Floogals: Project Birthday Cake: What a Fun Way to Learn How Things Work on Earth!

October 17th, 2018

Each day, Captain Fleeker, First Officer Flo, and Junior Boomer encounter something that sparks their curiosity, setting in motion the day’s research “project” and triggering an exciting adventure! In Floogals: Project Birthday Cake, Boomer’s built a little fizzerific food finder attachment for his Fizzer controls. It’s supposed to be able to sniff out food – a subject close to Boomer’s heart. Flying by a massive birthday cake the food finder goes out of control and Boomer crashes. The Floogals have to work out how to re-make the frosting and in the process find out what a birthday cake and decorations are for. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Jolleen M. comments, “These educational episodes are great for younger kids to learn practical things. It is also interesting to look at the human household and human items, from their smaller point of view.” Kimberly M., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror adds, “Think of this as a family sit-com. The Floogal characters are done in claymation. They take interest in particular objects located upstairs, downstairs, in the basement, the bathroom, kitchen and elsewhere. I like the originality of having the real-life backgrounds juxtaposing with the animated characters.” See their full reviews below.

Floogals: Project Birthday Cake
By Jolleen M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

These educational episodes are great for younger kids to learn practical things. The animation is colorful and detailed. The characters, besides the “hoomans” (humans) are unique looking creatures. It is also interesting to look at the human household and human items, from their smaller point of view.

In these episodes, there are three main alien-like characters. Their names are Captain Fleeker, Junior Boomer and First Officer Flo. They live hidden inside the hooman’s house. Fleeker, Boomer and Flo explore around house and try to learn more about the hooman ways. They encounter a birthday cake, some ice, a mirror, a banana, a toothbrush, sand, roller skates, a record player and a jewelry box.

Jules de Jongh voices Flo with authority and wisdom. Even though Flo isn’t the Captain, you can tell that she knows what she is talking about and that she is more mature than the other two boys. Junior Boomer is the complete opposite of Flo. His name fits him as he has a lot more to learn than Flo and Fleeker. Hugo Harold-Harrison aptly portrays, through his voice, that Junior Boomer is a lot younger and more immature.

They use a mix of animation and live camera shots for these episodes. This brings the Floogals to life as they venture outside their ship. It is interesting to look at the world we know so familiarly from a completely different point of view. To Fleeker, Boomer and Flo everything looks weird and abnormally large. It’s like entering a modern giant’s house.

My favorite scene is when they first discover the birthday cake. Their facial expressions are so in awe of this great smelling piece of art in front of them. The birthday cake is based on outer space and looks very delicious and colorful. This is my favorite scene because it really is where the Floogals come to life.

There isn’t a moral or message in these episodes. Their main purpose is to educate younger viewers about the properties of everyday items and how to use them. For example, in the episode “Project Ice,” the Floogals teach viewers that ice can be used to keep things cool, but when it gets hot, it melts back into water.

This DVD offers great learning tools for younger viewers. I recommend it for ages 3 to 5 and give it 5 out of 5 stars for the effort put into it. It is available on DVD now, so check it out!

Floogals: Project Birthday Cake
By Kimberly M., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

Small alien life forms, the Floogals, explore life in an everyday home setting with a particular family, where they discover certain human objects such as birthday cake, ice (for beverages), roller skates and a record player. The most fascinating and unusual part of this series is the background setup – the house is life action as wel     l as the family members (mother, father, and kids). Think of this as a family sit-com. The Floogal characters are done in claymation. They take interest in particular objects located upstairs, downstairs, in the basement, the bathroom, kitchen and elsewhere.

I like the originality of having the real-life backgrounds juxtaposing with the animated characters. The episode with the record player is particularly funny, since it is an older generational way of listening to music. Young children might be as clueless as the Floogals with regards to this “strange object,” moreso than any other object they explore.  

This DVD consists of approximately nine, 8 minute episodes. I recommend this for ages 3 to 6 who will find it really fascinating for expanding their imagination (with every room the Floogals explore) and keep their attention with the pastel-type colors. Curious slightly older kids might tune in for the same reasons.

I give this DVD 5 out of 5 stars.

