to the school) who use their dark magic to turn people against each other and then feed off of their negative energy. This movie teaches kids that friendship is stronger than any powers or spells.

I think that this movie is PERFECT for any little girl because it has singing, you get to see all of your favorite ponies (and even some new characters) AND it has a few great messages. There are three that come to mind: 1) there is no power greater than friendship, 2) never let anybody put you down and 3) always keep your head up.

Some of my favorite movies are animated movies because I think that it’s AMAZING how people can change their voices to sound like their characters. Sometimes they don’t even change their voices but still change the way they sound to match the characters’ expressions. Tara Strong does a great job with that when she plays the voice of Twilight Sparkle. Ashleigh Ball plays the voice of two characters, Apple Jack and Rainbow Dash. And, Andrea Libman also plays two characters, Pinkie Pie and Flutter Shy. They all are fantastic will give you yet ANOTHER reason to like this movie.

While this movie doesn’t teach any subjects like math, it teaches kids about teamwork, forgiveness and especially friendship. I think that this is one of the few kid’s movies that I have seen with actual role models and these role models would be all of the ponies. Even though they all have their little flaws (for example Rainbow Dash has a huge ego), they all show great personalities and each pony has a good quality that shows throughout the movie like Twilight Sparkle’s leadership skills.

I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for kids 4 to 7 because it is a movie that has singing,  and a lot of little jokes that kids will love. And, the best part is that it doesn’t have any bad scenes so it is completely kid friendly. This is also a movie that most kids over the age of 7 or 8 will probably not enjoy as much as those younger than that. Unless, of course you are a “My Little Pony” fan. This movie will have you singing songs and laughing all day long!
My Little Pony, Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks
Samantha A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, 11-years-old
Video Review

My Little Pony, Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks is a movie about a group of friends (Twilight Sparkle, Apple Jack, Rainbow Dash, Pinky Pie, Flutter Shy, and Rarity) who battle three girls (new to the school) who use their dark magic to turn people against each other and then feed off of their negative energy. This movie teaches kids that friendship is stronger than any powers or spells.

I think that this movie is PERFECT for any little girl because it has singing, you get to see all of your favorite ponies (and even some new characters) AND it has a few great messages. There are three that come to mind: 1) there is no power greater than friendship, 2) never let anybody put you down and 3) always keep your head up.

Some of my favorite movies are animated movies because I think that it’s AMAZING how people can change their voices to sound like their characters. Sometimes they don’t even change their voices but still change the way they sound to match the characters’ expressions. Tara Strong does a great job with that when she plays the voice of Twilight Sparkle. Ashleigh Ball plays the voice of two characters, Apple Jack and Rainbow Dash. And, Andrea Libman also plays two characters, Pinkie Pie and Flutter Shy. They all are fantastic will give you yet ANOTHER reason to like this movie.

While this movie doesn’t teach any subjects like math, it teaches kids about teamwork, forgiveness and especially friendship. I think that this is one of the few kid’s movies that I have seen with actual role models and these role models would be all of the ponies. Even though they all have their little flaws (for example Rainbow Dash has a huge ego), they all show great personalities and each pony has a good quality that shows throughout the movie like Twilight Sparkle’s leadership skills.

I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for kids 4 to 7 because it is a movie that has singing,  and a lot of little jokes that kids will love. And, the best part is that it doesn’t have any bad scenes so it is completely kid friendly. This is also a movie that most kids over the age of 7 or 8 will probably not enjoy as much as those younger than that. Unless, of course you are a “My Little Pony” fan. This movie will have you singing songs and laughing all day long!


The Book of Life
By Morgan B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9

On October 17th Twentieth Century Fox brings a new Halloween movie to the big screen. This is sure to become a must-see for everyone at Halloween time!

This animated feature is set in South America. It is colorful and festive and I enjoyed learning about all the different cultural beliefs of Latin America. On the day that we celebrate Halloween, they celebrate Mexican Day of the Dead. This movie is funny, cute and the story keeps your attention from beginning to the end.

