The Martian – One Of The Best Movies Of This Decade

October 1st, 2015


This 2015 space odyssey delivers an emotional survival story filled with humor and love Matt Damon’s performance really steals the show and the direction by Ridley Scott is perhaps his best in years. Based on the best-selling novel by Andy Weir, we are drawn in by the humanness of the situation when Astronaut Mark Watney is left behind by his crew and finds himself stranded and alone on a hostile planet. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Willie J. comments, “The sheer message and theme of this movie and the way they’re presented is what gives this movie its greatness. It’s a movie that explores the human condition and has something positive to say about it.” Keefer B. adds, “This film executes this kind of story in a novel way… Not only is it a captivating scenario that keeps you on the edge of your seat but, the protagonist is incredibly likable and complex.” See their full reviews below.

The Martian
By Willie J, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Ridley Scott turns in his finest film since Blade Runner. The Martian is such a touching film, that its flaws can be easily overlooked and forgotten. The sheer message and theme of this movie and the way they’re presented is what gives this movie its greatness. It’s a movie that explores the human condition and has something positive to say about it. We need that in today’s cinema and I thank the cast and crew of this movie for giving us this gem. It’s an experience worth having.

The Martian stars Matt Damon in one of his career best performances as an astronaut who gets stuck on Mars when his teams leaves him behind, thinking he’s dead after he is struck by debris in the middle of a storm. When he is able to get in touch with NASA, their higher-ups and a few other organizations, rally up to rescue him. I have to tell you that is NOT like Gravity. It is not a one-man show, though Damon does have significant screen time. There is an entire supporting ensemble that provides serviceable and strong performances. And yet, despite the acting of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, and Michael Peña, Matt Damon does steal the show. He is very committed with every character choice and really inhabits the man he’s portraying. Damon doesn’t layer him with underlying sadness or anxiety, instead he shows us the determination of a man who has weighed his options, and has chosen to do something about his situation. Towards the end, when he finally breaks down, it hits us harder. We get choked up seeing this person who has stayed strong for so long and then finally lets out what he’s been holding back. It’s a powerful thing.

Secondly, the film has an amazing tone. With a soundtrack filled with Gloria Gaynor, ABBA, and David Bowie, the fun of this movie won’t go understated. The soundtrack compliments the numerous comedic moments that come at a rate that could have this film labeled as a sci-fi comedy. It is funny and entertaining and will have you dancing or humming along. It’s good Scott gave this movie this tone because it matches the lasting message he wants us to have - that even though the situation is bad, a combination of survival instincts and intelligence can get us through it. And, with the love and care of others, a seemingly insurmountable situation becomes surmountable.

I’ll tell you my favorite part. There is a moment in the movie when NASA is having trouble getting supplies to our protagonist and the issues are being broadcast. A major science organization is watching it from China, and they decide to help out NASA. There are no hard feelings, ill will, prideful rejections or rivalries going on. The Chinese organization asks for nothing in return. It is just two organization banning together for the same cause. It is beautiful and speaks volumes, especially considering the public perception of American-Chinese relations.

Now there are those who may say that the tone demeans the more dramatic moments, but I disagree. The dramatic moments in this movie aren’t really all that dramatic anyway. They’re more like lighthearted drama if anything. There is one moment in the movie in which we abruptly and rather un-smoothly get shown the inevitable “problem” within the film. The Debbie Downer that the protagonist must overcome to make his victory that much sweeter. I’ll admit, it isn’t presented in the best way, but that’s not the most dramatic part of the film. That comes at the time our main character believes he’s about to go home. That moment is built not by the tone of the film, but by the performance of Matt Damon.

As a matter of fact, the only criticism other than the aforementioned is the pacing of the movie. It’s about 10 minutes too long. There are many throwaway scenes, scenes that aren’t necessary and could be done without whether because they’re repetitive, or just get in the way of Scott getting to his point quicker and more effectively. The problems ensue towards the end as well, when the pacing suffers and so does the tension. It is so close to being what it should have been, but I wasn’t hanging on as much as I could or should have. That’s because of the moment of comedic relief that is added and the same with many of the scenes I mentioned. There are some scenes that are necessary, or helpful, but could be trimmed down.

Nonetheless, the flaws are minor and able to be overlooked. The Martian is still one of the best movies of this decade. With that said, I give this movie 5 out 5 stars and, due to some surprisingly frequent language, I recommend it for ages 13 to 18. It opens October 2 at a theater near you. Please go see it.

