1913: Seeds of Conflict – Eye-Opening and Enlightening

June 29th, 2015

1913.SeedsConflict.jpgBreaking new ground and laying bare old myths, this PBS program, directed by award-winning filmmaker Ben Loeterman, explores the little-known history of Palestine during the latter part of the Ottoman Empire, a time of relative harmony between Arabs and Jews. Living side by side in the multi-lingual, cosmopolitan city of Jerusalem, Jews, Christians and Muslims intermingled with a cultural fluidity enjoyed by all. How did this land of milk and honey, so diverse and rich in culture, become the site of today’s bitter and seemingly intractable struggle? Was there a turning point when things could have been different? Weaving the raveled threads of Arab and Jewish narratives back together, “1913: SEEDS OF CONFLICT” provides new and fascinating insights into events that took place in Palestine which presaged a century of unrest. KIDS FIRST! juror, Juanita S. comments, “I enjoyed the film because it gave me answers to some questions I have about the conflict between Jewish and Arabic people.” See her full review below.

1913 Seeds of Conflict
Juanita S., KIDS FIRST! adult juror

The film is very eye opening about a very old and difficult conflict between Arabs and Jews and who owns Palestine. I enjoyed the film because it gave me answers to some questions I have about the conflict between Jewish and Arabic people.  It enlightened me about the geography.  I was not aware of the area called Ottoman and what was the Ottoman rule.

The film opens with the re-discovery of a film from 1913 that documents a time in history that few people know about.  I have often wondered what is the cause of this hatred between Jewish and Arab people?

The actors who portray the characters, Albert Antebi, a Sephardic Jew known as the Jewish “pasha”, Ruhi al-Khaalidi, the scion of a Palestine family and Jerusalem’s elected representative to the Ottoman Parliament, Khalil Sakdkini, a Christian schoolmaster and voice for Palestinian culture and Arthur Ruppin, a German Zionist who opens the Palestine Office to strategize the shape of a Jewish homeland that was to come are very authentic and speak in the native language.

I had to pay attention and read the subtitles.  Normally, I really do not like films with subtitles. However, 1913 Seeds of Conflict has very interesting and historical information.  The ending leaves you thinking about how something very small can trigger something very enormous.

I recommend this film for ages 12 to 18. The film meets the baseline KIDS FIRST! criteria and I rate it 4 out of 5 stars. PBS Distribution is releasing it on DVD on June 30.

Max – Heartwarming Story About Man’s Best Friend

June 23rd, 2015

Max.214210.jpgNot all dogs are created equal. This story features a U.S. Marine dog that served in  Afghanistan and suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome. When he returns to the U.S., he has issues not uncommon to humans who’ve experienced similar experiences. This original story will pull on the heart-strings of any animal lover. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “Max is truly an inspirational adventure many will love and enjoy.”

Reviewed by Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

This movie is about a marine who faces challenges on and off the battlefield. However, this marine is not a human. This marine is a dog, a dog that inspires many.  Max is truly an inspirational adventure many will love and enjoy.

This movie is truly a thriller with a pinch of mystery, however in the form of an adventure that is full of dramatic scenes. There is action with a sparkle of romance spicing up the story as well. At the end, and at its core, it is an inspirational and heartwarming story.

Max starts off when a soldier named Kyle, his squad and his search dog Max are heading to a town in Afghanistan to do their mission. On the way there, they get ambushed and Kyle passes away. Max is traumatized and develops post dramatic stress disorder. The only person who seems to have a positive affect on Max different is Kyle’s younger brother. Soon the two bond and start an epic adventure that holds a answer to a mysterious question. If you want to know what it is you have to watch the film!

This film tells an original story and very nicely too. Actors of all species are wonderful in portraying their parts and showing all the varied emotions of those characters. The director makes the story unfold smoothly. I think that some parts of the film are a little bit stretched out. However, Max will make you laugh, cry, gasp and awe. It is a joy to watch.

My favorite scene is when Max and Kyle’s little brother, Justin are just starting to get to know each other. Justin brings Max to his group of friends and they race down the hill together. Justin quickly picks up speed and not only does Max easily follow but, he also guides Justin down a safe path. I like the scene because it’s really the first time that Max and Justin work as one and it shows the full range of skills that Max has.