Many of the movies we see today seem like the same story or theme told in different ways. This movie is truly an original. There are many hints of movies you have seen before but overall, it is truly a different movie. The animators’ attention to detail is mind boggling.

The characters are made of wood but, after the first five minutes you see them as real people. The intercut details are astonishing. The unique personalities and different characters will keep you entertained. Animals, people, spirits - this movie has it all.

Maria is my favorite because she is a little girl with cute pig tails. She is fun, bubbly, tough and adventurous. Her independence gets her in trouble but at the same time it is her greatest asset. We watch her grow from a child to a young lady. She keeps the same spirit and kind heart. She must choose who to marry between her two best friends. Zoe Saldana voices the character and really brings her to life.

The candlestick maker, voiced by Ice Cube, is laugh-out-loud funny. Even though he is not in the movie for very much time, you will leave with a smile on your face just thinking about him.

Gabriel Iglesias, Cheech Marin, Hector Elizondo are three amigos who try to help one of our heroes win Maria’s hand in marriage. The singing group is hilarious. The song choices are great and made me giggle.

There are many messages in this film. The two heroes follow in their father footsteps. We see how it is important to remember your ancestors but also know that you are your own person and should follow your own path. Although it has been a long-standing tradition, bull fighting is beginning to be thought of as wrong. The bulls should be allowed to live. We see how it takes a whole village of people to protect and look out for each other and how everyone needs to be on the same team helping everyone else.

I recommend this movie ages 7 to 18. It is about Halloween and the Mexican Day of the Dead. Although it is entertaining it is still about death and there is violence. I give this movie 5 out of 5 twinkling stars. It opens in theaters on October 17 so check it out!

PUMP - How, When and Why to End Our Oil Reliance

October 21st, 2014

Pump.jpgPUMP is an eye-opening documentary that tells the story of America’s addiction to oil, from its corporate conspiracy beginnings to its current monopoly today, and explains clearly and simply how we can end it and finally win choice at the pump. This film is well researched and easy to understand. The directors, Joshua and Rebecca Tickell won a Sundance award for their 2008 documentary Fuel. They have honed their skills and come across stronger than ever. This film is a wake up call offering alternatives that you can implement today and help break the oil monopoly. Appearances are made by John Hofmeister, Elon Musk and Luiz Inácio da Silva. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Keefer Blakeslee comments, “The purpose of this film is to spread the word that oil is not the only source of fuel for the U.S.” Gerry Orz adds, “This film should be seen by everyone who thinks we pay too much for gas and appreciates how it negatively affects all aspects of our lives.”

PUMP
Reviewed by Keefer C. Blakeslee, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Riveting! This film examines the story of oil addiction in America. The question is, do we have a choice of fuel?

The purpose of this film is to spread the word that oil is not the only source of fuel for the U.S. I’m guessing parents out there love their cars and know that gas prices are the highest they’ve been in years. In order to take your child to school, you need to pay and pump expensive gasoline. Or, do you? This film shows that we can have a choice about fuel. Fuel is available that is safer, better for the air and cheaper. Pump proves these ideas with intriguing facts and mind-boggling statistics.

This movie’s focus is not about which fuel is better. This documentary provides information about alternative fuels such as ethanol, methanol, natural gas and even electric. Each one has its pros and cons, but just being able to have the ability to choose is what moves this production along.

We hear extremely intellectual interviews with people who are strong about the subject. My only criticism is that the audience for this film is not young kids. Teens who are driving or those starting driver’s education will find this important enough to watch. While I found the subject interesting, I do not think kids from 7 to 13 care about the big oil epidemic.

My favorite part is when we see the comparison of air pollution with regular gasoline and methanol, also known as “Wood Alcohol.” Dr. Robert Zubrin conducts an experiment where he ignites both fuels. We see that methanol is clean and leaves no residue while gasoline is the opposite. It made me realize what we put in the air every time we run a gasoline engine.