The Martian
By Keefer B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

This is a brilliant film sprinkled with surprising wit and cleverness. Based on the acclaimed book of the same name by Andy Weir, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is an astronaut that is left on Mars after an emergency evacuation. Presumed dead, Watney survives but has a limited amount of food and water so he must use his intelligence and spirit to get back in contact with NASA and return home.

I went into this film with no previous history with the story. Personally I love films about survival. Whether it’s in space or on a desert island, I enjoy stories about how a character uses their human instincts to survive. This film executes this kind of story in a novel way. It’s unique from other space survival films, like Gravity and Apollo 13, because the protagonist is not in the vacuum of space but actually on a planet that is unlivable. He has to adapt to the harshness of the planet to stay alive. Not only is it a captivating scenario that keeps you on the edge of your seat but, the protagonist is incredibly likable and complex.

Matt Damon’s charm is perhaps the best part of the film. Watney, of course, has his low points but he gives wise cracks about his problems, almost looking at the situation from a satirical way. One might say it’s a sign of him descending into madness but it’s what keeps him alive. Groucho Marx once said, “Humor is reason gone mad,” and, in this case, he is right. Only a mad person would see the odds stack against him and still try to pull off, what many think is the impossible. So, he’s not spitting wise cracks just to amuse himself but to fuel his insanity to keep pushing through. Not only is he my favorite character in the film but after careful observation he maybe one of my favorite characters in general.

I have to mention the stunning cinematography done by Dariusz Wolski. Wolski has recently worked with director Ridley Scott on Exodus: Gods and Kings and Prometheus. In this third collaboration with Scott he has created this desolate and visually beautiful Mars. I watched this film in 3D / IMAX and, even if you don’t catch this film in 3D it still feels like you are transported into Mars and space.

The message of this film projects is that “if there is a problem, you figure out a way to solve it until it’s over.” Watney faces many obstacles in the beginning – the chance of starvation, dehydration, dealing with Mar’s deadly atmosphere, lack of oxygen and no way to communicate with Earth. What does Wateny do? He tries to figure out a solution for each problem. That goes back to the insanity quality I mentioned previously. Perseverance is another admirable quality of this character. That “If I’m going to die, I’m gonna die trying” attitude gives us all the more reason to root for him and his return to Earth.

I easily give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to 14- through 18-year-olds. There is the use of the F word twice in the film, the rest are muted or mouthed. Also this film goes on for a while and, to be honest, younger audiences may get bored at some points. If you have the opportunity to see this film, I highly recommend it. What a great way to continue the fall films!! It opens in theaters October 2nd.

The Intern – Beats All Expectations! Absolutely Fab!

September 25th, 2015

TheIntern.jpgThe Intern stars Robert De Niro as 70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker who discovers that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Harmony M (age 16) comments, “Add The Intern to your list of “must-watch” movies because this delightful comedy beats all expectations.”
Mia A. (age 11) adds, “I love the relationship between Jules and Ben because it is realistic and heartwarming. Ben is funny without trying to be, is friendly and kind and would make a very good grandpa or Dad. “ See their full reviews below.

The Intern
By Harmony M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Add The Intern to your list of “must-watch” movies because this delightful comedy beats all expectations. The film is about charming, 70-year-old Ben Whittaker, played by Robert De Niro, and his quest to join the work force after already being retired. Upon receiving the position of a senior intern at an online fashion website, he finds himself bonding with all the other young co-workers and is immediately loved by everyone. Ben is then assigned to intern for the owner of the company, Jules Ostin, and their opposite personalities create a bond between them that helps them through their lives.

The film’s outstanding choice of actors really impacts the quality of the movie because if Robert De Niro didn’t play Ben, I wouldn’t have been as attached to his character. The character development is the biggest aspect of the movie and, since they use great actors, they successfully win the hearts of the audience and build a bond with the viewer instantly.

I am really impressed with the comedy because I feel as though comedies these days are too desperate to be funny and it’s really obvious. They often throw in as many famous people as they can and have an under-developed plot to make the movie feel like a joke that should not be taken seriously. The Intern, however, is hilarious while remaining sophisticated. It is surprisingly funny and I caught myself cracking up all the time. The plot is very well developed and includes plot twists and a climax that I honestly would not expect.

The ending is fulfilling which saved me from my fear of being left hanging or disappointed since the whole movie leading up to it is amazing. The film is enjoyable for people of all interests, ages and genders because it’s an all around feel-good movie that you don’t need to be in a certain mood to watch.

