Napping Princess – Completely Engaging! Very creative and entertaining. Like the Fantastic Studio Ghibli films!

January 19th, 2018

In Napping Princess the year is 2020, three days before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics. While she should be studying for her exams, Kokone Morikawa is often dozing off, stuck between reality and a dream-world full of fantastic motorized contraptions. But after her father, a talented but mysterious mechanic, is arrested for stealing technology from a powerful corporation, it’s up to Kokone and her childhood friend Morio to save him. Together they realize that Kokone’s dream-world holds the answers to the mystery behind the stolen tech, and they embark on a journey that traverses dreams and reality, city and country, and past and present. Their mission uncovers a trail of clues to her father’s disappearance and ultimately a surprising revelation about Kokone’s family. Special Features: Interview with Kenji Kamiyama, Introduction at the Japanese Premiere, Greeting at Japanese Release, Okayama Scenery, Special Interviews with Cast, Special TV Program, Trailers and TV Spots. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “This film is very creative and entertaining. It reminds me a lot of Studio Ghibli films, which I love and I found myself completely immersed in this movie.” See her full review below. 

Napping Princess
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

This film is very creative and entertaining. It reminds me a lot of Studio Ghibli films, which I love and I found myself completely immersed in this movie. 

The story centers around a girl named Kokone, who I think has narcolepsy. She often dozes off and dreams about a kingdom known as Heartland. Her father is arrested and accused of stealing technology from a famous company and Kokone and her old friend Morio track him down.

I really like the two main characters, Kokone and Morio. I appreciate their dynamic friendship and their personalities. I truly believe they have a bond that can’t be broken. Besides these two and Kokone’s dad, none of the other characters stand out that much. Of course, I have to talk about the animation. The animation is beautiful. I’ve always loved Japanese animation and this film is no different. I love the backgrounds of both the real world and Heartland. I love how the characters move. All of it is so appealing. And speaking of visual stuff, the outfits that the characters wear are amazing. If there was an award for best costume design in animation, this film would win it! 

The Heartland dream sequences are the best part of the movie. The dreams have their own story, separate to the story taking place in the real world. The dreams are my type of adventure. A kingdom with a combination of sci-fi and fantasy with lots of action? Perfect! It’s also really ingenious. Ancien’s magic tablet is one of the most original and imaginative inventions I’ve ever seen in fiction.

I also love the soundtrack. The background music has a pretty orchestral vibe. The music composer is Yoko Shimomura, a famous video game composer known for working on Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts. She also composed one of my favorite video game songs, so I got pretty excited finding this out. 

The one thing that did bother me is that the movie is advertised as a sci-fi / fantasy movie. However, there isn’t that much fantasy. The movie has elements of fantasy, such as in the dream sequences, but it doesn’t feel as if it is an actual fantasy film. This bothered me just a bit. Also, certain things are left unexplained and that left me confused.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, due to some mild language. The film comes out on DVD January 30, 2018 so, check it out!

 

The Commuter – Fun Thriller With Excellent Acting And Camerawork

January 18th, 2018

Insurance salesman Michael is on his daily commute home, which quickly becomes anything but routine. After being contacted by a mysterious stranger, Michael is forced to uncover the identity of a hidden passenger on the train before the last stop. As he works against the clock to solve the puzzle, he realizes a deadly plan is unfolding, and he is unwittingly caught up in a criminal conspiracy that carries life and death stakes for everyone on the train. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “The acting and camerawork provide a tense feel to this movie, like many Hitchcock films. This is sure to please Liam Neeson fans.” See his full review below.

The Commuter
By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

The Commuter is a fun thriller, even if it does get a little too over-the-top for its own good. The acting and camerawork provide a tense feel to this movie, like many Hitchcock films. This is sure to please Liam Neeson fans.

The story follows insurance salesman Michael (Liam Neeson), who is caught in a criminal conspiracy on his daily commute. Michael meets the enigmatic Joanna (Vera Farmiga), who will give him a large sum of money if he finds a passenger with evidence against her. This must be done before a certain train stop. This leads to a frenetic chase to find the passenger, as elements of the conspiracy are revealed. Michael happens to be an ex-cop and will do anything to protect this passenger, but this comes with consequences.