 

 

 

 

Johnny English Strikes Again: Entertaining. Holds Up To Success Of The Previous Films

October 17th, 2018

Johnny English Strikes Again is the third installment of the Johnny English comedy series, with Rowan Atkinson returning as the much loved accidental secret agent. The new adventure begins when a cyber-attack reveals the identity of all active undercover agents in Britain, leaving Johnny English as the Secret Service’s last hope. Called out of retirement, English dives head first into action with the mission to find the mastermind hacker. As a man with few skills and analog methods, Johnny English must overcome the challenges of modern technology to make this mission a success. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Leah R. comments, “This entertaining film …is very funny. Johnny English is supposed to be a spy, but fails a lot. For example, he accidentally sets things on fire or blows things up. And, when he does things wrong, he pretends that he was trying to do it.” Raquel Y. adds, “Johnny English Strikes Again is an incredibly humorous film that definitely holds up to the success of the two previous Johnny English films. There isn’t a low moment in this movie and I plan to see it again.” See their full reviews below.

Johnny English Strikes Again
By Leah R., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age, 11

This entertaining film, written by William Davies and directed by David Kerr, is very funny. The main character, Johnny English is supposed to be a spy, but fails a lot. For example, he accidentally sets things on fire or blows things up. And, when he does things wrong, he pretends that he was trying to do it.

The film is about a cyber attack, which exposes the identities of all of Great Britain’s undercover spies. Johnny English is a retired spy, currently working as a teacher, and he comes out of retirement to find the mastermind hacker who did it.  When he was a spy, he used old gadgets, but now they use more digital things like tablets and smart phones. Since Johnny doesn’t know how to use them, he just throws them at his targets instead.

The actor playing Johnny English, Rowan Atkinson, is very good. Every time he fights someone, it looks quite realistic. He is hilarious when he dances in the middle of the dance floor and doesn’t stop the whole night.  Also, the gadgets he uses, like his magnetic boots and his exoskeleton suit make the film even more exciting. My favorite part of this film is that Johnny English is a teacher and he teaches the kids how to be spies instead of teaching them normal school subjects.

The soundtrack is excellent and so are the sets. They make it feel as if it’s a real spy movie. All of the crazy things that you expect to happen in a spy movie happen here, plus even more. The special effects and stunts make each scene that much more fun to watch.

As fun as this film is, you should know that people are violent with each other and there is one inappropriate scene when Johnny’s pants fall down and you see his rear end. The violent parts are not bloody or gory. They are just normal fight scenes like you would see in any funny spy movie. There is some humor that younger kids may not understand or might find disturbing, but I think older kids and adults will definitely be amused. As thrilling as all of the stunts are, they are dangerously unrealistic and not the kind of thing you would want a young child thinking they should try.

I recommend this film for ages 9 to18, as well as adults. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. It is available in theaters on October 26, 2018, so look for it.

Johnny English Strikes Again
By Raquel Y., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Johnny English Strikes Again is an incredibly humorous film that definitely holds up to the success of the two previous Johnny English films. There isn’t a low moment in this movie and I plan to see it again. This is a “cannot miss” film that everyone is sure to love.

The storyline follows the Prime Minister of London (Emma Thompson) who calls Special Agent English (Rowan Atkinson) back into action after a cyber-attack leaks the identities of all the undercover agents working for the MI7. English must stop the hacker in order to save the people of London.

My favorite part about this film is when English is practicing his mission using a virtual reality simulation. The simulation is said to be highly “immersive.” While English is running through the simulation, he makes his way out of headquarters and into the streets of London, causing havoc for the people of London. I also found it interesting how well Johnny’s old fashion ways comes into play numerous times throughout the film.

The director, David Kerr, makes a huge play on irony by making the bad guy a super high-tech professional, with special agent English not tech savvy at all. Luckily for Johnny, his lack of knowledge about technology helps him for the better.

There isn’t anything about this film that I didn’t like. From its special effects, to props to acting, everything fits together nicely, creating a great film that audiences will enjoy. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 18, as well as adults. It opens in theaters  October 26, 2018, so look for it.

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Documentary Giving Insight Into Struggles of African Children

October 15th, 2018

A Swazi girl embarks on a dangerous quest to rescue her young twin brothers. This animated African tale is born in the imaginations of five orphaned children in Swaziland who collaborate to tell a story of perseverance drawn from their darkest memories and brightest dreams. Their fictional character’s journey is interwoven with poetic and observational documentary scenes to create a genre-defying celebration of collective storytelling. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Talia J. comments, “Liyana is a beautiful documentary that not only educates people about epidemics that are occurring in Africa, but gives a creative animated story created by children.” See her full review below.

Liyana
By Talia Jacnuk, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Liyana is a beautiful documentary that not only educates people about epidemics that are occurring in Africa, but gives a creative animated story created by children.

Liyana is about five Swaziland orphans who, under the guidance of storyteller Gcina Mhlophe, create their own fictional character that embarks on a journey to save her brothers. The story directly correlates to the struggles they are experiencing and their own dreams. The character they create, named Liyana is fully animated throughout the film.

