Gibby – Heartwarming, entertaining, funny and adorable

July 11th, 2016

Gibby_1.jpgA young girl finds an unlikely and uplifting friendship with an adorable monkey in this charming, light-hearted film. Katie has lost interest in her school, her friends, and gymnastics following the loss of her mother, but her outlook changes in the summer when she is asked to monkey sit Gibby, her science teacher’s Capuchin monkey. Taking care of the monkey challenges Katie and reorders her life in a big way, and Gibby’s happy-go-lucky personality renews Katie’s zest for life. Gibby helps her with gymnastics, renewing friendships (including finding a potential boyfriend) and overcoming her nemesis, a mean girl who is out to beat Katie at everything. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Morgan B. comments, “This film is heartwarming, entertaining, funny, and adorable all wrapped up into one great movie.” See her full review below.

Gibby
By Morgan Bertsch, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

Bananas!!! This little monkey will keep you smiling as you watch my favorite actress Crystal, use gibby.a.jpgher natural monkey talents to help a young girl find her true heart’s desire. This film is heartwarming, entertaining, funny, and adorable all wrapped up into one great movie.

One of my favorite things about this film is that no CGI is used. This film is very down to earth and it is good to get a break from all the amazing graphics taking over movie theaters today. There are ups and downs just like in real life and that is what makes this film endearing and believable.

The acting in this is believable. I love all the different characters in this film, but my absolute favorite chgibby.c.jpgaracter is Gibby (Crystal, a capuchin monkey).  She is hysterical, cute and there when you need her. Crystal has made many monkey appearances, but this is one of her best performances I have seen. I had the pleasure of meeting her on the set of We Bought a Zoo and Gibby. She is very talkative, loves to stick her tongue out and has a boyfriend that she hangs out with when she is not in the spotlight. Tom Gunderson, her trainer is like an overly protective father who loves her and takes wonderful care of this high maintenance little diva. Oh, our little monkey is not a hugger, but she likes to high five.

My other favorite character is Katie (Shelby Lyon). She is lonely and depressed at first because of the death of her mother and then she meets Gibby and her whole world changes. Then, she is fun, happy and ready for anything. Her acting is wonderful and I had the pleasure of meeting her as well. Shelby Lyon is very bubbly, cute and fun to hgibby.b.jpgang out with. She also loves doing gymnastics. She showed me a couple of her awesome skills and I was quite impressed. I do wish that they had more gymnastic scenes in this film. Tommy (Peyton Meyer) is a friend of Katie’s and has a crush on her but she doesn’t know it. A great friendship blooms when he volunteers to watch Crystal and help Katie over the summer with her new pet monkey. He is as cute in a person as he is in this movie.

I have lots of favorite scenes including Gibby (Crystal the monkey) sneaking into a birthday party and being mistaken for a dangerous animal. Gibby is hit on the head by a crazy mother Morgan.SM.jpgwho is scared of the giant one foot, seven inch monkey. This is one of my favorite scenesbecause it really touched my heart and I found myself crying. Can you say cameo appearance? Look carefully and you will see me there in a pink shirt and a zebra dress. The lovely Vivica A. Fox also joins in on the monkey fun.

I love the fact that all the girls did their own gymnastic stunts. They are very talented and a great group of young women to hang out with.  Phil Gorn, the director, is brave working with both kids and monkeys. Congratulations on making an adorable movie.

I recommend this film for kids as young as five who will love the adorable Crystal. Teenagers will relate to the means girls and the young love crushing going on. This is a fantastic family-friendly film for the entire family to sit back and enjoy and appropriate for ages 5 to 16. I give this film 4.5 out of 5 monkeying around stars. This film is available now on DVD from Shout! Factory so go check it out.

The Secret Life of Pets - Wonderfully woven plot, dynamic characters and strong jokes

July 8th, 2016

TheSecretLifePets_1.jpgFrom the producers of Despicable Me, The Lorax and Minions comes another family-friendly animated film in this story about a terrier named Max whose quiet life is upended when his owner takes in Duke, a stray mutt whom Max instantly dislikes. With vibrant animation and a great cast, this is one you can share with your entire family. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Willie J. comments, “This film will not dazzle you with a wonderfully woven plot, but it will undoubtedly entertain you with dynamic characters and strong jokes that land more often than not.” See his full review below.

The Secret Life of Pets
By Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Let the debates begin and if they haven’t begun, allow me to start: Zootopia or The Secret Life of Pets? - two acclaimed comedic animated movies featuring talking animals. Well, I’d like to throw in my opinion – The Secret Life of Pets, while less cleverly plotted, is much better written and animated. This film will not dazzle you with a wonderfully woven plot, but it will undoubtedly entertain you with dynamic characters and strong jokes that land more often than not.

