Scholarships Available for Film Critics Boot Camps in Silver Spring and Martha’s Vineyard

July 9th, 2014

KFCA.2014_1.jpgIf your child loves films, loves to talk about them and loves to be on camera, we have a camp for you! This “opportunity of a lifetime” experience offers learning and fun all in one. One of our sponsors just made available two partial scholarships for our camp in Silver Spring, MD next week (July 14-18) and another has made two FULL SCHOLARSHIPS available in Martha’s Vineyard for our camp August 11-15. If you can take advantage of these opportunities, don’t delay, do it today!
The camp is open to boys and girls, ages 10 to 15. This unique boot camp helps build self confidence and explores the behind-the-scenes aspects of the film industry while kids critique the latest films, learn to write reviews, practice interview techniques, improve on-camera skills, visit with industry professionals and are coached by seasoned professionals. All campers will have the opportunity to join the KIDS FIRST! Film Critic team of reporters afterwards.

The KIDS FIRST! Film Critic’s program, now in its fourth year, has received acclaim from publishers and educators alike. The reviews, both written and videotaped, by the team of youth reporters reach an audience of more than 7 million monthly through affiliations with broadcast, print and online publishers including Huffington Post, YouTube, Voice America Kids Network, Kidsville News, Working Woman, Kidzworld.com, HDnet Movies KidScene, LA Parent, Westchester Parent and many more.

Leading the KIDS FIRST! teaching team is Ranny Levy, founder and president of KIDS FIRST! / Coalition for Quality Children’s Media, a former television producer, educator and long-time children’s media advocate. With a life-long interest in film and children’s use of film, Carol Darcy, with an EdD in Education Leadership and Curriculum Development (Boston University) has taught kindergarten, undergraduate and graduate students. She designed a professional development course called Being a Pro-Active Media Literacy Advocate. Carol joins the KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Boot Camp staff this summer on Martha’s Vineyard.

The week-long boot camps meet Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Silver Spring and 9 a.m to 2:00 p.m. at Martha’s Vineyard. Locations include:

  • July 14 - 18:  Silver Spring, MD, Discovery Communications (DCE World Headquarters)
  • Aug 11 - Aug 15: Martha’s Vineyard, Martha’s Vineyard Film Center

For more information and to register, go to http://www.kidsfirst.org. Please act soon, because space is limited. Tuition: $459. The partial scholarships in Silver Springs brings the camp down to $225 per child! There are two full scholarships available for kids at the Martha’s Vineyard Camp. For more information visit http://www.kidsfirst.org/become-a-juror/2014.BootCamp.html

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Boot Camp is a program of the 23-year-old, national, nonprofit organization,  Coalition for Quality Children’s Media  whose mission is to teach children critical viewing skills and to increase the visibility and availability of quality children’s media. For more information visit http://www.kidsfirst.org.

“Your efforts to make media a more valuable part of students’ lives is critically important,” John Wilson, Executive Director, National Education Association.

Transformers: Age of Extinction - The Rules Have Changed

June 30th, 2014

Set five years after Dark of the Moon, this sequel sets out to continue the franchise and take a new pathway to hold our interest. It’s a technical extravaganza, to be sure and, if it wasn’t for being way too long, sure to be a hit with summer theater-goers. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O comments, “I think t this is a fantastic part of the series. They do an extremely impressive job since it is the first action feature film to use ONLY IMAX 3D HD cameras, which is hard to do with these types of shots.” Raven D, age 16 adds, “This film is entertaining and visually very well done. Director Michael Bay uses the first IMAX Digital 3D camera, making the images more immersive and stunning than anything that’s been seen on the big screen so far.” Their full reviews are below.

Transformers: Age of Extinction
Reviewed by Gerry O, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

This is the most action packed film I’ve seen in a while! I was worried that it won’t be as good as the original, but boy was I wrong. Transformers: Age of Extinction is an action packed adventure that all Transformer fans will love! They are definitely back!

