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

May 20th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

The week long camps take place at the following locations:

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

June 22 – 26
B47 Studios
Seattle, WA 98119

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

August 3 - 7
Brooklyn, NY

August 10-14
Discovery Communications
Silver Spring, MD

For more information and to register, go to or call 505.989.8076.

Tomorrowland Delivers Wow Factor Along With Important Messages

May 20th, 2015

Tomorrowland_poster.jpgBound by a shared destiny, a teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “This film has everything. It has a wonderful, heartwarming plot with a good 50/50 split of drama and comedy and is filled with many wonderful morals and messages. It can be called a tale, sci-fi, adventure and more.” Clayton P. adds, “Disney’s Tomorrowland is a most imaginative, elaborate adventure with a lot of heart.  The idea of the movie is fresh and unique.  Every dollar of the $190 million budget is put to use and is seen on the big screen.”

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

How can you describe this film, a film that is original (which is very rare these days), surprising (also rare) and it has a perfect ratio of pretty much everything! Tomorrowland is a movie of wow that makes you want to go out and do something knowing that nothing is impossible.

This film has everything. It has a wonderful, heartwarming plot with a good 50/50 split of drama and comedy and is filled with many wonderful morals and messages. It can be called a tale, sci-fi, adventure and more. But, this film has something for everyone.

Tomorrowland starts off showing a young high school girl named Casey (Britt Robertson) who is told that the world is being polluted, destroyed and slowly ending. She asks why something is not being done about it. One day, she finds a mysterious pin which takes her to a world not in the future, past or present, not on Earth. It is  somewhere beyond our knowledge, known as Tomorrowland. She embarks on adventure trying to get there and meets many people including Frank Walker (George Clooney) who is a former child genius and actually lived in this place for some time.

This film is truly an enjoyable experience to watch. Director Brad Bird does an extraordinary job making this a master piece. From the perfect cast to the original story, it is breathtaking to watch. The cinematography is perfect - not too modest and not to forced either. The cast is inspiring. George, Britt and the rest of the cast make jokes, deliver dramatic moments, and everything in between. The relationship between the main characters are sad at times, happy at times. They are heartwarming and draw you in. Disney has really outdone itself so many times and they surprise us again with a very original and nicely done film which will become the next phenomena.

My favorite scene is when Casey, Frank and a girl named Athena (you must watch the film to learn more about this very special character) go to Paris and they launch something out of the Eiffel tower. It is action-packed, funny and stunning to watch. The special effects are out of this world and thrilling.

There are so many moral messages. The main one is “nothing is impossible and never stop questioning the world around you.” In the film, Casey never stops asking questions and, because of this, a very surprising thing happens.
I recommend this film for kids ages 8 to18 and give it 5 out of 5 stars. This film is truly one of the greatest films of the year and wonderfully executed. It opens in theaters on May 22 so don’t miss it.

By Clayton P. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Disney’s Tomorrowland is a most imaginative, elaborate adventure with a lot of heart.  The idea of the movie is fresh and unique.  Every dollar of the $190 million budget is put to use and is seen on the big screen. Directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles), Tomorrowland stars George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie and Raffey Cassidy.
The movie starts with the history of the two main characters, Frank Walker (George Clooney) and Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), and how they were recruited to visit Tomorrowland. Frank is a young inventor (played by the young actor, Thomas Robinson) who enters a contest at the 1964 World’s Fair with a “jet pack” that he assembles out of an Electrolux vacuum.  While he doesn’t win, he does meet a charming girl, Athena (Raffey Cassidy) who helps him get to the land of the future: Tomorrowland.  She gives him a special, temporary teleportation pin that allows him to be in the real world but also be in Tomorrowland at the same time.  It’s a space-time continuum trinket.  Twenty-five years later, Casey Newton, a teenager with a scientific-based mindset, is arrested for sabotaging a NASA launch pad.  When she collects her belongings after her Dad posts bail, a pin is among her things. She picks it up and is surprised when she is teleported to another dimension. She also meets Athena, who guards her on her journey to meet Frank. Athena has recruited Frank and Casey to fix the future of Earth using the technology of Tomorrowland.  Frank and Casey are chosen because of their scientific know-how as well as their optimistic, dreamer outlook on life. The rest of the movie is a miraculous, heart-pounding adventure with robotically engineered characters, great locations and lots of laser weapons and futuristic grenades.