My favorite person interviewed is Luiz Inacio Da Sliva, 35th president of Brazil. The movie states, “under Da Sliva’s leadership, Brazil’s economy grew by the trillions.” He did something that no other country has ever done, achieve complete independence from foreign oil. He gave Brazil the choice of gasoline and ethanol. Da Sliva is what you might call a dreamer. He states, “I believe we will conquer this. I believe the world will learn to live without oil.”

This film wants to expose U.S. citizens to the idea of having a choice. We know that there are other forms of fuel and you might think we would use them. This idea was introduced in 2006 with the “Open Fuel Standard Act.” Sadly, it never left a committee for a vote. The reason being, that members of the Congress receive 32 million dollars in campaign contribution from big oil.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to 14 to 18-year-olds. This film shows a great message and an even more amazing vision. This film was released September 12 so check your local theaters.

PUMP
Reviewed by Gerry Orz, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

This movie shows you the real, untold story behind oil usage, what we can do about it and how it affects real people. Pump is a film that shows the truth about the current oil crisis and the start of an oil movement.

This film has intensity wrapped together with a side of history and, of course, an educational aspect. All that while still presenting an entertaining documentary.

This examines our love for oil since the first automobile - our highs and our lows in oil history, the people who it affects and the people who are happily profiting from it. We see the businesses that have fallen and others that rose. Most importantly, this movie shows what we can do to stop this oil epidemic and make things better in U.S. as well as around the world.

I believe this film has a great message. We also see a story and a timeline based of the history of oil usage. The part where they describe how to adapt your car for healthier and cheaper fuel by just clicking on the computer is very exciting. But then, 20 minutes later, they mention it is illegal. I wish they pointed out this little detail right in the initial scene.

My favorite part which shows people trying to stop oil-dependency is when they talk about all these electric cars and natural gas cars and how hundreds of cars today can run on multiple fuels, if not all the cars. You know if you are using more than fuel in your car RIGHT NOW if you check your fuel tank cap. If it is orange, you have one of those special cars.

This film should be seen by everyone who thinks we pay too much for gas and appreciates how it negatively affects all aspects of our lives. There is a little bit of action, so I recommend it for ages 8 to 18. I also give it 5 out of 5 stars for its message and desire to make things better. I always admire those that stand by what is right.

The Equation of Life - A Must-See for Any School Age Kid - Let’s End Bullying Now

October 13th, 2014

213194.jpgOctober is Bullying Prevention month and we have an incredible film to share with you. Inspired by a true story, this film explores the experiences of bullying from both sides - the bullied and the bully. There are many anti-bullying films on the market but this one is unique. It was written and produced by a 10-year-old. This is a dramatization of a real life experience from someone who’s been there and, because of that, it is all the more poignant. And, most importantly, it doesn’t just leave you with a hold in your heart. It offers up practical suggestions for how to drop bullying now. This is a subject so important it should be seen by everyone. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Willie J comments, “The Equation of Life, directed, produced, written by and starring Gerry Orz, is a moving film that needs to be seen by anyone going to school.” Keefer B. adds, “One of the many reasons this film shines is the message it stresses- speak up!” See their full reviews below. This film is available on DVD October 14 and there is a premiere at the Warner Grand Theater in San Pedro the same evening, October 14 at 6:00 p.m.

The Equation of Life
by Keefer C. Blakeslee, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Genuinely spectacular! This well done story tells the truth and tragedy of bullying. Directed, written and starring 10-year-old Gerry Orz who portrays Adam Syder, the new kid in the neighborhood. Adam is being bullied by Nathan (Zane Paul), a boy who has a mother (Willow Hale) that treats him like garbage. Day after day Adam is beaten up and called names by Nathan and soon Adam has had enough.