This is not just about fighting between bad and good guys (which there is plenty of). Transformers: Age of Extinction has a good mixture of romance, humor and action. It’s all related to a main adventure and, of course, who can forget, stupendous looking Transformers!

The story starts when humans are killing Transformers because they think they are attracting aliens. That’s when a young dad, who is in kind of a pickle with his finances, starts fixing up an old truck and discovers that it is an Autobot and, not just a regular one at that. So, they go on an adventure to stop something extremely powerful from being made.

I think t this is a fantastic part of the series. They do an extremely impressive job since it is the first action feature film to use ONLY IMAX 3D HD cameras, which is hard to do with these types of shots. In the theater, it looks like you are in the movie and is definitely the right choice. There are a lot of exciting moments such as when the Transformers get their favorite car models back and also, the battles and story line are a lot like the first one. This, in my opinion, is a perfect approach. However, this film is about three hours long and I felt it could have been made shorter. By the second hour, you could guess what the ending is going to be. As much as I love the special effects, when you have too much of a good thing – it’s too much.

My favorite moment is when the main character sees his 17-year-old daughter with her boyfriend. When he starts talking about teenage problems, Optimums Prime responds with, “Yeah, I experienced that with Bumble Bee.” The timing is perfect and it also fits perfectly and shows that even though they’re 90% robotic, they still love their families. I also thought it is awesome how the director portrays Bumble Bee as an unruly teenager.

This film has a lot of action and intense moments so I recommend it for ages 11 to 18. I also give it 4.5 out of 5 stars because I believe the movie should have been a bit shorter.

Transformers: Age of Extinction
Reviewed by Raven Devanney

It’s been years since the Decepticons and the Autobots battled for the fate of the humans in Chicago and human defenses against alien forces are at an all-time high. A government branch of humans is targeting all Transformers, Autobots and Decepticons alike, with the help of a menacing assassin. While all of this is going on, Cade Yeager, a struggling inventor from Texas tries to make enough means to keep his property and put his daughter Tessa through college.  While looking for parts to help his inventions, he stumbles upon a broken down, rusted truck and decides to fix it up. To his surprise, the truck turns out to the mighty Optimus Prime. Cade fixes him and decides to help him defeat the forces coming for Earth yet, again once he realizes what the government is doing to Transformers. Now, the fate of the entire human race lies in the hands of Optimus and this family of humans and, without them, we might just face extinction.This film is entertaining and visually very well done. Director Michael Bay uses the first IMAX Digital 3D camera, making the images more immersive and stunning than anything that’s been seen on the big screen so far. It’s very intense to be sitting in the IMAX Theater seeing these 50 ft. robots captured in such a realistic way. If you’ve seen any of the previous films from this franchise you know that they are nothing short of action packed. The cinematography and CGI is able to show the intense battle scenes and large scale attacks in a breathtaking, edge-of-your-seat way. One thing that I don’t like about the visuals is the inconsistency of the Transformers from film to film. The main characters look the same but some of the Autobots that are introduced in this film are designed completely different than in any of the previous films. Their faces are constructed to have features that look extremely humanesque and it is strange to see them next to Optimus and BumbleBee who still have the classic Transformer look. Another inconsistency is that, in the last film, every time a Transformer was hit they would spill a blood-like-liquid, but in this film, if they are injured, the liquid that comes from the wounds is bright green.

It is very strange to see a Transformer film without Shia Labeouf but, I am quite impressed with Mark Wahlberg and the way he tackles this role. I think he’s a fantastic actor and really grounds the film. I’m also a fan of Nicola Peltz and think she is decent in this film. However, I am really sick of the way girls are portrayed in this franchise. Every single leading lady looks like a Victoria’s Secret model, is completely helpless about 75% of the movie, can never figure out how to help them self and has to be told to run before they do. Near the end, they have one moment of courage and that’s pretty much all. It’s a formula that is completely predictable in all of the Transformer films, but alas, it’s what sells.

