The Duff - Hilarious, Yet Deep. Worthy Of A Second Viewing

February 25th, 2015

TheDuff.jpgBullying takes all forms in high school. This film shows Mae Whitman as a high school senior whose world is shattered when she learns the student body knows her at “The DUFF” (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) to her prettier, more popular friends. Despite the words of caution from her favorite teacher, she puts aside the potential distraction of her crush, Toby and enlists Wesley, a slick but charming jock, to help reinvent herself. KIDS FIRST! Critic Harmony M. comments, “Being a high school student myself, I was really surprised at how relatable the movie is, especially to today’s generation of teenagers.” Read her full review below.

The Duff
by Harmony M., KIDS FIRST! Critic

The comedic movie, The Duff, is hilarious, relatable and worth watching. The film is about high-school senior Bianca, played by Mae Whitman, who finds out that she is the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) of her attractive group of friends. Determined to change her DUFF image and impress her crush Toby, she turns to her popular neighbor Wesley Rush, played by Robbie Amell, to give her a complete makeover. Through her journey of transformation, she gains self confidence and shows the school that everybody is a DUFF.

Not only do I enjoy that the movie starts off fast, but I really like that it starts with a cool, graphic newspaper clip that explains high school and the different types of people in high school. Being a high school student myself, I was really surprised at how relatable the movie is, especially to today’s generation of teenagers. It doesn’t just portray the generic, stereotypical high school student that is so outdated. The movie has a lot of familiar celebrity stars that I enjoyed seeing. The performances by Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, Allison Janney and Ken Jeong are especially hilarious and very entertaining.

The movie is hilarious, yet deep. Most comedy movies are really funny, yet pointless or lack an overall message. I laughed so often and even shed a tear in a heartfelt scene. The facial expressions are priceless and memorable. I respect this film for being extremely funny while also having a deep, motivational moral lesson and theme. I enjoyed the plot and moral of the story as much the comedy. The movie has a lot of references that are very comical. One example is an episode of the Simpsons that the movie shows. The movie also has really entertaining graphics that make the movie even more unique, some of this include labels and an interactive screen effect.

This film is one I will watch multiple times and tell my friends to watch, yet I do not recommend it as a family movie. The film may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 due to inappropriate language and actions. I definitely recommend the movie for teenagers in high school, especially girls. I recommend the movie to ages between 13 and 18. I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars. Check it out as it is in theater now.

Alexander and the **** Bad Day - Now on DVD/Blu-Ray, Perfect for Family Viewing

February 17th, 2015

AlexanderBlurayCombo.LR.jpgThis comedy is based on the best-selling book by Judith Viorst and is about young Alexander and his horrible day. Alexander only thinks these bad days happen to him but, he learns he is not so alone. This is an entertaining family movie and had my whole family laughing out loud. It actually makes you smile and there are quite a few meaningful lessons in this fun movie. It shows that when things go wrong, you should have courage and should try your best to turn them around. Maybe you won’t fix it perfectly but, with courage, you can be proud of who you are.  It also shows that there will be some bad days and you don’t always have to be positive. The two most meaningful lessons are that family is important especially at the worst of times and as young Alexander states in the movie “You have to have the bad days so you love the good days even more.” (Adult juror) See what one of our youth critics has to say about it below.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Reviewed by Katie G., KIDS FIRST! Critic, age 13

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Is an amazing, laugh-filled experience for the whole family. This Disney movie is based on the book written by Judith Viorst, directed by Miguel Arteta and stars Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner and Ed Oxenbould as Alexander.

Alexander is a boy who has endless bad days. After a particularly bad day, he is feeling like the rest of his family never has any bad days, so he makes a birthday wish that they will all have a no good, very bad day. He wants them to feel what he feels, so that they might understand him.

My favorite scene is when Alexander’s sister, who is starring as Peter Pan in her school play, wakes up with a cold and then drinks way too much cough syrup. The result of this over-medication happens on stage and is hilarious.

Parents should know that there is some rude humor, with a bit of bad language and reckless behavior. But, this film is brought to you by Disney, so you can be pretty certain that is appropriate for the whole family.