Liam Neeson, as Michael, excellently presents his frantic need to find the passenger because every wrong move can result in an innocent passenger getting caught in the crossfire. He is spectacular in the fast-paced action and stunts. Vera Farmiga as Joanna, is my favorite character because of the intense threat and urgency she provides with her performance. It is also interesting to find out more about her conspiracy. Patrick Wilson, as Alex, is an incredible helper to Michael, but you can tell he has some secrets he’s not sharing. Jonathan Banks, as Walt, presents a friend to Michael who commutes with him every day, while also helping him out.

Jaume Collet-Sera wonderfully directs this film with a rapid pace and you feel you are a part of the train. My favorite scene is a one-shot fight scene on board the train, because of its impressive camera work. I also like how intense it is, due to the crowded environment. My only problem with this film is that, while the main story is extremely interesting, there are many over-the-top scenarios, which turn the movie into unintentional comedy. Also, some of the filming and editing feels rushed in places.

The message of the movie is that doing the right thing will never be easy, but could result in the lives of many being saved. Despite his good intentions, Michael is put into one risky situation after another and he always must risk his life. However, he saves many through his selfless acts. I give this film 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18, because of its intense action and language. The movie releases in theaters on January 12, 2018, so check it out.

 

Insidious: The Last Key – Amazing Plot, Brilliant Performances, Very Scary Movie

January 18th, 2018

Brilliant parapsychologist Elise Rainier receives a disturbing phone call from a man who claims that his house is haunted. Even more disturbing is the address – 413 Apple Tree Lane in Five Keys, NM – the home where Elise grew up as a child. Accompanied by her two investigative partners, Rainier travels to Five Keys to confront and destroy her greatest fear – the demon that she accidentally set free years earlier. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Kamryn B. comments, “Insidious: The Last Key has an amazing plot, making you question what is really going on. The film made me jump a lot, but it does have some humor that made me smile, which doesn’t normally happen during a horror film.” See her full review below.

Insidious: The Last Key
By Kamryn B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

This is the scariest movie I have ever seen! It had me jumping out of my seat the whole time.

Insidious: The Last Key has an amazing plot, making you question what is really going on. The film made me jump a lot, but it does have some humor that made me smile, which doesn’t normally happen during a horror film. I like how the story behind the main character is melancholy, making the audience have to pay more attention to the relevance of her childhood and her current problem.

The story follows Elise Rainier, a real-life ghost buster and her haunted childhood house. The film travels back to her childhood when she realized she has a gift of seeing spirits and demons. Her mother tries to love Elise and her gift, while her father doesn’t want anything to do with her. With her gifts she opens a door, allowing an evil spirit into the world. She comes across this spirit again 57 years later, when a man is having supernatural experiences in the same house that she grew up in. When she arrives, things are worse than when she was a child.

Elise Rainer is played by Lin Shaye who makes her characters’ experiences seem very real. Elise’s gang includes  Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson). Elise’s brother, who suffered equally as a child, is Christan Rainer (Bruce Davison).

My favorite part is when Elise finds out that her nieces survived and that her brother Christian accepts her for the person she is, including her talents. I like this part because it applies to the real world and reminds us to accept others for who they are and not to be afraid of their differences. Another message is that people’s unique features have a purpose.

I give this 4 out of 5 stars. The special effects with the demons walking or crawling is so terrifyingly real, especially the Key Face’s hand. I recommend it for ages 14 to 18 as well as adults, especially if they enjoy horror films. This film opens in theaters January 5, 2018 so, check it out.

Insidious: The Last Key
By Alejandra Garcia, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

This mystery/thriller film had me at the edge of my seat with all of its spooky scenes and the horror vibe it gives off by just looking at the title. Scary movies aren’t my cup of tea, but this one is the exception. Insidious: The Last Key is the fourth movie in the Insidious horror franchise, which focuses on both paranormal investigator and psychic Elise Rainier as well as her sidekicks. Looking back at the first film released in 2018, it appears that Insidious: The Last Key is a combination of the old and new films that have been seen in the series. I like when the creators behind a movie series do this, because it makes all of the films have similar traits and  maintains a unique essence to the series with the same message. It incorporates traits that make it stand out. Although the next film in the paranormal series brings back some of the crew that worked in the first films, this film has included a newcomer behind the camera.