Like I said before, this film is entertaining and it enjoyable. It kept me engaged, concerned for the characters, shocked and, I’ll admit, I did almost cry near the end. However this film is peppered with extremely cliché and honestly annoying lines and interactions. From the very beginning, Tessa is introduced as a stereotypical film version of a teenage girl. She rolls up with her friends screaming and giggling about how excited they are to party and be crazy. The whole interaction is cheesy and unnecessary and sets her up to look like a bimbo. After that, her boyfriend, who looks suspiciously similar to the Hemsworth brothers, comes to save the day and the rude, inappropriate and just plain stupid things he says to Tessa’s father drove me insane. There are several lines in the film that prompted me to say to myself, “Really? Was that really necessary?” The last irritating thing is the fact that they really drove the whole “American Way” and patriotism to the ground. In every seen at Cade’s ranch there are at least two American flags shown and it is constantly mentioned that they’re just good ole’ Texas folk, protecting America with cries of: “Don’t mess with our country!” “Think of your country!” “Fight for your country!” Previous films were less centered on our nation and more about the human race as a whole.

Despite my qualms regarding this movie, it is entertaining and the visuals are extremely well done. I give it 4 out of 5 stars and recommend this film for ages 13 to 18 due to the violence and language. However, if you have seen the previous films and are under 13, then this film should be suitable for you. If you’re a fan of Transformers, action or just want to experience the first film to ever use the million dollar IMAX Digital 3D camera, be sure to check out Transformer: Age of Extinction in theaters now.

Earth to Echo Brings Back the Sci-Fi Feel of the 80s

June 25th, 2014

For those of use who hold a special place in our hearts for the sci-fi films of our youth such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, this film may seem like a blast from the past, only with new and fun twists. The story follows a group of kids who embark on an adventure with an alien who needs their help. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry Orz comments, “This movie brings the old sci-fi feel of the 80s back to life. It has the same style, which is my favorite.” See Gerry’s full review and interviews with cast and creators below.

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

This is an adventure Hollywood has been waiting for. This is not just another story about helping an alien to get to its home planet, Earth to Echo is an emotional and fun adventure that many kids will love and cherish for generations.

The story has a little sprinkle of romance, displays a true friendship, thrills when they discover Echo, and, of course, will pump you up with adrenaline. If you are the type of person that likes action – this film has plenty of it since there are also BAD guys chasing after them.

The adventure starts when four young kids have to move out of their homes because a highway project is going to demolish them. On their last day together, they follow maps that randomly appeared on their phones. What they find is greater than any of them anticipated. Now, if you want all the juicy details – you have to watch the film.

This movie brings the old sci-fi feel of the 80s back to life. It has the same style, which is my favorite. It relates a lot to the legendary film, E.T and I see Echo as a sort of E.T. Jr. character. However, the story starts rather abruptly. It feels like there is no well-defined beginning. Otherwise this is great adventure that kids will love and perhaps even look for their own Echo’s in the neighborhoods.

The directing, I think, is very unique since it seems as if the movie is shot from the kid’s prospective. There is a lot of complexity around this type of technique but I believe the end result is well worth the time and the effort that was put into the movie.

My favorite scene is when they are escaping BAD guys. The thing they find, which they name Echo is in danger because of those bad guys. They are about to crash into a truck, but Echo takes the truck apart in midair and puts it back together behind them! The special effects are amazing and it also shows that Echo is very protective of her friends.

I recommend this movie for ages 6 to 18. Younger kids may not understand the full complexity of the film. I also give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Earth to Echo
By Kendyl P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12
Video review here.

Earth to Echo is a mind blowing movie. If you are a fan of movies like E.T. or discovering aliens from space, this movie is perfect for you. Earth to Echo is about a group of friends, Tuck (Astro), Alex (Teo Halm), Munch (Resse Heartwig) and Emma (Ella Wahlesedt) who are forced to move because of the construction of a big freeway near their houses. Before they move, their cell phones start acting up. It turns out to be a map and they follow it. It leads them to an alien that is trying to get back home but can’t go. It’s up to Tuck, Munch, Alex and Emma to save the day.