The day of New York City misadventures for Max and the newly picked up Duke, is reminiscent of those zany 50s and 60s comedies. Without coincidence, those decades were very popular for films set in the “City that Never Sleeps”, partiSecretPets.g.jpgcularly for comedies. Jokes about hipsters moving to Brooklyn and New York City alleyways are featured in the film, paying homage to the city. But even better than that, are the beautiful shots of New York City in this film. It would give the opening scene in Manhattan a run for its money. The cinematography in this film is absolutely gorgeous, worthy of being full sized paintings to hang on your wall. Master shots include New York City at night with the lights from the moon and the buildings illuminating the city, aerial shots of the city in the daytime with beautiful weather and an air of inspiration. The images captured in this film are among some of the best of any animated feature ever and I’ve no issue saying that.

But, the imagery isn’t the best part of the movie. Naturally, its the characters of the film. For a comedy of this nature to be successful, the writer/s must come up with strong characters who make strong choices. So the jokes end up bolder and have a higher probability of landiSecretPets.d.jpgng. This movie is filled with those. Archetypes pervade the movie  such as the longing ingénue, the idiotic gang leader, the fearless elder and the neurotic straight man (the main character). These familiar characters were popular in comedies during the 50s and 60s and further highlight the style of film this is, which is quite refreshing. As a matter of fact, the relationship between Duke and Max is reminiscent of Walter Matthau (Duke) and Max (Jack Lemmon), who were a successful duo in cinema in the 50s and 60s. This film is so much like others of that era, I can see Billy Wilder directing this.

Lastly, and what impressed me most, is the score. It is an up tempo, lighthearted score. But, what makes it so impressive is how often it is used. In today’s comedies, a score isn’t used often. Because we’re in an age of off-beat, dry comedy, an accompanying score ruins the tone and wipes away the awkwardness. This film uses the score like those comedies of the 50s and 60s, which creates a more lighthearted comedic tone and gives comedic rhythm to the scene. It also makes scene transitions less awkward and SecretPets.a.jpghelps with pace. The score itself is a wonderful, having been scored by the great Alexandre Desplat (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 & 2). I’d love to see it in contention for the Best Score Oscar (although seeing the fate of Inside Out’s beautiful score, it may not happen).

So with all of this nostalgia, the movie really impressed me. It’s not easy to go against the grain and pay homage to classic Hollywood. Speaking of which, I am loving this trend in animated films today that reference older movies. Inside Out referenced Chinatown, this movie referenced Some Like it Hot (a cat says to a dog trying to date her, Willie1.jpg“I’m a cat” and the dog says “Well, nobody’s perfect”), The Birds, and Grease (even singing a song from the musical). It’s very satisfying for movie fans.

With all of that said, I give this movie 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. The reason it misses out on perfection for me is because I feel the plot could have been tighter and I wish the film had a little bit more to say, or at least say it meant to say a little louder. But nonetheless, I know your kids will enjoy this film and you will too. I recommend it for ages 6 to 18 and it can be seen at a local theater near you when it opens July 8.

The Secret Life of Pets – Humor, Great Cast, Beautiful Animation and Original Story

July 7th, 2016

TheSecretLifePets_1.jpgThe producers of Despicable Me, The Lorax and Minions bring us another family-friendly animated film in this story about a terrier named Max whose quiet life is upended when his owner takes in Duke, a stray mutt whom Max instantly dislikes. With vibrant animation and a great cast, this is one you can share with your entire family. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “What do you get when you combine a fantastic cast, beautiful animation, original story and hilarious jokes? You get this new animated masterpiece, The Secret Life of Pets.’ Mia A. adds, “I could not wait to see The Secret Life of Pets and I was not disappointed! I LOVED it! The Secret Life of Pets is an animated comedy that is both funny and sincere.” See their full reviews below.

The Secret Life of Pets

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

What do you get when you combine a fantastic cast, beautiful animation, original story and hilarious jokes? You get this new animated masterpiece, The Secret Life of Pets.

The Secret Life of Pets is predominantly a comedy however, there is much more to this story than nSecretPets.a.jpgicely delivered jokes. The film also dips into a cute romance story with a very strong main sense of adventure. Some action is involved to spice things up as well as some drama to keep the viewer at the edge of their seats and help see the relationship between the on-screen characters to their own pets.

The adventure begins when Max (Louis C.K), an ordinary house dog, gets a new doggy brother, Duke (Eric Stonestreet). The two don’t exactly become friends at first and when they end up at a park, they get separated and must go on a huge adventure where they meet many strange and interesting creatures as they journey back to their owner.
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This film is a rare case where there is truly nothing to complain about. The comedy appeals to all ages. In the audience, kids were laughing throughout the entire film and so were adults. The story is entertaining and never gets boring or drag on. And, it keeps creating new fun ways to entertain the viewers. I also enjoyed many small references to other films. The whole movie has a very relaxed feel, which is perfect.

The cast is legendary with Louis C.K, Kevin Hart (Snowball), Albert Brooks (Tiberius) and more - all making the characters truly come alive.  Visuals of downtown New York are stunning and greatly enjoyable. It is also worth mentioning that I greatly enjoyed theSecretPets.c_1.jpg classical soundtrack of the film which is very unexpected for an animated family comedy. But, it elevates the jokes in many places and spices things up without going overboard.