I loved ‘Alexander’s Very-Good Bonus Content’ which is available on the Blu-Ray version of the film. It includes the very funny blooper reel and outtakes as well as a behind-the-scenes adventure filmed by Alexander, himself.

I recommend this film for ages 5 to 18, as well as parents. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars for brilliant acting and a hilarious story. Be sure to check out this great, fun family film on Blu-Ray and DVD. It is available in stores and available for digital downloads now.

More youth reviews below.

More about the extras: The DVD/Blu-ray includes some great extras. We found them interesting and enjoyable to watch. There are quotes from the actors and the author of the book in “Alexander in Real Life.” Both kids and adults will enjoy the “Delightful, Magnificent Bloopers” because they are really funny! There is also a short video called Snappy Crocs and Punchy Roos which is about how Alexander is into the Australian outback. Very enjoyable is the “Walk About Diary” where you learn that the actor who plays Alexander is actually really from Australia. Last of all, there is a music video of the Vamps performing the song from the movie “Hurricane.” A Must-See! We give this one 5 stars.

Strange Magic Is Just That - George Lucas Meets Shakespeare

January 22nd, 2015

214144.jpgGeorge Lucas has turned his charms onto the tale, Strange Magic, a new animated film, that is a madcap fairy tale musical inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Popular songs from the past six decades help tell the tale of a colorful cast of goblins, elves, fairies and imps, and their hilarious misadventures sparked by the battle over a powerful potion. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Keefer B. comments, “The animation and design are exquisite. The character designs look exactly like something George Lucas would create.” Samantha A. adds, “I have to admit, this movie is different from anything I have ever seen before, but I’m not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing.” See their full reviews below.

Strange Magic

Reviewed by Keefer C. B., KIDS FIRST! Critics, age 14

Strange Magic is an animated film about two worlds. One where there is happiness, singing and love in the air. In the second world, everything is evil, with mystery around every corner and its leader - a dark, heartless king called “the bog king” (voice by Alex Cumming) that bans all love in his dark world. These two worlds have always been separated until one fairy princess named Marianne, (voice by Evan Rachel Wood) crosses the barrier and changes everything.

I have to admit, this movie is different from anything I have ever seen before, but I’m not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing. It is a musical and most of the songs are songs that have been on the radio by popular artists. For example, Kelly Clarkson’s “What Doesn’t Kill You Stronger” and that is something I liked. But, something I am not a fan of are things that happen in the movie and how the movie is directed at children, but has some very mature things in it.

This movie is unpredictable which isn’t a good thing all the time. This movie takes a turn that I had no idea how it even happened, to be honest. I don’t even know how it got to where it ended. It all went so fast that I didn’t get time to understand what was happening at the moment. Other times, it is kind of cool seeing what is happening next. But overall, I didn’t exactly like how things move so fast and I never really got the concept of what was going on.

One thing that I love about the movie is that the characters are different. There are fairies, goblins and imps. I really liked that mythical feel of the movie.

This movie may look like it’s for kids but trust me, it’s not. There are things that I didn’t even understand so I doubt that kids and younger than me will understand what is happening at all. There are also some mature scenes in the movie that made me unsure if it is kid-friendly or not. For example, the husband cheats on his wife on their wedding day. That happened within the first 20 minutes of the movie.

I am recommending this movie for ages 10 to 13 because it still has a kid-friendly touch that would draw little kids in. But, like I said, it does have some mature scenes. I am giving this movie 3 out of 5 stars because it isn’t something I liked but I know that some kids would. Gary Rydstrom, the director and George Lucas, the writer do a good job on this film but it is just not something I personally enjoyed.