The creativity of Tomorrowland is extraordinary.  The film is vibrant and bright.  The music, art direction and set design are amazing.  A lot of time, money and craft went into making this movie.  Also, there is a lot of humor in the film.  Like Brad Bird’s first wonderful film, The Iron Giant, Tomorrowland has a lot of heart. There is a lot of love put into this film and the message of the movie has a lot of love as well - love for human ingenuity, love for individual uniqueness and especially love for the Earth.   My favorite part of the movie is when the robotic agents try to terminate Frank and Casey at Frank’s house.  Frank’s creative, dangerous, extravagant security system saved their lives. A funny part of the film is the facial expressions of the leader of the robotic agents.  His smile is so creepy, funny and plastic at the same time.

I give Tomorrowland 5 out of 5 stars.  It is rated PG and, is appropriate for kids from age 6 to 18.

Pitch Perfect 2
By  Lainey A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

I love this film because it is very funny and made me laugh constantly throughout the whole movie.  Pitch Perfect 2 employs enjoyable aspects from the original Pitch Perfect such as phenomenal music and amazing costumes, wicked humor, the commentators Gail (Elizabeth Banks) and John (John Michael Higgins) who are quite funny and the beautiful Beca (Anna Kendrick).

It is a bit racist in how it shows the three girls. Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) is an Asian who is more like a cartoon character than having any real personality.  Cynthia-Rose (Ester Dean) is a gay African American and Flo (Chrissie Fit) plays a South American.

This movie is about seven girls, soon to be eight, who make up the Bellas, an acapella group from Barden University.  They are known for their singing and dancing.  When they are performing in front of President and Mrs. Obama, Fat Amy has an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction. After much ridicule from the press, the group is suspended and is unable to compete or recruit any new members.  They are devastated and intent on winning the Acapella World Championship in Copenhagen in order to regain their competitive status. They have to compete against the German group, DSM (Das Sound Machine) which is definitely their biggest competitor.  The Bellas are joined by a new member, Emily (Hailee Steinfield), whose mom (Katy Sagal) was a previous member of the group.

Pitch Perfect 2 is directed and produced by Elizabeth Banks. The screenplay is very well thought out and the plot is easy to follow. It has several subplots that help keep the action moving.  The actors are hilarious in this repeat performance.  Rebel Wilson really stands out as Fat Amy because she is completely over the top and steals every scene she is in.  There are lots of cameo appearances which keeps the viewer looking for familiar faces.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and strongly recommend it for ages 13 to 18 years old, due to some crude humor and sexual innuendos.

Maya the Bee Movie
By Kayla P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Maya the Bee Movie is a cute and funny movie! It’s about a young little bee named Maya who is very curious and eager to learn about the beehive. As Maya explores the beehive without permission, she asks a bunch of questions. Maya quickly learns that she is completely different from the other bees. She repeatedly finds herself in trouble by Buzzlena, the queen’s assistant. As a result, Maya gets banned from the hive. Her friend Willie does not want Maya to be alone, so he leaves the hive and follows her. As Maya and Willie are out in the meadows, they learn that hornets and the other bugs and insects are not as bad as they have been told. While Maya has been banned from the beehive because of her curiosity, Buzzleana devises a plan to harm the Queen so that she can take control of the bees and the hive.

There are several different messages in this movie. The one that stands out the most to me is, “dare to be different.” In this movie, the bees have to follow specific rules, specific directions and they must do as they are told. Maya is different and she is told that she does not belong in the beehive. She works hard to find her place among the bees. She learns that she is an important bee in the kingdom and that her voice is important.

My favorite part is when Willie is mad at Maya and decides to fly back to the beehive. Willie is scared of everything. But, when a frog sticks out his tongue to try to capture Willie for dinner, Willie hits the frog’s tongue and flies away without looking back. That’s pretty impressive for a fearful bee.