My favorite scene is when Duke and Max run into a sausage factory during their journey home. At the factory they, of course, eat many sausages and both overeat and imagine a heavenly sausage world. This goes back to the very relaxed feel of the whole film and the scene is completely random but seems to fit perfectly and made the audience laugh nonstop.

This film is meant for kids, but It appeals to adults too. I recommend it for ages 6 to 18. Some of the scarier animals may be a bit much for younger kids. I rank it 5 out of 5 because of its original idea, fantastic casting, new and funny characters, wonderful soundtrack and great sense of humor.

The Secret Life of Pets
By Mia A, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

I could not wait to see The Secret Life of Pets and I was not disappointed! I LOVED it! The Secret Life of Pets is an animated comedy that is both funny and sincere. It is about a dog named Max (LouSecretPets.d.jpgis C.K.), his new brother Duke (Eric Stonestreet) and their friends.  Max doesn’t like Duke so he does things that he hopes will get him kicked out of the family home. One day Duke comes up with an idea that he hopes will get Max taken away. His idea backfires and causes Max and Duke to get caught and almost sent to the pound. Will Max and Duke get home? Will their friends find them and help them get home?

My favorite character is Gidget (Jenny Slate) who is a white little dog who likes Max. She is very sweet and kind, but when it comes to helping her friends, she will fight anyone. This is a funny trait of Gidget’s because she is a super sweet dog but she will fight to protect her loved ones.
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My favorite scene is when Duke and Max are in a wiener factory and there is a little song where the hot dogs come to life. Little kids might not like this scene because the singing hot dogs get eaten by Duke and Max and they eat the hot dog’s heads off.

Though there are many morals to this movie, the most important is “Do not judge someone before you get to know them.” Max doesn’t like Duke when he first comes, but later on he learns to appreciate him.

SecretPets.f.jpgThe Secret Life of Pets is a funny animated film about cute animals, but it may not appeal to younger audiences. There are some scenes that might be too scary for little kids.  Also, Max and Duke say this to save their lives but, be forewarned they do say “put their owner in the blender.”

I recommend The Secret Life of Pets for kids ages 5 to 15 due to the scary scenes. Older audiences may like this movie if they love animals and fun cartoons. I rate this movie 5 out of 5 stars because it is entertaining and about my favorite subject…animals!

This movies opens nationwide July 8, 2016, go it in a theater near you.

The Legend of Tarzan – Returning to the Jungle to Help Save It

July 5th, 2016

Tarzan216209.jpgThis latest installation of the Tarzan mythology follows Tarzan who has acclimated to life in London and is called back to his former home in the jungle to investigate the activities at a mining encampment. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Harmony M. comments, “Alas, Tarzan lovers rise to the continuation of this legendary story, but take a seat because this film is disappointing.” See her full review below.

The Legend of Tarzan
Harmony Makhfi

Alas, Tarzan lovers rise up to the continuation of this legendary story, but take a seat because this film is disappointing. The film covers Tarzan’s life after he left Africa to live in England as John Clayton and returns to Africa to help his country. After a series of dangerous obstacles and captures, Tarzan fights to save his love Jane.

I found the film’s plot so confusing and disconnected that it was difficult to give a thorough tarzan.e.jpgsummary without looking it up. The film stars Alexander Skarsgard as Tarzan who, in the movie, is quite civilized, British and sophisticated despite the fact that he was raised by gorillas in the jungle. This disappointed me because it is one thing to make a bad movie but it’s even more disappointing when the film has a template to follow and doesn’t. In the original film, Jane is British but in this adaptation she is American. This really confused me because of its inconsistency with the original story. Another disappointing aspect is that the apes in this film were not his friends. They were his enemies. The back story of Tarzan is all about how he was raised by gorillas and how they are his family. I did not enjoy seeing Tarzan fighting the creatures that are supposed to be his family. tarzan.b.jpg

Looking past that inconsistency and hard-to-follow plot, on the positive side, the film has impressive visuals that make it quite entertaining. The characters are not ones you get attached to or gain a bond with and, me for that makes the movie lack the emotional connection it needs to really draw in the audience.

I feel as if the film doesn’t focus on appropriate things. It focuses a lot on business schemestarzan.g.jpgto get money rather than the emotional struggles and journeys in the jungle.

The film has little details and aspects that are alright, such as the casting, but I just did not find the movie compelling. I think it would interest people that like historical fiction and recommend it for tweens and teens. People between the ages of 30 to 60 would also enjoy it because of its complexity and historical background. I would not go out of my way to see this and rank it 2 out of 5 stars because I was so disappointed in it.

Independence Day: Resurgence: 20 Years of Evolution

July 1st, 2016

IndependenceDay.R.jpgWe always knew they were coming back. After Independence Day redefined the event movie genre, the next epic chapter delivers global spectacle on an unimaginable scale. Using recovered alien technology, the nations of Earth have collaborated on an immense defense program to protect the planet. But nothing can prepare us for the aliens’ advanced and unprecedented force. Only the ingenuity of a few brave men and women can bring our world back from the brink of extinction. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “Twenty years ago one of the most epic action films was released - Independence Day. Now we finally got a sequel which I believe will again become one of the most exciting action films of the year.” See his full review below.