This film is one that everyone needs to watch. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our own lives and take a lot of things for granted. This film highlights the struggles of these orphaned African children. Some of them don’t even remember anything about their parents. The film really open your eyes to an unfamiliar place and allows you to connect on a personal level with some of their struggles. This documentary is not intended to pity the children in any way, but to inspire others to follow in their footsteps. I find these children completely inspiring, because they are prepared to do anything to make their dreams come true. They live their lives everyday with happiness and passion.

The animation is quite unique in many ways. It is very still and the characters rarely move. It’s a very interesting way to animate. I have never seen anything quite like this. It’s intriguing to see the subtle movements of the characters and the subtle sound effects in the background. The orphans that the film revolves around are storytellers of the film. I love hearing them express the characters. They occasionally make sounds to portray the weather such as thunder and then make sounds representing actions of the animated character Liyana. Overall, the sound and music in this film feels quite lively and upbeat. The music brings a huge cultural aspect to the film because the lyrics are in their native tongue. The music is quite beautiful and expresses African heritage.

This film takes you on a whirlwind of emotion. People hear about horrific events on the news, but don’t really find a personal connection to the struggles that people around the world face. This film provides a personal account on how children deal with disease and family issues. By show the audience real people dealing with their struggles, this film can help spread the word about people around the world needing help and teach us that their problems are not just something to flip through as you change TB channels.

Definitely put this film on your watch list. It deals with some harsh topics such as disease and abuse, but it does so in a sensitive way. I recommend this film for ages of 12 to 18, as well as adults. The story is fascinating and the realness of the film gives us insight into the lives of African orphans. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars. It comes out on October 9 so go check it out!

 

 

 

 

 

First Man: The Man Behind One Of The Most Famous Events In Human History

October 11th, 2018

On the heels of their six-time Academy Award®-winning smash, La La Land, Oscar®-winning director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling reteam for Universal Pictures’ First Man, the riveting story of NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the years 1961-1969. A visceral, first-person account, based on the book by James R. Hansen, the movie explores the sacrifices and the cost – on Armstrong and on the nation – of one of the most dangerous missions in history. Written by Academy Award® winner Josh Singer (Spotlight), the drama is produced by Wyck Godfrey & Marty Bowen (The Twilight Saga, The Fault in Our Stars) through their Temple Hill Entertainment banner, alongside Chazelle and Gosling. Isaac Klausner (The Fault in Our Stars) executive produces. DreamWorks Pictures co-finances the film. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “Along with its main focus on the intense, action-packed mission, First Man explores many avenues that include dramatic and intense moments which spawn from the heart-wrenching grief of losing a child to the intricate and beautiful romance with his wife, Janet (Claire Foy). Much of the movie has emotions that are quite far from being out of this world, specifically in its massive focus on the family.” Arjun N. adds, “First Man is a visually stunning and up-close account of the Apollo 11 mission. Excellent acting and innovative directing excel this personal focus, as one of a well-built dramatic journey.” See their full reviews below.

First Man
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

Easily one of the most famous events in human history is centered on a singular man, Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling). Behind the Apollo Mission that landed the first human on the moon, Neil is a man with conflicts, a man with a history and a man with a mission.

Along with its main focus on the intense, action-packed mission, First Man explores many avenues that include dramatic and intense moments which spawn from the heart-wrenching grief of losing a child to the intricate and beautiful romance with his wife, Janet (Claire Foy). Much of the movie has emotions that are quite far from being out of this world, specifically in its massive focus on the family.

The film begins up close and personal, watching Armstrong in his daring mission on the rocket-propelled plane, the X-15. Immediately, the story shows just how dangerous space exploration can be and how close those who brave exploring the final frontier get to never returning home. It follows Neil and his story intimately from the X-15 mission to the loss of three astronauts (close friends of Neil’s) in Apollo 1, the near-lethal mission of Gemini 8 and, of course, the incredibly daring mission of Apollo 11, that landed the first people on the Moon. Throughout these milestones in space exploration, the story pauses to look at the relations and life of Neil, truly unveiling the blueprints showing who he was as a man.

While incredible in revealing a massive side of this well-known historical event, the film attempts to focus so much on a story that has little to tell. The length clocks in at just under two and a half hours, which feels very stretched after the adrenaline of the exciting opening scene wears off. Neil Armstrong is portrayed as a deep man with little visual emotions mixed with dramatic internal conflicts. While this decision allows for excellent character design, it makes him rather boring at times. It seems the writers wished to divide First Man into three stories – one, the story of Neil as a man; two, the story of Neil as a father and three, the story of Neil as an astronaut. All three have their pros and their cons, but mixed together, the film becomes daunting and stretched.

