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.

Dolphin Tale 2 - Based on a True Story with Lessons About Friendship and Hope

September 9th, 2014

DolphinTale2.jpgIn this sequel to the popular film, Dolphin Tale which follows the rescue and recovery of the beloved dolphin Winter, young Sawyer Nelson and the dedicated team at the Clearwater Marine Hospital face another crisis when her surrogate mother, the elderly Panama, passes away. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. comments, “I love this film! It is a fun and heartwarming movie that I think families will love too.” Samantha A., age 11 adds, “Dolphin Tail 2 is a movie based on a true story that teaches you about friendship, to NEVER give up and ALWAYS HAVE HOPE - literally. See their full reviews and Gerry O’s coverage from the World Premiere below.

Dolphin Tale 2
By Katherine S, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9

I love this film! It is a fun and heartwarming movie that I think families will love too.  It is a sequel to the original film Dolphin Tale, where Winter, a stranded dolphin was injured and a team of people care for and give her a prosthetic tail. It is now three years later and Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff return as Sawyer and Hazel along with star studded cast of Morgan Freeman as the Doctor, Ashley Judd as Hazel’s mom, Harry Connick Jr. and Kris Kristoferson as Sawyer’s dad and grandfather. This time, Winter’s mother dies and the team needs to find her a new companion or they will lose her to another aquarium.  Soon, they get a call about a new dolphin they are thinking of putting her with. Now the question is will it work out?

Sawyer is also faced with an opportunity of a lifetime, but he struggles with the decision to stay and care for Winter or, go on a new adventure.

My favorite part is when Sawyer swims in the tank with Winter and the real Bethanie Hamilton, who quest appears as herself. I also love when they rescue Mandy, another hurt dolphin and potential companion for Winter. And, the Pelican provides great comic relief – it is especially funny when they are x-raying a rescued sea turtle and the pelican goes crazy!

My favorite character is Sawyer who does an amazing job in this film, showing a range of emotions - looking worried, happy and confused as he faces tough decisions for Winter and for his future.

The sets in the film are spectacular – at both the ocean and inside the aquarium.  The Cinematography by Daryn Okada is awesome, especially the underwater photography.

One of the main messages in this film is “to never give up.”  Another is that “Change is good. But, to experience new things, sometimes you have to leave old things behind.”

Dolphin Tale 2 is a great family film. I recommend it for both boys and girls ages 6 to 18 but, adults will love it too because, who doesn’t love dolphins?  I rate this 5 out of 5 stars.

Be sure to check out Dolphin Tale 2 which will be in theaters nationwide on September 12.  Reviewed by Katherine Starr, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9.

Reviewed by Samantha A, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11Dolphin Tail 2 is a movie based on a true story that teaches you about friendship, to never give up and always have hope - literally. In this sequel to the first movie, Dolphin Tale, the Clearwater Rescue Team bands together because of a tragedy that involved the death of Winter’s best friend Panama, which leaves Winter without the only pool mate she has ever known. Winter goes in deep depression and the clock is ticking. They need to pair Winter with another dolphin fast.

Dolphin Tale 2 is one of those movies that might not catch your eye because it doesn’t appeal to you, or it just doesn’t look like much but trust me, I thought the same thing and this movie changed my mind fast. It’s one of my favorite movies now because it’s so much more than just an average movie about a dolphin that needs help. It’s also an educational, feel-good movie. And, it has messages about companionship and love, about never giving up and about exploring new possibilities. This movie is not only fantastic, it is also hilarious, mostly because of a crazy pelican that flies in and out of the aquarium and does unpredictable and wild things. For example, it steals food from unsuspecting visitors and stands guard over a wounded turtle that was found in wrapped in fishing line.

I was really excited to see Dolphin Tale 2 because the first one was so good. It is really fun seeing what happened to Winter and everybody at Clearwater Aquarium. This movie isn’t just heartwarming and fun, it is also such an emotional roller coaster when something unexpected happens (which is often).  My eyes were glued to the screen. I learned that dolphins have feelings to and, as Sawyer says “That’s not a bad thing”.