Independence Day: Resurgence
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

Twenty years ago one of the most epic action films was released - Independence Day. Now we finally got a sequel which I believe will again become one of the most exciting action films of the year - Independence Day: Resurgence - with amazing acting, spectacular visuals and an original story.

As expected, Independence Day: Resurgence is an action film, but it goes into much more than that. This film has some romance, but it doesn’t go overboard. It just spices up the character development. The story also features a sense of adventure and, of course, a big element of sci-fi. ID.R.a.jpg

The story starts twenty years after aliens attacked Earth in 1996. On a moon base, they discover a very powerful and large ship that has the power to rip Earth in half. The human race must then stand up again to defeat the alien race. Even with the powerful technology that has been developed, the human race is threatened of extinction!

The is one disappointment, of course. This film does not have Will Smith, but it is explained why he is not there and many new characters are introduced in addition to the favorite original characters. The special effects are impressive and breathtaking. The detail on the ships maID.R.b.jpgkes you feel as if they really exist. I also greatly enjoyed the story. It is original and unexpected. The aerial CGI shots are spectacular and greatly add to the intensity of the whole experience. The soundtrack deserves special mention as it really makes your adrenaline pump and the audience feels as if the theater itself is shaking. Although there isn’t much comedy in the film, it is original and made the audience laugh in certain scenes.

My favorite scene is when the giant ship first attacks the moon base. The moon base has a powerful experimental laser that they quickly fire at the ship, but discover it does not do anything to the mother ship. What is also amazing is the size of the ship compared to the moon. That scene also introduces the aliens for the first time.
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The film is spectacular and not suited for all ages. It is rather intense and has quite a lot of gore. I recommend it for ages 11 to 18 and give it 5 out of 5 stars. This truly lives up to the glory of the first film with its beautiful special effects, original story, emotional acting and an unexpected ending. It is that rare case when the sequel is as good, if not better than the original. I applaud the creators and the director Roland Emmerich. This film opens nationwide on June 24 so go check it out.

CinemAbility – Portrayals of Disability Story Lines in Media

July 1st, 2016

cinemability_1024x442.jpgThis moving documentary examines the ever-changing portrayals of disability story lines in film, TV and the web to see if the media has had a hand in transforming the societal inclusion of people with disabilities. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “I love this film because it doesn’t just look at Hollywood as discriminating against handicapped people. Instead, it looks at movies and movements that have really pushed for equality and it also features handicapped actors who tell the viewer how Hollywood can make improvements.” See his full review below.

CinemAbility
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

There are many documentaries about the history of Hollywood, but none cover an important topic like this one this. CinemAbility shows the real history of handicapped actors in Hollywood and how many things need to be changed in the way they are treated.Cinemability.b.jpg

This is an educational documentary that will leave you inspired and interested. It also has some humor from actors who are interviewed and many older classic films. The film starts in the late 19th century showing the first handicapped people in films. It goes all the way up to recent films. Many actors talk about their opinions on the matter and what it is like being handicapped. The documentary shows you some films that heavily mock the handicapped as well as films that represent handicapped people very well.

I love this film because it doesn’t just look at Hollywood as discriminating against handicapped people. Instead, it looks at movies and movements that have really pushed for equality and it also features handicapped actors who tell the viewer how Hollywood can make improvements. Its 98 minuteCinemability.c.jpg length fits very well and keeps the viewer’s attention the whole time. The most inspirational point in this film is that it is directed by Jenni Gold, who is handicapped herself. She excels at showing that, no matter what people look like on the outside, they are first and foremost people on the inside with their own dreams and aspirations.

My favorite scene is when they talk about Ray Charles, a powerful musician who has been blind all his life. Ray, despite his disability, led a very productive life and became a very powerful and successful man. He proved that he is in charge of his life which is unique and interesting. Jamie Foxx also talks about what it was like to play Ray Charles and to be blind for twelve hours a day. It was inspirational and interesting to listen to him speak.

CinemAbility does have some mature topics, so I recommend it for ages 10 to 18 and give it 630_cinemability.jpg5 out of 5 stars for fantastic directing, entertaining elements, interesting and educational material and a unique concept. I have to mention that it took close to 10 years to complete this film and was mainly possible due to a partnership between the Geena Davis Institute on Gender Media and Gold Pictures, a company founded by Jenni Gold.

The BFG – A Fantastic Fantasy!

June 30th, 2016

TheBFG.jpgBased on the book by Roald Dahl and directed by the iconic Steven Spielberg, a girl named Sophie encounters the Big Friendly Giant who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kindhearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ryan R. comments, “I enjoyed watching the new Disney film, The BFG… I love the film for its CGI, which makes the animations look incredible and I also enjoyed its comedic moments.” Morgan B. adds, “The BFG’s character and graphics are shock and awe to me. His job as a dream catcher is in danger and I think I just found my new career goal - catching dreams and using them to make other people happy.” Brianna B. concludes, “The visuals are obviously something that stand out to me the most. They are clear, bright and engaging. They make the gap between the animated BFG and the real life character of Sophie very small.” See their full reviews below.The BFG

By Morgan B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

This movie has giants, dreams, friendship and compassion all rolled up into one two-hour long movie that is a wonderful experience. The BFG’s character and graphics are shock and awe to me. His job as a dream catcher is in danger and I think I just found my new career goal - catching dreams and using them to make other people happy. The BFG is a complicated, humorous character with many aspects to him.