The dialogue is insanely natural and realistic which makes it hard for me to believe that the lines are from a script. The little details like facial expressions or even a comment said under a character’s breath really made the movie authentic. I also enjoyed the amazing storyline and moral messages.

I will definitely watch this film again and encourage my friends and family to watch it as well because it is worth seeing. This film is best suited for ages of 13 to 18 as well as adult and I give it 4 ½ out of 5 stars. Check it out coming to theaters near you on September 25th!

The Intern
By Mia A, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

The Intern, directed by Nancy Meyers, is very funny and entertaining. While this film is not action packed or suspenseful, I enjoyed every minute and genuinely cared about the characters.

The story is about a retired widow named Ben (Robert De Niro) who is looking for something to fill the empty spaces in his life, so he becomes an intern at a fashion industry business. He ends up interning for Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) and tags along while she lives her crazy life. It is hard for her to be a wife, mother, run an online fashion business and do everything well. The Intern is what I like to call a “mutt genre,” combining more than one genre in one movie - in this case it is comedy and drama.

I love the relationship between Jules and Ben because it is realistic and heartwarming. Ben is funny without trying to be, is friendly and kind and would make a very good grandpa or Dad. My mom says that Robert De Niro is in a lot of what our family calls “shoot ‘em up, kill ‘em up” movies. He must be a really good actor because the character he plays in this movie, Ben is so kind and sensitive.

I have been a big Anne Hathaway fan since Ella Enchanted was released and this is one of my favorite movies that she has been in. She is completely believable as Jules. My favorite character though is Becky (Christina Scherer) because she is hilarious in a dramatically funny kind of way. I hope that she will be in other movies because I can easily become a fan. The acting is very strong and all the actors pull together a perfectly wonderful film which I appreciate.

The message to this story is that there will always be someone in life to help you through your problems. Jules is surprised that the person who helps her is not who she thought it would be. Family is not always blood related, your closet family can be anyone, even friends.

I recommend The Intern for ages 12 to 18 due to mild language and suggestive and awkward touching. I rate it 5 out of 5 sparkling golden stars. If you are looking for an entertaining movie that is easy to watch, go see The Intern in theatres near you starting September 25.

Hotel Transylvania 2 – Loving, Forgiving and Just A Little Bit Crazy

September 25th, 2015

HotelT2.jpgThis sequel to Adam Sandler’s successful Hotel Transylvania picks up with Dracula and his friends try to bring out the monster in his half human, half vampire grandson in order to keep Mavis from leaving the hotel. Starring the voice talent of Sandler, Andy Samberg and Selena Gomez, it opens September 25. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Lainey A. (age 13) comments, “This animated movie directed by Genndy Tartakosky is truly hilarious and left the audience and me laughing out loud. If you didn’t enjoy the original Hotel Transylvania very much, give this sequel another try because I truly believe this movie is much better than the original. “ Mia A. (age 11) adds, “I enjoyed Hotel Transylvania 2 better than the original movie because the writing is funnier and the plot more intriguing. “ See their full reviews below.

Hotel Transylvania 2
By Lainey A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

This animated movie directed by Genndy Tartakosky is truly hilarious and left the audience and me laughing out loud. If you didn’t enjoy the original Hotel Transylvania very much, give this sequel another try because I truly believe this movie is much better than the original.

By far my favorite character is Dracula (Adam Sandler), because he is such a special character. He is so loving, forgiving and maybe just a little crazy sometimes. This movie makes me want to have a grandfather like him because he is so powerful and loving. A continuous joke is Dracula trying to get used to his cell phone. His fingernails are too long to type with so he is always frustrated with this new technology.

The relationship between Dracula and his daughter, Mavis (Selena Gomez) is so beautiful and memorable. With very exciting news, Mavis is pregnant! It’s a boy! The strong bond between baby Dennis and his “Vampa” (vampire grandpa) Dracula, is my absolute favorite relationship through this whole movie because their love is so strong even though it is hard for Dracula to accept that his grandson is half human. Dracula is concerned that his grandson hasn’t indicated that he is going to be a vampire, so he takes five of his hotel friends to try to scare the fangs out of Dennis. They go on this ridiculous adventure to do whatever it takes to get Dennis’s fangs showing. Will Dennis be more like his mother who is a vampire, or stay a human like his father?