This film is rather violent and also has some very mature scenes. The story itself is sad at times and it does contain a bit of gore and intense violence, so I recommend it for ages 11 to 18. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars. For even with its minor imperfections, the creators did a wonderful job showing a heartwarming  and original story that generation after generation can be inspired by.

Inside Out

By Tre’ana H., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Inside Out is a Disney / Pixar film that is filled with emotions tied up like a shoe lace. It captures some comedic moments and connects you to to your inner self. It makes you become more aware and in touch with your conscience.

The movie is about a girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) who lives in Minnesota with her parents. Due to some circumstances, the family relocates to San Francisco. Riley starts to have different emotions going on throughout this tenacious move. She misses her friends; she is starting at a new school. Her emotions are all over the place. These five emotions in Riley’s brain are Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). These emotions play a very important role in her life and keep her balanced. When one is out of whack it definitely affects her mood. She goes through so many obstacles as a pre-teen which is very trying. I can relate because I am also eleven and I am very in touch with my emotions and pre-teen feelings. It touches on so many ideas that are realistic in my everyday life.

The director and writer Pete Docter does an outstanding job creating the visual effects of these animated characters and their emotions. The bright colors and costumes distinguish each emotion’s individuality. The pitch of their voice captivates and draws you into their character. Each emotion has a unique personality.

My favorite part of this movie is when Disgust says, “What does this button mean?” It is Puberty! I can relate because this is the next phase of my life that I am approaching.

I recommend this movie for ages 8 to 18 and I give it 4 out of 5 stars because it connects to an older audience even though it is targeted to a younger audience. I think younger children can see this, but the parent will have to give them some explanation after the movie. I really enjoyed it because I could relate to this movie. Inside Out comes out Friday, June 19, 2015. Go and check it out.

The Legend of Longwood

Carissa P, KIDS FIRST! reviewer

This movie is a very good watch, being both very heartwarming and captivating. The film is full of lots of suspense and drama as the main protagonist, Mickey, aims to figure out the mystery of the new town she moved to.

In The Legend of Longwood, young teen Mickey Miller has to confront the mystery of the new Irish town her family has moved into. Upon moving, Mickey immediately gets sucked into the curse that the town of Longwood has been under for centuries. The 300-year-old curse concerns a man the people call a Black Knight, who is trying to find his lost baby daughter. Mickey has to try to understand how her amulet given to her by her dead father, the snooty rich palace woman her mother works for, and the seven palace horses all combine to stop the curse and save the town of Longwood.

The most impressive performance is given by Lucy Morton, the actress who plays the protagonist Mickey. Mickey displays extreme courage, integrity and perseverance throughout the whole film as she constantly gets reprimanded for seeking an end to the curse. Without Morton’s impressive range of emotions and slight nuances in body language, Mickey’s strong character would not be as evident. A strong performance is also given by Fiona Glascott, who plays the money-hungry antagonist named Caitlyn.

One moral of the movie is to have courage in the face of adversity. Mickey outdoes even the adults in trying to bring stability and peace to her town. This proves that even adults need to understand that perseverance and motivation are two key traits that all people need to have, no matter how dangerous or difficult a deed appears to be.

The creators of the film took very wise advantage of natural settings to portray Ireland in an honest manner. The locations of wild, grassy areas and woods are what make the film extremely realistic. Other careful touches that contribute positively to the film are the lighting techniques used to make each actors’ expressions easy to comprehend and the lack of overbearing music, which often overwhelm dialogues in some movies.

This movie is perfect for family movie night. Kids and parents could watch a very fascinating movie that is interesting from beginning to end. I recommend it for ages 10 to 15 since it has suspense that some younger kids would dislike. I give the film 4.5 out of 5 stars. It is available now on DVD wherever DVDs are sold. 

Last Chance to Register for Santa Fe and Seattle Film Critics Boot Camps

June 4th, 2015

KF.BootCamp.jpgKids First Film Critics Summer Boot Camps in Santa Fe and Seattle are almost full. Take a minute now to register your child in these two cities or, one of the three other cities we’ll be in this summer: New York City, Martha’s Vineyard and Washington DC. Taught by leading producers, directors and filmmakers, children ages 10 to15 will learn skills to become red carpet film critics and reporters through this unique star-making program.