Brilliant director Steven Spielberg adds yet anothTheBFG.d.jpger great movie to his resumé.

This must-see summer hit opens nationwide July 1, just in time to spend a hot summer day in a cool theater near you. It is more of a drama then a comedy even though you will laugh throughout the film. The movie is based on the book by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake. I have added this book to my summer to do list.

The CGI animation in this film is top-quality and award winning. The scale between the humans and giants has been done before but in this film, it is truly extraordinary. The thought and details shown in every scene captivate you into believing you are on screen in this new make believe world. Giants, the dream country and giant country all come to life. The flipping of the world upside down and entering dream country is a memorable scene and my favorite. It is one of the many places you will find yourself wishing really existed or think that perhaps it does it somewhere.

The characters have incredible depth to them. Ruby Barnhill’s (Sophie) performance is extraordinary. Most of her scenes are in CGI and she had to use her imagination when acting out those scenes. She is the lead of this film and carries it well. There are few real humans until the second half and her connection with the BFG is heartwarming. Sophie is a kind, brave and sharp orphan who finds herself dwarfed in theTheBFG.b.jpg world of giants.

Mark Rylance (The BFG) is fascinating, remarkable and a top notch actor. You can tell that he is kind and he sticks to what he believes in. He doesn’t care about what the other giants think about him he just wants to care for a little girl and catch dreams. I like how he thinks that it is wrong to eat humans. At least there is one giant we don’t have to run from. He is comical and humorous and his take on the Morgan.SM.jpgEnglish language will have you laughing out loud as the audience did when I watched this film. His new words will add to your vocabulary and have you smiling when you recall them.

The BFG meets the one and only Queen of England (Penelope Wilton) and the Queen herself would be proud of her performance, as I would definitely bow down in her presence. I find her beautiful, interesting, fair and funny.

When The BFG gives the Queen, her assistances, the guards, crazy dogs, Sophie and everyone in the room a taste of his favorite drink and everyone in the room starts whiz popping, it is hysterical. I loved this scene. Everyone in the theater could not stop laughing and I just joined in right along with them. The dogs in this scene are ridiculously entertaining when they skid along the floor while tooting away.

I recommend this film for ages 10 to 18. This is a family friendly film which kids will enjoy. Be forewarned that the scenes about bullying are unsettling and the huge giants look very lifelike and might scare younger kids. Some of them are mean.  I give this film 5 out of 5 giant dream catcher stars.

The BFG
By Ryan R., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

I enjoyed watching the new Disney film, The BFG.  We get to see the works of three great storytellers together. Director Steven Spielberg collaborated with Walt Disney Studios to bring Roald Dahl’s classic book “The BFG”  to life and turn it into a wonderful film. I love the film for its CGI, which makes the animations look incredible andTheBFG.c.jpg I also enjoyed its comedic moments. In this film, we meet Sophie, an orphan who hates the all girls’ orphanage she is living in. Then one day, she spots the elderly big friendly giant (The BFG) who takes her away to Giant Country because he doesn’t want her to tell other people that she saw him. At first, Sophie is scared because she thinks he is going to hurt her but then she realizes that the giant is actually really friendly, unlike the other giants. The Big Friendly Giant is considered an outcast by the other giants because RyanRivera.sm.jpghe refuses to eat children or people as they do. Sophie has an idea to enlist help from Queen Victoria to help keep the Big Friendly Giant safe and capture all the man eating giants from Giant Country.  To see how the story unfolds, go see this film.

I appreciate the animations of this film because they are vivid, detailed, realistic and child friendly. The faces and the size of the giants are amazing. I also like this film because of its humor. It is great! I guarantee that this film will make you laugh at some point during the movie. I also like the designs of the scenes. They look extremely realistic - so much so, that you could easily think it is a real place. I love how the characters change throughout the film. However, what I didn’t like in this film is that there are a few scenes that are too intense for younger viewers. Also, some scenes got a little boring. But besides that, this film is fantastic.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend it to kids ages 6 to 18 and I think adults will like this as well. I also recommend this to people who like family, action, adventure and comedy movies. Make sure to see BFG, which opens July 1 in theaters nationwide.

The BFG
Brianna Hope B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

This 2016 colorful film based on the book by Roald Dahl is great to watch and gives you a small look into where dreams come from. The 3D effects draws you into the film and make the characters much more fascinating with its dept, texture and a variety of colors.

Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is a young girl that comes in contact with the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance-Voice) who, in spite of his frightening looks, we find to be a kind and good natured person. He is assumed to TheBFG.a.jpgbe an outcast by the rest of the giants due to his refusal to eat children like they do.