Adam Sandler puts his own spin on this movie. As co-writer of the screenplay, his goofy short songs pop up throughout the movie. Not only are the song lyrics funny, but they are also relatable and entertaining for the audience because he takes commonly known songs such as twinkle twinkle and alters the words to be slightly inappropriate and silly.

The special effects are outstanding and I enjoyed all of the different things they do with the animation. I watched this film in 3D and loved how it makes the characters and settings pop and makes each setting special. In the scene where Dracula leads Dennis and some other monster guests on a crazy adventure, there are so many special effects that it becomes total chaos.

The message of this film is that no matter how different someone else is, they could be the best thing that ever happens to you, so love them no matter how different they are. This film really makes me realize how crucial to accept others.

The character Blobby, a gelatinous blob, is definitely a crowd pleaser and the younger audiences laughed out loud at his silly antics. The target audience for Hotel Transylvania 2 is anyone who wants to laugh and have a good time. I recommend this movie for ages 5 to 18 because some of the scenes might be a little scary for some young children. I recommend seeing this movie in 3D as well because it is a very cool experience and give it 5 out of 5 stars because this movie is truly hilarious.

Hotel Transylvania 2

By Mia A, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Hotel Transylvania 2, directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, is super entertaining! This animated movie is definitely a comedy filled with many funny lines and actions.

This movie is about Mavis (Selena Gomez) and her husband Jonathan (Andy Samberg). Mavis is pregnant and has a baby boy. Will Mavis’s baby boy fulfill the expectation of being a vampire or will he be just a simple human?

I love the animation and watching it in 3D really helps everything pop and come to life. I watched the behind the scene video clips and realized how much hard work went into making this movie, including the detailed animation and the voice-overs for the characters. There are so many details in this film from designing every tree, sign and rock to creating a certain mood.

I enjoyed Hotel Transylvania 2 better than the original movie because the writing is funnier and the plot more intriguing. After seeing the sequel it made me realize how much more I cared about the characters in Hotel Transylvania 2 than I did in the original. If you were disappointed in the original, give number 2 a chance because it might just change your mind.

The moral of this story is that people you care about are going to grow up and you have to eventually let them go. This is a very good moral that can teach many people.

Adam Sandler is amazing in his roll as the voice of Dracula. While all the voice actors are good, Adam Sandler is particularly funny. My favorite line of Dracula’s says is his response to Dennis when he says, “Blah blah blah.” Dracula replies, “I do not say ‘blah blah blah!’” in a funny voice. My favorite character in this movie is Wayne The Werewolf because he is so funny. My favorite line said by Wayne is,” We don’t need to hunt anymore; we have pop tarts!”

I rate this movie 5 out of 5 vampires because all of the comedy, animation and great performances by the voice actors. I recommend it for ages 5 to 18 because there are some parts in the film that could be scary to younger kids. This movie is a very funny film with amazing animation, so make sure to see Hotel Transylvania 2 in theatres September 25.

Gumby: The Complete 50s Series – A Throwback that Still Charms

September 21st, 2015

Gumby.Complete.jpgGumby: The Complete 50s Series comes with a Gumby bendable toy. What’s not to enjoy about that? Gumby and Pokey, television’s legendary claymation, live one great fantasy after another in a timeless world of magic and wonder. This fun-loving duo can dive into any book for adventures near and far, from Toyland to the Wild West, to the moon and back. Gumby, an everyman hero, who captivates our hearts, always leaves a place better than how he found it. As the theme song says, “If you’ve got a heart, then Gumby’s a part of you.” The complete Gumby Show has been re-mastered from its original camera rolls and soundtracks with the brilliant colors and full-length formats as first aired in the 1950s. These imaginative, surrealistic, stop motion animated masterpieces bring back this classic series that will delight both children and adults. Some trivia: Each show called for 60 artists and technicians animating about two minutes of film for every eight working hours. Gumby and his peeps were moved up to 9,000 times in a six minute show. That’s dedication!

Gumby: The Complete 50s Series
By Denise B., KIDS FIRST! juror

This series really took me back to my childhood. Although I wasn’t born when Gumby first aired, I remember watching the show as a young child. This one is fully re-mastered with the original 50s soundtrack and is just like the classic claymation cartoon that I remember. There are not a lot of special effects and modern day bells and whistles but if there were, it wouldn’t be Gumby. The extras are entertaining and interesting. My favorites are the Photo Gallery and the First Pilot Episode with no sound. The pilot episode was never aired so I was quite thrilled to watch it. My 11-year-old son said he prefers sound but he’s used to more modern day cartoons.  In the photo gallery the music is a fun and lively touch. Other extras included the making of the spot, which is interesting although very brief. Also it includes Gumbasia, a theatrical short featuring similar claymation charactors that Clokey created in 1955. It is just a bunch of different playdough shapes moving to music but I like it because it is unique and adds something to the DVD.  I give this 4 out of 5 stars because of its entertainment value.