Full and partial scholarships are available for local participants for all of the camps so, be sure to check those out.

In this camp, kids will learn a variety of behind-the-scenes skills of the film industry as they watch and critique the latest films, write and videotape reviews, develop on-camera interview techniques and have the opportunity to meet celebrities, directors and producers of some of their favorite films. Following the camp, campers will have the opportunity to join the Kids First film critic team of reporters.

Fourteen-year-old Kids First Film Critic Keefer C. Blakeslee comments, “My experience with Kids First has been a blast! I have walked the red carpet at movie premieres and interviewed stars such as my idol, Mel Brooks. KIDS FIRST! has really built my self-esteem for interviewing people, talking on camera and asking good questions about film.”

The Kids First Film Critic’s reviews reach more than seven million viewers monthly through partnerships with broadcast, print and online publications including Huffington Post, Kidzworld.com, GRAND Magazine, Kidsville News, Working Mother Magazine and many more.

Leading the star teaching team this year is founder and president of Kids First! and Coalition for Quality Children’s Media, Ranny Levy. Other guest teachers include documentary filmmaker, Nancy Kenney; former manager of outreach for Thirteen/WNET, Terry Solowey; and KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Raven Devanney.

The week long camps take place at the following locations:

June 15 - 19
Santa Fe Community College
Santa Fe, NM

June 22 – 26
B47 Studios
Seattle, WA 98119

July 27-31
Martha’s Vineyard Film Center
Vineyard Haven, MA

August 3 - 7
Brooklyn, NY

August 10-14
Discovery Communications
Silver Spring, MD

For more information and to register, go to http://www.kidsfirst.org or call 505.989.8076.

San Andreas – Terrifying and Realistic

May 29th, 2015

SanAndreas.jpgIn the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot makes a dangerous journey across the state in order to rescue his estranged daughter. Starring Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson, Carla Gugino, and Alexandra Daddario, this film addresses what might just happen should the big one hit California. To the credit of the marketing people for this film, they adjusted their promos to include information about how to prepare for natural disasters after the recent devastating earthquake in Nepal drove home the importance of doing just that.  KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Will S. comments, “…in this film the interplay between the action scenes and the family scenes keep you emotionally involved.” See his full review below.

San Andreas
By Will S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

I like this movie a lot. It is a good disaster film. San Andreas is directed by Brad Peyton and stars Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino and Paul Giamatti. While this movie is well done, it doesn’t quite compare with movies by the disaster movie king, Roland Emmerich. After seeing one of Brad Peyton’s other movies, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, I had my doubts, but he does a pretty good job here.

There are three reasons why I enjoyed this film so much. First, are the special effects. Special effects in a disaster movie can make or break it. In this film, the CGI is eye-popping. At certain moments, it feels like there is a little too much going on all at once. But at the same time, it makes you feel as if you are in an earthquake, which probably feels pretty overwhelming.

The second reason I like this film is the acting. The acting is pretty strong for a disaster movie.  Sometimes in disaster movies, it’s all about stunts and action sequences. In this film, the acting makes you feel invested in the characters and you are really rooting for them.

The last reason I like this film is the story. Though corny at times, when adding humor or romance into the big earthquake scenes, the interplay between the action scenes and the family scenes keeps you emotionally involved.

There is a bit of a downside. The dialogue, characters and the some of the story are very predictable and filled with clichés. While some of the lines are clever, they often seem out of place. There are lots of pretty standard panic, action lines such as “Run,” “Hold on,” and similar. The main characters are well fleshed out, though some of the cast seems like simple stereotypes representing selfishness and greed.

They spend a lot of time showing the destruction of the earth quake and less on the aftermath of the quake, such as having the main heroes trying to survive riots, gas leaks, crumbling buildings, etc. With all the devastation, it is a bit dull seeing the Golden Gate Bridge collapse for the 1000th time in a disaster flick.

It is humorous that scientific accuracy is thrown out the window. For example, they say the earthquake is a 9.1 but, according to what I’ve read, that magnitude cannot happen on the San Andreas fault.

I give San Andreas 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18. If you like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Paul Giamatti and disaster movies, you’ll like this one.