The cinematography, sadly could have been better. Only a handful of camera shots do not shake. In most shots, the camera moves constantly or jitters. In the beginning, with the X-15 mission, this effect adds to the entertainment of the film. The audience quickly becomes sucked into the important and lethal mission with dangers at every corner. After two hours of shaky camera shots, that excitement changes to annoyance. While a mix would be ideal, and in more intensive scenes a camera shake would be appropriate, having the entire runtime featuring shakiness as well as many blurry shots, looks amateur and comes off as poor execution of what should be an interesting and captivating story.

However, the film does go beyond the moon in many ways – predominantly, in the acting. Neil Armstrong has deep faults and that stands as a challenge to any actor. Ryan Gosling nails the role in what turns out as an Oscar©-worthy performance of the famous astronaut. Others, including Claire Foy, also deliver extraordinary performances bringing each character to life. Despite the fact that no one can hear you scream in space, the sound design really belongs out of the world due to the quality and complexity of the sound effects. Much of First Man contains loud, intricate sound effects that vary and cover a massive spectrum. Perhaps more powerful would have been the use of silence in the most dramatic moments, sending chills to the entire audience.

My favorite scene is one of these moments of eerie silence. In this scene, three members of the Apollo 1 mission do a test in the Apollo capsule. It goes horribly wrong and the interior of the capsule catches on fire, sadly, resulting in losing the lives of all three. Yet, the film takes this a step further, as the three fallen heroes are not new in this scene. The viewer gets time to like them, understand them and befriend them – just as Neil did in real life. This makes their sudden and dramatic loss nothing short of shocking and cold, replicating the real-life impact it had on Armstrong.

Although, First Man has a strong beginning, a strong ending and many high points throughout, it also has many mistakes and things that could be improved that simply negate the extraordinary story of this story. For that reason, I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. The story is quite intensive and is best suited for older audiences that will understand the impact of the events so I recommend it for ages 12 to 18. This film opens nationwide in theaters on October 12, 2018 so, look for it. If you are a fan of space exploration, it is sure to make an impact, but even if you aren’t you will learn something new.

First Man
By Arjun Nair, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

First Man is a visually stunning and up-close account of the Apollo 11 mission. Excellent acting and innovative directing excel this personal focus, as one of a well-built dramatic journey. Anyone interested in space studies or even cinematic craft must check this out.

The story follows the life of astronaut Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) in the 1960s on his journey to becoming the first man to walk on the moon. More so, an exploration of the sacrifices and costs that the journey had upon Armstrong’s personal life and the nation itself, during one of the nation’s most desperate and dangerous missions.

Ryan Gosling, as Neil Armstrong, is my favorite character with near-perfect representation of Neil’s reclusive, yet adventurous self. His struggles to overcome the death of his daughter Karen and fellow crewmates offer the movie’s best share of emotions and present a newfound inspirational look into this real-life pioneer. Claire Foy, as Janet Armstrong, excels with her bitter opinions on her husband’s involvement in the Apollo program. Her intense wariness effectively presents the instability that the Armstrong family faced during such tough times. Corey Stall, as Buzz Aldrin, respectfully acts out the childlike, but intellectual aspects of his real-life counterpart. Jason Clarke, as Edward Higgins White, impressively presents a good friend in need to Neil, contributing to the success of NASA’s missions with his tragic accident being handled all the more respectively.

Damien Chazelle expertly directs the movie with an innovative handheld approach steered by cinematographer Linus Sandgren that captures the paranoia, but wondrous awe of each voyage into space. This approach can become a little disorienting at times and requires an adjustment factor. My favorite scene is the Agena voyage, as it distinguishes itself from the Apollo 11 landing, by focusing on NASA’s most miniscule attempts to catch up with the Soviet Union. As a result, the mission comes with its huge share of bumps, which are helped by the cringe-inducing sound design and a self-contained terror within the astronauts involved.

The message of the movie is that success never comes without sacrifice and failure, but most of all, perseverance. Armstrong sets a strong persevering mentality and example towards dealing with any obstacle as he seeks to support his family peacefully and the mission safely. I give this film 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18 because of infrequent intense scenes and language. The movie releases in theaters on October 12, 2018 so check it out.