Paddington - A great Adventure! Lots of Twists and Turns and an Adorable Character

January 20th, 2015

Paddington.jpgFrom the producers of Harry Potter comes this 21st Century version of Paddington with all the charm that this classic character deserves. The storyline follows a young Peruvian bear who travels to London in search of a home. Finding himself lost and alone at Paddington Station, he meets the kindly Brown family, who offer him a temporary haven. KIDS FIRST! Critics Gerry O. comments, “This movie has a nice core of humor with an intriguing story that is intense, but lighthearted too. Breathtaking special effects, animation and a strong feel of adventure round out the show.” Brianna Hope B adds, “Paddington is so outgoing and adorable. You can’t help but love this bear. He has an innocent way about him, but still is a little mischievous and gets into trouble.” See their full reviews below.

Reviewed by Brianna Hope B. KIDS FIRST! Critic, age 15

Paddington is a great adventure, with lots of twists and turns. This film is playful, comedic, enjoyable and definitely a great film for friends and family.

Paddington (Ben Whishaw, voice) is a rare breed of bear that travels all alone to London.  He wants to find a home after his is destroyed. While there, he discovers that it’s not what he expects, but finds a family that’s willing to take him in and look after him for just a little while. This is when everyone’s adventure begins.

Paddington is so outgoing and adorable. You can’t help but love this bear. He has an innocent way about him, but still is a little mischievous and gets into trouble. His visual effects and fur looks very real and life-like. Nicole Kidman’s character (Millicent) is very determined to add Paddington to her collection of stuffed animals.  She will stop at nothing to get him. She’s fierce, frightening and intimidating. I love the story line, humor, and definitely the action. I liked that the climax of this film is very unpredictable and shocks the audience. My favorite character would have to be Paddington. He truly thinks of the wellbeing of others and his curiosity is adorable. He reminds you of a child learning new things. A scene that I would call my favorite is when Paddington tries to return a wallet to a man that dropped out of his packet while walking out of an antique shop. Paddington chases him, trying to get the wallet to him. Finally he catches up with the man by falling on him from the air. When he falls on the man they both tumble down and about 30 wallets fall out of the man’s coat. Paddington catches a pickpocket and ends up in the paper on his first day in London. It’s a very comical scene that makes the audience crack up.

One of the messages of this film is that families are not just made up by the people who are related to us, but friends and even animals can be a part of our family.

I recommend Paddington for ages 8 to 16. However it’s great for the whole family and anyone who loves Bears. It’s rated PG and there’s nothing really you would need to look out for.

I give it 5 out of 5 stars.  It’s a great film that makes you feel good. Paddington arrives in theaters on January 16th, so please check it out.

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Critic, age 12

From the producers of the Harry Potter franchise comes another children’s film that many families will love for its humor, storyline, special effects and of course – the Bear! Paddington will be loved by families everywhere.

This movie has a nice core of humor with an intriguing story that is intense, but lighthearted too. Breathtaking special effects, animation and a strong feel of adventure round out the show.

The story starts when a very intelligent family of bears is sadly separated. An earthquake happens and the aunt must send her young nephew to London for a better home. After arriving in London, this young bear is taken in by a family but immediately starts running into challenges of fitting in to the human world.

This film is wonderful. I love the cast - lots of talented and wonderful people. Ben Wishaw plays the voice of Paddington and is excellent at making his character seem adorable and innocent, yet smart and caring at the same time. The humor is off-the-charts amazing and the camera angles and shots are one-of-a-kind. Some shots I could not get over and had to watch again and again.

My favorite scene is when Paddington tries to say his name to Mr. Brown, who is kind of the father of the family. But, Paddington says it in bear language. When Mr. Brown tries to repeat it, Paddington looks horrified and says, “How Rude!” It is a funny and lighthearted scene and kind of sets the right mood for this funny film.

This film is diffidently meant for kids but adults will enjoy it as well. I recommend it for ages 8 to 18 and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Into The Woods
Reviewed by Raven Devanney

Into The Woods is a brilliant new film adapted from the award-winning Broadway musical. This lively tale tells the story of some of the most well-known Grimm’s Brother fairy tales, but with an unexpected twist. In the film we see the stories The Baker and his Wife, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk. All of their lives intertwine and it makes for a wild journey full of song, humor, heartbreak and wonderful lessons.