My favorite character is Alex because he is very helpful and cool. He sticks by the alien’s side and he really cares about him. He is like the alien’s best friend. My favorite part is when small parts of the space ship fly in from all over the neighborhood to form a really large spaceship and the main part of the ship is in Alex’s backyard. I really enjoyed watching that.

The actors, Astro, Teo Halm, Resse Heartwig and Ella Wahlesedt do a great job expressing different emotions in the film. The message of this film is “true friendships can last a lifetime.” The friendship the boys have continues long after they go their separate ways.

This is a great film. I recommend this film for kids age 9 to 16 and I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Earth to Echo
By Kayla P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12
Video review here

Earth to Echo is a fantastic family movie to watch this summer. This film is about three boys, Tuck, Alex and Munch who have a very close friendship. Unfortunately, their homes are being demolished because there are plans to build a major highway right through the middle of their community. As the boys prepare to pack up and leave their community, their cell phones began receiving strange pictures, which they learn is a map. The boys decide to follow the map and discover a robot named Echo. After communicating with Echo, the boys learn he is trying to build a key to unlock his space ship to go home. While the boys are helping Echo, they learn the real reason why their homes are being demolished. They may be able to save the community from being destroyed.

Tuck and his friends are told to stop trying to help Echo. They learn that by helping Echo they are also helping the families in their community. The message of the film is “do the right thing.” You might face some opposition by some people, but you still have to do the right thing that will benefit all people.

My favorite scene is when Tuck, Alex and Munch discover Echo. At first they think he is a beeping machine. Every time Echo beeps Munch starts running for his life and acts crazy. He is my favorite character because he brings a lot of the humor to this film.

The actors are spectacular. They make the film come alive and make you feel like you are on the journey with them. Earth to Echo is the perfect summertime movie for the entire family.  I recommend this film for kids ages 7 through 18. I give this movie 5 out of 5 stars. Earth to Echo will be in theaters July 2, 2014, don’t miss it.

The Signal - A Sci-Fi Thriller Unlike Most

June 18th, 2014

If you’re a sci-fi fan and are tired of the same old thing then, this film might be just the thing for you. A trio of MIT students take off on a road trip and are drawn to an isolated area by a computer genius. When everything suddenly goes dark, Nic regains consciousness - only to find himself in a waking nightmare. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Raven D., age 16 comments, “This is one of the weirdest films I have ever seen but, I love it.” See her full review below.

The Signal
Reviewed by Raven Devanney, age 16

Best friends Nic and Jonah embark on a road trip with their close friend Haley to help her move to California. Along the way, Nic and Jonah continue corresponding with a computer genius known to them as Nomad. Nomad previously hacked into their college’s computer system and, being computer programmers themselves, they aim to one-up this mysterious hacker. They trace the IP address from the emails they’ve been receiving and intend to confront who ever is “messing” with them. But when they are lead to a small abandoned home in a desolate area, things take an unexpected turn. When Nic awakes from unconsciousness he finds himself in a government testing facility and what he learns is more shocking than anything he could have ever imagined.

This is one of the weirdest films I have ever seen but, I love it. The cinematography is absolutely incredible. Most of the film is centered more around the visuals than the  dialogue. This film shows a lot of flashbacks and memories throughout that are shown mostly in slow motion and the film work is very artistic and thoughtful. The soundtrack is incredible. Since there is little to no dialogue, at times the music often carries the emotion and intent of the film. The music contains quite a bit of ambient noise and definitely has a spooky sci-fi feel to it. Not only is the music a vital part to the film, but there are almost always strange, off-setting, whirring sounds that play in the background. It gives the feel that something is about to happen which is a nice way to add some edge and unease.