The visuals are obviously something that stand out to me the most. They are clear, bright and engaging. They make the gap between the animated BFG and the real life character of Sophie very small. Steven Spielberg directs this film so, of course it is authentic and believable. It has dark moments that are spread throughout the film that parents should be aware of when taking their young children to see it. This film highlights the admirable qualities of perseverance and bravery as it tells the story of a girl and a giant in a perilous world. My favorite character is the BFG because of his childlike demeanor. His speech brings softness and an innocent aspect to his character which makes him less of a monster and it accentuates how different he is from the rest of the antagonistic Giants. The BGF for the most part focuses on the relationship between Sophie and the Big Friendly Giant, but other characters include Mary (Rebecca Hall), Mr.Tibbs (Rafe Spall), The Queen (Penelope Wilton), and Bloodbottler (Bill Hader).

Brianna.2015.sm.jpgMy favorite scene is when Sophie shoves herself into a disgusting green vegetable to hide from one of the giants. While she tries to get out of it, we see her feet, then her legs and more - covered in a green slimy substance, until she is fully out. This scene brought about sounds of disgust and laughter from the audience. That’s why it’s my favorite.  Actress Ruby Barnhill plays her part extremely well. She acts just like any other ten year old kid with tons of questions and lots of curiosity. She is full of energy.

The BFG gears itself towards younger audiences and has a recurring theme about dreams  coming true. One of my favorite inspirational quotes by Stephen Spielberg is “I don’t dream at night. I dream at day. I dream all day. I’m dreaming for living.”  That message happens throughout the film as well.

I recommend this great family film for ages 7 to 14 and rate it 4 out of 5 stars. Even though I enjoy watching this film, I do feel that a couple of scenes are too long or unneeded altogether.  The BFG opens  in theaters on July 1st, so please check it out.

Dr. Seuss never gets old – Now, he’s teaching science to preschoolers.

June 23rd, 2016

Join Sally and Nick and the Cat in the Hat to learn about weather (and things like that)! First, the kids are painting a picture of a rainbow but can’t seem to remember all the colors to use. Lucky for them, Cat takes them to Color-ga-lore to meet King Kaleidoscope, a rainbow expert. A musical number teaches them the proper color order as well as how rainbows are actually made! Then it’s time to jump in some puddles with Nick and Sally! But wait, where did the giant puddle disappear to? With the help of Cat’s Seussian camera, they see that their puddle has turned into water vapor. So off they go to Bluey Blue Sky to follow their puddle. They learn the water cycle process and when they return home their puddle is back! Weather is just the start of this trip with the Cat so come on board the Thinga-ma-jigger and hold onto your hat!

The Cat in the Hat: Oh, Say What’s the Weather Today?
By Morgan Bertsch, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

I think that it is quite funny that the moms let Nick and Sally go everywhere with The Cat in the Hat. I get a little worried about that. That just goes to show how trustworthy the Cat in the Hat is. The moms have to be very trusting to trust a worthy cat like that.

This 90 minute DVD is filled with seven adventures that are all about the weather which effects everyone, every day. I love that it has fun activities for children to do in between the episodes. It easily keeps you focused while teaching you about the weather in a fun and entertaining way.

Dr. Seuss is loved by all children around the world and this DVD is voiced in many different languages.  What started out as silly children’s book is something that children worldwide now share.

Sometime science can be boring, confusing and seem like a whole different language but now we have The Cat in the Hat making science and weather concepts easy to understand and remember. Learning can be fun and exciting when watching animations that make it easy to remember. I recently interviewed Julie Stall, the producer of this series and she understands what makes children laugh and smile and has done an amazing job bringing Dr. Seuss books to life in over 60 animated episodes.

Martin Short is the cat’s meow. He is the voice of The Cat in the Hat and has been in this role for over six years. His ability as a great character actor who can do many voices makes him a perfect fit for this role. I had the pleasure of meeting him in person a short time ago and found him very pleasant, easy to talk to and extremely funny.

I’m so impressed by Alexa Torrington who voices Sally, the cute adorable little girl who goes off on learning adventures with the Cat. She has played the same character for over six years and is now a young adult, yet her voice sounds the same as when she started as a young girl. Sally is kind hearted, curious, and clever and loves learning. She is endearing and cute to watch.

Jacob Ewaniuk voices Nick, the little boy who follows the Cat. He has also kept his voice consistent to his character. Nick is inquisitive, humorous and compelling to watch.

I love to learn and this DVD taught me lots of lessons such as how clouds are formed, how wind power works, what the water cycle is and much more. One of the most intriguing lessons on this DVD is Chasing Rainbows because you get to learn two lessons in one. I love rainbows and this entire lesson is all about rainbows and has a catchy song that is still stuck in my head. I learned all about the colors of the rainbow and where they come from.

Of course there is also the Fish voiced by Rob Tinkler. I adore Fish. Fish asks great question that make you think. He should hide the answers and make finding them a little trickier, although they are perfect hiding places for younger children. Then we have the cutest thing ever - Thing One and Thing Two. They always seem to be helpful and ready for The Cat in the Hat’s whistle to lend a helping hand. All three of these characters add a little something to this series and they are all adorable, quirky, humorous sidekicks for The Cat in the Hat.
I recommend this series to ages 3 to 12. Younger kids will love the animation. Older kids will have science lessons reinforced and fun, cute cartoons to watch. I rate this 5 out of 5 Thinga-ma-jigger red and white top-hat stars. The Cat in the Hat: Oh Say, What’s the Weather Today is available now from N Circle Entertainment.