Into The Woods is a must-see this season and I am so pleased with how it turned out. Being a theater junky, I heard news that this musical was going to be made into a film and the anticipation began to grow. The execution of this film is flawless. It captures the feel of seeing a musical live, with the over-the-top theatrics and set design. It translates so well to the screen and allows the audience to fully immerse themselves into this incredible story. The costumes and locations for this film are beautiful and the music is excellent. I caught myself singing along with the movie more than once.

Something that I love about this film is that it isn’t the “classic” Disney version of these fairytales that most of us grew up with. It goes back to the authentic stories from the Grimm Brothers themselves, with the obvious twist here and there. In this film, the bad stuff that tends to be cut out of modern fairytales actually happens. For example, Cinderella’s step-sisters cut off bits of their feet to fit into the golden slipper, Rapunzel’s prince is blinded by blackberry thorns and there are no fairy godmothers. Rest assured, all of these misfortunes are done in very humorous ways. I also love that it takes all of these different fables and weaves them together so that everyone has a part in each others’ story. The final thing that really makes Into The Woods stand apart from other fairy tales is that not everyone gets a happy ending. You have to work with what you’re given and make the best of the situation.

The entire cast is wonderful and so talented. Meryl Streep plays The Witch, Anna Kendrick plays Cinderella, Emily Blunt - The Baker’s Wife, Johnny Depp - The Wolf, Chris Pine - Cinderella’s Prince. Every character has a solo and I’m so impressed with all of these actors’ amazing voices. I had no idea they could sing. This film brings in names and faces that are very recognizable and also incorporates actors that most of us have probably never seen. So, it’s a really nice mix of people that make up this cast.

My favorite scene is when the two Princes sing Agony. It is the most hilarious scene in the film and I laughed so hard I cried. Prince Charming and his brother are lamenting over their princesses, Cinderella and Rapunzel, and it is the cheesiest, funniest thing I have seen in a long time. The Princes are the most melodramatic people, making everything a big deal and this song highlights just how over-the-top they are. The entire audience was cracking up and after the film was over I could not stop singing Agony and laughing about how ridiculous the music number is.

Into The Woods is a film that all ages will enjoy. I cannot wait to see it again. Every aspect of it is so well done - the cast, the visuals, the music and even though a few moments could maybe be a bit scary for younger children, it is something for the whole family. I recommend it for ages 5 to 18 and give this film 5 out of 5 stars. Be sure not to miss Into The Woods. It opens in theaters everywhere on Christmas Day!

Into the Woods
By Shelby Ronea, KIDS FIRST! Critic, age 14

Into the Woods is a musical comedy about a journey The Baker and his wife must take in order to reverse the curse The Witch put on their house and have the child they always wanted. They must go into the woods and get four things - a slipper as pure as gold, hair as yellow as corn, cape as red as blood and a cow as white as snow - all before the blue moon rises. The most interesting thing about this film is how the screenwriter, James Lapine merges the stories of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood into this brand new fairytale.

Cinematographer Dion Beebe has created incredible fairytale-like scenes that are just outstanding. I loved the scene when Cinderella goes to her mother’s grave and tells her that she wishes to go to the ball. All of the sudden, the tree and the leaves twirl her around to dress her in a beautiful golden dress and slippers. It’s fascinating how the camera moves around her to make the scene magical.

Of course, music plays a huge role in the film thanks to the brilliant work of Stephen Sondheim who has written perfect lyrics that capture the emotions of every scene. Meryl Streep’s character, The Witch, is the most memorable character. Her voice is powerful and beautiful. When she discovers that Rapunzel has fallen in love with a prince, she begs Rapunzel to stay with her. When The Witch sings “Stay with Me,” you realize that she isn’t as cold- hearted as everyone thinks. She locks Rapunzel in a tower because she is protecting her from the world.

The message of the film is that you should be careful of what you wish for. Sometimes what you wish for isn’t exactly what you really want. A secondary message is when you love something you should set it free. I recommend this film for ages 10 to 18 and give it four out five stars. Into the Woods comes out on Christmas Day to a theater near you!

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