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

October 21st, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Life - Funny, Cute and Festive Halloween-Themed Film

October 21st, 2014

TheBookofLIfe.jpgJust in time for Halloween comes this new animated feature by producer Guillermo del Toro and director Jorge Gutierrez. In a unique visual style, The Book of Life reveals the journey of Manolo, a young man who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart. Before choosing which path to follow, he embarks on an incredible adventure that spans three fantastical worlds where he must face his greatest fears. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. comments, “This film has a terrific message:  To never stop fighting for what you believe in, to follow your own dreams and be true to your heart.” Morgan B. adds, “This animated feature is set in South America.  It is colorful and festive and I enjoyed learning about all the different cultural beliefs of South America.” See their full reviews below.

The Book of Life
By Katherine S.

I love this movie.  It’s a terrific, animated family film full of adventure.  It’s a visual spectacular with fantastic sets, costumes and intriguing characters.  And, it has a great positive message.

The movie begins with a museum tour-guide telling her field trip students about The Book of Life.  Her voice is played by Christina Applegate who serves as narrator throughout, which is especially helpful with all the flashback and flash-forward scenes.  In the book, it starts with a flashback to three children. Maria, Manolo and Joaquin are childhood best friends, living in San Angel, the ‘center of the world’ in Mexico, in the Land of the Living (aka Earth).  As they grow up, we see the two grown men compete for Maria’s affection. The story revolves around the celebration of the Day of the Dead, when Mexicans celebrate their loved ones who have passed away. As legend has it, as long as they are beloved, they live in the Land of the Remembered. For those not remembered well, they live in the Land of the Forgotten. The two rulers of these two lands, Meurta and Xibalba make a wager on which boy will marry Maria.  The winner gets to rule the Land of the Remembered.

Great adventure and drama ensues as Manolo and Joaquin, voiced by Diego Luna and Tatum Channing, compete to win Maria’s heart, and fend off the pressures from their families’ expectations, while saving their home town. Joaquin’s father was a war hero and Manolo comes from a long line of Bull Fighters, though he prefers to sing and play guitar.

My favorite part is when Manolo visits the Land of the Remembered and is reunited with his mother, grandfather and great grandfather, both matador heroes, who were killed. He learns of their common musical interests too, and what mother really wanted him to be.

This film has a terrific message:  To never stop fighting for what you believe in, to follow your own dreams and be true to your heart.

The music throughout the movie is awesome and helps tell Manolo’s story, especially with the songs “I Will Wait” and “The Apology Song.”

The three sets are very distinctive and perfect for each of the three realms:  San Angel is a beautiful town in the present day. The Land of Remembered is a colorful, vibrant, happy place and the Land of the Forgotten is dull, grey and has spiky architecture.

I really enjoyed the animation. The characters are wood-like with joints like Pinocchio. The boys have broad shoulders and super skinny legs. Maria and the other girls have skinny waists, full Mexican skirts and dramatic hair and eyes.  While I love it in 3D, the animation is so good it will be great in 2D also.

This is an all-around great family film. I recommend it for families with kids ages 7 to 18. There are some intense bull fighting scenes, slightly scary music and fights in the Land of the Forgotten. I give this film a 4.5 out of 5 star rating. Be sure to check out The Book of Life which is in theaters now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 13th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Boxtrolls - Another Delightful Stop Motion Film from Laika

October 8th, 2014

214111.jpgBased on the children’s novel “Here Be Monsters” by Alan Snow, this great animation comes to us from the wonderful animation producers at Laika. The story revolves around a young orphaned boy, Eggs, who is lovingly raised by underground cave-dwelling trash collectors and his efforts to save them. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Keefer B. comments, “The writing is witty. The comedy comes through in a very playful manner with its shock humor and, at times, straight-forward jokes.” See his full review below.

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

Splendid! The Boxtrolls is another fantastic stop motion film by Laika. In the city of Cheesebridge’s a human boy named Eggs ( Isaac Hempstead- Wright) is raised by Boxtrolls, creatures that rummage the streets at night and live under the city. Mr. Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) intends to exterminate every last Boxtroll, all for the love of cheese and a white hat. Eggs needs to teach his family to stop hiding.