Just Keep Swimming, Finding Dory is Fun for the Whole Family!

June 17th, 2016

findingdory.jpgAfter 13 years, Dory and Nemo return to the big screen. The friendly-but-forgetful blue tang fish reunites with her loved ones and everyone learns a few things about the real meaning of family along the way. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “Finding Dory brings back the fantastic characters, amazing jokes and the fun story with important morals. This movie, much like Finding Nemo is an adventurous comedy, but that isn’t all that this film has to offer. It also has a good amount of child-friendly action.” Ryan R. adds, “The animation is amazing, the humor hilarious and witty and the plot is so heartfelt. It does not disappoint.” Harmony M. wraps it up with, “The anticipated sequel Finding Dory is adorable and fun, but not a match for the original. It’s a brilliant and enjoyable movie on its own.” See their full reviews below.

Finding Dory
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

It has been 13 years since easily the greatest animated film came out. Now, the very hyped up sequel has been released. Finding Dory brings back the fantastic characters, amazing jokes and the fun story with important morals. This movie, much like Finding Nemo is an adventurous comedy, but that isn’t all that this film has to offer. It also has a good amount of child-friendly action. On top of that, the movie features many important morals that teach kids lots of good lessons. Mind-blowing animation by Pixar also impresses the audience.

Finding Dory follows one year after the events of Finding Nemo. Nemo, (Hayden Rolence), Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) are all back in the coral reef, living happily. However, everything changes whenfindingdory.a.jpg Dory gets a memory about her past and her family. They all then go on a quest to the far away coast of California to find Dory’s parents. On the search for her parents they meet new friends and see old friends. Many events lead up to one main event. Do they find Dory’s parents or not? If you want to find out, you have to watch the film.

As much as I enjoyed this sequel, I was disappointed as it felt like Finding Dory made some of the same mistakes that Star Wars: The Force Awakens made. Both were massively hyped films to continue a successful franchise. Both movies seemed to repeat a lot of the story line from the previous film. The events in Finding Dory are almost exactly like the events of Finding Nemo. This makes it very boring and quite predictable for people who saw the first film. On top of that, Finding Nemo is a fantasy but is done much morfindingdory.d.jpge true to science. Some of the moments in Finding Dory feel forced even for a fairy tale. On top of that, the jokes in Finding Dory are somewhat repetitive, lack originality and, only a few times, are actually funny. What is especially enjoyable are the scenes with Ty Burrell’s voicing the Beluga character. The first film was a complete success in its comedy. You could see Finding Nemo twenty times and still laugh. With Finding Dory, I’m not sure someone would watch it multiple times.

However, there is one thing I really adore about this film - the cast. Since it’s been thirteen years after Finding Nemo, the quality of the voice acting was a big question. But after watching the film, I can say it feels like it was made directly after Finding Nemo in 2003. What is most impressive - Hayden Rolence who voices Nemo. Of course, since it’s been thirteen years, the actor who voiced Nemo can no longer do the findingdory.c.jpgsame voice so they had to find a new kid. Hayden is stupendous in this role and I could not notice a difference between the two.

My favorite scene is when they introduce my new favorite character, Hank (Ed O’Neill), an octopus. Hank finds Dory and agrees to take her to where they think her parents are in return for something that Hank needs. This scene is hilarious and the dialog between the octopus and Dory is delightful.

Finding Dory is meant for kids and thus, has nothing parents should be worried about. Because of a few action scenes, I recommend it to ages 4 through 18. I give it 4 out of 5 stars because the story is so similar to the original and seems rushed and even a bit boring at times. But the voice acting and amazing animation by Pixar makes it all worth the wait.

Finding Dory
By KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Ryan R. age 12

I love the new Disney / Pixar film, Finding Dory which is the sequel to Finding Nemo. Fans of Finding Nemo will absolutely love this sequel.  The animation is amazing, the humor hilarious and witty and the plot is sofindingdory.e.jpg heartfelt. It does not disappoint. Dory is a forgetful but fearless blue tang fish (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), suffers from short term memory loss and has struggled with this for her entire life. Then one day, something happens to Dory that triggers her memory and she remembers that she has a family. She tries to find them with the help of Nemo (voiced by Hayden Rolence) and Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks). The question is, “will Dory find her family, or will she forget to find them?”

This film’s humor is so hilarious, I laughed my pants off and that’s why I love it so much. Some of the jokes are also funny for adults, which I also liked. I love the animation because Pixar makes the sea life in this film look so realistic and the colors are so rich and vivid. The characters are adorable, kid-friendly and nice. Pixar has done it again. They made me feel all kinds of emotions - happiness, fear and sadness, just to name a few. I love the film from beginning to end. It is really fantastic. .