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

After more than 60 years since Gumby was first created, we are brought back to the good times of the original, and my opinion the best of the iconic Gumby and Pokey characters. Gumby is all about fun and comedy. You watch Gumby not for drama or romance. There is lots of action and fantasy, since it is all about Gumby’s fun adventures. Art Clokey (creator of Gumby) does a fantastic job writing fun and unique episodes.

I love each of the characters for the fun and silly adventures they undertake and how unique each one is. Even small characters have their own personality which I love. Not many shows today pay so much attention to each character. I think Art Clokey has done a mind blowing job making these shows. He created some cool special effect techniques such as one episode with a rocket ship where he has scratched each frame so it looks like flames. Techniques like this were used in films for decades afterwards. The stop motion animation itself is very smooth and impressive, particularly since it was made 60 years ago!

My favorite episode is the first one, when Gumby goes to the moon and his Dad needs to save him. I love it because it starts off Gumby’s career and is kind of the birth of Gumby. This also includes the rocket special effects mentioned above. The episode is really a joy to watch, not to mention that it was so symbolic for those times when everything was about space travel.

People that enjoyed Gumby growing up will be happy to share their passion with a new generation. After all, Gumby is meant for kids. Ages seven to eighteen would probably enjoy the series more than younger kids and would be able appreciate the beauty of the clay animation. I give it five out of five stars because, what they did was way ahead of their time with the special effects, unique stories, wonderful characters and more. Can’t wait to see what’s next in store for Gumby! (They are creating some entirely new episodes)

Cinderella – This Magical Ride is Now Available On DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital

September 20th, 2015 now on DVD/Digital/Digital comes Disney’s live-action Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Lily James, Cate Blanchette and Richard Madden. The story takes off when Cinderella’s father unexpectedly passes away and young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortune begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger in the woods. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Mia A. Comments, “I rate this movie 5 out of 5 stars for all of its incredible sets, details and costumes. I recommend it for ages 3 to 19 because this film would appeal to all ages.” Keefer B. adds, “Breathtaking. This new and improved version of the beloved fairy tale reminds audiences that there is still magic in the world..” See their full reviews below.

By Mia A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Disney’s Cinderella, directed by Kenneth Branagh is fantastic! Now available on DVD/Blu-ray/Digital, this movie is about a girl named Ella (Lily James) who ends up living with her stepmother (Cate Blanchet) and stepsisters (Sophia McShera and Holliday Grainger). Ella is treated like a servant until one night when the prince holds a ball that changes her life.

Ella is a kind and courageous girl who cares about everyone and everything. One of her mother’s sayings was, “have courage and be kind.”  This is a good message to use in life. I think Ella as a character is a good role model. She stands up for what she believes in and is always very kind.  This film is very detailed and precious. The costumes in Cinderella are amazing and breath-taking.

All the costumes were very stylish and fit the time period. Every sparkle, seam and ruffle on every costume were perfectly in place.  Ella’s ball gown is spectacular and has very vibrant colors. In general, all the colors in the sets and costumes light up the film.

All the actors played their parts perfectly. They are so into their characters that they seem real. The actors fit together as a cast like family which helps make the whole film more believable. My favorite character is the Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter). She is so funny and has a bubbly personality. She really looks and acts like a Fairy Godmother. All the special effects seem real. In one scene, a pumpkin turns into a carriage and it looks like magic.

The DVD of this movie includes some cool bonus features. One of the bonus features is Frozen Fever, a Frozen short (based on the feature film Frozen). In this film, it’s Anna’s birthday and Elsa helps out. Another feature is Ella’s furry friends. This feature is about working with all the animals in the movie. Also there’s a bonus feature about the ballroom scene which made me realize how much work they put into these scenes.

I rate this movie 5 out of 5 stars for all of its incredible sets, details and costumes. I recommend it for ages 3 to 19 because this film would appeal to all ages but, there is a lizard guy who is weird and a little creepy that younger kids might not enjoy so much. Cinderella truly is spectacular and now it’s available on DVD/Blue-Ray/Digital.