Stop motion dates back to Wallace and Gromit, Gumby and many of our favorite Christmas specials. Laika has created movies I adore such as Coraline. This film is another success with its fast pace stop-motion. The way the boxes fold, stack and bend are impressive to watch. The designs of the characters are distinct and detailed. From the trolls who are dirty with glowing eyes and pale blue skin, to the proper humans who are clean with fancy clothes and perfect hair.

The small scale sets are marvelous. The film transports you into two opposite worlds. Once is the view from above the city where we see buildings and streets of stones. At night it’s dark with only lamp posts to light the way. The Boxtrolls’ under ground lair is a whole other picture. The ground is covered in boxes and tin cans for the characters to slide around on. The room is lit with light bulbs they find and is filled with inventions that they have made.

The writing is witty. The comedy comes through in a very playful manner with its shock humor and, at times, straight-forward jokes. There is even a scene with a rim shot. The trolls, even though they speak gibberish, bring a lot of emotion into their delivery. Speaking of which, the voice talents are sensational. The villain Archibald Snatcher, who is my favorite, uses his amazing voice talents to create this mean, eccentric character. He fits the image that we see on screen. Same goes for the rest of the cast, particularly Elle Fanning who plays Winnie, a snobbish brat that befriends Eggs.

My favorite scene is in the middle of the credits. When the credits roll, please stay in your seat! What you will see is one of the funniest fourth wall jokes to be seen on-screen.

The moral of this story is you can change your nature. The Boxtrolls are used to sneaking around and hiding. Even when they are in danger, they don’t fight back. They learn that they can change.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend this to 7 through 18-year-olds. This movie gives the audience jokes, engaging characters and beautiful visuals which make it a great film.

Slugs as Heroes! Who Would’ve Thought? And, They’re Cool. Slugterra: Return of the Elementals

September 29th, 2014

Slugterra.Elementals.jpgThis film is a sleeper. We were all surprised how much we enjoyed it. In this film, a new member joins the Shane Gang. Junjie is a master of the mysterious slugslinging art of Slug Fu. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Brianna B, age 14, comments, “This animation is adventurous with specks of comedy and laughter throughout the film. It’s an enjoyable film to watch.” See her full review below.

Slugterra: Return of the Elementals
Reviewed by Brianna Hope Beaton, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

This animation is adventurous with specks of comedy and laughter throughout the film. It’s an enjoyable film to watch.

The Shane Gang is back and they now have the power and talents of five Slugslingers.  With new member Junjie, they discover that they and their world are in deep trouble. The Elemental Slugs are being corrupted by an evil force and the only way to stop them is to gather up all of the 5 elementals, before it’s too late.

Surprisingly, I really enjoy this movie with having all the Elementals coming together for a common cause. The aspect of the film that I love the most is that you never know what‘s going to happen next and it keeps you guessing. The action and anticipation makes it great especially when watching the fighting scenes. The film keeps moving at a good pace. It has lots of colors, but it is dark at times. The comedy keeps the film light and it never stays very serious for too long. Speaking of comedy, my favorite character is Pronto (Lee Tockar, voice), because he’s funny and he’s definitely the goof of the group. He is doing things that you wouldn’t think that he would do.

Other voice actors include Sam Vincent (Eli Shane), Shannon Chan-Kent (Trixie) and Andrew Francis (Kord Zane). They all have high energy and are true to their on screen characters. The interaction between all of the slugs is great. Director, Johnny Darrel, is no stranger to adventurous animations, he also directed Hot Wheels: Battle Force 5 (2009), Spider-Man (2003) and Heavy Gear: The Animated Series (2001).

Trust people who have proven they can be trusted and who’s good for you is one great message in this film. Trust is earned and not just given away.

I recommend Slugterra: Return of the Elementals for ages 8 to 14. It’s a film that’s perfect for a family movie night. Kids who love being courage and animation, this is your film. I give this film 4 out of 5 five stars because it interests me, it’s adventurous and funny at times. I love the message about trusting. Slugterra: Return of the Elementals is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray. So please check it out.