Photos: ©2018 Universal. All rights reserved.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Hallow – Funny, Spooky, Mysterious and Fun

October 11th, 2018

While collecting junk one day, best friends Sonny and Sam meet Slappy, a mischievous talking dummy from an unpublished “Goosebumps” book by R.L. Stine. Hoping to start his own family, Slappy kidnaps Sonny’s mother and brings all of his ghoulish friends back to life — just in time for Halloween. As the sleepy town becomes overrun with monsters, witches and other mysterious creatures, Sonny joins forces with his sister, Sam and a kindly neighbor to save Sonny’s mom and foil Slappy’s plan. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C. comments, “The movie is funny and spooky in equal amounts. There is mystery and discovery all combined in the storytelling.” Nathalie J. adds, “I believe the whole family will enjoy this film. The film is designed with so much fun reaction moments. It delivers on what Goosebumps fans have come to expect.” See their full reviews below.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween
By Nathalia Marie J., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

Boo! Trick or treat! Who is ready for a perky piece of family entertainment? Giant spiders made of balloons, pumpkin-headed scarecrows, witches with glowing heads are the factual stars of Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween. Who’s ready to pop some popcorn with a fresh drink and enjoy the film?

This very funny, energetic, colorful and well-crafted film is directed by Ari Sandel. The film follows best friends Sonny and Sam, who meets Slappy, a frisky talking dummy from an unpublished “Goosebumps “ book by R.L. Stine. Slappy hopes to start a family of his own. Well you will see how that unfolds. Slappy kidnaps Sonny’s mother and brings all of his frightening friends back to life, literally bringing Halloween back to life! Just in time for Halloween. As the Slappy town becomes infested with monsters, witches and other shadowy creatures, Sonny  joins powers with his sister, Sam and a concerned neighbor to save Sonny’s mom and stop Slappy’s strategy.

The lead characters are Kathy Quinn (Wendi McLendon-Covey), Sarah Quinn (Madison Iseman), Mr. Chu (Ken Jeong), Sonny Quinn (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Sam Carter (Bryce Cass) and  Slappy (Mick Wingert).

My favorite part of the movie is pretty much, the whole movie. This movie is one of those sequels where it gets restated in a new way, greater and sillier than before. I love how Slappy uses his magical powers to bring typical “Goosebumps” monsters to life.

Wow! Can I say the music in this film is surprising? Composer Dominic Lewis creates a perfect match to the Halloween theme. Every action coordinates with perfect music accompaniment. The music provides escalating emotions and had me jumping out of my seat a few times – in a good way, not a super spooky way. The animation has lively, attractive colors and put me in the spirit for Halloween.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 16, as well as adults. I believe the whole family will enjoy this film. The film is designed with so much fun reaction moments. It delivers on what Goosebumps fans have come to expect. Don’t miss this live-action film when it opens nationwide October 12, 2018.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween
By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween is spooky, fun and creative! It is very engaging and entertaining throughout the whole film.

The story is about a young boy, Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and his best friend, Sam (Caleel Harris) who finds a book. When they open it, a doll called Slappy comes out! The boys lose the book, but keep Slappy. The friends are very surprised and a bit scared when they discover that the doll can talk. He seems nice at the beginning. He wants to have a family. But later, the boy, his sister Sarah (Madison Iseman) and his best friend realize he is strange and don’t want him to be part of their family anymore. Slappy has his own personal agenda and decides to create his own family. He makes Halloween come to life as he invades the whole town with monsters and all the creatures as allies. This is a very scary Halloween for the town of Wardenclyffe, where the story takes place, as all creatures make real chaos. Sonny, Sam and Sarah team up with neighbor Mr. Chu (Ken Jeong) to find the book that Slappy from to figure out how to stop him. They discover that the book can suck up monsters and they are determined to save the city.

The story is based on R.L Stine’s books. This is where Jack Black comes in as he reprises his role from the 2015 film, playing the writer who came to help. His performance as the author is excellent. I love his voice work giving life to Slappy the Dummy.

The movie is funny and spooky in equal amounts. There is mystery and discovery all combined in the storytelling. There’s kind of a homage to horror films, as we see some classic monsters. My favorite scenes are the ones with the Halloween decorations coming to life in the store and the fight with the gummy bears that become real and attack Sonny and Sam.

The effects are very well done. This story focuses on the 3 main characters and the actors did a good job carrying the film. There’s a tribute to the books and literature. There’s a beautiful metaphor with the blank pages in the book which is powerful. It is so interesting and kind of reminded me that reality is scarier than fantasy and there will be more stories to be written. The message of this film is, “when we face our own fears we learn how not to be scared.”

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween opens October 12, 2018 and is the perfect movie for kids this Halloween. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommended it for ages 6 to 13 and grown ups as well.

Photos: © Columbia Pictures. All rights reserved.
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