My favorite character is Willie. Willie is a very loyal and a true friend. He supports Maya and helps her when she’s down and he’s not afraid to tell her when she’s not right. Willie is also very funny.

Maya and the Bee Movie is a wonderful movie! It has great messages for kids! I recommend this movie for boys and girls ages 5 to 10. I give this movie 3 out of 5 shinning stars!

Maya The Bee Review
By Adam C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9

If you enjoy comedy mixed with great animation, then you will love Maya the Bee Movie. Maya is unlike other young bees her age. Instead of following orders, Maya has a mind of her own. For example, instead of staying within the safety of the beehive, Maya decides to go off on her own to visit the surrounding meadow wish she became friends with Flip the grasshopper. At some point, Maya’s curiosity led to her finding out that the Royal Adviser to the Queen Bee had stolen the Royal jelly saved especially for the Queen Bee which leads to the Royal Adviser’s kicking Maya out of the beehive. At this point, Maya has to survive on her own in the meadow and is soon joined by her close friend Willy who fears for her safety and cannot let Maya be by herself in the mysterious meadow. Together, the two bees become friendly with a variety of other insects and other creatures. Eventually, Maya and Willie learn that the Royal Adviser has stolen the Queen’s royal jelly because she was seeking to make war with the hornets. By the end of the movie, Maya, Willy, and their other young hornet friend Buzzy stop the Royal Adviser’s evil plans and, after recapturing the royal jelly, bring it back to the Queen who then makes a complete recovery. For her efforts, Maya is appointed as the Hive Ambassador by the Queen Bee and she and Willy are made responsible for observing the meadow and reporting new friends that arrive.

My favorite character in the movie is Maya (Coco Jack Gillies). Maya is easy to relate to for me because she is very much a free spirit, unable to sit still, who always wants to be in on the action. I also enjoyed hearing from Flip the grasshopper. Flip is always able to provide Maya with excellent advice such as telling her to always “bee positive.” The scenery is also colorful and beautiful and will be enjoyed by everyone.

My favorite part of the movie is when Maya and Willy are together out in the meadow attending the Jitterbug Hollow Musical Festival. There, they hear different insects  playing a large number of musical instruments while Flip the grasshopper sings “It Don’t Matter What They Say, Be Yourself Every Day.”

This film has many positive messages that apply to younger audiences. For me, the most powerful message of the movie s that a person should be himself and does not need to follow in the footsteps of others. The movie also show the strong bonds of loyalty between Maya and Willy who have to work together in order to stop the Royal Advisers’ plans. I also enjoyed the lesson that young people can make a huge difference in this world. In the movie, many grown-up bees and grown-up hornets are prepared to fight to see who would gain control of the meadow. In the end, it is too young bees and one young hornet who save everybody from being destroyed. I give Maya the Bee Movie 5 out of 5 stars. It is a great family movie. I recommend it for ages 4 to 10. I’m 9 and I enjoyed watching this movie and very much. I appreciated its excellent messages and wonderful music.

Maya the Bee Movie is in theaters now available on DVD on May 18. It is well worth the cost of buying it for a fun-filled night of family entertainment.

Far from the Madding Crowd – True to the book and a Brilliant Performance by Carey Mulligan

May 14th, 2015

FarfromMadding.jpgIn Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor. This timeless story of Bathsheba’s choices and passions explores the nature of relationships and love - as well as the human ability to overcome hardships through resilience and perseverance. Willie J. comments, “When I saw that BBC had a hand in producing this picture I immediately knew a few things, 1) it would have a down tempo pace, 2) The acting would be good and 3) that the cinematography would be good. I was right about all three.” See his full review below. 

Far from the Madding Crowd
By Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

I had not read the book nor heard of the film Far From the Madding Crowd when I saw it. So, this review is from the point of view from someone with no prior background knowledge of the source material. Please keep that in mind, fans of the book.

When I saw that BBC had a hand in producing this picture I immediately knew a few things, 1) it would have a down tempo pace, 2) The acting would be good and 3) that the cinematography would be good. I was right about all three. Nevertheless, I had no expectations for the script which was inconsistent.