Ellen DeGeneres is child-like and goofy. Her portrayal of Dory really excels. However, my favofindingdory.b.jpgrite character is Hank, the octopus (voiced by Ed O’Neil) who gives an outstanding performance). He can camouflage into anything.  I love how he has that ability. I also like how he makes so many hilarious jokes.  He assists Dory on her adventure to find her family so he can leave the Marine Life Institute and go to Cleveland. We see how Hank’s personality slowly changes throughout this film because of Dory. I just love how Dory grows on him and how he helps her no matter what.

Also, I noticed that all the characters in this film have some type of disability in some way or another and all of them learn to overcome it. That is a very important message in this film.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to kids ages 4 to 18. You should be aware that there is one short scene that involves an octopus that may scare some children but it is very brief. I also recommend this film to people who like children, family and action movies. And, I think that adults will enjoy this. Make sure to see this film when it opens Friday June 17.

Finding Dory
By Harmony Makhfi, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16


The anticipated sequel Finding Dory is adorable and fun, but not a match for the original. It’s a brilliant and enjoyable movie on its own. The only problem is the bar was set in Finding Nemo. Basically, it is fun, but nowhere near as compelling as Finding Nemo. Considering the amount of time that has passed since the first one, they did everything they could to keep things consistent with the original which is a big plus.findingdory.g.jpg

The film focuses on the forgetful, yet friendly blue fish Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) and her journey to find her family. The plot is connected with a series of flashbacks from Dory’s childhood and in bursts of random memories which is different and unexpected. I really like how they connected scenes and referred to experiences from the first film and I love that they even have many appearances from the original characters.

The film provides outstanding humor as Pixar always does, giving people of all ages unforgettable enjoyment. I was extremely relieved to see the same style of animation and camera work in the second film because I feared that, after all these years, they would try to advance the details and tweak findingdory.f.jpgthe animation. However, it is safe to say the film resembles the first and the consistency is very comforting.

In comparison to the other sequels Pixar and Disney have created, Finding Dory is very impressive. The movie can be a bit of a let down if one’s mindset is on the expectations from the first one, but it is a fun adventure on its own.

I was concerned whether Dory could successfully carry the role of a main character since she had previously played a supporting role, but she carried it out well. The supporting cast really stands out and brings the comedy to life and their pleasant personalities bring a fun element to the film.

One of the best aspects of this film is the focus on character development rather than thefindingdory.h.jpg fun journey. Pixar provides more than just comedy and entertainment for the kids. The film contains thoughtful messages and shines a light on mental disabilities.

While the film is not as good as you expect it, it is not as bad as you feared. The film is definitely worth watching. I recommend it for ages 5 to 18. People who saw the first film will particularly enjoy it. Otherwise it might be difficult to fully understand. I give this film a 4.5 out of 5 stars. Check it out when it opens in theaters June 17th.

TMNT - An action-packed movie with lots of comedy, suspense and thrills.

June 16th, 2016

I’ve never been a fan of Teenage Mutan Ninja Turtles but this latest film seems to have turned a corner in its intent and has many redeeming qualities. The storyline is nothing spectacular – keep someone from overtaking the world but, somehow, this is a kinder, gentler TMNT. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Na’im S. comments, “This is an action-packed movie with lots of comedy, suspense and thrills. In this film, there are many characters that were in the first TMNT movie as well as the original cartoon such as Shredder and Casey Jones. Bebop and Rocksteady make their first debut in this film and it is a hilarious debut, because the actors who play those characters are very funny.” See his full review below.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
By Na’im Smith, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

“Shhhh! You have to sneak up on them.” I’m talking as quiet as a ninja because I’m reviewing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows! If you liked the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, then you’d better hurry up and buy tickets for this next movie, because it’s even better! This is an action-packed movie with lots of comedy, suspense and thrills. In this film, there are many characters that were in the first TMNT movie as well as the original cartoon such as Shredder and Casey Jones. Bebop and Rocksteady make their first debut in this film and it is a hilarious debut, because the actors who play those characters are very funny.

In this film, Shredder has returned, but this time without a mask. Shredder (Brian Tee) is the evil mastermind that everybody hates. Brian Tee is the perfect actor to play Shredder because he never breaks character and makes the audience believe he is really scary. While Shredder is being transported to prison, many unexpected things happen and the Ninja Turtles go through a lot of trouble to find and defeat him once and for all.

Fenwick (Will Arnett) is the person who takes credit for defeating Shredder in the first movie even though it was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, because the Turtles can’t show their faces in public.

Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) is a scientist with a hilarious laugh. Baxter Stockman works with Shredder and the Foot Clan to try and take over the world.

Motion capture is used to create this film which means that the actors put on sensors and the sensors capture their movements and put them onto the screen. So, the film is part animation and part live action. It is nice to see an appearance by Carmelo Anthony, a New York Knicks NBA player because the setting is in New York City and seeing him in Madison Square Garden makes the movie seem even more realistic.

I give this film 5 out of 5 bold stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18. Adults who liked Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when they were younger will also very much enjoy this film. This film is rated PG-13 for mild profanity and violence.

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