Reviewed by Keefer C. B., KIDS FIRST! Critics, age 14

Breathtaking. This new and improved version of the beloved fairy tale reminds audiences that there is still magic in the world. Ella (Lilly James) lives with her wicked step-mother (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters. She wants to go to the ball so she can reunite with “Kit” aka Prince Charming (Richard Madden). She does this with a little help from her fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter).

There have been many versions of this story and I believe most of us know it by heart. With that said, the film brings innovative contributions to the story. We learn more about Ella as a person and the struggles she goes through. More is explained about the motivation of the step mother. Even the Prince is given a story arc of his own. Because of this. the characters and their relationships are stronger. The filmmakers took this fairy tale we all know and added new aspects to the story that audiences can experience and enjoy.

The special effects and costumes are the highlight of the film. These are visuals that only the magic of Disney can conjure. You are transported into th fairy tale. The best scene that shows off these phenomenal effects is the scene with Ella and her Fairy Godmother preparing her for the ball. It’s simply gorgeous from the mice turning into horses to the pumpkin transformation into the carriage. Fun Fact: In the original Cinderella movie, the transition of Cinderella into her dress was Walt Disney’s favorite piece of animation sequence ever to be put to paper. If he was alive today to see the transformation in this film, he would be speechless. Costumes like Ella’s dress and glass slipper are enchanting. I adore the little touches like the butterflies clinging onto the dress.

My favorite character is Lady Tremaine, Ella’s wicked step mother. With a character so cruel, you need an actress who can pull it off. Enters Blanchett and her sinful performance. A good villain is a character you hate and yet love. She is one of those villains. With her evil smile and her corrupt laugh, you can tell she is having fun with the role. Also, like the other characters, she has a well developed story arc. You have more of an understanding why this character is mean to Ella, even if you don’t agree with her.

Moral of the story is “have courage and be kind.” These are the words that Ella’s mother shares on her death bed and Ella lives by. Throughout this movie, Ella experiences a lot of anguish such as loosing loved ones and having her step mother treat her like a servant. However Ella never forgets those words. She does cry and mourn, like any human being, but she never becomes bitter.

I give this 5 out of 5 pumpkins and recommend this to 4 through 18-year-olds. It’s perfect for the whole family to adore. This film is proof that Disney has not lost its touch bringing magic to the big screen. In theaters now.

This live action feature film directed by Wes Ball is an epic movie that takes you through a truly exhilarating adventure.  As an avid science fiction fan, I couldn’t wait to watch this sequel.  The special effects are phenomenal makes me wonder how they make each setting so realistic.  If you love non-stop action, Maze Runners: The Scorch Trials is a very intense film that will not disappoint you.

While the plot is enjoyable, I do recommended that you want to watch the first movie, The Maze Runner, before watching this sequel. The storyline is quite complex and might be confusing to follow if you’re unfamiliar with the original film or book.  In this film, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and the Gladers try to escape the organization WCKD whose main purpose is to find a cure for “the Flare,” a plague that turns people into zombie-like creature known as Cranks.  The Gladers have to face new and unbelievable obstacles that come their way in order to survive in the Scorch, a desolate wasteland that is uninhabitable by humans.

My favorite scene is full of amazing special effects!  Brenda (Rosa Salazar) and Thomas try to escape a “crazy” Crank infestation through a dilapidated city-scape. Having just met, they need to rely on each other for their own survival and that’s what makes this scene really special.

My favorite actor in The Scorch Trials is Dylan O’Brien because his character, Thomas, is very believable in this role.  O’Brien is surrounded by a strong supporting cast of Gladers.  Theresa (Kaya Scodelario), Minho (Ki Hong Lee) and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) really portray their parts well and it seems like they all actually care about each other.

The Gladers make sacrifices and come together as a family to insure each other’s survival.  The message is that people are at their strongest when working together.

The target audience for this movie is any teen that enjoys fast action, science fiction thrillers.  While the movie only lasts two hours, it feels like longer because there are few breaks in the action.  The ending of the movie is a total cliffhanger, leaving me on the edge of my seat and sets the audience up for the third sequel, The Death Cure.  I recommend this movie for ages 13 to 18 due to its intensity.  I give this film 4.5 out of 5 stars because it is well put together and the special effects can’t be beat.

This movie opens in theaters September 18 so don’t miss it.