The storyline is about both paranormal investigator and psychic parapsychologist named Elise Rainier who receives a disturbing phone call from a man claiming his house is haunted. She becomes more disturbed when she sees the address, which is the same home where Elise grew up and first experienced paranormal and haunted activity. She heads over to fix this situation along with her two investigative partners. She travels to Five Keys to confront and destroy her greatest fear, the demon that she accidentally set free years earlier.

My favorite scene is when Elise frees the demon that was trapped in the basement when she was younger. In the scene, she gets called down to the basement by this spirit and follows, because she is curious about what she might find. In the scene, she is very frustrated, because she notices that she is the only one that heard the spirit and wants to know why. She gets to the basement and finds a hidden red door and unlocks the spirit that is trapped behind it. Now, the whole process of her following the spirit’s steps to find it is very creepy, but it gets even creepier when the spirit escapes and starts haunting the whole family. That’s when all the breathtaking special effects combine to make sure the audience gets scared to death. I like this scene because it is the one that shocked me the most and set the standard for the rest of the movie. From that point on, I knew that I was going to leave the theater frightened, because if the movie started with that scene, I could just imagine how spooky and scary the rest of the scenes were going to be.

The important message for the audience is one of the most essential concepts in life: to have courage and forgiveness towards others. In this film, Elise notices that the demons feed on hate and revenge and she, along with her companions, realize that they could beat the bad forces by not feeding into those things, by being forgiving and showing compassion and understanding with the people around them. By changing their lifestyle and the way they treat others, they could turn the haunted vibes down and into something positive.

I recommend this film for ages 12 to 18 and give it 4 out of 5 stars. This film is playing in theaters now so be sure to check it out.

 

 

 

 

Paddington 2 – Lives Up To and Surpasses Its Predecessor

January 13th, 2018

Paddington is happily settled with the Brown family in Windsor Gardens, where he has become a popular member of the community, spreading joy and marmalade wherever he goes. While searching for the perfect present for his beloved Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, Paddington spots a unique pop-up book in Mr. Gruber’s antique shop, and embarks upon a series of odd jobs to buy it. But when the book is stolen, it’s up to Paddington and the Browns to unmask the thief. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “This sequel to the hit family film, Paddington delivers in all the right places and truly lives up to its predecessor and even surpasses the 2014 film in many ways.” Benjamin P. adds, “Paddington 2 is a warm fuzzy blanket of a film. Its title character is a symbol of kindness in a world that needs more of it. He never gives up and always believes in the best in those around him.” Jolleen M. wraps it up with, “This film is hilarious and made me cry a cry of joy and also of sadness, multiple times. It is amazing to watch live characters bond with an imaginary, animated bear. Even though there’s not actually a bear there, you can feel the love within the family.” See their full reviews below.

Paddington 2
By Benjamin P, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

Paddington 2 seamlessly blends heart and comedy for a truly charming family film. This sequel revisits the title character, a precocious young bear living in London as part of the Brown family. As the movie opens, Aunt Lucy is celebrating her birthday in darkest Peru and Paddington is struggling to find a suitable gift to send to her. He settles on a pop-up book of London at a local antique shop and takes on a series of sometimes hilarious odd jobs to pay for it. One night, the book is stolen. Paddington is accused of the theft and sent to prison, but the real culprit is Phoenix Buchanan, a narcissistic actor who craves the spotlight and wants to use the book’s value to fund his one-man-show. Paddington sets out to clear his name, while the Browns try to prove that Phoenix is the real criminal.

Paddington 2 is a warm fuzzy blanket of a film. Its title character is a symbol of kindness in a world that needs more of it. He never gives up and always believes in the best in those around him. I love coming back to Paddington’s London and being reacquainted with the Brown family and their quirks. The cheerful tone of this film radiates throughout. The lesson of Paddington 2 is be kind to others, always, and its timing could not be better.

Paddington 2 surpasses the first Paddington film in many ways. It brings back endearing characters and everything you love about them, while introducing memorable new ones as well. I love how, once again the modern take on the widely loved story of Paddington Bear stays true to the character while still telling an original story.

Hugh Grant is very good as Phoenix Buchanan. Grant embodies Phoenix’s charisma and sly humor. It is nice to see an actor typically known for romantic comedies go to a more villainous place to play this sinister has-been actor who will do anything to be famous again. Grant’s top moments are his most bizarre. Be sure to stay for the credits for one of his best.

