Archive for April, 2011

Feel-good Family Movie ‘Change of Plans’ now at Walmart

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

ChangeOfPlans_2.jpgChange of Plans, which made it onto the shelves exclusively at Walmart yesterday, stars “American Idol” darling Brooke White in her acting debut. The film, about a young couple who are suddenly called upon to be foster parents to a friend’s four children left parentless after a tragic accident, was a hit with the military families who attended the special KIDS FIRST! presentation at United States Marine Air Station Miramar earlier this month. The Walmart and Procter & Gamble made-for-TV family movie is both humorous and heartwarming, revealing how fulfilling life can be when you look beyond your own plans and invest in the lives of others. Eight-year-old KIDS FIRST! film critic Anthony Aranda, who reviews the film for us here, also interviewed White about being in the movie.

‘Change of Plans’
Reviewed by Anthony Aranda

I like this movie. It’s really great. In fact, I loved it. The main characters in the movie would be Sally Danville and her husband, Jason. And the kids – don’t forget the kids.

And I know who Sally Danville is – Sally Danville is Brooke White from “American Idol.” Her singing’s really great and she sings inside Change of Plans. The movie is all about Sally, who is a musician, and her husband, who is an Air Force pilot. And they got a call and then they had to take care of four kids.AnthonyAranda.JPG

I recommend this movie for ages seven and up, because there is a bad part in this movie that not much people understand. Go out and see this movie when it premieres.

See Anthony on video reviewing Change of Plans.
See Anthony’s interview with Brooke White.

‘White Lion’: The African Legend Comes to DVD

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

WhiteLion.jpgWhite Lion is a magnificently lensed coming-of-age film that follows the titular white lion from cub to king. A 25-year labor of love from producer Kevin Richardson, who was also the lead animal wrangler, and director Michael Swan, the Screen Media Films release features cinematography that ranges from awe-inspiring panoramas of flat-topped mountains rising out of densely verdant valleys to closer shots of dew-dropped flowers glistening in the moonlight.

The lion’s saga is related as a narration by an African storyteller (veteran actor John Kani) holding his audience of children in thrall around a campfire. While we return to the campfire from time to time to connect with the children and their reactions, the camera cuts away to what is essentially a nature film of the unfolding story: A white cub, Letsatsi, is born into a lion pride. Playful as any kitten, he has some close calls with hyenas and venomous snakes as romps in the tall grass. And just being different from a lion’s usual tawny color causes challenges for him with the other lions in his pride. He slowly learns the skills he needs to survive the natural perils of the wilderness – lightning-sparked fires, hidden dangers such as alligators in the river from which he must get water to drink – as well as meeting the basic need to find food. Humans pose yet another danger.

Giving a framework for the story of Letsatsi’s life is a secondary story of Gisani, a native villager who has been raised with the traditional legends that revere the rare white lion as a messenger of the gods that brings peace and prosperity. Gisani is little more than a child when he first sees Letsatsi, and he takes on himself the responsibility for watching over the lion through the years, to be his storyteller. This culminates in a showdown with hunters who see value in Letsatsi only as a trophy.

As a nature film, White Lion is true to the genre in its honest depiction of the animals’ lives. Kills are acknowledged, although the camera takes a respectful view and avoids grisly sensationalism. Nor are there groomed manes or other attempts to prettify the animals. Life includes moments of heart-pounding adventure punctuating long days of quieter existence, and the film’s slow pace – with music as a low-key accompaniment – seems to capture life in real time.

The DVD’s bonus feature on how the wranglers worked with the lions to capture authentic actions is a livelier piece, and the behind-the-scenes views add to rather than detract from an appreciation of the feature film.

KIDS FIRST! FILM CRITICS BOOT CAMP

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

KF_FilmCritics_218x225.jpgHave you dreamed about becoming the next E! reporter?

If your tween-aged child has a hankering to be the next Roger Ebert, there’s a camp for that. KIDS FIRST! will offer its 2nd Film Critics Boot Camp this summer in four cities across the country – Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Annapolis and Santa Fe – this June and July. Classes are limited to 25 children and cost $549. (Early registration is $479.) Some partial scholarships are available.

Creating the KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Boot Camp is a natural next step for our 20-year-old organization, in teaching young people how to judge and critic media and how to perform on-camera. Kids ages 8 to 13 will get a chance to watch the latest films, meet actual film critics, learn interview techniques and develop performance skills under the tutelage of seasoned professionals. The goal is to help tweens build self confidence while they develop skills that will stay with them a lifetime.

Those seasoned professionals include 1st assistant director Janet Davidson and a host of others (full bios are available on the website).