The reason I say this is one of the weirdest movies I have ever seen is because I can honestly say there were very few moments when I completely knew what was going on in the film. This movie does not explain what is happening throughout the whole thing, it gives no real background info on the characters, what happened to them, where they really are, nothing. Throughout the movie I kept thinking that there would be a big reveal and everyone would say “Oh, I get it now!.” But, that came in a very surprising way. There is a big reveal at the very last minute of the film but honestly, it left my friend and I with more questions than before. Although I spent the 95 minutes of this film terribly confused, it isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s brilliant. Director William Eubank only gives the audience as much information as the character Nic has in this film. And, after suffering major head trauma and being told very little, Nic has barely any information to work off of or any idea what is going on. So in a sense, the audience is being forced to feel what Nic is feeling complete with his frustration and confusion. It’s a very immersive movie experience and, like I said, it’s brilliant.

Unfortunately I can’t share my favorite scene, or any scene really without taking away from actually watching the film. But I can talk about the incredible cast and characters. There are very few speaking roles in the film, only six actually. But these six characters are fantastic. Of course there is the main trio, Nic, played by Brenton Thwaites, Haley, played by Olivia Cooke and Jonah, played by Beau Knapp.

Nic is an interesting character and also the main one. I’m assuming he suffers from MS or some degenerative disease because in the beginning of the film he is walking around with forearm crutches and mentions that he’ll need a wheelchair but, in flashbacks you see him running and walking around freely. However this is never explained. He is such a great character because as I mentioned before, he is confused about what is going on throughout 95% of the film. Brenton does a phenomenal job portraying this sense of panic and frustration at being so lost. His actions and reactions seem so authentic to his character and he has a wonderful way that invites the audience to join him in his ups and downs. Jonah is also a really great character. He is very quirky but also crazy intelligent and, although he is not in a large portion of the film, he is able to shed some light on what is potentially happening to them. I love Haley because Olivia Cooke plays my favorite character on “Bates Motel” so it is really cool to see her playing a more mature role. Haley is what drives Nic to do pretty much everything he does in the film because the two of them are in a relationship. It is very nice to have such sentimental and caring interactions throughout this film since everything else is quite intense. I can’t discuss the rest of the characters without, again, taking away from your movie watching experience.

I wholeheartedly recommend this film for ages 13 to 18 because of the difficulties around following the plot, some very intense and violent situations and also, there is a lack of dialogue. You’re just viewing images from the past and present which may be confusing and not very entertaining for a younger audience. At first, I was very hesitant about this film because it starts off a bit slow and is, as you know, confusing as heck, but after watching it all the way through I give The Signal 5 out of 5 stars and am eager to see it again. If you’re into sci-fi film, aliens or just want a mind-bending experience, then check out The Signal in theaters now.

The Fault in Our Stars
Reviewed by Raven Devanney

The Fault in Our Stars based on the best-selling novel by John Green is a beautiful, refreshing and witty love story about two teenagers and the remarkable love they share. Hazel, played by Shailene Woodley, is a teen girl living with cancer. Accompanied by her oxygen tank, she attends support groups in the hopes that it will ease her parents worry for her. One day at a group gathering, she meets a boy unlike any she has ever met before. Augustus Waters is a cancer patient with a prosthetic leg and a heart of gold. The two of them bond immediately over their shared sense of humor and disdain for ordinary things. The two of them go through incredible ups and downs dealing with their illnesses while taking a beautiful journey of love places the never thought they’d go.

This film is incredible. I was very hesitant when I saw that they were making a film based off of the novel by John Green because the book is so amazing and I wasn’t sure if a movie would do it justice. But this film goes above and beyond. It stays so true to the characters and their personalities. The feel of the book is captured perfectly in the film and I cannot wait to see it again. The sets and locations are great because it really shows everything as I imagined it in the book. I feel like everything is as it should be. They even captured Hazel’s depressing and run down swing set exactly as I imagined it. The musical score by Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott fits the film amazingly well. It really helps carry the emotions throughout the film and is wonderful to listen to.