Pawn Sacrifice: Cold War Board Game Battle Between U.S. and Russia

September 15th, 2015

pawnSacrifice.214250.jpgIn this gripping true story set during the height of the Cold War, American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) finds himself caught between two superpowers when he challenges the Soviet Empire. Pawn Sacrifice chronicles Fischer’s terrifying struggles with genius and madness, and the rise and fall of a kid from Brooklyn who captured the imagination of the world. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Willie J. comments, “Tobey Maguire gives the performance of his career. His nuanced, detailed and invested performance as Bobby Fischer provides most of this movie’s appeal.” Will S. adds, “The story in Pawn Sacrifice is exciting, interweaving Fischer’s personal struggles with paranoia and the incredible tension of the Cold War.” See their full reviews below.

Pawn Sacrifice

By Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

I had no expectations going into the film. Biopics are really a 50/50 sort of deal, especially today. Biopics have been recycling the same plots for years now, so the only thing that can separate them are the performances and style of the director. Pawn Sacrifice is different from other biopics for those very reasons.

Tobey Maguire gives the performance of his career. His nuanced, detailed and invested performance as Bobby Fischer provides most of this movie’s appeal. He never loses his intensity in the movie and is motivated with every decision he makes as an actor, so his character’s decisions seem just as assured and focused. Audiences are naturally drawn to that.

Maguire is supported by Liev Schreiber, Peter Sarsgaard, and Michael Stuhlbarg. They all give fantastic performances, but they’re all layered. That’s my favorite thing about them. They aren’t one dimension and they don’t fall by the waste side as many supporting characters in biopics do. They’ve got their own passions and motivations and side effects to the plot and all that good stuff.

Secondly, and most importantly, the number one thing that keeps us invested is the story. Since I’ve seen the movie, I still can’t quite put my finger on why it is as addicting as it is. I have gone over it in my head continually and as I piece the themes together I finally get a common theme: obsession. The characters in this movie are relentless in their journey. But that’s not enough. There are plenty of bad movies with motivated characters. So I asked myself about the style of the Willie1.jpgmovie. It features some nice editing but it isn’t anything special.

Finally, I went to the main focus of the movie: chess. That’s what keeps us involved. It’s the fact that, probably for the first time in our lives, most of us are witnessing chess taken so seriously. In this movie, we see chess as more than a board game. In this Cold War set movie, chess represents America vs. the Soviets. It represents escape and fulfillment. Those kinds of stakes for a game we often pass over takes us by surprise and we can’t help but get drawn in.

Actually, as I walked out of the theater, I heard someone comment, “This movie made me want to play chess.” It didn’t have the same effect on me, but I can see how it might  have.

With that said, the movie does get off to a rocky start, including a sequence when they show Bobby at age 12, which is pretty bad. I understand that Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick is a young actor, but he wasn’t very good. It was very one note and not believable. It actually seems out of place among the rest of the movie. I mean, it doesn’t help that the dialogue is really bad for that portion and doesn’t get the film off to a great start. But when it picks up a head of steam, it keeps you on the ride.

I give this movie 4 1/2 out of 5 stars and I recommend it for ages 10 to 18. It opens nationwide on September 16 so check it out.

Pawn Sacrifice

By Will S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

The story in Pawn Sacrifice is exciting, interweaving Fischer’s personal struggles with paranoia and the incredible tension of the Cold War. Pawn Sacrifice stars Tobey Maguire, Liev Schreiber and Peter Sarsgaard. Directed by Edward Zwick, it follows the story of Bobby Fischer who is trying to become the best chess player in the world during the tense Cold War period of the sixties and seventies. He goes up against thousands of opponents and beats them all in order to play the best player of his time, the Soviet Boris Spassky, at the 1972 World Chess Championships in Reykjavik, Iceland.

The cast in Pawn Sacrifice portray their characters exceptionally well, especially Liev Schreiber as Boris Spassky. Though I didn’t want to root for the Russian, I felt much more sympathetic to his character than Bobby Fisher’s.  Tobey Maguire is convincing as Bobby Fischer, but Fischer’s personality is so paranoid, irritating and selfish and he treats others, including those who love him, so badly, that he is unlikable and hard to root for.Will_Schoeninger_2015.jpg

Though I root for the U.S. to win, Fischer’s personality leaves me torn.  As the movie progresses, I start to like Boris Spassky more and more.  Liev Schreiber makes Spassky a sympathetic character.  Spassky is calm and even understanding of the mental-emotional struggles Fischer is going through.  Bobby’s friends are also enjoyable characters and are always there to help him through the tough games.