Dates & Locations

Santa Fe, NM June 13-17
Warehouse 21, 1614 Paseo de Peralta,
Santa Fe, NM

Albuquerque, NM June 20-24
Quote…Unquote, 519 Central N.W,
Albuquerque, NM 87102

Los Angeles, CA July 11-15
The Georgian Hotel, 1415 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Annapolis, MD July 18-22
Filmsters, 107 Annapolis St., Ste J,
Annapolis, MD

Tuition $549
Early Registration $479

Includes all materials, lunch and snacks
Ages 8 – 13
Enrollment limited. Maximum 25 children per class
Some partial scholarships available

‘Gulliver’s Travels’ Rates High for Laughs

Monday, April 18th, 2011

GulliversTravels.jpgWhen Jonathan Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels in 1726, he wanted people to laugh. But not so much at the escapades in the book as at the real-life escapades the book satirized. Rob Letterman, who directed 20th Century Fox’s film version (in theaters now), just wants people to laugh.

KIDS FIRST! film critic Sam Connan thinks he succeeded. The 13-year-old from Santa Fe, N.M., shares his review of the film. (Also on video.)

‘Gulliver’s Travels’
Reviewed by Sam Connan

I just finished watching Gulliver’s Travels. I thought it was a really fun movie. I know it’s definitely not in keeping with the real storyline of the book, but it’s still a lot of fun.

There are some parts where it’s really funny and some parts where it’s, well, a little bit crude – so I wouldn’t recommend it for all age groups. But depending on what you want your kids to see or what you’re OK with them seeing.

I think Jack Black has this real exuberance to him. He’s the life of the party. And he turns Lilliput, the island with really small people, into a complete circus. And he’s the ring leader.

I think the special effects were really great, because it really looked like he was huge on Lilliput and tiny on the island Where We Dare Not Go, which is the place with the really big people.

I would rate this a 7 out of 10 stars because it was very funny, but I don’t think it’ll ever get nominated for an Oscar, to be honest. But my family and I really liked it – we were just sitting and laughing and laughing and laughing. And I think your family will enjoy it, too.

Jack Black takes on the title role in the film, with Jason Segel and Emily Blunt as co-stars in a seasoned cast that also includes Amanda Peet and Billy Connolly.

Strawberry Shortcake Wraps Sweetness Around Life Lessons

Monday, April 18th, 2011

StrawberryShortcake_Glitz_180x300_1.jpgEverything about Strawberry Shortcake: Puttin’ on the Glitz is as sweet as the title character’s name – from the voices to the music to the almost Candyland-style village sure to captivate all little girls who like to play with dolls. But, hey, that’s OK – because, as Mary Poppins has famously pointed out, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” The medicine being, in this case, messages about right and wrong and getting along.

The DVD, which 20th Century Fox released March 20, contains three 20-minute “Berry Bitty Adventures.” None are separately titled, but the final one is obviously the source for the DVD’s title. Lemon Meringue has created a dazzling new manicure she calls a “glamicure,” with sparkly polish and a special gem that plays music customized for each girl. Strawberry Shortcake, Blueberry, Orange, Raspberry and Plum are all thrilled at first with how the glam livens up their days, until the dazzle becomes a distraction and the constant music interferes with their regular activities. How can Plum practice in her dance studio when the glamicure music competes with her dance music? How can Blueberry relax with a book when every time she moves her hand, the glamicure music sounds off? And Strawberry Shortcake wonders if the incessant glamicure music is the reason no customers come into her pastry shop.

When they catch each other surreptitiously trying to get rid of the glamicure, they discuss whether to ask Lemon to remove it. The problem the girls wrestle with is whether Lemon’s feelings will be badly hurt if they tell her they’d rather be without the glamicure, and they steadfastly vow to put up with the annoyance rather than make Lemon feel badly. (By the way — kudos to the writers, who employ grammatically correct language throughout, and never lapse into such common malconstructions as “I feel bad.”) Strawberry has not been part of these discussions, but she catches on. And Strawberry also lends Lemon the ear to cry in when no one comes to her beauty salon any more. Strawberry — always the most mature among the friends — approaches the issue from two directions: First, she suggests Lemon overcome her timidity and ask everyone if they’re OK with the glamicure (“Could it be more terrible than what you’re afraid of?”). Second, she sets an example for the other girls, who notice right away when she shows up with plain fingernails (“Part of being a good friend is having the courage to give constructive criticism — telling the truth so they can do better next time” and “You can’t make her feel worse than you did by avoiding her.”).

Each of the other episodes has its distinct moral. In the first, it’s Lemon again who focuses the central issue: The need to feel useful (well, age appropriate: the need to make her own special contribution to the community and do something she has fun doing). The second tackles the sticky subject of rules: Plum disregards some of their community’s rules, and her actions cause difficulties for her friends. But when they try to make her understand, she retaliates with petulance and makes up some rules they must follow at her dance studio. The story makes a good case not only for observing the rules but for realizing that rules need to serve a good purpose rather than just an arbitrary whim.

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