There are times when the dialogue flows well. The conversations fit the tone and nothing is over-the-top dramatic. And then, there are times when I rolled my eyes at the cliché lines. It’s that type of romance movie. It became apparent to me though, that the dialogue is specified to show character and relationships rather than good conversation. The dialogue succeeds in moving along the plot and expanding on the characters’ situations rather than creating conversational scenes. I can understand that, especially considering the genre of the movie. Yet, it still proved a bit problematic.

This film stars Carey Mulligan as an independent, head-strong protagonist and, what a wonderful job she does. She takes what could have been a very one-note character and makes her complex. Bathsheba (the protagonist) could have easily been portrayed as stubborn and inconsistent, but is instead portrayed as someone fighting for her equal rights as a woman and as a woman dealing with emotions for the first time. And, just her luck, she gets three men to fall in love with her. How about that for first relationship dealings?

The supporting cast does a fine job with a few hiccups. The standout among them is Michael Sheen who takes his supporting part and almost steals the show from the leading lady. Matthias Schoenaerts provides a steady consistency as the moral compass of the film and plays the untainted, instantly likable love interest well.

As for the aesthetics of the film, I was not disappointed. There are scenes of beautiful landscapes and breathtaking shots that aren’t necessarily needed, but are surely wanted for the eye-candy effect. They provide good transitions and help keep the pace of the movie in tact.

Because of the acting, cinematography and overall investing quality this film has over an audience, I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18. I’ll end on this note: I spoke to a couple of people at the theater after the film who had read the book. I asked them how accurate the film is and if it does the book justice. They both confidently said, “yes.” So, if you’re a fan of the book and were iffy about seeing the movie, I hope that testimonial might influence your decision to see this movie. This is playing in theaters now.


5 Flights Up – A Wonderful Humorous Drama About Aging and Change

May 6th, 2015


Based on a novel called “Heroic Measures” this is a charming film that many will resonate with. A long-time married couple spend a hectic weekend pondering the sale of the apartment they have shared for more than 40 years. They’ve spent their entire lives together in a gorgeous Brooklyn home only to realize now, when they want to move, what a nightmare it is to move in New York. Starring Morgan Freeman, Diane Keaton and Carrie Preston. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “From the storyline, it may seem that this film will be boring to kids. But, when I started watching this film I fell in love with it.” His full review is below.

5 Flights Up

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

From the storyline, it may seem that this film will be boring to kids. But, when I started watching this film I fell in love with it. Morgan Freeman’s perfect timing of jokes and Diane Keeton’s wonderful and priceless emotions make this film entertaining and heartfelt from the very start to the last second.

It is a bit hard to say what the main genre is. Of course, there is a lot of romance between the two characters, Alex (Morgan Freeman) and Ruth (Diane Keeton), there is also that funny side that makes it all that more enjoyable. And, there is still a serious dramatic side which keeps you on the edge of your seat till the end.

The story starts when an elderly couple, Ruth and Alex, live in a high up, massive apartment in New York City, Brooklyn actually. However, the five flight of stairs they need to take is getting more and more challenging so they decide to move to a location with an elevator. To add to the challenges, their dog is in the hospital undergoing treatment for spinal injury.

The director, Richard Loncraine makes this movie feel authentic and rustic and also shows how current society  stereotypes elderly people, how they truly feel about it and how wrong it is. The cast is wonderful and the acting is just superior with serious and comedy scenes mixed together and standing out all the time. I also like how they lightly touch upon problems of the past as well as problems of today. For example, Ruth and Alex got married in a time when bi-racial couples were not welcomed with open arms. Then it shows how today a gay couple is making an offer on a house. They submit it along with a note telling how they tried to adopt a child and finally  were able to adopt one. It is something Ruth and Alex wanted to do when they were younger but were denied.

My favorite scene is when they have an open house to sell their apartment and a huge crowd of people comes through, looking at everything and touching everything. Alex doesn’t like it but Ruth tries to see the positive side but fails. I like that scene because it shows how the couple’s life isn’t perfect and also makes the film feel very real. Not only this moment does that but many others as well.
This film has perhaps several moments of adult content but none that is too mature. I recommend it to kids ages 10 to18 and give it 5 out of 5 stars.