One of the many reasons this film shines is the message it stresses- speak up! Bullying is a problem in our society. Whether it’s physical, verbal or cyber-bullying, it needs to stop and the message is addressed in a passionate way by the filmmaker. Orz shows the reality of what happens to many children who suffer from bullying. He doesn’t take the easy route where someone is picked on and the teacher comes in and fixes the problem. He tells us the truth.

Everyone’s point of view is examined, which I love, including the bully Nathan. The bully is not the villain. He wants to be friends with Adam, but his mother says otherwise. Whenever someone picks on me, my mom always tells me, “You don’t know what happens behind closed doors.” She’s right, I don’t. The bully could be going through abuse himself or he might be jealous and bullying is the only way he knows how to express it.

My hats off to Zane Paul for his outstanding performance. We also have a heartbreaking story about Adam’s sister Miranda (Kaitlin Morgan). She knows Adam is being bullied, but she doesn’t tell anyone. She thinks Adam will take care or it, which he does, in the wrong way.

By far, my favorite character is Adam’s mom (Kate Orz). Something tragic happens and we see this emotional scene between her and Miranda. It’s hard to sit through because both Kate’s and Kaitlin’s performances make this film even more powerful. It shows the struggle of not only the person being bullied, but the family’s grief as well.

All these aspects of the film are amazing and what makes it truly phenomenal is that this film was made by Gerry Orz when he was ten years old! Gerry tells this story in a very mature manor that allows all ages to comprehend the dangers of bullying. His introduction to the film explains why he made it and what he wants you to learn from it. The introduction alone is worth the price of the film. Gerry doesn’t want anyone else to go through the pain of being bullied and this proves the power of making a film on the subject.

This is a film for adults and kids, especially kids. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to 8- to 18-year-olds. This film has one word in it that is not terrible, in fact it’s appropriate, but parents may not want their kids to hear it. Even with that I still highly recommend this film to kids so they can know to speak up and STOP the bullying. This film comes out on DVD October 14, 2014.

The Equation of Life
By Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Independent cinema nowadays is not what it used to be. Indie films used to be the unique ones, the ones with low budgets yet they still entertained. These films could get away with a lackadaisical script or acting in return for a fun or a good message. Keep in mind that films like Cloud Atlas, with a budget of over 100 million, are considered also independent films. What the young Gerry Orz has created is truly a throwback to true indie films.

The Equation of Life, directed, produced, written by and starring Gerry Orz, is a moving film that needs to be seen by anyone going to school. It is a film that is not just about bullying, but about understanding. It is about tolerance and guilt and reasoning. The Equation of Life is a unique anti-bullying film not because its message is different or because it presents the message in a different way, it is different because it doesn’t rush to judge. That is the key to any film trying to get to the foundation of a problem - to make sure all the characters and their situations are considered in order to give the audience true, unbiased understanding.

As I stated earlier, a lot of independent films lack something due to having smaller budgets and little resources. The acting in this movie is tolerable. There are some truly moving moments from the cast and a few cast members are pretty good and, for the most part, the characters are believable. I promise you, their performances do not get in the way of the experience.

And the experience is quite moving. In a script like this that tries to teach and explain, both problems and solutions are offered. The Equation of Life offers problems and solutions so real, and so probable, that it comes off as a documentary at times. There aren’t any crowd-pleasing cop-outs in order to make the film prettier. The movie is direct.

Take this from a guy who has also done what Gerry has done. It is a difficult task to make a movie by yourself, with little financial support. But with a fine idea, support from family and friends and artistic know-how, any movie can be good. The Equation of Life, for that reason, gets 4 out of 5 stars from me. I recommend it for 6 to 18. Kids at the younger end here may not understand it but I believe they can get the concept. This film deserves to be shown to every student from elementary school until they graduate high school. It relates to any adolescent. It certainly does to me.

Congratulations Gerry, you did a very good job. Here’s to a fine career!

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