Dolphin Tale 2 is a phenomenal film. I would give it 4 out of 5 golden stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18 because some scenes are a little mature and might be scary for any kids under 7.

If I Stay - A Moving Film About a Teenage Girl and Her Life or Death Decision

September 3rd, 2014

IfIStay.jpgLife changes in an instant for young Mia Hall after a car accident puts her in a coma. During an out-of-body experience, she must decide whether or not to wake up and live an altered life, far different from what she imagined. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Raven D. comments, “If I stay is a beautiful, moving film about a teenage girl and the life or death decision she must make.” See her full review below.

If I Stay

Reviewed By Raven Devanney

If I Stay is a beautiful, moving film about a teenage girl and the life or death decision she must make. Mia is a teenage girl who has a wonderful, quirky family, a boyfriend who loves her to pieces and a bright, ambitious future. But, all of that changes when she and her family are in a fatal car accident. While Mia’s body is in a coma, her mind journeys back to all of her memories, triumphs, heart breaks and future. She has to make the decision on whether or not to fight and stay alive, or let go and leave this world. Will Mia stay?

I love this movie. It made me laugh, cry and it helped me to see all of the good in my own life that I should cherish, because you never know when it could all change. The cinematography is beautiful. Most of the film is filled with memories that Mia has and the way they are portrayed is very neat. The music is also beautiful. Mia is a cellist and a lot of the film focuses on her dreams of becoming a successful musician, so the film is filled with beautiful classical music.

My Favorite character is Mia played by Chloe Moretz. This film shows so many aspects of Mia’s life, so it’s easy to find something to relate to. She has a great passion for playing the cello and dedicates most of her life to it. She has difficulties relating to her parents and even her boyfriend since their musicals tastes are far more edgy than hers. She has to face her insane loss and she has to choose between many different things in life. There’s something about her life that I think anyone can relate to, so she’s a wonderful character. Chloe does a wonderful job portraying everything she’s going through and she moved me to tears many times.

This film makes me think about my own family and everything I would do for them. It makes me think of my life and all the joys and sorrows I’ve faced. There was not a dry eye in the audience because this film provokes unique memories for every individual. I felt especially connected to Mia’s family because I too have a younger brother and am very close with my parents, so I was very touched by Mia’s situation.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18 because of the intense emotions and mature content. Make sure you check out. It is playing in theaters now.

The Identical - A Powerful Message in a Faith-Based Film

August 28th, 2014

TheIdentical.NewCover.jpgThe Identical is a heart-touching drama about twin boys who are separated at birth and one becomes a rock ‘n’ roll star while the other struggles to balance his love of music with pleasing his father. Taking place in 1936, during the Great Depression, this film faith-based film is likely to move you to tears. Stars Ashley Judd, Ray Liotta, Blake Rayne and Amanda Crew. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Brianna B, age 14, comments, “This film has great music, family principles and really zones in about finding and following your dreams.” See her complete review below and listen to it on our radio show, KIDS FIRST! Coming Attractions next week.

The Identical

Reviewed by Brianna B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14
The Identical is a great film with a powerful message and fantastic story line that always keeps you guessing. It’s really an enjoyable film to see.

Twins, Ryan Wade and Drexel Hemsley (Blake Rayne) are separated at birth, for financial reasons, during the Great Depression. A preacher and his wife adopt Ryan to give him a better life. Although the boys have different lives, they both share their passion for music. Drexel performs as a famous rock star while Ryan struggles between pleasing his parents and following his dreams.

This film has great music, family principles and really zones in on finding and following your dreams. I also like its captivating and unique story that is beautifully portrayed on the big screen. It’s set in 1936, way before my time, but I still enjoyed watching and listening to the music. Blake Ryan plays both of the twins and is able to keep their characters separate. At the same time, he projects the intense connection that twins have between each other. The wardrobe, hairstyles and historical props all contribute to the rich details that create this special period piece.

My favorite scene is when Ryan listens and looks at his twin brother’s record album and he does not notice that he looks and sounds exactly like him. This scene is funny because you question why he wouldn’t notice it. It seems so oblivious that you can’t help but feel bad for him. My favorite character is Ryan’s Mother, Louise Wade (Ashley Judd), because she is very kind and has a light spirit when you look at her and hear her beautiful voice. You somehow know that she only wants the best for her son.