I’m very pleased with the actors chosen for this film. I honestly did not imagine Shailene Woodley when I thought of actresses to play Hazel Grace but, she does an incredible job portraying her. Hazel is such a wonderful character. She looks at the world in such a unique and honest way and is such a genuine person. She has a very interesting, witty personality and even though her life seems very bleak at times, she is a very positive. John Green created such a complex character while also keeping her extremely real and I think Shailene was the perfect choice to play such an imperfect role.

I think what makes this film so amazing is its uniqueness. You don’t hear many stories about two teenagers with cancer meeting and falling so deeply in love at a support group. Yet, even though this film is so unique, it sends a universal message about love and loss that everyone can relate to in some way. This film is so refreshingly real and authentic and I think it’s been a while since I’ve seen that in theaters. We get so caught up with all the explosions and fantasy and unrealistic scenarios that big blockbuster films bombard us with that it’s really nice to finally see a film like this. These two individuals are able to share such a deep connection and love each other for all of their flaws and quirks, which is something that everyone deserves to have in their life. This film shows love on such a real level in so many ways, from romantic love to the love of parents and children. But it also shows loss and heartbreak just the same. I can’t accurately describe everything I felt while watching this movie, but I can say that it is epic.

The entire audience was sobbing by the end and this film does look at life and death in a very blunt and real fashion. There are also a few moments with mature language and some sexual situations so I recommend this film for ages 13 to 18. I think this is a must see and definitely a wonderful summer film, whether or not you’re a teen. This is a wonderful love story that everyone in their teens and older should experience. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars so make sure you see this remarkable film which is in theaters now.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 - Visually Stunning Spectacular Sequel

June 17th, 2014

This sequel to How to Train Your Dragon is part 2 of a trilogy based on the award-winning books by Cressida Cowell and takes you to the next level with visually stunning animation. Written and directed by Dean DeBlois, the story builds on the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless who have to work in unison to stand up for what they believe is right and protect the peace. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Jeremy B., age 7 comments, “This is an awesome movie… I give this movie 5 out of 5 stars because it is suspenseful and funny.” Haley P, age 11 adds, “The movie How to Train Your Dragon 2 is absolutely spectacular and even more improved than the first one…(it) is definitely a mind blowing journey and I love it. See their full reviews below.

How to Train Your Dragon 2
Reviewed by Jeremy B., age 7, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is an awesome animation! It is adventurous, funny, and suspenseful. The producer (Bonnie Arnold) does a great job keeping everyone on the edge of their seats throughout the whole film.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is an incredible sequel to the first movie.  It is a 3D animation about a boy named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon, Toothless (Randy Thom), who are trying to stop a bad Viking named Drago (Djimon Hounsou) from capturing all the dragons and making an army out of them. Hiccup and his friends must work together in a battle to protect the peace.

This movie has you feeling many different emotions throughout the film.  It is suspenseful, funny and even a little bit sad.  The amount of thrilling scenes in this film is incredible.  I kept wondering if Hiccup and his friends were going to get caught when they went on all their adventures.  How to Train Your Dragon 2 is also very funny.  All the characters and the dragons have a good sense of humor.  The characters scripts are hilarious and the dragons have very comical body language.  The animation in this film is also amazing. The 3D animators do a great job with the special effects.  The dragons look like they are popping out right in front of you! My favorite part of the movie is when the two alpha dragons fight with each other.  I like it because the special effects make it look like it is happening right in front of me.  Like I could reach out and touch them!

How to Train Your Dragon 2 has a great message.  It shares with us that you have to believe in yourself if you want to accomplish big goals or dreams.  This message is used a couple times with a couple different characters throughout the film.

I give this movie 5 out of 5 stars because it is suspenseful and funny.  Kids and adults will love it, especially those who love fantasies with dragons and Vikings.  I recommend How to Train Your Dragon 2 for children ages 8 and up. This is a movie the whole family can enjoy.