Since the Cold War never escalates into full-blown military battles, cultural competitions between the Americans and Soviets, such as the race to the moon, this chess match, and the miracle on ice, are high-profile confrontations. With that background, the plot keeps you intrigued all the way through and puts you back in that tense, scary time period by interspersing old news footage throughout the film. On a personal level, the portrayal of Fischer’s deteriorating mental state is realistic, but sad.  Even though he completes the historic match, his personal demons get the best of him in the end.

If you watched, listened to, or read about this chess match live in 1972, I think you will love this movie.  If you didn’t see the match, you will still be gripped by the history and the passion of all the characters involved.  I would give Pawn Sacrifice a four out of five stars and recommend it to ages 14 to 18.

The Transporter Refueled – A Reboot of An Action Series With Mixed Reviews

September 7th, 2015

TransporterRefueled.jpgThere are many mixed reviews on this film which opened this weekend. Many people were disappointed that Jason Statham was replaced by nzewcomer Ed Skrein. The story follows a former special-ops mercenary, Frank Martin, now living a less perilous life - or so he thinks - transporting classified packages for questionable people. When Frank’s father (Ray Stevenson) pays him a visit in the south of France, their father-son bonding weekend takes a turn for the worse when Frank is engaged by a cunning femme-fatale, Anna (Loan Chabanol), and her three seductive sidekicks to orchestrate the bank heist of the century. Our reviewers also had mixed reactions. Tre’ana H., age 11 comments, “The Transporter Refueled is an action-packed, thriller and crime film. The director Camille Delamarre delivers this spine-chiller in a way that keeps you in suspense the whole time.” Willie J, age 16 adds, “I think this movie is very average. As a person who knows films and has seen plenty of action films, this movie offers nothing special.” See their full reviews below.

The Transporter Refueled
By Tre’ana H., age 11, 2015 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

The Transporter Refueled is an action-packed, thriller and crime film. The director Camille Delamarre delivers this spine-chiller in a way that keeps you in suspense the whole time. Their fashion is sleek and sophisticated.

This film takes place in the south of France where Frank Martin (Ed Skrein) enters into a world full of trouble. His father Frank Senior (Ray Stevenson) goes to visit his son for a weekend without knowing what he will encounter. Frank is the Uber person that transports you wherever you want to go without any questions being asked. He stumbles upon trouble when he is engaged by a cunning sinister women Anna (Loan Chabanol) and her three seductive sidekicks to orchestrate the bank heist of the century. He must use his courageous skills with his super fast Audi and slick women to outrun a Russian kingpin. But, it is not over because the women want revenge. This is the beginning. That’s all I can reveal.

My favorite part is when Frank Martin and Anna and her three side chicks are leaving the club after they terrorized the patrons. Frank gets into an altercation outside and puts all the women in the car and tells them not to touch anything. While he is fighting, the car rolls down the ramp by itself. It is awesome! I really enjoyed that part.

The message of the film is to love your children dearly, no matter how hard it gets and don’t ever give up on them for money.

I recommend this film for ages 13 to 18 and give it 3 out of 5 stars because it did not really keep my interest. Also, I feel this is inappropriate film for children under the age of 13 but people older will appreciate it.

This movie is in theaters now so, if you’re over the age of 13, check it out.

The Transporters Refueled
by Willie J, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic age 16

have to start this review off by saying that I have not seen the previous three previous Transporter films. I am reviewing this film as it stands on its own and not as the fourth sequel in the franchise so take my criticism with that in mind, for better or for worse.

With that said, I think this movie is very average. As a person who knows films and has seen plenty of action films, this movie offers nothing special. It has some nice moments, but there are plenty of mistakes that could have, and should have been, been avoided. What I do know from the series is that Jason Statham is replaced in this film so it is like a re-birth for a new era. If that is the case then, it’s not off to a great start. But, it’s not off to bad one either.
The best parts of the film are the action sequences. They are things of beauty, filled with excitement, vivacity and cool effects. There are good performances for a film of this kind, especially from Ray Stevenson. There’s even a nice twist towards the end.

But, there is an awful romantic subplot, with inconsistent characterization.  The fact is that this action movie is no different than any other action movie as you’ll see. It’s entertaining, yet forgettable.

For fans of the series, I’m sorry I can’t help you more. I liked it for the most part and I’m not a fan. So perhaps that means you’ll like it even more than me. I hope so.

I give it 2 1/2 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 15 to 18. Some of the content pushes its rating. Some of which had me question what the original cut looked like. This film is in theaters now.

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