The Identical also stars Seth Green (Dino) and Ray Liotta (Reece Wade) who contributes their exceptional acting abilities to this film with great humor and emotions.

I love the powerful message in this film which is to follow your dreams and not other peoples. It’s your life so work hard to fulfill your dreams and it will make you happy. I recommend The Identical for all the music lovers at heart and ages 10 to 18. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars as I really enjoyed the music, the story line and the message. The Identical rocks in to theaters on September 5th, so please check it out.

KIDS FIRST!’s partner, Kidstar Radio Launches Kickstarter Campaign on Labor Day

August 28th, 2014

kidstar.jpgKidstar Radio Network, our partner that produces our KIDS FIRST! Coming Attractions radio show, is launching a Kickstarter campaign Sept. 1 for a new international program called Voyage Earth.

“I’ve never been so excited in my life,” said Perry Damone, CEO of Kidstar. “International children have been interested and now we have a proper way to introduce them to Kidstar.”

Voyage Earth is Kidstar’s newest program idea. The program will consist of children creating radio packages about current events that will then be used by larger news corporations just like a news wire service.

These packages will include everything from gang violence in the south side of Chicago to even family problems in the London to ‘Foodie News’ from Kid Chef Eliana.

“I think that when we give children a voice to such a large stage, people will listen,” said Damone. “These kids create professional shows and it is about time we get them to the professional limelight. We give the children the tools to create the shows and then we let them be the driver.”

The Kickstarter itself will run from Sept. 1 to Oct. 10.

Some of the rewards include:

•    $25 – A personal thank you letter from the Kidstar staff and kids.
•    $50 – A starter radio kit that includes a headset with a microphone, instructions to start a YouTube account and a tote bag with a Kidstar hat.
•    $3,800 – An annual subscription to the Kidstar Radio Program for your school.Check it out,

Batman: Assault on Arkham - A Comic-Book Based Film That Follows the Bad Guys

August 19th, 2014

214071.jpgIf you’re a fan of the game series, then you’ll love this movie. It is extremely violent, just like the games and thus, we recommend for older teens and adults. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic and comic book expert, Keefer B. comments, “The characters are dynamic. As much as I love heroes, I adore villains. A protagonist is nothing without an antagonist and these criminals take the cake.” Anthony A. adds, “This movie is a funny movie but has a lot of violence. It also has a lot of gore and a ton of action.” See their full reviews below.

Batman: Assault on Arkham
Reviewed by Keefer B.
Vigorous! This is your typical entertaining comic book film, only this time you’re cheering for, and looking from, the bad guys’ point of view.

Amanda Waller (C.C.H. Pounder) assembles a team of six criminals, called The Suicide Squad. Their mission is to break into Arkham and retrieve The Riddler’s (Mathew Gray Gubler) cane. However it does not go according to plan.

This film is rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language and I admire this film’s judgment. Not long ago, I wrote a blog about the rating system and how leisurely the ratings are letting mature content into PG-13 films without forewarnings. I can’t complain since this film gives us a clear heads up! I will say, one of the film’s characters towards the end says, ”Mother…” and then the audio cuts off. I don’t believe that counts for using the “F” word.

The characters are dynamic. As much as I love heroes, I adore villains. A protagonist is nothing without an antagonist and these criminals take the cake. Batman villains are unlike your regular, “Want to take over the world” bad guys. They are complex criminals that are assassins, deranged psychologically, destined to kill and maim for fun, and sometimes all of the above at once. What’s even better, these characters are lesser known villains such as Killer Shark (John DiMaggio), Captain Boomerang (Greg Ellis) and more - all with their own vendetta both personal and business. This creates engaging conflict between the characters.

The artistry in the animation never ceases to amaze me. Batman’s universe is dark and brooding with lots of shadows and dim lights. Colors like red, green and purple are done in darker shades and tones instead of normal bright tones. The characters all have costumes and designs that define them. Joker (Troy Baker)’s bright colored suit stands out from the rest of the characters while still looking like a part of the world he lives in.