How to Train Your Dragon 2
Reviewed by Haley P., Age 11, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

The movie How to Train Your Dragon 2 is absolutely spectacular and even more improved than the first one.  It is a battle between peace and dragon domination or in today’s world, as I see it, the battle between good and evil.  This movie is definitely a mind blowing journey and I love it.

The plot begins when Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless (Randy Thom) go exploring.  They find an old city that looks like an ice explosion and run into unfriendly dragon trappers who try to attack them and steal Toothless.  They claim that a man named Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) is going to overcome all the dragons and achieve world domination.  Bludvist is a very evil man.  However, Hiccup has some peace making he wants to do with Drago instead.  The good in Hiccup makes him want to restore peace in the land.  Hiccup’s determination for peace costs him both happiness and disappointment. However, in the end Hiccup finds out what his true destiny is.

My favorite part is when Hiccup runs into his long lost mother, Valka (Cate Blanchett).  Everything immediately falls right into place.  It turns out that Hiccup receives his peace making personality and love for dragons from his mother. They have a lot of things in common with each other.

All the dragons, I mean characters do a fabulous job and play each part well.  My favorite human character is Hiccup because he is determined to make peace and show that dragons can be as loyal as humans. My favorite dragon character is Toothless. He proves his loyalty and stands up for Hiccup no matter what it may cost.  The moral of this story is not to judge someone negatively before you get to really know him.

This movie is a good fit for ages 8 through 18.  Both boys and girls will enjoy this action packed movie because it includes emotion as well as adventure with many unexpected turn of events. Therefore, I rate this movie a five out of five “dazzling” stars!  How to Train your Dragon 2 is playing in theaters now.



Maleficent

by Shelby R., age 15, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

I love this movie because the costumes, special effects and cinematography are absolutely phenomenal.  The costumes send a message to the audience starting with lighter colors when things are happy to dark colors when evil appears.  Maleficent’s costume is the best.  I like her black flowing cape in the middle of her wings and her pointed horns on her head.  She looks so evil in all black yet stunning at the same time.

The cinematography is breath-taking, especially in the scene where the younger version of Maleficent flies throughout the forest kingdom. You can see all the beautiful waterfalls, the “fat people”-as Aurora calls them, field animals and trees. It is in 3D which allows you to feel as if you are flying though the sky with big majestic wings and looking down at all the little creatures smiling below.

This 3D action-packed film shows Maleficent’s transformation from a good fairy into an evil, cold-hearted fairy with no wings. Her lover, Stephen cuts her wings so that he can become King and so she plans her revenge by cursing his daughter, Princess Aurora. Later, Maleficent realizes that she made a mistake and tries to reverse the curse before it is too late.

My favorite scene is when Maleficent comes into King Stephen’s kingdom and curses Aurora. There are lots of special effects in this scene and I love how powerful and dramatic they are. Angeline Jolie’s portrayal of the evil side of Maleficent is particularly outstanding in this scene. My jaw dropped when I saw the lightening striking, the evil smoke surrounding her and the room darkens as she walks up to Stephen. I liked how everything about her is evil her evil - her laugh, makeup, costume and voice.

The message of the movie is that in life we all go through things that can make us hurt and desire revenge.  King Stephen became paranoid, evil and miserable trying to seek revenge on Maleficent.  As humans we have to make a decision to either allow our pain to be a strength or weakness. This movie also talks about how not all people are all bad but there are not all good too. I recommend this for ages 10 to 18 and give this movie 5 out of 5 stars.

Maleficent is in THEATERS NOW!! Remember being evil is complicated!

X-Men Days of Future Past
Reviewed by Keefer B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

X-traordinarily perfect! I’ve been waiting for this movie for a while and what a payoff.
The future, as we know it, is a wasteland for mutants: hunted and eliminated by the Sentinels. To stop this from ever happening, Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent into the past to prevent this dark outcome.