My favorite character in this film is Knuckles McGinty, the prison chef played by Brendan Gleeson. Gleeson subtly and comically shows us the intensity and warmth of his character. Knuckles’s anger and pessimism is a nice foil to Paddington’s constant glowing positivity. Gleeson also illustrates how Paddington brings out the softer sides of those around him.

I recommend this film to ages 4 to 15 and adults will love its positive attitude. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars for putting a smile on my face and recreating the magic of the original and then some. It opens nationwide in theaters on January 12, 2018 so be sure to check it out.

Paddington 2
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

This sequel to the hit family film, Paddington delivers in all the right places and truly lives up to its predecessor and even surpasses the 2014 film in many ways. Paddington 2, like the first one, is definitely a family film filled with many morals and messages, generally surrounded by unique jokes and fun adventures. To add conflict to the story, there are some dramatic scenes, but the film manages to always stay kid-friendly.

The movie picks up sometime after the first film. Paddington the bear still lives happily with the Brown family in London. By now, he has a daily routine and has become friendly with the whole neighborhood. In a few days, his aunt will have her 100th birthday. Paddington decides to get her a perfect present. Little does Paddington know that the present he has chosen actually contains a big secret and gets stolen. Paddington is blamed for the theft and sent to jail. Now two conflicts emerge, Paddington must fit in prison and the Brown family must figure out how to get him out of jail.

Paddington’s realism really stands out. He clearly still contains character-like features with big brown eyes and heavenly fluffy fur, but he essentially fits-in properly with his surroundings. Not only does the special effects’ team deserve credit for this, but the actors deserve double kudos for performing so realistically with a character that doesn’t really exist. Adding a superstar as Hugh Grant also brings the film to a completely new level of goodness.

Rare for a sequel, the story stays original and separate from the last film while still maintaining the good parts of the previous story. The humor becomes almost slapstick at times, and other times it’s purely situational and always results in a laugh. Paddington as a character really pulls at the heartstrings of the audience, both because of a well-written script and a bear who’s designed to be adorable in every way.

My favorite scene starts when Paddington gets into jail. He, of course, does not fit in as a well-mannered, kind bear. After proving his skill at making marmalade sandwiches for everyone, the prison stops looking like the one in Shawshank Redemption and begins to look like a cute bed and breakfast you’d pay to stay at. This really shows a large amount of irony due to the fact that many gruff convicts become well-mannered and kind. This scene not only demonstrates the power of the humor in Paddington 2, but truly brings up all of the main characteristics of Paddington as a character.

I recommend this film for ages 7 to 18. Surprisingly, in the audience, there were more adults laughing than kids, while the kids were simply fixed on the realism and adventures of Paddington. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars for being an outstanding family film that truly outdoes its predecessor and leaves you wanting more. It opens nationwide in theaters on January 12, 2018 so, be sure to check it out.

Paddington 2
By Jolleen M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

 

This film is hilarious and made me cry a cry of joy and also of sadness, multiple times. It is amazing to watch live characters bond with an imaginary, animated bear. Even though there’s not actually a bear there, you can feel the love within the family.

The film starts off with a little flash back showing how Paddington was saved from falling off the waterfall when he was a cub, by Uncle Pastuzo and Aunt Lucy. They adopted him and raised him as if he was their own son. Then it returns to present time. Paddington wants to get the perfect gift for Aunt Lucy on her 100th Birthday and decides on a present, but it is expensive. He works hard to earn enough money to buy the gift. One night while he is walking past the store where the gift is, a thief breaks into the store and steals it. Paddington chases after the burglar, but when the police arrive they assume that he is the thief. Paddington is sentenced to 10 years in prison even though he didn’t commit the crime. His family tries to prove his innocence, but they don’t have much evidence.

Paddington  (Ben Whishaw) is supposed to be a young bear. Ben Wishaw, who does his voice, doesn’t sound like a young bear to me. He sounds more like a polite and proper man.  Even though he doesn’t sound young, his voice matches Paddington’s personality, particularly because Paddington is very polite, kind and sweet.

The animation for this film is very realistic. Paddington interacts with objects that aren’t animated, which makes him seem like he is actually there. Paddington looks very realistic with very detailed fur, eyes and feet.  My favorite part of this film are all of the jokes throughout it. They are so funny and sarcastic. The whole audience was laughing together. Everyone understood the jokes, adults and children both, which is always great.