The Maze Runner
Willie J., age 15, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

In a generation where the “teenagers face adversity in a dystopian future” is the popular piece of entertainment, The Maze Runner is a refreshing entry. Using the element of surprise and leaving unanswered questions, this film proves to be a very formidable mystery, action-thriller.

The acting in this film isn’t much different than many other films with teen or child ensembles. They give good performances and they all come off as veterans, especially Blake Cooper (Chuck) who, in only his second feature film, seems like he’s been acting on-screen for years. I found him very impressive. The leading performance by Dylan O’Brian is also very good but, is limited to his rather conventional and predictable character. The most impressive performance in the cast comes from Will Poulter who plays Gally. His performance earlier this cinematic season in The Giver was also impressive and his performance in We’re the Millers was hilarious so, he is really showing his range. His character is wonderfully written and wonderfully portrayed, so props to him.

The visual effects in the film are also quiet amazing. Enrique Chediak, whose beautiful cinematography was at its best in 127 Hours, gives this film a very crisp look. He doesn’t over do his shot composition nor does he try to give unnecessary landscape shots. He lets the beauty of the film come from the special effects, which is a smart move (although there are some genuinely stunning shots). The seemingly effortless movement of giant set pieces is a testament to the great work of the visual effects team.

But, the best aspect of this film is the writing. The secret this film has is what Alfred Hitchcock famously called the “MacGuffin.” It is a plot device that the main protagonist pursues with little or no explanation. This film starts with a boy entering the world but we don’t know why. We get to the middle of the film and we still don’t know why these kids are isolated, who is keeping them there or how big their obstacle is and what stakes are attached. Usually, in a movie of this kind, those questions are all answered in the exposition of the film. Even when this film ends, we are still uncertain about why what we just saw happened. What is the motivation and who is behind it? Then, in a wonderful plot twist we leave with questions that only a next installment can answer or maybe not.

This is the rare case of a film that makes us WISH FOR a sequel not because more books were written and a bunch of producers feel the need to adapt every book in series, but because we are generally interested in what happens next. That is why I give this film 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend it for anyone age 14 and up, as it is a little bloodier and more profane than your average pg-13 thriller.

The Maze Runner is a tense, suspenseful mystery thriller, that keeps you asking and on the edge of your seat.

Innocence - A Thriller for Your Older Teens Only

September 16th, 2014

Innocence.jpgInnocence is a thrilling new film based on the best selling novel by Jane Mendelsohn. After her mother dies unexpectedly, 16-year-old Beckett moves to the city with her father to get a fresh start. When she begins attending a prestigious preparatory school, Beckett becomes consumed by the past as a string of mysterious suicides unfold at Hamilton Prep and Beckett is determined to get to the bottom of it before this mystery claims another life, or even worse, her own.

Reviewed by Raven Devanney
I really enjoyed this film. Director Hilary Brougher creates a suspenseful, psychological teen thriller while also keeping it very grounded and real. I love the cinematography. It’s dark and overcast, which is my favorite type of weather and the rainy feel of the film adds an eerie element of fear. The sound effects are also a huge part of the thrill and suspense. From attention grabbing bass to shrill and off-putting violin notes, the musical score and sound effects gave me chills and captivated me from the very beginning.

My favorite character is Beckett played by Sophie Curtis. She goes through so much over the course of the film and does a wonderful job of subtly showing what she’s going through. She’s in shock from watching her mother die, then she is trying to fit into a new home and a new school, and on top of that she witnesses a suicide and begins hallucinating and hearing voices! As if that is not enough to make someone lose their mind, I don’t know what is. She is very closed off and doesn’t want to speak out about what she’s going through, but you can still sense her inner turmoil. She is very relatable and unique from most leading ladies you might find in teen films. Not all of us can be bubbly and confident all the time. Beckett shows the shy, quiet side of young girls, but also proves that she has the power to take on whatever comes her way.

I recommend this film for ages 14 to 18. It is definitely in the horror/thriller category and will scare younger kids, plus it has mild language and sexual situations. I give Innocence 4 out of 5 stars. This film opens in theaters on Sept 19.