I adore the X-Men series and to see it again is beyond fantastic. Bringing back the original iconic actors such as Sir Patrick Stewart (Professor X) and Sir Ian McKellen (Magneto) makes me overjoyed! Even the younger versions of them - Micheal Fassbender and James McAvory are their own 3-dimensional characters because they’re not trying to be replicas of their older selves. Their interaction and relationships are strong and, just as in “X-Men First Class,” I love seeing Eric and Xavier just talking. These two started as friends and the film shows that perfectly. They have different pathways and ways to fix events but they never give up on each other.

The action and special effects in this film are grand. Showing different mutant powers is what made X-Men unique to begin with. It’s not entirely combat action, like “Avengers,” it’s more letting their powers do the work. Magneto slowly lifts an entire baseball stadium, which allows us to marvel at how powerful mutants can be.

The story is astounding! This film has to pick-up from the previous films and tie-up loose ends. Not only do they succeed but, they also remember little details. Example: the young Wolverine doesn’t have metal claws. They’re bone because he doesn’t get the metal ones until sometime in the future. Specifics like that add to how incredible this film is.
It can also confuse people who haven’t seen the other films. There are inside jokes and character connections that could be lost.

My favorite character is Quicksilver (Evan Peters), a mutant who has incredible speed.
This is by far the best representation of a comic-book character. Evan shows the mischievous and cocky side of Silver that is always a kick to watch.

My favorite scene is Quicksilver’s super speed sequence. This is when the team breaks Eric/Magneto out of a Pentagon prison and the group is cornered by security. Quicksilver, without a care in the world, pranks the guards by poking the bullets in mid-air, pulling their guns out of their hands and more. This is such an incredible ride that it just needs to be experienced.

The message of this film is, “Choices you make in the present, affect your future.” The whole reason for this story is that one careless act has changed the world forever. We need to think through the choices we make to have a bright future.

I give this 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to 13- to 18 year-olds. This film shows dark images and language that is not intended for younger audiences.

Even though this is a comedy, there are a lot of jokes that are somewhat mature so I recommend it for ages 12 to 18. I also give it 5 out 5 stars for good chemistry, comedy and great acting. I hope this is the beginning of many films with this amazing duo because their partnership clearly works. It gives the film that little something extra that makes for an instant blockbuster.

Blended
Reviewed by Shelby R., age 15, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

This movie is really funny and also heartfelt. Blended is about Jim and Lauren’s journey together. After going on a blind date, swearing never to see each other again, only to find themselves and their kids in the same hotel in Africa for whole week. Jim and Lauren are forced to learn how to blend themselves and their families together through various activities.

My favorite moment is when Lauren (Drew Barrymore) sings “Over the Rainbow” to Jim’s daughter, Lou. It made me almost cry because Jim’s wife used to sing that song to Lou every night before she passed away. It helped Espn (Jim’s daughter) get over the death of her mother. I liked how the director, Frank Coraci developed Lauren into this compassionate mother who cares about not only her kids but the well beings of others. Because of that, she is my favorite character.

The funniest moment is when Hilary (Bella Thorne) starts to dance in the middle of a basketball game to catch Jake’s attention and Jim (Adam Sandler) embarrasses her by asking her what she is doing. This scene connects the audience to the characters because everyone has gone through an embarrassing moment in his life when trying to impress someone.

Another funny moment is when Brendan (Lauren’s son) gets mad at Jim for not wanting his mother.  When Jim says how she uptight she is, he comes to her defense and calls her “hot.”

One of the filming locations is South Africa. Julio Macat, the cinematographer, captures the true essence of Africa and allows the audience to see its splendor including all the animals that live there. I love the scene when Jim and Lauren decide to explore the great outdoors and all you see is a long river with elephants, giraffes and a sandy desert.

One of lessons that I learned from this film is that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover because you never know how it might surprise you. I give this movie four out of five stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18. Check out Blended it comes out May 23th!!! Let the BLENDING BEGIN!!

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