My favorite Character is Deadshot (Neal McDonugh). Deadshot is the leader who only wants to be with his daughter. He’s cunning, a sharp shooter and deadly. He even manages to get into Joker’s mind and outsmart him. That’s impressive.

My favorite scene is when the squad is up against Batman (Kevin Conroy). This takes place in a building full of confiscated belongings from the criminals of Arkham. So if you’re a comic book fan, like me, see how many different Easter Eggs you can spot. Plus this is one of the rare times you see Batman do what he does best.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommended it to 13- through 18-year-olds. As I mentioned earlier, there is content that is inappropriate for younger kids. This film is out on DVD and Blue-ray now.

Batman: Assault on Arkham
Reviewed by Anthony A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

This movie is a funny movie but has a lot of violence. It also has a lot of gore and a ton of action. I really enjoyed this movie and I hope you will too.

This movie is all about a squad that is called The Suicide Squad which is a squad of super villains. They have to listen to a government lady named Amanda Waller who wants to kill the Riddler. If anyone from The Suicide Squad tries to run or doesn’t listen or, if they try to kill Amanda they will die. All the members have a bomb in the back of their neck which she will set off and blow their heads clean off if they disobey. So they all go to Arkham to try to kill the Riddler for her.

The main characters in this movie are The Joker (Troy Baker), Harley Quinn (Hynden Walch), Batman (Kevin Conroy), Deadshot (Neal McDonough), Killer Frost (Jennifer Hale), Captain Boomerang (Greg Ellis), The Riddler (Matthew Gray Gubler), Amanda Waller (CCH Pounder), King Shark (John Dimaggio) and Black Spider (Giancarlo Esposito). My favorite character in the movie is Deadshot because he may be a bad guy but he is more like a good guy. He will do anything for his daughter, even if he has to kill a few people. I guess that explains why he is in prison.

My favorite part in the movie is when The Joker gets out of jail and kills a few people because it is really cool and has a good amount of action. It also had a little gore and involves a smoke bomb. It is really cool and since The Joker’s out of jail, no one is laughing but him.

I would recommend this movie for ages 12 to 18 because it has a few bad words, a few inappropriate scenes and has killing and gore. This is available in DVD/Blu-ray now.

The Giver
By Samantha Alexander, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

The Giver is based the book by Louis Lowry. It tells the story of what seems like a perfect community where there is no pain or suffering - a simple, secluded world where there are no differences and no choices. A young boy named Jonas is selected to become the receiver of memories and he learns from an elderly man about the pain and suffrage, from the outside world, that has been kept from everyone. Jonas soon figures out that his whole life has been a lie and tries to change the way his secluded community is governed.

This movie is very captivating. I had my eyes glued to the screen the whole time, not wanting to miss a second of the story. I was so excited to see this movie because The Giver is one of my favorite books and I think the movie is just as good, although a bit different.

Like most movies that are based on books, there are some big parts of the storyline that the movie misses that I feel would have helped people who hadn’t read the book understand the story better. Although at certain points in the movie it doesn’t matter that parts are missed, because the missed parts are replaced with something equally as great. Then sometimes, the missed parts aren’t replaced and it takes the movie in a whole other direction. That’s why even if you read the book some parts in the movie will be a total surprise. I enjoyed watching the movie and seeing which parts of the book are included and what surprises are added by the movie’s producers.

The actors and actresses in this film are fantastic. Brenton Twaites (Jonas) was born for this role. I really like how bold and brave his character is throughout the whole movie. Meryl Streep fits the role of the chief elder perfectly. Odeya Rush is great as Fiona. I love the fact that she stands with Jonas through thick and thin. Lastly is Jeff Bridges who plays the role of The Giver, he is phenomenal. His character isn’t very outspoken but has a strong on-screen presence and he says a lot just using body language and facial expressions. He has true acting talent.

I rate this movie 5 out of 5 stars because of its great acting, a great story line and definitely worth seeing in theaters with a best friend. I recommend it for 10 to 13-year-olds because the storyline is a bit mature and I don’t think kids under age 10 would understand the story.

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