The moral of this story is to be kind and positive, so that life will be kind and positive to you. Throughout all the hardships that Paddington goes through, he stays positive, remains kind and eventually everything becomes right in the end. Paddington 2 is such an amazing film to watch with your whole family. I give it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 18, as well as adults. It opens in theaters nationwide on January 12, 2018 so, go check it out.

 

 

The Greatest Showman – Delightfully Fantastic Story, Acting, Music, Songs, Dancing & Costumes

January 9th, 2018

Inspired by the imagination of P. T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business & tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Abigail Zoe L. comments, “The movie musical The Greatest Showman is one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. Everything is delightfully fantastic, including the story, acting, music, songs, dancing and costumes. It also has many thoughtful messages.”  Abraham F. adds, “This movie is super vibrant and colorful, making it all the more interesting. It also proves that you don’t have to look like everyone else to be normal, which I like.” See their full reviews below.

The Greatest Showman
By Abigail Zoe L., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

The movie musical The Greatest Showman is one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. Everything is delightfully fantastic, including the story, acting, music, songs, dancing and costumes. It also has many thoughtful messages.

The film tells the story of the imagination and creations of P.T. Barnum, the successful businessman who brought us the circus.  It begins when Barnum is just a boy and has both big dreams and a big crush on an upper class girl. Barnum rises from a homeless boy to a very wealthy and successful man. He creates the first museum of oddities and a very entertaining show (known as the circus), full of unique persons such as the Bearded Lady, trapeze artists, the shortest and tallest men in the world and more. Along the journey, he has a lot of ups and downs, but he always seems to triumph over them.

The opening scene with song and dance is my favorite and got me moving in my seat. My other favorite scene is when cups are used to create rhythm in song when Barnum convinces a wealthy young man to partner with him. The costumes are amazing and my two favorites are Barnum’s colorful ring master suit and Jenny’s dress with beautiful shinny rhinestones.

Two of my most favorite characters are P.T. Barnum, played by the multi-talented Hugh Jackman and Anne Wheeler played by Zendaya. Hugh Jackman is believably brilliant playing someone who can win, lose and win again. Zendaya has a wonderful singing voice and does her own amazing acrobat stunts.

Additionally, the perfectly written and woven songs in the movie by composers Justin Paul and Benj Pasek stand out in my mind. In fact, these songs tell the story, on their own, of this wonderful movie musical.

Finally, the message of this film is best summed up in the ending credit quote and by P.T. Barnum himself which is, “The noblest art is that of making others happy.” I personally believe this to be true, do you?

As a KIDS FIRST! Film Critic I have been extremely fortunate to review many wonderful films and I can say without a doubt that The Greatest Showman is one you absolutely do not want to miss. I think it may also be one of the best films of 2017. I recommend this film for ages 8 to 18 as well as adults and give it the highest KIDS FIRST! rating: 5 out of 5 stars! It opens in theaters December 20, 2017 so, be sure to check it out!

The Greatest Showman
By Abraham F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic age 12

The Greatest Showman is a musical based on the true story of P.T. Barnum. This movie is super vibrant and colorful, making it all the more interesting. It also proves that you don’t have to look like everyone else to be normal, which I like.

The storyline explores the life of Phineas Taylor Barnum, a boy dreaming of becoming a performer. Once he becomes an adult, he marries his childhood love, Charity Hallet. They live in an apartment with their two children in New York, until Phineas is laid off from his job. Phineas goes back to his dream of becoming a “Showman” and starts to look for cast members for his show.

P.T Barnum (Hugh Jackman) portrays “The Greatest Showman” in a very animated and lively way, making him stand out among others. P.T. Barnum’s partner, Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) is a well introduced supporting character. There are many interesting things about this movie. For example, the music was composed by the same people that composed the music for La La Land. Next, Zendaya did all her own trapeze stunts. Third and last, this movie has been a dream for Hugh Jackman’s since 2009.

My favorite part is the bar scene when P.T. Barnum is trying to convince Phillip Carlyle to be his assistant and they start to sing and dance. It leads to Phillip Carlyle joining the circus. The message of this movie is that you don’t have to look like everyone else to be normal, which I like a lot. This movie has a few things you should be aware of, such as a scene when two characters are taking shots at a bar. There might be a few risky things kids might try after watching it such as doing trapeze tricks. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 9 to 18 as well as adults. This movie opens in theaters December 20, 2017 so be sure to check it out.

 

 

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